Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quick-time events (Simon hates U remix)

The most amazing 3D interactive experience of a lifetime!!!!1!

I have grown an aversion to quick time events, these Simon-like moments ham-fisted into games as part of some contextual cinematic action, sometimes meant to enhance the interactivity in a cut scenes, which in fact largely digresses from the ability to lay back for a moment and enjoy some nicely (I hope) recorded choreography.
Not that I’m a tremendous fan of cut scenes, nor convinced that we should copy the movie industry in most forms, but pauses are appreciable.
I don’t hate cut scenes either, but I’d rather play than watch a movie in my game.

Just to make things clear, I am not pointing at those Metal Gear Solid 3 moments which allow you to zoom in or out, or move the camera as Naked Snake talks, or is observing something (boobs) or someone (EVA).

Shall we try to understand where the issues come from?
There’s been a huge problem with cut scenes. Heroes complete acrobatic prowesses, smart manoeuvres and incredible feats which are absolutely forbidden to the player, regardless of skills.
You may get your character jump willy nilly shoot shoot bang bang, but it’s probably going to get you killed rather quickly, and will illustrate a poor demonstration of skills, the equivalent of button (s)mashing on Street Fighter.
The divide between actual in-game action and cut scene action kept growing, which would become more and more obvious, especially as cut scenes became more elaborate, thanks to the ever more powerful engines.

So some designers said let’s make those cut scenes interactive, then at least you’d still have the impression that you’re playing the game, albeit differently, and those wonderful killing moves and super dodges would be the result of your desires… somehow.

Truth being, it’s a purely half assed solution, that is neither here nor there, which doesn’t provide a true pace-breaking relief moment of a real cut scene, nor the action, interaction and satisfaction of an in-game play sequence (the feeling of having completed something worth of notice all by your own).

Just… hang your disbelief… please

The second problem is about information conveyance, and how you tell the player that you want him or her to press a given button at a given moment, while making it clear that the game is running a QTE.
Call that QTE awareness or else, it’s about seamless integration into the interface. Well, attempt at integration would be a better choice of words.

For example, in God of War, the button you have to press is most obvious. It’s just… well, right in the middle of the screen, big and coloured.
No matter how it is represented, it’s just there, glaring, huge and annoying, like a bloody insect’s greasy guts splattered all over your windshield.

That QTE trend has so much support these days that it even made it into ALIENS: Colonial Marines.

Excuse me?
Well, apparently the guys from Gearbox considered that if they were going to cram that system into their baby, they’d need to make it more discreet than, huh, being ravished by a facehugger.

Still, please consider the paradox we have at hands here, wherein these days of appraisal for non obtrusive and shy interfaces, glorious games which were decidedly spectacular and cinematic in nature, felt back onto a system which would brutally rape suspension of disbelief by shoving big letters or Playstation symbols down your throat.

I can’t see for the life of me how it makes any sense to get that system into such games. I could live without them.
Now, as we saw above, there’s been a reaction to the issues posed by the QTEs. Some people are trying to minimize the destructive effect of that mechanic on the magic circle.

But doesn’t it simply break the mood merely knowing that you’re suddenly playing a glorified Simon in the middle of a game which has nothing to do with the game’s essential gameplay?
Yes, that’s the point. It’s literally changing the mechanics midflight, with a system which can only feel forced and atypical.
I’d rather shake my mouse or my thumbsticks like a lunatic than try to play a sequence of buttons in the right order.

He who is not with me is against me

Here’s the ugly one, the monster of yours, the one you wouldn’t dare to present to your friends. It is part of your family, but conveniently locked up in a wet cell of your sweet home’s basement since “it” was given birth, fed with a glass of water, an apple and a plate of lice.
It’s an atrocious creature at odds with nature, one nobody could fathom.

I am talking about that stinky problem that would have probably been most unexpected these days, if you were recently told about the existence of QTEs without having experienced even one: The nonsensical “cake or death” dilemma.

You can be sure you get more of the later. When I’m going through the same QTE for the tenth time, it has nothing enjoyable anymore. It’s a pain, and you want to end it ASAP.

Pick God of War, Resident Evil 4 or Indigo Prophecy. They shall have no mercy for the weak.

Globally, there are two conditions of success, in a sometimes long chain of binary and totally unexciting verifications.

  1. Value: If you don’t press the right button: Failure!

  2. Time: If you don’t press the button at the right moment, within a tight allotted time: Failure!

In most cases, failure equals Game Over.

It is impressive how such events are unforgiving, especially in these ages of accessible casual gaming where the death “Game Over” screen seems to be MIA, and returns to roots of difficulty and memorization worth of Cybernoid and Rick Dangerous.

I could add Shenmue, Dragon’s Lair or that other game with a charismaless version of Kratos with tits, but I don’t know them well enough. However, I’d bet my marbles that not a single one of these games had a QTE system which drastically departed from the punitive Darwinian system described above.

Now, instead of following a twenty years old binary solution, couldn’t we go with a more tolerant Gradient QTE System?

Take the 360 controller.

Y is the right button to press.
Then, make X and B acceptable inputs, but punish the player by removing a couple of life points, or waste more seconds if there’s a timed challenge.
Then, make A input the worst case scenario. Eventually, there and only there you should make it correspond to the real failure option. Or you simply can increase the penalty without leading to a game over at all.

