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Moore's Law and Current Generation Consoles

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I don't know if anyone sees these blogs any more. User entries don't get highlighted on the front page any more. I guess we're not so awesome any more. Maybe writing is passé and we have to do videos now...?

Anyway, I was thinking about console power, 1080p and frames per second and something occurred to me. According to Moore's Law the number of transistors, and thus the processing power of a microchip available at the same price doubles every 2 years. At that rate, you would think that games on current generation consoles would look 4 or 5 times better than games on the last generation, since it's been 8 to 10 years in between.

I don't think they look that much better.

More Elder Scrolls Online

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I was able to play for a couple days this past weekend in another Elder Scrolls Online beta event, and sadly, I've come away even less impressed than I was the first time (see my previous blog).

In my first Beta weekend I played a Breton and started in Stros M'Kai. This time I created a new Bosmer (Wood Elf) character and I was placed in a new starting area, Stonefalls in the region of Morrowind. I encountered beautiful scenery in what appeared to be a graphically much updated version of the world in the Morrowind game. I also encountered bugs in many of the quests. Primarily it was quest MOBs that never appeared, but there were also several instances of people you're assigned to help in a quest that were spawned much too rarely. In one instance you're tasked with freeing one group of ghosts from those of another group. There were many of each group scattered about the area, but killing the oppressor ghosts had no result unless you found the one in twenty that was standing over a cowering version of the ghosts you're supposed to help. It took far too long to find three such instances.

One thing this new area had that the previous one didn't was the dynamic world that changed around you as you completed major questlines. For example when you first arrive the city of Davon's Watch is under siege by the Daggerfall Covenant faction, with fighting going on between guards and enemy soldiers and parts of the city burning. As you help the inhabitants fend off the assault in various ways enemies disappear and the city returns to peace. This does not happen with every quest, though, I still saw events going on that I thought I had helped end, and monsters reappear that I had already killed.

I'm speculating but it seems to me the bugginess was caused by the dynamically changing world. There was no changing in my last testing, there was here. Another issue I had with the dynamism was pointed up by one quest. As you complete tasks, you often find the person who sent you has moved to a new location when you're ready to complete that task in the chain. In one instance I had completed everything up to the final task of killing the major baddie involved. I was defeated in that fight and had to respawn. I went back to try to find that enemy again and I had no way to get to her because the door I went through the first time was not usable any more. I tried abandoning the quest to start over, but the starter NPC was gone. Maybe that was by design, I can see that argument being made, but it was annoying nonetheless. Something like that could potentially happen in the main storyline quest and bork you for good.

Bugs can be fixed. I expect the issues I saw will be resolved by launch or shortly thereafter. A worse problem in my view was that this area had a distinctly MMO by the numbers design that had none of the inventiveness I saw in my first foray in this gameworld. I had many quests where I had to kill X creature Y, collect X of item Z from killing creature Y, or go fetch item W and bring it back. Very disappointing compared to my previous experience. I also had a hard time leveling at certain points because there were not enough quests in my level range. I would have had to grind on in world MOB's to get the needed experience. It could just be that I was unable to complete many of the quests I had been given.

My first experience wasn't totally positive, but I was eager to get back in and see what else the ESO had to offer. Unfortunately, by the second day of my last experience I was getting bored with the game because it was so much more of the same. I've decided I'm going to pass on this game unless it goes 'Buy to Play' (ala Guild Wars) or 'Free to Play' as long as it's not plagued by overly restrictive paywalls. I love the Elder Scrolls series and I wanted to like this game, but it's just not cutting it for me. Sorry, Tamriel, maybe later.

The Elder Scrolls Online Impressions

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I spent about 8 hours in the Elder Scrolls Online Beta yesterday and these are my impressions. I played as a Breton and got through the starting area and a little bit of the next area. Players in one of the other two factions or at higher levels may have a different experience. I was offered a choice between 4 classes. I don't know enough about race and class restrictions but there didn't seem to be many of them beyond the number to choose from. I played as a templar (cleric) and I could have used any weapons or armor I wanted. There were bonuses for race, e.g. Bretons have "Light Armor Affinity."

