October Update

Definitely getting colder and lots of new games coming out. Progress on my backlog slowed down mostly in part due to WoW.

New game pickups
No new games! Videogame related purchases included:

  • 180 Days and Dreadwake Mount gametime offer for WoW.
  • Pre-order for the Sony PlayStation Classic in December.
  • 2 for 1 month offer to extend Xbox Game Pass to February 2019.
  • Welcome card pack for Hearthstone (had £2 Google Play voucher)
  • Blizzcon Virtual Ticket
  • Raspberry Pi 3B+ and other assorted goodies.

Been playing (Grouvee Link)

  • World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
  • The Elder Scrolls Online – Summerfall Event
  • Rage
  • Call of Duty Black Ops III
  • Hearthstone

Mostly World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (again). I’m very, very slowing levelling my main character to max level although I have been playing with alts. I finally managed to experience the Worgen starter zone having created an alt who fit the race (Feral Druid). Loved the starter zone but it is a laggy and buggy mess. Apart from very bad performance and noticeable lag for the whole zone, there are loads of bugs. On a number of quests I would have to log out and back in to complete them (disappearing vehicle UI, and quest items bugged). And unfortunately it appears to have been this way for a very long time.

I also played some The Elder Scrolls Online, for the Summerfall Event where I took a few hours to get the Pathfinder Achievement. Although it wasn’t required in the end! This was for some virtual tat of a pet, mount and player housing.

Also been playing Rage a bit more, maybe coming up on the half-way point of the campaign at a guess.

With all the launch excitement around the new Call of Duty, I decided to try out Call of Duty Black Ops III given away to PlayStation Plus Subscribers last year. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay with it but I’ve tried out Zombies (not sure so far what to think of this) and playing some custom games of Multiplayer. I’d like to try the campaign. Also been playing a bit of Hearthstone.

Updates

On Grouvee I have added an On-hold shelf to temporarily park games that I have played and mean to return to, but haven’t played for a few months. That way I can clear up my ‘Playing’ shelf just to be those few games I am actively playing. All will be kept on the backlog.

With regards to the website I’ve changed the following:
• Created a simple Reviews page for listing out my videogame reviews and impressions
• Renamed ‘The Plan’ page to Rules and improved the content
• Made some improvements to the design
• Minor edits on the About and Main pages

Away from the site I’ve been playing around with RetroPie on my Raspberry Pi 2. It’s been a little while since I last tried in on the Raspberry Pi and have been impressed with how well it’s developed. Will be playing around with some more SoC (System on a Chip) boards soon.

Up next

Same as last month although I’m tempted to try out a couple of games on Xbox Game Pass to maximise it whilst I have it. A few older games I would like to progress and complete still (Rage, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Mass Effect 3). With regards to WoW hoping to get my Death Knight (Blood) to max level 120.

Best incomplete Game of the Year is…?

So Red Dead Redemption 2 has arrived and already dominated critical opinion. On both OpenCritic and MetaCritic sites it has an average score of 97%. That puts it amongst some of the highest scoring games ever on these aggregate sites. However the reviews are all based on an incomplete videogame, or at least only part of the overall package being purchased. Because until Red Dead Online (the multiplayer mode) releases all these reviews are only of the single-player portion of the game.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, in that Grand Theft Auto 5 launched without GTA Online, which arrived a few weeks after launch. However it feels like one of the few time such an important mode has been ignored within a videogame review. Imagine reviews of Halo 5 without mentioning the multiplayer, or a review of Call of Duty which only touch upon Zombies mode etc. Indeed imagine a review of a film or a book, where the reviewer has only seen or read some of the work. It feels broken to say the least.

Unfortunately this is just part of the reality of videogame reviews. Huge cachet or financial rewards are placed on reviews and the Metacritic aggregate. And this aggregate doesn’t update upon re-reviews. So videogame developers and publishers who love to control every aspect of a products launch know that it really doesn’t matter what happens afterwards. There are examples of broken reviews everywhere, for example Halo: The Master Chief Collection got a high 85 on MetaCritic, but barely any of the reviews even mention the broken state that the package released in. Where even basic features such as online matchmaking didn’t work properly (although Microsoft and 343 Industries have recently returned to repair and update the game). Arguably making videogame reviews even more complicated is the changing nature of Live Services and online games.

