Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 28/06/19

June 28, 2019

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: Crunch - maybe the message is getting through after all

After decades of crunch culture, it appears that some studios may finally be getting the hint that it really isn’t the best way to develop your games and look after your employees. Bungie became the latest developer to take a stance on the controversial approach of asking staff to work long and sometimes mandatory hours over and above their contracted time. When Destiny 2’s newly released Lord of Wolves shotgun was found to be overpowered, causing imbalances in the PvP element of the game, it was assumed that Bungie would immediately release a patch to nerf it. Not so, according to Creative Director Luke Smith who spoke to Polygon during a charity livestream.

According to Smith, work for the next Destiny 2 patch was already underway, so the only way to nerf Lord of Wolves would be to crunch — something that he said wouldn’t be allowed, in order to preserve the work-life balance of the development team. In a blog post on Bungie’s site, he also mentioned that “goofy outliers” like this can also lead to some “memorable moments”, and the shotgun wasn’t yet at the stage where it needed to be banned.

Ultimately though, this is a cause for celebration — if not by players, but by Bungie’s staff who may have resigned themselves to being asked to work overtime to fix a minor issue. Thankfully they haven’t; we hope that other studios will follow this pragmatic approach to development going forward, rather than letting the stresses of maintaining an ongoing live game dictate the physical and mental health of their employees. 

Conclusion Two: Retro consoles do have a place when this is the alternative

At Jump Dash Roll we’ve debated the pros and cons of the currently in-vogue retro consoles. One argument for them is the convenience of having a box which plugs into your modern day television and just works. For many, as argued, this is a brilliant thing. For others? It’s less important. 

EON is trying to eliminate this argument by ensuring the original console is plug and play compliant with the picture box you have at home today. Their upcoming hardware allows you to plug your N64 into your TV. This means you get to use the original box and all your games, rather than wait for Nintendo to get to this generation’s retro re-release and enable you to play the heavily curated selection of games which no doubt will be provided. 

It’s a lot of money though, isn’t it? Over one hundred and ten pounds for the adapter, with a console, controller and games still needed. If you have the latter then perhaps this compares well with the likely seventy or eighty quid Nintendo will charge for an N64 mini. If you have nothing anymore, then the prices will quickly become astronomical. If you want to just plug into your 4K TV and go. Whilst a wonderful idea, and a piece of kit we can get behind, it’s not something I personally would go for over and above the official Nintendo solution. 

Conclusion Three: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft get Trumped up over China?

These days we don’t get very far before some kind of collaboration between the major console hardware players. The latest sees all three of the big names — Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft — collaborating to send a letter to the Trump administration in the United States of America, opposing the proposed tariffs imposed on China, due to the negative impact on the videogame industry in America, and the economy as a result. 

If we take this further, such tariffs could be catastrophic for the rest of the world. Let’s use the UK as an example. If Brexit happens, a new trade deal will be required with the US. That in and of itself could lead to immediately higher costs for anything imported into the UK, and this may be passed onto consumers wanting to buy the next PlayStation or Nintendo console. Once you add on the very fact that from today’s price points the companies selling consoles would need to recoup greater costs anyway, the price growth between now and next generation would be incredibly significant — perhaps the joked about $800 price point isn’t so unlikely, after all?

Conclusion Four: The next God of War will not feature Kratos

Well, that’s what we reckon, anyway. The guy has been around since 2005, with nine titles across six platforms, including 2018’s blockbuster reboot, God of War. Norse mythology took over from Greek, but Kratos remained. This is despite the initial thinking of Sony Santa Monica according to the game’s director, Cory Barlog, as described in an interview given by him at Gamelab in Barcelona, reported by Eurogamer

We all know the choice to retain Kratos was a solid one, for so many reasons, not least the fact that nobody who’s played it can avoid shouting “Boy!” periodically for ever more. Perhaps, though, this revelation is a precursor to an alternative approach to the inevitable sequel. Sequels change the rules. Why not test the water with the public about the removal of Kratos and all being well, make that change for God of War 2? It’s a sensible way to see what consumers really want; what they’ll accept. Hell, any game involving lots of fighting, mythology, cool action, brilliant storytelling and all the rest will be good. Sure character is important, but as Uncharted: The Lost Legacy proved, you can succeed to the very highest degree without the established star. 

Conclusion Five: Unskippable ads will be removed from NBA 2K19

Some decisions take the absolute biscuit. If you’ve paid hard-earned cash for a game, do you expect to be peppered with adverts at all, let alone unskippable ones? The gaming community will respond — in the majority at least — with a great big “Hell, no”, as this Reddit thread will attest to. 

Adverts are not new. Unskippable ones aren’t either, not even in paid for products. Amazon Prime TV has them (on mobile at least). YouTube is increasing the number of adverts (multiple littered throughout a video, really?) unless you subscribe. It kind of feels like we’re headed to the world suggested by Fight Club and other fictions of recent times, whereby we’ll have countries and planets owned and run by corporations, not governments, and everything we want to consume is by way of a transaction. The risk to net neutrality in the US, the exponential rise of microtransactions and the rationalisation by companies (loot boxes are surprise mechanics, say EA — what the absolute..?) as to why such things are acceptable all attest to some kind of world order which looks positively dystopian, and totally undesirable. 

However, gamers shout out — albeit in anonymous internet forums — when things are not wanted. Like here, with unskippable ads in a game they’ve all paid hard-earned cash for. This will be heard and it will be fixed. For now, at least. What we need to ensure is that this is the norm, and that more and more of this does not sneak in, or if it does we continue to fight the (good) fight and ensure it all gets reversed. Only then can we have the kind of future we desire.

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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...