Hatred for an easy Target

I’m a bit late to the draw on this one. It’s been a funky couple of months for me and damn it, after TWO whole posts I think I deserved some kind of break…

For reasons justified or otherwise, the ugly topic of ‘Censorship’ has once again graced the vernacular of the everyday internet going ‘gamer’, thanks to some controversial bear prodding from the likes of Target Australia and Valve. Two similar and uncannily timed business decisions have left a lot of people in a bit of a huff.

For those unawares; Australian sex workers filed a change.org petition urging retail chain Target AU to remove Grand Theft Auto V from shelves, because they claim the game to be inherently misogynistic. You can find it here. Among many would-be-funny-if-not-so-successful accusations, the party claims the game gives incentive “to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ point”, and that “This misogynistic GTA 5 literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women. It also links sexual arousal and violence.” But my absolute favourite has to be, “Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women.” Target and Sister Company K mart have since obliged the demands of petitioners, and have pulled the game from shelves

Brilliant.

Similarly, a few weeks later, Valve was caught in the firing line for removing a successfully up voted indie title by the name of Hatred from their publishing platform, Greenlight. Judging from the trailer (because its pre-alpha and there’s fuck all else to go on), the game entails a lone un-named ‘protagonist’ armed to the teeth, on a spree killing vendetta, racking up kills via an assortment of pre scripted death animations. Valves Doug Lombardi only stated that “Based on what we’ve seen on Greenlight we would not publish Hatred on Steam,” and “As such we’ll be taking it down.” After a mass of consumer backlash, Gabe Newell made the follow up statement; “Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up…Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers.” So this case was the good one right? Either way, on both occasions the internet understandably exploded with barks of censorship and anti-consumerism.

Now before we continue, let’s get this straight. GTAV is not inherently misogynistic and doesn’t ENCOURAGE violence against women, it ALLOWS violence against everyone. There has also never been an accurate or conclusive study linking violence in videogames to real world crime. Furthermore, Neither GTAV nor Hatred were censored by the very definition of the word. Nothing was banned and no change to the product was forced upon them by a governing body. But here’s the thing; though Target removing GTAV due to social justice bullying may strike closer to the bone and seem like the biggest injustice, I can guarantee you the hatred debacle is something potentially far more dangerous to worry about.

Target Australia, independent of its American counterpart, identifies as a forward thinking, family friendly company. Receiving a 45,000 person strong petition urging you to remove a product from your shelves because of a hot topic buzzword being flown in your face, like in this case, ‘Misogyny’, could only provide positive PR for your company if you oblige. Even better for Target, they got to sell the game for over a year before humbly accepting their white knighthood for removing it post profit. Furthermore, the reason GTAV was targeted was not because it was the worst offender, but because it’s a popular game in everyday mainstream consciousness. It’s one of the few games to burst into mainstream news media, and has only ever done so due to its surrounding controversy. A similar situation happened not too long ago with Toys ‘R’ Us, whereby angry parents started a petition that strongly encouraged the chain to remove figurines of Breaking Bad characters, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from sale, because of a tiny gun and bag of blue meth included as accessories. As game critic Jim Sterling pointed out, you can still walk into a Toys ‘R’ Us and buy a figurine of CHILD MURDERER Freddy Krueger, because nobody’s talking about Freddy Krueger anymore. Toys ‘R’ Us took the obvious PR positive decision, and so has Target. They weren’t going to stand by a product because this isn’t a company with a lot of power in the gaming industry, bowing to social justice/injustice to the detriment of the freedom of gamers everywhere. This is simply yet another display of wolfish cynicism hiding under an earnest sheep’s clothing.

And then we have Valve.

Though never explicitly stated, the exclusion of hated from Steam was obviously down to the mature content of the game. Though the Jack Thompson crisis feels like a long distant dream by today, examples like the one above prove that gaming as a form of media is still very much in the firing line of accusations of encouraging or conditioning certain violent or sexual behaviours in consumers, regardless of how little evidence there is to back up the assertion. Maybe Valve thought that by removing a potential PR train wreck from their platform, they could dodge a bullet. But of course there was the backlash, with every games journo and their Nan reporting the ‘censorship’ of the little unknown indie title by mega corporation Valve. Once the fight was in the games favour, of course the good lord Gaben would descend from his throne to bless us all with his shiny, pro-consumer golden cock of glory. He had already provided all the free marketing for the game, so might as well cash in on the profits!

