Di­a­logue

Edge read­ers share their opin­ions; one wins a year’s PS+ sub­scrip­tion

EDGE - - SECTIONS -

Vir­tual re­al­ity There has been a lot of talk re­cently about the ‘sim­u­la­tion hy­poth­e­sis’: the sug­ges­tion that we live in­side a com­puter sim­u­la­tion. The hy­poth­e­sis it­self isn’t news: The Ma­trix was a big hit in 1999, and Descartes’ Med­i­ta­tions was all the rage 400 years ago. But now that it’s got the at­ten­tion of some sci­en­tists, and of en­trepreneurs such as Elon Musk, it gets to fea­ture promi­nently in news­pa­per cov­er­age.

There are dif­fer­ent ar­gu­ments for the hy­poth­e­sis, but one goes some­thing like this: videogames are ad­vanc­ing so rapidly they will soon be in­dis­tin­guish­able from re­al­ity; if this will hap­pen soon, then it might have hap­pened al­ready; we might be liv­ing in a sim­u­la­tion. I’ll leave it to a phi­los­o­phy class to pick this apart in de­tail, but I’d like to point out that it just isn’t true that games will soon be in­dis­tin­guish­able from re­al­ity.

There’s ob­vi­ously been in­cred­i­ble progress in graph­i­cal fi­delity, sound and (per­haps to a lesser ex­tent) an­i­ma­tion, but I think this can dis­tract from much slower progress in other as­pects of videogame de­sign.

Take AI. When the orig­i­nal Thief came out back in 1998 it was lauded for the huge step for­ward it made in AI be­hav­iour. Guards chat­ted, they had pa­trol routes, they could be dis­turbed and then looked for the source of the dis­tur­bance, and raised alarms. But they also chat­ted through stab­bings, bur­glar­ies and as­saults – some­times on them­selves. They would run away into dead ends or swing limply at Gar­rett if forced into a fight. When the Thief re­boot came out in 2014 it was panned for just about ev­ery­thing, but near the top of the list was its ter­ri­ble AI. Even af­ter 16 years the ba­sic NPC be­hav­iours hadn’t changed, and many of the is­sues that plagued the orig­i­nal also plagued the re­boot.

Aside from slow progress in some as­pects of videogame de­sign, there is also the over­ar­ch­ing is­sue of bugs. We know how it goes from Bethesda’s games: the big­ger, more co­her­ent and more im­mer­sive the world, the more im­mer­sion-break­ing bugs it has. Do you want to pick up that book, just like you would in real life? Well, give it a go, but you might find it less tricky to pick up that over­sized Gatling gun. Does that NPC en­joy­ing cook­ing and long walks in the coun­try­side? Yes, but they also en­joy long ses­sions of clip­ping through walls and ceil­ings.

I have no idea whether th­ese sorts of is­sues are fun­da­men­tal enough to make it im­pos­si­ble – not just now, but at any point in the fu­ture – to cre­ate a videogame that is truly in­dis­tin­guish­able from re­al­ity. But I think it’s fairly ob­vi­ous that we aren’t go­ing to cre­ate one any time soon. Leo Tarasov

“Are games too grown up now to in­dulge the sim­ple fan­tasy of feats of heroic der­ring-do?”

That’s prob­a­bly for the best. Af­ter all, do we re­ally want to live in a world that proves Elon Musk right? Ter­ri­fy­ing stuff.

Gotta Switch ’em all

Re­cently, we have been get­ting no end of Nin­tendo Switch in­for­ma­tion and ru­mours, mainly based on its games. Mario will come be­fore Zelda, it seems, and there’s a Lego City Un­der­cover re­mas­ter on the way. But amidst all this, there was one game that stood out and may just be more im­por­tant than any of those games: Poké­mon Stars.

Yes, it’s just ru­mours. But the point here is that it’s come from Eurogamer, the same place that first ru­moured the Switch de­sign. That pretty much turned out to be true. Will they be cor­rect on this one? Hope­fully.

Why? I think most peo­ple will in­stantly know the an­swer to that, but if you aren’t crazy for Nin­tendo, you might not. In July, we got a mo­bile app you may have heard of, Poké­mon Go, that took the world by storm. Then we got one of the best and most highly rated Poké­mon games ever, Sun and Moon.

So the cur­rent ap­peal of Poké­mon is mas­sive, from both in­vestors and the peo­ple like us. Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Stars is ru­moured to be the ‘third ver­sion’ of Sun and Moon, if it were to re­lease six months into the Switch’s life, it would ben­e­fit Nin­tendo hugely and also en­cour­age the hand­held and mo­bile au­di­ence to the new con­sole.

Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the poor sales of Wii U, if Switch were to get off to a good start, it would re­lieve some of the pres­sure on Nin­tendo. And let us not for­get that Wii U never ac­tu­ally got a true Poké­mon game (let’s not start on Pokkén Tour­na­ment or

Poké­mon Rum­ble U). If Switch were to get one early on, it could make all the dif­fer­ence.