In case pressing A would lead to a failure as you get them in traditional QTEs, you’d need to wedge a third animation in between, one corresponding to “acceptable”, but still with a penalty.

Or, if you play it well, your team won’t need to record more than two different animations, while allowing the second “miss” animation to be altered procedurally, which would, for example, add a pause, slow down a given move in the animation or have your character complete a small different gesture.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A take on Ernest Adams' "No Twinkie! VIII"

I wanted to comment on the article from Ernest Adams, which got published on Gamasutra last year, titled Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie! VIII.
Usually, I don’t have gripes with his advisory, and I realize that, while reading his older Twinkies articles, my Bioshock: Menus for Soviets was an unfortunate example of the points raised in Twinkie V, but there were a few claims which I didn’t agree with.
Now, Twinkie VIII really is the article I need to talk about.

Mandatory Wildly Atypical Levels

Adams starts by saying that “this [Twinkie Denial Condition] bugs the heck out of me, and I'm apparently not the only one.”
Follows a quotation of Joel Johnson:

I'd like to point out the painfully irritating sections of games where they "change it up." Mini-games are fine by me, but when the game is an FPS except for two levels where you drive a car, race style, that's not a lot of fun. It's just padding that hides the fact that there isn't a lot of content in the main game. Other examples of this include the obligatory "stealth mission" not uncommon in FPSs (if you want to make a stealth game, make a damn stealth game), on-rails shooting-gallery sections of FPSs, the rhythm sections of games like Grand Theft Auto, etc. Optional mini-games are fun, and can be a refreshing change of pace, but optional is the key word here. Levels where a player must complete a game that uses a completely different skill set in order to continue back to a point that uses the original skill set can be irritating as hell.

This criticism of the padding appears to apply beyond the mere question of the atypical level, but also the random inclusion of atypical content, even if it doesn’t represent the whole of a level.

My opinion here is quite simple. The “wildly atypical” levels are not a mistake. If handled properly, they can precisely provide refreshing content which has nothing to do with mediocre padding.
The key words are “handled properly”, but this a tad obvious, because if the whole game is not handled properly, it’s going to be mediocre as well, so there’s not much point discussing this. Most of all, this is certainly a question of being sure that if you want to fiddle with mechanics this way, be sure it’s done well, or just leave it at that and keep it simple.

Now, let’s take an example. While God of War is a formidable series, I’m not convinced that the Simon phases really make the game’s mood and gruesome action any justice.
But they’re so engrained into the franchise, and the franchise gets so many good scores, that in those days of Guitar Hero, it doesn’t seem that problematic, which, in this case, would serve to show how a system is largely evaluated upon the context of a given era and the audience’s tastes of that time. I consider that Resident Evil 4 used these sequences with more parsimony, but both games treated them the same way in the end, as short bursts of unforgiving pikes of increased challenge.

But there’s another simple example which literally shows one of Johnston’s claims being wrong. Call of Duty II had a pure on-rail level where you were kneeling at the back of a truck and shooting at speedy Nazi vehicles trying to skin you.
The FPS, which is largely about aiming and shooting, was reduced to its purest element, and it was an engrossing phase of constant action, a pure moment of glorious shoot’em up.
You can also cite Sin’s intro, where you came by helicopter, and literally rained death upon your enemies with the power of the minigun piece.

I actually applaud designers who manage to use the mechanics of their game and mask them in such a way that you feel, for a given moment, like you’re playing a different genre.
This can be done, for example, by temporarily changing the head up display, and altering a bit the controls by limiting them.
Or using the same controls, but this time, instead of moving a marine around, “strafe” becomes “turn”, and you are driving a vehicle which you need to take from point A to B, while a PNJ does the shooting.

Now, the real problem seems to hinge on the idea that such alternative content is mandatory, which it should not be.
But I couldn’t disagree more with their dismissive overgeneralization these two men are guilty of.
Johnson’s self contradiction is even more annoying, since an on-rail section in a FPS shooter requires the same skill, and frees you from the movement functions (yes, as you can get, I’m not an anti-linear gameplay folk, I believe that limitations can be greatly rewarding in a wide range of cases).

Failure to Provide Clear Short-Term Goals

You won’t find me disagreeing here. Most surprising was how the re-edition of Final Fantasy XIII got spared of a must necessary objective analysis. It’s incredible that the game got so many high scores, while it’s essentially extremely poor in terms of combat functions, poor in its near non existent storytelling, but also displaying a lackluster of keynotes to remind you of your next most urgent goal.

I’ve played my load of Japanese RPGes, some of them great, some of them being pale (Dragon Quest VIII -yes, F you-, Rogue Galaxy), and you can notice the evolution that occurred over the years. FFIII managed to get me stuck at unexpected moments, with no way to know what to do next. Damned shall I be if I ever dared stop playing the game for a week. FFIII and all the cronies sharing the same glaring design fault belong to another prehistoric age of gaming.
It wasn’t a long time ago when you could spot so many games suffering from that same mistake, and this cancer should be treated ASAP.

Note, please, that I’m not saying a bit of mystery doesn’t help, but literally throwing the player in the great unknown, with no possibility to get a clue about what has to be done, and where one should go, is totally absurd. You still need linearity at some point, and one that shouldn’t be too hard to pick up.

