Posts Tagged ‘ ubisoft ’

Trials Fusion thoughts and impressions

These are my impressions of the game and not a review.

I gotta say at least before the game’s launch, I’m quite addicted to Trials Fusion. I’ve played it for a good week up to launch. It’s fun to play a finished game before it gets out in the wild. In this case, the leaderboards grew slowly and I’m actually in the top 3 and top 10 in a few tracks, which feels great. Though there’s this dude called Paavi who just kills it on most tracks and achieves heroic completion times that I cannot even dream about. As soon as the general public begins to play the game, I’m pretty sure the fun of trying to achieve a high rank on the leaderboards is gone as it’s just impossible to compete with the best players. Which is of course why there’s the Friends list to keep the competition closer.

I got play the game a few months back at RedLynx and the futuristic theme of the game left me a bit cold at first. It just feels a bit off putting.  RedLynx seems to acknowledge this as pretty much the first thing you do in a race is to bust out of the clinical futuristic sort of warehouse into the great wide open (tm Tom Petty) and the game feels far less confined than before, but I’m not entirely sold on the futuristic theme.

It’s nice to have 1080P on the PlayStation 4, though really in this game it’s all about the handling. I dont want to get into the whole resolution-gate bullshit too much of frame-rate, but let me say this…hitting 60fps on any hardware where you push really complex graphics, physics etc is super difficult and often not worth it. 60fps means you have 16 milliseconds to render everything in the frame from lighting, geometry, visibility, shaders, AI, everything. So the fact that you have the PS4 and Xbox One with a lot of power doesnt make it that much easier since the resolutions are higher and there’s just so much more to do. Lot of PS4 and Xbox One games will stick to 30fps, 1080P where you can just do so much, much more in terms of visuals, AI, dynamic stuff than what you can at 60fps. Those are facts.

Back to Trials Fusion. I found the main menu a confusing mess at first. It’s not very welcome at all, with too much information laid out in a confusing manner. You see the bottom navigation pane, but you cannot access it always which is a bit strange. It’s not always clear what options are available in the main menu at first. Once you get going, the interface, while still crammed too full of information on every screen, works well. A really smart bit of design is that you can click the left-side of the touchpad to access a screen listing the last tracks you have played, which is super great. So once I boot the game, I can just quickly tap the button and go race the tracks I’ve raced the most before.

The handling seems pretty sublime to me and there’s so much nuance involved that you can spend a crazy amount of time perfecting your runs. There’s a new layer added into the proceedings aka the trick system. You can perform tricks by pushing the right stick into various directions while airborne. There’s separate tracks where its’ all about busting out tricks and getting a high-score but the majority of the game is about completing a track as fast as you can. I dont think the tricks make you go any faster or slower, though I’ve been told in Trials Evolution the fastest times were achieved by spinning the bike in the air during jumps.

The progression seems good and actually completing the tracks seems quite easy, but of course, getting a good time and a faultless run, that’s something completely different.

Looking at the credits and the gazillion Ubisoft names there, I’m pretty sure this game has to sell a whole lot more than before to support a huge organisation. Hopefully it can do that. The really awesome thing that I wish was communicated more is that the core RedLynx team was able to concentrate more on the core of the game than before since Ubisoft Shanghai and Kiev did some of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. I know that RedLynx folks are really happy with how things are with Ubisoft, so while I’m seeing some negativity online as to why there is no online multiplayer at launch etc, based on what I’ve heard, the collaboration between the studio and it’s owner has been awesome.

Overall, this is damn good game.

It’s so easy to pick up and play, loads up fast, you can just try to spend 15 minutes with it, which turns into an hour of course as you cannot put it down. The great thing is that it’s a great video game, it’s got depth, but it also works on a casual level.

RedLynx has not lost any of it’s identity or anything like that with it’s Ubisoft-merger. The game feels a bit bigger and more…professional in some ways, but it undeniably feels like an RedLynx and Trials game down to the super catchy catchy yet tacky theme music (“welcome to the future! man, machine…” great lyrics akin to those lines :)) and the not very good  in-game music. The audio mix is superb though!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Assassins Creed 3

Some of my thoughts on Assassins Creed 3. There are some spoilers.

Slow start 

The game starts out really slowly as you start a long way from the real beginning of the action and story. You spend hours getting going, though the first few chapters the character you play with has ramifications towards at the end of the game, but the payoff doesnt  work out very well.