It is a reason why forums, Reddit or YouTube have become more important for some in evaluating a videogame. As I noted in my recent blog post reviews have arguably improved with user generated content and the rise of more independent videogame reviewers.

Red Dead Redemption 2 might be the game of the year and worthy of praise, but it’s still curious to see barely any mention of the incoming multiplayer mode. Almost as if it’s an afterthought. Although in reality it is anything but. If Rockstar treat RDR 2 the same as GTA V then it is the single-player mode which will be static, whilst only the online component receives new content. The single-player mode will be stuck in time. Much like the reviews of Red Dead Redemption 2.

Talk is cheap

Just over a week ago the maker of the popular Weak Auras addon posted a tweet about the current number of subscribers for World of Warcraft. The tweet was suggesting that after a new API had been made available, that it was possible to derive current subscribers to the game. Current subscribers for the game have dropped by around 2 million only two months after the release, for the western North American and Europe realms (servers).

Because the tweet was based on a soon to be deleted post elsewhere, there was no verification or way to validate the numbers. However this didn’t stop the news spreading and quickly people repeating it as fact. In addition many were quick to shut down conversations in their space (i.e. ResetEra or Reddit) because the claims couldn’t be substantiated. In addition Activision Blizzard responded to say the data was false.

So whilst there is nothing wrong with regarding the original leaked numbers as dubious i.e. anyone can claim anything on the internet. The response from Activision Blizzard should also be treated with cynicism. Many were quick to claim that Activision Blizzard wouldn’t lie because they have a legal responsibility not to mislead their shareholders. However the claim that the numbers are false can be made on so many levels, i.e. the number is only 99.99% accurate, or the data doesn’t include the Asia region subscribers etc. The fact is Activision Blizzard hasn’t published World of Warcraft subscribers numbers since 2015 when the game had 5.5 million subscribers.

Like many other companies Activision Blizzard has moved away from factual and meaningful data such as unit sales and subscribers to ‘player engagement’ and monthly active users (MAU) for the purposes of reporting financial information. However this is less useful data, very easy to hide behind and doesn’t really provide enough detail to analyse. Activision Blizzard MAU data is all players across all of its games and purchases grouped up into one big number. With free-to-play games included it is very difficult to see how World of Warcraft is performing. And since 2015 Activision Blizzard has only ever released ‘positive’ PR data- i.e. sold 3.4 million copies of Battle for Azeroth on day one. It will never release active subscribers unless it a. decided to, and b. the numbers were extremely healthy.

And it isn’t alone in this. Microsoft, for example, since 2015 has stopped reporting on the number of Xbox One units sold, or the number of Xbox Live Gold subscribers (i.e. paying). This is very likely as it was selling less Xbox Ones than Sony’s PlayStation 4 and the fact Gold subscribers was probably declining as a result. In fact we know from other data (i.e EA etc.) that Xbox One has sold less units that the Xbox 360 had at the same time in its lifetime. Microsoft is generating more revenue from digital sales but from less console players. We don’t even know what constitutes a Microsoft MAU. It could simply be someone logging into the Windows 10 Xbox App. In other words pretty garbage information.

However one thing was interesting and that is how people simply discounted that there might only be 3.2 million subscribers (in NA/EU, so excluding Asia servers). I’ve seen people state this couldn’t be true because why would anyone not buy gametime for an expansion they had already purchased (the 3.4m day one sales as noted earlier). Well I know this can be true because I was one of those players. Despite preordering the expansion for Allied Races during Legion I simply didn’t subscribe to World of Warcraft again until after the release of Battle for Azeroth. Also with the ability to buy gametime with in-game gold it’s quite possible the numbers for day one sales could have exceeded the subscribers at release.

In addition if we look at realm data, we can see there are around 5.9 million characters in EU and NA realms at level 111+. With alts and multiple characters it means it ‘could’ have been possible that there were somewhere in the region of 3.2 million subscribers for NA and EU regions at launch. As BellularGaming said in his YouTube video the lack of historic data makes this hard to look at previous trends. That said as with any MMO there is likely to be drop off in players after the release. Certainly there appears to more negativity around for Battle for Azeroth than the previous expansion at this point in its lifetime.

Either way the numbers are certainly not beyond the realms of possibility, and Blizzard quickly logging everyone out of the forums (possibly as a result of shutting down the API) may be an indicator that API had given out more data than ever intended. But unless there was more transparency from Activision Blizzard, we simply won’t know.

