…games have got [sic] immeasurably better. They are often beautiful, narratively interesting, enriching and social. Indeed, it is possible that they are too good. Today’s games seem to be displacing careers, friendships and families, and thus stopping young people (particularly men) from starting real, adult lives.
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. Oh, what? You have some data?
Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.
And what’s that got to do with videogames?
Economists typically (and reasonably) assume that people tend to buy more things as they earn more money. But as they grow richer, they buy proportionately more of some things and less of others. Spending on necessities, as a share of all consumption, declines as incomes rise. Economists label “luxuries” the things that account for an increased share of spending as income goes up. There is a similar logic to leisure luxuries. As the amount of time people spend at leisure (as opposed to work) rises, some activities (like bathing or sleep) account for a shrinking share of total leisure time. Others the leisure luxuries account for more.
(What does it say about me that as I read that article, I imagined how that model would fit into The Sims?)
Among those predisposed to the leisure-luxury life, better games mean people are quicker to swap working hours for gaming hours; given nes-era [sic] gaming technology, a twenty-something might decline an opportunity for overtime work to have a little longer with Mario and Luigi. Now, a part-time job might be all they are willing to do, so good are the worlds and characters waiting at home. For those with the means, any hour on the job is an hour too much.
A lot of writer Ryan Avent’s anecdotes smack of videogaming guilt, a unique phenomena which doesn’t exist to the same degree for other forms of entertainment. His attempt to draw a parallel between life and game design is cringe-worthy, particularly his conclusion that the real world needs better dynamic difficulty adjustment. But his basic premise isn’t the usual mainstream alarmism. While I believe videogames belong alongside other forms of leisure and entertainment, their capacity to suck up time is unique. The long-term and widespread effects can’t be negligible.
One of the skills you can unlock in Ghost Recon Wildlands is thermal vision, which highlights warmer objects from everything else in your view with splashes of red, orange, and yellow. The image above shows regular vision in a hunting lodge on the left and what you see in the same room with thermal vision enabled on the right. Notice the stuffed animals? Unless they practice taxidermy very differently in Bolivia, this can’t be right.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on– Oh, look, a massive update for No Man’s Sky! Look at all that new stuff: base building, creation sharing, ship collecting, class specialization, land vehicles and exocraft, races, new stuff to buy, new stuff to build, new ways to shoot at things, meaningful survival mechanics, permadeath. Permadeath! The thing that makes all games even more replayable! Even persistence for the various places you’ve discovered, such as Wlkjtulappd, and Berlkdipbiesy, and Yiplyustokpydy. As you recall, those are all planets in the Bfeudisklonklorrl system. Remember the Bfeudisklonklorrl system? Remember all its purple planets with their pink skies? Yiplyustokpydy was definitely my favorite. I guess if I’m going back, I should rename it to something like Chickworld or Tomholme or Yes Album Cover #317.
The update also includes the obligatory visual improvements, such as horizon based ambient occlusion. Whatever that is, it’s something that wasn’t in No Man’s Sky before.
Scroll through this splashy page to see what Hello Games has done to their aimless game-less space game. Because from where I’m standing, waiting on the Steam download to finish, it looks as if there might be an actual game in there now.
Way back in 2007, the Quarter to Three community voted on the best games of the previous year. The numbers were tallied, the winners declared, and the awards weren’t handed out in an extravagant ceremony hosted by Geoff Keighley. It was our own Peoples Choice Awards, decided by the folks who hang out in the virtual spaces of our forum. We’ve been doing these annual Quarterlies ever since.
Two men have been arrested and charged with promoting unlawful gambling in the United Kingdom. Dylan Rigby and Craig Douglas of Essex, England are being prosecuted by the UK Gambling Commission for violating the Gambling Act and for inviting underaged participation in betting activity. Both men individually owned and operated numerous sites related to FIFA Ultimate Team gambling and trading. They co-owned and promoted the FutGalaxy and Ultimate Coin Exchange sites. Rigby and Douglas are the first people being prosecuted by their government for illegal videogame gambling.