One thing that pleased me as I played through the introductory zone was I never once got a quest that required me to kill X number of creature Y or get X number of item Z from creature Y. Instead quests were inventive and told stories. Killing enemies was incidental to performing the quests not the point of the quests themselves. Every NPC I met and talked to was fully voiced, though my own character was not, but I'm not sure how I would feel about having my character speak anyway - I've never seen that in an MMO.

Onve very nice touch was that player characters didn't always just stand there fidgeting when they weren't active. If a player was looking at their map or journal - they appeared to be doing so in the game. If they were looking at their inventory, they were seen rummaging through a backpack. I thought that was pretty cool.

Crafting is always one of my favorite parts of any MMO I've played, and it was pretty deep and rewarding here. Raw materials are harvested out in the world from creatures (hides), objects on the landscape (ore and fiber for cloth) or from crates and barrels (cooking ingredients). You can also deconstruct items in your inventory to get their appropriate materials. To create an item, you need the basic material (like metal or cloth), and a race specific item you can buy from a vendor. Then you can optionally add a gem to get a bonus effect like extra health ot regeneration. You don't have any interactive effect on the actual item creation process like you do in Everquest 2 and other games, you just click a button and the item you want is generated. Failure does not seem possible. One exception to this is alchemy, where only certain combinations of ingredients will produce anything, as in the single player games. In those cases you lose your ingredients. The items I was able to make were very useful and were not easily replaced by drops or quest rewards, and I did do all the quests. In fact some gear slots would not have been filled had I not crafted those items. The only alternative would be to buy gear, and from what I saw it's pretty expensive and exactly the same as crafted or drops. Crafting can also be used to improve your items, like using whetstones to make your weapon do more damage, which does have a chance to fail that lowers as you use more of the required item. Those items are apparently pretty rare, as I never got one during my playtime.

Combat was slightly more action oriented than most MMO's. You don't just click on your enemy to target it and click on skill buttons. You need to aim your swings and ranged shots, though the aiming seems pretty forgiving. It's not the same action experience as Tera, but it's somewhere between that and the usual MMO button clicking. I'm pretty sure anyone involved in killing a MOB has the typical chance to get whatever it usually drops. Gear drops seem to be more rare than they are in other MMO's; as I said I was not able to gear up on drops during the times I could have found level-appropriate items. (Items dropped, rewarded or crafted, have levels you need to meet to equip them.)

The game was obviously set in the Elder Scrolls universe, the races were there, I fought daedra, there were Dwemer and Aelid ruins. However, I really wasn't getting the same vibe I do from the single player games. It could be that the area I started in was a desert, and I don't recall any desert areas in any of the games since Daggerfall. It just didn't seem like the same fantasy setting. Many of the single player mainstays were missing from what I experienced so far. There were no fighter's, mage of thieve's guilds and I only found two books I could read. To me something just seemed to be "off." Maybe that would change as I got to more familiar areas of the world.

My biggest diappointment with TESO is that for entire time I spent playing it felt like a single player game. I could see other players, join their fights and have them join mine, but other than that you would never know you were playing an MMO. There was absolutely no reason to group with other players from what I experience so far. Quests followed a chain, and when you complete the quests in the first area, you're shipped off to the next designated area with no choice in the matter - it felt way to guided and linear for an MMO. There were no quests that required a group, and nothing I encountered could not be defeated easily playing solo. One of the most potentialy appealing aspects of MMO's is cooperating with other players, making friends and accomplishing things together that you can't on your own. I don't think you should be able to wait until "endgame" raiding to ever communicate in game with another human. I wish someone would junk up and make an MMO that required grouping for normal content. If everyone has to do it, then it's not that hard. Eventually you make a set group of friends you play with often, and the experience is much richer for it. Yes, other players can be a pain sometimes, but that just points up how rewarding a good group experience is, and it also forces people prone to griefing or rudeness to mend their ways if they want to keep playing and avoid a reputation as a jerk.