So why do I think this one is bad news?

Like I said, Target is a family friendly company. It’s the place to go to buy your Transformers figures and Skylanders. Anybody who was going to buy the last gen version of GTAV would have done so already. Target aren’t a major player in the games retail market, and even if they were, a store choosing not to stock physical copies of a game is well within their right, no different form you or I choosing not to buy a game for ourselves.  Regardless of the mindlessly harmful accusations that were levelled at the game, Target no longer stocking the game is nowhere near censorship. It just means you’re going to have to go to a different store to buy a copy, or join the rest of us in the 21st century and download it. Bear in mind that it was only as of January last year that the Australian government actually allowed an R-18 rating to even exist. Prior to that, games like Postal and Manhunt were either heavily censored or refused classification, essentially banning the game from the country. See the Australian versions of South Park: the stick of truth for a hilarious example. If you bear in mind that every instalment of GTA up to this point was originally banned or censored until years after release, then this incident is a fairly small bump in the road for a country finally on its way to progress.

Valve on the other hand, is a slightly different story. Not unlike Target, Valve have demonstrated the breaking bad figurine double standard I talked about earlier. For example, you can still buy the postal games and manhunt on Steam. The difference here is that you couldn’t even officially SUPPORT hatred after Valve deleted the game from the service, let alone buy it. And yes, although Valve has the same right as Target to stock whatever they want, it’s not really ‘stocking’ a game when referring to digital media. They don’t have to order copies in with expected sales projections over launch week for example. This wouldn’t really be an issue, but when Valve have a monopoly of the digital games space, an indie team not having their game on Steam is a dead in the water before it’s even released. Unless it’s Minecraft. Why hatred and not postal? Why care so much about curating the store when so much of the front page is taken up by YouTube-fodder Pewdie-bait? Despite the game being back on the service, the issue is now centre stage, and I get this horrible feeling that if Valve are willing to pull a game from Steam unprovoked…

… What’s going to happen when there’s a petition obliging them to do so?

-Gigadibs

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Alien: Isolation Review – Alienating the Action, Isolating the Horror

Last year we watched the marketing rise, then critical fall, crash and burn of the Gearbox developed, Sega published, Alien: colonial marines. The game was marketed well, pulling an all-out Watch_dogs with a demo and trailer comprised of illegitimate footage, where upon release, the game was aptly condemned as a buggy, unoriginal and direction-less mess. It was that special kind of mess though. The kind of mess that only by flinging a game between developers like a hot turd can you manifest; a Duke Nukem: Forever kind of mess. What was promised to be a tense, thriller/ horror FPS became a run of the mill action game, following suit from games like Resident Evil 5 and Dead Space 3. This year, Sega’s had another bash at publishing some Alien antics, this time from the guys over at Creative Assembly. Thankfully, it has not disappointed.

Personal guff, feel free to skip:

Now I am first and foremost a survival horror fanatic, but I frankly used to hate the stuff. I remember my brother buying me the GameCube remake of Resident Evil 1 for my eighth birthday, and with no hyperbole, the opening cutscene was enough to give me nightmares. It was a beautiful looking game, and I an inexperienced, meek boy was overwhelmed by its dominating character and visual maturity; a relationship worthy of any Jill Valentine fan fiction. I remember brother dearest forcing me to watch a puzzle section where if you remove a key from its notch in the floor, a statue of a knight starts crawling its way towards you, threatening your mortality via spinning, spikey shield. He refused to put the key back, so I ran out of the living room squealing. (Although I also ran out of the living room once because of a prop skeleton I saw in an episode of Jonathon Creek, so there’s a benchmark for you). I remember the feeling distinctly, like when you’re a young, it’s late and you’ve left your skittles upstairs in the darkness. You psyche yourself up for that sprint into the unknown, but the faster you run, the hotter the Boogy Man seems to be on your heels. That specific rush of adrenaline. That is Alien: Isolation in a nutshell.

