Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 26, 2015

Blizzard makes addictions, not games

Remember when Blizzard made games?

 

 

 

 

 

When World of Warcraft became a hit, an Ultima Online producer ‘prophecized’ that the success would end up permanently changing Blizzard and destroy it as a game company. He was right.

There are no games coming from Blizzard. NONE! Blizzard doesn’t make games anymore. They just make addictions.

Take Starcraft 2. The FUN part is actually the single player campaign because that operates like a game. The multiplayer is a mess because it operates more of an addiction than a game. If you tried to play it like you did in Brood War (meaning playing with friends for funsies and all), the game doesn’t work. What Blizzard wanted people to do was to hook everyone up to THE BIG SERVER which would mean SUPER DUPER LADDER. Fuck this shit.

“But Blizzard has an unranked multiplayer.”

Yeah, but they ADDED EXPERIENCE BARS to the game. Experience bars! In Starcraft! Really, now? Is there any more evidence that Blizzard is making an addiction and not an actual game?

Even the single player has all those achievements which was to create an addiction. Blizzard is moving away from achievements because it isn’t hitting the addiction parameters as well as it used to. In other words, people are playing the single player for FUN instead of for ‘addiction’. Fuck this shit.

I don’t see Diablo 3 being ‘reworked’ from the Jay “Fuck that loser!” Wilson era of the real money auction house. What I see, instead, is it being reworked to make a better addiction, not a better game.

Hearthstone… where do I start? There is no game there. It is just an addiction so you buy or spend time obtaining more cards. Fuck that.

Heroes of the Storm is designed around addiction-play, not gameplay. ‘Kill 50 goblins for a themed border!’ Fuck this! The new heroes aren’t changing the gameplay, they are simply more pegs in the addiction ring. The game is nothing more than a giant deathball to kill the core. It revolves around who coordinates the giant deathball better. If you saw the NA finals of Tempo Storm and C9 Maelstrom, you saw how Tempo Storm won only due to iDream being out of position (translated meaning not being part of his team’s death ball correctly). That’s it! HOW BORING IS THAT. There is a reason why Heroes of the Storm is a boring game to watch. It is because there is not much of a game going on there. It is mostly about an addiction.

World of Warcraft has been and is nothing but a sum of addictions. A ‘game’ imiplies losers and winners. There can be no ‘losers’ because that would imply a game actually exists. Instead, it is nothing more than series of addictions.

Why does making addictions work and not games? It is because of our good friends, the hardcore. The hardcore gamer is ugly in looks or in personality so is easily manipulated to channel money to a ‘keep up with the jones’ addiction in the virtual world. The best Blizzard gamers in the world are not those who are movers and shakers in the world but those who can barely afford the rent. “What you’re saying is generalized and mean.” Too bad.

I enjoy games, but I do not need addictions. When you go to the grocery store, do you buy FOOD or do you buy ADDICTIONS? The truth is, many people buy addictions. Addictions would be sugar heavy foods like various junk foods, fast foods, and other crap. What happens? THEY GET FAT. They are riding around Wal-Mart in their rover and getting more crap to feed their addiction. I fear other game companies, such as Nintendo, will go the ‘make addictions’ route instead of the ‘make games’ route.

Some might argue that ‘all games are addictions’. I find this not to be true. The reason why GAMES appeal to me is that my personality is that I WANT TO WIN. I cannot ‘win’ in a movie. I cannot ‘win’ in a TV show. But I can ‘win’ in a video game. The problem is that these ‘addictions’ are trying to emulate the ‘winning feeling’ but you can never, ever truly win. You just get more addicted.

I can win Super Mario Brothers.

I can win Legend of Zelda.

I can win Tetris (sort of).

I can win Civilization.

I cannot win World of Warcraft. I cannot win Heroes of the Storm. I cannot win Starcraft 2.

Blizzard used to be a company that kept updating their games so we can keep winning them. Now, Blizzard has become a company that updates their games only to introduce new addictions and to maintain the addictions to generate cashflow. Fuck this.

Blizzard does not create great games, they create great addictions. I do not need another addiction in my life. If I cannot WIN the game, then why am I playing it? What is going on is that it is Blizzard that is WINNING over us. The more I play Blizzard’s recent games, the more of a LOSER I feel I am. The reason why is because I am LOSING to the addictions and can never win in the game!

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 26, 2015

Doom, Quake, Elder Scrolls on GOG

GOG is my console. Their library keeps getting better and better. No stupid personality cults (Gaben). They offer the manuals, soundtracks, all the stuff I want. I’m even enjoying the GOG Galaxy thingy.

Apprently, getting the LucasArts games wasn’t enough for GoG. Now they are adding Elder Scrolls games and the DOOM 1, 2, and Quake 1 games. Awesome stuff. All this is way more fun than ‘hardcore gaming’ where you buy the industry’s latest crap again and again.

I didn’t realize it, but Rogue Legacy is on sale for $3! What a steal! If you like games like Super Metroid or Castlevania, Rogue Legacy should be bought.

So many great games on GOG now [that even I like!]. Some of them are classics (Master of Orion, Ultima games, etc.) but some of the indie ones are becoming go-to classics (FTL, Terraria).

