Becoming a Patient Gamer

I'm 31. It took me 30 of those years to figure out that I don't have to own every new game when it comes out. woof.

Damn you Steam. You know exactly what you're doing.
Damn you Steam. You know exactly what you're doing.

I recently took a look at my haul from the Steam Summer Sale. I didn't have that feeling. You know, that feeling of "hell yes, got some stuff to play and I'm good". Instead I bought a ton of games, and I didn't know why other than "I might want to play them". I got Dishonored 2, Prey, and a few others. Prey gave me a few hours of fun and I liked the parallels to Bioshock, and was surprised on how much of Dishonored made it into that peanut butter. As I watched /r/gamedeals and isthereanydeal.com and checked prices...I started feeling empty. "I want the deal, but do I want the game" I found myself trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing. And so, in 2017 I became patient....finally. There are going to be some exceptions but I thought it'd be fun to use this thread for me to come back to and talk myself off the cliff from impulse purchases (stupid Green Man Gaming and their 20% off). This is a bit of a letter to myself, but also a reminder that games are exploding and the current rate of release is just too much to even try keeping up with. Having worked as a reviewer in the past, that feeling of having to play everything and quick is the worst, and somehow I'm just now shaking it. As a bit of background on me, I'm 31, back in school for a computer science degree, learning some programming outside of that, and work in Tech/Project Management. This should all get across that I'm legally and technically a big boy with barely any free time. I have a wife that I love dearly and loves me the same, I try to run 5k 3x per week and mix in a 10k somewhere in there if possible, and if not run, then hitting some weights or something else to get the heart rate up. The long and short is: free time is not a readily available commodity. If you're reading this, I'd love to hear your thoughts on patience for a hobby you love, and how you flagellate yourself while Brad and Jeff beam about games like Doom and you run home and have your finger on the purchase button.

Before I kick off I should note that I'm definitely picking up Star Wars Battlefront II but other than that I cancelled all my existing preorders for the year. At one point or another I had each of these games on my list.

DO NOT WATCH INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.
DO NOT WATCH INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Ugh this one is rough. I loved the first re-entry into the Wolfenstein universe by Machine Games, and this looks just as, if not better. I loved the E3 demo, the strawberry milkshake scene, the whole alternate history and brutality of BJ are absolutely up my alley for a shooter. This game will be bought, and it will be played by myself. BUT. Think about it - this game won't be a "live" game. Time won't make you miss anything, and you can go back to it weeks/months after release and you'll be experiencing the same (maybe better depending on ports/patches) game that everyone else is. I'm looking forward to see what MG does with this entry, and can't wait to play. But I will. See you in 2018 you Nazi bastards. Want something close? Pop in the Old Blood or The New Order again (REMEMBER YOU NEVER FINISHED THE OLD BLOOD JACKASS).

Unless there's a choice to kill Gollum, you can hold out. Believe.
Unless there's a choice to kill Gollum, you can hold out. Believe.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

That one hurt to type, and may be the hardest to resist on this entire page. But see the argument for Wolfenstein II - this isn't a live game - sure there are online features but you don't care about that, do you? It's also a WB game you want on PC - it typically takes them a bit to iron out the kinks and it gives a chance for the whole microtransaction landscape to play out. The game will be good - the nemesis system and all videos look great. Be honest with yourself though - when will you have the time? Destiny 2 is already sucking up all the spare time and if they drip out the new content every 2-3 months as we're hoping, you'll get those nasty D2 hooks back in you every quarter. This can be your New Year/Winter lull game going into January/February, but put it up against an "as objective as possible" look vs. Wolfenstein and make a choice. Want to get a taste? Surprise! it's a sequel...play the first. If you're not feeling Tolkien-y fire up Witcher.

Ugh it does look good tho...
Ugh it does look good tho...

Cuphead

You'll be fine. This looks great and I'm expecting good reception, but be honest - the game was delayed for quite a bit, it's only about $20, and sometimes those bullet hell games suck. Pick this one up pending sale, and solid reviews from trusted sources. Same as you thought you'd love to have Nidhogg 2 - sure you could play alone but why not get a buddy over for beers and couch co-op instead. Wait until Spring or Summer break maybe.

Sure you love Porsche, but they all look the same anyway....
Sure you love Porsche, but they all look the same anyway....

Forza 7

You've always been able to wait on Forza, until a sale. Wait even longer - this looks great but remember you've got Forza Horizon 3 on PC and hooo boy does that Sapphire M4 need your attention. You also need to keep working on the LFA and pick it up on your festivals. Forza doesn't have all that extra stuff, so remember it's a more true race simulation - sure that will be great but maybe wait until summer for this one and see how the DLC does - maybe Ultimate will go on sale mid-2018 like FH3 has millions of times already.

Unless you can wear an Anubis mask, chill.
Unless you can wear an Anubis mask, chill.

Assassin's Creed Origins

Ok why do you even want it? Do you know? You buy these every time they come out, and you play like 3/4 of the campaign then ditch it for a solid 6 months to come back, play an hour, say "oh yeah I kind of like this" and then it goes back into the pile. Just wait for a sale - Ubi cannot seem to keep AC games at full price 60 days after release, just think of the sale come Winter - then think of it the following Summer! Remember Unity? Yeah, you remember Unity. As you write this you're a little concerned about the game - remember that. How is the combat now that it's RPG-like? Is that Arena any good, are the microtransactions for chests back, is the actual narrative any good? There are a lot of questions about this game - which should remind you that questioning buying it day, week, maybe even month one is a bad idea. Woosah.

No Caption Provided

Call of Duty WWII

The Beta was fine. The definition of both what you like and hate about COD multiplayer - but they added objective modes. Sure, it was great to get back to WWII and the Normandy invasion, even though it's the 3209th time it's been done, will probably be cool with new tech - wait for the reviews. See what Jeff thinks - if he's super down on the game hold fast, but if he expresses the kind of reception he had for Advanced Warfare you might be ok to have a provisional looksee at this one. Remember COD games don't go on sale often, so there's not a pro or con to waiting, you're going to pay the same and you probably won't play online much. If the Destiny crew suddenly decides to jump ship to it, maybe think about it - but try to wait for those 50% off or at least 20% off sales and some solid review scores - otherwise "it's just another COD".

No Caption Provided

Horizon Zero Dawn: Frozen Wilds

As an expansion to one of your favorite games of the year, I get it - it's exciting. But remember, you've got a lot on your plate and this is November. This expansion will hopefully have a few hours of content, but you also said you'd go right back through Horizon for collectibles...then you promptly moved right along and never did that. Keep your eye on PS+ for this to be a free game in the new year maybe, but just like Lost Legacy...you don't NEED it. You just want it, and you won't have time to play it, then you'll forget about it until 6 months later anyway and say "ohhhhh yeeeahhhh".