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Set between Alien and Aliens, we take on the role of Amanda Ripley brooding away over our mum’s ongoing disappearance from 15 years prior. We get recruited for an expedition to the space station ‘Sevastopol’ to retrieve the flight recorder from mums old ship, the ‘Nostromo’, in the hopes that the company can learn what went wrong, and we might find out what happened to her. A few parsecs later we find ourselves stranded on the space station, all on our lonesome, with synthetic androids going haywire, and an eerie, phallic shaped monster picking everyone off like flies. Most of the crew are dead, your ship’s torn apart and you’ve naught but a bunch of scrap, your engineering skills and survival instincts to see you through the terror.

The game opens by pulling a bit of a System/Bioshock. You’re thrown head first into a huge, sprawling metropolis where everything’s gone to shit for reasons you don’t understand. The first hour or so comprises mostly of you getting your bearings, exploring the ambient halls of the ‘Sevastopol’ and making a new friend who fills you in (sort of) on what going on. Worry not; he doesn’t stick around long enough to spoil any of that lovely isolation you were hoping for. The rest of the exposition is left to ‘-shock’ style audio files scattered all over the station. The story happens on an objective by objective basis so I won’t delve deeper, but what’s important is Amanda in alone, in over her head and survival is key.

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It’s clear walking around these opening hallways that if there’s anything the guys at Creative Assembly took from the first Alien film, it’s that less is definitely more. The devil is in the detail, and no other aspect of the product resonates this philosophy greater than the games presentation. The amount of work the devs have claimed to have invested in dissecting the original film is astounding. 20th Century Cox provided over 3 terabytes of archived data related to the original film including original concept art from both Ron Cobb and the late H R Giger and as well as original set designs, behind the scenes photos and reels of sound assets. The dev’s at CA even used the blueprints from the original set to recreate the look and feel of the ‘Nostromo’ when designing the different areas of the ‘Sevastopol’, which means we see a lot of low-fi, junky looking technology. White cladded walls line most of the station, with bulky old school CRT monitors displaying a DOS like OS filling every corner and crevice, with pipes and exposed machinery littering our vision like beautifully ugly eyesores. Sometimes the player will access computers featuring video logs, which boast an authentic, crappy, old fashioned quality, achieved by the devs arduously recording the video animations onto VHS and Betamax tapes and then filming them off of an old portable TV. They truly wanted the game to feel like what the seventies thought the future would look like, and it shows. Most objects in the game were made via the old Hollywood technique used in the film called kit bashing, whereby futuristic looking props are made by mashing a bunch of house hold objects together and giving it a lick of paint. CA not only employed this technique but even went as far as to only use objects made before 1979. My favourite addition of detail was the loading screens for accessible maintenance panels mimicking those of the Commodore 64. (Though they thankfully drew the line at the C64’s loading times.) It adds character and makes Isolation stand out as a well-loved project. Ooooo and them fire effects….I’ve never seen a flamethrower so pretty.

Soon after the games opening, we learn that the ‘Working Joe’ synthetic androids have all gone a bit nuts, killing off everyone they lay eyes on. Maybe they got tired of taking shit from the man. Who knows? Not Ripley. All that matters is you don’t get caught by one, as stealth is the aim of the game. They move around freely, but seem to follow rough patrol paths so that you can learn their behaviours and avoid them accordingly. They feel appropriately inefficient, with every motion and decision they make feeling purposefully inorganic. However, the ‘Joes’ are hard as nails, and to begin with are more or less un-killable, making these guys the biggest challenge to contend with until the star of the show rears her ugly, erotically shaped head. Getting spotted means hiding fast, and getting caught means getting a clout over the head, or a bout of mild strangulation. A rapid, button bashing quick time event will help escape their grasp; one of the many types of context sensitive button prompts employed across the game in the hopes of breaking up the monotony, like the dreaded vehicle sections in FPS games. For the most part the synthetics are powerful but crappy enough to get you comfortable with the stealth mechanics. The same cannot be said for the Alien however…

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United we stand: Your two biggest threats during your stay on the ‘Sevastopol’

