2017, predictions in gaming

2017 is starting to look like a good year for games similar to the explosion of quality we received in 2015. It hard for me to choose a GOTY for 2016, simply put i never played allot of new games over the year. However now i have a rather large back log of games from last year, including Deus Ex, Dishonored 2 and Uncharted. Undeterred I’m aiming to blast through them ASAP.

If i had to choose – DOOM won GOTY for 2016 followed by Overwatch and Firewatch. This was picked up by Polygon, but not followed up by the Game Awards who went with Overwatch. Personally I can’t see a purely multiplayer game taking GOTY, but thats the elitist in me who see’s online games as little more than crack and insult generators.

So 2017.

I have a few predictions for this year. Im not going to list all the games coming out, just the ones i feel could be contenders for 2017 GOTY and ones which will amount to nothing, like how No Mans Sky was the best thing since the atom bomb but failed to take off (thats a space joke).

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard: The last 2 Resident Evils have been pretty under whelming. Resident Evil 4 took a different turn and became an instant classic. Five saw you play a steroid addicted beat the shit out of the locals followed by a fight in the a volcano. Six, something happened… but I’m confidant that seven will take the franchise into a different direction and could potentially take GOTY.

Conan: Exiles: This showed up late to my game radar and i predict it going down as a cheap mans Skyrim. But i’m hopeful its more.

For Honor: I’m going to call it now, this is going to be a buggy disappointment. Not only is it made by Ubisoft (boo) its all so hyped up to shit. Personally i hope i’m wrong, but something seems off about this title.

Horizon: Zero Dawn: This game is the reason i bought a PS4 (that and FFXV), I hope it lives up to my expectation. I hope it even goes down as GOTY.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: This ones here for the bro’s, you know who you are. It’s likely to be a Steam Sale (Origin?) buy for me. I can see the appeal and i hope it does well, but not the game for me and unlikely to be GOTY.

Mass Effect: Andromeda: Its Mass Effect, its going to be good. The gameplay seems to have further evolved from the original cover shooter idea, but in general it seems to be grounded to the originals. People love Mass Effect so i see this doing well and maybe even taking GOTY. On a personal level i felt disappointed by the two and three, I can’t see me being that impressed by the fourth outing.

Prey: Im not entirely sure what i expect from Prey, its definitely not a sequel to the original Prey released in 2006. The game play and media released around it gives off a solid appeal which could do well. Definitely one to look out for.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: You could put a good amount of money on this taking 2017 GOTY. It’s Zelda, it’s Nintendo, it’s taken fucking ages to release. The gameplay released around this title looks polished and i’m generally excited for its release. Zelda being one of a few title i generally give a shit about when it comes to Nintendo. However the constant delay and the over the top hype coming in from the gaming media might see it fall flat on its arse, followed by a large amount of blog post entitled “It’s time to stop over hyping games”.

Read Dead Redemption 2: Another strong contender for GOTY. Unfortunately i see this getting delayed to early 2018. But still i’m hyped. Having not played the original for more than 2 hours i’m looking forward to getting into this sequel.

 

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The future of gaming

With E32016 now dead in your back garden, its time for the games media to break down what they saw at this glorified sales event. Personally i’m more interested in making wild speculation at what the future of the gaming industry holds for us.

Microsoft made a semi competent appearance at E3 this year despite continuing its down hill spiral of sales against the PS4. With the announcement of a new system “project scorpio” the xbox team is looking to throw themselves back into a loosing war by bringing a bigger gun.

Sony and Microsoft have in my opinion occupied different areas when it comes to exclusive titles. Sony has opted to be a little more experimental with its IP. You can see this in games such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Wild. But they also exploit the nostalgia side of things with the announcement of God of War; which i think is just going to be called “God of War”.

Microsoft tend to stick to tried and tested IP, with the announcement of the new Gears of War and Forza.  All games which sit well with its western audience. Sony are pushing for some new ideas and its looking good.  Of course this isn’t a major criticism of just Microsoft try finding a new idea in the Nintendo camp and you will be left disappointed.

