Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: I’m Back, Baby! & Ubisoft Are Being Dicks

Hello my beloved friends and enemies, I’m sorry about my radio silence for the past few weeks! I did mean to write a Weekend Whammy two weekends back but I fell into a bit of a slump as my depression reared its horrifying head again and I couldn’t get myself into the mood to write much of anything. I’ve thumped it with a stick a few times though, and reckon all is well again. Or at least, I thumped something with a stick and it stopped moving, so…

It was an exciting weekend for me. My birthday came and went on October 2nd, marking my 28th revolution around the sun and yet another year where I can tell Cystic Fibrosis to go suck it, bitch. Anyway, as a bit of a treat to myself I went and saw Alice Cooper live on October the 5th and what a treat it was! Alice Cooper might be getting a little older these days but the man is still more than capable of rocking out and holding an audience captive. Looking only like Alice Cooper can he delivered every song note-perfect, and to top things off there was a cool castle built onto the stage from which a giant, creepy baby thing emerged later. It. Was. Awesome.

This wasn’t taken by me, I’m afraid. All credit to Peter McInnes who, based on this video, was somewhere to the left of me in the crowd.

Two of my personal highlights were Cooper’s rendition of Another Brick in the Wall and Poison, both of which were masterfully executed by Cooper and his band of misfits. These were both topped, however, by a spine-tingling drum solo which got my heart pounding. I’m a drummer myself, and hearing a good solo makes my heart swell with joy.

Perhaps the funniest moment of the night though, came when an older lady yelled at me and said that she would get security to throw me out of the building. My crime? I was jumping up and down, and very slightly knocked her, to which I apologized. As it turns out she did not appreciate the idea of someone at a rock and roll concert bouncing up and down in excitement as the music washed over the crowd, which amazes me because in my experience that’s what you do when watching someone like Cooper perform! I mean, it’s hard to stand still and look poe-faced while some guy waving a cane, screaming at the top of his lungs and prancing round the stage sings about some seriously weird stuff.

To be fair to her, it was a strange concert. It took place in Aberdeen’s fancy new TECA venue and for reasons beyond my comprehension it was a seated concert. There was no open, standing zone which is basically a requirement at any rock concert so that a mosh pit can be formed into which unwashed masses can be hurled. To say that the audience were a bit confused by the seating was an understatement. They didn’t stay seated when Cooper arrived on stage, but after that it was clear they wanted to be moving around more and enjoying the music but couldn’t because of the seating. Instead everyone awkwardly stood in the narrow gaps between rows and bobbed side to side like they were stuck on a giant, rocking boat. Pun fully intended.

Still, while I certainly had no wish to ruin that lady’s night, I would also say to her that she was at the wrong concert. Going to see Alice Cooper and then complaining about people jumping up and down is crazy! At least she didn’t get caught up in a mosh pit which is the norm for gigs like that. Can you imagine her standing in the middle, yelling for a security guard before being horrifyingly squashed between two giant rockers? *shudders*

But on to the games! Two reviews were put out since the last Weekend Whammy, one of which involved being a goose. Yes, I’m talking about Untitled Goose Game which turned out to be a fantastically funny, charming little game about being a dick to lots of people for no other reason than because you want to. I love games like this because they show just how varied our hobby can be. I can imagine that as a child if you had told me I’d be playing a game about a goose I’d have laughed in your face, and yet here I am telling you that Untitled Goose Game is utterly brilliant.

I mostly goosed around on the new Nintendo Switch Lite which I’ll be reviewing pretty soon. But for now, my general impressions of Nintendo’s new handheld are really good. It’s the successor to the 3DS that I think a lot of people have been waiting for.

And speaking of the Lite, I’ve mostly finished the remake of Link’s Awakening. I don’t know if I’m going to do a full review or anything, so for now I’ll offer up a few thoughts. I previously mentioned it being pretty much a 1:1 remake, and while that’s still largely true the more I played it the more I appreciated a lot of smaller changes, especially to quality of life stuff. Like, with all the extra buttons the Switch offers there’s a lot less awkward swapping of items than there was in the original 1993 release, which is a real God send. With that said, I think they could have done a lot more with it: there are still a few buttons that get left unused on the Switch that could have further helped smooth out the controls. There are also places where the graphics could have been improved. The original game was obviously constrained by the technology of the time so repeated textures and assets were common, and often bits of other things would be cobbled together to form something new. It’s weird that in the 2019 remake there’s still repeated assets and things that could have all be properly redone.