Fuck Steam. GoG is how PC gaming is supposed to be. Steam is nothing more than trying to console-ize PC gaming on top of PC hardware.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 22, 2015

Ahh, Blue Bell returns to my freezer

What is missing from the Texas Food Pyramid?

The Blue Bell ice cream! Where is it? Where did it go?

The creamery had to do a recall. But, according to this, it will be returning to market shelves. I know so many people, including myself, that only eat Blue Bell ice cream. Lines will form when the delivery truck arrives.

Also, note the pecan pie.

I imagine Trip may seem strange to people (from Star Trek Enterprise). Trip was the Warp specialist and general engineer. He spoke with a thick southern accent and ate pecan pie.

Aside from Trip being played by such a great actor, he is the most realistic character on that show. Where astronauts train and live is in my area. They eat Blue Bell ice cream and pecan pie.

I’ve never had so much fun in my life working with these specialists/engineers at these plants and test areas because they are so much like Trip.

One interesting thing I’ve found out about astronauts is…

…they are blue collared workers.

“But Malstrom! They become white collared when they put on their suits!”

Can’t argue with that. Remember, folks, there is more to life than wearing a suit and a tie.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 21, 2015

Will Generation 9 Nintendo return to carts?

If you asked gamers what the future of gaming would be in 1985, they would say “PC gaming as consoles are obsolete and will be forever dead.” Then the NES came along.

If you asked gamers what the future of gaming would be in 2004, they would say “Console games on handhelds,” due to the PSP and that Nintendo based handheld gaming would be going away forever.

If you asked gamers what the future of gaming would be in 2006, they would say “Multimedia consoles with large cinematic games” completely missing phenomena like the Wii or Minecraft.

The point is that gamers do not understand the future of their medium is because they are consumers, not businessmen or investors. Gamers tend to think in dumbed down talking points fed by marketing departments at various game companies. I will prove this easily.

A Nintendo hardware patent has sprung up and is sparking intrigue about whether Nintendo will be using carts for the NX. What people are saying is…

Will Nintendo return to carts for Generation 9?

The premise of the question is incorrect. Nintendo never left carts. The 3DS uses cartridges. The DS uses cartridges.

“But handheld and home console markets are different!”

The last time I heard this was right before the Wii came out in 2006. We saw what happened then.

Let’s try to apply a more business centric logic to all of this. Business logic does not mean screaming ‘handheld market’ and ‘home console market’.

The actual difference between home and handheld games

In the past, Nintendo competitors kept trying to create home console experiences on the handheld and kept failing. Sega with the Game Gear. NCsoft with the TurboExpress. Sony with the PSP and Vita. The reason why the Gameboy remained in black and white was due to the consumer experience, not due to ‘technology’. The consumer experience wanted fast games where the battery wouldn’t die. At the time, the batteries needed for a Game Gear made it less than ideal for portable use. “But Nintendo added color as soon as it became technologically feasible! So it proves that technology matters!” Ahh, but it was not technology that was the check on the progress. Nintendo doesn’t make $1000 consoles, which would technologically run rings around all competitors, because the consumer experience of paying a thousand dollars for a game device would be very, very poor.

In the same way, handheld games do not translate as well to home use. Yet, Nintendo has put out hardware that did this with the Gameboy Player and the Super Gameboy.

How the customer consumes the game is the only difference, not the hardware. With the DS, we saw how it overtook the main home console at home usage as people played it at home. In the past, no one would want to play the Gameboy at home if they had access to a NES or Super Nintendo. Also, we are seeing Nintendo’s home console games appear on the handheld such as ports like Donkey Kong Returns or full games like Smash Brothers.

What I believe is occurring is that Nintendo believes it can tailor games to be consumed differently whether at home or outside the home. If Nintendo can do this with the software, it can solve many problems.

Nintendo doesn’t believe in the ‘home console’

Iwata would routinely think about the nature of our definitions and so we must. Aside from how they are consumed, what is a home console?

It is nothing more than a box connected to a TV. A controller is also connected to that box for input. This is all it is. The handheld game console has the input and output tied directly in it (which means handheld consoles are closer to arcades in that definition).

With the Wii U, Nintendo has severed the TV. What if Nintendo made a console that allowed you to change display outputs like you can with control inputs? That would be revolutionary!

I dislike handheld gaming only because of the controls and the tiny screen. But with the creation of the Super Gameboy and Gameboy Player, Nintendo seems to understand this issue.

What I am seeing from that patent (and it is only a patent which may mean nothing) is that Nintendo is allowing the player to play how he or she wants. Why should any game you buy be tethered to ‘home console’ or ‘handheld use’ strictly? It’s dumb.

Look how fast handheld technology has changed!

 

4th generation iPod With Color Display.

Original model PSP (PSP-1000)

An open, electric blue original Nintendo DS system.

Above: PSP and DS came out in 2004. Ipod 4, which contained color PHOTOS, came out in 2004. This was where the technology was at then.

5th generation iPod.