The recent CS:GO Lotto scandal involving Counter-Strike: Global Offensive cosmetic gun skin betting prompted Valve to issue cease and desist letters to gambling sites and has resulted in some civil suits, but no criminal charges have been filed yet. While the Attorneys General in the United States are aware of some of the videogame gambling complaints, they have thus far declined to prosecute.
That’s how you know an illicit activity is maturing, by the way. It’s when the law finally takes notice of it. Now that the scope of videogame gambling has grown sizable enough to attract the attention of the government, you can expect further legal action in the future.
Frost is an indie deck-building game with superlative atmosphere, clever gameplay, and some unfortunate interface issues (see the video above). It’s also got excellent post-release support, as you can see in the latest update, which adds new cards, characters, and scenarios, as well as a new mechanic for temperature. What does temperature do?
It affects the size of your hand
After a couple of quick playthroughs, I haven’t seen its effect yet, so I presume I haven’t unlocked any temperature cards (a lot of Frost’s content is locked behind how much you’ve played). But I can plainly see a slider in the upper left hand corner showing how warm I am alongside a count of how many cards I can hold. The colder you are, the fewer cards you get to play. In other words, as we all know, being cold shrinks appendages.
No Man’s Sky had one of the best launches on the PlayStation 4 since the console was released. It sold almost a million copies on PC in preorders and the first week of sales. It’s an unqualified sales success. Less than a month later, refund requests are in such volume that Valve has posted a special notice on the Steam store page. What happened? How did the indie darling go from being one of the most anticipated games of this year, to a swirl of controversy? Between accusations that Hello Games and Sean Murray lied about the game’s content, and a public debate about the merits of marketing, there is No Man’s Sky – a title that’s become the new poster child for an industry of hype.
After the jump, it’s the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning!Continue reading →
Adam Jensen is hunkered down behind a convenient desk. Heavily armed guards patrol back and forth. I could have my Jensen, my stealthy silent assassin cyber-augmented Jensen, stay crouched behind cover and stealthily take each guard out with long-range abilities, but my ninja Adam Jensen is a dumbass. He wants to scurry out into the open because that’s what happens when you load from a save while in cover and have to hit the spacebar on the PC version of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The button to confirm the load is the same as one to vault over objects while in cover, which means save-scumming presents its own form of punishment with each reload. Pop! Up comes Jensen! “Hey guys!” I imagine the look of surprise on the guards faces as they mow Jensen down.
One of the benefits of the Warhammer license being handed out like candy is that some of the games that use the Warhammer license will be good. Perhaps even very good. And some of those games will keep on giving. Today, the Space Marines arrive in Battlefleet: Gothic Armada, the Witch Hunters arrive in Mordheim: City of the Damned, and the Eldar arrive in Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. All on the same day! Space Marines cost $7, Witch Hunters cost $10, and the Eldar are part of the ongoing process of adding content to Eternal Crusade’s ongoing early access. Which I wouldn’t normally mention, but it’s worth mentioning any time space elfs show up.
You’re up, Creative Assembly. Not that Total War: Warhammer is hurting for content, but we’re all eager to hear who the new kids in class will be. Skaven? I bet it’s the skaven.
Microsoft closed Lionhead Studios in April, but the Fable franchise remains active despite Fable Legends being canceled shortly before the studio shut down. Fable lives! A group of ex-Lionhead folks have licensed the Fable name and started a Kickstarter for Fable Fortune, a concept that came out of the Pub Games project. Now separated from Microsoft, the game needs crowd-funding assistance to get finished.
Microsoft have helped us by giving us the license for Fable Fortune, but they are no longer investing in the project. We need to secure the remaining funds ourselves to complete development.
Fable Fortune from Flaming Fowl Studios will be a free-to-play collectible card game that leans heavily on the good versus evil morality system present in the Fable games. It may not be a full-blown action roleplaying game, but it looks like Flaming Fowl has the essence of Fable in it. You get all the British humor you’d expect from the series including bad puns, silly mustaches, and bodily functions.
The Far Harbor expansion for Fallout 4 is a big bowl of post-apocalyptic clam chowder. While Fallout 4 had plenty of shout-outs to Lovecraft, Far Harbor wears its inspiration proudly. Being set on an island off the coast of New England, it’s full of horrors like sullen fishermen, dangerous mist, icthyian monsters, and violent cultists. It may be the best Lovercraft game to date. There’s new loot to collect and new locations to stumble through, but the best stuff may be hidden underwater around the island where most players will never go. Get some underwater breathing in your perks and go find some sunken treasure.
