August Update

Thought I would get into the habit of monthly updates on games played since my initial update last month launching the site.

August is school holidays so I have been pretty busy with limited time for gaming. But since my first update I have managed to complete one game at least. Woot!

Completed/Shelved

  1. Titanfall 2 – completed the campaign
  2. Fortnite: Save the World – shelved this

Titanfall 2 completed the campaign on regular difficulty. Overall really enjoyed the campaign, but not likely to play multiplayer much more. Fortnite (Save the World, not Battle Royale) I’ve decided I just don’t like it. I purchased this back in March when it was cheap. The PVE mode is just not that good and I can see why it didn’t do that well. It doesn’t help that it is one of the most egregious and aggressive freemium games I’ve experienced. Which is very galling considering the premium you are paying for access.

Been playing (my current Grouvee playlist is here)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands – since getting this on Xbox One in the recent Amazon sales I have been playing this again. On third region, about 10 hours in.
  • Forza Motorsport 7 – opening Seeker cup all done.
  • Mass Effect 3 – purchased this on release. Last save from 2014! Progress made through the story.
  • Skyrim Special Edition – purchased for Xbox One (I have it on PC too). Comparing versions has made me realise just how good that original Xbox 360/PS3 versions looked.
  • Rage – started playing via GamePass.

So that is 1 game completed for August, and 1 shelved.

New game pickups

Halo 5, forgot to add this onto my Grouvee profile. Completed this in just under 10 hours via GamePass. Worst Halo campaign yet. Also purchased Alan Wake on Xbox 360 disc from a Carboot for £1. Pretty good condition with the DLC code unused.

Updates

On Grouvee created a new GamePass shelf to track games I’ve played on Microsoft’s subscription service. So far just Halo 5 and Rage. Obviously this might grow if I try out more games on the service. I won’t add these games to my Xbox shelf so they don’t get counted as part of my collection.

Up next

Try to complete Rage, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Mass Effect 3. Not sure I can get all of these done, but ideally would like to complete this handful of  games.

Also will start doing some short reviews or impressions of games and post them on this site and Grouvee where appropriate. Only really previously done a short review or two on Steam.

Madden ultimate money

On Tuesday YouTuber Angry Joe released a video (link here) that is very critical of Electronic Arts (EA) and Madden 2019. Suggesting prioritisation on the Ultimate Team and microtransactions rather than working on long standing issues, or improving the overall game. I can’t really argue with the points he made. And of course this video could just as easily been about FIFA.

For some reason after this year’s E3 show I seemed to read many people think that EA has given up on lootboxes. When in reality it has done no such thing. Whilst lootbox mechanics suit sports games more than other titles, I will never personally support any games where you can use real money to purchase lootboxes.

And the only addition I would make to Angry Joe’s video, is that Madden (or FIFA) are far from the only free2play, freemium games masquerading as $80+ games. Games like Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, GTA Online amongst others are also free2play games that shouldn’t be charging any entry fee in their current form. Remember high quality shouldn’t mean the game can’t be free2play.

Either way it is good to see EA getting more heat and criticism for it’s overly aggressive business models. Hopefully Angry Joe’s video helps.

Good & bad customer service

Thought I would write up a quick blog post after experiencing the good and bad of large companies over the past few days.

The bad

Amazon. Decided I wanted one of these new PlayStation 4 Pro 500 Million Limited Edition Consoles. And I knew they would be available for pre-order on Tuesday, 14th August in the UK. Amazon had them available from after 7am and I placed an order. Soon after 8.30am they were no longer available. Therefore I didn’t feel the need to order one from PC World/Currys, GAME, Smyths or Very. Unfortunately Amazon.co.uk had made a mistake and should have listed the item from 10am.

So they cancelled all orders and relisted the item for preorder at 10am the next day. Unfortunately it sold out in minutes (or seconds) – even when I knew of the ‘available from’ link.

They neither apologised directly or proactively contacted all those they let down. And whilst they reimbursed me a small amount after I complained it wasn’t reflective of the error. I still have had no apology or response to my complaint. Ultimately their mistake cost me a limited edition PS4 Pro. I might just shop elsewhere for pre-orders in future.

The good

Bethesda Game Studios. Accidently created a new Bethesda account on Xbox One Skyrim when I already have an account. Emailed their support, and was met with a response in under 30 minutes. They understood the problem, offered two solutions, explaining the consequences. And once I had selected the solution they left the ticket open to make sure I was happy. #textbookcustomerservice.

It bodes well for Fallout 76 players if the CS is that good. Thank you Bethesda.

What cross-play should mean

Update 27 September 2018:
Sony announced that cross-play is coming to Fortnite on PlayStation 4. I’ve written a new blog to reflect this news. So whilst some of the criticism below is outdated the thrust of the blog remains.

