destiny

Destiny: $500 million revenue can’t guarantee a good story.

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Like a large part of the PS4 owners, I’ve been busy shooting aliens and saving Earth in Bungie’s record-breaking new first-person shooter Destiny. Trying themselves at a RPG shooter a la Borderlands, Bungie sure knew how to turn on the hype machine, generating more than $500 million revenue on release day. Being already the most pre-ordered game in the history of video games, this number is not surprising, but still impressive.

I’ve contributed my part to that ridiculous revenue, and I would be lying if I would tell you I haven’t enjoyed myself so far. Destiny is, without a doubt, a very entertaining shooter with a dash of MMORPG loot and grind. Controls are smooth, the game looks absolutely stunning and the gameplay itself is more than a good foundation for future expansions. Regarding those aspects, I don’t regret spending $60 on the game. However, there is one thing that just bugs me.

You see, the game is made by Bungie, the studio that has created the award-winning, genre-defining Halo series. Next to reviving the shooter genre on consoles and giving us the amusing Red vs. Blue show, Halo is still known for its gripping story, interesting characters and overall great writing (especially when compared with other FPS). It’s not in my Top 5 of best games I’ve ever played, but Halo 2 is one of my favorite shooters ever and that’s not just because I could stick grenades to my friend’s faces. No, Halo 2 had a thrilling story, which was supported by the individual missions you went through and that kept you wanting more. When the game ended with one of the most gruesome cliffhangers since pixels learned how to move, I was both enraged and satisfied, demanding another helping of such excellent storytelling.

Destiny just hasn’t given me this experience yet. I’ve finished all the story missions, and to be honest with you…they are boring. The writers show us all these interesting story hooks and then decide to not do anything with them! That Warmind Rasputin? Mentioned, but it never plays a role in the story. That badass queen and her Fallen bodyguards? Oh, they look sweet and all in the cutscene, but they won’t be back until Bungie runs her event. The actual motivations of any of the enemy factions? What, they try to destroy Earth! Isn’t that all you need?!

Of course, certain hooks hopefully remain unused so they can play a role in some DLC or expansion. However, not giving a single faction any motivation beyond “they want to kill humanity / the Traveler / both” is just unsatisfying and lame. If I’m going to fight something, I want to know what it’s planning and how that affects me. Why did the Fallen ever attack Earth? Why aren’t we exploring that in the missions in Old Russia? Is there any other reason for them to fight the Vex on Venus beyond “the Vex are more evil than all the other evil in the universe”? So far, all we get is some vague info during cutscenes and on some Grimoire cards, but that just is not enough. For a game that calls itself the most expensive video game production ever, I feel like just a nickel and a dime went to the writing department.

All I can hope for Destiny is that future content gives us some more information on the actual universe and what everything does there. Grinding faction reputation to get that sweet weapon can only keep me busy for so long. Once I have that weapon, I want to bust some aliens, and I want to know why I should bust them.

Cross-platform gaming: hardware politics vs. united playerbases

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Even though I have to live without my PS4 for now, I had no lack of gaming this weekend. My GF and I decided to pick up Final Fantasy XIV. I got a copy for PC, while she bought the PS3 version in the Playstation Store. Since Saturday morning, we’ve been leveling a dynamic duo on the Lich server, marveling at the beauty of the game while learning the ropes together.

What amazes me is first of all how much fun FFXIV is when you have someone to play together with (considering how much I hated the game about a year ago), and second how awesome cross-platform gaming is. The idea that my GF can play on her PS3 while I join her from my PC seems so simple, yet there is a serious lack of games that allow this. Why spread your player base across three or four different platforms, when you could bring them together on shared servers?

I know about the challenges regarding cross-platform play. Especially when it comes to console games, sharing a common server is about more than allowing players to connect to one. It’s about hardware politics. In order to have someone on a PS4 to play together with someone on a Xbox One, Sony and Microsoft would have to connect their services. You think one of the two would be even willing to provide the other with vital information about their network structure? Of course not!

However, thinking as a gamer, any title could only profit from cross-platform play. Considering a game like Destiny is not far away, I would love to play with friends that own a Xbox One. As it stands now, all I can do is talk with them about our experiences. If they ever need an additional man for some group content, my guns will not blaze for their glory. 

The day may come that hardware politics stand no longer in the way of a united player base. Until that day, I will enjoy FFXIV and how it stands for this ideal. Eorzea: a world many platforms can connect to. 

I didn’t want to write about this

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“Playstation 4 Concept Final” by Artificialproduction

No, I really did not. Actually, my plan was to write about Game of Thrones Ascent, the first Facebook game I bother with since that one where you run your own farm and annoy your friends with stupid requests. But I can’t. There are two reasons for that.

First of all, the current state of Ascent makes it nigh impossible to play. Loading times are bizarre, some of your clicks don’t register at all and it seems in general that this game should have stayed in Closed Beta for a few more weeks. But I don’t want to talk trash about it too much, because it might be all better in a few days. No, my second reason is far more important.

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The Destiny of multi-device games

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Just a few hours ago, Bungie announced its much-awaited, rumours-surrounded project simply called Destiny. Going only by the short promotional video on the site and the concept art, I’m drooling like an idiot and having multiple nerdgasms (what, it’s easy to get me started!).

What’s even more interesting than the promotional talk and great artwork, is that short shot in the video. Y’know, the one where we see some kind of Destiny app running on a phone. It shows a character and a short chat with what seems to be another player. Well, my readers, it seems like Destiny will be build up from the ground to be used on multiple devices, which makes me even more excited than that cool looking tank in the picture above.

You see, when it comes to games, I always have the feeling that developers underestimate the possibilities of having access to (parts) of their creation from multiple devices, be it smartphone, browser or the client itself. In recent years, mobile apps like the WoW Armory and RIFT Mobile App have opened up MMORPG’s to your smartphone, and many titles allow access of some functions through your browser. However, I feel like more could be done, and I hope that Destiny will take a step into the right direction.

What I’m hoping for is mostly increased immersion, to be granted ways to dive into the digital world while not actually playing the game. I want to use my lunch break at work to see what’s going on in-game, and possibly have some ways to influence the world from my phone or browser. Of course, to really play the game I should be actually in the game (though…am I not also in the game when using other devices? This is getting philosophical…) but why shouldn’t I be able to see my party’s chat or fork over some credits, so they can buy that turret they need to hold back enemy forces?

Also, access to the game through other media increases immersion by making use of the nature of the medium. If a game is somehow linked to my social media, showing up in my stream and giving me access to the world through my Facebook / Twitter / what-have-you, it becomes a natural part of my daily life. I can’t evade it by simply not launching the client, for it will pop up while I’m checking my brother’s party pictures. It’s everyone’s marketers dream come true: customers can’t flee because the product has been nestled in their daily routine. Devilish!

But well, we’ll see what this suppossedly 10-year long epic will bring us. I will be hear keeping an eye on it, and reserving some MB on my phone’s hard drive for it’s awesome app!