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Comment: Re:Apparently "backers" don't understand the term (Score 1) 468

by RogueyWon (#48411961) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

Shouldn't be the customer's problem. A big part of the root cause of the Kickstarter backlash is that it makes it into the customer's problem.

I know people who have taken entry-level development positions with large games developers. That's certainly one way to get experience. Yes, the pay, working hours and culture will probably suck, but that's the price you pay for wanting to work in an over-subscribed field. Any large developer will always be carrying a lot of people with little to no experience of games development - the things that suck which I just mentioned mean that this is a field with high turn-over. What matters is that there are experienced people in the right places.

In fact, given that the main skill that seems to be lacking in failed Kickstarter campaigns is project management, you could argue that relevant experience doesn't have to come from games development. Delivering (or at least making a major contribution to) any complex technical project within fixed time and budget constraints is good experience, regardless of field.

Launching a Kickstarter or Early Access for an implausible game design and taking people's money for a project that you then mismanage horribly and fail to deliver any product is not a viable business model. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think it is.

Comment: Re:Apparently "backers" don't understand the term (Score 5, Interesting) 468

by RogueyWon (#48409383) Attached to: Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player

You're right that "backers" need to realise that Kickstarter is not a pre-order mechanism. But developers also need to realise that turning to crowdfunding means, by necessity, a different kind of development model to a "traditional" game.

If this game was - as is more usual - being funded by a big publisher and Frontier decided that the offline mode wasn't working out, then that would be the cue for them to begin a negotiation with the publisher. The publisher might be fine with the change. It might not be. The publisher might want to change its funding committment. It might even want to walk away and leave the project looking for a new publisher. But at the end of the day, it's a commercial negotiation.

Now generally, when a game Kickstarter goes horribly wrong, the root cause is that the developer was a "two men and a dog" team with little to no experience of games development. That's not the case here; Frontier are an established studio with a long track record of delivering games (even if most of those games for the last decade-and-a-bit have been low-profile franchise tie-ins). But they're attempting to behave here as though the absence of a traditional publisher means that they have licence to do what they want without the usual accountability to backers. There's no possible world in which that is reasonable.

So it's no wonder backers are upset.

Comment: Ok, even giving them the benefit of the doubt (Score 5, Informative) 262

So let's give Ubisoft the benefit of the doubt for a moment. I'm not going to slate them for the fact that you need a top-end graphics card to get good performance with all the bells and whistles. I actually quite like to see developers showing a bit of ambition when it comes to pushing the envelope on PC graphics. Let's even assume that something went badly wrong in the AMD optimisation. It's not completely unknown for things to go wrong with a GPU manufacturer at the last moment - the PC version of Rage was a hideous mess on PCs with Nvidia cards when it released, because a driver update that was anticipated between the game going golden-master and hitting the shelves turned out not to be what the developer was expecting.

But even allowing for that, how does it explain the console versions being such a mess? There are detailed performance analysis reports out there showing frankly shocking levels of performance on both of the console platforms (Playstation 4 and Xbox One - no last-gen releases for this game). Both platforms fail to hold even a consistent 30 fps, with the Playstation 4 version (which in theory should be the better of the two, as the console does have a little bit more horsepower) having some truly shocking moments where the framerate dips into the teens.

If you're used to playing games on a PC, this might not sound too shocking. After all, unless you have a particularly old PC, you can almost always salvage a playable framerate by dropping your graphics quality. But that option isn't there on a console. For action oriented games on a console, a locked 60 fps rate is the "gold standard" and is becoming almost mandatory for twitch-shooters, precision driving games and other genres that rely on rapid response times. The popularity of the Call of Duty series, generally inexplicable to PC gamers, has largely been driven by the fact that the series has long adhered to the 60 fps standard on the consoles, meaning that it has felt tighter and more precise than its competitors.

But if you can't manage a locked 60 framerate, then the general consensus is that a locked 30 framerate is an acceptable fallback. It won't feel as precise, but it at least eliminates the disconcerting impact of framerate fluctuations (particularly unpleasant when you're playing on a controller). For a console action-game to fail to manage even a locked 30 fps is pretty shocking these days. For it to be dipping into the teens suggests either misguided design choices or terrible optimisation (or both).

Plus, yeah, the whole "falling through the floor" thing is happening on consoles as well as PC. The game's broken and it's not (entirely or chiefly) down to a particular brand of graphics card.

Comment: Re:Horrible, right? (Score 1) 473

Agree with you, until your final sentence. EA makes some utter crap. They also make some fantastic games. EA published Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2 and Dead Space, which were some of the finest games in recent memory. Dead Space, in particular, was a huge commercial risk and the kind of game that only a company with deep enough pockets to experiment would dare to take.

