Nobody likes the Nintendo Switch Online Service, so why do journos keep recommending it?

I’m not the type of person to rant about “ethics in game journalism” but it’s hard to avoid that the field is uncomfortably cosy with the industry, even compared to other types of enthusiast press. Most problems come down to an understandable bias; games journalists like games, and like their jobs. Nobody gets into playing, or writing about games, just to spend all day ripping things apart. Then there’s a professional bubble, in which buying, reviewing, and playing games for a living can create a disconnect from an ordinary consumer.  However, compared to other enthusiast press like home audio or photography, you’re less likely to find a thorough conversation about value in the gaming press.

The industry, and the press, have long recognised and benefitted from cultivating gaming as an identity, far beyond just a hobby, and while this came back to bite everyone on the ass with Gamergate, there are legitimate ethical implications in building a press that exists predominantly to enable and further PR hype. While journalists are often excellent at keeping the ad-men out of the room when reviewing the games themselves, wider industry practice is too often accepted uncritically. This is why I’ve found the coverage of Nintendo’s new Online Service to be so concerning.

Switch Online Logo

Paid online for consoles isn’t new. Microsoft made in mainstream on the original Xbox in 2002, with Sony joining two generations later for Playstation 4. Locking online play behind a paywall has always been a controversial choice, but a lucrative money spinner. Over the years Sony and Microsoft have eased the discomfort of the paywall by adding free games into the mix, with occasional new titles among old classics, or hidden gems that didn’t sell that well the first time around. While the Nintendo Switch has been working for over a year without a paid online service, as of this week, playing online on Switch requires a membership also.

Nintendo enters a market where its competitors were already seen as opportunistic but tolerable, with a lacklustre and lazy offering that nobody seems to actually like. This isn’t just my opinion; most reviewers covering the service express disappointment with its offered features, and frustration at their implementation.

So why are they recommending it?

Nintendo Switch Online Pricing

Let’s take just one of the most controversial aspects of the service, cloud saves. (Though, I would like to add, please read these reviews, and other coverage for yourself. The response has been similarly glum for the whole package.) Without paying Nintendo, the Switch has no way to back up save data. Coughing up cash unlocks cloud saves for some games, and if your  subscription lapses those saves are immediately deleted. Bye-Bye Breath of the Wild shrines.

As you can imagine, this didn’t go down too well. The Metro describes this as “rubbing salt in the wound”, or put most evocatively by Tom’s Guide which stated;

“Saving to the cloud is certainly a major highlight of this service, but it really shouldn’t be. Nintendo is basically kidnapping your cloud saves and asking for ransom money in order to bring them back home safely. Keep in mind that this is also the case if you own a microSD card, as you still cannot back up data to that. And what’s worse is that the company is going to ask for that money every subscription cycle, and if you don’t pay up, your saves are as good as dead.”

Seems equivocal, right? I’d recommend reading the Tom’s Guide review, by the way, which is damning in its criticism of almost every aspect of the service, and then ends like this.

“Despite my burning complaints, Nintendo Switch Online is absolutely worth the $20 per year. Even if you don’t plan to play online, the ability to back up your data is incredibly important to your well-being. I’m not taking the chance that my Switch or game cartridge will drop dead one day, erasing all 160 hours of gameplay on my Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild save. Plus, the opportunity to play classic NES is quite appealing.

What Switch Online really has going for it right now is its price, as $20 for a year is a third of the price that competitors charge. Although it offers only a third of the content as competitors do right now, that may change once Nintendo works out the kinks.”

Nintendo Switch Online Free NES games

This is a common conclusion, overall a feeling a disappointment and a forced hand, but a recommendation because *shrug* waddayagunnado. And the only justification for this seems to be that Nintendo is pricing their service cheaper. In fact, not one review I read could come up with a better reason for jumping into the Switch’s online service beyond “the Switch REALLY needs a save backup system and this is the only way to get one” and “it costs less than Microsoft or Sony.”

