Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: Sony Woes & Failing Power Supplies

Y’know the expression, life kicking you when you’re down? I realized it isn’t so much life somehow getting worse, but more that relatively small problems feel so much worse because you’re already stressed and angry. I’m encountering this right now. On my post where I talked about taking a quick break I mentioned some…personal family troubles we’re going through regarding my sibling. Things are still rough at the moment, and while I don’t mean to diminish how bad it is for my sibling, the stress and stuff does transfer over. I’m not sleeping well, I’m worried, I’m tired, I’m angry, hence the need for a break. But anyway, back to the point: it looks like my power supply in my PC is on the fritz, and so it just feels like life has stuck on its steel-capped work boots, taken a few steps back so it can get a proper run up and has kicked me right in the ribcage. Of course, that’s not the case. I think it’s more that my power supply dying isn’t a huge problem, or at least not one I’d stress over this much normally. Sure, I don’t have the cash to replace it, but normally I’d get annoyed, shrug it off and just accept that these things happen and that my computer could end up being out of action for a short while in the near future. But because of everything else, I’ve taken this whole power supply like a personal affront to my existence as if God himself emerged from the clouds and broke it. It’s like an entirely unjustifiable feeling of anger I have toward my power supply right now. Like, if it was a person I’d kick it in the balls and make some sort of joke about its mamma.

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I finally started Outriders, by which I mean I’ve played about an hour. But my early impressions of how the game feels are actually quite positive. The feel of the movement and the cover system and the shooting is great. Despite how much is available and how much the tutorial seems to emphasis it, hiding behind walls doesn’t feel like the foundation of the action like it does in something like Gears of War 5. Outriders feels fast and fluid.

I’ve gone with the Trickster class because its description of being to teleport and get in close to the enemy sounds like a lot of fun. So now I’m just hoping for good loot because I freaking love loot, if the action is solid and the loot is good I could easily see myself playing a load of Outriders.

I’m less happy with the narrative delivery, though. The actual writing is fine, capturing a sort of schlocky, grade-B sci-fi vibe that I actually quite like. However, not only is the heavy reliance on fading to black annoying, but the cutscenes frequently end in weird places, or sometimes use the fade to black to transition to another cutscene. And I’m not just talking about the frequent cutscenes that show you doing the most mundane activities, which exist, according to the developers, to help keep players together. No, I’m talking about the core story cutscenes which constantly seem to end at the wrong moment and don’t flow nicely into each other or the game.

The other thing I’ve been playing is a preview build of the upcoming Warhammer 40K: Battlesector, a turn-based strategy game where the Space Marines take on the Tyranid hordes on the planet Baal. I don’t have any decent knowledge of the Warhammer 40k universe so I can’t say much about how authentic and true to the lore it is, but the voice acting and performances are suitably gravelly and deep like I’d expect out some grim-dark sci-fi.

The actual gameplay is solid, although not very exciting in any way. Given the wildly varying quality of the Warhammer videogames, though, getting a competent game might be enough for most fans to be happy. It’s familiar stuff; movement points let you shift around, action points let you shoot and use abilities, and you can mix and match these so that you can move and then shoot and move again if you like and so on. There’s no cover system or anything like that outside of shots being clocked by pieces of the scenery.

There’s a cool Momentum system idea that tries to reward you for being aggressive and charging the enemy, but it doesn’t quite work, mostly because it doesn’t make much tactical sense to do so when forming a wall of firepower against the charging Tyranids is so effective.

I’ll have a full preview up soon, but the basic gist is its fun, it’s solid. It isn’t anything special, though, at least, so far.

And I reviewed Evil Genius 2 at long last after I managed to set aside some time to sink into it. In the end I did have fun with it, and I especially enjoyed the basic premise of the whole thing. I mean, who doesn’t want their very own evil lair complete with a shark? That’s the dream. But the entire game is sadly decimated by a long, slow trudge of a middle-game where you seem to do nothing but wait around for timers and research. And the World Stage ends up being nothing more than a chore to manage.

Read my full review, but in summary I’d say wait for the price to drop a bit on it, or go into it with the understanding that you’re going to need to have some serious patience.

The News

There’s been a wave of behind-the-scenes Sony news lately due to a article by Jason Shcreier over at Bloomberg where he reported on internal strife over Sony’s desire to chase critical hits. He revealed the story of a small, little studio that was setup and went to work on a completely stupid The Last of Us remake, a project now seemingly being worked on by Naughty Dog and discussed how Bend Studio’s pitch for a Day’s Done sequel was denied, and the team was instead put under the purvey of Naughty Dog to work on Uncharted and the upcoming Factions multiplayer.

