Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 18/01/19
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: Bungie has left Activision to improve quality assurance
Or, we can only hope that’s the case given a bug that was found this week. Fresh from the news that the developer was parting ways with Activision after an eight-year partnership, Bungie needed to step in to help players solve a riddle in Destiny 2 that had been stumping players for some time.
The Bergusia Forge was the final part of the Black Armory, which the studio unlocked following complaints that it was walled off behind the Niobe Labs. Completion of this puzzle area was previously required in order to get to the new forge, but players were simply unable to do so despite the best efforts of the internet hive mind. Even after Bungie stepped in to let people access the forge independent of the Labs’ completion, the puzzle remained unsolved — so Bungie decided to address it directly.
It turned out that the reason no-one could solve the puzzle was because it was broken. In a blog post, Bungie admitted: "Unfortunately, a string on Level 7 was improperly removed which would have provided additional information."
They then went on to provide the final clue:
With weapons imbued
Through sights unseen
Craft truth from the Hand
Return the dials to the crest
Stay true to the map
To prove thy knowledge of the family three
And with that, players were able to finally crack the Niobe Labs — albeit, with much grumbling about the lack of QA that let do the situation in the first place.
Since Bungie is now in charge of its own publishing, it is no longer beholden to forced release dates and as such, you would expect that testing time would be increased so that future issues like this don’t occur.
Of course, if something similar slips through the net in future, Bungie will only have itself to blame...
Conclusion Two: The Pinkertons are still around, and they’re mad as hell
Another week, another lawsuit in America. This time, however, it’s from an unlikely source. Game publisher Take-Two are being sued by Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations over the use of their name in developer Rockstar’s mega-hit Red Dead Redemption 2.
Court documents obtained by The Blast reveal that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter to both Rockstar and Take-Two in mid-December. They claim the studio used trademarks such as their name and badge without permission, Pinkerton claims that Rockstar used their trademarks, and paint the organisation in a bad light.
In the game, the detective agency hunts the Van der Linde gang down across numerous locations, and is a persistent thorn in the player’s side. The latter day Pinkertons want either a lump sum a cut of the game’s royalties to mitigate the damage allegedly done to their reputation. In response, Take-Two claims First Amendment rights for the use of the historical name (which has changed from the Pinkerton Detective Agency to its current form), and has — of course — filed a lawsuit in return to obtain legal expenses. They claim in response that the Pinkertons feature only occasionally in the game, and that no copyright infringement has taken place in any case.
While it’s hard not to see this as a case of a miffed company trying to grab a lucrative piece of the pie (back in November, Rockstar said that they had shipped 17 million copies in eight days), we’ll be interested to see what the judge does with this one. Pinkertons have been mentioned or featured in everything from Deadwood to an Elton John song to… erm, the first Red Dead Redemption game, in which Edgar Ross was a former Pinkerton. Where was the lawsuit back in 2010?
Conclusion Three: Microsoft’s CEO talks about their ‘Netflix for games’? Pity it’s not ever going to be anything like that then, right?
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has talked this week about Project xCloud, Microsoft’s cloud streaming technology, says Business Insider. Woop! Another company tries to stream games. Admirable, and for sure a potential future money-maker and ubiquitous tech for all fans of gaming.
He calls it the ‘Netflix of games’ and says Microsoft has an advantage because they have their own games. Right. Let’s drill-down into that:
1. So do some of the other companies trying to build the future streaming platform, like Sony and its nascent PS Now platform.
2. Netflix didn’t have its own films but it won the streaming war (if you consider it ongoing alongside Amazon, neither of which had their own films or TV at creation).
3. Project xCloud will not win the streaming war if you can only play Microsoft games, just like PS Now won’t win if you can only play Sony games. We’d have, at the very least, a dichotomy and probably more. Yay - standard wars again, ala Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD.
So fundamentally Microsoft talked about their streaming tech well after lots of other people have talked about it — with Amazon to come soon, too. Good luck waging a war and even better luck in trying to ‘win’ it. I’ll bet streaming as a tech doesn’t fly for some time, and when it does there will be multiple big guns, kind of like now — only more of them. Sony, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Valve? Nintendo are sure to go down their own route, just as they always have…
Conclusion Four: Just Dance the movie? Nobody watching will want to dance
With the US shutdown, the wall, Brexit, the worst defeat by a sitting government in the modern era and whatever the heck is going to happen come the end of March, you’d think the world can’t get any weirder. Ha — how foolish!
You see, Sony has decided to turn Just Dance into a film.
Right. That’s Just Dance, the admittedly very successful rhythm action dance game, which has no narrative and quite often just colourful characters or silhouettes dancing to some funky music.
Now, Sony might want to go after things which can carry themselves across a breadth of media, but this is going to be one hell of a shoehorned film, isn’t it? I can’t imagine anything good will come of it quite frankly, and I still can’t get my head around the fact it’s happening, and also the fact that the game franchise has sold over 120 million copies all told. Wow. Who knew?
Conclusion Five: Bethesda codes badly, players get banned
The Fallout 76 comedy show continues to throw out gems of ineptitude from its developer Bethesda. Hot on the heels of the Power Armor Edition debacle and its support system data breach, this week saw players gaining access to a hidden in-game Developer Room, which contained boxes of every item you can find in the game, as well as some that have not yet been released. A video example is below.
When Bethesda learned that a teleport hack was being used to visit the room, they started banning players that reached it. Yet, in an astonishing display of hubris, Bethesda reportedly followed up the ban with an email asking the players to explain how they managed to access the room. This implied that there may have been people who somehow stumbled into this secret area unwittingly, and if some did accidentally fall foul of Bethesda’s shonky coding it makes their “ban first, ask questions later” approach not just heavy-handed, but downright dictatorial.
Bethesda followed up with a response to Eurogamer stating:
"We are looking into accounts where players have obtained items by accessing areas of the game that are not intended for the public. These areas are only accessible to PC players that are using 3rd party applications to get into these areas.
"In an effort to ensure the integrity of these characters and accounts, these accounts are being temporarily disabled pending further investigation. Players that have accessed these areas and have had their accounts impacted are encouraged to contact our support team."
With the restricted items being distributed by players in-game after the breach, Bethesda also threatened to ban anyone caught with them. Essentially, the developer appears to have learned too late that online gaming is populated by those who will continue to test the system for fun. Leaving a cache of items in a room which can be hacked from the client side seems like a remarkable oversight for a big studio, but then Bethesda games are synonymous with bugs so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. We expect similar stories will emerge from the game’s ongoing troubled life as the year progresses.