Some­thing crys­tallised for me the other day when read­ing a piece you wrote about a game that, while prais­ing its at­tributes in to­tal­ity, you led with one per­ceived neg­a­tive in that “it won’t be the big­gest sand­box you’ve ever played”. This struck a chord, in that I’ve been a gamer since my age was in low sin­gle dig­its. Two-and-a-half decades later, I’m ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a squeeze be­tween life and gaming.

What I’m ob­serv­ing is the on­go­ing ex­pan­sion of game scope, with an almost au­to­matic as­sump­tion that big­ger is bet­ter. I can un­der­stand where this comes from – Fi­nal Fan­tasy VII was (and still is) one of the best games I’ve ever played, four discs of pure im­mer­sive game uni­verse at a time when a lot of games were still tran­si­tion­ing from the con­straints of car­tridges. That was great when I had time to max out the game’s in­ter­nal clock. Now, as a suit work­ing in pro­fes­sional ser­vices, I might, note might, fin­ish at 6:30 or 7, get home 45 min­utes later, go to the gym (op­tional, I know), cook some din­ner, catch up with peo­ple, and sort my­self out for the next day. That leaves me wit with one hour for ‘per­sonal’ things, if I’m luc lucky, be­fore I go to bed and start again. Wh What does an hour buy you in an open pro pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated world? Not a lot!

This is why I’m wor­ried, par­tic­u­larly wit with the new gen, that games are go­ing to con con­tin­u­ally strive to be big­ger. No Man’s Sky has five bil­lion years of planet ex­plor­ing. Sta Star Cit­i­zen has 125 star sys­tems. I don’t wa want that. I want 20–25 hours’ play (or, to put it another way, a month to two-and-ahalf months’ play, de­pend­ing on how much time I have) with struc­ture and good pro­gres­sion. About two years ago, I made the mis­take of start­ing Dragon Age. It was a great game and I re­ally en­joyed it, but it took me the guts of six or seven months to com­plete, and by the end I was sprint­ing past ev­ery­thing with a laser fo­cus on my map marker to get through the quests and com­plete the story. Not con­ducive to work/ life bal­ance. Con­versely, The Last Of Us is the best game I’ve played in years, in part due to its struc­ture. I could play for 45 min­utes or an hour and a bit and (not rac­ing) com­plete three sec­tions, feel­ing like I’d en­joyed and ac­com­plished some­thing. It was a per­fect game for work­ers.

So this is where I con­clude. I hope that de­vel­op­ers, pub­lish­ers, and the sur­round­ing in­dus­try don’t start fo­cus­ing just on those that have bags of ex­pend­able time. What about us who are grow­ing into lives that have con­straints? We don’t want to be pushed out by the very games that we want to play! I want to see a new tagline on some games: “This is for the work­ers”. Richard Franck

“I’ve shelved Unity for now, hop­ing it will one day be­come the game it sounded like in pre­views”

The mak­ers of No Man's Sky and Star Cit­i­zen don't in­tend you to see ev­ery­thing, though: you can dip in or go as deep as you like. That seems bet­ter than a thou­sand tiny dis­trac­tions, doesn’t it? If you can make the time in your sched­ule, tell us which piece(s) of SteelSeries gear you’d like.

Pen­sion plan

Well I never, we are al­ready at the first an­niver­sary of the lat­est round of con­soles. I’m ob­vi­ously get­ting old, be­cause this mo­ment has prompted me to en­ter a pe­riod of re­flec­tion, though it could also be a nat­u­ral de­fen­sive re­sponse to all the out­put from the mar­ket­ing ma­chines of Sony and Mi­crosoft to pro­mote the oc­ca­sion.

I was seven when I played my first videogame – ten­nis on a very rudi­men­tary “tele­vi­sion game con­sole”. Since then, I have suc­cess­fully over­come the clas­sic ob­sta­cles that con­front an age­ing gamer: fam­ily drains on time and fi­nances, work

drains on time, and peer pres­sure of the “Aren’t you too old for that now?” va­ri­ety.

With the Christ­mas re­lease pe­riod in full swing, I should be happy. How­ever, in this pe­riod of re­flec­tion, I do won­der if this will be the last gen­er­a­tion I ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in, since the large play­ers in the in­dus­try seem to be do­ing all they can to alien­ate me.

It started with the price drop so soon after launch for Xbox One, with lit­tle by way of apol­ogy or com­pen­sa­tion for us day-one buy­ers. Since then, it seems to be one prob­lem after another, none of which im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of the player. New game after new game re­quires a large patch at launch. The era of help­ing play­ers to buy (pre-launch reviews, free demos) ap­pears almost over. Four­player, sin­gle-sys­tem mul­ti­player ap­pears all but dead. The UIs of both Xbox One and PS4 re­main ropey, and the need for count­less lo­gins and pass­words is ever-grow­ing.

