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Comment: Not in Valve's commercial interest (Score 4, Insightful) 214

by RogueyWon (#49292863) Attached to: Gabe Newell Understands Half-Life Fans, Not Promising Any Sequels

Valve has no commercial interest in making Half-Life 3. It's not that the game wouldn't be profitable. It almost certainly would be - lots of people would buy it. But it would risk the wider strategy they've been pursuing for a decade now.

Valve's income these days isn't from making and selling games; it's from charging other people to sell games via Steam. Seriously - you buy a game on Steam and a big slug of the price you pay goes straight to Valve. Sure, they have hosting costs, but there is a lot of pure profit in there.

Ever since Steam started to be a big thing, Valve has focussed on more niche games rather than big-budget fpses. It does not want to be seen as threatening or a rival to its biggest business partners. EA have already taken their toys and gone home to Origin; Valve's dominance of the PC gaming market relies on keeping Activision, Ubisoft and others on board.

And a big part of that is not being seen as a competitor. If Activision wants to pay Valve a lot of money to plaster the Steam front-page with a huge Call of Duty advert, then that's good for Valve. But Activision might get nervous if they worried that the platform they were using was run by a company that was actively pushing a game in competition with theirs.

Over in console-land, Sony and Microsoft's first party exclusives are generally put out there to sell consoles (not always a profitable activity in itself). They build up the installed base to get the third parties interested. The only platform-owner to really emphasise first-party games development is Nintendo, who, surprise surprise, have terrible third-party relationships.

Far easier for Valve to allow other people to put the effort in to making money for them, rather than take the risk of investing in games development to make direct income from sales. Particularly now that Steam is so ubiquitous as a platform that it doesn't need first-party games to grow the installed base.

Comment: My casualty list... (Score 1) 307

One CPU (an AMD Thunderbird 900 which developed severe over-sensitivity to heat).

One graphics card (an Nvidia 7950GX2 - bleeding edge cards have a reputation for early-deaths).

One power supply.

Several CD-ROM drives (though my very first one is nigh-indestructible - a 2x speed drive from 1995 which still works, still sits in a PC in my parents' house and is still used occasionally to recover data from very old CD-Rs that, for some reason, it can read while modern drives just shrug).

And more hard drives than I care to think about. A steady drip-drip of them over the years, with a big spike due to Seagate Barracudas over the last 3 years.

In games console-land, I've had the following die on me: 1x Gamecube (optical drive stopped working after 9 months), 1x Xbox 360 (RROD after 3 years), 1x PS3 (YLOD after 6 years), 2x Wiis (one with a dodgy optical drive after 2 years, the second dead on arrival).

Comment: And when the "default" is the preferred option? (Score 2, Interesting) 127

by RogueyWon (#49274339) Attached to: Analysis: People Who Use Firefox Or Chrome Make Better Employees

Well... up to a point. I can follow the logical connection that would suggest that people who act as informed consumers are likely to make better employees.

However, I've recently switched back to Internet Explorer after more than a decade with Firefox and a short experiment with Chrome. I did so because I find that comparing across the latest versions of all three, IE was my favourite in terms of performance and user-experience. So I made a reasonably informed decision to use it.

Making practical use of data like this would be more justifiable if there was a clear case that the "default" option was inferior (which in fairness, IE has sometimes been previously).

Comment: Re:forget the gameplay! (Score 1) 81

by RogueyWon (#49252757) Attached to: Rendering a Frame of <em>Deus Ex: Human Revolution</em>

No, but I just looked at its Steam page and it looks like yet another pseudo-8-bit sprite art game. Local multiplayer oriented... no singleplayer to speak of and, looking at the trailer, nothing particular gripping about the concept either. Not interested.

I'll stick to Farcry 4 and Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters for now, until Bloodborne comes out in a couple of weeks.