Dominant Strategies

The example of Halo is most accurate. Even from the solo, you could easily realize the overwhelming power of the pistol, which quickly had me laughing at the mediocre rifles the UNSC guys were using.
You get this same problem in RTSes. Put simply, AIs are not smart enough these days to defeat you without cheating, provided by stringent advantages implemented by the coders, to compensate for the players’ superior capacity at generating strategies of victory.
That said, those strategies of victory always end, for nearly all RTSes, being the same against the AI.

Things are a bit different in competition involving human players, but rather often, the same strategy wins all games, and it’s largely a question of who supervises more of the map than who comes with the better strategy.

Victory is shaped by the mistakes of players, not their superior strategy. The mistakes concern unit movement, production, placement, building construction: forgetting where your units are, not paying attention to where the enemy comes from, building two foragers instead of three, putting a building to close to the décor, in the way of your troops, or too far from the enemy base or natural resources, churning out less units than your enemy does so you get swarmed, etc. *yawn*

I’ve never seen anything coming close to the opportunities provided by a Chess game. Generally each camp/civilization/army/else has a major strategy which will assure victory for most games, and the exceptions often come down to one player knowing another, and trying something different because the opponent’s choice suddenly enables an alternative, but this is nothing more than a singular special case situation.

A game which really impressed me was Magic: The Gathering. If you exclude the exceptional super combo decks, both fragile but extremely powerful once the lock would be in place, and the extremely old and limited super cards, all styles and decks have the same percentages of victory, roughly, and it is largely a question of rock paper scissors (my favourite decks either were a pure green mana+beasts, red direct damage with sometimes a few mobs in there, or usually a black deck which ate the opponent’s deck and killed him that way).

Plus the game has the advantage of getting new content periodically, which provides a rich and mind boggling amount of combinations for players to toy with, year after year.
Huh, if only the pecuniary aspect of this game wasn’t that strong... I’d suggest trying the PC version, which was far from containing all decks and all extensions, but had all to enjoy the mechanics of the game, and only them (of course, this is less lucrative for Garfield than selling pieces of cardboard at absurd prices, while the customer doesn’t even know what he’ll get, a problem which was only partially solved with prepared decks).

Incorrect Victory Checks

Following on that great game that Interstate 76 was, one way which would have solved the problem being that the ghostly and invisible check-volume which the player had to pass through to trigger the next phase of the level should have encompassed the whole base you started in, so even if the player got out of said base by using a trick, he or she would had completed step 1.

This does not mean, in any shape or form, that a special cutscene has to be made, even though if you show being able to foresee special resolutions, you might already find those tricks, and want to reward them with proper cutscenes. You can’t plan all the possibilities, otherwise jump tricks in FPS maps wouldn’t exist. They’re part of the fun.

No, the real problem here was that the game was stuck.
So it is better to remain as flexible as possible. The player in question would have had been much less annoyed if the game carried on, even after a rather unorthodox solving.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Beijing 2008: cf_Pure Server disabled

For anyone paying a modicum of attention to the Beijing Olympics and satellites topics, it’s been hard to miss the attention-focusing news about the South African and disabled athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Oscar had his legs amputated when he was 11 months old, because of a defect regarding his skeleton’s composition at birth. Not a cool thing at all.

What happened to him is interesting.
First, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) banned him in January, because of his prosthetics. The IAAF guys worked from a first batch of independent scientific studies, which were meant to gauge the physical gains and losses provided by these artificial “legs”.
Only recently, the IAAF lifted the ban and allowed the young man into the able-bodied league. There’s been a smell of hypocrisy in the air.

It puts us in front of a grave issue. We’re at the gates of something which is going to get bigger and bigger. This is science fiction catching us, and obviously only a few are really prepared about this perspective.

Much like the bionic agents being distressed - and rather vindictive - about their condition in the light of the next-gen breed of nano-abled Dentons (Deus Ex), there have been protests voiced by the IAAF, and other “complete” athletes, about Pistorius’ special carbon-fiber “cheetah” legs giving him an advantage, or denaturing the essence of the competition.
Mind you, the prosthetics are primitive, in a kind of way, and yet, controversy already rises.

The IAAF’s dance is most puzzling. Their former evidence seemed rather clear. Then, apparently, the difference wasn’t so clear at all, when put against Pistorius’ performances versus those of able-bodied people.
Somehow, the “cheat claim” was more or less addressed and, I suppose, sort of debunked in a New York Times article, especially since Pistorius, at the beginning of the year, was under the times needed for qualification at the Beijing Olympics.
Now, they don’t really know what to do.

But the anti arguments were interesting nonetheless, notably in the words chosen by Elio Locatelli, talking about how this kind of specialities “affects the purity of sport.”

Yet, despite their lack of certainty, and probably conceding terrain after the outroar from the disableds and their lawyers, they allow Pistorius, while they looked like they had a solid evidence about the advantage provided by the prosthetics. Well well well.

I must say, this will be the first time I’ll have a real interest in the Olympics, because it will address questions which reach beyond the mere concerns of games.
I’m just not that much into games about the solo performances of people throwing plates, sticks and jumping fences.

Let’s be honest, though. The advantages of cyber limbs are becoming more and more evident. We already welcomed the world’s most powerful ankle back in early 2007.
Or what about the CyberHand? An incredibly advanced piece of machinery which seems to come straight out of Ghost in the Shell!
You may also recall the stories about powerful and flexible metallic muscles bending according to electrical currents.

What can be said in relation to games?