Overall TESO adds a little to the current state of the art of the MMO, but not enough to really make me want to play. It does not do enough to put the Multiplayer back to really appeal to me, in fact it seems to move farther away than any other game I've played.

Microsoft Has Forgotten

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It seems like we're reading near daily news stories about how Microsoft's XBox One is anti-consumer and designed to make money rather than as a means to play games. The latest being the declaration that the console was designed for advertising ( http://www.gamespot.com/news/xbox-one-created-with-advertising-in-mind-6411083 ). Ignoring the monumental stupidity of making a atatement like that in the hostile environment Microsoft is currently faced with, the most remarkable thing about the fiasco is how gamers are as universally united as any Internet commuity can be against Microsoft's vision for the future.

Nerd Riot

I'm several years older than the average gamer and I've seen how the gaming industry has been going downhill for years specifically because big business is focused on money and not art and innovation. Mind me, youngsters, I know what I'm talking about (and get off my lawn). Back in the day individuals and teams of people wrote games as a labor of love. They expanded, innovated and grew the hobby at a rate that seems phenominal today. New mechanics, new genres and new IP were common. They put what they wanted into their work without marketing teams discussing every detail with focus groups and statisticians.

Now that the megacorporations focused primarily on making money for their shareholders have taken over we have annual releases of the same boring shooters, almost all games targeted at hormonal teenage male mentality, shorter games, piecemeal DLC instead of complete games and/or true expansions, microtransactions, advertisements, information gathering for marketing purposes... and the list goes on. When is that last time we saw a new genre? What passes for innovation these days is putting roleplaying elements into shooters or developing a title where the gameplay comes disturbingly close to watching a movie.

So what else is new?

Even though this has been going on for years, the level of opposition to the XBox One is strikingly widespread and persistent. Why has the backlash taken so long to ferment? As I see it, the difference with the XBox One and the reason gamers are so up in arms is that Microsoft was arrogant, and they showed their cards and vocalized their primary motivation. Heck, they didn't even try to sell what they were planning as something more palatable. Gamers are rightly insulted and disappointed by the way they're being viewed as mindless consumer drones and reacted accordingly (if not always appropriately) resulting in the incredible reversal MS made to their plans.

Who manages whom?

Gaming, unlike TV, Movies and music has always been a culture and a comradeship as well as a medium. The backlash against Microsoft encouragingly shows it's still true. MS has forgotten it to their peril, if they ever really knew it.

The Last of Us Review

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The Last of Us review is the latest one here on Gamespot to produce a totally unwarranted and bewildering backlash of hate against the reviewer.  Why?  He dared to call a game "Great" and give it the associated score of 8.0 and was not in line with most of the rest of the reviewer community who are gave it perfect or near perfect scores.

If you're getting getting livid over one review score being slightly below the rest you need to step back and ask yourself why.  Maybe you have too much of your self worth invested in things you want to love.  (Want to, mind you, because no one here has played it yet.)  You're also displaying signs of adolescent black and white thinking.  Any creative work isn't either a magnificent achievment or terrible.  Try to understand there are gray areas and different people have different opinions. If you think the review is "wrong" I hope for your sake you never disagree with the general opinion on anything or your head might explode.  (Also, hint: an opinion can never be wrong.  Right and wrong are reserved for facts.)

This all seems kind of obvious to me, but it never cease to amaze me the way so many people react when a review doesn't tell them what they want to hear.  if just one person meditates on this and starts to see the forest and chills out, thereby avoiding stress induced high blood pressure and stroke, my effort will have been worth it.

Scary females

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There was a news post on Gamespot recently entitled "Documentary on industry sexism fully funded." (http://www.gamespot.com/news/documentary-on-industry-sexism-fully-funded-6407948) And to the surprise of no one, like all posts related to the subject of sexism in the games industry, the comments section was flooded with disgruntled male gamers decrying and denying the need for such an expose. I'm roughly estimating 90% of the commenters were opposed to the documentary, women in gaming, women in general, feminism or any combination of these things. It's difficult to understand how anyone could look at the fear, anger and outright misogyny in those comments and not come to the conclusion that the gaming community has a problem with sexism.

