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.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 13, 2015

Email: About Heroes of the Storm’s issues

Hello master Malstrom,

I was reading some of your posts about Heroes and something you said caught my attention:
“I’m still mixed about the game. The game is doing some things very, very well, but it seems to be missing some big things. It can be said that Dustin Browder destroyed the Starcraft franchise, and certain similar issues are creeping into Heroes. But on the other hand, it seems too early to say.”
It is the underlined statement, what would these issues be? I do really like Heroes, I used to be a LoL player, but I quit that game as I felt that Riot Games had become too much comfortable in their spot and their game did not had so much progress. For example it takes ages for them to just make a new map(that is not even 5×5) while Blizzard pumps them even in alpha and later in the beta. Blizzard eveb got rid of a lot of some anti-fun mechanics(what normal person really likes the last hit mechanic? Lots of new players gave up due to that in my personal experience).
Heroes does have the potential to become a really great phenomenon, I do sure hope that Blizzard does not ruin this game(as they almost did with the Artifacts thing), because it is so much fun.
I do not want this game to become a second Starcraft 2, it was such a shame the game died due to this shit called e-sports.

 

Browder’s game that put him on the map was Red Alert 2. If you play Command and Conquer, Red Alert, and Tiberian Sun today, you will note how SLOW those games are. What Browder did was make Red Alert 2 have much faster gameplay. This helped make Red Alert 2 a big success. At the end of this interview, Browder says Red Alert 2 and Heroes of the Storm have much in common. As a huge Red Alert 1 fan, I thought Red Alert 2 was a solid game but a very disappointing sequel. Red Alert 1 was actually serious in its alternate timeline. Red Alert 2 was hokey. Some of this bled into the gameplay such as dolphins with missiles and such. Red Alert had humor (omg Tanya), but it never broke its universe. Red Alert 2 had so much shit in it that you couldn’t really respect the universe anymore. It is part of the reason why Red Alert 3 was such a disaster since they thought ‘anything goes!’.

Above: Red Alert 1 cinematics were not hokey. Very entertaining even today. You don’t see this type of tone in games today.

I believe Browder thinks ‘making the gameplay faster’ was what worked for Red alert 2 so he applies it to every game he does now. This is clearly what happened with Starcraft 2. The game is too bloody fast. Heroes of the Storm is also very fast paced. But is it too fast? Note that you have no time to type in chat. The game is just too fast.

“But Malstrom, the game is not that fast.” When you go up the MMR, it gets much, much faster. If you look at streamers like Chu, you will notice how fast and rapid the mouse cursor is moving and clicking. Chu’s friend, Horsepants, can only play Abathur because the game hurts his hand too much. FPS is no problem for him. But Heroes? Hurts the hand too much. There was a famous LoL player, famous for his mechanical skill, who is currently playing Heroes. He is already rank 1 even though he bought the worst heroes in the game (all the cheaper ones). True, his MOBA experience pays off. But I bet it is the mechanical skill driving his success. So much of Heroes revolves around teamfights. So much of teamfights revolves around mechanical skill. I’d love to have an APM indicator in the game. Someone who stuttersteps will have far higher APM than someone who doesn’t. Starcraft 2’s APM indicator revealed that APM, alone, will drive success up to a certain level and then the strategy largely plays in. In other words, you could just build one type of unit and outplay all the Bronze players because you are simply much faster. I suspect this is true in Heroes in that a faster player can make a terrible hero (say Sonya) outplay the best heroes due to APM alone.