O wait: mecha Kerby?, sure why not.

So what might happen?

One of the biggest things to be announced by Microsoft was that all new Xbox games will be coming to Windows 10 (maybe). Yes that horrible little gremlin that keeps trying to drag you away from your beloved Windows 7. So this triggered a few thoughts in my head.

Its been rumoured for a while now that the new CEO has had little love of the Xbox department and believes that Microsoft should get back to its software roots; something it excels at. With the announcement that all new Xbox titles will come to the PC, we could end up with something similar to the Steam box. Microsoft handles the OS and the games and hardware companies build the boxes to run it – you know; like a PC.

So thats controversial, I essentially said the Xbox will die off – kind of.

Everything’s going to the cloud. Lets be honest the gaming disc is dead. Future consoles will not come with a disc tray. Lets hope you have a solid internet connection because those 40GB games you download now; will be more in like 100GB.

Or we might all be streaming games?

With everything going into the cloud this could lead to a new business model entirely. The idea of monthly subscriptions to get access to the back catalogue of Playstation and Xbox has recently become a thing. So why not take this business model and apply it to new games. You pay a month fee to Sony or Microsoft and you can play any game your heart desires.

Lets not forget our old friends micro-transaction and DLC. You get the core of the game for your monthly fee but extras are going to cost you more.

All this talk of consoles and owning things: not anymore.  Remember OnLive? unfortunately the idea of paying a subscription and playing games over the cloud with just a controlled and a tiny box to communicate to the mothership was a little ahead of its time. I always saw the potential in this idea and once the internet infrastructure finally catches up with demand you might not even have to buy a console anymore. Just a one off fee of £100 and then £25 a month to access unlimited games on your chosen platform.

This is a big old shake up in the way we do things now but its not to far from how other companies have moved away from the expensive per-unit price to an affordable monthly subscription.

It sure would kill of pirating a game, why even bother if the month price is right. It might also cut out all the middlemen in the industry like amazon, but Im sure a deal can be made so amazon can give away a game code for 20% off the price of buying it direct from Sony or Microsoft in exchange for promotional material on their site or through traditional means. Lets be honest that pretty much what they do now anyway.

Game wont be about then so I wont include them.

Despite all this sounding terrible and “No way man your talking smach, I wont do it” its kind of already happening. If you think about it.

Sorry.

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Fallout over Game’s farce with the Pipboy Release

Today is the big release day for Fallout 4. Months ago I made a quick post about how my fiancé and I, like many of our friends, had pre-ordered the Pip Boy edition, exclusively sold in the UK by Game.

What we didn’t realise was that we would be entering essentially a Lucky Dip as to whether or not we would get it, and at the price we expected.

Straight away I feel like I should point out that luckily we have received our confirmation email that our copy will be delivered this afternoon, so a tiny part of me feels a little unqualified to comment on this farce that is Game’s exclusive. However, this morning I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine who had gone so far as to book a week’s holiday in order to immerse herself and enjoy the game she pre-ordered 5 months ago. She was charged by Game not for 1, but 2 copies of the game (despite not ordering that many), and today she was heartbroken to find out that despite this, and despite so many phonecalls to their ‘customer service’, she would not be receiving a copy of her game on time, and possibly not at all due to their incompetence at recording her address.

Unsurprisingly she’s pissed, and I would be too if I were in her position. And infuriatingly she isn’t alone. If you search the hashtag #pipboyedition on Twitter you’ll find complaints from upset gamers wondering why their orders got cancelled. Accusations of trickery, incompetence, downright theft – and yet amongst all of this you also see tweets and pictures of Game selling copies of the sold out Pipboy edition in store as part of the midnight release. No wonder #BoycottGameUk is also on Twitter.