8 Comments

On leaving this god forsaken industry forever *sorta

On July 1 I got the email I already knew was coming. After a bit of fluff about how much the publication valued our input and our contributions have led to billions of page views as well as "creating something unique together", there it was;

Media consumption has transformed dramatically over the years and our content initiatives have shifted with business priorities. To that end, we regret to inform you that Examiner.com has made the difficult decision to shut down operations.

It felt a little like I was the floor and pink Homer Simpson was Examiner.
It felt a little like I was the floor and pink Homer Simpson was Examiner.

While this was always a side gig for me, it was always fun to play games a little early and give my thoughts on them to anyone who might listen. Sure, most of the time I could liken it to talking to a crowd that's facing the other way, it was still interesting to think more critically about how a game made me feel. This isn't meant to be much more than the one-shot ramblings of a part-time game writer/reviwer that isn't that any more due to the changing landscape of games coverage. I know most probably never heard of Examiner, and there have been much more gigantic closures (Joystiq, 1UP), and I honestly can't imagine the feelings that would be exploding outward if this were my only source of income and true career path, but I thought someone might enjoy some candor in the process, so here goes.

I began my reviewing and news writing days while working at home full-time as a remote technician - and found that I could get my work-work done pretty quickly and get down to fun-work. I started out posting news stories, mostly, and they weren't innovative nor did I ever consider myself a journalist throughout this journey. I would simply follow the right people on Twitter and other social spaces and write up quick blurbs on what was going on for our audience. As it kind of goes in the news space, I wasn't breaking much, but quoting other sites and putting our spin on what was going on while trying to remain objective yet maintaining a voice that was unique. Yeah, no one noticed, no one cared, but I enjoyed what I was doing, and became increasingly more interested in the technology and decisions that were made in the industry at large. I wondered about what those closed-door meetings at Konami might look like, or what a brainstorming session for Call of Duty might feel like after having a white board full of "more cool shit" and "splosions? SPLOSIONS".

Yeah that's seriously about it, but you'll surprise yourself with how many times this is utterly giggle-inducing and enjoyable.
Yeah that's seriously about it, but you'll surprise yourself with how many times this is utterly giggle-inducing and enjoyable.

I still remember my editor asking me to do my first review. Sniper Elite 3. It wasn't a great game, it was a good game. But more importantly it was my first chance to really think more intricately about how the world was put together; Who were these people? What are their stories? What is my motivation for literally blowing this poor guy from Berlin's balls clean off? What does Africa look like in a WWII setting? Is it possible to make an enjoyable sniping game?

From there I kept writing a few news and interview writeups, but started to focus more and more on the review side. I got some of the big guns like Fallout 4, Alien: Isolation, Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and smaller fun stuff like The Weaponographist, Superhot, and even my own fascination with the likes of FIFA were expanded.

COD: AW still stands as one of the biggest
COD: AW still stands as one of the biggest "comeback" games in a franchise for me. Cyber-Spacey and all.

All in all as I reflect on my time in this crazy industry, it was a collection good ones. I got to see Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in an early preview before most, and couldn't talk it up more. I was there with people that I only saw videos and pictures of on other sites I frequent (including Gamespot's own Peter Brown!) but I didn't dare talk to more than a passing moment with Greg Miller. People aren't kidding, the man is monumental in stature and I did not expect that.

I didn't expect a lot of things. I didn't expect to be thanked routinely for hitting deadlines. I didn't expect to have as much fun as I did hammering through games late at night just to get those extra precious memories in. I didn't expect to jump into a community like Giant Bomb and have actual constructive and responsive dialog. I also didn't expect for it to end so abruptly, nor that I would care as much as I do that the ride is over. I didn't expect to care so much when douchebags on the internet flamed my articles for being clickbait or nailing my opinion pieces with comments like "this is why I hate opinion pieces".

For my next trick - I'll make you all believe we're best buddies and you'll do the marketing FOR us! Because we're the cool Sony again! (I actually love Jack, this is just for illustrative purposes)
For my next trick - I'll make you all believe we're best buddies and you'll do the marketing FOR us! Because we're the cool Sony again! (I actually love Jack, this is just for illustrative purposes)

I posted my stories on "a news aggregation site" to get traction and views, but man - and I'm sorry if any of you are huge fans of the site in question - but I felt like nothing ever went my way on that site regarding opinion. Reviews were fine. Opinion pieces would get shredded as long as they weren't pro-Sony, and some of the users that try to make sense or be reasonable got downvoted to oblivion on every post regardless of the context. It gave me a lens into what I'd consider the more toxic communities and comments, while places like GB gave me hope and at least would disagree while making sense. I posted one particular blog here recently about E3 for MS and Sony - and while I didn't agree with everyone here, the comments were civil and well-worded, backed up, and all interesting to read. N4G on the other hand lost their proverbial shit when I said that MS had a better E3 and Sony didn't show me anything concrete that made me believe my future in the PS4 or with Sony was relatively safe but trying to innovate. It was pretty disappointing - mostly because I knew the internet sucked, but wanted to know there were places that people could discuss games without it being a cesspool of name calling and claiming every article ever written with a decent headline is "clickbait". It did show me, however, that GB is a neat place for me because the discussion at least considers blogs or opinion as valid and worthy of discussion instead of brushing off with "pff clickbait opinion bs go home XBOT". I do want to share my favorite comment, but as the site is coming down they've shut down Disqus and I can't seem to pull it from the article itself - so here's the paraphrasing;

"The author provides no facts (I did, straight from the conferences and the people speaking during them themselves), I could easily refute all of his arguments with facts but I won't waste my time, I want opinion articles based on fact not just opinion."

I hate the words Conceptual Prototype.
I hate the words Conceptual Prototype.

Just let that all wash over you. I get the want for facts in an opinion article - that's what makes a good one. Sourcing and facts to back up one's argument. The points I made were backed up not by conjecture but by what was present in the conference, so I wasn't going to go through and back my point up about Sony putting forth a lot of far-off titles without any mention of PSN or improvements to the platform by cutting together a 10 minute megamix of the trailers, so what does he/she want? I don't know - and maybe it's my fault for wanting to partially please everyone, but when unreasonable arguments start to surface it's hard to remain a writer that truly wants to interact with anyone reading the article when they shout things like clickbait and "opinion articles are bullshit, this is why media is dying". If you don't like it, go do better. Please. I want you to - I want to find the next great article or site that has me really thinking about what I just saw/read/heard rather than reacting to a god damn Shenmue kickstarter or a Final Fantasy 7 remake that was nowhere to be seen just 12 short months later.

This is Guy Fieri, and he always makes me smile, for all the wrong reasons.
This is Guy Fieri, and he always makes me smile, for all the wrong reasons.

