Dénouement 2020: This Could Have Gone Better

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 5, 2021

Filed under: Industry Events 186 comments

2020 was the worst decade of my life. Yes, there was all of the big stuff everyone complained about: Global pandemic, the various lockdowns and subsequent economic fallout, the California wildfires, mass protests, the Australian wildfires, a rancorous American electionTo be honest, this one was like 7 different news stories in a long chain., the Amazon firesBut not this kind of Amazon Fire., a bunch of war, the Canadian wildfires, a stock market crash, mass unemployment, the invasion of murder hornetsThis one was more buzz than sting. It’s like the “Shark attack” stories from a few years ago, when shark attacks were down but shark attack coverage was up., and the fact that among all these crazy stories, the only one I made up was the one about Canadian wildfires.

I’m really happy we’ve got 2020 in the rear view mirror now. On the other hand, disasters don’t follow the Gregorian calendar, so there’s no real assurance that 2021 is going to be any better.  

But let’s take all of these global concerns and shove them off to one side. We’re not here to talk about the troubles with the human race and planet earth. This is obviously a tabletop roleplaying website, which means we’re here to talk about the AAA video game industry. 

Within the hobby, 2020 was a bit of a mixed bag. The one-two punch of global pandemic + economic strife took its toll on the industry, but we also got some good news and a few good games. Let’s look back at a few of the big stories this year and see how things went…

The Continued Debasement of the Live Service Looter

Remember Anthem? That's the one with the Iron Man armor, the really pretty skybox, the huge marketing campaign, and NOTHING ELSE going for it. I get bored just looking at these old screenshots.
Remember Anthem? That's the one with the Iron Man armor, the really pretty skybox, the huge marketing campaign, and NOTHING ELSE going for it. I get bored just looking at these old screenshots.

Back in the aughts we had the plague of WoW clones, where studios would make a cynical competitor to World of Warcraft and expect to become the Next Big Thing just because they slavishly copied everything about WoW and then added a new gimmick feature. It was a sad and frustrating time. A lot of money and talent was wasted on games that launched with great fanfare and then quietly died over the next few fiscal quarters. 

And now that pattern is repeating with the Live Service Looter. In fact, they seem to have the same predictable lifecycle:

1) Our game is nothing like [dominant title]! We’re not even trying to compete with it. But our game is actually way better and everyone will play it and you should totally preorder it right now, particularly if you’re a fan of [dominant title].

2) Our initial sales are fantastic! In fact, our game has sold more than twice as many copies as [unrelated single-player game]! This launch is a massive success, I mean, look at how hard it is for people to log in during busy times! Look at all the gripes over queueing, disconnections, and lag. Clearly our servers are overwhelmed, therefore we’re having a great launch.

3) Everything is great. We have so much content planned. Players should stick with the game because in just a few months we’re going to start rolling out New Crap. You don’t want to miss out!

4) Our player base is NOT dying. It’s totally normal to see a very slight reduction in active users after launch. If you feel like you’re all alone when you log in, rest assured there’s actually millions of players still out there.  Somewhere. They’re all in the next quest zone. Or maybe they’re about to log in. Maybe they’re all in a different instance. Or maybe they logged out juuuust before you got here. This game is still very popular, and our community is the best. We love you guys.

5) Good news everyone! Our game is SO SUCCESSFUL that we’re now looking to grow the community even more. We’re shutting down some servers to concentrate the population a bit, which is a totally normal thing to do when a game is growing.  The game is also going free-to-play. See! Our game is so successful we don’t even need to charge money for it anymore. From now on we plan to subsist on the love and adoration of our fans.  (And also a bunch of microtransaction stuff.) 

6) We’re scaling back / delaying some of the New Crap we promised. We still have total confidence in this game and it’s going to be bigger than ever, but we’re no longer spending money on it and actually we’ve taken most of the staff and fired them / assigned them to a different game. You folks are great. [Game Title] Forever!

7) Happy First Anniversary everyone! Some people say our player base is “small”. Some people call it “A joke”. Some people claim that our user base is nothing more than “A tiny cult of deluded whales, lost in a sea of unchecked bots and spammers.” But they’re wrong. We’re a FAMILY. And to celebrate our family, we’ve decided to create a handful of low-effort cosmetic items that you can purchase. Thanks for being the best fans in the world!

And so it goes. Just as a game reaches Stage 7, a new game is announced and enters Stage 1. Live Service Looters are a little different from an MMO, but the overall trajectory is about the same.

I’m a former fan of this genre. I really do like a good murder-based skinner box. I was a big fan of the first two Diablos and the first two Borderlands. But then the genre mutated into some horrible beast made of grind, multiplayer with randos, and microtransactions. The genre is now represented by The Division, Destiny, and Anthem, and none of those games have the ingredients that originally drew me to this genre.

The bad news is that 2020 gave us two different misbegotten Live Service Looters: Marvel’s Avengers, and Godfall. The good news is that these products struggled to find an audience and make back their money.

The Tide Turns

I want to make it clear that I’m not cheering for the downfall of this genre. If these games had been good, then I’d be happy for the people enjoying them. But the games were bad, and so I’m glad the public recognized them as bad and the games suffered as a result. This ought to send a pretty clear signal to starry-eyed producers of the future: “Stop this lazy cynical bullshit. Do better.”

I’m sure there are still one or two LiveLooters currently in development, but I’ll bet the twin failures of Marvel’s Avengers and Godfall will make it very hard for similar copycat projects to get greenlit going forward. Maybe the next time someone designs one of these games, they’ll start with the gameplay rather than the monetization scheme. 

In particular, the design of Godfall makes me crazy. A few weeks ago I watched this review from SkillUp:


Link (YouTube)

Every design decision in this game irritates me. The gaudy art. The overused shine on everything. The gameplay. The outrageously busy and over-designed models. The lazy approach to storytelling that would make a low-budget indie blush for all the cut corners. The way inputs are (not) handled. The particle spam. The horrible UI. The way it tries to have the benefits of being a LiveLooter without taking on the responsibilities in terms of server infrastructure, matchmaking, and social features.

So yes, 2020 gave us two horribly designed and shockingly cynical LiveLooters, but both games struggled in a way that ought to make this sort of thing less likely in the future.

Stadia Stagnates

Buying games on Stadia is like buying a home on rented land. It's trailer park gaming.
Buying games on Stadia is like buying a home on rented land. It's trailer park gaming.

Stadia isn’t dead yet, but the platform seems to be fading into irrelevance. Nobody talks about it these days, it hasn’t landed any high-profile exclusives, and I don’t see a lot of games targeting the platform. The big companies keep telling us that the future is this nightmare world of perma-rentals and the death of ownership, but now for the second time this idea has died. There are plenty more coming: xCloud, GeForce Now, and Amazon Luna are the big ones right now, but I’d be surprised if we don’t have more on the way.

To be clear: I think there’s a place in the market for cloud gaming. If you live near a major population center and don’t have the money / space for dedicated gaming hardware, then cloud gaming might make a lot of sense. But that’s a niche market, not the future of the hobby. 

The Stadia pricing model where you pay launch day prices for old games on top of your monthly subscription fee is an idea that needs to die. Cloud gaming is a more limited experience. It suffers from input lag and visual artifactsYes, these will get better with time. But no matter how fast your internet connection gets, it will always be slower than a local experience because PHYSICS., as well as limiting the end user’s ability to use mods. It devours bandwidth, which can introduce extra costs and complications for people who share a connection with a family.

This approach to gaming is a compromise, and the pricing needs to reflect that. Google tried to convince us that we should be willing to pay extra for this inferior gaming experience. Hopefully, that assumption will die with Stadia.

 

Footnotes:

[1] To be honest, this one was like 7 different news stories in a long chain.

[2] But not this kind of Amazon Fire.

[3] This one was more buzz than sting. It’s like the “Shark attack” stories from a few years ago, when shark attacks were down but shark attack coverage was up.

[4] Yes, these will get better with time. But no matter how fast your internet connection gets, it will always be slower than a local experience because PHYSICS.



From The Archives:
 

186 thoughts on “Dénouement 2020: This Could Have Gone Better

  1. Daimbert says:

    and the fact that among all these crazy stories, the only one I made up was the one about Canadian wildfires.

    Speaking as a Canadian, my reaction to that one was “Wait, what? When did that happen?”.

    1. Martin Belanger says:

      I have an old computer (2600k with gtx770). Stadia allowed me to play cyberpunk 2077…. I know that I only “own” the game for as long as Google keep the thing alive. But I could not have played the game without upgrading and with the current market of inexistant parts, it is not a great time to do so. I could not okay a shooter on this or anything that requires reflexe input, but those are not my games generally.

      So for me, Stadia is a win.

      1. Simplex says:

        “So for me, Stadia is a win.”

        But you can also play Cyberpunk 2077 on GeForce Now service using your own copy of the game (from GoG) instead of the rental from Stadia.

        1. Scerro says:

          Yep, in terms of a Streaming service, as far as I can tell GeForce Now is fundamentally set up fairly. Sadly, last I knew Blizzard pulled some games from the service. The simple fact that you own the games that you’re playing on the service obviously seemed to bother publishers.

      2. Gordon says:

        I know multiple people with older PC’s / last gen consoles who are playing Cyberpunk on Stadia. Is weird.

    2. tmtvl says:

      I think that was when there were those terrible blizzards in the Sahara.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Well, it’s actually somewhat credible to have wildfires in Canada (we have a LOT of forests). I just couldn’t remember us having them that bad this year.

        1. chukg says:

          Yeah, 2020 was pretty okay here in BC for fires but 2019 was horrible.

          1. methermeneus says:

            Iirc, Canada has been implementing controlled burns in fire ecologies to prevent disastrous accidental fires down the road. Unfortunately, the most flammable parts of California and Australia are grasslands, not forests, so controlled burns are much more difficult and less effective in preventing future uncontrolled fires.

            1. Tuck says:

              The most flammable parts of Australia are definitely not grasslands, they’re “the bush” which varies from dense forest to sparser scrub forest. Eucalyptus trees are full of highly flammable oil.

              1. Philadelphus says:

                Same in California, grassland fires burn quick and are done. Forests build up a lot of thermal inertia that makes those fires really difficult to stop. (And as if the native forests weren’t flammable enough already, California’s got plenty of eucalyptus—which loves the climate—too.)

                Living in Australia, with family back in California, I feel like my year is one long never-ending round of news stories about the latest catastrophic fires.

    3. King Marth says:

      There were 3928 fires in Canada in 2020, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center website. Just because there isn’t widespread coverage of people evacuating doesn’t mean that wildfires aren’t happening.

      Of course, that’s the smallest amount of annual fires since 2009 with 3766 fires, which was also the low point in available data. The smokey year of 2018 had 6845 fires, and 1989 had 10998 fires, the most per year out of available data. Does this context change the meaning of the number for you? What if I hadn’t provided it? Did you check that my numbers are right before forming a strong opinion?