The more difficult to answer question might be, if the numbers are close to the truth, then what are the implications for World of Warcraft. Any MMO has a more defined ceiling when selling expansions but there might come a point when Activision Blizzard decides it can make more money from another business model. However it certainly isn’t going to increase any budget or resources for future releases and may explain why World of Warcraft Classic has taken so long to release.

Buying videogames at release rarely makes sense

One month ago Shadow of the Tomb Raider launched at £79.99 on Xbox Live for the ‘Croft Edition‘, or aka the most complete version with the least content stripped from it. As of today the same game is now £59.99 on the Xbox storefront (there are similar discounts on PSN and Steam). A whole 25 percent cheaper.

Indeed with Halloween, Black Friday and Christmas sales coming, it is probably likely the game will become even cheaper before the year is out. So buying early and playing for one month has cost the privilege of £20. Unless you’ve spent hours on the game and hammered it within that first few weeks it’s probably not worth the extra £20.

Now Shadow of the Tomb Raider might be selling badly and therefore not a great example. However it’s unlikely to be the only AAA game released in the last few months of the year that will be discounted. If fact imagine what price the game might be in a year from now. Maybe even on Xbox Game Pass or really cheap. And if you have a huge backlog and can’t play the game straight away then that’s a huge reason to not buy on day one.

If you purchase at release you get the benefit of content discovery, with no spoilers, and you’re at the same level as everyone else. At least for a few days. You are experiencing the launch window when everyone gets to play the game afresh and not posting in a forum weeks or months after everyone else has moved on.

However there are arguably more benefits to waiting; you might get the game for much cheaper, bugs and issues have been patched out or improvements made, you get to see the reality of the business model (i.e. just how aggressive is the monitisation) and if the game has staying power (i.e. not a Lawbreakers, Evolve or Battleborn).

Indeed I wrote earlier this year about really looking forward to Forza Horizon 4 but having not had a chance to play it yet – I don’t feel like I’m missing much. Indeed it feels nice to be able to play other games rather than compelled to play a new release. And whilst the game sounds great it also sounds like more of the same. And I never did quite finish with the third game.

Now of course there are going to be scenarios where buying a game at release makes sense. Particularly if you are buying a game to enjoy with friends or don’t want anything spoilt. Or indeed you are really looking forward to the game. And if you leave it for too long certain multiplayer games can become far harder to catch up in if you are late to the party. A game like Star Wars Battlefront 2 where more experienced players have unlocked all the cards or weapons. Even time spent in a game can make a difference. The Twitch streamer Shroud mentioned that he thought Call of Duty Black Ops 4 – Blackout is a hard game, and people could bounce off that game in a month or two when coming up against more experience players.

With high prices for many AAA games now and aggressive monetisation on many games, you really need be playing the game a lot to begin with. And unless you have lots of spare time and a very small collection of games there is a real limit on just how many games you can play. At certain times of the year, like the busy autumn release schedule we are now in, it can feel like there is a major release every week. So for me at least with new games being so expensive I think I’m going to wait on most and pick up when they are much cheaper. And in the meantime try to catch on WoW or my backlog.

Of course that does mean staying away from Twitch and YouTube and not going near reviews or streams to limit any spoilers for relevant games. However I don’t think that’s a bad thing given just how many games get spoiled this way.

And if one green bottle should accidentally fall…

So 2018’s Call of Duty has rolled out, and all appears to be good; critically and probably commercially too. Actually Activision and Treyarch added a really well received Battle Royale mode that will probably be the new Twitch darling for a little while.

It’s been known for some time that Call of Duty Black Ops 4 wouldn’t have any single player campaign. However I had personally hoped that there would be some meaningful solo PVE content that allowed people not necessarily into PVP to have a reason to play Black Ops 4.

Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. One Reddit user has researched in detail just how much of the game is available offline. And it isn’t much at all. Basically no Blackout mode and no ‘offline’ progression for either Zombies or Multiplayer. So beyond some basic tutorials there is no reason for someone interested in single player to buy this game. Whilst that’s not a surprise it’s a shame that the developers couldn’t have been more honest and responded in greater detail before the release. The community should not have to provide all the details.