I've been trying to understand the root of all this anti-female sentiment think I may have finally figured it out. It has to do with peripheries of the man-boy mentality that's so common with men in the gaming community.  I think what we're seeing is a large portion of the males in gaming basically don't understand women, are ultimately afraid of them. Some of it has to do with resentment at the way they've been treated by women in their own lives, or at least their perception of the way they've been treated.

I've taken a sampling of the comments this article elicited to show where I'm coming from. I think everyone can agree these reactions are not unique.  If you've read any of the comments sections related to gaming and sexism you've heard all these things before, many times. The comments are attributed to the Gamespot members who made them. I don't suppose anyone can justifiably get mad at me for using their comment, after all it was made in a public forum and the members are relatively anonymous. I'm thinking I get to claim fair use. :) I'll try to make arguments against the general mindsets on display in the interest of enlightenment, but I don't think it's strictly necessary. The comments themselves more than support my basic premise.

First of all we see the comments that lead me to believe these guys have issues with their personal romantic lives:

Gamers are the nerdy kids who treat women nicely and therefore don't get girlfriends since girls like asshole sports jocks. - Saketume

The games industry shouldn't bend over backwards to accommodate a group that has traditionally laughed at it. - Pulfasonic

Generalizations to be sure. There are as many different women as there are men and we're not all looking for the same thing in a partner. If one has been been rejected and laughed at by one woman or even a few of them, and said woman went on to date "asshole sports jocks" that's a reflection on her, for better or worse, not an indication of what all women want.

Then we have the lack of general understanding of women that either puts them on a pedestal:

Ideally we expect women to be these sweet innocent people. - Gen007

Or attempts to knock them off the pedestal the commenter thinks women have put themselves upon:

Femi-Bushido (the Way of the Woman) - you can make mistakes, you can ruin the whole dev project, you can bitch about anything without any particular reason, you can make films about mistreatment of your kind. And nobody has the right to criticize you - shuwar

Female gamer, on the other hand, is used as a cry for attention. Like "Look at me!! I am girl who plays games. Tee hee!" - underoath83

Remember the good old arcade days where you had to EARN the respect by proving yourself amongst other gamers, females apparently just want that respect like its their God given right... - musalala

Women in 2013 don't want to be idealized, put on a pedestal, put in an ivory tower or anything of the sort. Nor do they expect to be given a pass in the face of a lack of aptitude because they're female. They want to be treated as an equal in their professional lives and in their personal lives, not instantly thought less of simply because they're a woman. Of course there are some misguided people who think women are inherently better than men but they're in the minority. Just as he-man woman haters (whether the hate arises from fear or something else) are in the minority. The problem with the games industry is many of these guys seem to have been attracted to it and they're in wildly disproportionate representation.

And then there's the false comparisons:

"And what about MEN getting harrassed online? There are 2 sides to each coin but feminists only want to see one -,-" - hella_epic

"nobody gives a shit about every single man being built like a tank" - Pulfasonic

The simplest way to dismiss these arguments is to point out that two wrongs don't make a right. That's elementary school logic most of us should understand. In this case I'll go beyond that to say that men are not harrassed online simply because they're men and men generally like to be presented as the ultra-buff strongman. Sorry guys, it's just the truth.

Then finally we get to the outright fear some of the comments aren't afraid to put to words:

I cant wait to listen to these steps to (emasculate) change the environment for the better. - zombielandv

Games are mostly for a male audience and we like seeing some skin. What's so wrong in that? God why do All groups now start to hate on games??? - amvivin

Yes, that's what we have here. The scary, indecipherable women are coming to destroy gaming. I think that's the root of all the hateful comments that are provoked by the issue of sexism in the gaming industry whenever it comes up on Gamespot or elsewhere in the online gaming world. Fear is the at the root of, and the basis of the rhetoric that always shows up when one group is afraid that another group is going to step in and uproot their way of life. Arguments that are made in situations regarding serious things like segregation, universal sufferage and immigration and with more trivial things like video games. But if history tells us anything it's that these fears are never realized when the new group is ultimately fully included. What generally happens is benefits are granted to everyone involved. Yes there are changes but nothing of value is lost, the world is usually enhanced by the expansion of the community.