And worse than that, are the outlets that are silent on the quality of the service almost entirely, saving their only coverage for drooling over the exclusive (and pricey) NES joy-cons, or showing gameplay of the virtual console titles. For these sites, the existence of Nintendo’s service means nothing except new content to produce.  

I think this is a problem.

What Nintendo has introduced here is a bad product. Nobody wants to buy it, none of the reviews I can find seem to express any genuine enthusiasm for it, and the only feature is offers that didn’t exist in Switch already, most people feel should exist in some form for free. This is all made worse by the fact that it has launched a year into the console’s life cycle meaning the entire service is based on taking things away, not adding to them.

The value of the service can not, and should not be assessed based on its relative price to Xbox Gold or Playstation Plus, it needs to be assessed on its own value, what it offers to Switch owners and Nintendo customers who are not, necessarily, Sony or Microsoft’s customers. It needs to be assessed without entering the presupposition that this service needs to exist, will exist, and that we are all inevitable its customers.

This is not an unavoidable problem. The PC gaming market reviews, and criticises intrusive DRM decisions, the Home Video press has been critical, over the years, of over abundant streaming services, poorly implemented digital copy services, or controversial advertising schemes in blu-ray players. Games don’t need to just be a platform for free marketing, they can take a stand, this might be the time to do it. I’m not suggesting all journos down tools and refuse to cover multiplayer Nintendo titles, but going forward, perhaps more critical assessment of the service’s value, and wether or not individual games justify the monthly cost. Anything other than the fatalistic coverage that sees Nintendo’s service as a done deal we just have to get used to.

We are faced with a problem now, while the gaming press is comfortable criticising games it will not extend its critical faculties to wider industry practices, and Nintendo is benefitting from a widespread decision to treat their online service as if it is an inevitability. This is bad for consumers, bad for the press, and if the Nintendo Switch Online Service ends up being as unpopular with customers as it seems to be for journalists, probably quite bad for Nintendo.

A Few More Tweaks to the Game

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ve probably seen the little game I’ve been making in Clickteam Fusion. I’ve been taking it in baby steps, from a very basic time-survival game with some sprite centring issues, to a more entertaining little piece where enemies actually give chase and keep the player moving.

Here are the latest tweaks:

The changes this time include a few minor things like fixing that sprite issue, and altering a few speeds and sound effects. A test animation for the sword attack was made but not enabled due to issues getting the attack conditions to execute properly. There are a couple of bigger changes though; first, I’ve added larger, slower blobs, created when two smaller units collide. This adds a little bit of variety and surprise to longer games that keeps it interesting. Second, I’ve added randomly spawning hearts that give the player a life. This theoretically lets games go for longer, as well as giving you the option to play more strategically. Sacrificing a life to clear a path. Probably the most obvious change, however, is that I added some very basic floor and walls graphics so it wasn’t just white space.

I’m iterating right now, adding little features one at a time, and rebalancing as I go, but I think it’s a good idea to have a target “finished state” in mind. It’s a first project and I don’t want to get in the habit of iterating it forever. I’ll learn more getting the game to good state and then moving on to a new project. With that in mind, the ultimate goal is to include a basic attack for the character, replace all the stand-in art with nicer, animated sprites, and clear up a couple of the more fiddly issues like enemies spawning on top of each other and getting stuck there. Once that’s all complete, I’m going to stick on a title screen and a better looking high score table and declare that version 1.0!

And as usual, if you want to try version 0.3, here’s a link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ollkvdwjitu3k8f/TinyAdventure0.35.exe?dl=0

I Updated My Super Simple Game

I posted yesterday about the first little game I made with Clickteam Fusion, a super simple little top-down piece where a random hazard blob is placed every seven seconds and the player has to survive as long as possible without bumping into them. (Thanks very much to everyone who gave it a little playtest, by the way.) It was a really positive experience making the game as, despite its simplicity, it was a complete little project with a scoring system, a way to lose, a way to track your success etc. The only catch was that it wasn’t that much fun since a pretty good strategy was to just stick around in the same spot for as long as it took for the random number generator to drop a blob on you. Well, the project isn’t over yet, and TinyAdventure 0.2 is here!

