Monday, 4 January 2016

Not A List Of New Year Gaming Resolutions 2016 - Honest

I'm not going to list a standard selection of self-delusional goals (how pessimistic of me to say!), instead I'm going to list some self-delusional gaming-related achievements instead! Yup, there's no way I'll complete some of these as ironically I spend less time playing games despite being totally focused in starting a career in the industry! From morning to night, my time is spent developing myself through my personal game creation and creative content, but I need to change the way I operate this year!

1. Separate my 'work' and 'play' time more efficiently. A definitive window of time needs to be set for me to enjoy the ton of games I own (thanks steam sales). 

2. Stream more - something I briefly dabbled in before Christmas. It's more relaxing and ultimately less time-consuming then regular Let's Plays because there's no editing to worry about. Just play, record and upload - if it's rough around the ages then no one cares. I can also chop up the footage and create a shorter video from a two-hour stream if necessary. The important thing is I can just enjoy a game whilst also developing my YouTube channels - plus being able to interact with other people is fun!

3. Efficient YouTube videos. My Elite: Dangerous content will consist of one heavily edited short film a month, more ship build videos (which seems to be the most popular kind of video I've produced on my channel) and a restart of my narrative series. The important thing is to keep high production values whilst being efficient, and my new audio interface will help with that a LOT. Up until now, I had an annoying set-up with multiple computers which has resulted in poor audio quality because my old hardware isn't compatible with Windows 10. Now I don't have to worry about this, and audio should be free of digital distortion - an issue which has resulted in throwing out quite a few videos after recording them multiple times. The software I'm now using should allow for better use of templates and will speed up editing time.

4. Focus on a game! I tend to struggle with sticking with one game at a time until completion, because my normal play-time is so disjointed and irregular. Having a Steam library with so many options doesn't help either! At the minute I am casually playing a Total War game as I enjoy slow-paced turn based games and don't want to sink time into a mobile strategy title, but I have finally got a PS4 with five games to start off with... oh dear. Over the years I've had to leave quite a few games by the wayside simply because I don't have the time for them all. Great RPGs such as Ni No Kuni sit on my shelf unfinished, and getting back into a game isn't helped by having to spend precious time re-learning mechanics. I haven't even finished Skyrim, a game I bought on day-one, although I have sunk 200 hours into it (yeah, I'm a side-quest completionist). Dark Souls 2, Fallout 4, MGSV: The Phantom Pain, The Witcher 3 and Star Wars Battlefront - oh boy: two big RPGS, one re-playable action-RPG, an open world stealth game and a multiplayer time-sink. Elite: Dangerous is my long-term MMO game of sorts and since I have a channel dedicated to it - it's here to stay.

5. Expand my second channel. This is currently focused on Elite: Dangerous gameplay, but I want to start other space-themed game or two. My current thoughts are Space Engineers and No Man's Sky. Space Engineers would most likely involve creative mode builds as this would be the most efficient video to produce and I feel like this would interest people the most. No Man's Sky would be a more casual explorative series as I make my way to the centre of the galaxy.

6. Complete my current game and software. I have a card/board game in development and it's been hanging in limbo as I have been focused on other things. It's just a simple game which will be free on, but I need to get it into a working state so that I can move onto another project. I don't expect to make any money from my games, but I do want to get more under my belt. My other project is a tool for sound engineers, which whilst being a niche product, is something I think is worth selling. It's very close to completion too, I just need to focus and push for the end zone! After this is done I can begin my next game and continue developing myself!

7. Most importantly get a job in the industry. My ideal job would be creating game-related video content for a YouTube channel. I have the technical skills and project experience (plus it helps that I do this in my spare time anyway). Since I create my own games, I would love to work with a developer or publisher in some capacity in production, media, community or QA and develop my skills further. It's got to be in London though - that's where my partner is!

So that's the plan... let's hope I stick to it! What's yours?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Destiny Goes Free-To-Play?

Today some interesting news was posted on the Destiny subreddit. A screenshot is shown on the USA PSN store displaying purchasable level boosters for each class. Is this just one more of many steps in what will be a slow evolution into the free-to-play model?

Seems as though we need to add Bungie to the list of developers who like to throw the middle finger up their community by doing a U-turn on micro-transaction policies. Hah, not exactly - but that's basically how the Internet is probably feeling right now. Bungie picked their words very carefully in October when the addition of micro-transactions was a talking point as there was never an absolute statement denying the eventual implementation of a level boost even though data miners found evidence of this in the game's files.

I was looking on PSN only yesterday at Destiny - and it was on sale, with the Taken King Legendary Edition sitting at a price of £24.75. This has jumped back up to full price today; strange since a simultaneous price drop may have cushioned the blow of the inevitable Internet outrage, since new players could have potentially jumped to the same level as experienced players whilst paying around £50 anyway. 

