The Inherent Value Hidden in The Surge

I’m not sure anyone needed The Surge, but I’m certainly glad we got it. Games that are heavily influenced by another may be dubbed as clones upon announcement, but as Minecraft created a genre, so did Dark Souls; leading to the inspiration of games like The Surge, Dead Cells, and Nioh. All of which are characterized by leashed monsters that pace an area until they charge in your direction, and combat techniques that need to be memorized and dealt with in a particular way to be defeated. Initially thought to fall into a particular niche, Dark Souls’ reach has expanded exponentially, and rather than being viewed as the source material for a batch of clones, should be looked upon as a grandfather for the next generation of the genre’s offspring. The Surge is the next step in that genealogy.

The Surge implements a new take on these combat techniques without making it too complicated: with its horizontal and virtual attacks, a dodge and block mechanic, everything else is left up to skill. I’d be lying if I said that simplicity made the game easy – it doesn’t – but that observation doesn’t mean much coming from me. I was unable to get past the tutorial in the first Dark Souls, and I haven’t been able to play more than half an hour (combined time) in the genre since. But that doesn’t leave me unable to appreciate the beauty that Deck 13 has created.

How do you feel about creators, across all industries, shamelessly and unabashedly showing where their inspiration has come from? What’s the first thing that crosses your mind when you see a game that has clearly borrowed game mechanics from a better-known franchise? And does that initial opinion change based on the ultimate quality of the title? Comment below and let me know, I genuinely want to know what you guys think. 

This is an introduction to a multiple part series.*

@WASDmeta

Advertisements

As YouTube’s Biggest Ad-Buyers Jump Ship, Who Loses the Most?

Customary TLDR is at the bottom, along with questions to spark the discussion. Please, feel free to comment below. 

Birth of the Ad-Pocalypse

Almost a year has passed since the hit piece on PieDiePie by Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas, and Ben Fritz was written on behalf of The Wallstreet Journal; and creators are still here weighing a bigger problem: the great imbalance of cause and effect. Over one hundred days have passed since that initial article was posted and dominoes are still continuing to fall. It may have begun with a precisely aimed round to PewDiePie’s forehead, but in consequence, baby YouTubers are running for cover.

YouTube’s Purpose to Us

YouTube was not designed to be a platform for content creators or budding media professionals, but over time that is what it’s become. And regardless of where you land on the “Spectrum of Political Correctness,” if you’ve found this article and have reached this point I believe you agree with me when I say: if you’ve created a platform in which content creators can thrive – to the point that they feel comfortable enough to trust you, leave their jobs, and rely on your income to survive – you cannot take advantage of that trust. I understand business, and we’re all cognizant of the fact that the highest bidder wins, but when you make a decision to appease a dozen huge corporations, and it endangers the livelihoods of thousands, I think your decision needs to be reconsidered.

YouTube’s Purpose to Them

For Google, the ultimate concern is YouTube’s profitability. And generally, revenue comes from the advertisers, not the content creators (at least not directly.) It is not YouTube’s job to take care of people. But when people that have vowed to never put a sponsor button on their page are forced to make a video, that always reads as uncomfortable, asking people to use a third party platform to contribute financially in an attempt to re-stabilize their income – you know your revenue stream has been shattered.

Where we Stand in Opposition

As content creators, we know that we cannot rely on a platform. The stars of MySpace that didn’t branch out to build their own brands were destroyed by the emergence of Facebook. The “Vine Famous” needed the business sense to use the platform as an on-ramp to movie auditions and TV / online shows – and some of them did; when Vine fell they were protected. Their names were known outside of the application, so they had external work to point to. But creating the content is work enough, not to mention keeping in touch with your audience, so they don’t feel slighted – given the impressions that you’ve become too popular for the people that helped you get there. One has to maintain their web pages and make sure their content is relevant because if they stop for a breath someone has surpassed them. The work was never easy, but one thing YouTube did was make you feel comfortable as a creator, that they had your back, and if you put in the hard work you were good. But when YouTube’s back was against the wall, it’s clear who they chose to protect.

Who Can Be Incentivized to Change Things?

So the question remains: when YouTubers are no longer making enough money to focus on their craft, and have to pivot – maybe slowly moving back into “real life,” or getting a new job entirely – to make sure they can provide for the people who need them, who suffers? These creators can turn to Patreon, but those Patreon coffers have to be filled by someone, and as viewers, we only have so much money. If we only have enough money to back two YouTubers but love watching five, what happens to the remaining three? Do we just let their quality fade until it can no longer be supported? Do we weed out the weak or the ones with audiences unable to financially support the channel’s growth? If this problem continues, and YouTubers go from withering to dying, who will suffer financially?