The first thing I did was sort out a new character sprite. The first sprite was a little lop-sided. It had the consequence of making the game a little unpredictable, making collisions where the player didn’t expect them. I’ve made the character a little bit bigger which I’m a bit uncertain about right now. It makes the character more prominent and personable, but it makes weaving between the blobs trickier. I might shrink the blobs a bit more to compensate, but we’ll see how it plays out.

The next change was much more important. Now, every 12 seconds the game will spawn a red blob which exhibits basic hostile behaviour, chasing the player instead of staying in place. This changes up the whole game and I think it’s a drastic improvement, staying on the spot is no longer an option. However, the game isn’t necessarily more overwhelming early on, because you can play blob against blob, trapping the red behind blues and so on. It gives an element of strategy to it, despite the basic feel.

Lastly, I balanced out the elements a bit by making blobs destroy once you’ve hit them. It isn’t a method for clearing the board as you’re still limited to three hits, but it stops a tricky spot sinking you on the same blob twice.

I’m learning a lot about game design here. It’s only a few small changed from the first version, but I already feel like this is a much more entertaining game. The principles are still really simple, but the way they play out together is genuinely entertaining.

Once again, if you want to try it for yourself, here’s a download link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/bxseg0xfwgy5ftr/TinyAdventure0.2.exe?dl=0

 

What 2016’s Doom and Batman: Arkham Asylum Have In Common

The latest entry in the Doom franchise was a critical and commercial success last year, bringing the series back to its roots for a lot of the die-hard fans who weren’t as sold on Doom 3. It’s easy to see why, with its focus on pressing forward, and fluid gameplay that felt almost like an arcade game at times, Doom took the best of modern design and augmented it with a core of solid, mechanics driven play. It’s a violent, exhilarating experience, where you’re likely to be attacked repeatedly by rooms crammed full of demons ready to tear you apart. It should be overwhelming, frustrating, hard to stay on top of, but it never is. And I suspect Batman: Arkham Asylum is the reason why.

The Arkham series is about as far from Doom as you can get, the games are very story driven, thematic experiences, that deal more with psychology, character, and set pieces. Arkham Asylum is probably one of the strongest video game narratives in the modern era. But I want to talk about the Free Flow Combat System.

Free flow Combat System

Free Flow was introduced in Asylum and while it has been copied elsewhere, it’s only the Arkham games that seem to have a good feel for it.

Oh, and it’s sort of amazing.

See, the crux of combat in these games is that Batman needs to feel like a martial arts master capable of taking on five, maybe even ten guys, at once and without breaking a sweat. The problem with that is how to give the character this proficiency without expecting the same proficiency from the player. You could just make the goons go down really easily, but that wouldn’t be satisfying. Enter, Free Flow.

At its core, Free Flow is insultingly simple. One button to attack, one button to counter. Hit the attack button and Batman will trigger an move, wait until the game signals an incoming punch and hit counter. Follow these simple rules and, until pretty late into the game, most encounters will be solvable. Even the weakest players can master two buttons. But embrace the combat system and you find a world of flexibility that encourages you to think about fight differently. The goal is not to pull off the most intricate individual moves, but to plan how you’re going to string those moves together, and win the fight in the most incredible ways.

As you progress, Batman’s gadgets will get added to your combat arsenal, with each accessible from a simple quick-fire button; as your variety increases, the elaborate possibilities of the fight do too. What starts as a game of punch and counter soon becomes a rush to plot out a string of devastating moves. Punch, counter, stun, plant explosives, punch, dodge, detonate explosives, grapple enemy, throw batarang, finishing move. The game encourages you to approach each fight like a routine, winning isn’t up for debate, you’re Batman! What matters is how quickly, or cleverly can you do it. The more variety you throw in, the more XP you’ll claim at the end.

So what has this to do with Doom?

