Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 11/10/19
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: Sony’s low-key PS5 announcement felt odd
We knew it was coming at some point, of course, but Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation 5’s Holiday 2020 launch this week felt a bit muted. The name and release period may have been confirmed, but the main focus was on the controller. There will not only be haptic feedback (replacing the built-in rumble pack with something that feels more organic), but also adaptive triggers which will let developers implement different controller resistance depending on how hard or soft each trigger is pulled, or what item you’re carrying. Drawing a bow, for instance could be made to feel more engaging, letting you nock the arrow more quickly or slowly depending on how hard you’re pulling the trigger, or offering more resistance in the controller as it reaches the end of the pull.
And as for what it looks like? Well, the devkit shown on the Lets Go Digital site could well be the basis for the end user product - and it looks pretty darn fancy, in a “cross section of part of the Death Star” kinda way.
But even so, there wasn’t much else to shout about, and it felt that Sony was struggling to make its announcement glow. Ray tracing is a graphical buzzword around lighting effects which will mean nothing to the general consumer (people will expect better graphics; they won’t care how those graphics are achieved). The SSD will certainly help with loading times, but again, this isn’t a huge technological leap forward.
There’s also the question of backwards compatibility. One of the biggest hurdles console developers have faced in the last few generations is getting people to make the move from their existing console and game and invest in new kit which — historically — hasn’t arrived with a stack of games at launch. The most seamless way to encourage this transition is to build in backwards compatibility on the new console for existing games on its predecessor. The PS5 was supposed to have this feature — and gamers expected it, no less. However, it seems that Sony has taken a cautious step back this week on that front. They stated via Famitsu (translation here) that the dev team is working on full compatibility, but that we should wait for further updates.
Furthermore, the announcement came at the same time as Sony’s European offices put dozens of their staff on notice of redundancy. While the restructuring of the corporation had been planned for some time, the decision to bury this news under the announcement of the PS5’s features felt cynical.
While the PS5 will no doubt be a technologically solid and polished console, when compared to the PS4 we’re wondering if it will provide enough at launch to make people rush to own one. The midweek announcement of this kit was downplayed — perhaps because we’re still a year away, and perhaps because Sony themselves are still ironing out some final features. It was an odd press release, but hopefully the tech giant will pull through and deliver the goods as it did with the PS4.
Conclusion Two: There’s a reason why some games are addictive
In a move which looks like it’s been pulled straight from an Orwellian dystopia, it was reported by CBC that the reason some kids are getting addicted to Fortnite is simple - the game has been specifically designed that way.
It is alleged by a legal firm in Montreal that Epic Games hired psychologists to “dig into the human brain” in order to look at how dopamine was released. According to one lawyer, Epic Games “really made the effort to make it as addictive as possible.”
The whole saga does have a vaguely sinister air about it, conjuring images of scientists in lab coats tweaking loot drops, and then checking the brain activity of kids strapped to tables with controllers taped to their hands.
It’s almost certainly not how things happened, but Epic Games are a billion dollar company now so it was inevitable that some people would want a piece of that pie - especially now that the WHO has labelled (erroneously, in our opinion) gaming addiction as a recognised disorder. Where there’s blame, there’s a claim. So, obviously a new class action lawsuit has now been filed against Epic Games, who have yet to respond. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one!
Conclusion Three: Want to play RDR 2 on PC? Start clearing space
We reported a couple of weeks ago that the Red Dead Redemption 2 port to PC was possibly going to happen, and last Friday Rockstar confirmed that the Wild West adventure was on its way to home computers on November 5th.
We’ve since had the specs for the PC version… and if you have downloaded a fat chunk of your Steam library to your hard drive, we’d highly recommend a clean up.
OS: Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (6.1.7601)
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500K / AMD FX-6300
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB / AMD Radeon R9 280 3GB
DRIVE SPACE: 150GB
OS: Windows 10 (April 2018 Update)
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB / AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB
DRIVE SPACE: 150GB
As you can see, you’re going to need a frankly huge amount of drive space to play the game. It’s one of the largest HDD requirements we’ve seen for a game (Gears 5 was 80GB, for instance).
The PC version of RDR 2 will support 4K resolution and higher, as well as ultra-wide and multi-monitor setups, and will have an unlocked frame rate. Gameplay additions will include new missions, horses, weapons and trinkets.
The beefy recommended specs are unlikely to put people off though. The original Red Dead Redemption never made it to PC, much to the chagrin of that market. The sequel is far better — as our review can attest. So, it’s time to start making space. If Watch Dogs 2 has been sat untouched on your drive it’s not likely you’re going to play it any time soon, is it?
Conclusion Four: Stadia will play your games for you
Streaming is a hot topic at present (and you should keep your eye on Jump Dash Roll next week, as we're releasing a brand new feature which covers this!), so it's understandable that people are a little sceptical about the ability to play games over a browser. Google appears to be less concerned about the potential pitfalls of a low bandwidth experience, however. In an interview with Edge (via PC GamesN), Madj Bakar, the VP of Engineering, had some surprising things to say.
"Ultimately, we think in a year or two we’ll have games that are running faster and feel more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the local machine is,” he said. He also claims that Stadia will handle lag through a process of "negative latency" between the server and the player, essentially creating a buffer to handle any low bandwidth issues. As part of this buffer, Stadia will "predict" what inputs a gamer is likely to make, line it up in the buffer and then execute it when you press the relevant button. Basically, Stadia will learn how you play and use that to combat lag by locally lining up the moves it thinks you're going to perform.
It sounds a little sinister, but also fascinating. If Stadia can build up a profile of a player and predict what they are likely to do next, the natural evolution of that is to let the tech play the game for you. Halfway through a game of Fortnite and someone has knocked on the door? Hit the "play for me" button while you go and answer it. Hell, you could watch "yourself" play games online and pass notes back to Google about how you would have done something differently. In the end, gamers may not even be needed to play games at all.
Conclusion Five: Japan remains the king of handling complaints
No country in the industry has mastered the art of apologising quite like Japan. The culture is such that anything which could be deemed to cause a loss of face needs to be dealt with as soon (and often as publicly) as possible. This week was no different, after the producer of Pokémon Masters issued a lengthy apology for issues reported with the mobile game, including a brief main story which ended abruptly, and dull side quests and missions which many felt were simply not worth completing.
The game may have made over $25 million in its first week, but Yu Sasaki's extensive response to criticism of the game highlights Japan's approach to player feedback. While "the customer is always right" is never true, especially in an environment where grief comes at all angles and for the smallest things, the ability to take on board comments and grievances and address them directly without complaint is an art form in itself. Instead of the company trying to spin the game's faults into a ridiculous positive, they have tackled them head on and explained what they planned to do, how they failed, and how they are going to address it. In an often toxic, negative online world, this is almost revelatory. Western companies should take a leaf out of Japan's book when it comes to customer service; they will benefit hugely from doing so.
You can subscribe to Jump Chat Roll on your favourite podcast players including:
Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this podcast, and if there are any topics you'd like to hear us tackle in future episodes!