After an hour or so of teasing, the Alien finally makes her dramatic entrance, and damn did the guys at Creative Assembly get it right. This is the first time I’ve played a game where I’m intimidated by an enemy not because they’re artificially OP, like Resident evil’sNemesis’ or ‘MR X’, but because they genuinely feel smarter than I. The Alien feels far more qualified to sniff you out than you are to remain un-sniffed. She chooses her patrol path on the fly, making her totally unpredictable. Better still, after a while without dinner, she actually adapts to your play style, checking under tables and sniffing around hiding places. She becomes more frustrated the longer you evade her, jumping up into vents to fast travel around, checking and leaving the room that you’re in only to pop her head back in for a second glance. Its nerve racking, and to begin with, terrifying. Getting caught is an instant death, so to increase the difficulty on harder settings, the game heightens the intelligence of the AI. I played the game on hard, as per the developer’s recommendation, and the Alien honestly felt like a living, breathing entity. Plus, with over 70 sets of model animations, she looks like one too. Everything you can do she can do better. If you sprint, she’ll sprint faster. If you hide in one place for too long, she’ll triangulate your position. This gal is a natural hunter, and WHEN she catches you, a short stare into 2 sets of gnarly teeth tells you you’re done for.

It’s not all lockers and crouching though. Other environmental interact-ables can be used to your advantage. Accessing old computers can net you some door codes, which can open up more paths for you to work with. You can also open the aforementioned ‘Rewire’ maintenance panels, giving you access to different distractions such as lights and alarms, requiring you to syphon power away from the air purification or surrounding doors to fund them. The HUD has a minimalistic deisgn à la Dead Space, with little more than your currently equipped weapon and your flashlight’s remaining battery life indicated on the bottom left of the screen. Most of the important information is received from Ripley’s only saving grace, a banged up, barely working Motion tracker. Did you know, the first Alien film only features the Xenomorph onscreen for around 3 of the total 117 minutes? This philosophy resonates in Isolation as the developers knew the art of recreating the Alien meant playing with your expectations. You keep track of your adversary mostly on this device, making yourself scarce whenever she’s close enough to hear it beeping. Sometimes, a quick look will show her traversing her way through the vents overhead, and the sheer speed at which she moves is enough to feel intimidated. To balance this solitary stroke of luck, Bringing up the tracker takes focus away from the environment around you. Not so much to be obnoxious, but enough to discourage using it constantly. Even the direction of your current objective is displayed on your tracker, as opposed to the more popular objective arrow used in similar games. This is a fantastic design choice and adds another layer of immersion and difficulty to the game, even if only by a marginal amount.

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The player is also expected to rely on the games incredible sound design to work their way around. Though the original sound assets make the journey through the ‘Sevastopol’ feel like a genuine jump into Ridley Scott’s universe, it’s in the clanking of air vents and heavy footsteps of the Alien that the most engaging part of Isolation comes forth, especially when your visuals are suppressed from the back of a locker door or the bottom of a table top. Indeed, learning the distinction between the Xenomorph jumping into a vent, and jumping out of one can make all of the difference to your survival. The games dynamic music engine also acts as a cue, as the beautifully re-orchestrated scores add a subtle underlying tension during the games downtime and a stark, in-your-face kind of tension when the Alien is slowly approaching your hiding place.

The game also throws new weapons and tool schematics around for you to find, allowing you to craft a number of items to help in your endeavours. Items like EMPs and stun prods work really well against Working Joes, while Molotov’s and noise machines are best at fending off or distracting the Xenomorph. Your resources are limited however, and for once, so is the depth of your pockets. You can only carry a few of each item around with you, giving them great value and ensuring each use is a real commitment for the player. It engages you to think tactically, and to try and plan ahead. For example, encountering a group of human survivors is a risky situation, but of them all, they’re the easiest enemies to dispatch of. (Aren’t they always?) Ammo and med kits are scarce and everyone’s just trying to survive. So while some survivors will happily cap you in the head, others will just tell you to back off. Most of them don’t want to waste their ammo any more than you do. Now you could go in guns blazing, but you might take a hit or you might miss a shot, and as per the survival horror days of old, that’s not an option. You could throw in some form of distraction and try and clout them all with your wrench but you might not have time. Maybe you could throw in a noise maker, and lure the Alien out to kill them all off for you. You get to loot all the bodies for little cost, but now the Alien’s back and is hungry for more. There’s probably a way around, so is the encounter even worth the few scraps they might be carrying anyway?