Here are some of the things with HOTS that annoys the hell out of me:

  1. Tyrande and Tassador are still classified as support which destroys QM games. If your team has a Tyrande, the other team could have an Uther. It’s GG since Tyrande isn’t really a healer. My problem is that Browder and his team hasn’t done SHIT to fix this. Yeah, they say they will ‘fix’ it by probably allowing Tyrande and Tassador to have monk like healing talent choices, but notice that THEY ARE WASTING OUR TIME. This isn’t beta. The game is live. WTF are these guys doing? They could do a simply band-aid fix for the momentm, but they won’t.
  2. The inability to blacklist a map. What Browder and Team wants to do is do a ‘map rotation’. Aren’t they so full of it! We can blacklist maps in the RTS games. Why not in Heroes? The answer is an arrogant one. They actually believe their maps ‘make all the heroes viable’ and being able to blacklist a map would undercut that goal. No. Some maps are not fun. I fucking hate Blackheart’s Bay. What a piece of shit map that is. I win on it fine, I just hate playing that map. It’s not fun for me as I am sure a map or some heroes are not fun for you.
  3. It has been MONTHS since launch, and ranked is still in Preseason. Their latest fix is for placement matches. This is stupid. Just use MMR as the rank like how DOTA 2 does. Hotslogs already provides this in a way and is what everyone uses instead of ‘rank’. But no! Their ideas on ranked makes no sense. Where is Grandmaster mode? It is not hard to implement as Hotslogs already has it.
  4. No death log. How did you die? You can’t tell.
  5. Replays are still fucked up. When a hero dies in the replay, it gets the hero wrong in the announcement. How hard is it to fix this?
  6. The different maps have been an absolute failure. Remember how they said Battlefield of Eternity would make heroes like Gazlowe more viable? Hah! This game revolves around winning team fights, not doing objectives. When you win the team fight, it is easy to then do the objective. Killing the enemy players allows you to get the shrines to get the Dragon Knight, to collect skulls in the mines, and to get seeds for the plant. In Battlefield of Eternity, you don’t rush to kill the immortal. You kill the other team (preferably using your immortal to aid in it) and then kill their immortal. This is why the meta isn’t changing on the maps. Jaina is a top hero on ALL the maps. Zeratul is a top hero on ALL the maps. I’m not even excited about the new map because I know none of it will matter. All that matters is the team fight. The patch notes of balance changes has more impact on the game since that will change who wins team fights.
  7. There’s a ton of hidden rules in the game that many people do not get. Since they do not get them, they never improve and quit. These hidden rules would be to soak the lanes especially before level 10, when to get mercenary camps, when to NOT get an objective, and so on.
  8. Heroes is different because it is team vs. team as opposed to individual heroes vs individual heroes. The downside, which no one pointed out, is that you must know all the heroes in order to play effectively. “All mobas are like this.” No, they aren’t. Since it is team based, you have to know how all the other heroes work. You cannot fight with or against teams that have a murky or an abathur or lost vikings without knowing how they work (i.e. “Abathur is AFKing!”) The rub is that as more heroes are added, the less accessible the game becomes. How can a new person learn a hundred heroes? Since the game is team based, the heroes have to be learned since the team is a unit, an entity, and not individuals.
  9. Games are decided by the most retarded team. The game flow isn’t decided by good plays but by stupid plays.

 

Blizzard has not announced any numbers for Heroes of the Storm like they did Hearthstone or Diablo 3 or Starcraft 2. The reason why is that the numbers are not worth bragging about.

I see Heroes of the Storm as cannibalizing the corpses of dead and dying MOBAs and RTS games. I don’t see it growing as in bringing in brand new players. Nearly every player of Heroes of the Storm is a former RTS player or MOBA player of some kind.

The Free-To-Play space is limited and competitive. I expect Overwatch to kill Heroes of the Storm  (and Overwatch to likely be killed by the next Blizzard Free-To-Play game). Already, the most popular streamers such as ZP and Chu have said they plan to leave Heroes and play Overwatch as soon as it comes out.

Things are still early so let us see how things develop.

Is there any product in the world where the business throttles how the consumer consumes it? Restaurants do not say, “That is enough to eat for the day. Come back tomorrow.” No. They serve you as much as you want to eat. Book shops do not say, “That is enough books for you to read. Come back tomorrow.” No. They give you as much books as you want. You see where this is going.