Above: Ipod 5 came out in 2006 which had video playback. Ipod 5 becomes a direct competitor to PSP for the ‘video space’.

IPhone6 silver frontface.png

Above: The iphone came out in 2007.

IPad Air 2.png

Above: ipad came out in 2010.

IPhone 4S No shadow.png

Nintendo-3DS-AquaOpen.jpg

Above: 3DS came out in 2011 as did the iphone 4s.

 

PlayStation-Vita-1101-FL.jpg

Above: Vita came out in 2011-2012.

 

Today is the year 2015. The capability of mobile computing devices HAS TAKEN OFF. If you remove 3d from the 3DS, you get a very cheap product.

To sum up, here is where I see things going with the NX:

-Nintendo will not incorporate 3D hardware output in the NX.

-NX will be the successor to both 3DS and Wii U. (Note that Nintendo has not said it is one or the other!)

-Nintendo has absolutely no business reason to continue the traditional home console as sales of it have tanked in both Japan and in the West.

-The future points to the West becoming more like Japan due to crushing mini-recessions. Handheld gaming is soon becoming more and more widespread in the West especially for Nintendo hardware.

-All we know about the NX is that Iwata has said it will change the structure of the dedicated home console system.

Is the NX going to be like the Vita Home version? Doubtful. I am curious if it will be more like the Turbographx-16…

You could use a Turnographx-16 cartridge for home console or for handheld use!

The big issue for Nintendo for Generation 9 seems to be unifying the home and handheld departments. Whether this results in a unified console remains to be seen. I don’t see Nintendo going wildly Blue Ocean like the Wii or anything like that. I think Nintendo is more concerned about reducing costs to boost profits. The best way to do that is to eliminate the home console ‘war’.

I see Microsoft and Sony following suit soon. Microsoft is already on that path with Windows 10. Windows 10 at home, Windows 10 in the handheld, etc.

Microsoft is to operating systems as Nintendo is to hardware consoles. Windows 10 is to Microsoft what NX may be to Nintendo.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 21, 2015

Dragon Quest is the Kirby of RPGs in the West

Here is a splendid video about where origins of the JRPG. It is handsomely produced and even I learned some new things.

The only error in it was to say the series of Wizardy and Ultima never produced the amount of money of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. It is forgetting Ultima Online which made more than the entire Ultima series combined and perhaps other JRPG series combined.

One amusing part of the video, that the producer mentions with great curiosity but continues on with the history narrative, is that despite the EPIC marketing push Nintendo gave Dragon Warrior in the West (free copy of the game with subscription to Nintendo Power), why did the sequels sell less and less? Was it due to Final Fantasy being awesome? Was it due to the Super Nintendo being out?

Those are all good suggestions. However, those were not the reasons why.

The problem is the business premise Japanese game companies used (this includes Enix, Square, Nintendo, and others). I do not doubt Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy made great impressions to ‘Japanese pop culture’ or whatever you want to call it. To the Japanese, Dragon Quest WAS their very first RPG. In the West, Dragon Warrior was the very first RPG to some gamers too. To whom? To children of the NES. Dragon Quest, in Japan, appealed to adults. Dragon Warrior, in the West, only appealed to adults who did not use the PC.

Gamers of the West owned a PC. It could have been an Apple II, a Commodore 64, a later IBM clone, whatever. To those who owned a PC, you played PC games. These PC games meant access to RPGs.

Dragon Warrior was released in North America in 1989.

Final Fantasy was released in North America in 1990.

I was a RPG fan then as now. To me, Dragon Warrior was an amazement on how it turned my Duck Hunt/Super Mario Brothers machine, which was used for mostly action and fast moving games, to playing a LONG and SLOW game  even though Dragon Warrior was so extremely dumbed down. “Whoa, I’m playing a RPG on the TV!” Dragon Warrior did many things right such as the great soundtrack, the monster art, and the medieval charm (which we must give credit to NOA). Final Fantasy also stirred the same feelings except Final Fantasy seemed extremely mystical and cosmological compared to the stocky and medieval Dragon Warrior. Final Fantasy was literally out of this world in its fantasy (which I’ve talked about numerous times on this site. You have flying castles, airships, robot terminators, time travel, etc.). This was already done in Ultima I and II, (Ultima III onward it became medieval and more Tolkien). Final Fantasy was just very, very put together in all its parts.

The Japanese were (and maybe still?) very arrogant. They thought that they made all the advances to video games and that they birthed all video game phenomena. Since Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy did awesome in Japan, it should eventually do awesome in North America.

Except it didn’t.

The Japanese mindset was: “Those Americans (which is what they meant by North America. They weren’t targeting exactly Canada or Mexico) simply do not understand the complexity of our Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.” After all, from the Japanese perspective, their market had to have the RPG explained to them.

“Malstrom, Malstrom!” the reader cries. “You put words in the mouth of Japan.”

The existence of this game reveals this mindset.

Final Fantasy Mystic US boxart.jpg

Above: Japan thought Americans were too stupid to understand the JRPG so they dumbed it down even more!

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The year is 1989. Dragon Warrior comes out.