The idea of a remake of The Last of Us is, frankly bloody stupid. The game itself is a little over 8-years old and already has a remastered version which I quite recently played. While it is a little clunky in its gameplay it still holds up amazingly well and is a fantastic experience. A remake is not needed, nor can I imagine anyone actually asking for one. It screams of Sony relying too heavily on Naughty Dog, attempting to return to the well for a third time.

But another snippet of information has provided a little more context behind everything. Speaking with David Jaffe, John Garvin talked about the reception of Day’s Gone. Garvin actually left the company shortly after the game launched, despite being both a director on the title and the main writer.

“I took it hard, to be honest, because, again…This is just the reality of Sony, Metacritic score is everything. If you’re the creative director on a franchise and your game is coming out to a 70, you’re not going to be the creative director on that franchise for very long.”

John Garvin, speaking to David Jaffe.

It’s not exactly surprising news – loads of companies use Metacritic as a major touchstone when it comes to judging the success of their games. But it’s yet another little thread in the Sony tapestry and interesting to think about. SO it seems despite selling quite well, the low metacritic and the long production time of Days Gone seems to be what ultimately killed a potential sequel, at least for now. With Days Gone coming to PC next month there’s a small chance that the game could pick up enough of a new fanbase to help spawn a follow-up. In the meantime, Bend Studios did manage to get themselves out from under the thumb of Naughty Dog, who seem to wield a lot of power within Sony, and are developing a brand new IP. We’re probably a long way off from seeing it, though, considering they only fairly recently managed to start working on.

John Garvin did mention some stuff I don’t agree with, although I do understand his stance.

“I do have an opinion on something that your audience may find of interest, and it might piss some of them off.”If you love a game, buy it at f-cking full price. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen gamers say ‘yeah, I got that on sale, I got it through PS Plus, whatever’.

“Don’t complain if a game doesn’t get a sequel if it wasn’t supported at launch, It’s like, God of War got whatever number millions of sales at launch and, you know, Days Gone didn’t. Just speaking for me personally as a developer – I don’t work for Sony – I don’t know what the numbers are.”

John Garvin

While I get where Garvin is coming from here, I also think it’s a logical fallacy, to a point. You have no idea if you’ll love a game until after you buy it, and considering how expensive games are and how little spendable income people often have, it’s hardly surprising that they are adverse to spending £50-70 on a brand new game. In the case of something like Days Gone you have a brand new, unproven IP from a fairly unknown studio featuring yet more zombies. Now, I really liked the game, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for not buying it at launch for full-price. It’s exactly why I want to see more demos for games, so players can find out if a game is worth spending that much cash on.

Meanwhile it transpires that Epic are estimated to have lost about $600-million on their PC Store by the end of this year, at least according to a report from Apple who are still locked in an epic (heh!) legal battle with the company. And apparently at least $444 million this year was spent Epic’s penchant for buying exclusivity. The reason that Apple are happily yelling about Epic’s loses is because it’s currently attempting to prove that the Epic store is not in any way comparable Apple’s store.

The breakdown goes like this: the Epic Store $181 million in 2019, projected a loss of $273 million last year, and estimates another loss of $139 million this year. Tally it all up and you get Apple’s magic number of $600-million that needs to be clawed back before the Epic store will be profitable. Apple reckon that won’t actually happen until 2027, while Epic say they’ll be profitable by 2023. And me? Well, I’m projecting losses of at least £5 because I bought a sandwich and a bottle of coke that I probably shouldn’t have.

However, in a fun twist Epic are pretty happy about the loss of cash, and seem to have no issue acknowledging it. In fact, Epic even helpfully made up this infographic which Tim Sweeny Tweeted out:

Regardless of how you feel about the tactic’s Epic has employed to catch up to Steam on PC in terms of market share, I think Sweeney is pretty correct here. The money they’ve spend is essentially an investment designed to very quickly make the Epic store a legitimate competitor, although I’d much prefer that they had spent a chunk of that cash on the actual store part. The Epic Game Store still lacks a bunch of basic stuff, like shopping carts. Although honestly, I don’t mind that the store lacks the community features and review system of Steam. Steam reviews can be useful for a very basic quick glance at a game, but more often than not they end up as warzones for a bunch of other stuff. And while I do enjoy sometimes posting in the community side of things, I don’t think it’s something every store needs.

The most interesting aspect of this story for me is simply the little look into Epic’s finances and plans that it gives us. They simply aren’t bothered about the losses, and why would they be when Fortnite raked in over $1-billion in 2020, even despite it being said that the game lost roughly one-third of its players when it was removed from the Apple store. For now, at least, they can afford to soak up the losses in order to lay the foundations needed for the future. I’m still hopeful that Epic can make something good of their store, because I’d like to see healthy competition for Steam.

Anyway, that should do it for this week. Hopefully regular service has now resumed, but I can’t promise anything as things are happening so quickly right now that I barely know what I’m doing in the next five minutes, let alone the next five days.

Take care guys.

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