Back to the matter at hand - It's bittersweet for me now. I'll have more time to focus on my famiy life, work and learning new skills (yay for JAMF, Citrix, Azure, and HyperV right?) take on some longer term learning (C++ and JavaScript because sure why not?!) and returning to school as a 30-year old freshman in pursuit of what I just couldn't figure out earlier in life, what I wanted to be and do (seriously 18 year olds rarely know what it is that drives them and what they want to do forever). It's never too late to get your smarts on kids.

// Hello whitespace my old friend.
// Hello whitespace my old friend.

Perhaps most importantly I'm looking forward to taking my time. No more rushing through games to hit a deadline. No more skipping that sidequest because I need to mainline this bastard before Monday night at midnight. No more choking down a bad game just to get to a good one for redemption. Hell, I might just actually ride into the sunset in Red Dead Redemption one more time. I don't know, and I don't care - I've got a lot to keep me busy for a very long time with games like Uncharted, Doom, MGS V(never finished the damn story), Overwatch, and much more to not have to look forward thinking "if I beat this and write the review by Sunday at 7 I can get an hour of Uncharted in again".

The thought entered my mind of pursuing freelance somewhere else, and while an interesting thought, I've got a kind of "meh" feeling about the whole thing. I'll likely jot my thoughts here for anyone bored enough to see them, but I've tried to get a few sites off the ground with friends in the past, never really panned out unfortunately. Life gets in the way as you get a bit older, and while I won't be trading my games hobby for something like cars or wood working (hello scrimshaw weekly!) I can't see my hobby becoming lucrative enough to really support for my family while I battle against younger, more mobile writers that are willing to take the shit pay for a while and grind out 4 stories a day just to one day get to the level of editor or EIC. I'll probably always wonder what might've been if I'd pursued games media and critique a bit further, I'll also wonder what Examiner could've been if the folks above my direct editor noticed or listened to our pleas to cover more PC-centric games and hardware, or for more video focus (read: any) and personality based coverage. I'll wonder a lot of thing, but one thing I don't think I'll have to wonder about any time soon is how excited I've been about games in the past, and how now I'm more excited than ever to kick back, dim the lights, and explore. So cheers GB community, thank you for anyone who has read one of my reviews, blogs, or otherwise, and thanks for those who actually knew who/what Examiner was. We tried our best, we made next to nothing doing it, and we loved the media we consumed.

11 Comments

E3 2016 – Sony Fan Service Vs. Microsoft's Bold Future

I wrote this as an opinion piece on another site I do reviews and news for - but wanted to share my thought on the whole thing with another community that I'm quite fond of - the duders and GB community. If I haven't been totally crushed by the invevitable wave of "Fuck you bro PS4 for life, I love rooting for a huge company" comments elsewhere I'll be in the conversation here. The tl;dr is that I felt like Sony came off a bit pandering while Microsoft gave me more confidence that they're actively affecting change.

*probably...somehow...we think
*probably...somehow...we think

E3 is over, maybe in more ways than one, but that could be an entirely different article. I’m here to analyze what I saw after watching the big two go head to head in entirely different fashions. We saw a tale of two platforms last week, and responses online are varied, interesting, inflammatory, and more. While my personal opinion is that Microsoft crushed it – many others believe that there was no comparison to what Sony put forth, and still yet some hold out hope that Zelda will be the sole reason to reinvest in another Nintendo console at launch. My hope here today is to shine a light on the seemingly less popular opinion that Microsoft had not just a great showing, but one that didn’t just pander to their audience, and instead gives owners or potential buyer’s faith that the behemoth has a solid course in the coming years.

Remember these are two large companies that don’t owe anyone anything. The bottom line is they’re selling products, making money, and glad to take yours.

"It's not a rumor if we talk about it right?"

Our boy Phil led off with what was honestly surprising – coming out and acknowledging not only that Xbox One S is a thing, but that it will release at $299, at an alleged 40% reduced footprint, and offer a few new features. It will not play your games better, get that garbage out of here because I don’t believe it and it wasn’t actually said by any Xbox rep. HDR is neat and all but if a game wasn’t made to take advantage of it, we might as well move right along. The new controller and overall reduction in size is exciting – it shows more than just Microsoft thinking about shoving games down the gullet, but that they’re investing R&D dollars into refining the platform. This will be a huge point later on when we get to the end of the Microsoft show, so I won’t beat it into the ground (not yet).

I’m not going to stop and chat about each game they showed here because you, dear reader, have the power to check out each show individually, and then blast your thoughts at me in the comment – instead, I want to focus on what these presentations did that was interesting.

Honestly surprised this led off the show, bold and unexpected.
Honestly surprised this led off the show, bold and unexpected.

Gears and Forza Horizon 3 began the now-infamous, and what I thought were TM Jeff Keighley, lead-ins of “EXCLUSIVE”. What’s more interesting is the outlandish claim that because games are coming to PC there is no reason to buy a console and they can’t call them exclusives. First off – they can call them exclusive because they’re not on a Sony platform. Second, sometimes on sites like this and in articles like this we forget that we aren’t the bigger picture. Generic Consumer A does not go out and say “I read on (insert latest gaming blog/site) that I should just build a PC for my son/daughter instead because there is no reason to buy these game boxes”. They hear “I want an Xbox/PlayStation” and they go out and buy that device. Exclusives, in general, are a pretty awful thing when you really look at it – the motivation there is purely business focused to force the purchase one way or the other. I know why it’s done, I just don’t like it. The fact that Microsoft is embracing (at least attempting more now than ever to) the PC platform is encouraging and extremely forward thinking.

As we go through a few more things we’re just going to skip ahead to the quick mentions of new features in Xbox Live;

  • · Arena – Multiplayer/Competitive hotspot for tournament play
  • · Cortana – voice activated assistant
  • · Background Music
  • · Looking for Group – Never raid or go into an Incursion alone, Division and Destiny players rejoice!

While Arena didn’t hit for me, I see the point and like the angle – why not have a home on the platform for the competitive stuff? Those that want to take their game up against their zip code, state, region, or whatever. Cortana is kind of cool and might help for things like responding to messages quickly or if anyone still uses snap (that’s still a feature right?). But there are other opportunities to ask things like “what’s the score of the Copa game on right now?” that might be able to be answered without having to remove yourself from the immersion of the game you’re in. Background music…I mean that’s just a long time coming and is honestly about damn time. Listening to Spotify on PS4 is a great feature, and it’ll surely be something I use with No Man’s Sky if the soundtrack doesn’t jive. Looking for Group also adds a feature that while it was somewhat present on Xbox 360 in the form of Beacons, it wasn’t adopted well due to the fact that it was basically introduced and you were left to run with it. As long as games can work in LFG in a way that does it all for you via the menu, or at least makes it intuitive, we’ll be in good shape.

"Wait this is real, and they're actually talking about it? Well I'll be damned" -my internal monologue during the show.

