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