Original Blog Post:

During the recent criticism of Sony and Epic for locking-out Fortnite accounts on other systems, there seemed to be a lot of feedback that cross-play should be allowed. But that this wasn’t a new thing. However since Epic opened up their game with an update in March of this year I simply don’t recall an incident like this before. In other words a major release such as this that lets you play your game on any system.

Just to be clear cross-play matchmaking is the ability to play multiplayer with users of the same game on other platforms. This isn’t new. However Fortnite also allows for cross-play progression and purchasing. This is new. And also brilliant.

You see publishers and developers have loved transitioning from Games as a Product (GaaP) towards Games as a Services (GaaS) because of the greater earnings potential and the record revenue and profits being made. Online only games with potentially multi-layered business models (i.e. buy to play with season passes, DLC and microtransactions etc). But arguably part of offering a service rather than a product is being available to as many people as possible and on as wide a range of platforms as possible. All other entertainment industries have embraced allowing consumers to take their media with them. Even with restrictive Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems if you buy a movie from Google Play Store, or an eBook from Amazon Kindle, you can watch or read on your mobile phone, videogame console, computer, browser or numerous other devices. Same with all the streaming services, like Netflix or Spotify.

So why is it that games like Warframe, GTA V, The Elder Scrolls Online are separate entities on different formats. Why can’t I play my PC Elder Scrolls Online character on PS4 or Xbox versions even if I have to buy the game again? Given how some of the most expensive games to play are actually GaaS games, it arguably isn’t an unreasonable request for a consumer to have access to their purchased on more than one format. Certainly when games have a lifespan of over a 5 or 10 years then it’s also very conceivable formats will change over that time.

Of course it isn’t relevant for all games to offer cross-play. Many games are largely single-player, or small budget indie affairs and rely on buy-to-play business models. And here it would never make sense for cross-play to be offered.

In SkillUp’s recent Youtube video interview with Digital Extremes (the makers of Warframe) he asked if he can continue to use his existing Warframe account with the new Nintendo Switch version. The muted and slow response was both slightly predictable and disappointing. They talked about a possible one-time account transfer as they did offer for PC players who wanted to move to the new PS4 or Xbox One versions. But realistically a one-time transfer brings about its own risks and pitfalls that the customer is fully expected to accept and live with (i.e. what if the Switch version stops being supported).

For me the positive reasons for publishers and developers to embrace cross-play progression, play and purchases simply outweigh the negatives. I applaud Epic for making Cross-Matchmaking, Progression and Purchases a thing for consumers even if for now those who play on Sony’s systems can’t utilise this. And Sony and Epic do deserve massive criticism for their handling of Fortnite cross-play debacle. Denying access to consumers own accounts and purchases they have made is completely unacceptable and needs resolution, like yesterday.

Personally I think Fortnite has probably changed my view of what I should expect from GaaS or Live Services. If companies can’t or won’t bother offering cross-play. Then I’m not sure I can be bothered with their games.

Time to transition away from PC gaming

I love games irrespective of platform and I’ve never once classed myself as a PC or console gamer. That being said I have definitely spent more time on one platform at some time or another. Thinking about it the PC has been my ‘main’ platform since 2012. And this isn’t the first time. In 1996 I purchased my first PC and through the late nighties and early millennium definitely played PC games more than any other format.

However I will probably spend more time on consoles moving forward. Why? Simply put, PC gaming is getting more and more expensive. Or at least buying and maintaining a reasonable high-end setup is getting much more expensive. Even more so if you live in the UK due to the fall in value of Sterling versus the US Dollar ($) or Euro (€) since 2016.

Whilst owning PCs has never been a cheap hobby, there is a definite and undeniable shift upwards in prices. And it isn’t all driven by supply constrained components. As shown by Apple’s recent iPhone X driven success, selling less at more, can be more profitable. High-end GPUs, RAM, monitors and storage are all very expensive at the moment. Nvidia created a new price tier with their £1,000+ Titan GPU years ago. But even mainstream high-end AMD or Nvidia GPUs are commonly over £700. And at this point the Nvidia’s GeForce 1080 series is over two years old. Fairly ancient in technology terms. When the time comes replacing or upgrading my 2015 i7 5930k CPU, 32GB Ram, Nvidia GeForce 1080 GPU and 144hz IPS monitor setup isn’t going to be cheap.

But crucially is it worth the cost just for gaming. Subjectivity aside for me there is a growing sense of maybe not. In this age of largely multiplatform games, how important is the extra frames or eye-candy? I have to be honest, apart from running above 30fps, I struggle sometimes to notice the benefits of better PC graphics when comparing games I own on both PC and console. What’s more noticeable is the control method or where my friends might be playing. And in some cases 4K and HDR on consoles has impressed me more than recent PC specific enhancements.