The only business I know that does throttle consumption would be serving alcohol. “Yeah, you cannot stand, buddy. I think you’ve had enough.” But that is different. You literally cannot consume more of that product.

This is one of the dumbest business moves I’ve ever seen. And it is all born from the thought that ‘the public is too STUPID to understand all this. We must give it to them in piecemeal.’ The arrogance is incredible.

So I have a MODEST PROPOSAL for Mario Maker. Are you listening gamers? Here it goes.

You should only have to pay one ninth of the cost of the game for the first day.

Sixty divided by nine is about seven. So gamers should pay $7 for the first day.

Then on the second day, Nintendo gets $7 more since another ninth of the tools become available. This continues until all nine parts are given out.

I think this sounds like a great and wonderful solution. If Nintendo wants to throttle the content, we should throttle the payments.

But note how Nintendo wants all the money up front. They want me to pay for the entire meal but only deliver it in piecemeal.

This is actually a very big deal. Do you think this is going to stop here? Oh no. Excited about Open World Zelda? I can guarantee you that Nintendo will deliberately block off the game’s content so you cannot ‘blaze’ through it. You laugh now, but you will see.

Imagine a new Metroid game where Norfair is blocked for a day because Nintendo thinks you should appreciate Brinstar some more. Did I say ‘imagine a new Metroid game’?

Oh we’re fucked.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 12, 2015

The reason why Blizzard games lost their charm

In the TV franchise of Star Trek, it is said that the early Star Trek had great writing and laughable special effects and acting. But in the later shows, it can be said that the writing became laughable yet the special effects and acting was top notch. This is a generality but you can see the point. I feel something similar is happening with Blizzard games.

Blizzard’s cup of tea is multiplayer. The single player campaigns in the RTS games were, largely, a glorified tutorial for multiplayer. People didn’t play Warcraft 2 or Starcraft for years because of the single player campaign.

All multiplayer used to be local multiplayer. The editors that came with the games were also largely used for local audiences.

There was Internet multiplayer. But it was used in a local way. Let me explain. Kali, which shipped on the Warcraft 2 CD, was tricking the LAN packets to be sent over the Internet. Battle Net, with Starcraft, the Diablos, and Warcraft 3, was still used in a local way. It was not about ‘playing against the world’ except for a few people.

When you played Warcraft/Starcraft/Diablo multiplayer, who did you play with? You played with friends. And if your friends were not on, you played with other people. The ‘other people’ on the Internet was a substitute for your friends not being online at the time.

The reason why people invested so many hours in these maps was because of their local friends. In fact, this is how the very first video games were made. They were not made ‘for the world’. They were made for their own friends.

People keep holding a nostalgia candle for Vanilla WoW and cannot pin down why later WoW is so not fun. Blizzard ‘analyzes’ vanilla WoW, and they say the gameplay has been improved. This is correct. The gameplay has been improved. But none of that matters. The game feels too lonely, too ‘not local’.

I’ll try to explain it as simply as possible:

In past Blizzard games, you could just play with friends and have a grand old time. Today, you CANNOT DO THAT.

Blizzard: “Yes, you can…”

No, you can’t.

Blizzard: “Actually, you can…”

Listen, you super giant entity. You. Cannot.

With Warcraft 2, I played with friends and friends I made (on the Kali Compton server). When I played a Warcraft 2 game, my teammates were friends and my opponents were friends. We were all friends.

Today,  when you play a Blizzard game multiplayer, your friends may only be your allies. You will never have your opponents as friends. If you try to play custom matches with friends on Starcraft 2 or Heroes of the Storm, YOU GET NO REWARDS. It becomes the antithesis of gaming. Worse, because of MMR, you may not want to play with your friend because his MMR is too low.

In the games in between, there has been slight evolutions towards the freak show we have now. I remember going on Battle Net for the first time with Starcraft and being amazed Blizzard would record the times you win and lossed. How dumb that was. This artificially altered the behavior of the gamers. Games would be set up where it would be 7 humans vs. 1 AI so people could pump up wins on their ‘record’. Toxicity began to creep in as people became concerned about their ‘record’.