It's even less of a cause for anxiety in the world of gaming. For better or worse, games aimed at men that include all the things that attract men aren't going anywhere. The appeal to masculine sensibilities is still present in movies and any other entertainment you can point to and it will always be present in gaming as long as men want it. The benefits we'll see by welcoming women to gaming as both developers and players are a more diverse selection of gaming themes and mechanics, expansion of the audience and growth of the industry that benefits everyone involved.

The real problem behind real world violence

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 The biggest problem behind incidents like the Newtown shootings isn't video game violence or guns, althought I currently  think they can both contribute negatively to an individual situation.  The main issue is mental health is mostly ignored in the US and when it comes up the person with the problems is a "psycho nut-case freak".  The American public needs to be educated about mental health, the diseases and conditions need to be de-stigmatized and people who seek treatment should be encouraged, not demonized or ridiculed.  Most importantly there needs to be somewhere to go when a problem is reaching crisis proportions.  A mental disorder should be seen and treated no differently than asthma or any other disease.

From what we know, the Sandy Hook shooter's mother tried to treat his mental issues herself.  (http://soa.li/YkqZPGl) She apparently avoided getting him any sort of professional treatment.  His issues obviously just kept getting worse.  She bought him dozens of the most violent games available.  Bought him multiple guns (legally...).   No one knows if she was worried when his obsession with mass-murderers was organized into a spreadsheet that took a 4 foot wide printer to produce in something like a 9 point font.  By all accounts she tried to do right by her son, but it seems like she didn't know how to go about it right and didn't ask for help from people who do.  Rather she isolated her son and herself into an insular little world.  Why?  As far as I can see, either because she didn't want the stigma associated with a serious diagnosis or ( more likely) people here in the US have no idea where to go with a problem that's getting bad like this one.

To which I would add mostly unassisted.

To which I would add mostly unassisted.

As someone who has dealt with mental issues with a loved one I know how difficult it is and how long it takes to realize it's impossible to help an irrational person by dealing with them rationally.  You can't have someone committed to an institution because there are no institutions, even when you finally admit the sick individual is a threat to themself and/or others.  Law enforcement won't do anything until after a violent act has been committed.  In this situation, you're left with virtually no choices to help someone and prevent a tragedy.

America really needs to step up it's efforts to educate and provide resources for people with severe mental/emotional problems and those around them so they don't end up doing something like this, or much more commonly, hurting themselves or detaching from society, living on the streets, and on the fringe.

The video game industry has an image problem

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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy we've seen numerous people jumping to blame video games as contributing to violent behavior. People familiar with gaming know the criticisms are unfair and unfounded, so why do they continue to be leveled against our hobby? The answer is the video game industry has an image problem and so far it seems to be almost completely unmotivated to work on changing it. A big part of the problem is misinformation and myth propagation on the part of people who are either uninformed or using the image to promote their own agenda. The latter group includes politicians and the NRA, the former includes almost anyone who doesn't play "core" video games.

Is this what the average person should think of when they think about video games?


However, the other large part of the problem is the immature and counterproductive attitudes that go into making and promoting violent games. It seems like a large contingent of decision makers are motivated to up the ante on over the top violence because they think it's cool and a good number of their customers think so as well. You end up with marketing like the "your mom hates Dead Space 2" where the key point is if the violence repulses someone, it must be cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4lP5oA6_G4

Then there's the bloody limbless torso promoting Dead Island 2 that was apologized for within a day of it's announcement. You have Mortal Kombat devs focusing on how extreme their fatalities are in previews. And of course we have countless games touting how cool it is to kill enemies because you get a slow motion close-up, blood sprays everywhere, limbs and heads come off and rag doll physics send corpses and parts splaying all over. We've all read and seen previews thay play up these things and I'm guessing I'm not the only one who thinks 'Seriuosly? Are you deliberately TRYING to make games look worse than they do and invite backlash?'