Because when it comes to companies, it’s money that matters.

Companies provide keys to content creators not because they enjoy giving away their games for free, but because if someone with 1 million, or even 5,000 followers plays a game – there are 5,000 eyes that are immediately interested in this game. It’s not like advertising on TV, where half of your advertising money is wasted. You buy the ad, but what percentage of people that view it actually care about what you’re selling? When a company provides a content creator with a game, they are guaranteeing that the audience that sees it will be, at the least, intrigued. But if, despite the viewer count, these creators can no longer do what they do because they can no longer support themselves, to whom will these companies turn?

I expand upon that idea in a post I wrote in January, arguing to companies the benefits of giving YouTubers the opportunity to showcase their products for them, rather than spending the money on ad revenue. But if they’re not going to be spending money on ads at all, doesn’t that strengthen my case, and give companies a more reliable advertising medium? No. When the primary source of income is through products or sponsorships by companies, the opinions no longer hold weight. They go from honest product reviews to paid sponsorships – simply another form of advertising – causing viewers to lose trust in the review and the creator presenting it.

The point is, when Content Creators suffer, who loses the most money? Answer that, and a solution for our current YouTube ad problem may appear.

tl;dr
– YouTube, having created a platform that compensated creators for their work, gave people the sense of security that needed to quit their day jobs and depend on the income from YouTube alone.
– What we tend to forget is that Google’s priority is not the happiness of their content creators or viewers, it’s the profit YouTube makes. If advertisers are no longer paying them, Google needs to do whatever they can to bring advertisers back.
– The only way to force someone to take notice is to disrupt their revenue stream. YouTube’s hair-trigger reaction to the loss of revenue is blocking ads on any piece of content that might initiate advertiser’s mass exodus.
– So, when content producers can no longer support themselves on videos alone they’ll have to change tactics; either by moving to another platform like Twitch, or asking for money on Patreon instead of Sponsoring on YouTube. 

Let’s crowdsource some ideas. What do you think our options are? Who do you think loses the most if YouTubers have to dedicate their time to something other than their channel, and production quality declines? If they move to another platform who[se bank accounts] feel their absence? When we figure out the answer to that question, I think our voice will be loud enough to be heard.

If you have a Medium feel free to comment there. 

@WASDmeta

That Incredible “In-Hand Feel”

I’ve heard it said more than once that someone simply loved the “feel” of a game. As if it was a new food against the surface of their tongue or a stone against their fingers, they explain the experience as if it was a visceral one. Despite Destiny’s objectively rough story and treadmill-like loot grinding, it is rare that you play an FPS that urges you to pull back on the shoulder button repeatedly, simply to, again and again, feel the satisfying recoil of the gun. It is the weight behind a melee attack in Halo that makes hitting someone with the butt of a rifle or knocking them back with an elbow so rewarding.

This is why, notwithstanding my statement on writing reviews, I had to sit down and talk about the shooting in Rainbow Six Siege. As a game with a history dating back to 1998, going into it would be beyond the scope of what I want to cover here, but within the first two minutes of purchasing the game, I knew it was a good buy. The developers did something that allowed me to, by even watching the game played on stream or in a YouTube video, experience the action of the rifle: the recoil as the bullet left the barrel and the slight kick-back as the shell is ejected and another round is pushed forward for the next shot.

Somehow small indie studios have managed to find the source of this wonderful game mechanic magic and implement it into jumping, sword swinging, and spell casting. A feeling that I once thought could only be experienced through the efforts of hundreds of people, is now being delivered by teams with less than a dozen.

So when I select a game for On My Radar or decide to dedicate time in posting continuous coverage of its development, not only do I think it innovative in its genre, that the devs poured gallons of their blood into it and deserve recognition, but somewhere in me I know that – like Rainbow Six Siege – those satisfying visuals allude to an upcoming incredible gameplay experience.

@WASDmeta

I later want to delve into what mechanics must be implemented and done just right to make a game feel good, but I know it’s going to take a lot of research so it will have to be after the features I’m already working on. 