Also with the shift to incremental console upgrades, the perceived gap between console and PC is becoming less. Certainly compared to the last generation of consoles where really limited 30fps@sub-720p resolutions tended to be the norm. And new (probably) AMD Zen-based CPUs are going to make a big difference when it comes to the new consoles in 2020.

So I think it’s time to embrace the change. I don’t want to give up on PC gaming for good as the library of unique games is simply too great. But if I ‘main’ on consoles then I just dont need as expensive a PC setup anymore. So perhaps a good chance to ditch the big, space consuming desktop and go with a relatively inexpensive gaming laptop. Either way I don’t need to do anything just yet. I can still get a few years out of my current PC. And just think about replacing things if they break down.

To be honest my mindset is already changing. I purchased an Xbox One X earlier this year with a Samsung UHD LCD TV. And my latest purchase has been a Creative SoundBlaster X7 to drive sound for all my PC and consoles. Replacing my Creative SoundBlaster ZxR that I had in my PC since 2013. A fairly future proof setup irrespective of whether I buy a desktop or laptop PC next.

So as Nvidia prepare to unveil their latest series of PC GPUs, I think I’ll just sit back and await the inevitable outcry about the prices on places like Overclockers UK forums. Feeling fairly chuffed in my choices and happy not to feel compelled to be caught up in the PC hardware rat race. Vive la différence.

I’m outta GaaS with Live Services

Excuse the pun. Somewhere on my Grouvee profile there is an entry for Path of Exile. Playtime around 15 hours. It should be much more. But after trying to get into the game twice I had to really pull myself away from it and uninstall it. Even though I was really enjoying it and wanted to play on.

So why did I uninstall it? I had to. I just couldn’t commit to another GaaS (Games as a Service)/Live Services game. There is only so much time in the day or money you can spend. And given the grindy, all time consuming nature of GaaS games this is even more true.

I remember Jim Sterling saying in one of his recent Youtube videos that he tries to have one service game and that’s it. And that’s probably a sensible recommendation. Although that’s very hard given just how many games have or are switching to this model.

Recently Digital Extremes (DE) hosted their annual convention for their online game; Warframe (another online game I really enjoy). And whilst the internet raved over the new major updates I couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed. A version on Switch. Couldn’t care if I have to replay everything (and a one-time account switch isn’t going to make one iota of difference). Fortuna – a new location on Venus, like 2017’s Plains of Eidolon. Which were essentially their own economy and grind that I have barely touched. And Railjack. Group content that doesn’t appeal. And even more Warframes. More things to collect. More grind. As much as I love the game there’s still loads I haven’t done after years of owning it. And unless I commit to it much more, at the expense of other games, probably never will.

Who doesn't love Rhino?

Probably unpopular opinion but I can’t help but think that Warframe needs to sort out some basics. Start committing more development time to improving old graphics, old loading screens, UI improvements, stability, removing bugs and crucially making the new player experience much, much better. Also making sure that the new player isn’t faced with a gigantic wall of content before they can catch up.

Of course DE admitted in the recent Noclip ‘making of’ documentaries on Youtube that ultimately there’s a balance between maintenance and new content. I suspect the allure of revenue and profit will always pull them more to the latter.

But this is an aside. With Warframe even though I’ve currently spent nearly 350 hours playing it, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. That there are simply too many frames, too many weapons or too many collectables for me to keep up with. Of course you don’t have to collect them all, but who doesn’t want to have a large library of frames, be well equipped for the endgame or have loads of cosmetic options. To look good whilst being a ‘space ninja’.

And with some of my other favourite GaaS games it’s no better. In Guild Wars 2 I have three level 80 characters. I’ve spent ages exploring the world. But I’ve never completed my personal story. Barely scraped the expansions; Heart of Thorns or Path of Fire. Last year I finally got around to trying The Elder Scrolls Online. And my ‘to do’ list has grown even bigger there too. Despite days of playtime I only have a Champion Points 121 Altmer Sorcerer. I’ve not even got to proper end-game (160). And whilst I’ve completed some of the regions and faction quest lines, I’ve still not been to Morrowind. And the home of the Elves (Summerset) is but a pipedream.

I suspect that I am going to have to make some tough choices with these games. And to be happy with more focused, realistic goals. I don’t want to give up on any of them yet as I adore these games. And all of these examples above will probably be around for years yet. Either way I need to be careful about signing up for more GaaS moving forward. Games like The Division or Destiny scare me less because in reality I don’t believe they are true GaaS games. As bi-annual or three-yearly releases there’s a finality about them. But games like Path of Exile or Warframe will continue their unrelenting content grind. At least until people stop buying.

Hopefully this is a case of less is more. And recognising that actually playing less service-type games might be good thing. For me.