Well, Doom kinda does the same thing. Things are tweaked a little differently, of course, this isn’t a martial arts, super-hero game; the game wants to give the player a feeling of pure brutality. A lone super-soldier prepared to mow through these demons. And mow he does. While Doom is a shooter, melee executions play a huge part of the game. The marine will be surrounded by enemies in little arenas throughout the campaign, he will then be encouraged to hot swap weapons, take them out phase by phase, and stay alive. Health is scarce. It should be difficult, but play up to the mechanics and a familiar flow starts to emerge.

doom 2016 screenshots

Every time you weaken an enemy enough to stagger them, they become susceptible to an execution, performing the execution makes them drop health, you’ll need this health to survive the trickier waves. You’re surrounded by enemies, some tough, some weak, but focusing on the toughest enemy is rarely the best strategy. Often better results can be found by planning a route through demons, take out some mid-strength foes with a half decent gun, execute a tiny imp or two for health and ammo, aim your big guns at the biggest demon and if it damages you, harvest a few more imps. Like the Free Flow combat system, rarely is a battle in Doom about thinking about taking down one enemy, or firing the best gun until something dies. It’s about planning a path from one foe to the next, using mechanics intended to preserve the flow of the fight.

The two games doesn’t have much else in common, but this approach to combat is something I’d like to see more games try.

If you know any other games with similar systems I could add to this, leave me a comment. I’d love to know about them!

Finding Good Tutorials for Clickteam Fusion 2.5

I posted here a few days ago about my first impressions of Clickteam Fusion (spoilers: they were fairly positive) but I was a bit thrown after that because the rest of the tutorials in the package aren’t that great. One covers how to apply basic physics to objects which is fair enough, but the next appears to be written for an old version of the software, and I hit a roadblock pretty fast.

Part of the problem seems to be that the software has been using the same tutorial format since it was called “The Games Factory”, and a lot of the resources on Clickteam’s site date back to this time. And the tutorials aren’t just PDFs, they’re project files that include premade assets and animations you’ll often need. Often these aren’t easy to load into CTF 2.5 or the Steam version.

Oh and the software’s pretty popular in France too, so sometimes they’re in French. More to learn, zut alors!

I’ve been scouring the web to gather them together, and these are the best sources I have found, together with the strongest individual tutorials. In my experience, the better lessons to go for use general instructions combined with assets already included in CTF, no fiddly loading involved. After a few tutorials, sample files are pretty useful. These are often projects that just illustrate how to create a single effect like bullet-time or flashing after you take damage, and are often ingenious.

The only other advice I can give you is to still try Tutorials from older versions like The Games Factory or Multimedia Fusion. The software hasn’t changed so much, and while you might hit an obstacle, many of them can be completed in CTF 2.5. If you do get stuck, you can always move on to another.

If you’re really in a rut, just try a few things. I’ve found you can often pick something new up just by applying a few conditions here or there and seeing what the result it. You can’t do any damage just playing around.

On to the list!

Clickteam’s Own List –

This is a repository of Clickteam’s own in-house tutorials, and they vary a LOT. Take a look at the PDFs included with the lessons and see if you can find the Objects it uses in the preinstalled libraries, if you have them installed already then it’s just a case of hunting them down when you need them.

I can really recommend “Catch the Fruit” for total beginners. It’s very simple and makes a good follow on from the first ChocoBreak lesson. There’s a lot of overlap; controlling characters, assigning score, but a few differences here and there that add to your knowledge. Better yet, the assets are all found in CTF 2.5 so you can start immediately.

Nivram’s Examples – 

Castles of Britain CTFNivram’s Examples is a huge list of sample files, hidden away behind a site all about British Castles. It’s a really fantastic list of different projects that demonstrate different effects you can produce in the software, ranging from little animation flairs, to clones of entire games and software. Not all the samples will be useful to total beginners, you need to be able to decipher exactly how the result has been achieved once you get it open, but picking something simple and studying it can be hugely education.

I can really recommend Homing Missile Example, and, Satellites Example, for simple but applicable effects you can pick up from the project file.

The Daily Click – 

The Daily Click is one of the more fun entries on this list, acting as a showcase for really great CTF and MMF games, as well as a repository for tutorial. The site has an active community for feedback and peer review, as well as a rating system for any articles or project files submitted. There’s a lot of different stuff here, but the presence of real human beings exploring it along with you means that the cream rises to the top pretty often. It’s a good place to sign up and ask a few questions, then share your results.