Rubbing salt in the wound
Rubbing salt in the wound

So is this Game’s first attempt at a massive UK exclusive and it just happens to have gone wrong? Sadly no – its not even as if they have a good history of these kind of releases and this is just the first one to fail this year. Just a few months ago there was the colossal cock-up with people that pre-ordered copies of Mario Maker getting double-charged. Further back in 2012 with the release of ME 3, there was the blunder of Game not sorting out their stock ready for the release day – resulting in them being unable to fulfil orders that were made months in advance (Reference: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-02-29-game-not-stocking-mass-effect-3-or-ea-games-past-ssx)

Game Rage

So what can people do if they’ve been shafted? Going back to the story of my friend, she was gutted to realise she wouldn’t be receiving her game. She had tried getting into contact with them to sort things out but felt like she was going nowhere. I suggested she contacted the ombudsman to get it resolved, and she had never heard about them so I felt like it was something I should share with you guys.

So what is an ombudsman? Here is the definition taken from Ombudsman Services:

“Ombudsman Services is here to give independent and impartial decisions on complaints. Our service is free for consumers to use. We operate under appropriate legislation and with the approval of regulatory authorities and trade bodies. We are not a watchdog or a regulator – our job is to resolve complaints, not punish the companies we resolve complaints about. We are independent so we do not take sides.” 

Essentially – if you have made a complaint to the company and you are not happy with their attempt to resolve it, the ombudsman is there to provide an impartial ruling for both sides. They investigate your case and find out whether or not you are due additional compensation, or if there is anything that can be done to resolve your problem another way.

Below is the link for the Consumer Ombudsman. I highly recommend contacting them if you have been on the receiving end of this epic screw-up, and feel like Game are not taking your complaint seriously. You will need to make a formal complaint to Game first, so I suggest writing a letter and making sure you keep copies of any communications you send/receive.

http://www.consumer-ombudsman.org/

People are also setting up petitions to stop Game getting exclusives on game content, creating essentially a monopoly. If you feel strongly about this I recommend finding and signing one of these petitions. Search on places like change.org. If you want to voice your frustrations but don’t wish to sign petitions, use social media! Hashtags such as the ones I’ve already mentioned are in full use – join in with your experiences!

Let us stop retailers having sole exclusives on major game releases, because it’s becoming clear that they are just not up to the job.

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EGX Game Expo: How far we have come.

As I walked into the arena at EGX I wasn’t expecting to get blown away by anything in particular. Having played video games for over half my life it hard for me to get excited about anything any more (The last game I got truly excited about was Witcher 3). Indeed its difficult to get excited as most games companies prefer to take the safe road and invest in tried and tested IP as opposed to investing into something truly new and unique. Its said that everything ever  written can be boiled down into seven plots, something which can easily be extended to game-play.

However despite the negativity something happened at EGX I didn’t quite expect. I finally got Excited about gaming again.

Gaming has always had an issue with Hardware, allot of bottleneck on games happened for the prolonged period in which the Xbox 360 and PS3 just wouldn’t fuck off and die (they still haven’t), being a PC gamer things have been pretty dry and thanks to marketing, and just generally how things are PC ports became the new norm. Anything released on a console would get wrapped up and released onto a PC, however because hardware is released every 5 mins on a PC it quickly out grew the consoles, but had to suffer with games designed for the console from 5 years ago.

Then the big announcement, ‘Next Gen’ (I assume next gen will be ‘Next Next Gen’ ?), new shinny consoles doing all sorts of new and shiny things – and no games.

But things seem to be warming up, and it all seems to have kicked off with – CD Projekt Red releasing Witcher 3, which despite my opinion was still a massive achievement. It looked visually stunning, it felt like a truly immersive next gen game. The type of gaming which we always wanted but never quite got. I recently picked up MGS5, another game that’s pushing the barriers and giving us something which visually looks amazing.

CP1Go90WgAAUDjQ

I never quite realized this however until I went to EGX and got to see some of the up and coming games hitting the market later this year and early next year.

What truly sold it to me was the tech demo for the new Hitman game coming out March 2016. I have had very little interest in Hitman, I still have very little interest in Hitman. It’s more about what it represents, the level design, the game-play everything about it shouted “Next Gen”.