In Vanilla WoW, there was no ‘system’ for PvP. People simply had fun doing PvP. There were no rewards. There was nothing. Yet, that did not stop people doing wars and taking over towns or the infamous Southshore vs. Tarren Mill of Hillsbrad. In lower level areas, when a lowbie was getting ganked, higher leveled characters would come in and help defend because they wanted to do so. There was no reward and no recognition of doing so.

Do you know why, dear reader?

It is because it is a fucking video game.

Video games have no real rewards except enjoyment. Video games take time out of your life and money to be bought. They do not add time. They do not add money. They offer nothing in terms of real value to your life except fun.

Blizzard did ‘systems’ with various rewards. This taps into a type of addiction of achievement. It becomes contrary to the prosperous life since a person’s ambitions are now directed toward ‘the game’. Hamster wheels stacked onto hamster wheels. But did any of this actually gain fans? The more ‘systems’ they added to WoW, the less popular it got. The ‘loneliness’ spreads within Blizzard games.

Do you know what was really great about the original DOTA? It did not exist in a system. There was no ladder. Maybe there were ladders made for it, but there was no company wide system for it. Most DOTA games were played with and against friends. Maybe that changed later on, like it did with Brood War, but there was no system for it.

One of the reasons why people want to be top ranked in Blizzard games is that they get to play against their friends. You cannot do that currently except in custom games (where there are no rewards).

What the fuck is the point of a multiplayer game if I cannot play against my friends?

Blizzard still makes very nice games. The problem is that the actual ‘meta’ is not who is balanced or imbalanced, the meta is the hamster wheel where you are crucified, spinning around and around, seeking stupid rewards.

I thought Blizzard was beginning to realize their error by removing achievements from Heroes. Instead, they are transferring it to portraits and portrait rims. Do X, Y, and Z and get a new portrait or portrait rim. It has NO GAMEPLAY value. Yet, it is more carrot for the hamster.

“But Malstrom! Warcraft 3 had portraits too awarded based on your games won.”

This is true. However, these were temporary and based only on a Bnet account (Bnet accounts were made all the time).

Everything I loved about Blizzard games are being removed. I’ve always enjoyed RTS single player campaigns. After Starcraft 2, they will be completely gone. They may make new ones, but they will be only for the hamster wheel of DLC. “Beat the new mini-campaign and get a new portrait!” See how that works? I’m so fucking tired of it.

Many Diablo players have complained about Diablo 3 (at least initially). Why was Diablo 3 so bad? Diablo 3 did many things right. It has fantastic visuals, sound, and crunchy combat. Yet, it was the business systems that completely wrecked vanilla Diablo 3. The real-money auction house was such a glaring example.

“The focus of a business is to make money.” Bullshit. You can make money in many ways, many of them sleazy. A bank robber makes money too. No. The actual focus of a business is to make sales. Since no game company seems interested or capable of focusing on sales, they are trying to squeeze as much cashflow from their ‘dedicated fanbase’ as possible. DLC everywhere! Buy all these new skins and ornaments! Why not make new games instead of making us play the old ones forever?

I’ll keep playing Heroes of the Storm until the end of the year. Then, I think I’m hanging up on Blizzard games. Forever.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 9, 2015

Conversations I am hearing in real life

As a gamer, I cannot say anything definite on Heroes of the Storm because I’m still tinkering with it. “What’s that mean?” I’m playing around with a smurf. On my main account, I have all the heroes and will get every hero for free as long as I do the daily quests. Smurf is telling me that it takes about a month to get to level 30 and when you do, you will not have 10 heroes unless you buy them with real money. You will have around 7-8 decent heroes.

I’m still mixed about the game. The game is doing some things very, very well, but it seems to be missing some big things. It can be said that Dustin Browder destroyed the Starcraft franchise, and certain similar issues are creeping into Heroes. But on the other hand, it seems too early to say.