The other review was of Greedfall, another RPG from Spiders who keep chipping away and slowly improving. Greedfall was another step in the right direction from them and had some great ideas under the hood. Once agai though, I thought Spiders were struggling to bring their ambitious ideas to fruition through a lack of raw technical know-how or maybe just budget constraints. Still, Greedfall is a good little RPG if you’re willing to accept quite a few problems.

As for upcoming stuff I’m still slowly getting through The Surge 2 which is absolutely killing me. I’m a bit naff at the Souls genre, so I’ve spent a lot of time in The Surge 2 wandering back through the same areas and swearing loudly at the screen. Something I find hilarious about the game is how enemies often just stand behind doors and stuff to ambush you. I can’t help but imagine them waiting there for hours on end so that they can leap out and scare you like ineffectual Halloween decorations. I mean, what happens if they need the bathroom? Stop hiding behinds doors and go live your lives, dammit!

Review code for the new GRID game from Codemasters also came in. I’m not actually allowed to say anything at the moment due to the NDA, but I doubt they’d mind some very general thoughts: it’s quite good so far. Stay tuned for a proper review.

Finally, I wanted to touch upon the interesting Ghost Recon: Breakpoint debacle. When the game released people were pissed off and with good reason as it was probably the most monetized triple-A release in history with the story offering almost everything the game had for cash. XP boosters, skill points and so much more could be found within the multiple tabs of the store, all of which basically said that Ubisoft themselves didn’t reckon the game was actually worth your time. In essence, by spending more money you could basically skip the game.

Ubisoft’s response to this has been hilariously bad. They put out an official reply to the furore stating that, “We are aware that during the Early Access of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint on October 1st, some Time-Savers items (skill point bundles, XP boosters, parts bundles for advanced weapon upgrades) were available to purchase for a few hours in our Store but this was not our intention and was an error on our behalf.”

Yeah. Right. That’s some BS, Ubisoft. That isn’t a mistake you can easily make. How the hell could you possibly accidentally set up item bundles, payment systems and upload them all?

But hang on, because things get more interesting as Ubisoft also stated that this Time-Savers items will be coming back down the line and exist as an “optional” way for new players to catch up with people who have already invested time into the game and have better loot etc. Just think about the stupidity of that sentence: if you want a method for players to catch up, then design a mechanic for that. Perhaps let them start at a higher level, for example? Or if you really wanted to let them catch up with other people and don’t have the time, money or desire to create actual mechanics for doing so, then include those Time-Savers items and DON’T FUCKING ASK FOR MONEY FOR THEM!

Look, how is anyone supposed to trust that the game was in no way affected by the inclusion of this massive store? You can’t. If the developers truly were worried about people struggling to catch up they’d include ways for doing just that for free, or ensure that the game didn’t have a huge grind built into it. But if you include purchasable items that let people catch up then that clearly calls into question the fundamental design of the game itself. If says to players that the game was built to push them toward spending more money rather than actually playing the game. I mean, talk about devaluing your own work, developers. People should want to play the game, not feel spending more money is preferable.

There is no way to justify this kind of crap. Perhaps even dumber, though, is that Ubisoft then attempted to claim that these items were designed not to provide any sort of advantage to players who bought them. Well, hold on, Ubisoft, if they don’t provide any actual advantage then why would you say they exist to let new players catch up, which implies that people who have been playing for longer and have more gear and XP have some form of advantage? “Ghost War PVP has been carefully balanced to ensure that no matter your experience as a player, no one has a critical advantage base on their progression, ” said Ubisoft while also selling items packs designed to speed up progression in order to catch up to experienced players.

Note the use of the term, “critical advantage,” which also implies that yes, progression does actually offer some form of advantage. Which means that by selling skill points, boosters, gun parts and more Ubisoft are indeed providing ways to pay to win.

This kind of bullshit really does annoy me. It treats the audience like they’re a bunch of idiots who can’t see through the clear lack of logic. The simple truth is Ghost Recon: Breakpoint wasn’t built to be a good game, it was built to be a platform for microtransactions, one that Ubisoft themselves can’t even begin to justify without blatantly lying. I’m willing to accept microtransactions as a part of modern gaming, but for fuck sake don’t pretend that boosting progression speed for new players via real money is somehow an amazing option you’re offering out of the goodness of your heart. If your game is that badly designed, offer the option for free. It wouldn’t cost you a dime, Ubisoft.

Anyway, I’ll talk to you guys again soon.

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