Let’s jump to the finale. The Project Scorpio reveal was masterfully handled. They’re starting the conversation, being transparent, and introducing developers, publishers, consumers, and decision makers to what their vision for the next few years looks like. Whether or not you agree with iterative console designs and improving hardware a few years into a cycle or not, it seems like at least one platform is doing it for sure – while Sony either realigns or prepares a solid public-facing message. There were some serious missteps though, 6 Teraflops is a good number, but it’s also tough to really get the meaning of that measurement across in a quick marketing video so it’s probably left better unsaid. Dive into the Tflops and write speeds later – I’d rather just hear “most powerful console ever made” because that gets me interested.

Getting developers talking about the Scorpio also reveals that conversations are already in the works – the people crafting experiences for the new hardware already have the information and can direct workflow accordingly. It’s short-sighted to say “well developers are going to have to accommodate for a large swath of hardware” because of the fact that any developer going to PC already does – and yes there’s a point of obsolescence. You’re not playing The Witcher 3 on your Voodoo card – that does not happen on PC and it’s unrealistic to think it won’t happen at some point in the console space either.

This all served as a sort of lens to my feelings of the Microsoft event – I got excited. Not so much about the games, sure some looked really interesting and great, but more for the platform. It reassured me that the future of Xbox is indeed a future, not just focused on showing me glossy trailers for games because the internet clamors for “gamesgamesgames” at a press show.

Sony seemed lifeless - not boring but actually devoid of human presence on the stage. No Shu, Boyes, and minimal Layden - just games.
Sony seemed lifeless - not boring but actually devoid of human presence on the stage. No Shu, Boyes, and minimal Layden - just games.

Sony, on the other hand, had some seriously impressive stuff – God of War, for instance, looked great, like a real reimagining of the formula. Gone are the days of mindless button mashing – I do worry it’s going a little too much for The Last of Us/Tomb Raider copy/paste into a Nordic setting but we’re still a ways off with plenty of time for me to be proven wrong.

And that’s the thing.

We’re still some ways off from a lot of what Sony put out there.

Sony showed us a new God of War, Days Gone, Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit: Becoming Human, Farpoint, Death Stranding, Spiderman – all of which have no release date mentions. While these are all interesting and cool looking, and certainly on my personal radar – I can’t help but feel that they were only in the show to hype the crowd and make it seem as though Sony had nothing but games constantly. In reality, we don’t have a lot to go on beyond the fact that games are coming and we have to trust they’ll make it to full release. Even Crash Bandicoot was announced, but not in the way you want him to be. How many of us are going to go pick up Skylanders just to scratch the Crash itch? The remasters are coming, and while that’s cool I’m not convinced they hold up in their own right. Sony left me feeling pandered to, simple as that. I got the distinct feeling of “you like games and VR, so here it is”. To be fair we did get dates on Last Guardian and PSVR itself but it just felt like the most exciting things were left at a “coming soon”.

This is a really stupid picture.
This is a really stupid picture.

I did enjoy Sony spending some time stating that between release and the end of the year there will be 50 “games” – if those end up counting things like a Star Wars or Batman mission then the count between games and what are basically tech demos starts to shrink, but the sheer number of possible experiences shows that Sony is committed to having content there for PSVR.

That isn’t enough for Sony as a platform holder though. What about PSN? Why does the PlayStation phone app give me a timeout error within the app itself when trying to read a message? Why is the store experience on the phone basically just a browser and on the console still slow and laggy? What’s next for PlayStation in the way of features? There are so many simple questions that need to be answered about the infrastructure that I came out of this conference thinking “wait but what about” that I wasn’t confident at all about much beyond some of the games that we *might get in 2017.

For all we know he's got one foot up on a stack of Xbox sales reports.
For all we know he's got one foot up on a stack of Xbox sales reports.

At first, I came out of Sony pretty excited, thinking this was one of the best E3 events ever – a point that I think still stands. After reflection, however, I’m still frustrated with the things I’m frustrated with Sony for. While Microsoft definitely didn’t execute flawlessly, they did show me the path to a better environment and ecosystem – something that at the end of Sony’s show I felt as though we’re going to deal with the PS4 and PSN just the way it is at least for another year. It was missing Shu, it was missing Boyes (are we done “building the list?”), it was missing the indie charm that garnered praise in years past. A live symphony was an incredible touch, and the showmanship displayed was superb, but when looking at a “state of the union” regarding the PlayStation brand I didn’t feel inspired or hopeful for the black box on my shelf.

The bottom line is that if Neo is in the works, and Sony plans to release it in 2017, they need to start the conversation with developers – which isn’t a big revelation – but they need to also warm consumers up to buying a new, more powerful console in the same way. The pitch has to be absolutely flawless. The case for early adopters or tech addicts (i.e. me) to get this new console has to now compete with a new Xbox project that we know is more powerful than anything out there now. When I think ahead to the year for Microsoft I see a few smart choices and some evolution. By talking about Scorpio now, they’re giving developers time to adapt and have things ready to take advantage of the new hardware day zero. If Neo comes out without a lead for developers, is less powerful than the Scorpio in a straight up, head-to-head comparison, and doesn’t boast a comparable or superior network platform we should all be seriously concerned about the decisions being made at Sony from the top down.

I’ll quickly wrap up some things that might already be clear, but I’m decidedly Xbox leaning. I’ve got a PS4, I’ll be picking up a PSVR, and I have plenty of friends on the PlayStation platform. I love it for what it is but my Xbox gets more of my time that isn’t dedicated to the PC, mostly because, as with Xbox 360, that’s where my buddies are. This is also got wordy, but try not to just get angry because that’s the initial response when someone criticizes anything you spent $400+ on.

Absolutely beautiful.
Absolutely beautiful.

I’m still very excited for the next year in gaming. However, now I’m excited to see how Microsoft implements their strategy, and if Sony starts to be more proactive. Even with a gigantic and nigh-insurmountable lead, Sony shouldn’t let off the gas. Hopefully you got the gist of my argument, and even if you disagree there’s a conversation and valid points that we can discuss, instead of a fanboy war over two of the largest companies out there.

26 Comments

E3 2016 – Sony Fan Service Vs. Microsoft's Bold Future

E3 is over, maybe in more ways than one, but that could be an entirely different article. I’m here to analyze what I saw after watching the big two go head to head in entirely different fashions. We saw a tale of two platforms last week, and responses online are varied, interesting, inflammatory, and more. While my personal opinion is that Microsoft crushed it – many others believe that there was no comparison to what Sony put forth, and still yet some hold out hope that Zelda will be the sole reason to reinvest in another Nintendo console at launch. My hope here today is to shine a light on the seemingly less popular opinion that Microsoft had not just a great showing, but one that didn’t just pander to their audience, and instead gives owners or potential buyer’s faith that the behemoth has a solid course in the coming years.

Remember these are two large companies that don’t owe anyone anything. The bottom line is they’re selling products, making money, and glad to take yours.