Welcome to the Battlegrounds

After seeing this game show up on Twitch in early January I couldn’t help but groan at the appearance of another “survival shooter” game. If there were ever a case of market saturation in the video game industry, it would have been the past 18 months with this kind of the hill-esc genre. But it wasn’t until March that I realized this game would break the mold. And for those asking “Is this a copy of H1Z1 or Arma?” First answer this question: If someone ghost authored a book, co-authored another, and then finally had the power and support to write his own book would you accuse him of plagiarising himself?

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds’ (PUBG) freshest contender is another early access survival shooter, Escape from Tarkov. EFT is about the grind for loot; the gamble of going in with your best items and doubling down, or coming back with nothing. In stark contrast, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds is an emotional rollercoaster that leaves people screaming expletives when they get shot, but then yelling “Let’s go again!” at the top of their lungs; or pumping their fists after a win, going in overconfident and getting shot within a minute of landing on the ground. I couldn’t count the times that a streamer would end a match saying “That was so stupid, I shouldn’t have done that.” Which is a drastic change from the norm. When you die in this game it’s not due to bad game mechanics or a bug – when you die in this game it’s your fault, which means you can get better and improve. Never before have I seen a game in alpha look so polished, even more so than games that have been fully released.

For a game based off of everyman-for-himself type warfare, PUBG is a game that thrives on its social aspects. Even after a player has died, their spectating mode allows for fallen teammates to be a second set of eyes to their surviving ones. Although they are no longer rising through the ranks they can still be “in the game” by being a spotter and helping their friends shoot their way to the top.

Not only do duos and team pairings allow for excellent team play, but they bring about the moments that have people sitting around tables years after this game is long dead reminiscing about “the time that…”  Their game mechanics and combat system provides opportunities for plays that will be shared among friends, across Twitter, and find their way to the top of Reddit before the match is even uploaded to YouTube.

If pressed I’d have to describe a video game as a relationship. Of course, any connection we have to another living thing is a relationship but – aren’t some of today’s modern games living? People spend hours with them away from other things and other people, focusing on no other stimuli than what’s in front of them and the people with them in-game. My opening paragraph was written yesterday, and I opened by asking if PU’s Battlegrounds is a game that will have the power to pull gamers from their long-term relationships with other games. I wanted to know if players would abandon their guilds or gaming partners, if they would feel no twinge of remorse canceling their long established plans to have a good time with like-minded people, and last night my question was answered.

I was watching someone on Stream, who started off their duo match by telling their partner that in six hours they’d have to leave for a previously scheduled CS:GO scrim that he had to take part in.  When the six hours was up it was clear that he genuinely didn’t want to stop playing PU’s BG. He felt that the six hours he had previously spent playing the game wasn’t enough, even going so far as to call his teammates to see if the scrim wasn’t canceled or postponed. PUBG is a game like this that makes people not want to leave their computers to get up to eat or use the bathroom, and that fact will change the space of gaming for our foreseeable future.

There’s a lot more I can say about this game but, after just a few days of watching, I want to keep it less than a thousand words. This game breathes authenticity. While other games force competition by sponsoring tournaments and matches before people even get their hands on the game: this community has become naturally competitive, with no forcing on the part of the devs. With players from CS:GO and CoD coming in with levels of communication that can only be rivaled by professional players, this game will continue to grow into the champion I know it will be. I couldn’t help but sit in awe when I saw that professional Twitch streamerSacriel, had created his own replay system, allowing him to look back at the mistakes he’s made in-game and analyze them – making sure he does not suffer death the same way again. A creation of his own design that would do well to be implemented in PUBG.

Of course, there are things that could be fixed. I’ve seen too many times, that players get caught in their menu and die before they can leave. I assume the game sends your inventory data to the server as you close your menu and because of this there is a temporary pause, but that pause is just long enough for you to be downed and slaughtered. I’d like it if the moment you took damage: your inventory would close itself, and any saving that needed to be done would happen in the background so you could at least attempt to defend yourself. And although bright yellow text pops up reminding you the player zone is about to change, when your head is in the game and you’re searching for enemies sometimes that text goes unnoticed. Implementing an audio indication of some kind might aid in people running for the circle at the last minute – but maybe that’s the point.