There is a chance the game has more solo content when online but this is probably unlikely (EDIT: it appears levelling at least in Zombies is a thing when solo and online). And whilst there is nothing wrong with this game being multiplayer only, this represents the moment the popular Call of Duty series gave up on single player gamers.

Of course Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 isn’t alone in prioritising online multiplayer. Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and it’s 2017 sequel both have anaemic, barebones solo content. The sequel added a campaign but that wasn’t really what the community wanted. The Battlefield series has a paltry single player mode and no solo content beyond this. Rainbow Six Siege launched with a PVE mode that supported group and solo play but has been abandoned since launch. And the last Halo game had a solo campaign with nothing else for solo players. Would anyone be surprised if Halo 6 ditched the campaign or at least moved towards an online/open world design?

Unfortunately the days of rich solo content when publishers were scared of not shipping meaningful solo modes have gone (Unreal Tournament, Quake series, Rainbow Six Vegas etc.). Publishers of multiplayer first person shooters just don’t care about solo gamers.

So it seems these days first person shooters break down into; story driven or open world (Wolfenstein, Doom, Metro or Far Cry), Live Service (Destiny) or multiplayer (Call of Duty, Battlefield, Rainbow Six, CS:GO) and therefore the solo first person shooter is far from dead. However the multiplayer first shooter is now an irrelevant game type where solo players are concerned. A real shame because it wasn’t always that way and it arguably shouldn’t have to be either. How does that song finish again… ‘There’ll be no single player games sitting on the wall.’

Warframe Review

One of the most unique videogame experiences there is.

Warframe is fantastic. From the minute you first play it and start with the first movement of your character, you realise you are playing something stunningly different. Something special. So much has been written already about this game, so to get straight to the point – Warframe is one of, if not the best ‘looter shooter’ out there at the moment. It’s very unique, comes from a strong, creative and innovative developer. And has the best Community teams in the business of all online games. It’s an outright classic. It is also the near-perfect example of how a Live Service should be done.

Warframe is a game I first saw years ago when TotalBiscuit covered it in his fairly famous ‘WTF’ video on YouTube in January 2013. After that is was a game I would often see mentioned but for some reason would never play. Probably in part influenced by my negative reactions to free-to-play (f2p) business models. But in 2016 I finally had a chance to catch up with some f2p games that I had been meaning to play. There is only one of these games that I stuck with and still play even after 2 years. And that game is Warframe.

Warframe is unique. Unique combat, unique character movement, unique levelling. It also has uniqueness all through its style, designs, world, stories and numerous component parts. It’s hard to compare it to anything but it’s one of the strongest third-person shooters there is. The combat and visual display in front of your eyes is like watching the finest fireworks display you’ve ever scene when everything is flying about on screen.

No end of customisation options

The mod system which is used to upgrade your warframes is also a work of genius. Collecting and equipping different buffs and bonuses to your warframe can give you huge levels of customisation although levelling each individual mod can take long amounts of time (or money). Also fashion frame is a true end-game experience if you want it to be. A bit like the fashion wars in Guild Wars 2, there is an almost never ending mixture of parts, armour, weapons and colours than can be played with to come up with some absolutely personal and distinct creations.

As an f2p game one of the first questions should be; ‘is the business model fair’. And for the most part it does things well including being extremely generous with content. There’s in-game trading for the virtual currency (although no auction house just a chat channel) and every item can be earnt in the game. Although many of these are either time-limited (vaulted), require reputation grinds or only be obtained from a suitable high level clan.

However ‘Prime’ cosmetics cannot be earnt in game and can only be purchased for money. Prime items are the best items in the game and overall the prices for the quarterly Prime Packs feel ridiculously expensive (£92 on PC, for example). Although you can obtain Prime Warframes just playing the game (essentially the characters and therefore different play styles). However if you are low on time or a more casual player obtaining things can be very expensive. It certainly isn’t the most egregious business model which is often why people refer to Warframe as ‘f2p done right’. However it has it’s positives points but also has some negative points that are more difficult to defend.

And of course there is a never-ending release of new frames, new items etc. Which can make the game just feel like an impossible rat race to keep up with at times. Digital Extremes are doing their upmost to pump out new content but as a game now over 5 years old I would personally like them to relook at the basics. I suspect they will always prioritise new revenue generation over maintenance and improving old content. And at this point the game is layer, upon layer, upon layer, upon layer of systems designed to lengthen the grind. In places it feels like a mess. Particularly the new player experience which isn’t very good. As a new player you have countless questions which the game does very little to help with. Fortunately there is a wonderful community to help out, but alas that isn’t the point.

