5 Conclusions - 14/09/18

September 14, 2018

A regular look at gaming-related stories from the past week or so whereby conclusions are drawn from anything and everything. These may be incredibly well reasoned based on events from the week. Alternatively, they may be highly speculative, drawn from very little evidence. More likely, they will be somewhere in between.

Conclusion One: Western watershed — anything really does go

Oo-er baby! Earlier this year Valve changed the way they police content available through their PC game store, Steam. Basically they decided they wouldn’t actually police anything. The reasons behind that have been discussed here and elsewhere and they’re not something we want to go into again.

However what is interesting is that now we are seeing the fruition of this change in policy (i.e. no policy) as we get Negligee: Love Stories, which is according to RPS, the first sexually explicit and uncut game to make its way to us via Steam power. Normalised in the East, perhaps, but for those of us in the rest of the world? Getting hold of such content was via less common and well-known routes. Whereas it’s likely that almost every PC gamer will have Steam.

It’s behind an adults-only filter, sure, but this is still a big thing. With Valve foregoing any policing they have allowed pretty much everything onto its store if the developers want it, and in this instance we have the first of this kind of game. Carry on regardless, we say?

Conclusion Two: Nintendo’s credibility goes backwards

In 2018 it’s totally normal — and expected — to be able to play a game and have your save, or saves, backed up into the cloud. You might pay for the privilege via your PSN membership, but it’s there and has been for quite some time.

Nintendo, as has been the case forever and a day, are slow when it comes to the world of online gaming and functionality. With the Switch they are finally launching an online service, and it goes live this month. It does, of course, include cloud saving.

Except... it's only for some games, according to Game Informer.

Seriously, Nintendo? Why do you turn the corner in an area you’ve so long been behind the curve and then soon thereafter blow a great big hole in your entire credibility for reasons that make no sense to anyone else in the world? Cloud saving might mean that people are able to get an advantage by restoring a previous save. Cripes, any game that’s allowed you to have multiple saves allows that. Whilst it’s right that Dark Souls Remastered — one of the games with no cloud save functionality — is meant to be a one-time only deal with every choice being permanent, it’s not like somebody restoring their previous cloud save because they feel they desperately need to is going to affect anyone else. If some invader comes and kills you, just as you’re finally about to get to Ornstein & Smough after fifty runs from the nearest bonfire, then you bloody well have every right to restore yesterday's save.

Let’s put it this way. If you as a Switch owner want to play Dark Souls Remastered, FIFA and the upcoming Pokemon games and you want to do so online, you are paying for a service which in part is non-functional. That is the lack of cloud saves — a key part of the online service, unless you play certain games.

Conclusion Three: Expect the new game from ICO creator Ueda in 2028

The gaming world loved ICO upon release. It was a touching story told wordlessly, and married platforming and puzzling in a way which hadn’t really been done before. Though time hasn’t been so kind to it thanks to major improvements in camera and controls, the 2001 game still has a place in people’s hearts. Shadow of the Colossus, three years later, was far better — and this year’s remaster proved that one of the best games of the PS2 generation can still hold its own fourteen years on. However, designer Fumito Ueda’s third title proved to be far more divisive - not least because it took twelve years to make, but because when it was released The Last Guardian was mauled for its awful controls and dull gameplay which made ICO look positively modern. It had its moments, certainly, but it was a shadow of the genius surrounding Ueda’s sophomore effort.

In an interview with Weekly Famitsu, Ueda hasn’t given up. His fourth game, he claims, will be of the same scale as the previous three games. While we’re excited to see what he’s working on, you shouldn’t get your hopes up any time soon. Firstly, it’s going to be a brand new title rather than a sequel or prequel — which we assume means leaving behind the bizarre and isolated world of his first three games. Secondly, they’re still thrashing out the core gameplay. Reading between the lines: it’s going to be in development hell for at least five years, and if it pushes past that, we may be lucky enough that it reaches our shelves in a decade. Given the twelve-year gap between Ueda’s last two games and the amount of redesign and returns to the drawing board required for The Last Guardian, this timescale may actually be generous.

Conclusion Four: Developers still don’t get the importance of single-player campaigns

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a month away, but if you’re holding out hope that a single-player campaign will somehow have snuck into it at the eleventh hour, you’ll be sorely disappointed. According to developer Treyarch, it wasn’t even a consideration. In an interview with Gamespot, studio head David Vonderhaar was explicit:

"It wasn't a campaign as people usually refer to it anyways. How can you say what happened to this thing that wasn't? It was a multiplayer game." - David Vonderhaar

The crux of their argument is that CODBLOPS 4 was always meant to be a social game, a multiplayer-only event. That’s fine, but they set a precedent with previous instalments by including a single-player campaign, and the last one in particular was really rather good. We feel that there is something else driving this move away from solo play but what that might be is unclear. It’s not like single-player games make huge losses. God of Warsold 5 million units, Octopath Traveler hit a million units and Marvel’s Spider-Man has just become the fastest selling game this year.

Realistically, Call of Duty games in general, just like Battlefield, are iterative releases. Sure there may be cool new weapons and maps, but there is rarely any revelatory addition. The modes may get tweaked or nerfed or upgraded, the layouts may change, but you’re ultimately playing as slightly different flavour of multiplayer each time you buy one, and paying handsomely for it. The single-player campaign is where the development team truly has the chance to differentiate. By dispensing with it altogether, developers like Treyarch are missing a huge opportunity to actually put something new and innovative onto the table, rather than yet another shiny skin on the same old bag of bones.

Conclusion Five: Sony creates a negative buzz ahead of the biggest announcement ever?

So, today PlayStation 4 users will have logged on to see that a firmware update was waiting for them. If anyone is like me, you’ll have been rather nonchalant until you saw that it was version 6.0. Must be something big then? Especially given there was no advance warning.

Ummm, apparently not. Reddit tells us that it’s basically the biggest troll ever. But that makes no sense. Why would Sony — a company with a decent amount of marketing and gaming nouse — score such an own goal?

Perhaps they haven’t. Reddit users also pointed out that next week is Tokyo Games Show. Most likely what’s happened, in my opinion, is that Sony has dropped this without fanfare to create free buzz. Everyone will be talking about it. Many will disparage, whilst others will think about what kind of Megaton announcement is coming. There has to be something, and it must be pretty big. All will become clear between the 20th and 23rd of September.

Luciano Howard

I've been gaming for 30+ years on the Commodore VIC-20 to the Nintendo Switch and most things in-between. I enjoy all kinds of games but if I had to pick a couple right now, I'd say I adore Mario and love Dark Souls. I can talk about either ad infinitum...