Games are based on rules. Rules follow preset standards. Everyone is supposed to start at the same point, by following the same rules.

Assets can be different if the game is purposely built upon principles of asymmetric systems, with opponents (or groups of) relying on the same global play “mechanics”.
The problem here is a problem of standards. Leaving religion and questions such as “is a human brain in a tin can on spider legs still a man?” aside, we could ask if all fully-able athletes are all set by the same standards.
Each individual is different from the other, be it by corpulence or global proportions like length of limbs. Or even health. The differences exist, but they’re considered negligible, as they’ve been for eons, and totally integrated into the games (or is it what we’d like to think?).

The NYT article gives an example about one of the IAAF’s rules:

Historically, the I.A.A.F. has placed limits on devices that assist athletes. It prohibits an array of performance-enhancing drugs. And it does not allow wheelchair athletes into the Olympic marathon, given that wheels provide a clear advantage in speed.
But the governing body has also embraced technological advances. For instance, it permits athletes to sleep in tent-like devices designed to simulate high altitude and increase oxygen-carrying capacity.

The second part is worth a note. Much in the defence of the IAAF, this trick is accessible to both able-bodied athletes and amputees, so there is no reason to sort disabled athletes from able-bodied ones based on this standard.

The standard that makes the difference between the Olympics and Paralympics is either you use your naturally grown limbs, or artificial ones.
The real problem has been: does using these “Cheetah” legs provide advantages?
Then, how do you weigh the advantages, and then disadvantages?
Do you use gauge features and set up averages of performances, for energy and work gain observations?
What if artificial limbs give an advantage in curves, but not in straight lines?
What about jumping fences?

This is complicated issue, and it should be rather obvious than when you’re in the dark, you don’t take hasty decisions based upon ignorance, but rather adopt a prudent stance, and wait to be sure.
Otherwise you may be unwittingly opening a can of worms here.

But could we make an exception here?
It’s possible this Oscar guy may steal the show. You can expect nice accolades for the cameras at the end of the run as well.
Pistorius went to two previous meetings against able-bodied athletes and it was fine for him and the others competitors. Besides, as said earlier, his times aren’t good enough to normally qualify for the traditional runs.
The man himself likes what he does, he wants to feel like any man, he fights everyday to get this recognition, but maybe people should look at the truth and get real?

In the end, this is the artificial world of games. I understand the achievement it represents for any man or woman to be considered part of the society at the same level of any other citizen, but the context is slightly different here.
Within a game, you’re out of reality. No matter how much you try to force real life topics into games, the rules should be clear, and easy to observe, enforce and understand.

When you don’t know if artificial limbs give an advantage or not, you should not take the risk of allowing the intrusion of a foreign element which could break the rules. Otherwise you take the risk of breaking the game itself. You must be sure you don’t confer a given player an advantage over others.

Pistorius seems to be more at a disadvantage than anything else for the moment. If the disadvantage is that clear, then I think that he may be allowed to run, but such things shouldn’t become regular.
We don’t want these disciplines to turn into mockeries of what the events were for such a long time. More precisely, the disabled athletes have their own games, and they can challenge those who share the same problems.
However, on that point, you’ll notice that Paralympics don’t sort out mono legged athletes from full amputees.
Is there an aversion to the “monstrosity” of artificial limbs here?
Sure, it’s not a sight that’s easy to stomach, but maybe we could cut the whine a tad, no?

Now, some may find the IAAF’s reaction inhumane and conservative (and I do think that many representatives of federations had some really crude words over the last twelve months), but then cast ourselves in the future and consider the use of much more complex and advanced prosthetics by amputees, with characteristics which could even surpass those of able-bodied athletes.
The situation would be reversed. Although this is not going to happen anytime soon, the plausibility of such a scenario shouldn’t be brushed away, and should, on the contrary, be considered appropriately.

The relevant authorities of the world will have to deal with the sure fact that Paralympics and other games for amputees will become more intense in certain domains, and will progressively turn into Cyberlympics, Cyborglympics, Biomechalympics, or Bionympics, which could very well become even more spectacular.
This also applies to cricket.

If it does turn true, people will ask for it. When artificial limbs will allow higher leaps and more powerful smashes, I bet there will be a wide audience for this. I’m not saying we’ll get something like Space Marines playing Speedball, but able-bodied players will probably be tempted to make the switch as well, by using enhancing gears allowing for better performances, and money being what it is, authorities will probably countenance that change.
More, artificial limbs could very well become lighter and lighter, therefore surpassing the advantages of any leg enhanced with whatever mechanical devices strapped on it. A leg is still a leg, it comes with a weight, and it’s quite heavy.

So, well, let’s keep the eggs sorted and the slurring low for the moment, OK?

Oh, one last question.
How are we going to call our square eyed cyber athletes then?

EDIT: I'd like to expand this article with the following news. One can only imagine how research in stem cells could help handicaped people regrow muscles upon those joints and articulations.
That said, regrowing bones might be equally possible by then.

Nice Football Finale

Manchester United got crowned. Once more!
That was an enjoyable finale that we had. Not many goals, sure, but a good overall quality – although there were matches with much more high level technical moves for sure.
Exchanges were rough, engagement was total.