It’s also a game that should ideally have cross-play or at least have the intention of working towards this even if it’s years away. I would love to play on other formats although I’m not encouraged in any way to do so. However to be fair that isn’t a criticism that is unique to this game.

I have genuinely enjoyed and loved every minute with this game and would wholeheartedly recommend Warframe. It’s a one-off experience available on all current formats and is one of the better games out there at the moment. It really deserves the success it has had to date.

Assassin’s Grind Odyssey?

A number of prominent Youtubers such as Worth A Buy, SkillUp, Jim Sterling, along with websites like Polygon have all noted that the recently released Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is much more ‘grindy’ than previous entries in the series. Indeed a few have mentioned that it isn’t possible to play the main story questline without having to complete a large amounts of side content beforehand. Indeed Jim Sterling went even further suggesting that the game’s progression is much more enjoyable once the permanent XP booster has been purchased (about £10).

Predictably this has stirred quite a debate on forums such as ResetEra and Reddit. With a usual range of reactions, from the ‘it doesn’t impact the game’, to those who are angry with Ubisoft for even implementing microtransactions. Many have claimed that Assassin’s Creed Origins had the same progression and microtransaction model. Although I can’t find any similar criticisms from that game’s launch a year ago.

To be clear I haven’t played the latest Assassin’s Creed game. So I don’t want to fully wade in to the debate. However where microtransactions are concerned there seems to be lots of misunderstanding circulating. I thought it might be worth delving into some of the key points being raised about this game.

1. It doesn’t impact the gameplay and you can ignore them

Not really true. All business models will have some impact on a game’s design. Usually a buy-once model will have the least impact because the developer or publisher isn’t pressured to monetise the game’s design. Just because you might enjoy the grind or not be inclined to spent any extra money probably means you weren’t the target audience for the microtransactions. Indeed Ubisoft is probably looking at those more casual players that only play a bit of games and don’t frequent videogames forums.

2. Just play more side quests

Misses the point entirelySkillUp mentioned in his review that even after 45 hours he hadn’t been able to ‘beeline’ the main campaign. Side quests should arguably be stuff that extends the game or grant additional rewards. With Odyssey it seems to be that the side content has become mandatory in order just to complete the main story questline.

Just being able to earn something in the game is irrelevant if it takes hundreds of hours to do so. That is where the example of ‘it takes 40 hours to unlock Darth Vader’ was so illuminating. It provided an undebatable fact to illustrate clearly the scale of the problem.

3. Just don’t buy the game or don’t buy microtransactions

Won’t make a difference. Neither of these options will likely register as a complaint against microtransactions. If you buy the game but never buy from the in-game store, Ubisoft can measure this and simply increase or change their business model to be more successful next time. And if you don’t buy the game, then it’s a lost sale that Ubisoft can’t measure in any meaningful way. But at worst may simply result in no sequels if the game sales are that bad.

Creating bad PR and being a noisy consumer is the best strategy to registering complaints with publishers. As we have seen with Star Wars Battlefront 2’s Lootbox fiasco or Sony’s stance on PS4 Fortnite cross-play, bad PR can force companies to change.

4. Microtransactions shouldn’t exist in premium £50-£90+ games

Maybe. Personally I think you have to judge each game on an individual basis. Arguably f2p games have a better argument for in-game transactions, but many publishers now use multiple business models to extract the maximum profit from their games. For example; preorder bonuses, multiple tiered editions, promotional tie ups, platform exclusive content, microtransactions and season pass models (sometimes yearly season passes). Assassin’s Creed Odyssey uses all of the these tactics.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a premium single-player game. It is not an online, multiplayer experience having to support thousands of connected players. Major upcoming content is being paid for by the season pass. So why are there in-game microtransactions? Wouldn’t it be better if all of that stuff was in the game and rewards for completing side quests and collectables. It is hard to argue against this viewpoint.