Often the best stuff can be found here by sorting Articles or Projects so highest rated appear at the top. However I can really recommend the articles Handling Duplicates, Pixel Art for Total Noobies, and, Active Objects, Active or Passive?.

And Finally

Salvage’s FNAF Series –

FNAF CoverNo conversation about Clickteam Fusion would be complete without a reminder that this is the software that made Five Nights at Freddy’s possible. If you’d like to give Scott Cawthon a run for his money and make your own FNAF (Because Steam doesn’t have enough of those yet, right?) then this tutorial series is actually very enlightening and shows how you can achieve the same results.

Recommended? All of it.

And that’s it, the whole list. These are the best resources I’ve found for Clickteam Fusion 2.5 and MMF 2 tutorials. For the most part the ones I’ve listed work, though it can be a bit tricky to get all the assets. If you know any better ones, please leave a comment!

Doing my first Clickteam Fusion tutorials!

I’ve been playing with Clickteam Fusion… I’d heard mixed things about the software but so far I love it!

For the uninitiated, Fusion is a drag and drop software development tool with an emphasis on easy game development. You’re probably familiar with its most famous offspring, Five Nights At Freddy’s. It’s pitched as a more accessible alternative to Game Maker Studio and it’s pretty flexible, but doesn’t feature a scripting language or similar direct coding options. Because of the this the software has a reputation for being too clumsy or simplistic for professional work, but at this stage I’m not a professional and it’s a good learning opportunity.

I picked it up in a Humble Bundle some time ago, but I hadn’t had chance to dive in yet because there’s no mac version in the package, and I’d been having issue with my bootcamp installation. Now I’ve had chance to take a look, I think it’s going to make a great complement to my Python studies. Learning to code is really valuable, but this has let me start learning practical game design without being limited by my coding experience.

Chocobreak CTF
I’m pleased to say my version of the first tutorial “Chocobreak” looked as close to this at it should have.

I’m still pretty new to it all now, I’ve run a few tutorials that involve making a version of Breakout and one very rough little game where you catch fruit that falls from above, but I wouldn’t be overselling it to say that I could probably take the principles and go away and make a sample game from scratch already. I’m going to do a few more tutorials and then see if I can apply what I’ve learn to a few of my old Python projects or ideas I’ve been saving for when my experience got up. Fortunately the software includes a lot of animated sprites and sound effects you can use out of the box too, so getting straight to the gameplay is pretty easy.

Probably the biggest strength so far is the conditions system, which is effective at laying out the various interactions each object has while in play, while staying readable. It’s remarkably easy to make, for example, a bouncing ball that can drop from wherever you click on the screen and bounces about the frame without disappearing off the edges. There’s a playground vibe to just setting elements differently and seeing how they interact.

Right now I’m not sure how flexible the engine would be at dealing with something like a dialogue heavy RPG or a fast, responsive platformer, but it’s robust enough that I can hit the ground running. Hopefully in future it’ll let me get something with a few more ideas through.

More updates soon!

Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission – Review

It’s silent out in space, I’m squeezed into the cockpit of a T-65 X-Wing Starfighter and my only company is a little red Astromech Droid who seems to feel the isolation as much as I do. Something has gone wrong, wherever we are, the fleet is somewhere else… Then in a sudden eruption of light and noise, rebel ships drop out of hyperspace around me. A Rebel Blockade Runner glides above, and I know I am back in the Star Wars Universe.

 

 

In reality I am playing the absurdly titled Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission, a label that has obviously been passed through every marketing department at EA, Sony, LucasArts, and Disney, with each being allowed to shove another word in somewhere. Ostensibly a tie in to Rogue One, opening this month, we all know what the X-Wing VR Mission exists for. Sony needs to sell the VR headset and Star Wars is a bankable property these days. Throw in a dash of nostalgia and the promise that you’ll really feel like you’re flying an X-Wing, and the game sells itself. As a bonus, it’s free to anyone who already owned Star Wars Battlefront.