Our boy Phil led off with what was honestly surprising – coming out and acknowledging not only that Xbox One S is a thing, but that it will release at $299, at an alleged 40% reduced footprint, and offer a few new features. It will not play your games better, get that garbage out of here because I don’t believe it and it wasn’t actually said by any Xbox rep. HDR is neat and all but if a game wasn’t made to take advantage of it, we might as well move right along. The new controller and overall reduction in size is exciting – it shows more than just Microsoft thinking about shoving games down the gullet, but that they’re investing R&D dollars into refining the platform. This will be a huge point later on when we get to the end of the Microsoft show, so I won’t beat it into the ground (not yet).

I’m not going to stop and chat about each game they showed here because you, dear reader, have the power to check out each show individually, and then blast your thoughts at me in the comment – instead, I want to focus on what these presentations did that was interesting.

Gears and Forza Horizon 3 began the now-infamous, and what I thought were TM Jeff Keighley, lead-ins of “EXCLUSIVE”. What’s more interesting is the outlandish claim that because games are coming to PC there is no reason to buy a console and they can’t call them exclusives. First off – they can call them exclusive because they’re not on a Sony platform. Second, sometimes on sites like this and in articles like this we forget that we aren’t the bigger picture. Generic Consumer A does not go out and say “I read on (insert latest gaming blog/site) that I should just build a PC for my son/daughter instead because there is no reason to buy these game boxes”. They hear “I want an Xbox/PlayStation” and they go out and buy that device. Exclusives, in general, are a pretty awful thing when you really look at it – the motivation there is purely business focused to force the purchase one way or the other. I know why it’s done, I just don’t like it. The fact that Microsoft is embracing (at least attempting more now than ever to) the PC platform is encouraging and extremely forward thinking.

As we go through a few more things we’re just going to skip ahead to the quick mentions of new features in Xbox Live;

  • · Arena – Multiplayer/Competitive hotspot for tournament play
  • · Cortana – voice activated assistant
  • · Background Music
  • · Looking for Group – Never raid or go into an Incursion alone, Division and Destiny players rejoice!

While Arena didn’t hit for me, I see the point and like the angle – why not have a home on the platform for the competitive stuff? Those that want to take their game up against their zip code, state, region, or whatever. Cortana is kind of cool and might help for things like responding to messages quickly or if anyone still uses snap (that’s still a feature right?). But there are other opportunities to ask things like “what’s the score of the Copa game on right now?” that might be able to be answered without having to remove yourself from the immersion of the game you’re in. Background music…I mean that’s just a long time coming and is honestly about damn time. Listening to Spotify on PS4 is a great feature, and it’ll surely be something I use with No Man’s Sky if the soundtrack doesn’t jive. Looking for Group also adds a feature that while it was somewhat present on Xbox 360 in the form of Beacons, it wasn’t adopted well due to the fact that it was basically introduced and you were left to run with it. As long as games can work in LFG in a way that does it all for you via the menu, or at least makes it intuitive, we’ll be in good shape.

Let’s jump to the finale. The Project Scorpio reveal was masterfully handled. They’re starting the conversation, being transparent, and introducing developers, publishers, consumers, and decision makers to what their vision for the next few years looks like. Whether or not you agree with iterative console designs and improving hardware a few years into a cycle or not, it seems like at least one platform is doing it for sure – while Sony either realigns or prepares a solid public-facing message. There were some serious missteps though, 6 Teraflops is a good number, but it’s also tough to really get the meaning of that measurement across in a quick marketing video so it’s probably left better unsaid. Dive into the Tflops and write speeds later – I’d rather just hear “most powerful console ever made” because that gets me interested.

Getting developers talking about the Scorpio also reveals that conversations are already in the works – the people crafting experiences for the new hardware already have the information and can direct workflow accordingly. It’s short-sighted to say “well developers are going to have to accommodate for a large swath of hardware” because of the fact that any developer going to PC already does – and yes there’s a point of obsolescence. You’re not playing The Witcher 3 on your Voodoo card – that does not happen on PC and it’s unrealistic to think it won’t happen at some point in the console space either.

This all served as a sort of lens to my feelings of the Microsoft event – I got excited. Not so much about the games, sure some looked really interesting and great, but more for the platform. It reassured me that the future of Xbox is indeed a future, not just focused on showing me glossy trailers for games because the internet clamors for “gamesgamesgames” at a press show.

Sony, on the other hand, had some seriously impressive stuff – God of War, for instance, looked great, like a real reimagining of the formula. Gone are the days of mindless button mashing – I do worry it’s going a little too much for The Last of Us/Tomb Raider copy/paste into a Nordic setting but we’re still a ways off with plenty of time for me to be proven wrong.

And that’s the thing.

We’re still some ways off from a lot of what Sony put out there.

Sony showed us a new God of War, Days Gone, Horizon Zero Dawn, Detroit: Becoming Human, Farpoint, Death Stranding, Spiderman – all of which have no release date mentions. While these are all interesting and cool looking, and certainly on my personal radar – I can’t help but feel that they were only in the show to hype the crowd and make it seem as though Sony had nothing but games constantly. In reality, we don’t have a lot to go on beyond the fact that games are coming and we have to trust they’ll make it to full release. Even Crash Bandicoot was announced, but not in the way you want him to be. How many of us are going to go pick up Skylanders just to scratch the Crash itch? The remasters are coming, and while that’s cool I’m not convinced they hold up in their own right. Sony left me feeling pandered to, simple as that. I got the distinct feeling of “you like games and VR, so here it is”. To be fair we did get dates on Last Guardian and PSVR itself but it just felt like the most exciting things were left at a “coming soon”.

I did enjoy Sony spending some time stating that between release and the end of the year there will be 50 “games” – if those end up counting things like a Star Wars or Batman mission then the count between games and what are basically tech demos starts to shrink, but the sheer number of possible experiences shows that Sony is committed to having content there for PSVR.

That isn’t enough for Sony as a platform holder though. What about PSN? Why does the PlayStation phone app give me a timeout error within the app itself when trying to read a message? Why is the store experience on the phone basically just a browser and on the console still slow and laggy? What’s next for PlayStation in the way of features? There are so many simple questions that need to be answered about the infrastructure that I came out of this conference thinking “wait but what about” that I wasn’t confident at all about much beyond some of the games that we *might get in 2017.

At first, I came out of Sony pretty excited, thinking this was one of the best E3 events ever – a point that I think still stands. After reflection, however, I’m still frustrated with the things I’m frustrated with Sony for. While Microsoft definitely didn’t execute flawlessly, they did show me the path to a better environment and ecosystem – something that at the end of Sony’s show I felt as though we’re going to deal with the PS4 and PSN just the way it is at least for another year. It was missing Shu, it was missing Boyes (are we done “building the list?”), it was missing the indie charm that garnered praise in years past. A live symphony was an incredible touch, and the showmanship displayed was superb, but when looking at a “state of the union” regarding the PlayStation brand I didn’t feel inspired or hopeful for the black box on my shelf.