      As important as it is to recognize the failings of what is happening right now, it’s interesting to take a step back and see that the problems of the world continue to be present even when people aren’t currently mad about them.

      1. Syal says:

        Does this context change the meaning of the number for you? What if I hadn’t provided it? Did you check that my numbers are right before forming a strong opinion?

        Well no, no, and no, but I’m curious how big a fire has to get before it gets recorded. I assume a lit cigarette doesn’t count as a fire by itself.

        1. Thomas says:

          I tried to look it up, but sadly I can find no info on how the stats are collected, which is very poor form. They have two separate fire databases and neither of them explains how they get data!

          I did see that the area burned is more useful than the number of fires – they claim that 3% of fires account for 97% of the area burned (2020 seems to have had the least area burned in the last 40 years).

          1. Abnaxis says:

            If I remember right, that’s a complicated question, because the data comes from a combination of fires reported by local fire authorities when they feel like it as well as satellite imagery. Let me google a bit…

            So, I didn’t get anything about Canada, but this is how they do it in the US, which is what I was thinking of. State and local authorities submit reports whenever there’s an unauthorized wildfire that’s “big enough.” Once the fires get to a certain size the feds require the locals to report them, but there’s no minimum fire size that’s too small to report so there are indeterminately small fires mixed in. Additionally, when the EPA gets a report of an ongoing wildfire, they take satellite images, with the data gathered itself dependent on the size and location of the fire. There are multiple agencies that submit these reports even for the same fire, so all this data is gathered and cross-checked and aggregated to get the final numbers.

            The answer to the question “which fires get counted” is “depends on where it happened and how many of the locals felt like they had enough funding and time to report it” outside of the big ones.

            However, according to the EPA for a fire to count as a wildfire it has to be one of an “unplanned, unwanted wildland fire[s] including unauthorized human-caused fires, escaped wildland fire use events, escaped prescribed fire projects, and all other wildland fires where the objective is to put the fire out.” So it’s a fire that needs intervention to be put out (by firefighters I presume), not a lit cigarette.

            I thought I remembered hearing something similar about how they count Australian wildfires, but I don’t have a reference for it.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              As someone who actually works emergency services I can tell you that at least around here (central-eastern Europe) fire departments are very, very keen on reporting everything they possibly can. The simple reason being funding. Assuming that it’s similar around the world there’s probably not too much that gets overlooked is what I’m saying.

    4. DaveMc says:

      Another Canadian, here, and my thought was “Yeah, that probably happened somewhere and I just missed it in the noise”.

    5. Jay says:

      Shamus may have made the Canadian wildfires up, but they actually happened.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Wow, it’s a good thing he didn’t make up a zombie apocalypse or asteroid impact!

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Look what you did! You think about that — or don’t, upon reconsideration.

          On a serious note, I found it amusing that Shamus neglected to mention a hurricane season so busy we used up our whole alphabet and a healthy chunk of Greece’s in naming all the storms.

  2. Vertette says:

    I hope that with the increasing irrelevancy of Stadia, big companies will realize that this “death of ownership” idea isn’t gonna work out, because if Google can’t pull it off then nobody can. Somehow I don’t think reality is enough to stop them from pursuing the idea again in the future though.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      They can just ship rental gaming machines to your house, that you have to give back when you stop paying the subscription. Just like internet modems, that get returned if you switch providers. (In North America anyways.)

      1. Agammamon says:

        Only $250/mo! Plus shipping and handling

        And taxes!

        And hidden fees!

    2. Chad Miller says:

      if Google can’t pull it off then nobody can

      Google actually has some distinct disadvantages in this space. Chief among them, if you’re launching a service that outright will not work when your company stops supporting it, then it’s probably not good to be a company infamous for killing projects the instant they stop being short-term profitable (even if they still have a loyal userbase)

      1. GoStu says:

        On the other hand, Google’s one of the few that’d probably even try.

        I’ve heard that streaming video is pretty much the worst of all worlds as far as services-over-internet; you need massive amounts of data storage, as well as massive amounts of internet bandwidth. Google knows this from being the owners of YouTube. To paraphrase Dan Olson – anyone who even tries to set up a service like that has got to be in some very serious money, or they’ll be bankrupt within a month.

        Streaming games is somehow even worse – not only are you doing videos and need all that storage, you also need to do so at VERY low latencies and little tolerance for interruption. You can get ahead on a video and buffer – there is no buffer for games.

        If Google flopped, who else is going to try?

        1. Chad Miller says:

          Yes, they largely have the tech part (or at least, they have the ability to build tech that would work if anyone actually wanted it, at least if the inherent limits of streaming can be sufficiently overcome). Google’s failing is that they think they can build a pile of awesome tech and people will automatically want it, that they can throw smart engineers at a problem and whatever comes out will be good enough without such trifles as “actually targeting a market that exists”. They didn’t bother to create a pricing model that would actually look attractive to a significant number of people, and I’m told that even on the dev side of things optimizing Stadia games requires extra work irrelevant to other platforms, which devs won’t actually want to do until after Stadia gets a substantial install base or Google pays them to do it. It’s shaping up to be the Google Plus of video games.

          By contrast, Microsoft’s Game Pass (with or without Ultimate) is giving people a reason to fork over monthly for games. They can build up the cloud ecosystem while still serving the old market to people who still want it. As long as they don’t jump the gun and repeat their XBone launch mistakes then they have a clear gaming-to-streaming pipeline, and while it’s currently mobile-only I’m sure the day is coming where they start advertising “XBox Game Pass but without the XBox”

          Nvidia’s thing similarly looks like it could be going somewhere; not needing to sell the games directly helps, though they’ve already run into IP problems that will probably only increase if other streaming services take off (much like Netflix lost so much of their selection as video streaming went from a curiosity to the way many people watch TV)

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I was looking for a place to mention the Game Pass. Literally the two reasons why I’m not subscribing to it are the combination of my massive backlog and their big overlap with Humble Monthly/Choice and Epic Store giveaways but I’ve definitely considered it and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I singed up sometime this year. If they then offered, say, a trial of a cloud gaming service, and I’d find out it works fine for me I’d have to do some serious thinking next time my PC starts to fall behind the technology curve… I mean, at this point this isn’t really any further deterioration of ownership since you don’t own the Pass games anyway…

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              …aaaaand now I see someone below mentioning that there IS an “xCloud” service bundled with the Game Pass, might actually have to get a look at that.

        2. AdamS says:

          It’s an awful, anti-consumer practice. I hope Stadia flops, and flops hard enough to kill the idea forever.

  3. Daimbert says:

    The Stadia pricing model where you pay launch day prices for old games on top of your monthly subscription fee is an idea that needs to die. Cloud gaming is a more limited experience.

    Also, it actually contradicts the existing and working streaming model. For streaming services, you don’t pay the full price for a movie and then a subscription on top of that (although Disney, I think, tried that for one movie). For the most part, the assumption is that for your subscription you’ll get access to a lot of content and then you MIGHT have to pay more one-time fees for things like premium content and early access. This has been a successful model as far back as cable Video-On-Demand services. The Stadia pricing model ignores that very successful and expected model and replaces it with something that isn’t as good as their non-gaming or gaming counterparts. Given that, it’s hard to imagine a lot of potential customers looking at that model and thinking that it’s what they really, really want to be a part of, whereas the idea of streaming for games would raise some interest.

    1. Grog says:

      Forgive me if I’ve got it wrong, but isn’t that how Amazon Prime video works? You get access to a bunch of series and movies with your subscription, and then some newer movies you have to pay a little extra for?

      I think this could be a working model, as it’s pretty easy if you have the subscription anyway to throw down a couple of bucks for something you want to watch in the moment.

      Of course, there’s a big difference between that, and paying a subscription fee and then the full game price for everything you want to play.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Please read again the comment you’re replying to. He says that is indeed the current model and that’s very different from what Stadia is trying.

    2. John says:

      For streaming services, you don’t pay the full price for a movie and then a subscription on top of that (although Disney, I think, tried that for one movie).

      The movie you are thinking of is the recent live-action version of Mulan, for which Disney initially charged a one-time fee of $30 on top of the monthly Disney+ fee. I’m not sure how well that little experiment went. I personally have no interest in the film. Even my wife, who is generally quite keen on glossy live-action Disney remakes, wasn’t willing to fork over $30 so that she and my daughter could watch it right away. She waited until the film became part of the regular Disney+ service and I don’t think she regrets it.

      1. Syal says:

        $30 for a single movie?! That’s two and a half trips to the theater, or six trips to the bargain bin! That’s videogame price, that’s insane.

        1. Chad Miller says:

          I think these home releases are priced under the assumption that entire families are watching them (similar for the $20-$30 day one pay per views showing up on cable providers these days)

          That price tag isn’t so bad if you were taking the spouse and a kid or two.

        2. Vinsomer says:

          I wanna live where you are, where $30 gets you 2 and a half trips to the theatre.

          Here in the UK, that would get you 2 adult tickets and a sliver of change. and that’s assuming you don’t buy literally anything from concessions. If you want a snack and a drink, that’ll get you one trip if you’re not that hungry.

          1. Vernal_ancient says:

            Most theaters in the States (or at least the part I live in) charge a bit over $10 for an adult ticket, so if you’re going alone two to three movies sounds about right, depending on how much you spend on concessions

            1. Vinsomer says:

              $30 is around £24, and an average ticket is £10 in the UK, so I guess the original calculation is sort of right, but given that you can have multiple people watch the $30 showing on Disney+, and save a huge amount on food and drinks (especially if you’re watching the movie as a family), as well as all the additional conveniences that come with watching a movie at home vs at the cinema, I’m not sure the $30 movie is a bad deal, even if it’s a horrible precedent to set on a consumer level.

              1. Syal says:

                I think the more important comparison is that’s also six trips to the Blu-Ray bargain bin, or ten to the DVD bargain bin. And several of those are have-multiple-movies-because-only-one-was-well-received collections, so you’re looking at anywhere between 6 and 100 at-home movies for $30.

                Even the Real Movies section only charges around $12. $30 is like “25-year-old cult classic, plus shipping*” price.

                ..,which… I guess would be Mulan. Well played, Disney.

                *(Amazon’s selling Dogma at $80 now! But even stranger is it’s got uncensored porn on the Dogma search page. Why would you do that, international company?)

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  I think the more important comparison is that’s also six trips to the Blu-Ray bargain bin, or ten to the DVD bargain bin.

                  This is true if you value price over the ability to see brand new releases. These release day pandemic movies are being priced for people who reverse both of those things. It’s a new niche because for some people the cost of a theater ticket is being able to see the show in a theater, while for others it’s just the price of a new movie because it’s new.

      2. Thomas says:

        Disney released Soul on Disney+ for free, so my guess is Mulan didn’t go well and they’re still figuring out their model.