 

Star Wars VR mission At-AT

 

The mission itself is another short, guided experience that slots neatly between the more arcade style shooting of Call of Duty’s Jackal Mission, and the non-interactive, scripted experiences of Playstation VR Worlds. It’s narrative driven and totally focused on giving the player an authentic Star Wars adventure. While you have the freedom to roam around and check out classic ships from whatever angle you like, the mission progresses under a very tight set of circumstances that take you from navigating asteroids, to escorting a damaged ship, and finally to taking on a Star Destroyer. By the end you’ll enjoy a lot of authentic Star Wars moments along with a fully voiced and well written cast of peers, culminating in the familiar end music while you check your scores.

The ties to Rogue One are minimal, with one character from the film making his first appearance here, as well as a new ship, but for the most part this is about a rag-tag, anonymous flight of Rebel pilots doing what they do best. The story, such as it is, works well enough for the length of the mission, and creates a good sense of a wider conflict going on while the pilots themselves have good chemistry, with both voice actors representing the male and female player avatar doing an amazing job of capturing the player’s inner enthusiasm.

 

X-Wing Vr cockpit

 

Gameplay is pretty strong too. This is just a first person equivalent of Battlefront’s third person dogfighting, but it works really well; gunning down Tie Fighters feels appropriately challenging but never impossible, and just flying around is a smooth and satisfying experience. During the asteroid sequence, weaving in and out of the belt is awe inspiring, as giant rocks threaten to crush your ship at any moment. Battlefront’s flight controls wouldn’t seem up to the challenge, but you always feel in control of the craft, even if your manoeuvrability options are limited. Everything is kept simple so you can focus on watching your squadmates duck and weave while sharing Rebel banter. It’s a nice atmosphere throughout.

 

VR cockpit Blockade Runner

 

Attention to detail seals the deal though, with every button in the X-Wing’s cockpit accurate and interactive, every ship you fly past looking practically film perfect. It draws you in so perfectly, even in places you don’t expect. The mission opens with an X-Wing sat in a VR hanger room surrounded by white space, should you speak during these scenes, the VR headset mic will take your voice and add an echo to the room’s ambient noise. Just one of the little ways the developers have tried to move your further into the game’s world, and utterly stunning the first time you hear it. So much of making VR work is about this little illusions that blur the line between your game and the real world, so every time you experience a new one, it’s a real pleasure.

 

Red Leader in X-Wing Vr mission

 

If there are problems with the X-Wing VR Mission (besides the title) it’s more about the climate it has launched into. As much as I enjoyed the mission on its own merits, there’s still a feeling that this is too little to really sell anyone on a unit. It’s certainly fun, but it still requires a PS4, VR, Camera, and copy of Star Wars Battlefront to get through the door. It’s asking an awful lot for 20 minutes of gameplay. Worse still, if you own the VR, this is probably the third free (ish) cockpit shooting demo you’ve played in the last few months. With EVE Valkyrie’s demo and the Call of Duty Jackal Mission filling the same niché. X-Wing is the best of the lot, but it’s still an experience we’ve had a lot of right now, with only EVE Valkyrie offering a full length (though very pricey) title if you want it. What the X-Wing VR mission did the most was convince me we need a real VR Rogue Squadron game. This really feels like a mission straight out of Rogue Leader, with its jump in controls, and focus on set pieces and authentic feel, but as soon as you begin, it ends. If it had launched standalone alongside the headset, this would be the standout VR launch title, as it is, it feels like just one more all-t00-brief proof of concept, with nowhere to go once you’re sold on the idea.

 

Fighting a Star Destroyer in VR

 

At the end of the day though, the content is so good while it lasts that it just shines through those concerns. So far it’s the only piece of VR software that I’ve found myself returning to over and over again just to live in its world, and unlike some VR launch titles, it screams effort from the moment you put the headset on. Short lived or not, this is the kind of game VR was made for.

9/10

Why is 7 Days to Die so ugly on PS4?