"As it turns out the brothel is a fine playground to show off Manhunt 2's new environmental executions, which as the name suggests has you using the environment to send badguys towards a very bloody end.

Not wasting any time the death toll begins with the receptionist, who is easy work thanks to a carefully placed telephone, now smashed through his face with scattered pieces of flesh littered on the floor."

Manhunt 2 Preview,

http://www.computerandvideogames.com/162841/previews/manhunt-2/?page=2#top_banner


I'm not saying violence is evil nor that it should be eliminated from gaming, but gaming industry leaders need to stop pushing it as if it were the best part of their games. I honestly think there is a strong element of man-boy immaturity motivating too many people in their design and marketing decisions. I'm surprised no one has yet done a research piece for some news outlet pulling the worst of these marketing attempts to show the public how warped game developers are.

On the positive side, the games industry needs to actively promote what's good about games. They teach all sorts of things to players other then death and destruction. Action games develop hand-eye coordination, strategy games develop logic and planning, RPG's and The Sims teach a bit about social interactions and multiplayer games feature actual social interaction. Most games feature some kind of problem solving, the basics of which can translate and aid in real world situations. Most importantly the deep stories that are integral to gaming now that can reach people with all kinds of ideas on a level that simply watching or reading a story cannot - there are still too many people who dismiss gaming as mindless button mashing. Almost everyone alive has played some sort of video game, and before anyone shouts that mobile games aren't real games, I would say that if Pong, Mainframe Star Trek, Pac Man and Space Invaders are games, then mobile games that are far more complicated qualify as well. The industry can point to the fact that the vast majority of people enjoy video games and somehow resist the urge to do violence.

It should also stress the fact that the games rating system was set up by the industry itself, it fairly and accurately indicates what sort of content a game has. It allows consumers to make educated decisions on what kind of games they're buying, especially when buying them for children.

If the industry continues to ignore it's image things will only get worse from here. There is no sense feeding the bad publicity and making gaming an easy target for people who want to deflect blame like the NRA or promote themselves as crusaders against violence "for the kids." Gamers have a role to play as well. Too many people have a knee jerk reaction to criticisms against violent content where they will simply vilify the complainer as an ignorant fool. Much as it may be justified, we should consider the message glorifying over the top violence sends about our hobby. We can't ignore the damage that is done by promoting graphic violence as the main appeal of gaming.

The Dark Side of Crowdfunding

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The line between investing and crowd funding is getting too blurred. We're seeing more and more established companies and individuals, who you can reasonably expect to have money of their own and/or connections with investors, asking average people to pay for making their game. The idea behind crowd funding used to be helping out the small independent, not Black Isle and Peter Molyneux.

Traditional investors who give money to fund a project can expect a major return on their investment if the game is made and it's successful. It's bad enough that major crowdfunding supporters for a successful full release game get very little of real value in return for their investment of thousands of dollars. They have to content themselves with a copy or 10 of the game and some digital stuff like their name in the credits or an in game character, or best of all a visit to the company's office (Oh boy!) while the developer reaps all the real profits.

If you back Black Isle's latest request for funding for a "proof of concept" you can expect nothing in return but forum access. (http://www.gamespot.com/news/black-isle-seeks-crowdfunding-to-revive-pv13-6401830) This funding isn't even being done through anestablished crowd funding facilitator like Kickstarter - they're just asking for money on their web site! If an established industry player wants to make a game they should get real backers who believe in it to invest money, not pull at the emotional impulses of people who look up to them as fans and/or don't make sound financial decisions. If they weren't able to do that with the resources and connections available to them one can reasonably wonder if the game is worth making at all.

Short of outright fraud (taking money when you have no intention of producing anything) the worst case scenario with the crowdfunding paradigm is very unsettling: No one has done it yet as far as I know but it would be completely unethicall to use crowd funding if your motivation is to eliminate the need to share the wealth if your game is successful.

Crowd funding is fast turning into bulls#!+ if you ask me.

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