      3. Jeff says:

        I’m surprised your wife didn’t regret it, because everyone I know who watched it absolutely regrets having done so.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      As someone who buys most games at least a couple years after release, and I almost never consider AAA games until they fall somewhere in the 10-15$ range, having an access to a large library of older games and knowing that “hey, that new thing will be available to me in a year or two”… yeah, that does seem like an attractive offer to me. Heck, while I logically know this isn’t a good idea for the customer I have to admit having something like “game of the month” where an AAA title from, say, last year becomes available to subscribers with no additional charge for a limited time would definitely work on me (and would generate additional periodic buzz for those games some time after the initial release rush).

      Honestly I feel like the “Netflix for games” model is very likely to catch on, the Game Pass already looks pretty good in my opinion,and cloud gaming is a natural evolution of that. At this point the only thing that can kill it, or hold it back, in my eyes would be too strong balkanization with the platforms waging an exclusives war. Anyone else notice how many brand name studios Microsoft owns nowadays?

  4. Thomas says:

    The WOW cycle seems accelerated for live service games. They’d barely had a peak before they began to look in decline. Imagine if MMOs had started looking dead in the water after Everquest.

    Marvel Avengers and Godfall in particular looked dead from the start. I don’t think there was ever a point where people were actually excited for those games. Even Hellgate: London managed to put out a good trailer before flopping, Avengers didn’t even get that far.

    I wish EA had a better turning speed than an oil tanker, because I bet they’ll still manage to screw up Dragon Age 4 before the message comes through that live service games are a bad idea.

    The less extreme version of live service games – the invasion of free-to-play mechanics in single-player games like Assassins Creed, doesn’t look like it’s going to die though. And it’s becoming more and more common place to patch in these mechanics after the reviews are out and people have all bought their copy. Valhalla practically advertised the fact that it didn’t have any XP boosters, and then patched one in as soon as its metacritic score was safe. That’s beyond scummy.

    1. Asdasd says:

      The problem is that none of the games mentioned are the actual WoW of live looters. That would be FIFA (the loot is Ultimate Team players), and it’s exceeding the wildest success of WoW in its prime, because its microtransaction hellmode is perennially popular while still resetting everyone’s progress yearly and charging $60 for the privilege.

      1. Thomas says:

        FIFA is more F2P mechanics in a paid for game than a live looter. They’re not creating end game content to keep players round, and they’re not even structuring the game around their looting mechanics. They’ve discovered people will give them money for even less work than that.

        1. Asdasd says:

          They definitely structure Ultimate Team around the endgame of loot packs. A staple is to run special time-limited events which extract user engagement through FOMO and punishing grind.

          You could argue the toss over whether to attribute this to f2p or GAAS or looter design, but as I see it they’re very much all birds of a feather.

          1. Thomas says:

            The difference as I see it – which is a bit meaningless I’ll admit – is FIFA isn’t structuring the actual gameplay around the F2P elements. As a ‘live service’ it has no ‘service’. It’s just playing FIFA, but they make you buy the players.

            Where perhaps the difference isn’t quite so meaningless, is you can essentially play parts of FIFA disconnected from the F2P – load up an exhibition match, play with a friend, do career mode and all the player stats are based on real-life.

            Whereas a ‘live looter’ is designed around the ‘live service’ elements. The maps, the way online works, the loot system it’s all very particular. It happens I don’t like this type of game, so even if it wasn’t F2P I’m not exactly sorry that it’s going.

            But they’re both bad, and unfortunately the F2P ‘elements’ version of FIFA is a lot more insidious and a lot harder to get rid of. Destiny and The Division style games might be over before they even really start, but I agree the FIFA model is here to stay, and that sucks.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I’m not familiar with the genre, but maybe the looter-shooters stopped improving? WOW was more accessible (or dumbed down; depends on who you ask) than Everquest, and Blizzard made silly amounts of money. Then came the clones that didn’t understand that imitating WOW doesn’t make WOW money appear.

      1. GoStu says:

        I’ve never really played them, but looking in from the outside and hearing from people that do… I can’t say I’ve *ever* heard the players talk about the gameplay. At some point in the game, everything’s a bullet sponge and you’re going to be grinding for a gun/item with higher numbers on it so the enemy’s numbers go down a bit faster.

        To clarify, I can’t recall a single feature where people said “Well, SubscriptionShooter 2 is gonna have [feature] that SubscriptionShooter 1 didn’t!”.

      2. Vinsomer says:

        The looter shooters kept improving, at least somewhat.

        Destiny has definitely annoyed a lot of players with its sunsetting and Content Vault, but the game as a pure game is far better than what it was in year 1. If you want to see improvements in a ‘livelooter’, don’t look to competitors. Look to the ones that stand the test of time, and compare them to what they once were. I am certain that the most important skill for a livelooter developer (as far as specifically within project management) is the ability to quickly and decisively learn from their mistakes.

        Like WoW, the big problem is that because live services aren’t just games, but ongoing services that have to be managed for years, there are few people outside the top livelooter developers who have the experience of managing a livelooter for a long period of time. As well as the fact that they’re incredibly expensive, so it’s not like developers are getting experience in the indie scene. So you tend to see all these new aspiring competitors make the exact same mistakes that the market leaders already made years ago because they aren’t lead by people who learned the lessons they needed to learn to avoid them (which is why you don’t make Bioware, your prestige RPG developer, make your version of Destiny). Meanwhile, those market leaders keep trudging along, making their small incremental improvements which stack up over time.

    3. RamblePak64 says:

      There were people excited for Marvel’s Avengers, but I think it was a combination of people that wanted someone to evolve the Live Service model and fix what Destiny seems to continue struggling with, as well as people that just wanted a fun Avengers game. The problem is that the Live Service element fixed nothing, was notably worse than what Destiny or other competitors offer, and it ruined the potential of an Avengers game.

      What Marvel’s Avengers needed to do was be a single-player game in the style of Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, where different characters had different unique abilities and therefore allowed different levels to have a different atmosphere or feel. Some maps were more platformer, others stealth, and others full-bore vehicle sections. It capitalized on the Transformers IP to come up with a variety of different gameplay styles and make for a fun game that felt appropriate to the property.

      By being a Live Service multiplayer game where no one player could be more valuable than another, you need to make sure Hulk is no stronger than Black Widow, which means his giant fist that should hit like a high-speed truck instead comes off as a slight nudge to a standard human sized enemy.

      Who in the world wants to play that game?! It turns out, not many, and I imagine the biggest damage to their bottom line was the Beta.

      Godfall, though, really was dead on arrival. I’m a big action game fan, but something about its aesthetic just did not gel with me. Watching SkillUp’s video, I felt glad I had no interest in it.

  5. Lino says:

    Cloud gaming is a more limited experience…. It devours bandwidth, which can introduce extra costs and complications for people who share a connection with a family.

    Even though most Americans are sleeping right now, I’m kinda curious – is this normal for you? Shamus is talking about it as if you have a set number of GB of data that you can use in a month, but doesn’t that only apply for mobile Internet? At least that’s how it works here in Bulgaria (and everywhere else in Europe I’ve been to).

    For home Internet, you subscribe to a plan, but the only thing that determines is your speed. Converted to EUR, the most expensive plan by one of our telecoms is EUR 15.4/month for 1 GB download speed, and 600 MB upload speed. So, if one person in the family is hogging the Internet, the only problem for the rest of us is that we can’t do stuff that requires a very high speed.

    But the way Shamus describes it, it sounds like the time I was in Cebu a couple of years ago – your Internet came from a voucher you activate with your phone. You then use your phone as a HotSpot. And that works the same as mobile Internet – if you go over the cap, you have to pay extra (quite a lot, if I remember correctly).

    But in the US can’t you solve that problem by… you know…. Getting normal Internet? Weren’t Americans the ones who helped invent that sort of thing?

    1. tmtvl says:

      My ISP offers 2 (well, 3, but it’s complicated) plans: the affordable one with a 150GB/month data cap, and the over twice as expensive one with an “unlimited” cap (which of course just means you get throttled once you hit about 150GB).
      Fortunately in Belgium we have 2 ISPs available, so the other one… does the same thing but a little bit cheaper for lower speed.

      At least I don’t live in New Zealand, where internet is digital gold.

      1. Lino says:

        WHAT?! That’s literal extortion! How on Earth do you watch YouTube? Don’t you get anxious before you turn up the video quality? Is 150 GB even enough to watch videos in 720p? How are people not protesting this?

        Or maybe it’s because you live in a more remote area? Then it would be fine. I’d be willing to give up my Internet usage in exchange for some fresh air and beautiful views (I know I’ve had my fair share of wallpapers with pictures of Belgian villages)

        1. Kincajou says:

          i mean, 150 Gb/ month is massive for the average user. I personally have that limit and will liberally watch youtube videos, stream series and films (720p minimum) without significantly denting that.

          For reference my main usage is:
          – Daily zoom meetings with video on (1-2 meetins a day, circa 4hours/day)
          – Daily internet surfing (circa 12h/day)
          – films (2-3 films a week, at a minimum 720p )
          – tv series (about 1-2 episodes/day)
          – Games (i dont do online gaming, so it’s generally downloading about 3-4gb/ two-three months)

          This will take about 60-70% of my time, the rest is all non-technology related.

          Whilst i appreciate i’m not a heavy user, i doubt i’m a light one, i should also add that i don’t suffer any lag at any point during streaming/calling.

          1. Lino says:

            I don’t know, I think it’s the idea of a cap that bothers me. Knowing there’s a limit, hanging over me like a Damocle’s sword, even if that sword is likely to never come down. E.g. even though my mobile Internet is capped at a whopping 10 GB, and I rarely use more than 3 or 4, I still check where I’m at from time to time. But I do it a lot less than I used to, so I guess you get used to it with time…

            1. Kincajou says:

              Hah! I totally get that, i used to have that then i changed country three times and each with their bloody pecularities in internet, mobile data, phone minutes, free texts…
              Not having a salary that justified always getting the ultimate pack i had to sit down and do the sums. None of this stopped me from putting a warning on my phone when it’s used 2Gb of data (and a hard block later on… i think it’s 4, unsure atm)

          2. Vinsomer says:

            I would imagine the average user isn’t a single person on one plan, though.

            Once you add roommates, partners and children, you could easily hit that cap.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          I live in a US metro of about half a million people and was nodding along to tmtvl’s description. Our local cable monopoly works like that. If I moved to a more remote area I just wouldn’t have halfway decent Internet at all.

          1. Nimrandir says:

            I’ve spent the last decade living in U.S. cities substantially smaller than half a million people, and my experience lines up with this as well. I did luck out that I’m not in an area where Comcast holds sway, though. It may also be a factor that both places I’ve lived rely on tourism for their economies, which could incentivize maintaining quality Internet.

            Weirdly, the best ISP in my previous residence was the power company. Maybe they were able to install the necessary cable during maintenance of the electric grid?

