Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 26/07/19
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: Nintendo’s joy drifts away
The Nintendo Switch is a brilliant piece of kit that has utterly sewn up the world of handheld (non-mobile phone) gaming again, whilst simultaneously winning the home console game outside of the main ‘my teraflops are bigger than yours’ game. The fact it allows the two to be combined seamlessly is just delightful and the icing on the cake.
However, not all is well. Joy-Con drift is a thing, and it’s causing problems for everyone. Joy-Con drift, as detailed by The Verge, is a phenomenon whereby analogue stick controls are input, even when the user is not actually touching the things. This is not good, obviously. Imagine you were trying to finish one of those devious Mario Maker 2 levels, or about to win some Mario Kart 8 action. Hell, that’d make anyone’s day that bit closer to D-Fens’.
A problem for gamers the world over, until now Nintendo has avoided getting too far involved. It seems that one particular consumer has had enough and filed a lawsuit against Nintendo, meaning they’ll be getting more involved from hereon in. The opening point made in the filing is as follows:
“This is a class action lawsuit brought against Nintendo of America, Inc. (“Nintendo”) by Plaintiff on behalf of himself and similarly situated individuals who purchased Nintendo Switch game systems (“Switch”) and extra Joy-Con controllers. The Joy-Con Controllers that are part of the Switch contain a defect that can result in the joystick moving or activating on its own (“drifting”) and manipulating game play without manual operation by the user. This defect affects the video game play on the device and thus compromises the Switch and Joy-Con controller’s core functionality. “
Eurogamer reports a response from Nintendo after this filing became common knowledge as follows:
"At Nintendo, we take great pride in creating quality products and we are continuously making improvements to them," a Nintendo UK spokesperson told Eurogamer this morning. "We are aware of recent reports that some Joy-Con controllers are not responding correctly. We want our consumers to have fun with Nintendo Switch, and if anything falls short of this goal we always encourage them to visit http://support.nintendo.co.uk so we can help.”
A problem is that up to this point, Nintendo has taken Joy-Cons in for fixing and upon return, the issue was still there — or returned. A further note in the filing states:
“On or around July 5, 2018, Mr. Diaz sent the defective Joy-Con controller to Nintendo for repair under the one-year warranty. Three months after receiving his refurbished Joy-Con controller, Mr. Diaz’s controller began to exhibit the same “drifting” issue again. The left joystick on Mr. Diaz’s extra set of Joy-Con controllers also began to exhibit the “drifting” issue after about 13 months of use, but it was no longer under warranty so Mr. Diaz did not send it in for an out-of-pocket repair. “
So, in summary: big problem for Nintendo. Not only is there a product issue which they have not resolved, but now the concerns and complaints of those affected is known by all worldwide, in both gaming media and other popular and high-profile publications.
Which brings us to a further development. Nintendo has now advised its customer service representatives that all their problems will be made to go away, for free, with minimal fuss, according to Vice:
“Customers will no longer be requested to provide proof of purchase for Joy-Con repairs,” the internal customer service details say. “Additionally it is not necessary to confirm warranty status. If a customer requests a refund for a previously paid Joy-Con repair [...] confirm the prior repair and then issue a refund.”
So yes, it seems this week has been one to forget for Nintendo, but all the fuss and attention has resulted in — at least it seems like — a great outcome for all consumers young and old who suffer from this particular problem. Nintendo’s joy may have drifted away, but as long as it takes actual Joy-Con drift with it, we’re good.
Conclusion Two: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate SMASHES Street Fighter
So, Street Fighter is, and has been for a looooooong time, the big beat ‘em up on the block. But, Nintendo, as it often does, wants to break down tradition and expectation and do something unusual, brilliantly.
Its weapon in this particular challenge is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the Switch brawler beloved by pretty much everyone in the world. I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of Yoshi Vs. Peach action?
What Nintendo has done, this time, is knock Street Fighter off of its EVO perch. One of the greatest pieces of competitive gaming action footage ever seen was in Evo 2004 when Daigo and Justin Wong went head to head in Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. It’s spine-tingling to this day. But, although something like that could happen again, the highest billed game — the one used in the grand final — is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, according to USGamer. NOT Street Fighter 5. Capcom must be seething.
Mario is number one, again. Nintendo is number one, again. Perhaps not everything this week is bad news for the Kyoto behemoth?
Conclusion Three: Games should always be fair
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night came out in June. It’s a Metroidvania-style game with some very tough moments, not least the boss fights.
They are fair boss fights though. We know this as during development the game’s director insisted each should be beatable with only a dagger and without taking any hits. Not one; zip; nada. This is according to an interview between Gamasutra and the director.
The director is one Koji Igarashi, previously with Konami and a man with significant game development experience in various roles, and across many games — with multiple Castlevania games being part of his portfolio.
I remember reading once that any part of any game should be designed such that a suitably skilled player could conceivably complete it without dying or falling foul of anything on their very first playthrough. That doesn’t mean it should be easy, or that they can’t die, but each piece of the game’s puzzle should be doable the first time through. This to me still rings true and even when games are mega-hard, fairness is important. If the developers have to prove it, then as long as they can, all is good with the world.
Conclusion Four: The UK goes against Europe again
Loot boxes, FIFA Ultimate Team player packs and other similar game mechanics are something we have covered multiple times at Jump Dash Roll. Each time we seem to be making progress in getting these things monitored, or calmed down, such that they do not cause problems for all the people spending hundreds of pounds and chasing that digital high.
One of the earlier encouraging signs was when the Netherlands and Belgium banned loot boxes. Unsurprisingly, the UK is taking its own stance — 52% majority or otherwise. The Gambling Commission, the UK’s watchdog for this kind of thing, stated in a hearing this week that although there are concerns around children playing games where there were elements of expenditure and chance, games with these mechanics are not classified as gambling.
"There are other examples of things that look and feel like gambling that legislation tells you are not - [such as] some prize competitions but because they have free play or free entry they are not gambling... but they are a lot like a lottery," said Neil McCarthur, the commission’s CEO.
So a big chunk of the Benelux region in Europe has progressively sought to help its population and remove the opportunity to exploit people financially, whilst the UK has hidden behind the letter of the law, and pushed the issue onto the companies themselves. The responsibility is theirs, for sure, but in the absence of the capitalist industry limiting itself when legally they don’t need to, and with children involved, could we not hope for more from those running the country?
Conclusion Five: We can Dream big
Media Molecule’s Dreams was released, in a first for Sony’s PlayStation 4, to a limited number of gamers via early access in April this year. Since then,incredibly clever people have been using this game, which is actually a game creation tool, to make all kinds of games inside the Dreams-world. It’s kind of like Inception but without having to drop into multiple layers of dreams and spend years upon years wondering what is and isn’t real.
Given what’s happening already, Media Molecule has seen potential and opportunity. If people can make such great things in the Dreams beta, what could a fully-fledged team do given time and money? The output could be substantial and that could lead to games within Dreams which can be sold. So, of course, Media Molecule is exploring this and looking to hire game creation teams:
“Some of the exciting opportunities we have require the skills of a small professional development team. Are you a small dev team looking to collaborate on something larger or looking for a small project to help fund your next gig? This isn’t just normal outsourcing, it is much more about finding teams that want to collaborate with us on content for Dreams. We are a little light on requirements as this is an exploratory call out, but needless to say experience with creating in Dreams is required!”
If you can create and use Dreams, you can now make games, if you’re lucky. The barrier to development may be gone for some, and the ease of creativity provided for others. Either way, if this takes off, there could be all kinds of Dreams coming true as well as a whole heap of games to play in the Dream world.
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