Looking at Destiny's first year it resembled a fairly standard AAA release in terms of it's pricing structure (relatively speaking). It had two, fairly expensive expansions which arguably added a decent amount of content and in some people's opinions made it into a full and complete experience. The Taken King was the next big update which again, fleshed out the game with extra content and in it's current state is regarded to be quite different compared to when it released. 

Destiny was always going to be an interesting talking point, because although popular and as a shooter - mechanically brilliant, it was an anomaly of sorts. It combines aspects of a dungeon-crawler with skill-based gun-play and in some ways it's core design resembles that of Borderlands mated with traditional MMO elements. This is also reflected in how light the narrative is, although it is based on rich lore which is accessible outside of the game - a design element seen in the Souls games among others. These are not negative points, because ultimately Destiny is focused purely on the enjoyable gun-play, and whilst there is grind and repetition - Bungie's shooter is by no means let down because of this - if you as the consumer enjoy... well shooting things. 

Since The Taken King's release on the 15th September (UK) it has seen dramatic changes. The digital RRP was £54.99 which included the previous expansions and base game, along with new content. It worked out to be cheaper to re-buy this version than to buy expansions separately - something which irritated the experienced player-base who thought that they were being punished for their loyalty. Confusing pricing structures for games is extremely anti-consumer and does little more than fuel our distrust in developers and publishers. It also creates a backlash when you go against your words and add micro-transactions when you 'suggested' that you wouldn't. I mean, the very fact that you have to make a point about saying you won't add micro-transactions just goes to show that you, as the developer or publisher, have identified that we, as the consumer, do not like free-to-play design interfering with the enjoyment of a game we spent a LOT of our hard-earned money on. However let me reiterate that Bungie were very careful with their words so as to not land themselves in a clear-cut 'we went against our word' scenario.

Around mid-October, in a way, Bungie gave us an insight into the potential free-to-play future of Destiny by adding in real-money purchases of in-game currency in order to buy cosmetic items and emotes. Now I actually don't have a problem with this, as Destiny is an online-only experience and requires constant funding to keep it's servers afloat (although in Bungie/Activision's case, I don't think they are struggling in that department). I play Elite: Dangerous and it also sells paint-jobs for space ships which are definitely optional (especially since you play in first-person and hardly ever even see your ship during normal gameplay), it's not exactly viable to base your budget for the next year of content on the income generated from these extras, but they do give you some insights, and allow for continuous development resulting in a better product and more content. Paying for cosmetic items post-release isn't exactly a new thing anyway, we only tend to dislike it when content is released on day one. Like any project, budgets change and unforeseen circumstances can result in more or less work, time and money needed for completion. However, in a creative industry where the staffing and development costs vary wildly despite the standard set of product pricing tiers - finished content should be bundled into the final product. Even if potentially some player 'skins' were created as a result of work done outside of the initial budget - just bundle them into the game for Christ's sake. Day one DLC is absolute nonsense. This isn't relevant to the main point of this article, but I felt that it needed saying.

As well as announcing their plans for adding micro-transactions, Bungie also announced that they would be shifting away from the large expansion pack business model, which apparently was not sustainable, and instead focusing on giving players frequent and free content updates in small packages (one of which is the currently running Sparrow racing event). Around the same time, some players dug into the game's files and discovered evidence of 'boosters' that would generally affect player progression, including level boosters. Luke Smith, the Creative Director was very specific in saying that Bungie weren't planning on selling certain boosters. There were fears that, despite Bungie's reassurance, more free-to-play elements would sneak their way into the game bit-by-bit. It seems that he chose his words carefully, and no lie was told - however this level boost is at it's core very much in the same ball-park. 

The 'optional micro-transaction' is a fallacy when it's embedded into the game mechanics, pacing and progression. The game has been designed and balanced pre, or post-release with this business model in mind and therefore is tainted. I am not against this in a free game because a zero-cost price tag is almost a disclaimer in itself - nothing comes for free, so be prepared to pay extra for features, levels, cosmetic items or whatever. Experience and level boosters have no place in a full price £50/$60 title and they are not optional - the very essence of the game is designed with you paying extra money in mind, and so whether you pay or not - you are being affected regardless.

If you find yourself defending Bungie, or any other company for that matter for adding FTP elements into a full-price game (or in Destiny's case, a pretty damn expensive product overall) because these types of micro-transactions are optional or they don't affect you because you already have a high level character - then you are part of the problem. You are saying it's OK, and setting an anti-consumer precedence which will affect you sooner or later. 