Had Chealsea won, it would have been the first European finale played by two English clubs, yet won by the French.
I have to admit, I was impressed by that Belletti Italian guy. He didn’t play the whole match, entered during extra time, just in time for the penalties (which Chealsea were obviously aiming for), finely assumed the pressure, and did his job very well. Well, his team lost, but it’s still worth citing considering the context and what his entry would have been if he had missed his unique opportunity to grant the Blues their first star. He did his job professionally.
These Italians and penalties, it must be in their genes.
Kudos to Giggs and Van Der Sar by the way. There was something touching about the actual victory, considering these two guys' history at the club. Especially for Ryan. Such a talented man, too bad he was Welsh.
You got to wonder… will they ever get bored of all these cups? :)

Oh, and I loved Sensible Soccer (I’m supposed to talk about video games).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bioshock: Menus for Soviets

I borrowed it from my friend’s rack of aw’some PC games. He was well aware of my manoeuvre, though, so I guess he tolerated the move.
It also was a trip, back in time, to the dark ages of menu design.

I slammed the disc into the drive, stirred it up, installed the game, and ran it.

First Shock.

An acclaimed game, yet the menu’s appearance is just horrible. I may be alone here, but I think a menu tells a lot about a game, and this one is shit, even at full details, and was obviously meant to be displayed on a small black and white TV screen with interlaced lines, which is of course the most used video apparatus by PC owners.

Second Shock.

Whoever validated the controls menu’s system during development should go take a fucking three years course at the Common Sense university!

It’s simply inexcusable that with the time, budget and deafening buzz that went in and around such a product, the menu could be so impractical and non intuitive.
It’s not without a precedent though, as I recall a similar mediocre experience, either with one of the Battlefield games, or Operation Flash Point, or maybe both in fact.

I went to the first tab, about moves. Easy, I love FPSes, so I instinctively knew what to do. Click on the box, enter the new key, get to the next one, and ritualistically repeat the pattern, until all boxes would be filled as suited.

But the excitement soon faded when time came to define which key I’d use to move backward.

I decided it would be H. Rather simple.

Safe that it didn’t work. Just… why, pray tell?

I got a message about how the key in question was already used. Okay, fine… there’s a conflict of some sort. And what about you tell me which function this corresponds to, stupid program?!
You know, just in case I’d like to find said function and get a temporary key in there, as a place holder.

Oh but noooo… It would be way too easy!
So be it. Just stamp my H and F off, I’ll deal with the rectification myself.

But how foolish of me to ever hope that in this great moment of dumbfounding surprise and so quickly growing irritation, I could, at least, be offered to brute force my big H into that slot.
Epitaph of laziness, the goddamn system wouldn’t even allow a miserable key swap, nor automatically erase whatever function H was formerly assigned to!
It didn’t even throw the most basic option to force the key, where from I’d still have to manually find the H duplicate and switch it with another key, which would have still been bad, but at least manageable.

See, there had to be a way around that idiocy. My plan was to assign a free and temporary key to the backward move, then go find which function H key was used by, put another free and temporary one there, return to the moves tab, put the H for backward, and continue. Voila.

Like if it couldn’t get any worse, as I was looking for random free keys, picking them from different regions of my keyboard, I was getting the same elusive message worth of a thousand gunshots in the scalp.
So I sat there for a moment, and did a bit of a short term projection.
There were four tabs, each of them containing an average of ten functions, more or less. Just thinking about the torture awaiting me, I just ran away.
I merely decided that this was pathetically ridiculous.

That was it. No way I’d waste my time going through such an amateurish menu.

I know the game’s probably very good, engrossing, beautiful, with good game mechanics and a nice plot blah blah blah. But let’s be honest here, there are other games to try out there.
Yes, I’ve come to a point where logic-impaired menus put me off that fast.
Eventually I’ll give it a go on someone’s three sixty (and thus suffer because of totally inappropriate console controllers).
Or maybe I’ll pay a depressive tramp to set my config up according to a few notes I’d leave on the table.

I installed and ran Bioshock because I wanted to enjoy a game which got so many perfect scores that it would either mean it is that excellent, or just extremely well sold to most websites.
As far as it went for me, I thought the game would carry me through a marvellous world of gorgeous retro-futuristic design, good mechanics and, maybe, a nice plot if we’re lucky.

I certainly didn’t expect having to solve a new mental variant of Rubik’s Cube to get something as mundane as primary controls right, even before getting a chance to play the game!

Look, I’d rather play Quake III Arena than waste my time in a fucking menu. Forward, Backward, Left, Right, Crouch, Shoot, weapon 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, here we go!

In very, very rare cases, paperwork is gratifying. Most of the time, it’s just one more hell on Earth.

Like soviet bureaucracy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

iGame - Apple's hand held console, Part III

Swiss knife

Here’s the last part of this creamy stuff.
There’s a question that needs to be addressed. A major one, as long as a console should be made these days.

What should that machine be, by definition?

We can look at Nokia’s N-Gage (which in all honesty, would require a massive article of its own kind, but you can read that one though), which failed to work as a hardware platform twice (GD model included), because of numerous dubious decisions on the design side of things. It wasn’t all that bad, though.
In February 2007, added to a successful first party game catalogue, the platform got support from EA Mobile and Gameloft.