The bottom line is that if Neo is in the works, and Sony plans to release it in 2017, they need to start the conversation with developers – which isn’t a big revelation – but they need to also warm consumers up to buying a new, more powerful console in the same way. The pitch has to be absolutely flawless. The case for early adopters or tech addicts (i.e. me) to get this new console has to now compete with a new Xbox project that we know is more powerful than anything out there now. When I think ahead to the year for Microsoft I see a few smart choices and some evolution. By talking about Scorpio now, they’re giving developers time to adapt and have things ready to take advantage of the new hardware day zero. If Neo comes out without a lead for developers, is less powerful than the Scorpio in a straight up, head-to-head comparison, and doesn’t boast a comparable or superior network platform we should all be seriously concerned about the decisions being made at Sony from the top down.

I’ll quickly wrap up some things that might already be clear, but I’m decidedly Xbox leaning. I’ve got a PS4, I’ll be picking up a PSVR, and I have plenty of friends on the PlayStation platform. I love it for what it is but my Xbox gets more of my time that isn’t dedicated to the PC, mostly because, as with Xbox 360, that’s where my buddies are. This is also got wordy, but try not to just get angry because that’s the initial response when someone criticizes anything you spent $400+ on.

I’m still very excited for the next year in gaming. However, now I’m excited to see how Microsoft implements their strategy, and if Sony starts to be more proactive. Even with a gigantic and nigh-insurmountable lead, Sony shouldn’t let off the gas. Hopefully you got the gist of my argument, and even if you disagree there’s a conversation and valid points that we can discuss, instead of a fanboy war over two of the largest companies out there.

Start the Conversation

#MakeCODGreat Again

Regardless of Trump/Parallel messaging, and the fact that the fish is pretty alright, there's a bit of a "movement" going on to "return to roots" within Call of Duty. Wondering what the GB community thinks. What do you recall being the strongest days of COD and why? What does COD mean to you?

I stumbled on this via Crave and thought it brought up some interesting conversation points. While I originally started a simple forum post - I found myself spiraling into nostalgia and wanting something more.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of "Whiteboy7thst" - whose youtube video can be found in the Crave story.

What I recall being great about Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare was the fact that it didn't glorify war. It was not a pseudo American military war-complex cheerleader. I thought the fact that player characters died, there was some semblance of true loss and struggle, and the historic quotes on dying that hinted at the futility of the foot soldier and war in general were great touches. Black Ops and Black Ops 2 were off base but in a decent way that told a neat story. Modern Warfare 3 is where they lost me. I don't know if it was the memories of lobbies full of friends to the point we had to move to private games in Modern Warfare 2 or the hype that led up to that release that made that game such an event. But around MW3 things started to get a bit stale - and at that time we complained of war games being too brown, gray, and dull. Even in the above picture 3/4 photos there mean nothing to me - the only one that rings a very distinct bell is the "All Ghillied Up" mission, which to this day is one of the most memorable sequences in all of gaming. Granted we've lost that. That Inifinty Ward is not the same 2016 Infinity Ward. Hell, even the guys that "made" Infinity Ward aren't that Infinity Ward(Titanfall2 hype?) That doesn't mean that we need to go all the way back to the picture in the lower left either though. To me, that doesn't inspire hype, or any feeling reminiscent of enjoyment. It looks like that gray/brown sludge that shooters became for a while.

Generic Middle Eastern Antagonist? Sure, but your character was straight up shot in the face here.
Generic Middle Eastern Antagonist? Sure, but your character was straight up shot in the face here.

I think there have been some interesting attempts - most notably Advanced Warfare. While not a true return to form, it was at least distinct, and the campaign explored ideas of the military-industrial complex that hadn't been touched before. I like the way AW handled quite a few things actually, and COD hasn't made all bad moves. The level of customization in AW was handled well, and offered variety, the new movement mechanics made things interesting and could result in some great traversal strings, and I had a good time.

Best part of Ghosts.
Best part of Ghosts.

What needs to happen? I can't say for sure, because I'm not a COD insider or game designer. What I think I'd like to see explored from a narrative standpoint is the return to "war is hell" instead of what boils down to a recruitment or a RaRa go Murica experience. I don't want the game, or any game to really make me feel awesome for killing a bunch of people, but I also don't want to feel depressed and have to think about the fact that I just killed a father/brother/son - that's not what COD is for and I honestly can't put my finger on what needs to happen. I can say that I don't envy any dev working on the series - because for each of me that wants something that isn't such a badass simulator, there's at least 10 other opinions of variation on the concept. Does Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer, Treyarch lean all the way into the eSports revolution we keep getting promised? Do they lean too far into the Gears of War bro-saw? I don't know, and no one does but those developers. It's Infinity Ward's turn to crank out something, and it can't get much worse than Ghosts.

No Caption Provided

I can't say I'm invested in COD any more. That is a major bummer. I loved some of those games, and I even have a soft spot for World at War (what up Kiefer). As a part-time critic/reviewer I also have to stay up and hold out a little hope that the games that are coming our way aren't going to submit to the pressure of making the most mass-appeal oriented title. Unfortunately that's what COD is now, it needs to be mass-appeal because it sells to the masses. Like massive masses. Here's the thing though; those masses have proven that if you identify your experience, they'll appreciate a dedication to that identity. Some might not like to draw parallels to Hollywood, but it's hard to ignore the fact that Deadpool has been a smash hit rated R comic book movie due in large part to passion, and a commitment to artistic vision on the part of the directors, writers, and even the star. On the other hand though, there's a great chance that a suit at Activision has already busted into the office saying "These kids and that damn Deadpool! They love it! Can we make a Rated R Call of Duty?! With dick jokes, and...and...and weird sex scenes...and then there's a UFC Fighter because, Gina Carano fought once right? She was in Red Alert...Make it work." Only to leave the office, rubbing their nose furiously I can only guess, and hop into their Jaguar XFR before cutting everyone off listening to Gangnam Style.

Anyway, Call of Duty right? It's not impossible for it to find center. And I think that is exactly what it needs to do - deliver an experience that's not over the top insanity, returning to the core of a wargame that tells a story (not just in campaign) of struggle and the futility of war. There are plenty of conflicts to imagine and extrapolate to the COD-sphere - but if we go back to cold-war conflicts and have Exo-suits I'm probably gone forever. This got a bit long in the tooth - and definitely comes off ranty, wavering, and a bit aimless but if you made it all the way to these words I thank you. What do you think?

