Know your audience, Microsoft.

Written by Benke on the 21st of May 2013 at 22:17

We should have known. It's not like it's the first time it's happened. Remember the Xbox 360 reveal on MTV? Over here in Europe they had edited out most of the gameplay and it felt more like a concert with the likes of Snow Patrol and Killers than a proper product reveal. And then there was the Natal Experience thing with ponchos. This time Microsoft followed in Sony's footsteps and apparently they felt all they needed to do was show the console in order to "win" the battle of the reveals.

The truth is Microsoft once again failed to realise who of their millions of Xbox Live users it is that watch these kind of reveals. Not that there's anyone not employed by Microsoft who uses Bing as a search engine and Internet Explorer on their Xbox - but if there was such a person, he or she would not be watching the live stream last night. Core gamers were watching. Longtime fans. Gamers who aren't very interested in watching TV on their shiny new next-gen console. Seriously, watching cable is the first thing you show of when you reveal a next gen console? What were you thinking?

Sure we got Call of Duty: Ghosts. It's likely going to be one hell of a game. Forza 5. Most likely a brilliant racing game. EA Sports - quality stuff. But... is this what Microsoft thinks gets us excited for next gen? A bunch of suits talking about the biggest selling properties of current gen? Quantum Break excluded (and we barely got to see it) - there just wasn't anything during the hour long broadcast to shake our worlds, get us hyped, or even just raise our eyebrows. Hopefully, MS opted to save their revolutionary stuff for E3.

Xbox One looks like the natural extension of everything Microsoft have done with Xbox 360 over the last couple of years at this point. And that leaves this viewer and gamer feeling underwhelmed. Next gen needs to feel like something new, something exciting, something different.

Kickstarter fatigue?

Kickstarter fatigue?

Written by Benke on the 13th of February 2013 at 10:42

In 2012 Kickstarter and crowdfunding rose to become the new, great hope for smaller independent studios. Campaigns were launched and millions were gained by those with an idea that was easy enough for gamers to appreciate and visualise (nostalgia, spiritual successors, and the likes are naturally easier to grasp).

Now there seems to be a lot less optimism. Chris Taylor expressed his disappointment as the Wildman campaign failed. Asking for $1.1 million for a rather novel (and hard to grasp) concept may seem like asking for too much, but in all honesty I doubt Gas Powered Games have been involved in a smaller production (budget-wise) in the last decade. If Kickstarter becomes a game of "how low can we go?", then it's very doubtful it will allow for the best possible game experiences to out of it.

Campaigns will fail on Kickstarter. Most of them will in fact fail. But for a while there it seemed every high profile developer who went on Kickstarter came out of it with a big bag of cash. Still, most of those bags are significantly smaller than the value of a publisher contract for a similar concept. The upside of this is easy to spot. If you manage to produce a game of high enough quality through this process - the developer comes out of it owning the IP and able to take a much larger cut of the profits when it goes on sale across various channels.

For example, had Project Eternity been signed by your typical game publisher - then Obsidian would have been paid for their work as they completed a set of milestone deliveries. Then as the game went on sale they would likely start getting royalty check once the game had sold a million or more copies.

The difference now is that Obsidian will make a large chunk of money with the first copy sold of Project Eternity on Steam (granted Valve takes a cut, but still, this is a far better scenario). Maybe some developers will have to go to the bank and take out a loan to complete their Kickstarter projects, but there is tremendous upside to owning your own work in the longrun.

So what about the fatigue? Are people growing tired of sending their money to projects on Kickstarter? That's probably true to some extent. We're still doing it, but as there are more projects to choose from and we still have yet to see most of the high profile game release - people are probably holding on to their cash a bit more. But looking at Dreamfall Chapters as a current example - there is certainly possibilities out there for developers who want to create something gamers know they want.

Back from the Land of Sausages

Back from the Land of Sausages

Written by Benke on the 20th of August 2012 at 09:21

Germany and Cologne gave us another serving of Gamescom, complete with Currywursts, Haxe, Krakauers, Bratwursts, Leberkäse, Blutwurst, and naturally Saurkraut to go with all the meats. Given the tropical heat, and the exhausting appointment schedule it was all I could handle.

The high point of the show was without a doubt Sony's press conference - where a whole range of new and exciting software was showcased - from Tearaway and Killzone Mercenary on PS Vita, to Rain and Puppeteer, Until Dawn and the inspired Wonderbook addition Digg's Nightcrawler.

Much like at E3, Ubisoft impressed with their line up, and Activision brought out a few early looks of games like Walking Dead and Deadpool.

As you'd expect strategy had a stronger presence than at E3 with games like Total War: Rome II, Company of Heroes 2, and Europa Universalis IV leading the way. Surprising then that EA choose this venue for the disappointing decision to turn Command & Conquer: Generals 2 into a free-to-play game.

I'll never look at a sunflower the same.

I'll never look at a sunflower the same.

Written by Benke on the 6th of August 2012 at 12:14

It's strange how long it took me to succumb to the lure of Plants vs. Zombies, but last week I parted with a sizeable chunk of change for the iPad version, and I have to say it's one of my favourite games so far on iPad.

Plants vs. Zombies is a perfect example of a game design term I recently stumbled on - namely "juice". Juice refers to those extra little design elements that make provoke emotions in the player - whether it's fun stuff, reactive things like sound effects, or just a good flow of new things. Plants vs. Zombie could have been a fairly simple and straight forward tower defence game, but instead it just captures your heart with massive amounts of charm and clever designs. Every new level in adventure mode brought something new and fun to the equation, and I can see myself playing survival mode for quite some time. The small sound effects, the hilarious animations, the notes from the zombies - it all adds up to a tremendous amount of juice.

Anyway, while there are lots of cheap/freemium entertainment on AppStore - sometimes it's well worth it to pay a little extra - and such was the case with Plants vs. Zombies.

Sim City Social...

Sim City Social...

Written by Benke on the 29th of June 2012 at 18:00

Yup, I admit it - I got started on Sim City Social on Facebook. Mainly cause I'm dying to play the proper full on Sim City (5) that's due out next year. I know it's not even remotely the same thing, but at least it's got a couple of words in common with that game.

EA have been successful in transforming The Sims into a casual/Facebook phenomenon, and in a way it's poetic justice that Sim City goes the Farmville/Cityville route. The lure of micro-transactions are there, but I don't think I'll ever spend money on this kind of casual experience. I'm happy to grind for a bit, bug my friends on Facebook (hey, if you don't like it, block the app!), and grow my city at a moderate pace.

The experience did get my even more excited about Sim City though and did little to negate my hunger for that game. I'm not sure you will want to be my neighbour in that game, however, as I'm likely to cause one or two "natural" disasters. But in Sim City Social, I play it nice... for the most part.