Comment: Re:forget the gameplay! (Score 1) 81

by RogueyWon (#49251449) Attached to: Rendering a Frame of <em>Deus Ex: Human Revolution</em>

And yet... I have had masses of fun over the last 6 months with Farcry 4, Dragon Age 3, Alien Isolation and Forza Horizon 2. Big, AAA technical-powerhouse games. And all of them more enjoyable than anything I've seen come out of the indie-sector.

It is a commonly-held myth - but a myth nonetheless - that good graphics and good gameplay are mutually exclusive.

Comment: Re:forget the gameplay! (Score 4, Interesting) 81

by RogueyWon (#49248351) Attached to: Rendering a Frame of <em>Deus Ex: Human Revolution</em>

I'd have more sympathy with you if the new-releases list on Steam these days wasn't completely buried by "retro 8-bit style" indie roguelikes which look dreadful and usually play that way as well.

These days, I've gone beyond "it's not the graphics that matter, it's the gameplay" to "they both matter, seriously". The former has become a go-to excuse for lazy development.

Comment: Re:Redolent of the past. (Score 5, Interesting) 192

by RogueyWon (#49233715) Attached to: Steam On Linux Now Has Over a Thousand Games Available

Exclusivity bribes are on the wane even in console gaming land. Modern development costs means that the size of the bribe needed to provide the game's publisher with confidence it can still turn a profit despite locking out part of the market is getting ludicrous. If a developer/publisher expects that a platform will generate enough sales to be worth the porting costs, the general rule these days is that they will do the port.

Valve is notoriously secretive about its sales figures, but it's increasingly clear that the Steam platform is a direct and significant competitor to Sony's Playstation platforms and, more crucially, Microsoft's Xbox platforms.

Valve are not in a happy commercial place for so long as they are dependant upon their platform sitting on top of one of their competitors' products. They had a bad scare with the Windows 8 app store (though it turned out to be essentially a false alarm on this occasion). So it's entirely unsurprising that they are encouraging alternatives to Windows.

Comment: Re: Does resolution matter? (Score 2) 225

by RogueyWon (#49215379) Attached to: Another Upscaled Console Game: Battlefield Hardline

Platform-exclusives tend to happen for one of three reasons:

1) The platform owner has funded the development of the game, or paid the publisher a large amount of money for exclusivity.

2) The developer/publisher only expects development for one platform to be profitable and considers that investment in porting would be wasted expenditure.

3) There are particular hardware features of one platform, such as mouse/keyboard on the PC, or the Wiimote on the Wii/Wii-U, which the game has been specifically designed to use and which can't be replicated on another platform.

All three of these reasons are becoming less common over time.

In the case of 1), it's not that the platform owners wouldn't like to fund more exclusives, but that it's become more expensive to do so. Development costs for an AAA game are now are many, many times what they were back in the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation. First-party games often function as loss-leaders (or at least, mediocre investments) anyway - they get the console's installed base up to attract the third parties, whose licensing fees are where the profit really lies for the console manufacturer.

Back in the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation, reason 2) used to be very common. The installed base of the PS2 was completely out of proportion with that of its competition. With all three consoles having quite different architecture, cross-platform development was a pain. For a lot of mid-ranking developers, releasing only for the PS2 would make a lot of sense; even with a multiplatform release, 90% of their sales would come from that platform.

No console since then has matched the PS2's dominance. The Wii got an early lead last time in installed base terms, but its attach rate ended up miserable, particularly for third party games. The 360 and the PS3 tended to level-peg on installed base and attach rare, albeit with some regional variations.

And reason 3)? There are still a handful of PC exclusives - complex strategy games and simulators - which wouldn't work without a mouse and keyboard. But those aren't all that common these days. As for developing around motion-controllers on the consoles - too many developers got burned on the Wii and Kinect for anybody to have any enthusiasm for that any more.

Comment: Re:Some people shouldn't be allowed on the interne (Score 1) 367

by RogueyWon (#49215055) Attached to: Yik Yak Raises Controversy On College Campuses

I once ended up in the same room as a pair of people who had been sending me death threats over the net. It was amazing.