As a Youtuber who falls reluctantly under the label of “Minecraft channel”, I’ve had 7 Days to Die recommended to me a lot. I’ve held back because I don’t really want to reinforce that label, and the market is so flooded with survival crafting zombie games it sort of feels like covering the existence of drinking water at this point. Still, it recently went on sale on the PS4 so I thought I’d check it out.

I like it. It might just be because this isn’t a genre I’ve spent much time with really, (I stream Minecraft every day but I draw the line there. When I’m done with Minecraft’s quota on the channel I put it away and play something else.) but I found myself really drawn in to the realist take on survival. This has always been my favourite part of Minecraft, and 7 Days to Die doesn’t prod as hard as We Happy Few did, so it has all been rather enjoyable. It’s hit and miss at times, the UI is a nightmare from hell, but the sophistication and intricacy of the gameplay grabbed me. I just don’t get why it looks so hideous.

7 Days to Die ps4 graphics

I know the game is procedurally generated, but it honestly looks a mess. Minecraft gets away with basic visuals because it has a complementary style, this aims for realism and undermines it any time you actually stop to look at anything. Character models are hideous, tools like like crap, digging the ground turns everything in a mess of muddy textures, the supposedly frightening Zombie enemies sometimes look like pre-bought assets lumbering around in different lighting to everything around them.

I know, I know, PC isn’t much better, but there’s a reason for that. It came out longer ago, it has to run on wider hardware while being procedurally generated, and on PC once you get the gameplay right, mods can fix the rest. The PS4 entry has had a long time to tighten things up, and it just feels like a cheap rush job. It’s a shame because I really want to like the game. I can see myself continuing to play it and really finding a lot of fun with it, but I’m going have to do that in spite of awful visuals and an interface that makes no attempts to help the player out.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a quick port of a budget game, but trying to play it on the PS4 just shows how cheap, frustrating, and unrefined everything feels. Like the developers thought “people bought it on PC, this’ll do fine” without ever taking into account just how much customers can fix later on a PC game. I never wanted to like a game so much that felt like it was refusing to meet me half way at all.

Playstation VR – Video Review

Playstation VR – Video Review

As you know, I picked up a PSVR recently after being very skeptical about VR’s potential for greater immersion, but won over by a really strong launch lineup. With that in mind I put together something I’ve never really done before; a video review! (With me on camera and everything…) Check it out below, and I have a few final thoughts after the vid if you keep reading.

Now since I posted that to the channel I’ve had a little feedback I’d like to address. Firstly, there were some concerns that I’d reviewed the unit without the Playstation Move controllers. While the motion controllers are heavily marketed with the PSVR, they are sold separately, and unlike the Playstation Camera, aren’t essential to the device. I, and many others, bought the unit without the move controllers, and as such I think reviewing it without was appropriate. Most importantly, most of the game I covered in the review itself played great with the Dualshock 4 alone and so it didn’t influence my opinion of the hardware itself. I’m a consumer too, and like most consumers, I’m on a budget. I can only review what I can get a hold of, and if Sony wants to sell them without, they need to be prepared for reviews without too. Fortunately the VR passed.

Secondly, I didn’t cover a lot of software in the review, limiting my discussing mainly to the Demo Disc and VR Worlds as these two packages are generally considered to be the PSVR’s pack-in software. (Even if they are charging extra for worlds.) The reason for this was firstly, that this was mainly a hardware review and not an exhaustive look at PSVR software which I’m covering separately, and secondly, that the Demo Disc and VR Worlds contain a wide variety of experiences and interaction styles that gave me enough to communicate my opinion about the hardware as a whole. (Also, while these are my honest and genuine thoughts on the VR, it’s a light-heart, 7 minute video intended to get a few laughs across too. It’s about my experience with the device, not shilling extra games for Sony.)

So, how do I feel about the VR since I filmed this? The X-Wing Battlefront VR mission has launched since I made this so it’s a shame I couldn’t include my sheer joy in playing that game here, but VR continues to be one of the most exciting experiences for me. Mileage may vary, but for me each new VR title is a joy to dive into.