        3. Fungus says:

          It’s often surprising to people from the old Soviet Bloc countries to learn that many Western countries have fairly poor internet access options, at quite unreasonable prices. The reason for that is, ironically, because they had better developed existing infrastructure – but one that was well suited for copper-cabled telephony, not so much the internet. Upgrading it is time-consuming and costly, with a lot of demand. Meanwhile, the countries playing catch-up around the new millennium built the internet infrastructure from scratch using fibre connections.

          1. Fizban says:

            And with effective monopolies (or duopolies, etc, you get the idea), there’s no pressure to actually do the upgrades. Edit: ah, people got to this further down.

        4. Syal says:

          Is 150 GB even enough to watch videos in 720p?

          Haha, the 150GB cap doesn’t even enter into that; my 100KB download speed means 720p is unwatchable.

        5. tmtvl says:

          Is 150 GB even enough to watch videos in 720p?

          That ain’t an issue, I never watch higher than 480p, and usually I just watch on 320.

      2. Kincajou says:

        As someone who has moved to belgium and lived in the UK, Italy and france I can confirm that it is not uncommon to have a total data cap on some internet plans.
        Often the caps are so crazy high that it doesn’t make a difference and for low-medium users taking the capped vs the unlimited plans is a significantly cheaper option.

        (also, i think here in flanders i could chose between about 4 ISPs, not that the price differences were that much but….)

        1. tmtvl says:

          Scarlet is just a Belgacom reseller. So your choices are Belgacom, Telenet, Belgacom under another name, or Belgacom under yet another name.

        2. Vinsomer says:

          Even unlimited plans here in the UK will throttle your speed, though that’s usually during times of very high traffic, or if you use a crazy amount of bandwidth.

      3. Michael says:

        My uncapped gigabit connection is NZD85/~USD60/~EUR50 per month. What are you talking about?

        1. Mistwraithe says:

          Yes, NZ internet is not too bad now, I suspect it’s still a bit more expensive than average for western countries but I have gigabit fibre at a reasonable price and I actually get close to gigabit rates a lot of the time.

      4. Fizban says:

        I don’t know what the exact cap is because they like to pretend they’re uncapped while, as mentioned, actually just throttling you once you hit the cap in the fine print (which I could look up, but it’s not going to change anything so what’s the point). But I do know that after I got a taste for 720p streams and was watching them all the time (actively watching even, not just in the background), I was having random disconnects for hours at a time anywhere from weekly to daily. Recently I’ve been streaming in the background while playing other games, at 480 ’cause it’s on a tv further away, and oh hey look I haven’t had any shutdowns in months.

      5. Ebalosus says:

        As a telco engineer from New Zealand, you’ll have to explain the last part to me; because unless you live more than a kilometre away from an exchange, you can get fast unlimited internet for about the cost of a new videogame a month. If you live in a major town, you can get unlimited gigabit fibre for the same price.

    2. Chris says:

      Data caps on regular broadband internet are becoming very common here in the US. Comcast is one of the biggest ISPs in the country and they now apply caps to all residential customers. It sucks, but in many places there is exactly one provider available.

      1. Lino says:

        That can’t be right! What about the other giants – AT&T, Verizon… Aren’t they eager to undercut their competition? Even if they’ve got some cartel shenanigans going on, offering a much better service is bound to get you more money than any cartel ever would.

        1. Asdasd says:

          I guess competing would involve a lot of capital costs, which don’t look as good on a yearly or quarterly balance sheet. Similar to slum landlords, who plump their margins not by competing with other landlords to offer the best accommodation, but by spending as little as they possibly can because they know that the housing shortage means their tenants have nowhere else to go.

          1. Chris says:

            Exactly this. Verizon and AT&T are predominantly mobile and don’t seem especially interested in building out new line service. Verizon in particular is letting their line services rot. The cable ISPs have mostly divided the country into individual fiefdoms and don’t compete. Fiber is rare outside of cities.

            Competition is expensive. Monopoly rents are not.

            1. Asdasd says:

              Incidentally, in the UK it’s not quite the same. BT owns the largest line network, as it used to be the nationalised telephone provider and that’s still the backbone it uses. They’re slow to invest properly in fibre and make a tonne of profit renting the network out to a host of regulator-mandated shell-company ‘competitors’ who cannot offer a better service by definition.

              Fortunately there is one actual competitor with their own proper cable network (Virgin, although they bought it rather than building it). They actually do invest and behave like a proper competitor, although they exploit their superiority by charging very high prices. They know customers who value good service have nowhere else to go.

              A duopoly ain’t a whole lot better than a monopoly, but in most (urban or suburban) parts of the country we do at least have a choice (cheaper but bad, or better but more expensive), so we’ve managed to avoid the cartel trap.

              Now the trains, on the other hand…

        2. Echo Tango says:

          I mean like, they all collectively can make more money if they agree not to undercut each other, or to keep off of each others’ turf. Even without an explicit agreement, they should all be able to recognize the situation as unstable, but profitable if they just don’t rock the boat.

        3. John says:

          It is most common for people in the United States to get their home internet service from a company whose roots are in telephone service–I get my internet from AT&T, for example, which was originally the national telephone monopoly–or from a company like Comcast, whose roots are in cable television service. I live in a major city, so both options, and a few others besides, are available to me, but not all cities and regions are so fortunate.

          Any company that wants to provide telephone or cable in a city first needs to get permission from the city to lay telephone wires, fibre-optic cables, or what have you throughout the city. Then the company needs to pay for the wires, the cables, the switching stations, and who knows what else. Neither of these things is easy and both of them can be quite expensive. Because of the difficulty and the expense in setting up these services, they were considered, at least until the 1990s or so, to be natural monopolies. Until that time, it was commonplace for cities to auction off local cable television monopoly rights to companies like Comcast. I haven’t made a study of these things since the late 1990s, but I would not be surprised if that were still commonplace in smaller cities.

          The reason that internet service providers in the United States tend to be telephone and cable companies is that telephone and cable companies were able to exploit their existing infrastructure and relationships with local governments to provide internet service at a lower cost than potential rivals who didn’t already have those things. Any new firm that wants to compete with one of these incumbents needs to, at a minimum, incur the expense of replicating their infrastructure–which I note is fixed, regardless of how many customers the new firm ultimately attracts–with the ultimate reward of a market share which is almost certainly going to be less than any incumbent’s existing market share. It’s not an attractive financial proposition.

          All that said, technology and regulation have both changed over time and my admittedly non-expert understanding–again, I haven’t really studied any of this stuff since the late 1990s–is that competition is gradually increasing. If any of this stuff seems bizarre to a non-American reader, then let me remind you that the United States has a federal system of government. While telephone service has, for various reasons, traditionally been regulated at the national level, cable television service has almost always been regulated at the local (i.e., municipal) level and that internet service is barely regulated at all.

          1. Chris says:

            And to add to the complications, any new competitor needs the cooperation of the incumbent providers for utility pole access in most areas. And of course the incumbents use that to cause all kinds of mischief.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              That sword can cut both ways. My parents moved to a new state a few years ago, and they tried to set up cable TV service like we had growing up. For some reason, though, the cable company’s access box is on someone else’s private property, and they couldn’t contact the owner to get permission to connect my parents’ house.

              That may be the dumbest “so now we have satellite” story in history.

        4. Erik says:

          What about the other giants – AT&T, Verizon… Aren’t they eager to undercut their competition?

          Actually, no – and no again. Although the cable companies want us to believe there’s competition, there really isn’t any – almost every service area has one and only one provider, and every provider has regional monopolies. So while it looks like Verizon cable may compete with Comcast cable, they actually don’t compete in any real places, just on paper.

          And the phone companies have the disadvantage mentioned elsewhere, that they built out their cables to support pre-digital voice back in the 40s and anything better requires an expensive rebuild. In the heart of Silicon Valley, the best telecom service I can get is 6 Mbs, which by some standards doesn’t even qualify as broadband. That can’t compete with Comcast cable, which is (IIRC) 40 or 50 Mbs, which is at least able to support more than one simultaneous HD video stream, but I refuse to do business with them. I recently got a local point-to-point wireless provider that usually gets me around 100 Mbs, but it required a custom antenna and installation.

          The reality in the US is that the big providers all have monopolies and duopolies, so none of them want to rock the boat by actually competing on things like price and service – that might cut into the massive unearned profits.

    3. Simplex says:

      USA is infamous for data caps for non-mobile internet. Something that is unheard of in Europe.

    4. Shamus says:

      Sometimes I see comments from people – particularly developing nations – that still have metered connections. Also, there are a lot of super-rural areas in the states where people still have primitive low-bandwidth internet.

      For comparison, I just Googled and found that:

      1) On average, there are ~34 people per km^2 in Europe.
      2) The population density of Montana is 2 per km^2.

      I realize I’m comparing a continent with a region within a country. I’m just trying to illustrate that things get *really* patchy in the middle of the US. Those super-rural areas have late 90s style internet. There are millions of potential customers out there, but they’re spread out over such MASSIVE distances that its economically infeasible to keep their network infrastructure up-to-date.

      EDIT: And since Belgium was mentioned elsewhere in this discussion:

      Belgium has 383 people per km^2.

      1. Lino says:

        Hmmm… So, in addition to scummy telecoms being scummy (as can be surmised from most of the replies above), there are actually technical issues that complicate things.

        It just seems weird how the biggest economy in the world (by most metrics, at least) seems behind on something so basic. But I guess America is more than the sum of its New Yorks and Californias (as hard as it is to imagine, based on all the movies and video games I’ve watched/played).

        1. Thomas says:

          It’s physically more expensive to build infrastructure networks that connect the same number of people in the US than it would be to do so in Europe. That’s a reason why US train networks are practically non-existent compared to Europe.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Canada is the same way, or often even more so. Universal or near universal train or television broadcasting pretty much had to be spawned from governments deciding to make it a goal just because there are too many remote areas where it’s too expensive to make it work any other way.

            As such, Canada has similar issues with the Internet. A friend of mine from back home — a very rural area — is on a cap on the best Internet he has access to, and it took a few years to get fibre out to my area, which is a ruralish area close to a major city.

            1. Thomas says:

              Even in dense countries, rural areas still suffer a lot. The internet service in a lot of Wales is pretty bad. A colleague of mine started dialling in from Spain during the pandemic and his connection to our Welsh office was _better_ than it had been when he was living in a nearby town.

            2. Erik says:

              It’s not just rural areas in the US. In the heart of Silicon Valley, we were supposed to get fibre back around 05 as one of the Google pushes. 15 years later I’m still waiting, and the best telcom service available is only 6 Mbs, which according to some standards no longer even qualifies as broadband.

              1. Fizban says:

                I think “fibre is coming!” has just been one of those bs marketing things basically ever since people knew what it meant. Just keep promising it and blaming delays on things outside of your control.