This is back in 2002, when I was the head admin of a major UK-based Counter-Strike league (Barrysworld, for those with long memories of the UK online gaming scene). This is a good way to make enemies - you can never manage something like that without upsetting people and the Counter-Strike community (back then at least) had more than its fair share of immature pricks.

Anyway, there's one particular clan in the league which, towards the end of my first season in charge, is picking up a real reputation for hurling quite nasty abuse at their opponents before, during and after games. After one of my admins passes me screenshots showing some really nasty stuff in-game (vitriolic racist abuse) during their latest match, I throw them out of the league.

This does not sit well with them, particularly as they were in with a shot of winning their divison at the time. There's the inevitable IRC explosion, resulting in a series of quick channel-bans. Then the private messages and e-mails start up. Two of their members do not want to let this drop and, for the next month or so, I get a string of abuse from them. It starts with insults, but when those don't get a response from me, ramps up to threats. They're going to do unspeakable things to me, to my parents, my grandparents, my dog (I don't have a dog, but hey) and so on. And... I ignore it. Actually, no, I have a good laugh at some of it (it's very much in the camp of "a 16 year old's idea of what scary sounds like).

And then I go with my own clan to a big LAN party - one with a whole UK-profile, in a major venue, split over three days. And I meet up there with some of the other people involved in the league. And one of them mentions to me that my two little stalkers are both present at the event.

So I go over. And I introduce myself. And I am lovely and polite. I smile lots. And I remind them, in a "ha ha, isn't this all funny" manner of some of the things they've been saying to me.

I am not physically imposing in any way. Tall, yes. But kinda scrawny as well. I don't think I'd have a clue how to even go about making myself look intimidating. But I've never seen two people look so scared in my life. I think it was just the acute social discomfort I was causing rather than any kind of menace.

It was utterly hilarious. Never heard a squeak from either of them ever again.

Comment: Re: Does resolution matter? (Score 2) 225

by RogueyWon (#49214027) Attached to: Another Upscaled Console Game: Battlefield Hardline

Whereas in reality, the differences between the PS4 and Xbox-One (and their respective software lineups) are vanishingly small. The PS4 generally offers a marginal performance benefit. The Xbox-One has marginally better multimedia functionality (though still not as good as the old PS3). But you're really down to splitting hairs here and only pedants or perfectionists will ever notice the difference.

And on the games/franchises front? Exclusives are fewer and further between than ever and the PS/Xbox franchises largely parallel each other. Gran Turismo vs Forza. Killzone vs Gears of War. To be honest, I don't think any of the current gen consoles has a "must have" exclusive yet. Bloodborne (released later this month) might manage to become the first - but the nature of the industry these days is that cross-platform games get most of the effort and attention.

There's really very little to choose between the two machines. Rational decision making factors right now might include price, which platform your friends game on and possibly the future promise of a particular must-have exclusive. Everything else comes down to marketing messages.

Comment: Does resolution matter? (Score 3, Insightful) 225

by RogueyWon (#49213513) Attached to: Another Upscaled Console Game: Battlefield Hardline

There was some Nielsen market-research data published recently on why current-generation console owners had published the console they had. For PS4 owners, the answer was "better resolution", for Xbox One owners it was "brand" and for the Wii-U it was "fun-factor". There's been a lot written about this data since it was published.

But what I suspect is that it tells us very little about either the consoles themselves. Rather, it tells us a lot about the self-image of the people who buy them. So the PS4 fans are the ones who want to be able to point at the bigger numbers. The Xbox-One fans are the ones who honestly do care about brand (and given this is US survey data, "buy American" is probably a big part of it). And Wii-U fans have a strange obsession that they have some kind of monopoly on fun. Watch the fanboy-wars on any gaming forum of your choice (and they are more vicious this generation than I've ever seen them before) and you will find that each of those stereotypes holds up remarkably well.

And does resolution actually matter hugely? I'm unconvinced. If I want technical perfection (and sometimes I do), I'm playing on a PC anyway. Some of my favourite console games of the last generation were a technical mess.