One year earlier, 1988, this game came out:

Ultima5box.jpg

and this…

Cover art used in Apple II, Commodore 64 and DOS versions

Remember that Dragon Quest 1 was a simplified version of Wizardry and Ultima III. It was like releasing Super Mario Brothers 1 clone while everyone is playing Super Mario Brothers 3 or Super Mario World. Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy’s charm, to the experiences RPG gamer, was only in CONTRAST to the later Ultima and Wizardry games. Now I’m not as familiar with the Wizardry games as I am with the Ultima, but you have to understand something: Ultima V craps all over Dragon Warrior. Dragon Warrior comes across as a baby’s toy compared to the grey world of Ultima V. It simply could not compete.

Also, Western RPG lovers were adapting to the Ultima and Wizardry console ports that did come out (some of the ports were crazy weird like the Ultima ones). Ultima III was playable on the NES as the title of ‘Exodus’. The truth is that Dragon Quest 1 had a Blue Ocean in Japan but a Red Ocean in North America.

To give you an idea of how crappy JRPGs were, in 1990, when the original Final Fantasy came out, this game came out for the PC:

Ultima VI: The False Prophet

Let’s compare:

Above: Seam-less continuous world [all towns and caves are integrated into the overworld], multiple conversation threads with NPCs, NPC schedules, item interaction, mouse support

Above: Non-continuous world, complete menu driven combat, towns are a joke, NPCs have one line, no items, no night, extremely simplified

Ultima required you to translate runic language. It could not compete for the advanced RPG gamer’s time then.

Here is another comparison I want to make in order to highlight the plight of the older RPG gamer during the 8-bit and 16-bit generation. Too much focus has been on the kiddies who grew up with the NES and SNES and so they first played those JRPGs.

EarthBound Box.jpg

Chrono Trigger.jpg

What these games have in common is that they both came out in 1995. What was the gamer on the PC playing in 1995?

Warcraft-2-Tides-Of-Darkness-Pc.jpg Command & Conquer 1995 cover.jpg Heroes of Might and Magic box.jpg

And many more. The big thing was that the PC gaming was embracing Internet multiplayer as well as GUI operating system (Windows 95!). The Internet was blowing up! And people wonder why JRPGs didn’t sell?

One of the reasons why Final Fantasy 7 succeeded in moving large numbers was because of lack of competition from PC gaming. Due to the Internet craze of 1994 meaning 1995 and 1996 games, it was declared that the RPG genre was dead. A group of game makers would later make Baldur’s Gate which showed the commercial viability of RPGs but that was in 1998. Final Fantasy 7 came out in 1997. As Baldur’s Gate’s popularity invited more PC RPGs, the Blue Ocean turned Red once again. It is why Final Fantasy sales numbers in North America continued to drop after Final Fantasy 7.

I still laugh at Mystic Quest. The arrogance of the Japanese! While Japanese developers were in an alternate dimension thinking that Americans thought their games were ‘too hard’, American gamers were playing RPGs that were running rings around the JRPG.

What was Mystic Quest? It was the JRPG dumbed down with catchy music and some tweaks in it to appeal to that culture (some action parts like jumping to instill ’empowerment’). As pathetic as Mystic Quest is, it is exactly what Dragon Quest 1 was. Dragon Quest is the actual Mystic Quest. Dragon Quest was the Western RPG dumbed down, had some catchy music added, and did some culture tweaks (manga!) to appeal to the culture.

This is why there exists continued JRPG resistance to this day in North America. The critical mistake of the Japanese game business was to NOT LOOK AT THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF RPGS. In Japan Land, the universe of RPGs was Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But over the Pacific, the universe of RPGs was much, much more and was WAY ADVANCED and totally more sophisticated than anything Japan was doing.

When Final Fantasy V came out…

…was when Ultima VII came out.

images.jpg

Final Fantasy V is a menu driven game revolving around ‘jobs’ meaning stats and experience grinding. The characterization in the game is practically non-existent. Meanwhile, Ultima VII just blew up the RPG mold in so many ways.

Experienced RPG gamers like myself were entertained by the JRPG but only in the contrasting ways.

The JRPG was not an open ended experience which allowed better scripting. The JRPG had incredible music and character/monster art. The JRPG really told fantastical stories that went beyond the medieval realm. Chrono Trigger is a great example of these strengths which is why the game is so revered because it pushed those strengths hard. Dragon Quest games, however, did not push those contrasting differences which meant experienced RPG fans in the West had less reason to look at those games.

Above: Chrono Trigger’s scope is just nuts as the intro shows. Its music is on steroids. This is why we love the game. Yet, Skyrim it is not.

The existence of the term ‘JRPG’ and ‘WRPG’ is due to these contrasts in gameplay and style. The original Zelda was inspired in part due to the Western RPG. However, as time moves on, older developers have selective memories as well as being surrounded by people treating them as a genius in that something like Zelda originated all on its own and we liked it because it was Japanese. The truth is that Westerners liked it because it had similarities to their RPGs. The reason why Zelda Wii U is going to be open world is because of Skyrim’s huge sales numbers. This is not to disparage the Japanese gaming as the West also would adapt Japanese styles and strengths to their games (example: Ultima VII: Part 2 is an Ultima game with a Final Fantasy type scripting and ‘holocaust’ storyline).