              2. Thomas says:

                6 Mbs is outrageous. How can you have a wired connection that barely outperforms 3G?

          2. Zeta Kai says:

            Train networks in the US have suffered, certainly, but not because of our population density, or the size of our territory. The infrastructure was put down in the 1800s, and while it has been maintained and upgraded with the march of technological advances, it has not been significantly expanded with respect to the geometric population growth. We have an order of magnitude more people, but the trains have not kept up with that pace of increase.

        2. Fizban says:

          I guess America is more than the sum of its New Yorks and Californias

          Indeed. Something like what, 2-4? states (or was it even more ridiculous and just a few megacities?) have the majority of the population, New York and California being two of them. But there’s this huge tract of land in the middle that’s divided up into smaller bits with comparatively barely any people.

          1. Zeta Kai says:

            Yeah, in the US we commonly refer to the central states as “fly-over country”, a term that is based on the conceit that people who live on one coast will only see those states when they are flying over them on their way to the other coast. It’s common to hear this term in our media, as media centers are based in major population centers, which are typically on the coasts (Chicago being the most prominent outlier). This situation is another similarity that the US shares with Australia, as our fly-over country is analogous to their Outback, albeit to a lesser degree.

    5. Sven says:

      I live in Renton, WA, a town close to Seattle. This area is home to Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing, so you’d think infrastructure would be good (spoiler: it’s not).

      For home Internet, I have two choices: Comcast, or CenturyLink. I currently have Comcast, who offer fairly decent down speed (150Mbps) and terrible up speed (10Mbps) for fairly extortionate pricing. And yes, they have a data cap of 1.2TB per month. That is, admittedly, pretty high. It used to be 1TB, but they increased it due to COVID (yay?). I’ve gotten close, but I’m a heavy user (gaming and work). The only time I was legitimately worried I might hit the cap was the month Microsoft Flight Simulator was released, but even then I ended up ok.

      I could switch to CenturyLink, who are a bit cheaper I think and don’t have a data cap as far as I know (not that I can find on their website, anyway), but the fastest speed I could get from them here is 25Mbps. They offer 1Gbps fiber if you live in Seattle itself, but not here. Who knows if they ever will.

      1. Shamus says:

        For the curious:

        My internet uses the best residential plan my cable provider offers. It costs $80 a month. One part of the site says we have a data cap of 2TB, another says we have a 2.4TB data cap. (I suspect the second number is the correct one. I remember an email two years ago announcing they were raising the caps for some plans. I’ll bet they just forgot to update one of the pages.)

        If we were to go over, we’d be billed at $15 per 100GB. I just looked at our usage history, and it looks like we use ~1TB per month. Given that we don’t have ANY cable TV and get all of our entertainment via streaming, and the fact that I work from home at a bandwidth-intensive job, I’m surprised at how low that figure is.

        As far as speed: I just tested and got 90Mbps down, 20Mbps up.

        I should do some sort of poll on the next Diecast. I’m curious what normal is for this audience.

        1. Thomas says:

          The speed sounds good. I’m on £28 ($38) a month uncapped for 100 Mbps down, in an urban centre in the UK. They say they won’t throttle me if I go over a certain amount, but I’m not sure that’s true.

          I could get 200Mbps if I paid more, but it seems unnecessary. Apparently 1Gbps is coming next year, but these things are always ‘coming’.

          My provider does a weird thing where every year where they start charging me £50 a month in January, and then I tell them I’m not going to pay that, and they knock it back down to £28 instantly. I suspect it’s a tactic on their part to get me to renew my contract with them and feel clever about it.

          1. Lino says:

            Telecoms are definitely my favourite companies. In my family, we have effectively banned my grandfather from ever going inside the office of his phone company. We pay for his phone bill, and are adamant about fixing all of his phone-related problems. Why? Because every time he’s ever gone there they’ve managed to sell him shit he absolutely doesn’t need.

            The last time (which was the last straw for us), his phone was “broken”. The “problem” was that his phone has 2 SIM card slots, while he only uses one card (he really doesn’t need more – he’s got a total of 10 phone numbers in it, if that). Somewhere in the settings he saw the message “No SIM in slot 2”. As an 80-year-old man who didn’t want to bother his kids/grandkids, he went into his Telecom’s office, so they could fix the problem.

            The folks there were so helpful that they sold him a second SIM card, and subscribed him to a new plan. Naturally, they didn’t end his original subscription. If an old pensioner can afford to pay for one subscription, why shouldn’t he be able to afford another?!

            Technically speaking, we were the ones paying his bill, but that’s beside the point. Naturally, we immediately ended the contract, and had to pay a fee for premature termination. In addition to paying all the subscription fees they would have charged him throughout the year.

            On the bright side, the scumbag who sold him the plan probably got a nice bonus for it. Sometimes I wonder how these people are able to look at themselves in the mirror…

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I don’t know if it’s the same thing where you are but around here the way it most often works is you typically get a contract for either a year or two and they provide you a service a the price of X$. When that contract runs out it’s turned to a service “in perpetuity” that costs more (typically anywhere from two to three times as much) unless you renew it as a contract for another year or two.

            The main reasons for this are twofold. First, there are usually hefty fines for breaking the time specific contract before it runs out while the “perpetual” service can be cancelled (by the client) at any time, so this effectively all but guarantees them your payments for the next year or two. Second, for legal reasons if they want to alter fees or other conditions of the service it’s much easier to do it when you’re technically signing a new contract than while the contract is running or during the “perpetual” service period.

        2. Liam says:

          I pay $90 a month for a 100/40Mbps unlimited connection on Australia’s freak show of a national broadband network. Unfortunately it’s the shittiest of our wired connections (fibre to the node 250m away, then copper of unknown vintage from there to my house) so the best I could get was around 80/35. (Which was pretty acceptable, many people on FTTN are getting less than they did on ADSL)

          Early last year my speed suddenly dropped to 58/20. After a few months of back and forth to my ISP (and through them to the NBN technicians) they finally sent out a tech to investigate. Turns out there’s an issue with the node and everyone in my area has had their speeds halved. I’m just the first to notice and complain.

          Without stepping into politics, our NBN has been a debacle; originally slated for fibre to the premises for most of the country, a change of government turned it into a ‘multi technology mix’ so it’s a real lotto as to what your connection ends up supporting.

          My father in law has fibre to his house, and has never used it ?

          Now that the NBN is officially ‘finished’ they have announced that they will now go back and overbuild the fibre to the node network with fibre to the kerb, and then if you order a plan that the existing infrastructure can’t support, they’ll run a fibre connection to you for no cost (there already exists a user pays upgrade process whereby you can pay the full cost of running fibre to your house, but that can range from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars. I was quoted $19k for my house which wasn’t palatable. Funnily enough, after one person pays for the upgrade, anyone between them and the node can connect to fibre for basically nothing, so there’s a big disincentive to be first!)

          The first neighbourhood that has been announced for this overbuild process is a few km from here, there’s no indication of whether it’s geographical area, service area, or telephone exchange though. If it’s service area then that may include my house, in which case I’ll immediately upgrade to a gigabit connection (around $150pm)

        3. Mersadeon says:

          I find it really weird that in Germany, despite having *terrible* internet services and infrastructure in general, Data Caps are just not a thing for normal data plans over here.

        4. Bubble181 says:

          Man as (yet another) Belgian, I just once again feel so ripped off. I’m paying €130/month. Admittedly, for 250MB/s (and I actually usually sit around 220-230 so that’s nice), but also for a plan that’s limited to 150GB/month.
          Mind you, since I have 30 GB mobile data a month, I never hit that 150GB cap. Even working from home.

      2. Fizban says:

        CenturyLink absolutely has throttling caps in their fine print, or at least they did last time I read, since they’ve what I’ve got. And as mentioned above, I was getting totally not suspicious service drops for hours at random times of day for months when I was streaming hi def regularly.

  6. tmtvl says:

    While I agree that Stadia is a terrible idea that won’t go anywhere in a hurry, I do feel the need to defend it: it has a free tier. I don’t know the difference between Stadia (the free tier) and Stadia Pro (the paid subscription), but there you have it.

    1. Geebs says:

      The Pro tier has some pack-in games and does “4K” streaming*.

      AFAIK, the free tier gives you 1 months’ free trial of the Pro version (so you can at least try a few games and see if it works with your internet). After that all games are full retail price.

      Google completely kneecapped themselves by waiting ~ 6 months from Stadia’s launch, when the expensive advertising campaign had fizzled out and nobody was interested any more, to launch the free tier.

      * the stream is 4K. The games don’t actually run in 4K. Google blamed the game devs for this, which probably has something to do with the complete lack of Stadia exclusives since.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        the stream is 4K. The games don’t actually run in 4K. Google blamed the game devs for this, which probably has something to do with the complete lack of Stadia exclusives since.

        I’ve been told that the problem is that 4K requires extra work on the devs’ part specifically for Stadia that wouldn’t be relevant to other platforms, but Google didn’t offer any direct incentive to add it and so the only way it would happen is if the devs themselves estimated increased Stadia sales would be worth it and put in the work of their own accord. If true it’s hard to blame them for deciding that wasn’t worth the dev time/expense.

        1. Geebs says:

          The GPU component of Stadia hardware is* equivalent to a Radeon RX580. Which is a perfectly decent GPU but absolutely not a 4K60 part. Google suggesting that the devs just need to optimise harder, when the hardware was never able to support their claim, is at best disingenuous.

          * or at least, was at launch

    2. Simplex says:

      GeForce Now also has a free tier (but there are queues now) and allows you to play most of your previously purchased game (on Steam, Uplay, etc).

    3. GoStu says:

      I might be mistaken, but in the whole run-up to their launch of Stadia, I remember hearing tons of different things:

      – You pay a monthly subscription, but then can play whatever you want on the service.
      – You pay a monthly subscription, and a smaller fee per game thereafter. You’re effectively paying for some kind of premium service to later get discounts on games. Maybe good if you play a lot of games.
      – You pay nothing upfront, and more-or-less normal price for each game individually, making Stadia into yet another storefront; however, with the ‘streaming from Google’s hardware’ you can maybe experience a cut or two above what your own home hardware will play.

      It could be argued that it’s my responsibility to understand what I’m buying… but I’d argue right back that the burden lies with Google to actually try and convince me to buy, and the message being muddy as hell about what the deal is never sweetened it to me. Combine the ambiguity over what I was actually getting with the trepidation of “you never actually own your games so much as maybe temporarily get to lease them” and Google’s own reputation as killer of modestly-successful projects and I lost all interest.

      I will never ever never trust my ISP enough to get between Me and My Library of Games. Why ever take these risks where there’s numerous competing options?

      I mean theoretically-speaking, if Valve shut down Steam I’d lose most of my games… but I have no worry that Valve will turn off #1 Money Maker of the company. Meanwhile, Stadia is Google’s side-side-side-hustle and they’d throw it away when they got bored.