They also put out some utter crap, as well as their lazy annualised franchises and unfinished spunkgargleweewee like Battlefield 4. They also, at times, behave like complete shits in their attitude to their workforce and their willingness to push the boundaries on issues such as DRM and pay-to-win mechanics (though the latter seems to be dying now, thank god).

But they're a big company; big enough and containing enough people that trying to tar the whole thing with a single brush is a bit futile.

I think of EA as being a bit like the National Lottery we have here in the UK. Almost all of its players are from the lowest rungs of our social and educational ladders. And a fair proportion of the money it raises is used to subsidise the kind of "high art" (opera, theater, galleries) that struggles to be commercially viable on its own. So it's basically a tax on stupidity that funds some pretty great stuff as a by-product. Yeah... that's EA.

Comment: Re:No surprise (Score 4, Interesting) 473

In fairness, while they'll probably get away with it this time, recent history suggests that with major franchises, you can fool people once, but you pay the price on the next game. Some examples here:

Final Fantasy XIII: sold extremely well on the basis of hype and the brand. Was a terrible game in almost every respect. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a rather better game. Lightning Returns (the third installment) is actually a very good game. Both sold terribly, due to reputational damage from their predecessor.

Resident Evil 6: near-universally panned. Sold pretty well on the basis of a massive marketing campaign. Resident Evil releases since then have had a much better critical reception, but much lower sales.

Call of Duty: Ghosts: Its predecessor, Black Ops 2, was actually a pretty interesting game, integrating RTS elements and branching storylines. Ghosts was a lazy, by the numbers pile of spunkgargleweewee. Its sales weren't fantastic by Call of Duty standards, but were still insane. The latest installment, Advanced Warfare, is much better, but is the slowest selling installment in the franchise in years.

So if Ubisoft put out another Assassin's Creed next year, expect it to tank in sales terms, no matter how good it is.

Comment: Re:Don’t really get it (Score 4, Insightful) 473

There's certainly plenty of evidence by now to suggest that games with review embargoes tend to be poor, or at least not as good as they've been hyped as. Aliens: Colonial Marines was the big example from last year - review embargo until launch, then reviews mostly in the 4/10 to 6/10 range (with a fair few even lower). More recently, Destiny (critical consensus "fairly good but not even close to justifying the hype") and Driveclub (barely works, and underwhelming even when it does work) have been good examples.

By contrast, when a game is sent for review well in advance of release, the reception is usually much more positive. Recent examples include Bayonetta 2 (reviews 3 weeks early in some cases, near-universal praise), Alien: Isolation (America hates it, rest of the world loves it) and Dragon Age: Inquisition (not actually released yet, but reviews near universal in their praise).

The lack of pre-release reviews is generally a very strong indication in its own right that a game is not going to be good.

+ - Assassin's Creed: Unity launch debacle pulls spotlight onto game review embargoe->

Submitted by RogueyWon
RogueyWon (735973) writes "The latest entry in the long-running Assassin's Creed game series, Assassin's Creed: Unity released this week. Those looking for pre-release reviews on whether to make a purchase were out of luck; the publisher, Ubisoft, had provided gaming sites with advance copies, but only on condition that their reviews be withheld until 17 hours after the game released in North America. Following the game's release, many players have reported finding it in a highly buggy state, with severe performance issues affecting all three release platforms (PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One). Ubisoft has been forced onto the defensive, taking the unprecedented step of launching a live-blog covering their efforts at debugging the game, but the debacle has already had a large impact on the company's share value and the incident has drawn widespread attention to the increasingly common practice of review embargoes."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Boycott ASDA (Score 2) 165

by RogueyWon (#48210823) Attached to: U.K. Supermarkets Beta Test Full-Body 3D Scanners For Selfie Figurines

The two are hardly competing for the same market. Waitrose is aiming for the aspirational middle classes. Asda is... not.

If you have the kind of household budget which means you shop at Asda, then making the switch to Waitrose is probably not a realistic option.

Though on the few occasions I've eaten Asda food, their meat has had this weird texture, like it's already been digested once.

Comment: Re:Looks good (Score 2) 127

by RogueyWon (#48109747) Attached to: London Unveils New Driverless Subway Trains

That's how London Underground, as well as other highly congested services in London (Overground, DLR and, increasingly, some of the short-distance "heavy rail" commuter trains) are configured. Crowding levels during the morning peak are intense and removing seats is a way to cram more people on.

By and large, the way it works is that if you are commuting from one of the outer zones (5 or 6) into the center, your train won't be as busy when you get on it and you should be able to get one of those seats, which is lucky as with the Tube being a full-stopping service, you are in for a long journey. If you're commuting from one of the more central zones (2 or 3) you are much more likely to have to stand, but on the other hand, you do have a shorter journey.