Before FTL let you manage your crew on their peril-fraught voyage into the procedurally generated deep unknown, there was U-boat sim Silent Hunter 5. You made the same kinds of crew management decisions. Okay, here we go into a battle. This man goes here and that man goes there. It was all very personal.
Uboot seems to take a page from the same ship’s log. At first, it looks like the usual third person naval action game. But as you watch the promo video (Uboot is just a Kickstarter at this point), the view zooms in to a quaint cutaway of the sub. Anyone who’s ever studied the cutaway view of a ship will appreciate this. It’s all very Life Aquatic. I like how the metal sides of the submarine actually slide out of the way. They don’t just vanish like the walls of your house in The Sims. They deferentially get out of your way. And what better way to highlight the terror of a flooding sub than showing the water level rising around your hapless crew members?
The developers in Poland, Deep Water Studio, don’t list any former credits. So you’re taking a chance with a first-time developer. They cite a deal with publisher Playway to match whatever Kickstarter funds they make. Playway has a lot of trash in their catalog, but they appreciate the awkward charm in the Car Mechanic Simulation games, in which you play, yep, a car mechanic. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. And oddly enough, it totally works.
Uboot sounds even more personal than FTL or Silent Hunter 5. To wit:
You will see the lives of grey wolves in all its glory. We will not add any colour or flavour to it, even if the toilet overflows.
Ten years ago, Bethesda Softworks looked at the growing market in gamerpics (remember those?) and background themes in the Xbox Marketplace for the Xbox 360 console, and wondered if people would purchase something similar in a videogame. If people were willing to buy a virtual drawing of a funny face for their profile, why wouldn’t they buy a pony dress in their game? Thus, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’s Horse Armor Pack DLC pack was born. A cosmetic bit of fluff for your in-game Oblivion steed, the content was originally sold for 200 Microsoft Points (remember those?) or $2.50. Although it became the poster-child of bad downloadable content, Bethesda pointed out that quite a lot of people bought it, even two years later.
To say the Horse Armor Pack was divisive would be an understatement. Some people felt very strongly that it was the death knell of gaming. They said it was a nickel-and-dime scam that piecemeal sold what should’ve been bundled in an expansion, or even given away for free as a mod. Others thought that it was no big deal. People would vote with their wallets and sanity would win out, tossing the “microtransaction” into the dustbin of history.
Horse Armor was neither as it turned out. It was the start of a revolution in the gaming industry. Far from killing gaming or going away quietly, it instead pointed the way forward. Whole companies and genres are built around this model of selling game content now. In fact, the argument over this experiment looks sort of quaint today. DLC is commonplace. One could even argue that the majority of gamers prefer to pay for their gaming experiences through DLC or microtransaction offers. After all, where would mobile gaming be without in-game purchases?
Hooray for Horse Armor! It changed gaming forever and gave us all a Godwin’s Law equivalent for DLC.
That’s an in-game shot from RollerCoaster Tycoon World. My park guests could either be yawning at the game’s klunky performance on a decent PC, or they’re aghast that I’m playing this instead of a better game. It’s a mess. The game is in early access, so things could get better, but there’s a long way to go. As it stands now, it’s little more than a sparse sandbox park editor with a barely adequate tutorial mode coupled to art design that only barely looks as good as the full-featured RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 from 2004. The fact that the game is sorely unfinished didn’t stop the publisher, Atari, from boxing up a Steam code and tossing it up on retail shelves in some territories anyway.
Nvizzio Creations is the third studio that publisher Atari hired to take on the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise after Pipeworks Software and Area 52 Games were both removed from the project. Nvizzio at least seems to be excited to work on the project and they’ve acknowledged that they have some work to do. Hopefully, Atari recognizes that there is an audience willing to support these modestly budgeted, but well-made, sandbox sims.
Frontier Developments, the studio that made the previous RollerCoaster Tycoon games for Atari, is busy developing their own theme park sim, Coaster Planet.