I don’t know what PU’s BG has in store. All I know is, now that PlayerUnknown is at the helm of his own team, he will do more than just mod. His team and this community will alter the face of online competitive gaming forever.

tl;dr
– With a genre oversaturated with games, the man who has helped create the best one now has the ability to create his own, and what a beautiful thing it will be.
– It is both exhilarating and infuriating, but it always leaves you coming back for more. Any death is a fault of yours, not the game, simply illuminating the brilliance of the game design.
– Is made for both solo and social players. You can have fun playing alone, or coordinate plays with your friends that you remember for years and leave you climbing to the top of the leaderboards.
– Like a carefully crafted MMO, this game will have you leaving long established friends and communities, compelling you to return to fulfill that desire to be the last man standing. It will hook you, and never for a second will you be left wondering WHY you’re hooked, the reasons are obvious.
– It instills genuine competition and isn’t forcing it down the community’s throat.
– Could definitely make a few tweaks and improvements, but this is one of the most polished games I’ve seen, let alone for one still in alpha.
– I don’t know much, but I know this game will change the face of the multiplayer genre (and shooters alike) for years to come.

@WASDmeta

Hollow Knight Standouts

  • After almost a two years Hollow Knight has finally been let out of its cage.
  • Self-proclaimed Metroidvania
  • “Interesting” gameplay mechanics. Satisfying when you win but may cause extreme grief if you feel the death is due to the game’s mechanics rather than your mistakes
  • Occasional frame rate drops.
  • Very combat heavy. More bug smashing than platforming. 
  • Provides quick-respawn points when you seemingly need them the most. 
  • When you die your soul along with all your Geo, the game’s currency remains. Forcing you to return to the scene to fight your soul and get your currency back. It’s a Dark Souls-esc game implementation, makes you think before you jump into a fight because you know what’s at stake. But when you wander into a boss fight in which you don’t belong, the game sometimes forgets to gate you from them, you end up with your soul in an area you can’t fight your way out of. You have 2000 Geo trapped in a lion’s den, and you can go and get your gold…but if the lion kills you, you’re at the same place you started. You have to defeat the lion to get your gold back.
    • It isn’t until later in the game that you have access to the resurrection shrine that summons your specter from wherever it lays.
  • Amazing soundtrack and sound design, but sometimes the repetitive cries from characters make you wonder how long you can stay in their vicinity before you go insane.
  • Simultaneously dark and vibrant art style.
    • Has gorgeous lens flares that occasionally disrupt you at inopportune times.

     

    @WASDmeta

Should Microsoft Be Concerned with This Year’s Xbox Exclusive Line-Up?

Within the last few day’s GameSpot has released YouTube videos showcasing the year’s announced exclusives for each major platform. The PS4 showcase was the longest of the bunch at a length of 7:33. They followed it up with the PC list, which came out at 3:25, but keep in mind: there’s no way – with a multitude of online distributors and indie games that only made it to PC – that they could list them all. The video for Xbox One lasted an astounding 1:29. Incredulous that their lineup could be so thin, I compared it to the other videos. The announcer did cut them short, spending 10 seconds or less on each game but even if she had put in as much time into each title as the PS4 narrator did, she would only have ended up at 2:09. The top comment on the PS4’s video was “Now make a video for the Xbox. Oh, wait…” And the comment section for the Xbox One video was a bloodbath. To no-one’s surprise.

The problem here is not the war between the two factions, in the scheme of things, that doesn’t matter. The fact that one console is outselling the other might trouble Microsoft’s execs when they’re sitting in their boardroom, but it doesn’t affect us when we’re sitting down with our controllers in front of our televisions. But there is a part of this war that permeates into our lives, and it’s that buying a console is an investment in a company and their platform. When we drop $300-400 on a system, it comes with an expectation that there will be content for it that will drive us to the edge of our seats. That developers will rally around a system and it’s technology and put their time and dedication into making incredible games. AAA games, games that flip a switch in us and make us fall in love – whether it’s with the gameplay or the story. And although there will always be players that stick to one system or another, what’s more important is which system the developers stick with. Whether it’s about money or signed contracts, exclusivity not only sells consoles for Microsoft or Sony but it leads consumers to make decisions on which consoles we’re going to buy, which device we’re going to invest in. This generation, the scales seem to be embarrassingly unbalanced.

I will fully disclose that I am fortunate enough to own both an Xbox One and a Playstation – but I’m fully cognizant of the fact that not every person is in that position. Some are forced to decide, some-time following a console’s launch, which one of the system’s they’ll stand behind. This decision-making process is multifaceted. Brand loyalty, which system a player’s friends are going to be on, and game exclusives all factor in. All of your friends might be on Playstation, but if you’re a dedicated Halo player the choice is out of your hands – you’re going with Xbox. But looking at the video length for announced exclusives alone, Xbox seems to be on the “losing” side of this battle.