But it was reformulated into a smaller hardware and larger software hybrid system in August, backing off from the largely game friendly hardware design, to be integrated into a wide variety of heterogeneous S60 handsets (Smartphones).
But the problem is that no matter how good on the paper the whole gaming service might sound, it’s still associated to devices which are obviously not suited for gaming. Oh sure, you can call it a thriving, blossoming business opportunity all you want, the fact remains that these phones, and all copies, are not suited for gamers of higher quality.
They might have the power, but they still do not have the ergonomics.

The other question is… do gamers want to bother with Pocket PCs, all the more prone to bugs and colds, all the more complex and distracting from the core concepts of accessible entertainment (games, pictures and sound)?

Let’s, again, look at the PSP, touted as a super-entertainment tool (a bit like the PS3, a computer?).
Sorry, you might think I’m pulling this out of my e-hole, and maybe I am, but I’m firmly convinced that what mainly sells the PSP – besides the odd sales blips due to new fancy faceplates - is not its claimed ability to be all and everything, from internet browser to coffee machine. The MP3 compatibility is certainly a plus, but not what people look for when they want to enjoy a small and transportable gaming device, I believe (not a shiny brick).
My point being that I still believe that a great gaming machine is one which is primarily designed as such, to do one thing above all: play games.

Of course, all this talk is fine, but Apple appeared convinced that the iPhone is the all in one system everybody’s been waiting for. Well, that’s what Sony thought as well when they laid down the blueprints for their baby, but if there’s anything relatively sure to say, it’s that what sells the console is not its touted multimedia abilities. That said, Sony’s machine is a steam machine behemoth in comparison, and I mean it in a pejorative way.
However, Nintendo didn’t need to market their handheld as the next penultimate multitask tool of social entertainment. They just put all their formidable experience into the game part, and made that well.

So, as part of this topic, I say that along avoiding the mistakes of the UMD mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t exclude a classical retail-type storage format, like a proprietary memory card design, for example, or some system already in use.
Look, the small cartridges used by Nintendo are cute and easy to transport, and even smaller cards can be used to store up to 4 Gb of data nowadays (but they’re still expensive).
However, Apple should think twice about breaking standards and forcing their own media support.

Adding other slots, for other memory card formats, would be good as well. From laptops to home printers, all accept at least two different formats of cards now. If we want to be able to bring music and pictures rather easily, different card slots would be more than welcome.
The machine should include some consequent flash memory, or a mini HDD. It would be most helpful! This may require selling two versions of the console though. With the possibility of using memory cards, the internal memory would be a practical backup, which dedicated gamers would love to exploit, to store more games, music and video, but which other casual people may not see as that essential.

Also, let people use the handheld as a music player. But don’t force stupid standards. Let it accept both MP3 and AAC, and more.
It would be daft to leave the AAC format out.

Let people play videos if they want, but don’t pretend it will be exciting to watch Spiderman 2 in the bus, even if it should be able to play them. Just put the emphasis on the community aspect of life, and be satisfied with the likes of Youtube and personal videos made during parties, holidays and weddings, by supporting the H.264 for example.

If anything, don’t believe the device should be able to do everything, unless you’re planning to make the iTreoPod real.

As you probably noticed, I don’t buy all the fuzz about how mobiles should do everything. I’m a rather blasé and functional sort of fellow when it comes to such devices. I think a mobile phone is an essential tool when I really need to contact someone, or be contacted, because I know that is what matters most about these intruding phones.
As such, I’d absolutely hate to have its battery depleted because I spent one extra hour on some intoxicating Click Wheel enhanced Turrican remake, or a heavily inspired clone, you see.

So if the Apple minds would still think that their handheld should also be a mobile phone (or that there should be a model including a phone), think about including a smaller battery that only the phone part of the device could access, along the must have removable main battery. I’m thinking of a kind of power backup, or something.

I think they should keep the accelerometer. It’s an interesting tool for gameplay, a new pool of opportunities. A thing to try: putting the sensor in a x fashion, instead of a + one, so the default orientations, horizontal and vertical, would be averages of two sensors, which would bring more finesse to the detection, instead of having just one sensor. That’s for the friction I mean. Unless the small block that pushes against the sensors can slide to the sides very smoothly, with little effort at all, and be enough to record variations in orientation, I think it may be better to have the block already pressing against two oblique sensors, even when the console would be held in a yoko position.

As for connectivity, think wireless detection and linking with the obvious Wi-Fi. Apple’s machines are leaving something to be desired in that department.
The USB 2.0 is obvious.

Add to this list a very good support for Flash and Java, especially since the system is going to be used to play games. There’s a load of excellent products out there, on the web, and they run with these technologies. It would be ridiculous to ignore them. Of course, this means not locking Java support when it’s already integrated into the machine... oops.

Don’t forget the much necessary chat screen. It would be a good thing if it could be brought in-game (or during any other application), with a virtual touch-keyboard, while the game itself would be in standby, instead of having to deploy the machine to access to the crammed physical keyboard (like on LG’s very good Voyager). This, however, implies a much bigger screen to allow for a properly sized keyboard, and of course quite a lot of finger prints… but this shouldn’t be a problem considering the success of the iPhone and its largely touch screen controller interface.

Oh, besides, think of the independent developers and Taiwanese workers (no more Hon Hai controversy, thank you).

Anyway, I’m looking for a better handheld than the PSP and the DS. Not a better phone which would do plenty of things I’m not asking for.
Sometimes, specialization is good. Choking to death because you tried to take more than you could is absurd.