Obviously, it works better on some parts of the network than others. And it's a fairly brutal environment to commute in, particularly if you have a particular reason (disability, pregnancy) that makes standing uncomfortable - somebody might offer you a seat, but it's the exception rather than the norm at rush hour. Personally, I think people who live in north London and commute via the Tube are mad. I'm south of the river in Zone 5 and get a seat on a nice, non-stop "heavy rail" train that gets me to the center in 20 minutes or so every morning.

Comment: Re:I've been wondering why this took so long (Score 5, Informative) 127

by RogueyWon (#48109715) Attached to: London Unveils New Driverless Subway Trains

London also has driverless trains on its (more recent) Docklands Light Railway.

The reason it's news when driverless trains head to the Tube is nothing to do with technology and everything to do with industrial relations. London's Tube Drivers are extremely militant - it's normal to have a couple of strikes per year (sometimes over "normal" industrial disputes like pay, sometimes because, I suspect, they just want to remind people they can do it).

The current Mayor, who has been in post for around 6 years now and who is, to put it mildly, no friend of the unions, has been making threats about automation on and off ever since he was first elected. It's a dangerous game to play, because even the mention of automation is sometimes enough to trigger strikes - you can get rid of the drivers eventually (though probably keeping - lower paid - train attendants), but they can cause you a hell of a lot of pain during the transition.

Comment: Re:Everyone should just say "interesting" (Score 4, Interesting) 295

by RogueyWon (#48089331) Attached to: NASA Study: Ocean Abyss Has Not Warmed

From an intellectual standpoint, I agree with you.

From a real-world standpoint, the problem of the political response in terms of adaptations and mitigations isn't going anywhere and means that almost nobody will do what you suggest. You may not care about the politics, but in practical terms, they are probably the most important thing. With a range of responses in the public debate from "do nothing" at one extreme to "throw away Western civilisation, start living in organic yurts spending our evenings knitting underwear out of hemp" at the other, there's a lot of emotion and political capital invested in this debate. It's only made worse by the number of people who have latched onto the issue as a means to push almost-entirely-unrelated political agendas, mostly far-left, but a few far-right as well.

So in practical terms, this report provides a touch of ammunition to the "do nothing" camp and has the potential to slide opinion slightly in their direction. But, as you say, this time tomorrow, the position may well be reversed and the "organic yurtists" may hold the advantage.

And the last thing either side is going to display is a touch of humility. Useful though that might be.

Comment: Professional vs User reviews (Score 4, Informative) 93

by RogueyWon (#48081103) Attached to: Fixing Steam's User Rating Charts

I've noticed one big difference between the "professional" reviews on major sites and user reviews on Steam/Amazon etc.

By and large, the professional game reviews tend to cluster their scores in the 6/10 - 8/10 range. You have to be exceptionally good to get above that level or exceptionally bad to fall below it. You also - in most cases - get relatively little variation between professional review scores. A game might be 8/10 on one site and 9/10 on another, but it is rare to see a gap larger than 2 or at most 3 points. It does happen - Alien Isolation has had professional reviews ranging from 4/10 to 10/10 - but generally only with unusual games that go outside the usual templates (like Alien Isolation).

User reviews on the other hand, tend to be much more polarised. It's by no means unusual for games to pick up 10/10s from some users and 1/10s for another. Personal biases are much more likely to feature in user reviews ("I'm giving this game a 1/10 because I don't like something the developer said on twitter" or "I'm giving this game a 10/10 because I've spent the last 2 years boring everybody rigid about how good it is going to be and don't want to backtrack"). Often, the scores tend to average out in more or less the same place as the professional reviews once you have enough of both, but with much more divergence on the user reviews.

So which is more useful?

By and large - and with some important caveats - I find the professional reviews more honest and useful. A lot of people complain about the clustering of scores in the 6/10 to 8/10 range, but the nature of the modern games industry (quite risk-averse, with a lot of project oversight) means that most commercially produced games tend to fall into that range. If you assume a 6/10 is "not great, but overall more good than bad" and an 8/10 is "high enjoyable but not ground-breaking", then you're left with a spectrum into which most major releases fit. The industry does throw out the occasional piece of brilliance - which is usually recognised. And sometimes, things go wrong and it throws out the odd turkey (Aliens: Colonial Marines being perhaps the most recent example). When those things happen, most of the big review sites do seem to reflect them.

But those caveats I mentioned before are important. The first is that at the end of the day, the people doing the professional reviews are still human and they still have their own biases, preconceptions and agendas. True, they have people watching them to make sure that they don't give free reign to those... but occasionally, those checks and balances fail. In fact, most of the big review sites have a few known quirks that you learn to watch for. Eurogamer, for instance (which despite the criticism I'm about to hand out, I do, in general, rate highly), has a real Nintendo-nostalgia fetish and a habit of over-scoring first party Nintendo games. At the same time, until fairly recently, it went through a phase of trying to shoehorn political correctness into its reviews and marking down a few games which committed real or perceived transgressions (though I've noticed less of this recently).

The next big caveat with professional reviews is around bugs. The big review sites are often given pre-release copies of games, so that the reviews can go live before release. Indeed, a lack of pre-release reviews is often an early sign that a game will be a turkey (again... Aliens: Colonial Marines had a review embargo until its release day). Thing is, sometimes those review copies are unfinished code. And sometimes they aren't. But regardless, there is a tendancy for professional reviewers to either ignore or to be instructed to ignore bugs, on the basis that "they'll be fixed for release". And, surprise surprise, they often aren't fixed for release. User reviews are often your first warning that a game is a buggy mess - though on PC you do have to try to separate out the inevitable complaints that pop up on every new release's forms to the effect that "it won't run on my 8 year old PC running a pirated and malware-infested copy of the Polish version of Windows 2000".

And the third caveat is, of course, around the risk that professional reviews might have a "bought and paid for" element to them. We all remember the Kane & Lynch scandal from a few years back and there have been other (less prominent) cases since then. Certainly, when you see a positive review for a site which is plastered with full-screen adverts for that game, it's natural to smell a rat.

But of course, in the age of astroturfing, you also have no guarantee that a user-review hasn't been posted by an employee of the developer/publisher or a marketing firm employed on their behalf.

Comment: Re:Ratings and Time Served (Score 1) 93

by RogueyWon (#48080995) Attached to: Fixing Steam's User Rating Charts

I'm not at my home PC right now, so I can't check, but I think this is one of those sim-games that gets annual-ish auto-updates for everybody who already bought it. If it's in any way related to Railworks, then it certainly is.

What occasionally happens in cases like that is that a version "upgrade" turns out to be a less than positive experience, as long-established features break or are removed. But Steam doesn't reset your "time played" count in those cases. So it's quite possible that these are people who have been playing the game for years and are complaining about the latest forced-update.

On the other hand, we're talking about rail enthusiasts here... so maybe it does just take 800 hours for them to start getting bored.

Comment: Re:Someone wanted an Xbox One at launch??? (Score 3, Informative) 67

by RogueyWon (#48046015) Attached to: How Hackers Accidentally Sold a Pre-Release XBox One To the FBI

Actually, lots of people wanted an Xbox One at launch. The XB1's sales curve has been really weird.

It had pretty great month-1 sales. It would have had the fastest month-1 sales of any console in history - if it hadn't launched alongside the PS4 (which broke the previous records by an even larger margin). But some time shortly after Christmas, the sales basically flatlined. First MS switched to talking about "units shipped" rather than "units sold" and then it stopped issuing new numbers at all.

By piecing together bits and pieces of retailer and regional sales data, it's possible to get a broad understanding of where the console stands now. Having originally been tipped to pass the Wii-U and take second-place in current gen sales somewhere around April, it appears that it probably only did so some time in September (and indeed, it certainly hasn't officially been announced yet, so there's at least an outside chance it's still in third). It's had several significant sales blips, driven first by the price cut when Kinnect was removed and then again by Destiny, but background sales outside of these blips have been generally very slow throughout 2014.

It's actually pretty similar to (though marginally better than) the sales profile for the Wii-U. That console actually sold well during its first 6 weeks or so on sale, before flatlining. Each first-party Nintendo game since then has caused a small 1-week spike in sales, but after Mario Kart, diminishing returns appear to be kicking in.

In regional terms, The Xbox One appears to be in a fairly solid second place in the US (behind the PS4), a distant second place in Europe (again behind the PS4) and third place in Japan. Indeed, the PS4 is also doing badly in Japan - home console gaming is dying in that market and even the Wii-U (which holds first place there) is doing badly compared to the last gen consoles.

The Xbox One does still have a few big irons in the fire and isn't quite in a Wii-U style Last Chance Saloon yet (if Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2 don't turn around the Wii-U's fortunes this Christmas, the console essentially can be considered dead). Forza Horizon 2 is a fairly big draw and Halo 5 will be a bigger one. But MS have certainly gone backwards since the days of the 360, when they dominated the US and managed a reasonable draw with Sony in Europe. In marketshare terms, the Xbox One looks a lot more like the original Xbox.

Though in general terms, this has been an extremely boring year for console games anyway. People get excited about new console releases, forgetting that they tend to be followed by 12 months during which there isn't much worth playing for them. It's always the later years of the cycle that are more fun in terms of game releases.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.