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Divided we fall: Survivors are always looking out for #1

It times like these where Isolation truly shines. The game immerses the player despite its linearity, because it throws a multitude of organic choices with consequences at you, which makes the ‘Sevastopol’ feel alive. There was this one section where I came across a troupe of survivors, and a previous death taught me they weren’t friendly. Fighting wasn’t an option, so I threw in a noise maker. The survivors spotted me but it was already too late. The sound of clunking vents suddenly drew their attention to the left and in an instant came a reptilian roar, a cacophony of gunfire followed only by bloody screams, all of which happened off screen. Amongst the bloodbath, one of the survivors ran past the archway in which I was hiding in the hopes of escape, only to be followed seconds later by a black blur giving chase. One final, blood curdling scream and she was back in the vents, on full alert, waiting for me to reveal myself. This was awesome. The game inadvertently threw at me the kind of ‘cinematic’ experience the industry wanks over these days, but without being scripted or ham fisted. It was genuine, which made it all the more impressive and gratifying. It says a lot for a game when one of the most memorable experiences I can recall is one that was totally individual to myself.

On a whole, it’s clear the amazing amount of time that was spent in making sure the player is fully immersed in the game world, but a few sketchy decisions left a bland taste in my mouth. The button prompt/QTE’s I mentioned earlier litter the entirety of the game. Everything down to opening certain doors or turning on power generators require a list of button prompts for the player to execute. When the Alien is lurking nearby, choosing to try and wrench your way through a clamped door could take enough time to get you spotted, but conversely, these mechanics litter parts of the ship where no risk is taken, and comes across as a needless gating to make the environmental workings of the ‘Sevastopol’ feel more complex than they really are. Gathering new tools gives you access to new areas in a Metroid-vania style, but unlike Metroid, there isn’t the same satisfying feedback from doing so. In Metroid, you can bomb, shoot, and jump your way around different conflicts and these same mechanics are used to open the previously gated areas as your abilities are upgraded. This feels a lot more organic to the gameplay because often accessing these areas require some amount of ability, whereas the button prompt system in Isolation requires zero skill and feels like an uninspired add on. A hacking mini-game based on the same frantic principles is used for certain areas and requires a certain level of player input, but these go from being highly condensed from when they’re first introduced to few and far between by the time we reach the later game.

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There is also one other mechanic that leaves me conflicted as it is simultaneously both the game’s greatest asset and most frustrating hindrance. There is no autosave or checkpointing, and saving your progress involves clocking in on one of the in-game save stations sprinkled occasionally around the ship. When you use a station, a boot up period between when you put your doohickey in the machine and when the game actually lets you save is just enough time to get you spotted and face munched if you don’t time it properly. On paper, I love it. The dev’s have made saving the game itself an intrinsic part of the gameplay which adds another layer of tension to the experience. You can see where inspiration has been taken from the original Resident Evils, where saves are limited consumables in the form of ink ribbons, only available to use via the handful of typewriters located around the map. Picking and choosing tactically when you want to save is a core part of the horror. But here in lies the problem. Because the game is so slow paced and progress takes a lot of patience and time, getting killed is a huge punishment, forcing the player to replay the same section many times. On the one hand, the randomisation of the Alien means these sections are still new every time, and by all means, death should have a consequence. On the other hand however, this same randomisation results in an exercise in frustration, having learnt nothing new about that part of the game, and discouraging the player to try again. That said however, this difficulty causes a great deal of tension, and this tension bestows a great deal of catharsis on the player when you finally make a successful save. These pros and cons are systemic to the games design and Isolation simply wouldn’t work without it.