So what would a war look like? ^^

If that hypothetical console would sell as much as Apple’s plans for the iPhone (they had planned 10 million units in 2008), it would turn out to be a major contender in the handheld race, bringing it near, or even above PSP’s sales.

It’s a gut feeling, but Apple is in a good shape to make the move. It’s not just a question of business factors, it’s literally about the brand’s image nowadays: it would surprise no one if Apple presented a handheld, they have the spirit for this. Everything they do reminds us of what has been associated to handhelds lately: coolness, fun, good looking devices, high technology with large compatibility, and content to download and play. What you have here is basically a very nice definition of the near future’s handheld.

However, in terms of potential, the firm is certainly not the only big monster in the handheld backyard.

The evolutions of Microsoft’s Zune are interesting, enough to keep an eye on the device, especially since “it makes sense that Zune could be a part of a gaming experience”, as told by a Microsoft PR representative to Gamertell some time ago. Count the Halo 3 themed model as another positive hint. The Zune Phone can be considered another step in the right direction to include games to the package, counting the hypothetical inclusion of cheap 3D acceleration hardware.
Then all of this speculation is supposedly bullet busted by Shane Kim. Of course, that’s just PR talk, so who knows?

Read Part I | Read Part II | Part III

Sunday, May 11, 2008

iGame - Apple's hand held console, Part II


As you may have noticed, there has been a substantial amount of advertising for Apple’s iPhone.
If there’s one thing that is easy to notice about the device, it’s the large screen.
It comes with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels (with a ratio of 160 pixels per inch, for 3.5 inches), which makes it wider than the PSP’s (but is still inferior, for example, to Etencorp’s Glofiish X500+’s screen).

A handheld console should be easy to carry. I think we can all agree on that. However, if there’s a thing that the PSP (and even the GBA SP) have proved in my opinion, it’s the fact that a handheld can (and should) have a large screen. I do not follow the train of thought that says splitting a screen in two with a disgraceful sausage-wide plastic hinge is a smart thing.
When it has crappy graphics, it doesn’t help either (as long as you’re going to get some 3D stuff on your console, there’s a minimal level of quality to reach, and that is what the PSP got right).

Back in early 2006, EGM made an April Fool’s with the iGame. Arguably, the console’s design was very poor. However, it was preceded by another artwork, much more convincing, posted by a certain Linkman2004 on Engadget.

As you can see, the qualities of this design are the size of the screen, how it folds back into a more discrete system, and the presence of two Click Wheels, which is rather a good thing, since the four action buttons could be located under a ring. This would offer even more control opportunities in games. Imagine playing Katamari Damacy with those rings! :)

The major and rather obvious problem with this design would be the balance once you nudge the screen up to reveal the controls.
The mockup presented as the gPod seemed much better, in the sense that the controls were on each side of the screen, which is the most logical way to handle the device, as it would be a rather advanced handheld console, therefore heavier than a DS. The other error in my opinion is the redundant touchpad, which should be merged with the screen.

See, as it goes, the iPhone’s screen is actually a multi-touch high quality LCD device, which is superior to the DS’ touch screen, as it can record two contact points at the same time. It enables a form of dragging which can be scaled up or down, depending on the finger’s motion, so it’s not a far fetched option at all.
It even comes with a light sensor, gauging the amount of ambient luminosity, and adjusts the screen’s one accordingly.

Now, would this feature be necessary? Well, I’d give it a resounding yes. It’s cool and much engaging from an interactive standpoint. Going backwards from there would sound like a defeat. Would it need a pen? It would definitely help.
I can imagine holding and sliding a virtual paper with one finger, and drawing on it with the pen.

Nevertheless, the screen alone wouldn’t be enough if you didn’t bring the necessary horsepower to really do such a screen minimal justice.
One thing for sure is that Apple has proved to be a reliable brand when looking for powerful and stable systems.

Their operating systems demonstrate this (an unique hardware helps as well, but this is going to be true with the console as well). Therefore, it's conceivable to think that the console could use a gaming oriented OS X.

Technically, the iPhone’s specifications regarding RAM and CPU were more or less hard to find for quite some time, but dedicated adventurers dug numbers which were somewhat close enough to the details associated to the ARM1176JZF-S core, used in the phone (minus the lack of performance due to the ARM nature of the CPU), with the bus possibly being a limiting factor, but still promising a decent architecture, if Apple would push the boundaries for the console a bit further.

Hey, we could have drooled about the prospect of cramming the equivalent of a Dreamcast inside a portable device.
After all, Sega’s console has benefited from an active homebrew scene.
The system is appreciated by gamers, is roughly as powerful as the Playstation 2, even superior on certain terms, and still has some good exclusive titles.
Of course, considering how both Sega and Nintendo are working hand in hand now, this would be most unlikely.

Yet, Sega likes to maintain independence
Besides, there are talented developers out there who have acquired some hefty experience on the Dreamcast, and the system isn’t exactly brand new now, so a similar architecture wouldn’t be like advancing through a fog of war. Now, I'm afraid the PowerVR architecture isn't the most efficient one in certain calculation domains, and inferior to the architectures used by Sony for example.
However, the massive drawbacks are piracy and the fact that the console’s OS had much more to do with a trimmed down Windows than a Mac OS. But, well… the OS wasn’t extremely complex either. A transition at such a level could be considered.
Now, why would they care? Apple knows its stuff about operating systems, and they “just” need to slap decent graphic processors to their small machines. That said, it’s not too far from what the DS can do.

