Down the pipe
Back in the pre-Gamecube launch days, I remember thinking how bold it was for Nintendo to claim the console was going to be “just powerful enough”. This seemed like such a pure approach to the platform, which made it possible for developers to produce good-looking games without any fussing over the polygon count or framerate.
To their credit, it worked pretty well. Thirdparty versions of Tony Hawk, Soul-Calibur II et al kept up nicely with those on PS2 and Xbox, and there was enough power under the hood to deliver exclusives like F-Zero GX and Mario Sunshine.
Fast forward a few years, and this approach is killing Nintendo. For all the originality of their input devices, both Wii and Wii U have been incapable of keeping pace with the competition, missing out on a raft of thirdparty ports and being unable to occupy the living room alone.
As a child, I remember being blown away at every console launch. Each time I picked up a new Nintendo console it felt like the game had changed. The SNES and N64 were capable of setting targets others simply couldn’t hit. The Mega Drive couldn’t ever do F-Zero; the PS1 couldn’t get close to Mario 64 or Golden Eye. If Nintendo wants to get back on top, its next console needs to blow the competition out of the water. Richard Sawyer At some point Nintendo weighed up hardware costs against thirdparty support and made a clear decision in favour of the former, banking on innovations carrying it to victory. That worked for the original Wii. It was an almost impossible feat to repeat, but Wii U’s struggle with external support is about much more than just raw power. As for the future, the forthcoming NX will see Nintendo maintaining its strategy, so unless you’re in the market for another modestly specced device, it may be time to let go.
In a quiet few minutes with my daughter (who is too young to play videogames), I thought I’d boot up Rare Replay. Viva Piñata seemed like a good way to hold her attention for a few minutes while mum did some jobs and baby brother slept, and for me to sneak in a bit of retro fun.
I told her we were going to see if we could get some animals to move into our garden. Little did we know at the time that, two hours later, she would complain that the “computer still isn’t working.” She went out to ride on her bike instead.
It occurred to me that Microsoft has taken gaming back to the ’80s. Memories of days spent trying to convince my C64 to just let me play New Zealand Story from the Hit Squad cassette, using a screwdriver to adjust the azimuth (what is azimuth?), came flooding back.
Every time I turn on the Xbox One, it wants to update. It takes hours. In Viva Piñata’s case I also had to download the game I had just bought on disc, and then an update for it. I then found out that, despite being signed in to the Xbox One, I wasn’t signed in to my virtual 360, so I had to go through that trial too. Who knew that you had to press Start and Select – sorry, Menu and Options – to do that?
I remembered my SNES – you could just turn it on and play. That made me sad. I went outside too. Tom Regan Rare Replay’s installation times were a particular point of irritation in the Edge office, too. Anyway, what you need, clearly, is a game device that is as happy outdoors as it is inside the house. You know how the rest of this bit works. It’s on its way.
“Memories of using a screwdriver to adjust the azimuth came flooding back”
I bought Elite: Dangerous, like many people, in a fit of nostalgia. I played it for a couple of dozen hours but drifted away from it, mainly because as a spectator sport it just doesn’t match Skyrim, which my kids enjoy watching me play.
As the children have grown older, they’ve started to play Skyrim, too. Of course, that isn’t really an option with Elite, not only because I don’t want my hard-earned gear blowing up, but also due to the account system. I should be grateful they never really connected with it, because £40 per seat is a bit much, especially next to the £25 I paid for Skyrim, which has seen three of us through over 100 hours each and is still being played today.
I had been planning to try Elite again, though, in those rare moments where I get some time to myself. Perhaps try a bit of rares trading, I thought. But now I read with dismay that the next major update will be another full £40, with no loyalty discount at all. Just like an insurance company or Apple.
I don’t mind the subscription model. I’ve bought four Minecraft licences, but they are much more reasonably priced than Elite and include future updates. If my kids decided they wanted to play Elite, it would cost me £160 at every major update. Clearly the sensible thing to do here is to write off the original £40, and hope that No Man’s Sky is priced more forgivingly.
We know David Braben will be reading this. David, what should we tell Tony?
Taken for a ride
E284 started with a wonderfully vitriolic editorial that referred to a lot of the practices in the gaming industry today as ‘bullshit’. How ironic, then, that having read the feature on The Taken King, I got a bit of a gut punch when I tried to preorder it.
I digitally preordered Destiny for launch, due to my longstanding love of Bungie’s FPS mechanics and, I’ll be honest, a huge dollop of ‘believing the hype’. As a shooter, it surpassed my expectations, but I hit level 20, became disillusioned with the mission structure, and did not have the patience for the Light system.
Imagine my delight at The Taken King. I read the article and all the right things were being said, and I knew that deep down I was looking for an excuse to dive back in. So I trotted off to the Play-Station Store, but when I searched for The Taken King it returned a giant middle finger.
My options are to either buy the two previous expansions for £35 and then The
Taken King for £40, or alternatively The Legendary Edition of Destiny for £55 that contains everything, including another copy of the original game. The Taken King is technically classed as an expansion, but the cheapest option I have as someone who supported Bungie digitally on day one is to spend £55 on it.
To be clear, I’m not expecting Bungie to throw me a party of appreciation. I just feel that the contrition being shown with the game design should also extend to the commercial side. I want to play Destiny again, but now I feel resentful and am buying Metal Gear Solid V instead.
Publishers, especially in the digital space, need to learn the art of value and loyalty. At the moment it just feels like, well, bullshit.
Or you could shop around and get the lot – the base game, the previous expansions and
The Taken King – for under £40. It’s a mess all right, but things would have to get much, much worse for Destiny before you’d see Activision doling out a dose of contrition.
It is almost a year since I abandoned PC gaming entirely. I am doing my work on my phone and tablet, while my play happens on my assortment of consoles almost exclusively. But it is not merely the ease of use and lower prices of consoles that has allowed me to let go of my Steam library of 120+ titles, but the community as well. While flicking through an old issue of
Edge I saw The Sailor’s Dream, a wondrous narrative-heavy iOS game that not only received praise and sold well, but is held in high regard by players. Compare that with the farce that surrounded Sunset on PC. Tale Of Tales is one of gaming’s most valuable artistic voices, and yet the PC gaming community didn’t see the game’s regrettable commercial failure and the studio closing as a tragedy, but a relief. All over the Internet, the supposed biggest, best and most mature community of videogame players treated Sunset and its studio like a laughing stock; all for Tale Of Tales’ supposed sin of being progressive and its desire to elevate videogames as a medium.
This past generation has seen the PC gaming community elbowing out all wellmeaning members and turning into the most hostile, bigoted and entitled group of people in all of gamer culture. People with absolutely no sense of self-awareness. It makes me wonder if it is even worth it for arthouse developers to release their wares on PC any more. Certainly, consoles and iOS all have a more tolerant and welcoming userbase, and those platforms definitely don’t allow their users to abuse any sort of refund system to the detriment of creators. It makes me wonder whether, one day, all self-respecting people will abandon PC gaming en masse, just so that they wouldn’t be associated with the vile group of people that have appropriated the platform’s name. I already have.
The widespread dancing on Tale Of Tales’ grave was bizarre and regrettable, but let’s not tar the entirety of one of gaming’s largest and broadest demographics with the same brush. Some of our best friends are PC gamers. At least until they start banging on about a game’s FOV options.