Edit: Of course the Dog was making formatting a mess - trying a few things

50 Comments

Thoughts on Battleborn post-beta

I'm going to pop in my preview of the Battleborn beta for those interested, but the long and short of it is that I still can't quite put my finger on the game's pulse. The MOBA aspects were somewhat interesting, and I can see the draw for the crowd that truly enjoys that style. The Campaign felt entirely in Gearbox's wheel house (gearhouse?) with some witty writing and some genuine moments that made me do that little scoff laugh that Borderlands always did so well. I walked away feeling a little more convinced that my friends that spent hundreds of hours in the Borderlands franchise might actually find some fun in this game. But then after reflecting a bit more I think I've nailed down my concerns. Keep in mind these are just for me, but hopefully it'll help me air them out, and maybe someone out there can prove me wrong and sway me to the "yeah definitely" camp.

Some of the characters are great, some are ok, and some are just...they just are.

The Deutsches Robot Marquis is awesome. ISIC has some fun lines, Oscar Mike is a fun shooter character. But there are some characters that maybe I just don't know how to use, but I can't shake the feeling they're either out of place or going to be rarely utilized. Rath comes to mind, as a melee character in a MOBA shooter I felt like I was dying constantly.

Single player is a little boring

While it's fun to go through the story on your own to see the writing - the three campaign missions I played were well done and fun, but still felt awful lonely. It also felt again like you pretty much had to use an offensive/assault character as there wasn't any benefit to bringing a healer or defender along for the ride.

Identity Crisis

I don't know that Battleborn has a clear identity. Sure it might actually know what it is, and Gearbox might have done its best to clearly define it, but it still feels like that in-between of Overwatch and the likes of SMITE or League of Legends. The comparisons are inescapable, and if Overwatch can nail gameplay and story together, the case for picking up Battleborn becomes a little weaker.

Preview Writeup

Here's my previously-elsewhere-posted preview for those that didn't get in or want more of an opinion on what was actually found there. For me, the jury is most definitely still out, but I like what Gearbox has done in the past, and there are glints of greatness in Battleborn. Time will tell if they should've just made a pretty new Borderlands instead.

Battleborn is a bold step for developer Gearbox, fusing what put them on the map in a huge way in Borderlands, with what seems to be the new, hot thing. Battleborn looks to take Gearbox’s mastery of the first person, loot-driven shooter into the more competitive, and increasingly crowded realm of MOBA. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a pre-release build of the frenetic first person fare, and are ready to give you our in-depth preview after a few hours with the game.

Characters

Battleborn kicks off with an art style that will nearly immediately seem familiar yet evolved. The cartoonish nature of the art and character design lends itself to some fantastical possibilities, with each character being wholly independent, unique, and memorable. With over 25 total characters unlockable through either story progression or Commander Rank (more on that later) the stable of total avatars is deep and makes the feat of earning each character seem easily doable. Characters like Kleese, Marquis, and Ghalt are all interesting and well voiced through the few story chapters played. Each also have their own unique attacks, taunts, and some skins that seem to be merely color pallet swaps, at least upon first glance (we didn’t unlock and variations that were notable in our fairly brief time with the preview build, totaling about 10 hours). The characters themselves seem as though they’re just that; characters. Marquis is a Germanic robot sniper gentleman. Ghalt is a cigar chomping, shotgun blasting, trenchcoat wearing assault character. Each of them is interesting and at least flirts with being worthy of investigating their backstory and lore, which is actually unlocked in a menu by playing with the character and completing certain tasks across multiple modes.

Leveling

Players level in a few different ways; character and commander. Character leveling happens by performing well with said character in their role, as some are assault, some healing, and some support. Most of the roles aren’t anything new but harkening back to the variety mentioned earlier in the preview, each of them do their individual roles in very different ways. Leveling up your character individually will allow for new taunts, skins, and even some lore and backstory to be fleshed out.

Commander Rank on the other hand carries across multiple characters and are a better reflection of your total game progression and ability. Commander rank allows players to grab more loadouts to activate during a given match, to unlock more titles and badges to showcase their prowess.

Multiplayer

Battleborn’s PvP modes focus on a few key modes;

Incursion Mode; escort minions to the enemy side to take out two spider-like sentry turrets while trying to stop the opposing team from doing the same.

Meltdown Mode; guide the minions to incinerators – essentially little gates they need to get to be gobbled up and get your team points. Stop the enemy from getting their minions eaten by either destroying the minions or the other team, or both.

Capture Mode; As it sounds, capture the designated areas and hold them to earn more points than the other team to win.

Each mode in the game (including single player) has shards as a sort of currency that is collected by destroying larger shards and spending them on turrets and other defenses. In our time with the preview build this proved nearly invaluable in attaining victory. Turrets come in varieties as well; defensive traps and offensive projectile focused. Strategically getting more and more shards as well as having teammates place the turrets is absolutely crucial to slowing down or completely halting an enemy advance.

While these modes were each individually fun for different reasons, they each seemed to be fairly similar in scope. Their end-game was different of course, but they all had the feeling that the best way to go about it was coordination and teamwork, but during preview it was a bit tougher to organize those very teammates, and the AI was near worthless from a support standpoint.

Campaign

The story of Battleborn is told through an almost Saturday-morning cartoon style, with a fun intro that showcases each of the human-controlled Battleborn in a quick cut fashion. Playing through the campaign is what made the apparent attitude, good writing, and fun atmosphere they’re going for with Battleborn really shine through. That token Gearbox sense of humor makes more than a few appearances through the course of each of the missions, providing moments of levity when it feels like things are a little too hot.

The setting of each story mission played during the preview, 3 in total, were each distinct and neat to look around. Each had interesting things going on in the background, and felt pretty big even if a bit directed, but that’s somewhat expected when you’re looking to play through a narrative story. Enemy variety was essentially drilled down to a few enemy types across only about 2-3 species. Granted this is just a preview build but it wasn’t far into the second mission before it became clear that once you identify the more challenging enemies to focus on, strategy becomes much easier.

For me, not necessarily the person drawn to a MOBA, the story showcased was interesting enough for me to want to see what else happens. It also allowed for the choice of any character unlocked thus far to be used, so if you’re an assault fan and want to power through the story solo, go right ahead. It’s a little more challenging to try to go through the game as a healer solo, as you’re not really dealing damage, but simply hitting the matchmaking is an option for the player hoping to just jump in.

The Pre-Bottom Line

Battleborn looks to do a lot of interesting thing and is seriously chock-full of content. So much so that it wouldn’t all fit in this preview. The MOBA aspects are fun and could hold a ton of competitive potential and might even serve as some great viewing material on services like YouTube Gaming or Twitch. The campaign also holds the iconic Gearbox style in many ways, and looks to hold a lot of fun and variation if the team delivers a fleshed out experience in length. Overall Battleborn deserves a look for the first-person fan of more than a few genres, and if it can deliver a well-rounded experience might just be one of the most unique and long-lasting games to hit in 2016.