Thank­fully, there is hope, and it comes in a form that I would never have dreamt of a few years ago – thank you, iOS. Year Walk,

Bas­tion, Drop7, and Ridicu­lous Fish­ing of­fer stu­pen­dous en­ter­tain­ment. Even games like

Jet­pack Joyride and Ray­man Jun­gle Run are great fun, and help to recre­ate the magic of videogam­ing from years ago.

So where does this leave me and, if it isn’t too big-headed to say, many other gamers from the first gen­er­a­tion of home gaming? Well, times change, tech­nol­ogy evolves, and taste and trends move on. I will move with them as far as I can, but I sus­pect from now on I will en­joy mid­night con­sole launches from the warmth of my home, down­load­ing from the App Store in­stead. Happy an­niver­sary, new con­soles, but I’ll give the party a miss.

Ian Carl­son

Well, Bas­tion started out on Xbox 360, if we’re be­ing picky, but you’re right that iOS is home to a galaxy of de­lights. A shame they’re of­ten lost in a sea of hid­den-ob­ject games and cyn­i­cal me-too freemium tosh.

Com­pli­ance fail­ure

Re­gard­ing Phil Tully’s let­ter in E274, what does the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process of pub­lish­ers ac­tu­ally mean any more? I’m not as up­set about on­line play – I pre­fer to play on my own late in the evenings when the fam­ily’s tucked up in bed, and the last thing I want at that time of night is some­one else’s snotty teenager scream­ing at me – but his point about more and more games be­ing re­leased in a bro­ken state rings true. I un­der­stand that no test­ing process is per­fect, but I am at a loss as to how

As­sas­sin’s Creed Unity can be con­sid­ered a fin­ished prod­uct when the fram­er­ate nose­dives ev­ery few min­utes, even after the mas­sive day-one patch.

Plat­form-holder cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is even less clear, be­cause it’s no shield against buggy prod­ucts, and ac­tu­ally seems more like a tax. Indies of­ten fall foul of th­ese ob­tuse stan­dards, with their games pushed back from their re­lease slots at ran­dom, like some­one spins a roulette wheel with ev­ery project that cost un­der $5mil­lion to make. Yet day-one patches for block­buster re­leases are never de­layed, even though it can mean down­load­ing 2GB of data that still doesn’t fix ba­sic is­sues with the game.

I’ve shelved Unity for now, and have gone back to Black Flag, hop­ing the newer game will one day be­come the game it sounded like in pre­views. But qual­ity con­trol has been the big­gest fail­ing of this new gen­er­a­tion so far, and it needs look­ing at.

An­drew Wilson

Boom and bust

I re­mem­ber it clearly. It was 1992, and the clock read 6am. It was also Christ­mas morn­ing. My par­ents were still asleep, but I could not keep my eyes shut one more minute. For months I had ca­joled and put in my time of be­ing es­pe­cially good, all in the hopes of scor­ing a rare prize: a Sega Mega Drive with Sonic The Hedge­hog 2. I was des­per­ate. That month, the lo­cal video store, with its racks of VHS cas­settes, had also be­gun rent­ing game car­tridges. I had almost ex­ploded with an­tic­i­pa­tion. Now the time was almost here, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to be sure. I crept down­stairs and cra­dled the large box in Teenage Mu­tant Hero Tur­tles pa­per. Steadily, I slipped a fin­ger un­der the Sel­lotape at one end of the box and gen­tly peeled it away. A quick end un­fold later and a shim­mer­ing black box with a white grid upon it greeted my eyes. “Mega Drive,” the side read. “The ul­ti­mate com­puter game con­sole.” I re­sealed the box and re­turned to sit with a gid­dy­ing mix of im­pa­tience and re­lief on my bed. But that sneak peek didn’t di­min­ish the joy of that Christ­mas morn­ing, or my first hours with Chem­i­cal Plant Zone one bit.

Such was the power of Sega’s mas­cot once, but th­ese days it’s hard to feel like the company cares at all about Sonic. Like many fans in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship with the once-great hedge­hog, I still dared to hope, but I am sad­dened by the news that Sonic

Boom is abysmal, the kind of game you give at Christ­mas to a child who has been bad. Re­lent­less milk­ing has drained the fran­chise of en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity, while mar­ket­ingled ini­tia­tives – cast in­fla­tion (Cream The Rab­bit, se­ri­ously?), that iOS money grab, the charm­less rein­ven­tion of Knuck­les as a bruiser – have di­luted the colour, speed and fo­cus of Sonic to the point that the se­ries is un­recog­nis­able to what I un­wrapped in ’92. Now it’s a by­word for crappy de­sign, not a poster boy for “ul­ti­mate” gaming.

Mario is no less ubiq­ui­tous, but he is topped up by gems such as 3D World and the Galaxy se­ries. Sega can never ex­tin­guish the joy I re­mem­ber, but if it isn’t to kill off Sonic for good, it needs to sit up and pay at­ten­tion to the ri­val it once left eat­ing its dust. I can only take so much heart­break.

Richard Todd

Yes, and games didn’t need patch­ing, the trains ran on time, Mars bars were big­ger, and your knees didn’t go all funny in the cold weather. When did we all get so old?

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