I think the Diablo Event has been lame. Entertainment needs surprise, it needs spontaneity. Having ‘themed events’ gets in the way. We’ll know what to expect.

——————

There are some unemployed guys in a class of mine. They are hardcore gamers. They are also huge Nintendo fans. “Wii U is fantastic! I love it.” But that Wii with Wii Sports? “Terrible!”

They’re excited about Diablo 3’s upcoming patch (which is why I’m checking it out again). They also used to play WoW. I asked them about the latest WoW expansion: Legion. “I’m so over WoW…” They’re not coming back. Instead, these guys were playing TERA. (How come TERA has been immune to criticism to their female characters? Could it be that it is Asian made? No Western game company would make something this… ambitious.)

At one time, a guy brought in Japanese candy in its little tin. Others tried it. Did it taste any different? No. But it came in a Japanese tin with cute little animals on it. These guys didn’t look like women would be going for them (though I’m not a woman so I cannot truly tell), but I believe the herbivore phenomenon is spreading into the West.

—————–

What to make of Donald Trump?

Businessmen, as I warn, are actually very complex people. They are not employees. They are not self owned businessmen (which is actually just an employee who owns his own job). They deal with investors. They are investors. They deal with banks. (Do you know why there are no 24 hour banks and why banks open and close at their rigid times? It is because banks are not for you. They are for them… the businessmen.)

The best way to understand the businessman, such as Trump, is to understand the PERSONALITY OF WINNING.

This is a Kiyosaki video, but it applies. It applies not only because it is true, but also because Kiyosaki is a business partner of Trump’s and Trump has endorsed Kiyosaki’s teachings. Trump’s base is made of people who believe in ‘winning’. It also explains why Trump phrases everything he does in the context of winning vs losing. “We don’t win with China. We don’t win with Mexico. Etc. Etc.” His celebrity stunts are probably a combination of him having fun and ‘winning’.

Businessmen will act like clowns if it gives them success. But that does not mean they are clowns.

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, would do commercials like this. In the commercials, Dave Thomas comes across as a ‘aw shucks’ type of guy. The truth is that he was a mean and lean aggressive businessman. He only did these commercials, played to clown part, because it increased his sales.

Businessmen are not clowns or douchebags. Businessmen are also not wise-men or saints. Businessmen only want to win. Who else wants to win? It would be military people, sports players, and gamers (well, some gamers).

If you look at the biographies of guys like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you will find personalities who want to win. Sometimes they would want to win at whatever they would do. Bill Gates was obsessed with winning at Poker during college (before he dropped out).

On the surface, businessmen are very nice and sweet. But should they feel they are crossed, you are in for a world of hurt.

Now, relating to Trump, one must differentiate what is Trump from the general personality of winning. It’s actually somewhat hard. The personality of winning is rare within the general population. Politicians tend to suffer from personalities of ‘being liked’ to ‘being right’. And unlike politicians or most people, we are watching Trump go bonkers on anyone he thinks has crossed him. This is common within that personality type.

I’m quite amused watching the clash of personalities unfold.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 9, 2015

Email: Mario hotwheels

I can’t believe this packaging.  I had to take a second look because I thought it was old merchandise.  But nope, it’s brand new.  This is excellent.  It’s like something right out of the late 80s or early 90s.

http://nintendoeverything.com/mattel-bringing-out-mario-hot-wheels/

 

Looks like a way to sell their ugliest cars. Take the Mario labels off, would anyone buy those cars?

Posted by: seanmalstrom | August 9, 2015

Zelda eyes

Not sure why people are sending me this.

NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE EYEBALLS. THIS IS NOTHING MORE THAN SMELLING GAME DEVELOPER’S DIRTY SOCKS AND GOING, “OH HOW WONDERFUL.” WE DO NOT PLAY EYEBALLS. WE DO NOT PLAY EXPRESSIONS. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GAME.

There is such a disconnect between the mass audience of gaming (and non-gaming) and game developers and fan driven game media.