5. Games are more expensive to make and need microtransactions

Are they? First of all without real budget and sales figures from the publishers it is very difficult to validate this statement. Marketing spend is increasing but large western studios are tending to make less games which are profitable for far, far longer. This means there is less unpredictability about revenue, compared to say 5 or 10 years ago. And none of this accounts for the cheaper costs of digital distribution. There is evidence to suggest in real terms the costs of making games are actually decreasing.

It is very likely true that a game like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would be profitable even if it just sold for a fixed price without any other monetisation.

The large western publishers are currently making record profits. They have become very good at monetising their games to increase revenue. They have more big data and experts than ever to help improve how they monetise their games. They don’t NEED to do it.


Information is good

Still whatever your view on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey it’s good to see the criticisms being raised are in the public domain. More information can mean being able to make a more informed purchasing decision. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve thought ‘but why didn’t the reviews pick up on this‘ when the latest post-launch problem comes to light.

As Jim Sterling himself admitted for a long time in traditional games media there was a genuine reluctance about raising any criticism of a game’s business model for fear of being blacklisted by a publisher. Now with increased social media and review channels there is genuine critique which publishers and developers can’t escape. And that is a good thing.

The Division Review

Start spreading the news, I want to be a part of it. A flawed but great game.

When I think of a game that captures a location almost perfectly, it’s hard not to think of Ubisoft’s 2016 third-person shooter Tom Clancy’s The Division. It’s recreation of a New York city torn apart after a release of a deadly virus is stunning in almost every way.

Given the sequel is coming out early next year and how I am all but done with this game, I thought it might be worth compiling how I felt about this first entry in the series. It’s made more interesting by the fact that it does some things really well, but then in other areas almost falls flat on itself. That said I really enjoyed The Division and my hundreds of hours with the game are something I’ll look back fondly on.

In short Ubisoft created one of the best third-person shooters of this generation. Whilst it’s more of an RPG in places there is no doubt that the core gameplay loop is on point. Weapons and movement feel right, audio is great, graphically it is one of the most stunning games I have ever played. And the loot game, the ‘just one more go’ compelling gameplay loop, is largely there and done well.

It is also is a game that respects the solo player in ways that its competitors such as Destiny don’t. You can play the whole of this game solo, never needing to matchmake or group up. And whilst there will be group or multiplayer activities you will miss out on, there is no exclusion from the end-game. Almost every activity will improve your character in the end-game. And in effect grouping up just gives you a faster route to find the same end-game gear.

However it’s no secret that the game has problems. And I think none more so than how Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment handled the support of the game. You will often here how The Division was supported more than Destiny or how Ubisoft has done a good job with support. However that’s not entirely accurate. In reality The Division morphed into getting events and piecemeal recursive modes, but really missed out on substantial story, locations and new PVE content. And ironically The Division may have some of the same challenges as the Destiny series has been through when the sequel comes out.

The second year ‘no-show’ of content isn’t often talked about but in a Ubisoft shareholders call in February 2017, it was announced it had ‘another triple-A game lined up for the coming financial year but that this will now be replaced by continued support for an existing, well-performing live game’. And it does appear this was definitely referring to The Division, as shortly afterwards it was confirmed that there was no paid for content for year 2 of the game. What this meant was that The Division got Lootboxes, events and a new game mode. But what it never got was new missions, areas, story, factions or anything major. For many, including myself this simply reaffirmed that the game was in maintenance mode whilst Massive worked on the sequel and basically cemented my burnout with the game. Every time I’ve gone back to the game for events I’ve very quickly burnt out as I’m got sick and tired of playing the same content over, and over, and over, and over.

And even the Year one content felt like it was outsourced although it did add greatly to the game. Three big content drops that were managed over the first twelve months whilst the majority of the studio were likely working on the sequel. Indeed it feels like the much talked about 1.4 patch that dramatically improved the game was as much about increasing the playerbase than anything. And of course as players didn’t substantively return in droves, then it may have been why Ubisoft abandoned major content for the first game to focus on the sequel.

And that is one of my chief concerns with the sequel. That it received true support rather than being a Games as a Product with support in disguise as a live service. It’s getting old very quickly how publishers talk about GaaS but then continue to do major £80-£90 releases very regularly.

The game had lots of other problems. A less than stellar launch, lots of cheaters on PC, a small map with a lack of variety and a very short story campaign with a small number of missions, along with lots of issues with PVP. But all of that aside, this is a game that still shone through it’s problems. And particularly now if you were to have come to the game late. What you’ll find now is a very well balanced, interesting and with loads of modes to enjoy and explore. Indeed the ‘player power’ fantasy is almost perfect with the way you are able to breeze through more challenging content now.