I doubt will see any true disruption in the gaming industry until they sort out all the 4D virtual reality stuff which is in the pipes from Valve and Facebook – I’m just happy that things have finally taken a step in the right direction.

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EGX 2015 Viewpoint from a Casual Gamer

This year was the first time our little group attended EGX, driving up to Birmingham in our mini convoy to check out the final day.

I will say this – we definitely underestimated the whole experience. I for one plan to go again next year, and make the most of the whole event. The chance to speak to developers, youtubers, bloggers and general fans is an amazing opportunity (cliché as it sounds).There were people there handing out business cards, and I ended up asking one of those organised Youtubers to scribble down our website on the back of a piece of card. Terrible! But despite that, I did write down some thoughts on the event so here they are!

The real jewel in the crown was not the big players (although I will get to them), but the fantastic Indie and smaller dev turnout. Sega provided a sponsored a rather…interesting area (I felt so sorry for those guys who essentially brought their own kit and wrote on their space on the wall), but the rest of the Rezzed area looked amazing and really professional. The way the games were all laid out it was really easy to just sit down and try out a game.

I found Four Sided Fantasy, and the game met my expectations. Cute simple aesthetics, and really easy to pick up gameplay. I got stuck a couple of times, and I noticed myself run through walls and floors which I wasn’t *entirely* sure I was meant to do, but the game was only an Alpha demo, so I was more than forgiving. The screen wrap and freeze mechanic was easy to toggle, and the game was really light and fun. Definitely want to pick that up. Sadly I didn’t get to speak to the developers to find out any more information, but they did leave out little cards and a place to jot down your email to find out more information.

Four Sided Fantasy

A developer I did get a chance to speak to was the lovely (and very pregnant) Anna from Makin Games (@makingames). They were in the far corner showing their game Raging Justice, but it was not stopping them getting a lot of traffic and attention for their game. Raging Justice was absolutely brilliant. I played both levels that they were demo-ing, and from what I could see it looked pretty much ready for release. It was a homage to the classic 2D side scroller games I grew up with (definite Streets of Rage flashbacks which I *constantly* mentioned whilst talking to Anna. She told me that everyone had one game that they loved which they saw in Raging Justice, so clearly she had been dealing with people like me all day the poor woman!). They plan to release the game on Steam and Xbox 1 in early 2016, and then move on to release versions for tablets and other consoles later on in the year. I really enjoyed playing this game, so will definitely be picking up a copy when I see it on Steam. I saw an interview with these guys from EGX where they were asked about rumours of going for Game of the Year, and I think they stand an excellent chance if they were.

Another Indie game I managed to play through was a game called Mute. This game was ok – solid graphics, good response to controls. The only thing was the level they were demo-ing was a complete bastard to play: your character had to successfully run through a canyon against a number of stampeding wildebeest, and if one of them so much as *brushed* against you then you were dead and had to start again. One of the developers came up to us whilst I was playing and spoke to my fiancé, and one of the features that he told us was that the animals are programmed to react to you, to the extent that predators can smell you and track you across the map. If I’m honest I didn’t get to experience much of that (too many wildebeest in my face). Interesting idea, but the demo didn’t excite me too much.

Mute

I have spoken great lengths about the Indie offering, but what about some of the main contenders?

One of my favourite experiences from the whole day was over at the Rock Band 4 area. They had a whole band kit on a rig/stage setup, and were inviting people to come up and entertain the crowd. Now I cannot miss an opportunity to show off, and my friend commented how he turned his head for 1 minute and turned back to find me on stage, microphone in hand. I gave a stunning rendition of Boston (which got some good cheers), a little sad that the microphone was busted by the time I got there so the percussion parts were not picking up properly, but you can’t have everything! There is a video of my most epic performance, so if anyone is interested put a shout out in the comments below and perhaps we can get a clip of it up for your viewing pleasure 😛

Rock Band dominated the music game offerings at EGX. They had the presentation down perfectly – the whole reason people play that game is to pretend they are rock stars and everyone was geared up to treat it as a mini concert/battle of bands. The presenter there did a fantastic job at working the crowd (he gets bonus points for complimenting my hair and singing along to Boston, but hey a little bias doesn’t hurt). Guitar Hero on the other hand completely missed the mark in my opinion. They hid their game in a (impressive looking) giant amp, which meant that everyone had to queue whether they wanted to look at the game or have a go. They completely shut out anyone walking by, and I think this was where they went wrong. People want to join a crowd that’s clapping and cheering to see what’s happening, not a queue when there’s lots of other things going on.