      1. Lino says:

        Meanwhile, Stadia is Google’s side-side-side-hustle and they’d throw it away when they got bored.

        Precisely. A lot of people don’t seem to realise that Google is just an advertising company with a lot of expensive hobbies. Sometimes, I think the main purpose of their side projects is to furhter teach their algorithms. Although in the case of Stadia, I’m not totally sure that’s the case.

        1. pseudonym says:

          Real in-game billboards? Nowadays these are “fake” adverts to add to the atmosphere (mass effect 2 had some advertisements for in-universe products for example). But why not have real targeted advertising there tied to all the stuff you are doing on your google account?

          1. Lino says:

            Please, stop giving them ideas! The LAST thing I need is all those annoying ads chasing me in video games, too!

          2. Chad Miller says:

            I’m pretty sure some popular sports game is already doing this.

  7. Baron Tanks says:

    Typolice:

    2020 was the worst decade of my life.

    While 2020 subjectively was a long year, I somehow doubt it was a decade all by itself. Although if this is artistic liberty, I would not blame you.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I’m pretty sure that was intentional.

    2. Fizban says:

      Estimates for how long 2020 was range from three to several billion years, give or take. March alone broke records several times, and some scientists still aren’t sure if we’ve hit April yet.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Having spent ~8.5 months in The Great Melbourne Lockdown*, I can tell you definitely that 2020 was approximately 700 years long, give or take a decade.

        *Technically it was two different lockdowns with about 1.5 months in-between, but I was playing it very safe and didn’t really get out at all during that window**—I was finally planning to get out and go somewhere literally the week the second lockdown was announced.

        **Probably a wise choice in retrospect, given how much circulation there was going on during that time, even if I spent July–October kicking myself for it.

        1. Syal says:

          It’s really hard to tell just how long 2020 lasted. The latest studies indicate it may have lasted as long as the last 12 months combined.

          1. Shamus says:

            I haven’t done the math to figure out how many days it was, but it’s easily over 300.

    3. Bubble181 says:

      I’m sure it’s artistic liberty, but….
      You know, as far as I’m concerned, this year has whizzed by. One moment it was early spring, next I spent a bit of time not having to go out and being left alone, calmly and happily keeping to my habits and routine without interruption, then I got married, then some more happy calm peace time where people didn’t constantly annoy me to go out, and next thing you know it’s early spring again (well, ok, that’s a few months away still).

      I don’t feel like 2020 lasted forever – I feel like I didn’t experience it at all.
      Of course, not an American so the politics roller coaster was very interesting to follow but not *as* actively painful as it has been for so many.

  8. Echo Tango says:

    But then the genre mutated into some horrible beast made of grind, multiplayer with randos, and microtransactions.

    I couldn’t predict how bad things would become, back when I was playing Diablo II in high school / college, but I definitely saw the writing on the wall with even the first Borderlands game. It had grind. It had pay-to-win microtransactions. It didn’t have multiplayer with randos, but I think that’s just because it had LAN-only gaming, or else I was a bit late when playing it, and nobody was online in my time-zone.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Wait, what? Borderlands had microtransactions? I don’t remember this. Well, I never engaged in their multiplayer in any capacity, but playing the single player campaign never at any point seemed to have the possibility of paying real money for stuff. It’s been a few years since I played it, but if it was a prominent thing I’m sure I’d remember.

      1. Fizban says:

        I always thought there was somewhere you could buy golden keys for the super loot chest, but a casual to moderate player could get all they’d ever need just googling the code list off the wiki (unless they’re loot-crate vulnerable).

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I seem to remember some kind of special key now too, but the wiki only shows golden keys as part of Borderlands II, not the original game…

    2. Joe says:

      I’ve played a lot of Borderlands 1, 2, and TPS single player. There are no real-money transactions or the like. Sure there are better starting items if you own the other games, but I already did.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Which also aligns with the neat feature in some RPGs where you can import saves from the previous games and have it reflect what you did, including giving you items that you had there. So that is less annoying because it aligns with something neat and reflects what you’ve done and not just what you spent. I don’t know if Borderlands did it that way, but it’s going to benefit from gamers seeing it more as something like that.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I’ll grant you that I was mis-remembering that a bit. However, different starting equipment based on purchasing different copies of the game, is fairly close to proper microtransactions. You’re not paying $15 (or whatever) by itself, but you’re paying an extra $15 on top of the price of the normal version of the game.

        1. Erik says:

          I’d disagree. None of the deluxe edition starter weapons were pay-to-win quality, nor (IIRC) even useful by late-game. They were just a little thank you to supporters, and didn’t unbalance the game if you had them or not.

          Weapons from later DLC packs were much more unbalancing, but that’s a very different set of rant material.

          1. Fizban says:

            All loot is leveled, and becomes useless within about 5 levels or so, when the game is 30-40 levels long. Any pre-order or import gear you actually start with will be definition stop mattering practically before you’ve finished the tutorial. I think I recall both BL2 and Pre-Sequel having these, but the very first loot drops you get from killing enemies are better because they’re higher level.

            DLCs that included weapons (which I think were mostly the free ones?) would essentially let each of your characters past and future spawn one copy of that weapon at their current level, so you could use it whenever you wanted but they still fit into the existing heirarchy. The were rated at blue, so strong enough but weaker than the easy purples from the golden key chest (keys available from free codes) or the coveted super rare unique legendaries- and the gimmicks of these blue weapons tended to make them very hit or miss. Usually I’d never redeem them simply because I wouldn’t want to miss out on using them later, then eventually say eff it and try one, realize it was terrible, and never bother redeeming it again.

            Unless you’re talking about the super endgame grindy stuff from DLCs, boss drops and the new “rarity” colors they added. Those I see more as attempts to extend the endgame though, ’cause for some reason even games that don’t actually have subscription fees seem to think they need to make you grind for 6 months or you won’t buy the next dlc.

  9. Asdasd says:

    Quite funny to read the latest Penny Arcade after this post:

    https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2021/01/04

    1. DaveMc says:

      I wasn’t sure whether to post this, but if we’re already talking Penny Arcade … https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2019/06/10 (their take on Stadia)

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Since we’re apparently doing this here’s Ctrl+Alt+Del’s take on Amazon going into cloud gaming.

  10. MerryWeathers says:

    2020 was the worst decade of my life. Yes, there was all of the big stuff everyone complained about: Global pandemic, the various lockdowns and subsequent economic fallout, the California wildfires, mass protests, the Australian wildfires, a rancorous American election, the Amazon fires, a bunch of war, the Canadian wildfires, a stock market crash, mass unemployment, the invasion of murder hornets, and the fact that among all these crazy stories, the only one I made up was the one about Canadian wildfires.

    The writing was indeed pretty terrible, incredibly contrived, and felt like a baby’s first attempt at doing grimdark, just constantly throwing all these horrible scenarios at a wall and seeing what stuck.

    Story Collapse? More like Story Disintegration.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      The mutated virus just when the vaccines started to come out was sooo predictable.

      1. Fizban says:

        You know, everyone always says they see these things coming, but I don’t. I guess it’s just ’cause I let myself go with the flow more? Doesn’t mean I liked the twist either, but I won’t claim I was prepared for it.

      2. Syal says:

        Should we talk about the super cliche ‘President merges with the supervirus right before the final battle’ thing?

  11. Lars says:

    There are definitely more Online RNGs in the making. The last surviving Amazon Game Studios title (cannot remember the title) for example or the Anthem Remake and Diablo itself (mobile and 4).

    I can’t wait for your hopes/expectations list for the new year. For me today there is no game in the making to looking forward to. Bloodlines 2 maybe ruined, Bioware and Blizzard have decayed and I’m not sure on good upcomming indies.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’m still hopeful about Bloodlines 2, though I guess it would take a bit more to explain what exactly I’m hoping for, in simple terms I hope it’ll be “fine” (I’m also purposefuly not following pre-release information for games too closely in general). Also, Psychonauts 2 (please be good), Deathloop (I’m 99% not getting it in 2021 but that is when it’s supposed to be coming out), the remaining Yakuza games are coming to PC though those are something of a known quality. Indies often don’t get announced too far in advance so there’s definitely some hiding in the shadows (and I have a nagging feeling that I’m forgetting some), and I’m not counting games that will hopefully come out of early access (like Subnautica Below Zero) so that I can finally play them.

  12. Robyrt says:

    MMOs and Live Service Looters don’t just have a network effect problem, they have a time management problem. There’s only room in my life for one live service game that wants me to grind loot for content every 3 months, no matter how good the new one is.

    The successful ones also have a technical problem. The engine you rushed out the door for Season One is staggering under the weight of all the new features you added to retain players, and the tutorial doesn’t make sense anymore. (Destiny 2 could famously take 12 hours to bake a level.) But if you’re rewriting the whole game for a new console generation, why not just make a new game that can draw in more players? Wouldn’t it be easier to have an O&M team keep the lights on with some low-effort cosmetics and fetch quests while we build a new game with features that outpace the competition?

    1. Asdasd says:

      Having been caught in the jaws of a live service game once before, I’m quite determined never to do so again as long as I live. The icy realisation that I was scheduling my day and even missing out on sleep to optimise absolutely meaningless gains, because my brain point-blank refused to concentrate on anything else until I had done so, was a horrible one. I wasn’t playing the game; the game was playing me. And even then it took me weeks to overcome the sunk cost fallacy and wrest myself free.

      1. Hal says:

        That was what got me out of WoW. I played so much to finish off dailies and earn cosmetic rewards, and eventually I realized it wasn’t worth it to me. I was never going to look back on my life and say, “I didn’t accomplish much, but my paladin was awesome.”

      2. Grimwear says:

        I got sucked into one mobile game “Chain Chronicle”. I was f2p all the way but I found myself unable to stop playing. Playing it in the grocery store, visiting friends, malls, everywhere. During their limited time events when you have a chance to get a new character I set an alarm to wake me up every 3 hours so I could run it. It was horrible. Luckily it turns out that everyone on the English version (it was originally an Asian game and I think still up) was a f2p player and wasn’t making any money so they shut the servers down. Best thing that ever happened to me and I’ve never touched another mobile game since.

      3. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I used to sit down to those games for the long haul, spent something like six years with Neverwinter online, when I eventually dropped it I moved to Destiny 2 and Waframe, I’ve found both to be great games and I honestly miss them sometimes but I just didn’t have time for anything else and since then I’ve made an effort not to get caught up in something that requires regular time commitment on that scale. I did try Elite Dangerous and Genshin Impact for about a month each but again made a conscious decision to drop them so as not to get too caught up.

  13. Dreadjaws says:

    The Avengers game seems like it made every possible bad decision at every turn. I don’t think it would have been successful even if it hadn’t been a live service looter.