This is a game I could probably write much, much more about, but in short, I do think this was a great first entry that has hopefully setup what will be a more interesting and polished sequel. Hopefully without too aggressive monetisation. But for now, good bye New York. I am leaving today.

Tracking the backlog after 3 months

I thought it would be worth a few thoughts on how I have found setting up a backlog tracker for my games and whether it has made any impact to my gaming after a few months.

Lots of time required

Firstly the time investment on listing every game you own, or have access to, is not to be underestimated. It probably took me 10 hours, or thereabouts, to go through and log every game on my Grouvee profile. And even that is with the automated import of my Steam library which took some of the work away.

Adding every game on my backlog tracker was made easier because fortunately many years ago I had already setup a spreadsheet with all my physical games listed. This undoubtedly made the job easier.

However it isn’t just listing the games once, but getting into the discipline of maintaining my Grouvee profile to show what I am playing, moving stuff from Playing to Shelved or Completed, adding new games and updating any notes or comments. This itself probably takes at least an hour or two a month.

So is it worth the time investment?

Obviously this depends on the person but I have found the exercise quite cathartic. It has made it obvious that I have been buying too many games and probably need to be even more choosy, or at least wait for a sale. For example Forza Horizon 4 might be a game I will really enjoy, but do I need day one? Probably not. At £80 for the most complete version it makes sense to wait for a sale.

Unfortunately it is too early to answer whether it helps more easily identify what game to play next. When I have started playing a new game, i.e. Rage, this wasn’t really due to the backlog tracker. However it certainly helps to see my entire backlog across all platforms but it is almost too long a list to know where to start first.

One thing I have noticed is that it has been fun setting up and blogging about my games. Setting up a backlog tracker has led me to set up hosting and putting together a WordPress site. This is something I likely wouldn’t have done otherwise.

And finally one other positive has been the Grouvee website, community and support. I found one bug which I raised on their forums and have continued to have been impressed with the really passionate and positive engagement of Grouvee’s members. I think they really have created the Goodreads equivalent, but for videogames. I really have enjoyed using Grouvee to the point where it was very easy to decide to become a subscriber to their site and support them. A really useful website and service.

I might return to do an update after a much longer timeframe and revisit this post to see how I feel about my experience with tracking a backlog.

Cross-play coming Fortnite (at last)

So the news broke yesterday that Sony has at last caved in and will be allowing cross-play between Fortnite players on PlayStation 4 and the ‘blocked off’ Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. However even better Sony is enabling everything that cross-play means, so matchmaking, progression and purchases.

Quite why this took 4 months to announce this U-turn is anyone’s guess. Although it is likely that the bad PR was simply too overwhelming for Sony to ignore. And like last year’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 fiasco another great example of the consumer’s power to pressurise big businesses to back down. The communication up until yesterday had been incompetent. Epic and Sony simply choose to ignore this problem which is not a good strategy when their customers have spent money on their game and platforms. What was missing from yesterday’s announcement was an apology. Either from Sony or Epic. Locking of Epic accounts was simply disgusting.

Either way for all Fortnite players light is the end of the tunnel and coming. And it is good news for all. Even those who don’t venture off the PS4 version. Hopefully more games can be made cross-play between all consoles now, and Sony doesn’t just stop with Fortnite.

So in light of this significant change, and now all platforms holders are not hopefully blocking cross-play the focus perhaps unsurprisingly shifts to publishers. And already people like Pete Hines at Bethesda Game Studios, are finding that out. It seems ironic that Bethesda was vocal in the criticism of Sony’s previous stance on cross-play given that we have now learnt that Fallout 76 doesn’t even support cross-play. I’ve said this is my earlier blog post, but ultimately I think people’s expectations have changed. People don’t want artificial barriers in their games. And publishers can expect much more criticism to come their way.

Is there any valid reason why more games shouldn’t support cross-matchmaking, progression and purchase. Games like The Elder Scrolls Online, Warframe, GTA Online, Madden, FIFA, Rocket League etc. No, of course not. To borrow this brilliant .gif from those geniuses over at ResetEra. The correct answer to which games need cross-play next is…

via GIPHY