In order for JRPGs to sell in the West, they need to be more than the best JRPGs. They need to be the best RPGs period. Japan needs to not forget about the rich RPG universe that has always existed in the West.

 

 

 

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 21, 2015

Bought Link’s Awakening and Donkey Kong

By ‘bought’, I mean for the ORIGINAL HARDWARE. I’m playing the original Link’s Awakening. None of the DX stuff. I’m playing it on my Super Gameboy.

I’ve played the game before, but it has been like twenty five years. Going through it again… has not been a pleasant experience. The Link to the Past mechanics are awesome. But there is other stuff in the game that is really crapping it up. I think it has gone unnoticed since it was a handheld game and doesn’t have much in expectations. But this is not a handheld issue, but a design issue which, for some reason, Nintendo thought ‘successful’ so they put it in every Zelda afterward. You can already sense I’m about to attack every part of the game Aonuma touched. I mean, it is like the game was designed by someone who held disdain for the arcade mechanics!

The Donkey Kong Gameboy game is a masterpiece. It is definitely in the top ten of best Nintendo games ever made. If Tetris wasn’t the best Gameboy game ever made, this would be it. This isn’t Donkey Kong like the arcade. The arcade game is literally a prologue to the actual game.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 15, 2015

Email: The Herbivore Male

 

Hey Malstrom,

It very much caught my eye when you mentioned the Herbivore Male recently. I probably am one (I get signals from women, but I’m a bit too much of a loser for that kind of thing), so maybe I do just notice it more often than not.

I think as an older millennial, I’ve had the strange ability to watch how the changeover from masculinism to feminism and technology affected us.

– Video games are EXCITING to the growing male brain. I bucked the trend a bit in that I was able to at least keep up with the jocks in school, but even real sports wasn’t as exciting as video games.

– Feminism taught guys that they had to be nice to girls (which we misconstrued as “if we’re nice to girls, they’ll have sex with us”) and that girls can shoot for the stars. Which led to a bit of a problem, because those women were still socialized (either through the combination of old and new school messages that still existed or maybe just animal dynamics) that they can’t date below themselves. Guys have no problem dating below themselves, which creates a problem at the top because if the top guys are taking from every rung, and the top girls would rather be alone than date below them, someone’s going to get left out.

– Technology. Elementary school was pre-internet days for us, someone snuck in a magazine they stole from their dad, or you waited until it was really late and tried to sneak watching the less PG channels and that is how you saw a naked lady, and if we got older, it seemed like you either bought the magazines or had to convince a girl to get with you. Now, the internet is a smorgasbord of the hottest women doing the nastiest things imaginable. Women can’t compete, and your Herbivore or leftover male, while not getting the highest quality (i.e. an actual living, breathing woman), is still getting something

– Trashiness has become the “in” thing too. Trump’s “winners and losers” thing isn’t going to go over well because the losers are the new winners. It seemed to me the changeover happened in the late 90s around when I hit high school. Tattoos, looking as much like a criminal or a prostitute as possible. You would have sex with these people because they’re hot, but you wouldn’t want to marry them.
– And that kind of thing being popular meant that while women wanted to be both hot and sexy but still have a “real” man take care of them, there isn’t any motivation from men to become good husbands or fathers. That kind of work to be a “real” man takes a lot of pain and sacrifice, and the risk of paying for someone else’s mistake or wondering if they’re going to take half of your pay for 20 years when they get bored leads to guys not trying and finding something to occupy their time instead (video games being a common one) because there’s no social pressure to marry if you’re a guy

– Even the guys who do try, they get burned so often that eventually they just give up and find something fun to do, like video games. I’ve seen more than one woman get angry when a man suggested he doesn’t try to compete to get women anymore because he got burned too many times. Women still think they’re the ultimate prize when there are ways to have more fun with your time if you just can’t crack what women want, which is someone at their level or above their level

– I’ve had that thing happen to me now where I see a lot of young boys and teenage guys and wondering what happened to “real” men. A lot of them are as vain or more vain than the most vain women are, they talk with a bit of a valley girl accent, they groom themselves and feminize themselves. I’m the farthest thing from manly but I feel like if I was their age, I’d be one of the manliest guys around. I sometimes wonder if they just date each other because they have nothing else to date.

The next generation or so is probably going to even out somewhat in that we’ll end up with more girls dating and marrying below themselves because they’ll have grown up with egalitarianism as the norm, but we’ve got a bit of a “lost generation” of Herbivore Men and Highly Educated Spinsters who aren’t really seeing the benefits of the other gender.

 

If I could eliminate one element of the Human race, it would be of the ability for people to imagine themselves angels floating above mankind, separate, pure, and floating innocently, and believing to judge everything below them with perfect clarity.

You are not an angel. You are flesh. You are part of ‘the masses’. You do not fly. You are on Earth RIGHT NOW.