Finally, this was a really knew type of video for me. I’d leave to hear your feedback in the comments!

Why I Bought Vanilla Destiny, and Why I Don’t Regret it.

I was never really sold on Destiny.

It’s a personal thing, I guess; I never loved online shooters. I play ’em today, sure, Battlefront, Overwatch… Destiny, but it’s a pretty recent development. Online games only started to resonate with me when they adopted more narrative and structural elements the modes fresh, and I was pretty behind the times. I can play a few rounds of Deathmatch but it was only Battlefront’s Walker Assault mode last year that sold me on the concept. (Say what you like about the lack of a campaign but when those AT-ATs drop, you really feel the Star Wars.) Overwatch does the same, putting gameplay front and centre but building narrative into the environment; multiplayer shooters really upped their game while I wasn’t looking.

Destiny Moon Horizon

When it launched most folks kept describing Destiny was “an MMO… sort of.” So I skipped it; as time went on however, it never fully fell off my radar. The game was starting to sound pretty good too, my buddy (and podcast co-host) Jon would entice me with stories of a complex but subtly told narrative, story based events and online matches seamlessly integrated into an MMO style structure, and shooting that was somewhere between Halo and Borderlands.

I wanted in, but I hit my next hurdle.

By the time I was really interested, The Taken King expansion was out; it looked great, but the changes it made to the game were considered sweeping and transformative. Word was it just wasn’t worth getting the game without it, and bundles including The Taken King replaced the main game on the PSN store; the price went back to a full RRP game. Used copies were cheaper, of course, but I’d still be without the DLC and the word was The Taken King updates had actually taken the radical step of removing content from vanilla players all together. I was stuck.

I’d like to remind you of something you don’t see in gaming press that often. Games are expensive, often unreasonably so. I have my channel, my podcast, and my blog; I play a lot of games, but I’m not an industry insider. I buy the vast majority of my games, and I’m living on a youtuber’s budget. Truth is, DLC or otherwise, I couldn’t jump in on the budget The Taken King wanted. I skipped it, and as they have continued releasing expansions regularly enough to keep a bundle on the store at new-game price, Destiny’s business model has kept me from ever being able to buy the game in the form they want me to. As much as I was interested, I can’t justify paying £60 for a game I might not like.

The Tower in Destiny

So I went to a used game store and bought a vanilla disc for £5. I figured DLC be damned, the tiny demo was long gone from the store, and whatever content was still there would give me something to go it. It was one of the best gaming decisions I ever made. If you haven’t played it, I think you should do the same.

I like Destiny. I don’t know how much I’d be liking it if I paid full price, but I’m enjoying the base game immensely. In fact, it might be the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game in years, and I’m playing it completely solo, totally out of date, and happily from my DLC free disc. This isn’t going to be a path that would work for everybody, if you’re primarily in it for the multiplayer you’ll be disappointed. Most other players are higher level than me, and I’m locked out of a good two thirds of the content, but what I can do is play through the same story new players did back in the day, and get a feel for it without putting down a huge sum of money. I can still jump in with other players if I want to, and despite the fact that the DLC I’m locked off from is right there on the map, I don’t feel like I’m getting a crippled experience. I’m playing through a lot of the early missions again with a friend now, and we”re both experience the same surprised satisfaction. Destiny’s standalone disc is dirt cheap because they’ve done such a great job sell the DLC that nobody wants it, and yet there’s a full fat, big budget game in here that is still perfectly playable.

I still have issues with Destiny, I think the pricing model creates a situation where new players and old players both lose, I think the removal of content people paid for through updates is pretty crummy, and I think the hyping up of the DLC as essential (to the point of removing cheaper, older, base copies from sale) is quite misleading, but this is the surrounding business and doesn’t change the fact that the original package is actually great.

If I were putting the game out, at this point I’d probably just make the vanilla game free and get new players on board. As cheap as  used copies are, it couldn’t hurt, and the model works. I’m already seriously considering the DLC some time in the new year, and I’m a lot more positive about Destiny 2.