    – They took the license and instead of releasing a game at the peak of its relevance they waited until it was waning. Even taking the pandemic into account, there weren’t going to be any actual Avengers movie released this year, with only Black Widow being related.
    – They had the whole issue with the graphical style being bland and looking like a bootleg copy of the original.
    – Gameplay was still bland, unsatisfying and generic, even not taking into account the looting (which was bad).
    – So many bugs that if it wasn’t for Cyberpunk 2077 it’d likely be the buggiest release of the year.
    – “Hey, how about we make the Avengers just the guest stars in their own game, and we put as protagonist this character we’ve desperately been trying to push to the forefront for years even though very few people actually give a crap about her?” Yeah, that works.
    – Having exclusive Playstation content, so all other versions of the game are immediately inferior, yet still cost the same. They could have gone the SoulCalibur route and give each platform its own exclusive but no, we have to kiss uncle Sony’s butt. And for people who are going to say “They had to, Sony owns Spider-Mans’ rights!”: no, they don’t. Stop spreading that BS.
    – Don’t even get me started on the sponsored corporate cosmetics.

    I am super glad this game failed so spectactularly that not only lost them money but didn’t even give them time to release their exclusive content. By the time they do it, everyone would have long since moved on. The level of cynism this game had, where they thought the license was enough to attract people and quality was deemed unnecessary, came to bite them in the ass hard and now they better put effort next time.

    Stadia also failed spectacularly, and I’m also gladm because the concept of this being “the future” is unacceptable, and even if it was their pricing model is preposterous. The only reason it’s still around is that Google has money to burn and they still haven’t gotten tired of it, but they will. They do even when their ridiculous ideas work, so they sure as hell will do it with this one. It will end up abandoned and forgotten like Google Glass.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I don’t think it would have been successful even if it hadn’t been a live service looter.

      Yeah, an action game focusing on and designed around such a diverse cast of characters with differing abilities already sounds ambitious enough on it’s own. Like a lot of effort would need to be made just to make the gameplay loop work.

      1. Lino says:

        I think this is yet another fact that illustrates Disney’s utter disregard for video games as commercial products. Why weren’t there any proper Avengers tie-in games? And no, I’m not talking about the lazy movie tie-in game they made for Thor. And I’m also not talking about the even more lazy mobile games they’ve produced.

        Actually, no! Let’s talk about those mobile games. Let’s say you’re a Disney executive that only knows how to look at a sales chart. You see that mobile is bigger than PC and consoles, so you decide to tell your partners to focus on that (although I think Disney make some of their mobile games themselves).

        My question is: where is Marvel’s Clash of Clans? Where is the Avengers’ AFK Arena? If you’re going to shun nearly 50% of the gaming industry for so long, then the least you could do is try to carve out a good portion of the mobile pie. With the resources Disney has, you could definitely have made the next Candy Crush, in the many years we’ve spent without a AAA Avengers game.

        Because if you couldn’t do that, we come to my second question: wouldn’t you have been better off just investing in a few proper AAA Avengers games? In many respects, they would have been a lot easier to advertise and gain traction for, given how that marketing cycle is similar to the one for movies. And it’s also something Disney’s partner (Squeenix, I think?) is also very familiar with.

        They didn’t even need to be that ambitious – they could have a game about Iron Man, one about Thor, or whoever else they wanted! The studios they were working with definitely had the pedigree! I mean, how could they mess this up?

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          The failure of Epic Mickey 2 seemed to have shook the company at it’s core and they just license their IPs to established triple A game companies like Square Enix and Electronic Arts nowadays.

          But I’m pretty sure mobile games of Disney properties do exist, Star Wars had multiple.

        2. Daimbert says:

          That’s been a pretty consistent failing for tie-ins for the longest time: not realizing that they could make things that sell like hotcakes by taking an existing game engine and model and adding their characters and story to make a relatively cheap game that would sell like crazy. For example, remember the Infinity Engine? Do you not think that they could have made a killing with Star Wars or Marvel or DC heroes stuffed in that engine with a decent story? And for the Japanese models, a Justice League Suikoden III would have worked pretty well. For the most part, they have always reinvented the wheel or ignored those popular genres instead of just going to one of those companies and saying “Would you like to have our IP for a decent price with a story we give you so we can make lots and lots of money?”.

          About the only ones I remember really doing this are the KotOR games (although that could be more about the company than the engine), DCUO (and that was, I believe, a new MMO engine) and the most obvious one which is Galactic Battlegrounds. But it does seem like they left a lot on games on the table.

        3. GreyDuck says:

          “Where is the Avengers’ AFK Arena?”

          Oh sweet mercy, I didn’t know I needed such a game in my life until now. I would play the HECK out of this.

          Since most of the games (that aren’t named Satisfactory or Fire Emblem: Three Houses) I play lately are on tablet/phone/emulator, I’ve been following a couple of YT types who focus on mobile and they’re hoping that Genshin Impact causes a re-evaluation of the “slap a popular IP on some shovelware and wait for the dollars to roll in” gameplan that publishers have taken with the mobile space for the most part. Fingers are crossed, though having seen how myopic the game industry has become doesn’t fill me with optimism.

        4. Gautsu says:

          They killed all the good Mobile games when they decided all the mobile needed to be sone in house. Marvel Avengers Alliance 1+2 were really fun, if gatcha at it’s gatchiest. Same with The Diablo clone “mmo”. What they replaced them with, really are not as compelling

      2. Daimbert says:

        Well, Marvel Ultimate Alliance made it work the first time around (I own but haven’t played the Switch version to see if that one holds up).

        1. Hal says:

          That genre started with X-Men Legends (AFAIK), which was a fun enough set of games. I never tracked the Avengers game, but I imagine that people expected it to be a different sort of game than Ultimate Alliance.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Yep, that’s where it started. I was going to mention it, but that series was limited to the X-Men and so had no Avengers, while the Ultimate Alliance games featured far more characters and far more Avengers.

            As for Avengers, when Shamus talked about it a while ago my first thought was that it would work if it was similar to that game, at least in concept.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      They took the license and instead of releasing a game at the peak of its relevance they waited until it was waning. Even taking the pandemic into account, there weren’t going to be any actual Avengers movie released this year, with only Black Widow being related.

      Yeah, this one is really weird, and I’m not sure if we should point at Marvel or higher up at Disney. The problem goes back further, to boot. Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite (one of whose core gameplay conceits was selection of an Infinity Stone to go with your two-character team) was released in September 2017, over six months before Infinity War and four months before Black Panther.

      In hindsight, it’s remarkable that MvC3 managed to release during Marvel’s Phase One hype train.

  14. Leviathan902 says:

    So the only one of the cloud gaming services I’ve tried is xCloud from Microsoft which is part of the Xbox Game Pass program at no additional cost. Before my comments on xCloud, I should point out that I’m an unapologetic fan of Xbox Game Pass. I think it’s an incredible value for the money and I have played a ton of games that I never would have otherwise because of it, and I almost exclusively do it on PC. Now, as for xCloud:

    I don’t know if this is going to change in the future or not, but right now, xCloud is only for mobile. I can’t stream xcloud to my PC or console at this point. This also means that, naturally, you’ll want a gamepad for your phone as although many games have touchscreen support, it is obviously less than ideal.

    It works shockingly well though. You pull up the gamepass app on your phone. You can go to the cloud streaming section to see all the available games. Tap the game to start, wait a few for it to load up (and it does take a bit to get going), and boom, you’re playing the game. Incredibly, if you’ve been playing the same game on your PC or Console, the cloud version runs off of your save. So I resumed Celeste right where I left off on my PC. I had no lag or stuttering. I was really impressed. Will I use it? Probably not, I don’t really game on my phone, but it’s a neat feature that works really well.

    That said, I think that’s the only model that makes any sense. The idea that you pay for a subscription AND pay for the game is insane, paying for a subscription and getting access to a bunch of games, like a Netflix, is the only future I see for cloud gaming.

    1. Kyle Haight says:

      I’ve been saying for some time that Microsoft is specifically trying to replicate the Netflix model for gaming. Pay a fee, get access to a rotating library of content, which you can then play on a wide variety of devices. They differ from Netflix in that they will let you install a game locally on devices where it makes sense to do so (PC, console), and use streaming to give you access on devices where local installation isn’t possible. This strikes me as a viable path forward, and they seem to be executing on it pretty well.

    2. GoStu says:

      I think something about Stadia that went unseen by the public was a lot of back-and-forth between Google and assorted developers/publishers. Google doesn’t make or publish games and therefore has none to sell.

      When setting up their new effectively-a-storefront, that initial offer of “hey, pay Google $X/month and access a bunch of fresh new AAA games” sounds really good for everyone… except the makers of the aforementioned AAA games.

      Why would the makers of SHOOT GUY 3000 want some number of customers that’d be interested in buying SHOOT GUY 3000 to have access to that game at the low price of some fraction of a monthly subscription, when they’d prefer to sell it for $70 (or more) upfront and ding you for other purchases thereafter. Like if the Stadia membership is $15/month and I use that month to exhaust the fun of SHOOT GUY’s latest iteration, it doesn’t matter if Google passes on all $15 I paid that month right to the maker of SHOOT GUY… that’s still $55 or so they’re never seeing.

      So my guess (?) is that Google wanted to sell “unlimited games, $X/mo” and then found nobody at all prepared to license their games, and then the model changes… and changes again… and still fails to attract consumers. Google workshops all the new pricing plans (Okay, SOME games are included, some are extras, etc…) but there’s unlikely to be a happy balance where the potential customer is winning and winning big. Factor in Google’s well-earned reputation of shutting down services and it’s over. I’m not giving them a dime.

  15. Matt says:

    The big companies keep telling us that the future is this nightmare world of perma-rentals and the death of ownership, but now for the second time this idea has died.

    I’m too cynical to believe that this is the last we’ve heard of this idea. It’s simply too lucrative an idea, on the part of the game companies, to ever let this go. There’s concurrent movements towards rental-only and “x as service,” in a variety of consumer-facing industries. Once a younger generation is accustomed this, only stodgy old-timers will insist on actually owning their games and the option to do so will die off.

    1. Kylroy says:

      The flip side of this is the gamers have gotten used to the idea that games will have a continuous stream of supporting content released for at least months if not years after they first enter the market. You can absolutely pine for the days of paying a discrete price for a discrete product, but both ends of the equation have changed.

      1. Matt says:

        To my estimation, the best supporting content is what would previously have been called an “expansion” that often was a discrete product as well. Yet most of what gets released as supporting content today seems to be either balance adjustments on multiplayer games or a drip of mostly cosmetic features for the same. This isn’t nearly enticing enough for me to surrender ownership, though perhaps it is for the larger audience.

      2. Grimwear says:

        This is so weird to me. I personally never expect a bunch of continuous content but I’m also a relic of a bygone age. I picked up age of empires 2 definitive edition during the steam sale (the second rerelease they’ve done) and was baffled when I booted it up to see they were doing a Christmas event with tasks and rewards associated with them. Granted they were all skins but still so weird. This is a 20 year old game and now they’re adding in events with dailies? Weird. I will say I’m sad though, I bought it too late into their event so I wasn’t able to get all the rewards. I wanted the skin to turn all my soldiers into snowmen. Thanks FOMO for making my 20 year old rts marginally worse.