At the rate how things are going, does anyone care about Zelda as a franchise anymore? Seriously. Anyone? Why not just buy the new Elder Scrolls game and be done with it? What reason is there for anyone to buy new Zelda except for nostalgia?

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.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 18, 2015

Emails: What about Genyo Takeda?

Several emails on Takeda:

Hi malstrom! I have been reading your entries about the future of nintendo and the next-to-come president and your reasonings about Miyamoto. I agree with you that he may be the “de facto” replacement for the immediate future. I am not sure about liking this idea. I see him as a very arrogant man that cannot accept to be wrong. But hey who knows right?

But what do you think about genyo takeda? he is also one of the current temporary directors. Don’t you think he may be the most probable candidate? he has much more time than Miamoto, he is “young” enough to travel and may has more experience than miyamoto. I don’t know, what are your thoughts about him?

——

Hello Master Malstrom

while I do agree that Miyamoto would take teh position I was also thinking that Genyo Takeda could also fir the position or at least be the corporate president, as being the very first Nintendo game designer
——-
While I’ve agreed that Miyamoto could be a popular choice for President in the eyes of fans, employees and some investors, what about Genyo Takeda?Takeda apparently lead the committee on Iwata’s funeral which Reuters is saying could be an indication he’ll be taking on a leadership role:http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/13/us-nintendo-president-death-idUSKCN0PN00520150713Additionally Takeda was one of the lead developers of the Wii console and was noticeably disenfranchised with the power-race direction gaming was taking around the 6th generation. He’s mostly been involved in the hardware end of things, but when teams under him were involved in making games it was NES-era sports and arcade style games. Seems to me to be the direction you’re always advocating Nintendo to look more into.

And last but not least, we know barely anything about his hobbies or personality quirks, so no “game god” nonsense here.

Takeda may very well become the Nintendo president. The question is: “Does he want it?” Also: “Does Miyamoto want it?” I don’t know. None of them have told me anything. How would I know any of this?
.
I do think Miyamoto wants it… at least, he once did. Does he want to just lie back and make small budget games? Miyamoto’s risen to crisis of Nintendo before. Donkey Kong was Miyamoto solving the crisis of Radar Scope, for example. Super Mario Brothers was solving the sales instability of the new game console. Miyamoto’s development career and Nintendo’s business trajectory are not separate and have been deeply interlinked for decades.
.
Here is (my) reasoning for tilting the guess to Miyamoto. Presidents are normally chosen by who ‘looks good’ in that chair. You laugh, but it is true. “This guy looks like a bank president. Let us put him in that chair.” Before you guys go, “No, that is impossible! That never happens!” Consider how a president of the United States is chosen. Is not one of the requirements about how they look, act, and sound in the role? Clearly, if TV was around in the day, Abraham Lincoln could never be president with his gangly nature.
.
Generally, the president needs to be able to run the company (which Miyamoto can since he is a senior director already), rally the employees (which Miyamoto does), bring confidence to investors (they always ask for Miyamoto to do this and that), and do the PR game well (which Miyamoto is a master). These factors matter now in a Nintendo president because Nintendo used to be more unusual. Let me explain.
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Why was Yamauchi president? It was because he was in the blood line. That is it. That was why Yamauchi was president number 3.
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Why did Iwata become president? It was because Yamauchi hand-picked Iwata as his successor. Takeda mentions this as well in the eulogy. Yamauchi’s family also owned most of the company then too. I do not believe this is the case as it once was.
.
So I think the new president will be chosen by more ‘normal’ factors that you see at other companies. The most famous person at Nintendo is Miyamoto. He is also a senior director. It just makes sense. The news media will have a grand time with Miyamoto’s ‘rising’ as it parallels Nintendo’s latest console and new business strategy.
.
Now, Miyamoto may not want to be president. Maybe it will be decided Takeda is to become president or even someone else. I don’t know. They don’t talk to me. I don’t see Takeda being the ‘PR animal’ that Miyamoto is. A president of the company has to be a PR animal. Iwata did it. Yamauchi did it too in his own way.
Posted by: seanmalstrom | July 18, 2015

Iwata’s Funeral

The rain didn’t keep more than 4000 from attending.