Who are people who talk like they are angels floating above the mass of humanity making observations and judgements? It would be your academics, philosophers, politicians, various writers, various speech makers, and on and on. I have noticed that many people think they are ‘wise’ because they have ‘thought’ about something. For example, a woman will think about the feminist ways, pro or con, yet forget in all this that she is a woman compose of flesh with her life deteriorating every second of time.

I have realized that we are not angels and do not have the right to separate ourselves from the mass of Mankind. We are all players on Earth… today. We are all in the game.

Once I realized this, I realized this was a constant theme of Shakespeare as he kept vilifying the ‘philosophers’ while celebrating the partipants of life. In As You Like It, Jaques who does the entire ‘7 Ages of Man’ speech is left in the forest. Everyone else gets paired off, marries, and moves on with life.

The ultimate question is how do you best enjoy life? I have realized that life is much more enjoyable while being a man (since I am male). I also find life much more enjoyable getting money from WORK instead of PRUDENCE. You are who your friends are. Since billionaires do not want to be my friend (alas), I make my friends be combat veterans who have traveled to at least three continents. Life is much more enjoyable now.

Herbivore men and the tattoo thugs who are creating single-moms are largely the same thing. While this goes off through a rabbit hole into a Wonderland of revelations, there is much misunderstanding of sexuality. Sexuality above the waist is far more interesting and can alter your life profoundly. Which came first, the lack of money or the lack of interest in the other gender? I’d say they are the same. I fear that herbivores are destined for the virtual reality ghetto, not unlike real ghettos, because they will not undergo sex transmutation.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 15, 2015

Email: Unlocks are the reason the modern FPS will die soon

Master Malstrom,

Unlocks are the reason why I can’t play modern multiplayer FPSs anymore.  Call of Duty requires that you play massive amounts of hours to unlock every perk, weapon, and killstreak.   Most baffling of all, they even give you a way to LOCK EVERYTHING AGAIN so you can get a stupid emblem.  Do this like 11 times, and you get an even spiffier emblem.

It’s even worse in Battlefield, where not only do you have to unlock just about everything, but there are now multiple bars for unlocking everything.  Want to unlock an assault rifle?  Get kills with assault rifles.  Want to unlock shotguns?  Get kills with assault rifles.  This goes on and on for EVERY single weapon.  Even worse, each class has it’s own bar for unlocks, each vehicle has its own bar for unlocks, etc.  It’s why despite Battlefield 4 giving me a lot of what I wanted (like a playable third faction in the Chinese), I just can’t bring myself to play it anymore.  The only bright side is that EA lets you unlock everything if you’re willing to pay like $50 for it, but who wants to spend $100 on a game plus unlocking every single bloody item?

Someday, people are going to wake up and realize that they’ve been spending all this extra time on glorified hamster wheels, and that it’s not worth it.  We’re already seeing the decline of Call of Duty’s popularity, but if people ever realize how much time they’ve needlessly wasted unlocking everything, then it’s going to accelerate fast.

P.S: You said a long time ago that you were going to try out Mount and Blade: Warband.  Considering that’s one of my favorite games, I would really like to know how it went if you did.

And if you didn’t, what’s wrong with you?  Go get the game now!  It’s fairly cheap, and the only game that I’ve ever played that I could call addictive on a life-destroying level if you’re not careful.

 

I own Mount and Blade and intend to play it. When? Dunno. Too busy with so much. Currently for game playing, it is Heroes taking up that time. I have my regular account and my smurf account. I have noticed that I draw much attention on my smurf account. The match making now connects with number of games played. So these other players do not have many games played. They become… animated… around me.

For example, I am playing Valla. I flank the opponents and try to kill them. Often, I’m successful. I believe in the power of overwhelming force. If you cannot win, get out. If it looks even, get out. If I can win 70% chance of that battle, I go in and it is almost sure thing. We are clearly winning. My Hero damage is tops. My allies start complaining. “Valla only comes in for the last shot.” hahaha. Another way to say it is that when Valla comes in, people die.

In another game, 30 minutes (!), one ally starting raging at me. Why? It was because my death count was lowest on the team. I was a tank. But we had THREE tanks on the team. My hero damage was well up there (but nothing can beat OP Leoric until he gets nerfed with the upcoming patch). Yet, this ally could not stop raging at me throughout the entire game. Eventually, the other allies got tired of it and started telling him to ‘know his place’ and to ‘stop typing’. Hahahaha.

Toxicity isn’t when you do bad but when you do well. Do you know why, dear reader? It is because these type of games make people believe that every loss was due to the ‘terrible teammates’ and that every win was due to that player’s ‘amazing and incredible skill’. But if there is a huge skill difference, which occurs when you have a smurf account and play with less experienced people, they can tell this and it is a monkey wrench to their self-image. It is hilarious to witness.

I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty about indicator of skill in Heroes of the Storm: good players do not rage or whine.

“But Malstrom,” you say, “there is a high MMR player who rages and whines.” You see, Heroes is a team based game. Verbally assaulting your allies is the mark of a BAD PLAYER regardless of their MMR. If you find yourself raging, and I have been there, know that it is a sign that you need more experience.