        1. Fizban says:

          I think I’m kinda in the middle. Any game that’s good enough, I kinda expect to have an expansion/dlc. Just about any game I actually like which only has one or two dlcs that are actual content, I’ll buy them, if not now then eventually. ‘Cause if I liked the game, I’d like more of the game. And it’s kinda weird on the occasion that I like a game and it turns out to have no expansion, dlc, modability, series of random post-launch content (or actual sequel), or anything. I expect good stuff to get one last hurrah. But nowadays a lot of this is rolled into “free updates,” which range from expansion content to overhauling half the game mechanics into a 1.5 edition, which you have no control over.

          Speaking of Infinity Engine and similar: Neverwinter Nights, Both 1 and 2 had the base game, then two expansions. But they also had this engine that could be endlessly expanded with piles of content that was already written in the tabletop sourcebooks and popular modules. So, why the hell not? Why did they trail off into overpriced episodic premium shit that they never finished? Did the devs just get sick of it? Were they slave to the idea they had to stick with the current edition because reasons? I think I heard someone say NWN2 had liscencing problems so it won’t get remastered- is it just WotC being liscencing dicks? Why hasn’t someone else just whipped up a d20 clone and gone to town? Or was that supposed to be the niche Dragon Age filled but I never cared about because I want DnD?

          1. Grimwear says:

            Ya it all depends since there are many types of post game content. Like with aoe2 it has expansions and expansion content is still being made. I just really hate the “engagement FOMO” make sure you log in daily content that gets put out. Especially in a game like aoe2 which is just an rts. “Do this mission for a winter reward!”…I mean ok I was going to do it anyway in order but I guess I’ll just jump ahead 8 campaigns so I don’t miss the reward. Even worse is that their winter event had it so that it ended on Day X but you would only unlock a new event after 24 hours. So because I bought the game late in the sale it was literally impossible for me to get the skin I wanted because I did not have enough time to unlock it. Thanks game. Really makes me want to continue participating if your stupid forced interaction events in my single player rts (there is a large multiplayer base but a) those events were mostly all single player and b) there’s hundreds of hours of campaign content)

          2. John says:

            As someone who has fiddled a fair bit with NWN1 module creation, I can confidently say that making a NWN module is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. My suspicion is that adapting an existing tabletop module for NWN is only slightly less work than making an entirely new module from scratch. All that scripting is not easy. Neither is making custom models or other custom content.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              My housemate (also a NWN1 module maker) says hi.

              So yeah, adapting existing modules may be the same or worse than making a new one. Leaving aside any possible legal issues (just because they let you made a game doesn’t mean they’ll let you make this particular module) the module may call for models or even entire mechanics that the game client is not made to support. From what my housemate tells me the devs were really hoping to sell the game primarily as a platform for user made content but while it has a small dedicated following (who even now keep delivering new stuff and have stretched the engine to the limits and even beyond what was ever intended) it did no become the massive hit they hoped it would be.

              1. John says:

                Oh, I’m just a dabbler. I made one small module for my daughter to play and a second small module for character-leveling purposes. I started a third, experimental module wherein I tried to force the game to handle darkness in a sensible fashion–i.e., a character who goes in to a dark area should be affected by darkness or blindness unless he’s got or is near a light source or has low-light vision or infravision. Boy, was that a lot of work. I never did get it working quite right. I can see why the developers didn’t implement something similar.

                Anyway, the point is that it’s pretty easy to use the NWN dev tools to plonk down some rooms and some enemies. But if you want to make a memorable adventure, you’re going to need to do vast quantities of writing for conversations and vaster quantities of scripting–in a thoroughly non-intuitive C++-like language, I might add–in order to implement plot and plot-relevant encounters. That’s where the real bulk of the work lies. Coming up with the adventure idea in the first place is a comparatively small part of the whole.

  16. kikito says:

    Hades was released this year. It is a good game.

  17. Steve C says:

    Fun fact related to the decline of the looter-shooter– Warframe was purchased by Tencent two weeks ago.

    1. Lino says:

      Well, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d read! But now that I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Doubly so, given that it happend right at the end of 2020!

  18. Mattias Svensson says:

    Honestly, I kinda like the art direction of Godfall, even if it’s about the only part of that game that’s intrigued me. All that gilding and gleam makes sense to me, for armor worn by gods & demigods.

    Then again, I’m a Darksiders, Warframe & Warhammer 40K fan, so… Yeah, I don’t really blink at high details AKA clutter in design unless the skull pauldrons suddenly are made from individually modeled, glued together human teeth, or something. Do know that style of ‘hyper detail’ is more then a bit love or hate to a lot of people.

    1. Grimwear says:

      I’ll second that. I just started watching the review and I like the art direction. But I also go for gaudy customization stuff. I don’t want earth tones, I want to pop. My general go to is stuff like lime green armor with purple detailing. I want to be an affront to the eye.

      Quick edit: Just got to the room with lava and gold coins all shining everywhere. That one’s a bit too much for me but all the other stuff I don’t mind.

  19. Falling says:

    Those PR stages of development are painful. Because they are true. The ever optimistic spin doctors of a declining game could demonstrate that anything and everything is a success.

    Well played.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      It’s the most painful when the devs themselves don’t know so the studio is genuinely all “yeah, it’s a bit rough but hey, we’ll polish those edges and once we start releasing new content it’ll really get going” and then they learn the publisher decided to just leave the game on life support or outright pull the plug.

  20. Mephane says:

    Geforce Now is actually a fair deal and the only way these kind of service should ever be run: your subscription merely rents hardware on which you then run the very games you already purchased elsewhere (e.g. Steam).

    The only downside with the service is not even the service itself, but various publishers who went out of their way to sabotage it and forbid their games from being run on it. I am not a lawyer so take this with a grain of salt, but it is my firm opinion that running our games on Geforce Now should be legally regarded as the same as if I just rent some PC hardware, put it up in my home and install the games on that.

    1. ivan says:

      Yeah GeForce Now could be an absolute landmark case for affirming game ownership, and the status of games as things that you purchase, and are goods that you can own. But, Nvidia has too many lucrative backroom deals with game devs and publishers, to actually go to bat for their little side business game streaming service, so it’s not going to get fought for, let alone won.

  21. ydant says:

    I’ve put a significant amount of hours into Division (primarily Division 2) and Destiny, and I don’t feel like Division (2) quite belongs in this grouping. Destiny always has been somewhat there, and has gotten much worse since it went free to play, but Division is holding pretty strong.

    If you took out the weird shared safe-houses from Division, you’d almost be able to assume it’s a single-player game with multi-player capability. There’s a solid story arc, everything can be completed in single-player mode, and you aren’t badgered to spend money. It also offers a very solid multiplayer option for you and friends to do the entire co-op campaign together. It’s not a story-focused game, but it comes close to passing itself off as one.

    The weird thing about the Divisions is the PVP zone and the random player grouping lobbies (the safe houses) – but almost nobody does the PVP (at least, if you read reddit – I never tried it), and the grouping lobbies are at least a way for people without readily available friends to find other people to play with. It’s OK.

    I only play Division 2 because the multi-player co-op is really good, my wife and daughter like playing it together in the same room LAN game style. It’s definitely not my favorite genre, but it’s pretty solid at what it does.

    I’d put Division closer to other Ubi games like Far Cry – single player games that have great multi-player co-op support. They have micro-transactions for cosmetics, but it’s fairly low-key overall.

    Destiny, on the other hand – since it went free-to-play, it’s gone way downhill. I took a multi-year break and came back, and while the game got significantly more beautiful (there’s a lot more set pieces and detail art), the free-to-play nature has taken over. The story has been ripped out, it feels like a lot of voice dialog has been ripped out, and there’s no clear direction on what a new player should focus on or how to progress the story. Most of the prompts are about how to spend real money on things (like micro-transactions or DLC). As someone who bought the base game and DLC before it left BattleNet – I’m pretty angry. The entire original game I bought has been ripped out, shredded up, and parts mashed back together, but with the addition of panhandlers.

    1. Gautsu says:

      I just played through the entire Division 2 campaign with my 65 year old mom. She is getting better at shooters but still has no map or spatial awareness at all, which makes me wonder how we ever got anywhere when I was a kid. I agree with Destiny 2, content vaulting on top of that is bullshit. But the moment to moment gameplay, the shooting mechanics itself, really don’t have a rival. Which sucks. Also Deepstone Crypt is pretty epic

      1. ydant says:

        Yeah, I should have said: Destiny 2 has the moment-to-moment gameplay nailed. The guns feel great, the feedback for your shots is great. Feeds into the reward cycle very nicely.

  22. Agammamon says:

    Yes, these will get better with time. But no matter how fast your internet connection gets, it will always be slower than a local experience because PHYSICS.

    You know, you say that . . . but wait until streaming services in the Stadia model demand the offline versions be slowed down ‘for parity’. Similar to what some games seem to be doing for PC versions.

    https://gamecrate.com/division-developer-says-pc-version-kept-check-consoles-ubisoft-issues-denial/12854

  23. Decius says:

    Stadia was pretty good, in the sense that through their marketing I got a free Chromecast.

  24. Smosh says:

    What I struggle to understand is how many people claim that game streaming services are lag-free. I’ve tried PS Now so I can access PS-exclusives without buying hardware I don’t want. It worked fine, and playing XCOM2 was totally alright. But then I tried Bloodborne, and it was frustrating as hell. The extra 20-50ms are just enough of a difference to make a large percentage of attacks impossible to parry or dodge on reaction.

    As an avid fighting game player, the difference between a 17 frame overhead and a 20 frame overhead is massive: 17 is just about barely blockable if you’re focusing on it. 20 is all but trivial in comparison. This is a fairly well known thing for in the community: http://ki.infil.net/reaction.html

    Add to this that Bloodborne notoriously runs badly (FromSoft does a lot of things well, but programming is not one of them), buffers or drops your inputs very frequently, and streaming games was wholly unappealing.

    If they re-release Bloodborne for PC at 60Hz, I’ll definitely buy it and will very likely enjoy it, but streaming is dead to me.

  25. AdamS says:

    My favorite prediction is that since right now it’s by far the most “stable” and cheapest place to play the PC version of Cyberpunk, CP2077 is going to save Stadia. An unfinished game props up an incomplete platform.

  26. Gringo says:

    Considering the day following this blog post the US suffered an attempted coup, it’s pretty safe to say that 2021 hasn’t started out great either.

  27. Rick C says:

    “Maybe the next time someone designs one of these games, they’ll start with the gameplay rather than the monetization scheme. ”

    I figure that’ll happen right after people stop buying AAA games sight unseen from studios with a record of making nothing but horribly broken AAA games.

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