Loss of identity

This is more of an open world game than anything else. This feels more like Red Dead Redemption than Assassins Creed to me. You end up doing so many chores to random characters that this feels more like a Rockstar game than Assassins Creed. Yes, I realize many missions are optional, but still. The fact that you are an assassin almost seems forgotten, there’s not that much assassinating going on anymore. The feathers, assassination contracts etc feel like an afterthought in this game, legacy that had to be respected, but kinda just dropped into the game without much thought.

assassins-creed-3

Writing

Corey May is an amazing writer and the whole writing team has done an incredible job with research and dialogue, but while the game has lot of great writing, like the all the data in the Animus written by Shaun, whose sardonic tone has been well maintained throughout the franchise (even though he’s material was written by another person for AC3 than before), the story and events in AC3 didnt resonate with me.

The ending especially, at least they give you an ending and dont cop out too bad like they did in Mass Effect 3, the conclusion of Desmond’s arc and the whole franchise up to this point, is weak. Worse yet, it all feels really rushed. The fact that the world is ending due to the solar flares and that there is real threat in the air, is never sold convincingly to me as a player, so at the end of the game I was wondering what my motivation really was for doing all this.

I really liked the fact that the story isn’t so black and white, all pro on Assassins. You get both sides of the story so to speak and nothing really is clear cut. The writers really succeed here and many of the supporting characters, the historic ones, are shady and you dont really know what their agenda is, everybody’s got their own. This works out really well in the game. Connor is more of a cog in the wheel than really bossing things around which is very different to Ezio.

Systems

There is a huge amount of systems in the game from hunting, to your assassin recruits to trading your homestead’s workers produce etc to merchants in the towns. You have to liberate city zones to gain new assassins. This was very unclear to me. So you see a Assassin mission on the map, you go there, you free the would be assassin and you think you got him into your team. You dont.

You have random events in the cities that you have to perform (free tied down characters, help beggars, eliminate random enemies etc) and once all are completed, you get the assassins task that unlocks the person for use in your team. The problem here is inconsistency.

Everything gets shown on the map with the exception of the assassins/liberation tasks!. That’s a design mistake. Maybe the reasoning was that the designers wanted random elements that just pop up when you wander around town, I can understand that. However, none of this is explained, I was at the second to last memory sequence in the game when I randomly completed all the assassins/liberation missions and then got the “main” liberation mission popping up on the map. When I did that, I got the assassin into my team. I didnt see any explanation of this, in the in-game manual.

The homestead is the new Monteriggioni. It’s not as good, though it’s cool. So you do Homestead missions which lead to people moving near Connor’s house and you start getting an town/economy. They all produce various stuff form ore to wool, which you can buy from them. Then you can combine all those materials with recipes to produce new things like barrels, carriages, furniture that you can sell. It took me until halfway the game to realize that I could actually manufacture carriages which move around all my stuff into the stores in the cities, who buy your stuff and you get paid. Moving stuff into the carriages is done in a menu, which is really fucking slow. You have like 10 slots to which you place a single item. So I couldn’t quick select 10 elk skins to put into a carriage, I had to add each one separately.

You dont see this nice overall view of all the things your Homestead folks build. Sure, you can walk around the area and see the people, talk to them and see their houses flling up the homestead, but Monteriggioni was so visual in terms of improvements you did to it. That’s what you need, real visual feedback of the money you are spending and the work you are putting in. You get a bit of that with the boat you get to upgrade in AC3, but that wasn’t much fun.

Variety

The naval combat is amazing looking. Every mission looks absolutely stunning with superb lighting, athmosperic effects like fog and fire and the ocean itself just looks incredible. I felt like I was really out on the sea when I played these missions. They are quite easy to play through, but very satisfying as you blast other ships with cannons and see your crew doing their thing on the deck.

Lack of freedom

There’s a few story missions which really force you to play them in a certain way instead of letting you exploit Connor’s many tools and skills. One of these missions comes up really early on in the game and was really annoying. Its the one with Haytam, I think, and you have to sneak into a base and first hide in the hay and then follow two dudes talking with Washington being one I think. I hated that mission. Another one is at the end where you chase John Lee. I think it took me over 30 tries to get through this badly scripted sequence.

Having said that, the level of of polish in general in the game and in the missions is quite good even before the patches considering the size and scope of the game, but in three missions I managed to break the scripting and not trigger the following events which is really unforgivable. I had this happen in the Desmond level in the stadium catwalks.

assassins-creed-3-screenshots

Characters

Ezio was an incredible character. I still remember uncle Mario and the dead little brother Petruccio from Assassins Creed 2. I applaud the writers going for an indian lead character, but Connor left me cold. He’s detached, he lacks personality and the worst thing is that the cast of historic characters, so many are rolled out that I really didnt who I was dealing with and why. Haytham being Connor’s father just doesnt pay off very well either.

Desmond

Some of the Desmond sequences, especially the ones based in the main cave area your team is in, are weak. I cant believe that the one character that ties all the games together gets such a weak treatment. The gameplay in the cave is about putting power cells into place, but I had no idea where to find them, nothing is sign posted at all.