Larry Hyrb announces “new games available for Xbox” every day, but how many of those games launched across a dozen platforms simultaneously?

As an Xbox owner I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. When it’s launch was announced, I knew where I stood in regard to their current IP. If I was buying a console at launch I’d be buying a Halo box. And after that, Forza was the only thing I felt I had to look forward to. Later, I felt 2017 was going to be a fantastic gaming year for me, but only because I had Scalebound on the brain. I couldn’t imagine myself even glancing at my PlayStation for weeks following its release. Then Microsoft squashed it. I can’t say I’m pissed at Microsoft because I wasn’t promised anything, but when I placed the pre-order for my Xbox it was with anticipation of playing that game.

If you ask me why I decided to buy an Xbox, it was for the social superiority. PlayStation had been plagued with online service outages, sometimes multiple times a year, while Microsoft hadn’t had any. Considering the cost of online service was the same on both platforms, Microsoft’s online service was objectively better (more reliable), and the majority of my friends said they were going to buy it. They didn’t. They all boarded the PlayStation train, and I was “pressured” into getting one. Every multiplayer game I own, I own on PlayStation. The pride and joy of my Xbox is Ori and the Blind Forest, and I feel to say that is sad. My favorite exclusive on my $400 Xbox is a $20 game that was later released for PC. The PC that I owned before purchasing my Xbox and am currently using to type this right now.

Brand loyalty can be argued when it’s Apple vs. Android. But when it’s an investment of my hard earned money it’s about more than that. It’s about reliability of service and access to incredible games. Now, the majority of games I play are available on both consoles so that’s not a driving factor. But I cannot help but feel a little regret when I look over at my Xbox One; lamenting that this generation, Microsoft had done me wrong. I got behind them. I used my $424 to tell them that I trusted them to bring amazing games to market, ones that would make me proud to own an Xbox, a system that would be on every night running so hot it risked the red rings of death. But I haven’t had this system running long enough to cause last generation’s defect. Even if this generation did have it – my console would be safe, and I consider that an issue.

tl;dr
– When GameSpot made videos of this year’s announced exclusives Xbox’s video was 2:09 and Playstation’s was over 7 minutes.
– The console war stops when I sit down to play, I don’t care what you’re playing as long as I’m enjoying myself.
– It seems that this year Microsoft did not reach out to as many partners as I feel they should have. Their first party line-up is as strong as ever, but their third party exclusives are lacking.
– You can argue about brand loyalty, but when you’ve invested $400 in something you expect there to be games for you to play.

@WASDmeta

From Legacy to Monolith

In a few hours the game I’ve come to love and adore, that I’ve spent days of my life in and the jungle that I could Sherpa a class of blind children through, will be changed forever. Slashed and burned to the ground in order to grow anew, the creators of Paragon over at Epic Games have, in the true spirit of a beta, decided they have learned many a thing in the past few months, culminating in the creation of a new map.

“Travel mode,” the ability to traverse the map quicker after being out of combat for a certain amount of timed was ‘game breaking’ and made the game ‘nearly impossible to imbalance.’ Said by the Devs on numerous streams. But Legacy, the land I came to love, was too big to traverse without a motorcycle, or our beloved travel mode – so they were forced to gut it.

In the spirit of change, they reworked all of the heroes from what seems like the ground up: changing damage points, abilities (along with the cards that power them) movement speed – removing travel mode altogether – and giving us a fetus of a map called Monolith. I am voicing my salt not because I don’t trust Epic Games, but ’cause change is hard. But… I fell in love with a baby (the game is currently in beta). Going into it I knew that this child was not fully grown and I might not like the adult it became. But I put in time, effort, and lots of money to watch it grow. I’ve stuck it out this long, and even if it’s due to sunk costs I’m not going to kick ’em out before they become a teenager. I will wait until the tantrums arrive, the doors are slammed in my face, and I am driven crazy by this new perversion inhabiting the one I used to love before I decide I’m done with it. (You cannot legally abandon fully grown children at fire stations or hospitals, though.)

So, I will hold my judgment until I see how it goes. And like the people that didn’t vote for Trump and are scared out of their minds – we are going to have to trust the people that have now taken control. We have to sit back, relax, and wish them the best; because to wish damnation to the people driving your plane, well…that’s just stupid.

With Added Salt In His Tears,
Slightly Judgy Gamer

@GuanxiGaming