Also, this is true in all walks of life. Successful people do not whine. Children whine. Losers whine. Mediocre people whine. Successful people learn from mistakes and mentally charge ahead.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 15, 2015

Email: Gaming has already de-evolved on all fronts.

Dear Master Malstrom,
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As you quoted.
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“I’m also becoming more and more concerned how no one seems to talk about gameplay anymore. Gamers talk about themselves, stream themselves, talk about how they are awesome and how others aren’t, but the love of gaming is being replaced by love of ourselves. It’s like gaming is de-evolving into a type of social media.”
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It has already happened.
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Today’s indie game scene act like there the saving grace of the industry when most the products they release are terrible and wouldn’t last a week in the arcade play floor of the past.  Today’s lets players can’t go a minute without shoving themselves in front of the camera talking about how privileged we are to watch them play video games (yeah right).  Today’s video game “commentators” can’t let us go without reminding us about them and how amazing they are (at not researching the subject they talk about).  Game journalists especially cannot review a product without talking about they’re own personal politics being bought into a GAME REVIEW.
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I just don’t honestly care about these people because its all the same.  “Me, me, me.”  I understand playing and reviewing games are from ones personal perspective, its just I don’t want to hear or read about you.  I just want to read about the core mechanics of the video game.  Its gameplay, its performance.  That’s it.  The easiest job on the planet and yet very few can do it right.  Its a crying shame too.
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When looking at streamers and online reviews, it seems like I am seeing the same exact personality. Maybe this is what happens when you spend most of your time in the entertainment world, but I would never call any streamer or online reviewer ‘salt of the earth’. From my perspective, they all seem like Austin-ites running around with crazy hats and excitedly telling everyone about a new restaurant they are eating at. For reference, I currently live, work, as well as take classes around the Houston Ship Channel. So I am in another universe.
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I don’t want to use the hipster word, but there is something… very common with the online personalities (streamer, online reviewer, or whatever). The humor is the same ‘ironical’ type. It’s hard to take them seriously. I don’t want to say they are children with adult bodies because that isn’t exactly accurate. It is the sense that there is nothing solid to these people. They have no solid value. A soldier, electrician, engineer, trucker, etc. all have a type of solidness to them. If there were such diversity with online personalities, you would see these characters appear. However, we have the opposite of solid.
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Why is this a problem? It is if you are of a different personality matrix than what is out there. I cannot relate to these online personalities. Is this some some of mutation that occurs if you invest your life in playing video games?
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This all has the smell of ‘hardcore’. I believe gaming should interact with the world, not be a world unto itself.
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I think gaming has a crisis in that so many game developers today have grown up with video games. Instead of having novel experiences with life to share and color their game making, their lives are nothing but earlier game playing. It might explain why everything feels so samey.
Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 14, 2015

Email: Unlocks and other hamster wheels

I have been wanting to write this for months, it’s about the pervasiveness of unlocks and other hamster wheels in games. In short: fuck them, I don’t have time for that. What we are seeing with Mario Maker is just the logical next step to what has been going on for years.

Let’s take FTL as an example. FTL is essentially an RPG and the different ships are the character classes. When you start out the game you have only one ship to choose, and it’s the boring standard ship. To get the other mores interesting ships you have to play with the boring one first, and the rate at which you unlock new ships depends on random events, so it could literally be hours before you get another ship. Half the fun of roguelike-style games is trying something new after you die, but you can’t when you’re stuck with only one ship.

This is like the game developer wiggling his finger at you saying “you don’t get your candy until you have finished your vegetables first”. What are you, my mother? I think racing games are the worst in that regard, they put all those cool cars on the front, but all you get to drive is the lame car your dad goes to work with. All the cool (and more importantly fast) cars need to be unlocked.

I can understand that in a single player campaign mode where it is meant to give you some sense of progression. For examples a racing game could have a career mode where you win races to earn the respect of other street racers before you get to challenge them. Sounds reasonable to me. But if I just want to play a quick race, alone or with a friend, I shouldn’t be limited to only the cars I unlocked in single player.

Strategy games have been doing this since forever: in the single player campaign you start out with very few things you can build and ever consecutive map unlocks more buildings and units. But outside of the campaign you have access to everything, every building, every unit, every technology. Imagine playing an RTS where you have to win X number of matches first before you can build more than the most basic foot troops.

Or, following the FTL example, imagine an RPG where you can only choose the fighter class and you have to beat the game as a fighter first before you can play the game as a mage. One argument I hear often about FTL is that some of the ships are better than others and easier to play, but so what? Clerics in AD&D were better than other classes, but you could still play as a cleric in Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. Did anyone ever say “boy, I really wish they wouldn’t have let me pick this class”? Of course not, to the contrary, it made the game richer.

Another common argument is “if the game gave me everything I wouldn’t have any motivation to play”. This one is really baffling me, you are essentially admitting that you just play the game because it keeps giving you useless shiny stickers. And in the end what do you have, a savegame you don’t want to delete.

OK, enough of the rant, let’s get serious. Games are meant to be fun, they take us away from work and the tedium of everyday life. Some games are slow and meant to be played over a longer period and some games are meant to give a quick burst. But all these different games have one ultimate goal: to entertain us. When a game forces me to do some repeated action just for the prospect of a reward it is no longer fun, it is work. Playing the game should be the reward in itself. Unless you are a pro gamer who earns his living playing games, the moment that playing a game is not fun is when you should stop.