When you get these power cells you are supposed to slot them into various spots in the cave complex. I really didnt know where, I just stared climbing around and then some cut scenes triggered and I had no idea how many cells I had left to place as I didnt place them as soon as I got back from the Desmond missions, I went back to the Animus. So I had no idea how many I had to find in the cave.

Also as you get these batteries in various short Desmond missions, one in New York, one in Brazil and so on. How come none of the chaos erupting around the world due to the solar flares is not showing during these missions? This is a missed opportunity of selling the drama that is supposed to unfold in the world while Desmond is trying to save it.

The last Desmond sequence part takes place at Abstergo, which is a great idea. This is from where franchise started, you should go back and get closure. But, come one, Desmond walks in, you kill a few guards and then get to Warren Vidic and he just dies. What a rushed anticlimax. Daniel Cross and Warren Vidic… come on man, integral characters in the universe and they get dealt in such a quick fashion. Very disappointing. Not to mention chasing Cross was very broken. I kept trying to grab and tackle him, not knowing if I could do it or did  I have to wait for a scripted sequence to happen.

Technology

Assassins Creed 3 looks a lot better than the previous games. The quality of character animation is superb, clearly much improved. The frontier itself especially is a great achievement. The enviroment feels natural, it feels alive. The lighting is often stunning and the frame rate for the most part is quite smooth and stable. The problem is that the Desmond sequences feel visually less polished than the rest of the game even down to the character’s facial animation.

Still, a game of this magnitude all these systems, short load times, is a stunning technical achievement, no question.

Thing that annoys me in the videogames business 1: Delays

Delayed games annoy the fuck out of me.

Now sticking to schedules and putting in the work and a bit of crunch to get things done is only right. In other words enduring some pain to get things done, is necessary. How often do major movies or albums get delayed by a year or or just months before their release? Hardly ever.

I know better than most how making videogames is a very different thing and that software development has a lot of unpredictable factors.

Just recently 2K announced the not at all surprising delay of Bioshock Infinite. Did this surprise anybody? Why did they even bother announcing a release date early on? The game is so crazy ambitious that the release date seemed near impossible in the first place and so it has proven to be. 2K Boston or Irrational now again, are very experienced bunch of developers, but even in their case, the game’s going to be delayed over six months.

The problem is that we think this is normal, we are not even surprised that another triple-A game is being delayed.

I’m not saying that unfinished games should ship. Not at all, I’d rather have quality.

One of the best publisher turnarounds besides Ubisoft in the last 10 years has been 2K Games. Both used to be mediocre publishers, but especially 2K has really been all about quality in the last five-seven years. That is great. Does 2K make money and more importantly profit? I think not. That’s something to think about too. However, they let their developers take their time (Yager has taken five years with Spec Ops: The Line) and that has greatly improved the games quality, but of course, 2K has also been more choosy about it’s projects and rightly so.

I question the wisdom of announcing release dates a year or even six months in advance. Uncharted 3’s release date was announced about a year prior to it’s release. To their credit Naughty Dog released a great game, but the crunch on Uncharted 3 was horrible and it was bad on Uncharted 2 as well. It kinda irks me that Rockstar’s development problems get some headlines but studios with better profiles suffer from the same problems too. It’s not like they dont try to learn, but still.

Making games is tough as Phil Harrison told me a long time ago. It really is. Developing software and developing features is an arduous task, but surely we could be better about our release dates. We have to as an industry, be much more professional and sticking to release dates is an important aspect of that. It is also a very tough juggling act: Ubisoft will always ship a new Assassins Creed on time because of the money involved. Same with Activision and Call of Duty, but those games have certain formula that makes predicting the development period a lot better than with, say Max Payne 3. 2K takes huge financial hits and risks by delaying it’s games and actually probably loses money on it’s games because of this. I have a really hard time seeing Spec Ops turning a profit after five years of development, but I really hope it does since Yager are a good bunch of people and 2K took their time.

I understand the sort of, let’s set our tent pole mentality and by giving a date, there’s something to aim for, something to wait for and of course, to send a message to other publishers/franchises, that hey, here we are! But, still, look at Nintendo; they give out release dates pretty much months before they ship and before that it’s very vague Fall/Christmas period. That’s still better than giving an exact date and then delaying the product. Sure, with Zelda they really keep fucking things up, but they are also quite vague when they talk about the release periods when it comes to that franchise.

From a PR standpoint, I do get it why dates need to be set, but I really think publishers and especially developers should be more responsible: we need to be more professional and learn to set realistic release dates and that probably means not giving out release dates so damn early. Though, that ties into the whole pre-order stuff that’s going on, but I’ll blog about that soon.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: