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Comment No good-guys here (Score 2) 299

Really, nobody comes out of this one looking particularly well.

No Man's Sky is a mediocre, so-so-ish game. If it had been a $25 indie title that slipped out quietly, it would probably have had a pretty decent reception. But it was hyped, by a developer who appears to want to be the second coming of late-career Peter Molyneux, to be a game that was both fundamentally different to and better than the game that was actually released.

But the people asking for refunds after putting a serious amount of time into the game are also kinda jerks. Digital-purchase refunds have come on a long way in the last couple of years. Weirdly, we have EA to thank for this, as they were the first major party to take the plunge on it, via Origin (hey, credit where it's due). But refund policies set sensible limits. If you've put double-digit hours into a game before deciding you want a refund, you are probably doing something wrong. What's more, the gap between expectations and reality with No Man's Sky was widely known within 24 hours of release. If you got stung because you pre-ordered... then for the love of all that is holy, stop pre-ordering.

And a special de-merit here for much of the gaming media. Quite a few outlets have put more time into defending Hello Games, because gamers are angry with them (boo! hiss! angry gamers! they must all be sexists!) than they have taking them to task for some seriously deceptive marketing.

I did buy it myself. A week or so after launch (so I knew full well what it was like), I managed to get a fairly cheap PC code via At the greatly discounted price I paid, the game is more or less worth the money. I put 12 hours or so into it before I got bored and moved on. Mods might add some value to it in time. But I don't feel the need for a refund.

Comment Yes, for now... (Score 4, Interesting) 376

I have a BD-RE drive in my home desktop. It doesn't get much use, to be honest, but I'm not quite ready to make the jump away from having an optical drive just yet.

I've got a bunch of old backups still on optical discs; everything from CD-Rs to Blu-Rays. Admittedly, this is only low priority "nice to have" stuff. Anything it would actually hurt me if I lost (which is only a couple of hundred megs of data when I get right down to it) is backed up by other, more reliable methods.

I do still have a handful of games on disc that I never bought . Some of these I'm clearly never going to play again and could easily throw out, but there are a couple, such as Warcraft 3, that I'd still like the option to play from time to time.

I will (very occasionally) watch a DVD or Blu-Ray movie on my PC rather than TV. This is particularly true in the summer months; my living room, where the TV lives, can get brutally hot, while my study, where the desktop lives, is cool and shady.

In addition to the above, while boot-from-USB is a lot more reliable than it used to be, I've still had more issues with it than boot-from-optical-disc. So I still like to have an optical drive for those occasions when I need to boot from external media.

Comment Re:Disgaea? (Score 2) 123

The general trend is accelerating. Small and medium sized Japanese developers are increasingly seeing Steam as a core part of their strategy (and the bigger ones that have held out are starting to crumble on the issue). Nippon Ichi and Compile Heart increasingly release PC ports of their games a month or two after the console version (and the gap is shrinking). Sega are busily porting their back-catalogue to PC.

I think the driver is that these companies are increasingly struggling to sell to a global audience via traditional physical disk channels. They tend to work on the basis of a relatively small but highly loyal customer base, which is fine so far as it goes, but doesn't help in a world of escalating development and distribution costs. For a while, they went for an increasingly Japan-only strategy (and fewer of their games came out in the West), but that's not going to be viable in the long term, with Japan's stagnant economy and birth-rates.

Steam is a relatively cheap and easy way for them to get access to a global market. The cynic in me also suspects that Valve's (much) lower certification requirements compared to MS/Sony/Nintendo and the PC community's general willingness to fix shoddy ports might help, as it cuts down on QA costs.

Comment Re:Surprised? (Score 1) 140

It is very, very rare that companies would grant permission in cases like this, and particularly in cases where the brand is still actively used. Moreover, it is rare for a good reason.

Pokémon is a hugely valuable franchise for Nintendo. Really, these days, with Mario and Zelda having lost a bit of their mass-appeal (neither could turn around the Wii-U's fortunes), Pokémon has become the jewel in Nintendo's crown (even if it's technically The Pokémon Company that owns the licence). Nintendo therefore wants to exercise extreme levels of control over everything that goes out under the Pokémon brand. Moreover, as Pokémon is a system-seller for its handheld platforms, it wants to tightly control the availability of Pokémon games.

Nintendo cannot exercise that level of control over fan-made games and said games tend to be on the "wrong" platform. If the Pokémon Uranium guys went to Nintendo for permission and they said "yes", then even if they did some kind of revenue-deal, they would still be risking damage to their brand and diluting the fanbase. They don't worry about dodgy fanart because nobody is ever going to mistake that for an official product. But a game that could be mistaken for an official game, or act as a competitor to one? Of course they care.

I don't much like Nintendo as a company. I think they use their underdog status to get away with all kinds of anti-consumer crap (region locking etc) that the rest of the industry has ditched. But in this case, they are absolutely, 100% in the right.

Comment Re:Surprised? (Score 1) 140

A remake of Metroid 2 is not needed. You might want one, but it's not needed. The original game still exists and is still playable (and is, I believe, legally available on Nintendo platforms via the Virtual Console).

If you want "a modern game that is a lot like Metroid 2", then there are any number of indie game projects that fit that bill on Steam. Some of them are terrible, others are basically more or less as good as the old Metroid games (though they lack the official licence or the nostalgia value). The thing is that while those games are inspired by Metroid and often say as much in their blurb text, they do not call themselves Metroid or use Metroid assets. Hence they do not get shut down.

To be honest, if you are considering making a game based on an existing IP, you should ask yourself three questions first:

1) Is the IP in the public domain?
2) Do you hold the rights to the IP?
3) Has the rights-holder granted you permission to use the IP?

If the answer to any one of the questions above is "yes", then knock yourself out. Otherwise, don't bother wasting your time.

Comment The phones model (Score 4, Interesting) 264

I think I see what MS is trying to do here. My guess is that they want something that looks more like the mobile phone model for consoles. Which is to say, rather than the "hard" generational breaks you get with the traditional console cycle, where every 5-8 years a new console comes along and renders the old one obsolete, they instead want new hardware every 2 years or so (at a guess), which emphasises evolution rather than revolution.

What I also suspect is that they're planning a kind of limited back/forward compatibility system for games. They've repeatedly said that Scorpio will not get exclusives. A lot of people are suspicious of this, but I actually believe what they've said. That said, I still think they're being disingenuous. Their next step will likely be another console iteration maybe 2 years after Scorpio (2019), let's call it Sagittarius, whose titles will be playable on Scorpio hardware, albeit with lower performance, but not on the current XB1. The eventual successor to Sagittarius (2021) will share compatibility with that console, but not with Scorpio - and so on. So Scorpio will technically never have exclusives.

That said, this is still a risky proposition. By and large, console gamers like the fairly long console cycle. They're usually on a tighter budget than PC gamers and being able to get away with very infrequent hardware changes is a plus.

Moreover, what this plan (if it is indeed their plan) would do is eliminate the mid/late part of the traditional console cycle. That's not necessarily a good thing. For gamers, the early part of the cycle is usually a pretty dire time. Early adopters tend to get a mixture of thin technological showcases and sloppy, hurried ports of games originally developed for the previous generation. There are very, very few classic console games that were early-cycle releases, from the mid-90s onwards. In the mid/late cycle, developers are comfortable with the hardware and the focus shifts more onto the actual games.

The mid/late cycle is also traditionally a good time for the console manufacturer. Launch windows are awful. They're risky and they need a lot of upfront investment (in hardware development, games development, support for third parties and marketing) that can be hard to recoup quickly. By contrast, in the mid/late cycle, the real cash cow, which is to say the third-party licensing fees (which are, I cannot emphasise enough, where the real money is in the industry) are flowing in nicely. Admittedly, in the 360/PS3 generation, the late-cycle was allowed to go on too long and gamers lost interest, but that was more down to tactics than industry structure.

So in some respects, this looks a bit of a self-destructive strategy. However, I think the industry has painted itself into a corner in this generation. For the first time I can remember, the real battleground between the main rivals was not their exclusive games franchises, but on multiplatform performance. With modern development costs, platform manufacturers can no longer afford to fund the same number or quality of outright exclusives. Instead, the PR battle was fought on technical specs; Sony annihilated MS when the PS4 and XB1 launched because the PS4 had some nominal performance advantages that were hard to even perceive for most gamers, but which made great marketing.

So the industry has locked itself into a battle of technical one-upsmanship. Worse, it's done so at a time when PC gaming is seriously resurgent. Trying to get into a tech-specs battle with the PC gaming scene is an unwinnable fight. So now, if Sony and MS don't want to lose a fight on the ground they themselves have chosen, they need to keep iterating the hardware to remain competitive.

Comment Re:No duh (Score 2) 100

10-15 years ago, you'd have been correct. These days, however, "online gaming" is often just going to mean "Call of Duty via Xbox Live" and the cost barriers-to-entry are very low indeed (and the console may well be acting as a substitute-parent).

The snarky part of me wonders whether the correlation isn't in fact between academic performance and "not playing many traditional sports".

Comment Re:Why online? (Score 1) 100

I confess there was a line in the article that struck me as particularly odd:

"When you play online games you're solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you've been taught during the day."

There are relatively few online games which involve "solving puzzles to move to the next level". I can think of a handful; Portal 2, for instance. But games which emphasise traditional problem-solving skills tend to be offline and singleplayer focussed, for the most part. Online games can emphasise other kinds of problem-solving skills; the average game of Overwatch requires any number of small-scale decisions to "solve" the problem of the opposing team. But that doesn't seem to be what TFA is talking about.

Does it matter? Kind of, yes. If this was a "video games make teens into killers" piece, then evidence that the study author didn't know much about games would be relevant. Just because this is a "positive" piece about games doesn't mean that similar considerations don't apply.

Comment Re:What's the driver for upgrading? (Score 1) 472

That's not quite what we're talking about here.

It's one thing to buy a computer which is reasonable at the time and still be using it 4-5 years later because it is still perfectly fine for your needs. That's a sensible thing to do.

It's another thing entirely to pay new-computer prices for a new PC whose hardware is basically 4 years old. That's a borderline insane thing to do. You can get a lot of longevity out of modern computer hardware, but you can't stave off obsolescence forever and starting from a point 4 years behind the curve is not wise.

Comment Re:How do you take a turn? (Score 1) 176

My main worry about the concept is in the response it might provoke from drivers. I know that here in the UK, we have regulations regarding the proximity of busy roads to the ends of runways, not particularly because of any risk of aircraft hitting road vehicles, but rather primarily because of the "flinch" reaction that the sudden appearance of a very low aircraft overhead might produce in drivers.

Humans tend to reach to the sudden appearance of large things immediately above their heads. Even a momentary flinch-reaction from drivers can be dangerous for other traffic.

I'm not saying that this concept can't work, but rather that I would have hoped there would be fairly extensive off-road testing of it before deploying it in a "live" situation.

Comment Re:Crysis (Score 1) 35

You're right, but the irony is the Crysis's relatively poor optimisation means that it still doesn't really run at the levels you might expect even on new hardware. And Crysis 3, of course, is only just now starting to be edged out as a go-to game for benchmarking (the current favoured games for that role seem to be The Witcher 3, Ashes of the Singularity and Assassin's Creed: Unity/Syndicate).

Comment Re:It happened to me (Score 1) 347

Tools are an area where this seems to be a real problem. Another I've noticed is razor blades. I bought some Gillette Fusion blades last year which turned out to be very, very dodgy counterfeits, with obviously-fake packaging and blades that were downright dangerous to use.

This isn't just about shoes.

Comment Re:Who? (Score 3, Interesting) 153

Could be worse, they could have been bought out by a Chinese chicken-supplier.

Softbank may not be well known to the Western public, but it is at least an institution with a genuine track-record and a long-standing interest in the tech sector. Some of these Chinese acquisitions recently feel like attempts to manipulate China's tax or criminal codes and I worry for the future of the companies which have been acquired.

Comment Re:Wow, the UK is even more screwed up than the US (Score 2) 238

The UK has a tradition going back decades of deciding major constitutional issues via referendum. Political parties are traditionally nervous about making major constitutional change part of their manifesto, because of the potential for this to overshadow a General Election. Moreover, there would be doubts about whether a party that was elected on such a manifesto really had a mandate to take through the changes, as elections are fought across a wide policy spectrum and some of their voters may not have supported the specific change in question.

So basically, when there is an issue that fundamentally changes "the rules of the game" as it were, we usually have a referendum. We had one on remaining in the European Common Market in 1975 (having entered it two years earlier). More recently, we have had votes within the last five years on whether to change our voting system and, for Scotland only, on whether Scotland should leave the UK. Both of those came down in favour of the status quo.

Arguably, the Governments of the day should have held votes on the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, as both had significant consequences for how the UK is governed. As somebody who voted "Remain" in the most recent referendum but who held his nose while he did so, I like to think that this would have given the UK population the chance to put the brakes on European integration without actually leaving the whole circus. But both treaties needed to be passed under weak Prime Ministers (Major and Brown respectively), who were too afraid of any challenge to their position to allow for something that could have undermined them.

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