Unlocks are a way of stretching a game. If we look at FTL, it doesn’t really take that long to try out all ships when you have them. The developers made the mistake to think that once we have seen all the ships we are no longer interested in the game, so they artificially stretched the time it takes to try out all ships. This is the false idea that we play games for the *surprise*. But that’s not true, I have used a cheat tool to unlock all the ships and despite having played them all I keep coming back. It is the act of playing the game, making decisions, the keeps me interested. Having more ships just means that I have more decisions I can make, i.e. more content.

I can see several reasons why game developers adopt unlocks and other forms of hamster wheels in the games:

It makes the game feel longer
I think this might have been the motivation in earlier times before the internet was widespread. It is similar to making a game very hard, if it takes the player longer to get everything he will feel like there is more content in the game. Adventure games like Zelda or RPGs could easily be stretched by some collectible nonsense like finding all the heart pieces, but more arcade like games couldn’t. So unlocking all the cars became the equivalent of finding all the heart pieces.

The player is too stupid
This was obviously the motivation in Mario Maker. Unlocking hard mode would be another frequent example. This is very patronizing, like the game developer knows what’s good for us. We can’t have little Timmy lose at a video games or it will hurt his feelings.

Delaying used sales
What do you do with a game when it is no longer fun? Stash it in your shelf for all eternity? No, you sell it. Hamster wheels make you feel like you have been investing time and effort into something, so you don’t want to just throw it all out of the window. You cling on to that one savegame that took you a hundred hours to get to.

Keep you away from other games
This would be the primary reason for online games. If it takes you a significant amount of time to get somewhere you don’ want to just abandon it all. Especially if starting another game means you have to start all over from beginning again. It’s like sticking to a career you hate because you don’t want to start at the bottom in another company. Arcade games were not like this, you literally had just to take a step to the left or right to play the competitor’s game, but in the world of slow computer games the developers will keep you glued to their game.

Keep you playing to sell you more stuff
In the age of DLC it is more important than ever to keep players interested in a game. If you stopped playing a game you won’t care about the new DLC, but if all the cool kids have it as well and you want to play with the cool kids you should better get it.

Everyone else does it
If none of the above reasons apply you can bet it was done because of herd mentality. Every game has unlocks, therefore our game needs unlocks as well, hurr durr.

None of these reasons are really made with gamers in mind, it’s all about the business model. One of my favourite games in recent years is Unreal Tournament (both 99 and 2004), exactly because there is nothing to unlock. There is a single player mode that gradually introduces you to the game modes, but it’s just a glorified tutorial. Outside of that you can play any mode and any map. If I install the game on a new PC I don’t have to keep dragging my savegames with me for all eternity. Sure, my records will be gone, but who cares. I bet the new Unreal Tournament will be full of unlocks and hamster wheels now that it is free.

Hamster wheels are not fun, they are work that is designed into tricking you to think you are having fun. I really wish we could just go back to where when you bought a game you got the whole package, instead of buying a business model. And quite frankly, I have neither the time nor patience for these hamster wheels anymore; when I was a kid I would do things like find all the heart pieces in Zelda, but as I got older I came to see that it’s just designed to waste your time. That’s why I don’t bother with online games, especially the free-to-play ones. Apparently there are enough people who will get tricked by a carrot on a stick, so I don’t see the attitude changing anytime soon. Oh well, I’ll stick to my 80s and 90s games then.

 I’m not sure if FTL is the best example since it is intended to be a rogue game.I do really like Rogue Legacy’s system as that is very skill based. If you have the skill and understanding of the game, you can beat the game with around six children.

With Zelda, I see it in the same way as computer RPGs. In computer RPGs, you had levels. If you were stuck in a point in the game, you could just keep leveling and break your way through it. Zelda awards diligent exploration with heart pieces, but it is not required. The game becomes easier when you find them though.

Look, the earlier games were arcade based and very difficult. Super Mario Brothers was not locked in content. In fact, you could use a warp zone to reach anywhere. Yet, the game is challenging. It may take 5 minutes to beat the game, but it takes a good while to understand the game. The NES era games’ difficulty was a value since it took a while to beat them. Beating games was all the rage and kids got playground boasts if they could ‘beat’ a hard NES game.

Since all games are easy now, they throttle the content.

One of the things I talked about in one of my earlier articles was how the media the game developers consumed (and the gamers too) largely shaped gaming. If developers loved board games, then those mechanics would find their way into games. One thing gamers and developers did quite often was read books. Today, no one reads books. It is why the ‘story’ and ‘universe’ of games is as terrible as a comic book today. No one reads books today.

Oh man, I think I’m turning into that old man who yells at kids walking on his lawn. In many ways, games are getting better. However, the value of them keeps falling. Perhaps as electronics keeps spreading in our lives, gaming loses its luster. It is not longer a rage to connect a machine to a TV to play PONG. Gaming is losing its magic.

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