I would argue that framerate matters more for certain genres. For anything requiring fast reactions and/or fine control, such as a shooter, high-end driving game or fighting game, a steady 60fps translates into a huge increase in responsiveness.

I think it's generally accepted now that in performance terms, the new console hardware has disappointed; promises of 1080p x 60fps haven't materialised. Given the constraints of a fixed hardware platform, I'd rather developers drop resolution or image quality in return for a higher/steadier framerate.

Comment: Re:Musashi (Score 4, Insightful) 114

It's likely not an issue of finding the bits of metal. As you say, the water isn't particularly deep. It's more a question of identification.

A lot of ships were sunk at Leyte Gulf, as well as general merchantman losses in the area during WW2. Remember that when these ships sink, they don't tend to go down in one neat piece. In particular, with warships like Musashi, it's quite common for one or more of the magazines to blow before the ship sinks. That creates a huge explosion and tends to break the wreck into a lot of small pieces.

Conclusively identifying which piece belongs to which ship has probably required the bulk of the effort here.

Comment: Fascinating ship (Score 5, Informative) 114

Ah... the Yamato-class. Largest battleships ever built, but largely obsolete before they ever went out to sea.

For those unfamiliar with the history of the class, the Yamato-class vessels were Japan's final generation of large battleships, which entered service from 1941 onwards. Their 18-inch guns were the largest to be mounted on any battleship during WW2. Four ships were commissioned, but only two - Yamato and Musashi - were completed as battleships. A third, the Shinano, was converted into a carrier, while the fourth was cancelled.

The two ships that were completed as battleships (Yamato in particular) were of immense symbolic value in Japan during WW2. In addition to this, they consumed vast quantities of fuel and required specialised ammunition that was rarely available in sufficient quantities. For the above reasons, both Yamato and Musashi were held back from the major Pacific Theatre battles until late 1944 (by which time it was probably too late for them to have any impact anyway).

They were, in essence, the best WW1 warships ever made... except that they were deployed during WW2. The age of the dreadnought-style battleship was on its way out by this point and the era of aircraft carrier dominance had begun. Even if Musashi and Yamato had been deployed for key battles such as Midway and Guadalcanal, it's unlilkely they would have made much difference.

But they are, nevertheless, spectacular ships. In visual terms, they epitomize the classic battleship profile - long, low and dangerous, with very large guns. Their symbolic value has lasted long beyond the war; the Yamato remains something of a national symbol (albeit a controversial one, with links to the far-right) in Japan and has lived on in popular culture through the sci-fi franchise Space Battleship Yamato (adapted as Starblazers in the US).

And as for the specifics of this story; there's not much detail given, but I suspect that the challenge was not so much finding the wreck as conclusively identifying it. There are no shortage of Japanese WW2 wrecks in that part of the Pacific; the problem is sorting out which is which in the face of scant records.

Comment: Re:Won't make it to 50 (Score 3, Interesting) 64

by RogueyWon (#49169707) Attached to: Games Workshop At 40: How They Brought D&amp;D To Britain

It's also been hilarious to watch their long-term relationship with the video games industry. They worked out ages ago that there's money to be made from video games and that they'd like some of it. But how they've gone about it defies belief.

Because the problem is that if the video games are too good, they might make people feel that they don't need the miniatures. So their history with the video-gaming industry is mostly one of third-party titles that were deliberately specced to be mediocre, a horribly misguided cockteasing of Blizzard (whose long term commercial consequences for Games Workshop almost stand up there with those for Nintendo after they played too hard with Sony over the SNES-CD) and... the Relic games (the Dawn of War series, plus Space Marine), which were actually dangerously good.

Since Relic folded, it's clear that GW aren't going to let anybody else that talented near the cash-cow WH40k franchise - all that's produced these days are mobile-style deliberately-inferior ports of GW's oldest board-games.

The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent. -- Sagan