Battleborn releases on May 3, 2016 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

Start the Conversation

Homefront: The Revolution - Beta Revelations

While getting limited time in the Homefront: The Revolution Beta - I thought I'd share my experiences and why the game deserves some ire, but also holds some promise. I can't say I'm giving it as much hope as I gave the original, since I've already been hurt once (twice if we're counting Brink)

A bit of setup

The beta featured a co-op mode called Resistance - a four player mode that focuses on working together to get through the controlled city and complete objectives.

Framerate / Performance

First glance the framerate killed me - if we want to get into a debate over 30+ vs 60+ then fine, but this was sub 30 and very choppy at more than a few points. When I dropped into my first game it was extremely rough, and instantly set the wrong kind of impression. I did notice some lagging and some t-poses, but as it's a beta I'm really hoping that all of this is overhauled. I saw something about it all being an older build on the Homefront game page which I'll put in below, and hope that this Beta is truly that - a beta that was essentially stress testing and getting a feel for how things will work because these initial impressions didn't give me a ton of confidence.

Mission Design

The co-op seems like it could be actually pretty fun - I was able to choose from random or a selection of maps, then match make with other players in order to take out the KPA. The missions were fairly basic, go here, hack this or kill this unit, then move on - but they were multi phase, and were fairly fun to take on with a crew. Levels themselves seem actually quite open, with multiple paths for players to take - snipers can take up perch and overwatch, while gunners can get behind cover to lay down suppressing fire. Flanking is not only an option but a necessity.

Fighter/Character Customization

From the beginning you'll choose your sex and face, as well as be able to control things like the color of your fatigues and see that quite a bit of things are locked. Missions completed earn cash, which can be used to purchase crates - which come in Gear, Weapon, Ordinance, or attachments (presumably for weapons in the form of grips, stocks, sights, etc.). I tended to earn about $1500-1800 per mission and was one of the lower on the team so I assume there's more to be earned with more kills and objective play. I bought a Gear and Weapon crate during my time and was actually really happy with what came out, even though the gear was just some shooting glasses, a beanie, and hack tool refills. The Weapon crate was a long-range bolt action receiver, making my M4 a sniper rifle. I was pretty interested in the fact that I could swap out parts on my gun to make it almost whatever I wanted. I noticed during gameplay I could also hold a button in the Crysis style of staring at your gun while different attachments pop on or off.

The above constitutes what could keep me coming back to this mode - sure I would probably only play through it a few times on the higher difficulties a few times before it probably got a bit old, but I actually enjoyed the parts that weren't marred by the aforementioned framerate problems. The post I was referring to one the Homefront page can be found here and the devs promise that things look better, play smoother, and ultimately that the line "not representative of a final product" might hold true. I hope it does take some changes and move forward because I can see the gleaming of a good game under the dirt and smudges of the issues present so far. Here's hoping that the revolution does indeed rise up.

9 Comments

Great Expectations

Can we just talk about expectations for a minute?

The Division Beta is out - and I've got about 3-4 hours in on Xbox One, and am planning on putting a bit forth on PC as well - because I can damn it. I'm enjoying the game because I didn't know exactly what I was getting into. I knew it had RPG elements, it had guns, and that I like Tom Clancy stuff (plus Red Storm doing weapons on a game is a huge plus for me). Cut to just a bit ago and a bunch of forums, replies, posts and whatnot about how the game is utterly disappointing, and should be like this or that. I get to thinking about how The Division is missing expectations and what exactly that means to us, we, and me.

Who is to blame for expectations?

everyone is the easy way out - we're all to blame, they're to blame. Fuck us all. In reality, there are three big causes for game expectations to be set a certain way: publisher/developers, friends and colleagues, and ourselves. The former two influencing the latter greatly.

Publishers

Ubisoft set up The Division as a shooter/RPG hybrid set within the evacuated landscape of NY following a viral outbreak on Black Friday (you have my attention Ubi.) Through numerous videos, features, articles, blogs and more they started trickling out more and more details about how the game works - the issue being that at a certain point marketing may step in and say "don't tell them about x because we aren't ready". This leads to speculation and ultimately the other two expectation setters to step in.

Colleagues and Friends

I work in IT full time and write about games part time - game talks are always around me. I don't even go out of my way to scream LOOK AT MY PORTFOLIO JACKASS (I mean you can if you want to) but at some point people figure out I play a lot of games. My opinion matters to some, and none to others and that's the way it should be. If you and I like the same games, things and share dreams then sure, we might like the Division and hate MOBAs. When my friends start to describe a game a certain way I like to check out some play footage or more info, but not everyone will. If my friends are excited for a game there's a good chance I will be to. Destiny, Fallout 4, and every god damned Call of Duty is at least examined and has a little register on the hype meter in my circle.

If you can't find the problem, maybe it's you.

The real point here is that you've done this to yourself. You set the expectation that a game was going to be a thing that it turns out, it isn't. Now I know that the gaming community, at least the vocal portion, usually isn't held as a moderate bunch. That doesn't mean that you need to lap up all the marketing info Ubi throws your way but what it does mean is to remain skeptical even if you're optimistic. I've seen more than a few posts saying the Division is already a disappointment and the thing isn't even out. We have no idea how many hours the campaign holds, how difficult it becomes, hell we can't even craft in the beta so why are we rushing to judgement?

Amazon recently revealed their 20% off games promo for Prime members - with the absolute best part of it being that the discount works up to 14 days after release. This is great news for those that are smart and want to see how things play out. The Division will probably have launch day server problems, let's just be real with each other. The Division will also not be all things to all people - but rein in your expectations and stop trying to make the game something it is not. If you don't know something, you don't know it. The shittiest expression in the business world is "you don't know what you don't know" but it holds some water when talking about things that aren't even retail products yet.

One of the more difficult things I've found when reviewing a game is going in sans expectations - I have to review a product/game for what it is AT.THAT.POINT. Not what it could've been, not what it should be, but what it is. I can be disappointed that Fallout 4 didn't really push anything...anywhere sure, but if I like that it's more of the same - then that's what should come through in my opininon. If the game was marketed as a massively online multiplayer shooter and ends up being an RPG with MOBA influences - I can mention it but can't say I'm surprised that it turned out that way since there probably wasn't a massive shift within the 30 days leading to launch. Sure games need to push things forward, and there are often times some hard observations to make - but expectations are a very tricky thing in games. They're up to you, the player to set, and shouldn't be thought of as disappointments if the developer doesn't deliver on your ideal game, because there are millions of "you".

The bottom line

As I grow older, I learn that moderation is key to literally everything in life; booze, red meat, video games. Getting all jacked up for Brink was the worst mistake I've ever made in my life, and it taught me to temper expectations and be real with myself about what things are and what they could be. Expectations are a tough concept to really examine because mine are completely different from yours. What I caution is to examine and re-examine your expectations for a product you're excited for - and remember this is why beta's are around for us consumers. We get to check the Division out pre-launch and if it's not your bag, move along. I hope to see you all on March whatever while we take back this chitty (bane) and sweet christ let's have some fun.

Start the Conversation