The game is 32 quid or 37 bucks on Steam and the incredible amount of love and attention put into the project (70 sets of Alien animations!) makes this an easy buy. Any fan of the original film needs to play this game to put themselves in the shoes of Ripley, like Ms Weaver did so many years ago. Furthermore, any fan of survival horror need look no further for an excellent example of how the genre can be modernised for newer technology and audiences. Casuals beware, the game is very slow paced, can be incredibly difficult and it takes some time to get into the flow of the hunt. Progress takes patience and a fair share of deaths, so anyone looking for anything less than a true Alien experience look elsewhere. This game is the real return to survival horror that Shinji Mikami promised and failed to deliver with The Evil Within, and with an estimated 830,000 sales, Alien: Isolation has apparently secured that well deserved accolade.

What’s that you say? The Evil Within sold 1.8 million?

*Sigh* Never mind then….

-Gigadibs

OPINION: Ubisoft, HAH! More like Poobisoft…

“A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”
– Proverbs 22:1 – the Bible – Jesus, probably

So Assassin’s Creed Unity is finally out, and it would seem the game runs like a snail; sluggish, but with a pretty shell. But when any game’s review embargo lasts until after launch, what is to be expected? Alongside the dismal performance, the PC port has especially suffered from a myriad of bugs including a multitude of AI issues, falling through the floor, and my personal favourite, disappearing faces. Oh dear. But performance and graphical issues aside, I’m interested in what has actually changed in this year’s time travels. It would seems Ubiquitous software’s software is more ubiquitous than ever.

Full disclosure: I haven’t yet played the game, because my rig cannot run it (along with the rest of the world it would seem.) So take this all with a pinch of salt. I only have an internet’s worth of information to go by.

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“Gizza kish!”

Last year we saw a great departure from the Assassin’s Creed formula with AC4: Black flag, a fantastic game and a possible new IP for Ubisoft if they’re smart enough to use it. The game made use of a vibrant setting, improved the ship mechanics made popular by AC3, and captained those ships with a player character who, this time around, miraculously has more personality than a codfish. Yes, this time we had the fortune of playing as Coddor Kenway’s Grandaddy, Edward Kenway! A swashbuckling scallywag, breaking as many bones as he does hearts. As weak as this argument is, I think Edward as a character actually justifies the overpowered, easy kill combat system now inherent to the series. For years we’ve assumed the roles of mass murderers hiding under the veil (or hoods) of silent, shadowy assassins. At least this time you were a mass murder happily mass murdering fools because that’s kind of what pirates do. Who needs a poxy hood? You have 2 cutlasses and 4 fucking flintlocks, son! (Though you somehow have all the parkour skills of the assassinsSSSHHH!). Anyway, Black flag was a long awaited change of pace to break the mould, even if only slightly, and even if only to justify the sorry departure of any real stealth elements from the series.

But alas, Unity has launched and it seems we’re back in the city, playing a lead character who’s basically a knock-off Ezio with manic fashion awareness, murderously fuelled by all his vengeance and stuff. Get in line Arno, mate, the queue’s about 20 years long. Sadly, it would seem the “return to the series’ roots” that all gamers should be sick of hearing by now, was a little heavily buttered, and is little more than an excuse to take a few steps backwards, right back into the comfort zone. Here’s a rough list of the ‘important’ changes made to the series with Unity.

• A co-op campaign,
• A ‘parkour down’ mechanic
• The removal of ship combat
• Traversable building interiors
• ‘New’ types of side missions
• An increase in difficulty
• And finally, a dedicated stealth mode

Doesn’t this seem a little sad? Apart from an upgrade in graphical fidelity, only a handful of new features have been added to this year’s instalment, most of which are flaky as fuck. The co-op campaign seems fun, but it comes with the price of no multiplayer, and no women apparently. (They weren’t invented until the 19th century, you see.) The new types of side missions pretty much boil down to murder investigations and ‘dynamic street events’. The increase in difficulty is achieved through removing the overpowered counter kill and slowing combat to a crawl and to be honest, as interested as I am in the parkour down and stealth mode mechanics, they’re about 6 Assassin’s Creed games late in my opinion. And there’s one thing in particular that struck a nerve in the way these features were marketed.