Pro­vid­ing the ru­mours are true, Nin­tendo is on to a win­ner. Con­sid­er­ing the ap­peal of the se­ries, it’s smart think­ing: en­cour­age the mo­bile and Go au­di­ence to Switch, and there you have it. Sales boosted hugely. Now we just have to wait for the pre­sen­ta­tion to find out if it is true or not! James Bald­win Nin­tendo rarely seems in­ter­ested in what we’d con­sider no-brain­ers – look how long it took for it to make mo­bile games. But a Poké­mon game on a hy­brid home-and­portable game con­sole is surely too ir­re­sistible a prospect to ig­nore. Right? Hero power With 2016 hav­ing taken so many of my heroes (David Bowie, Prince, Muham­mad Ali and, of course, Paul Daniels) and the real world seem­ingly go­ing to hell in a hand­cart, I’m look­ing for hero­ism in my games. Yet 2016 hasn’t re­ally given me any­thing to get ex­cited about. Look at the games that came out this year: to bor­row an im­mor­tal line from The Stran­glers, what­ever hap­pened to all the heroes?

The push for agency, em­pow­er­ing the player to de­fine their avatar’s per­son­al­ity through their playstyle, is of course a noble goal. But the con­se­quence is a loss of char­ac­ter over­all. Un­less Sony gives the

Un­charted IP to an­other stu­dio, we have seen the last of Nathan Drake. Un­charted 4 felt like more than a good­bye to a love­able front­man, or even to a beloved se­ries. Drake and Un­charted are a dy­ing breed: char­ac­ter­driven, story-first ac­tion romps that drip with like­able per­son­al­ity. Much as I have en­joyed this year’s

Dis­hon­ored 2 and Deus Ex: Mankind Di­vided, nei­ther are de­fined by the per­son­al­i­ties of their cen­tral char­ac­ters. They are skill trees in phys­i­cal form; they have names and faces, yes, but ul­ti­mately their per­son­al­i­ties are dic­tated by who the player wants them to be. Nei­ther Watch Dogs 2 nor Mafia III fea­tured pro­tag­o­nists that will grace bill­boards and game boxes for years to come; they were spe­cific cre­ations for a sin­gle story. Both sto­ries were worth telling, and both games I en­joyed. But hardly heroic.

Are videogames too grown up now to in­dulge the sim­ple fan­tasy of feats of heroic der­ring-do? To put it an­other way: where is the next Nathan Drake go­ing to come from? I think that, th­ese days, we need him and his kind more than ever be­fore. Adam Dut­ton An el­e­va­tor pitch for you: it’s Un­charted, right, but with magic in­stead of guns, and Paul Daniels in­stead of Nathan Drake. We’ll get right on it. In the mean­time, hope­fully a year’s worth of free games via PlayS­ta­tion Plus will sup­ply the hero­ism you crave. Top gross­ing Af­ter read­ing Jack Mar­shall’s let­ter in E301, I couldn’t help but a feel a pang of re­gret of my own. While I can’t claim to have owned over 200 is­sues of Edge, your pub­li­ca­tion had been very much a part of my ear­lier gam­ing life, back when I was still a Sega fan­boy and bought E65 with its ‘Du­ral’ cover purely for the Dream­cast cov­er­age. I would read it just so I could dis­agree with your views be­fore re­vert­ing to the com­fort of other Sega mag­a­zines. But as the months went by, the petty fan­boy­ism sub­sided and

Edge be­came a mag­a­zine I could dis­agree with but re­spect. By the time I started own­ing ev­ery con­sole pos­si­ble, re­spect had be­come rev­er­ence – a rev­er­ence that still en­dures to­day, when monthly pub­li­ca­tions are in­creas­ingly a rar­ity.

To think, then, that dur­ing my uni years, with all of life’s pos­si­bil­i­ties and ac­tiv­i­ties, there wasn’t enough room for videogames. Ridicu­lously, in my first year in halls, I had lugged all my con­soles and about five years’ worth of Edge back is­sues into my par­ents’ car and my cramped ac­com­mo­da­tion. By the time I started my sec­ond year, they had all gone. Ev­ery con­sole and game went to CEX, and I’m ashamed to say those Edge back is­sues were rather un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously tipped into the re­cy­cling bin.

But quite mirac­u­lously, nearly a decade later, I re­turned to play­ing games at the end of my 20s. Nat­u­rally, Edge was my first port of call to help me catch up on ev­ery­thing. I also jumped at the of­fer to buy all your dig­i­tal back is­sues but was dis­ap­pointed to see it only went back as far as the end of 2009. I could per­haps track down the rest on eBay but let’s face it, I don’t have the space for them any­where. So imag­ine my sur­prise when read­ing

E300 on my iPhone there turned out to be a dig­i­tal copy of E1 in its en­tirety af­ter it. So to cut to the chase, how about digi­tis­ing the en­tire Edge back cat­a­logue? If you can re­pro­duce one, I can’t see the rest be­ing a prob­lem, and you’d cer­tainly have at least one will­ing cus­tomer here. More im­por­tantly, once it’s bought dig­i­tally, it’s there for­ever. That’s cer­tainly some­thing the game in­dus­try can learn from in pre­serv­ing their own back cat­a­logue for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Alan Wen The Edge ar­chive is a com­plex beast, span­ning many op­er­at­ing sys­tems, soft­ware pack­ages, stor­age me­dia, and the sort of in­com­pe­tence that would get peo­ple fired else­where, but we’ll run it by the men who wear af­ter­shave and see how we go.

Is­sue 301

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