Guitar Hero Amp

Nintendo had a brilliant look to their space. With archways across their different areas, and a casual area with beanbags for people to connect and play their DSes, it was a bright and cheerful family look – something Nintendo do very well. What I didn’t think was so great was their choice of presenters. It was like they had watched the presenters on E4 and gone “that is how we should do it!”, and their false banter was grating and annoying after a while. They had stands for their big hitters – Zelda, Pokemon and Monster Hunter were some of the key titles that were available to play. They also had Disney’s Infinity and the new Animal Crossing game that is coming out. Pretty safe stuff guaranteed to pull in people.

The PlayStation area was also ok, with a lot of focus on their VR tech (sadly we didn’t get there in time to book a slot to try it out), some FIFA, Destiny new expansion and of course the new Metal Gear. There was a couple of screens for the new Ratchet & Clank (looks pretty standard stuff) and a massive TIE Fighter signalled the area for the new Star Wars Battlefront which was cool. Overall I tended to just skim past the Playstation area, as the people they were trying to attract were not really my demographic. The same was said for Xbox, and I barely looked in on their area as they showed nothing to really grab my attention. It was all shout outs and flash, although I did see a bit of the new Lara Croft trailer as I went past which looked pretty similar to the last LC game, but something that could be interesting.

Star Wars

EGX also had a small board game section in one of their zones. It was a really relaxed area where they had games constantly being set up and played. Friendly volunteers coaxed people to come join and explained the rules before letting people just get on with the game which I really liked. The games being demo-ed were all fairly old games (Munchkin, Sheriff of Nottingham – games that have been released a while). My fiance and I managed to get in and play a game of “Sheriff of Nottingham” with a father and son who were really nice and didn’t mind us butting in (I came last! I’m too honest clearly). I’d never played it before and I really enjoyed it. I was up for buying a copy then and there but no stands were selling any board games. Opportunity missed EGX, I bet they could have sold a tonne of games! That was a real shame really.

Sheriff of Nottingham
Another disappointment was the merchandise that was on sale. Naturally there were plenty of geek t-shirts, but all guy-style round-necks as far as I could tell. I saw one tank top amongst all the stalls, in a size that was clearly small. This brings me nicely to my personal pet peeve – as a big girl why should I only be offered male tops? I want geeky girly tank tops too! I rarely find a band t-shirt or geek top that is my size and either lady-t or strappy in style. Apparently someone somewhere has decided that large women do not exist, or if they do they just wear male clothes – meaning if I want breathing room round my neck and any kind of shape I have to buy a top and cut it up myself. Unimpressed does not even cover it sometimes, and other times it just leaves me feeling depressed. Some places were offering prints and I spotted one manga/anime stand, however if you wanted anything other than a t-shirt or a hat your choices were *very* limited. I know I was going on the last day, and stocks would be running low, but generally I was left feeling unimpressed and uninspired.

In terms of the venue, the whole space was well laid out and organised. It wasn’t a chore or particularly difficult to move through the different areas, and to navigate around the different stages. One thing I did before going was to download the EGX app with their maps, I found these incredibly  useful to get around. Car parking was easy, and going through to get my wrist band was pretty quick and painless. There were some good cosplays walking around but the focus was (rightly) on some excellent games being shown.

Overall I found EGX to be a fantastic experience. I met some really enthusiastic and helpful people, and the time flew by whilst I was there. I will definitely come back next year, and I intend to make the most of all 4 days.

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