Takeda gave a eulogy:

As we gather here today for a joint funeral with Nintendo Co., Ltd. and Mr. Iwata’s family, I would like to share my heartfelt condolences. President Iwata, allow me to call you Iwata-san, just as I always used to.

Iwata-san, you left us far too soon. Having just chaired our shareholders’ meeting the other day on June 26, the news of your sudden death has left all the employees overcome with a deep sorrow. The late Yamauchi-san passed the baton to you in naming you the president of Nintendo in 2002, and the two Senior Managing Directors of the company, Shigeru Miyamoto and I, have been assisting and working alongside you. Being rather short-tempered myself, the thing that I am most deeply struck by is that you were a true leader in every sense of the word, overflowing with compassion for people. You always maintained a two-way dialogue, even with the next generation of employees, or with much younger members of the development and marketing teams, or with employees outside of Japan whose different customs and cultures can make communication challenging — sometimes even admitting your own mistakes to them. You demonstrated this through your belief that people could eventually come to understand one another, and your strong conviction that the best way for us to grow is through patient communication, even if it took several times, a dozen times or even seemingly endless discussion.

You succeeded in planting the seed in employees’ hearts that, in order to solve an issue, there is a fundamental cycle whereby you make a hypothesis, execute the plan, see the result and then make adjustments, and by which you have caringly nurtured these seeds to sprout and mature into plants.

Until now, our successors and the younger generation would take a few first steps and then look back at you for guidance because they could not tell if they had chosen the right path. Today they cannot ask for your guidance anymore.

However, I am sure that they have already made the firm determination that they will continue on their own, making the hypothesis, executing the plan, seeing the results and reflecting on the results to improve and adjust by themselves.

In the face of your unbelievable passing it will surely take some time before we can emerge from this deep sorrow. Please know, however, that the seeds you have planted, and the plants that have sprouted will put forth small flowers as they bring smiles to the faces of people around the world, blossom into a grand flower bigger than even you, our leader, Iwata-san. Together with Miyamoto and others of our generation, we swear in our hearts that we will continue our efforts so that, someday, we can report and present to you the blossoming of these flowers. May you continuously watch over and guide us managers, our employees and your family.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences and sincerest prayer. May you rest in peace, Iwata-san.

 

This eulogy does tell us some things. The ‘sudden death’ tells me Iwata’s passing was a surprise to everyone. The ‘left all the employees overcome with a deep sorrow’ tells us that morale has been hit. Third, the ‘two Senior Managing Directors’ running the company now are Takeda and Miyamoto.

There has to be a president. Odds are is that it will be Takeda or Miyamoto. Out of the two, I would guess Miyamoto because he is such a public face of Nintendo. The fans love him. The employees love him. The press loves him. Now maybe Nintendo might bring someone else in. I don’t think this is likely especially someone outside The Council. I’ve wondered if Nintendo would be so bold to run around without a president. I don’t think the shareholders would accept that though.

All the ‘change’ talk Fils-Aime and others said at E3 2015 is being interpreted as Nintendo knowing that Iwata was about to die and that ‘big changes’ were in place for when Iwata kicked the bucket. The eulogy clearly shows this not to be true. Not only does Iwata’s colleagues seem surprised at his passing, Takeda vows he and Miyamoto will continue Iwata’s direction. This means Nintendo ain’t going to be making games for Sony or Microsoft consoles. This also means that the ‘change’ talk was what I thought all along: hints of what is to come with the NX and Generation 9. I largely ignored E3 2015 because it is the end of the lifecycle for the 3DS and even the Wii U. I want to know about the NX. I want to know about Nintendo’s online system. I want to know about Generation 9. Nintendo was saying, “Wait until next E3, Malstrom.” Very well.

Gamespot did a fine tribute video for Iwata. Check it out.

 

 

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