I remember watching an interview with a Ubisoft employee (sorry, couldn’t find the original source. I tried real hard, promise) explaining the company’s approach to game design, specifically the ‘innovation’ of the series with the inclusion of the ‘last known position’ mechanic made popular by Splinter Cell: Conviction. For those unaware, when the player is detected, a ghostly silhouette of yourself sticks around, indicating where the enemy thinks your last known position was. What grinded at me was this guy’s advertisement of Ubisoft’s habit of recycling content. Positively detailing how each of the company’s development teams work together to add multiple gameplay features to multiple ongoing projects. This is bullshit. Recycling a mechanic from another of your own IP’s is not innovation by the very definition. And don’t get me wrong; iteration is fine. Stand on the shoulders of giants and all that. But when the only significantly fresh aspects to your sequel are either long overdue or ripped from another of your own games entirely, a 4 YEAR OLD game might I add, then I think there’s a problem.  But then this is hardly something new. If you’ve played any of Ubisoft’s open world games, you know how to play them all. Unlock a new area of the map, climb the tower to make the map less blurry, travel to the newly revealed objectives, probably via the fast travel system. Rinse, repeat. End credits. But then, hey, if it aint broke, don’t fix it, right?

Now I know I’m picking on one mechanic and acting like some sort of victim of the marketing machine. I actually think ‘last known position’ would work well for Assassin’s Creed. But that’s not the point. Lest we forget Watch_Dogs, a much more extreme example of a Ubisoft title that pandered to its console-centric demographic so grotesquely, that the majority of its marketing material was footage from a far better looking game, one incapable of running on the next gen machines. Then Ubi earned double conspiracy points when one avid gamer discovered an XML file already in the games directory that, once edited, restored the game to near E3 demo graphical quality and ran fine on most high end machines, contrary to Ubisoft’s claims. This wasn’t even a mod. The settings were still in the game, just removed from the in-game options. At its best, the whole situation was an incredibly shady business practice. At its worse, it was false advertisement, plain and simple.

I suppose the real issue I have is with the heavy condescension publishers like Ubisoft bestow towards their buyers, covering up the incompetence of the next gen consoles, and double dipping game mechanics and labelling it as ‘innovation’, because they can get away with it. But then I suppose that’s the point. They get away with it. Marketing issues aside, I feel the precedent for AAA game design is set. Even critical darlings like Shadow of Mordor, a game acclaimed for its genuinely innovative ‘Orc hierarchy system’ but is still founded on a bland recycled revenge plot, Arkham style combat and Assassin’s Creed style parkour. The bigger the budget of the game, the less risks a publisher is willing to let the developer take. It’s safe, which means it’s safe for investors.

Speaking of which, Ubisoft’s stock price fell 9% over the course of  launch, caused undoubtedly by the abhorrent critical backlash against the games myriad of bugs and performance issues, as well as the shady review embargo. The company is taking the dip seriously it would seem, as they are now re-evaluating their approach to their relationship with reviewers and customers, a rare decision only losing money could encourage. But I’m going to go ahead and assume the chances of this changing Ubi’s marketing or design practises is probably unlikely; just more PR fluff.

So the moral of the story; stop buying into the hype, stop pre-ordering games for exclusive day one DLC, and stop gushing over marketing material. Anyone who bought Unity is now in possession of a half broken game, with only a handful of new features to make up for it. Publishers are not on your side, and this is still a buyer’s market. Ubisoft won’t listen to you, but they will listen to your money! Vote with your wallet! Unite and revolt my friends! For Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité!

– Gigadibs

What the f**k is a Gigadibs?

Greetings to all who have found my little corner of the internet. Take a seat, have some tea. You may need a jumper, the landlord hasn’t sorted the boiler yet.

A little about myself; I like games. I like them a lot. They’re fun.

What I like more however is the progression of the gaming industry; how games are innovated and used to innovate media, the impact they can have as a storytelling device, a social commentary or even as a piece of art, and how the challenge of making something ‘fun’ seems to becoming more and more difficult for the AAA industry in a time when the market is saturated and originality is scarce.

I’m not sure what I’ll talk about. To be honest this is little more than justification play games and call it ‘research’. But I’m British and on the internet, So it’ll probably be lot of complaining. But who doesn’t like a good moan now, eh?