My most anticipated games for 2018/19

At the height of a crazy hot summer, it might not be the obvious time to think about games that aren’t out yet. Still here are my thoughts on some of the games I am most looking forward to over the next 9-months or so. Particularly after the recent annual E3 show in June.

Definite

Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One) – a great series, particularly the last release. Now prefer these to the main Motorsport entries.

The Division 2 – the first game was a flawed diamond, but I still racked up over 200 hours playing it. Concerns are that the map is ‘only’ 20% bigger and whether Massive/Ubisoft abandon the game after the main release and DLC as they did with the first game. The first game was crying out for proper paid-for story/PVE content for years 2 and 3.

Likely

Marvel’s Spiderman (PlayStation 4) – looks really interesting but given the backlog I suspect I might be able to save some money and wait for a sale.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – love the first game. Main worry is how riddled this will be with microtransactions. However if single player is unaffected then I will pick up. Makes sense to watch the early opinions and reception roll in.

Would like but no deal

Fallout 76 – genuinely intrigued but the complete lack of detail so far and the possible huge monitisation/PVP element is a total put off.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – looks very much like the 2017 AC, which is still on the backlog so may as well leave this one.

Destiny 2: Forsaken – regret buying Destiny 2 so not going anywhere near this. Worried for the future of this franchise given the pressure the contract places Bungie under. Suspect that future sequels like Destiny 3 (2019) will stick to the ‘cut and paste’ four areas, campaign, PVP and lack of content model that the first two games have been. Arguably a GaaP with some support rather than a true GaaS/Live Service. Also as a solo-PVE’er Destiny 2 seems to be refocusing on grindy, group activities again. Which is fine, but not for me.

July update

After numerous hours typing away at the keyboard I have finally managed to log every videogame I own on Grouvee. Yay! Tooks ages but hopefully worth it.

There are some Nintendo Virtual Console games on Wii and Wii U unaccounted for, but I’m not going to list them as these online services are either gone or probably won’t be around much longer.

So that’s 1035 games in total, of which 275 are on my backlog. I’m currently playing through 7 games and actually have already completed nearly a fifth of all games I own. Time to start playing some games.

Xbox Ultimate Game Sale/PSN Summer Sale – new game pickups

Just because you can clearly never buy enough games to play, I have also purchased the following in the summer sales;

  • Prey – fancy playing this, not worried about Mooncrash DLC atm.
  • Doom/Wolfenstein 2 Bundle – good price for two!
  • Dishonored The Complete Collection – Dishonored 2 is Xbox One X enhanced, and only £1 more than the complete sequel bundle so it includes the original game as well.
  • Everybody’s Golf

I also purchased Fallout 4/Dying Light: The Following – Enhanced Edition digitally in these sales so I can own sell the boxed disc versions.

Ps. Picked up 3-months of GamePass for £7.99, plus a month through MS Rewards, so that’s 4-months taken care of. Seems a good deal. That’s Forza Horizon 4 taken care of at least.

Thoughts on backlog trackers

So where to begin when listing all the games you own?

It was a question I’ve had to answer when setting up this website. Lots of options like using a simple spreadsheet, or categories on Steam. However all of these have limitations. One thing I have realised is that there simply isn’t a perfect videogame tracking website. At least for me.

These are my thoughts on the websites I tested:

Backloggery.com
Probably the most well known website for tracking your videogame collection and backlog. I love the simple categorisation and presentation of whether you have beaten or unfinished a game. Has a great one page summary view that can be personalised. The ability to add notes to games or even whether a game is part of a compilation. However I don’t like the presentation style. Obviously aiming for a retro look, but I think it feels slightly dated in use.

HowLongToBeat.com
The strength of this site is it’s community data with regards to how long a game takes to playthrough. It is a very useful reference site in this regard. Nice presentation style, although one minor niggle is you can’t link games to more that one format, therefore creating duplicate entries.

Grouvee.com
Very clean presentation style and layout (Good Reads for videogames basically). Love the fact you can add notes and images to games, use tags, and record games as being owned on multiple different formats. Uses the Giantbomb database for records, so haven’t yet found a game that isn’t on the site. And even after using the site for only a few days, I’ve already observed there is a helpful community who actively comment or respond on profile updates.

Backloggery and HowLongToBeat are free, although you can make donations. Grouvee is also free, but has a $10 yearly subscription that removes adverts and rewards the user with a profile badge.

My conclusions

I decided that Grouvee best meets my needs for tracking my videogame collection backlog. With the ability to tag my games, using their ‘shelves’ system, I’ve been able to simply prioritise the games I want to play or complete the most. And the social features are the strongest of the sites I tested.

However for tracking my physical videogame collection I am still going to use Google Sheets. Simply because this can be used to store custom data such as where and when I purchased a game or hardware, where from and what condition etc. There are more collector oriented websites and programs out there but they are more than I need at the moment.