It's a shame that Destiny couldn't prove itself as a solid full-price title, supported at the most by it's cosmetic micro-transactions. In a way, Bungie are saying that their base game content up to level 25 just isn't worth playing... In fact it's even worse then that. After paying £50 for the base game on release, if you want to avoid playing through that expensive content you can now pay us MORE to skip it? It's absolute nonsense. You know what would make it OK? If Destiny was entirely free-to-play and whilst I don't think it will be - Destiny 2 might fit more snugly into that category when it eventually gets released. I wouldn't be surprised if you had to buy character slots and pay for sub-classes, as well as the cosmetic elements. Who knows, perhaps they will return to the almost archaic, subscription based business model. I feel like the groundwork has been made with their first grand experiment, and in a way they could probably do whatever they want with the next game.

This is fresh news, and the UK PSN store does not display these boosters as of yet... Some people have suggested it's a fake, and that the image is photo-shopped. In any case I think the prospect of the free-to-play evolution of Destiny and full-price games like is worth discussing. I don't know about you but I have a huge urge to play a long, single player narrative shooter. I miss those.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Elite: Dangerous - The Hunt (Short Film)

Hey all - I've been busy coding away my latest game which I plan to upload to soon, as well as finishing up a multi-platform app for live sound engineers. However, I decided to take a break and put together a short film based on the game Elite: Dangerous. I have a YouTube channel dedicated to ED content, but I don't really post them on here. I am quite proud of this one though - as I would call it a short film rather than a 'let's play'. Thanks for watching! - oP

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

30 Days Devlog #9 - Beast Camp Monsters

More monster artwork! Each 'dungeon' is basically a stack of six themed cards. When you attempt to clear a dungeon, you draw the top card and the corresponding monster model is placed into the 'Battle Arena'.

The third 'dungeon' is the 'Beast Camp'.

 1: War Boar / 2: Wolfgirl / 3: Giant
4: Goblin Duo / 5: Derpy Spider / 6: Diabolical Satyr

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

30 Days Devlog #8 - Glacial Palace Monsters

More monster artwork! Each 'dungeon' is basically a stack of six themed cards. When you attempt to clear a dungeon, you draw the top card and the corresponding monster model is placed into the 'Battle Arena'.

The second 'dungeon' is the 'Glacial Palace'.

1: Crystal Husk / 2: Ice Witch / 3: Killer Snow Bunny
4: Savage Orca / 5: Snowspider / 6: Lost Viking

Saturday, 11 July 2015

30 Days Devlog #7 - Fire Pits Monsters

More art en-route to you over the next week! Each 'dungeon' is basically a stack of six themed cards. When you attempt to clear a dungeon, you draw the top card and the corresponding monster model is placed into the 'Battle Arena'.

The first 'dungeon' is the 'Fire Pits'.

 1: Pyro Wizard / 2: Ember Knight / 3: Infernal Blacksmith
4: Succubus / 5: Flame Imp / 6: Phoenix Rising

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Elite: Dangerous - Problems With Powerplay

I've had to put my opinions about the 1.3 Powerplay update of Elite: Dangerous into a video. I love the game, so don't be put off by my tone. I'm just passionate about the game and want it to reach it's full potential. The video also contains feedback and suggestions about how Powerplay could be improved.

Also since making this I have remembered more points I should have made including the problem with bounties and wanted status' in relation to undermining/opposing activities. Please let me know your thoughts.

 The video assumes that you are familiar with the game and the latest update. -oP

Friday, 3 July 2015

30 Days Devlog #6

I have been working on getting the bulk of the art done for my current project (temporarily titled 30 Days). If you haven't seen the last video yet then please check it out here.

Introducing wave six and therefore all of the hero cards/models! Why are they so random? Why not.

31: DJ Hero / 32: Lumberjack / 33: The Mayor

 34: Disco Dancer / 35: Super Red / 36: Mobster Bear

25: Penguin Pastor / 26: Astronaut / 27: Gene Genie

28: Cheerleader Rob / 29: Droidbert / 30: Barbara (The Barbarian)

19: Bounty Hunter / 20: Birdman / 21: Dr. Jones
22: Gordon The Gnome / 23: Chicken / 24: Rockstar

13: Unwashed Druid / 14: Clumsy Thief / 15: Belly Dancing Bob
16: Site Manager / 17: Blood-Sucking Lawyer / 18: Lollipop Lady

7: Frogbard / 8: Learned Dwarf / 9: Wizardo the Magician
10: Awful Cook / 11: Gypsy Seer / 12: Cocky Pirate

1: Gentlemen Fencer / 2: Depressed Jester / 3: Cowgirl
4: Super Pants / 5: Senile Scientist / 6: Business-savvy Squirrel