Realistically, their aim should probably be a system worth a Dreamcast, if not something between a PS2 and a Wii.

New challenger enters the game…?

Consequently, Apple has been acting with a strong resolve to break frontiers and impose their multiple products as successful brands. Their iPods, iPhones, iMacs, iBooks and iElse are tantamount to that determination.
In relevance to the gaming platform, the iPhone could bode well for Apple’s future, if they were to make a true handheld.

Following David Perry’s thoughts about the PSP Slim & Lite, some people - maybe a bit too quick to blow the horn, chant the death of the old retail system and praise the merits of the digital market - would probably agree that Apple has the infrastructure, power and resources to build their own iTunes for games, say iPlay.
It’s certainly not risk-free, but seems to be worth the try.

The UMD format is a running joke, and as far as Apple is concerned about enforcement, Steve Jobs is probably pulling what’s left of hairs on his scalp, as his attempt at trying to control too much of the mobile market turned out to be a slap in the face of the phone providers which Apple signed deals with. I’m talking about the cracked iPhone business.

Now, it’s not like advertising is Apple’s weak spot. The firm has scored series of great marketing successes throughout its life, so that’s less of a problem.
The real big challenge would be to get strong IPs on the console. Without good games, you can giggle and parade as much as you want, but your system is fated to fail. So this means finding third party developers, as well as acquiring at least one promising studio for the first party branch.

That’s the very hard part. They’ll have to compete against Nintendo and Sony.
One would look at Sony’s attempt with the PSP, belittled by the DS, and resign.
But that would be without factoring the multiple flaws of the PSP, which are rather easy to study, and eventually, avoidable. From the moment you are making a video game console, think in terms of games first, and if possible, don’t overdo it.

That said, simple games are already accessible via iTunes. It doesn’t stop there though;
Sega’s Sonic is on iTunes, as a port of the original Genesis version, showing Apple’s attention for gaming, and will to get valued IPs on their systems.
The hardest part here would be to decide which other games they want on this service, and if they’re ready to support a sort of larger Steam–like system.
The combined announcements of the iPhone SDK’s release, the coming of Spore and Super Monkey Ball (more info) show that Apple is definitely getting into the gaming segment seriously, and not only by welcoming rehashes. Spore is new and anticipated. It’s quite a thing that the iPhone would be capable of supporting such a game.

Apple has the advantage of being a brand that sells very well. Its Achille's Heel, on the other hand, is that it’s hardly well associated to video games at the moment, but things change.

Remember, both Sony and Microsoft also had to break into the video game industry while they were not particularly associated to games either, as far as the average Joe was concerned.
Sure, both companies were already involved through partnerships with Nintendo and Sega, but if anything, the iPhone has shown that it’s already one step towards the video game industry, and we couldn’t say that Apple computers are oblivious to games either. It isn’t exactly new stuff to them.

Besides, if Microsoft can dress up a PC, remove some irrelevant bits, and call that an Xbox, why can’t Apple do the same with a handheld?

Oh, I saw you coming, you Adam nerds. Time has passed since the Pippin, and that short lived love affair with Bandai. For sure, it must have taught Apple a thing or two about certain pitfalls to avoid, no?

Read Part I | Part II | Read Part III

Friday, May 09, 2008

iGame - Apple's hand held console, Part I


Essentially, this article is the fruit of a progressive extension of an initial thought, which burgeoned as I wondered what would happen if Apple broke into the handheld market, headbutt style.
This whole fantasy of mine is composed of three pieces, and today, I publish the first part.

It starts with a flashback…

Things really got hot back in back in 2005, when Apple presented the infamous gPod.
It may have been quite a great day, notably for Apple fans I suppose, if only it had not also been the 1st of April.
Sure, it probably was worth many laughs for some, but I keep thinking that there was more to this than a mere leg-pull. Or maybe I was reading too much into that, and got abused because of the budget thrown at such a prank.

Still. Besides a sympathetic toy, couldn’t it be possible that Apple’s funny bait also served as generating some reaction, to be analysed thereafter, more seriously?
You know, probing your audience while looking like you don’t care.

As far as things went, while Apple officially limited themselves to consider the made up device as nothing more than some facetious drollery, I’d wager that Nintendo’s execs declared it a good source of inspiration for the second version of their successful handheld, the DS Lite, which hit the Japanese stores the following year, during March. It’s not like the console’s ceramic white design doesn’t owe a lot to Apple anyway, right?
Could have Nintendo got a sweat?

It’s worth wondering, based on former designs and actual industrial power, if Apple could enter the handheld market with a console of their own.
So, I came with this extremely speculative talk, trying to imagine what could Apple design if they decided to thrown their own baby into the portable console war (yes, it has definitely turned into a conflict, as the PSP is gaining significant momentum against Nintendo’s products).
Truth said, I giggled at the exciting thought of seeing Apple step into the ring.
Apple vs. Mushroom!

A Perfect Circle

I don’t know about you, but there’s an element of gaming that matters a lot to me, just as much as the games I buy, incidentally. This element is the controller.

As far as I’m concerned, the success of a controller depends on several key factors, most of them falling into the ergonomics ensemble (since they all get the input and output right anyway).
I love to gauge the intelligence behind the design, to see which parts have been really properly conceptualized, assembled and tested.
Those who value the importance of ergonomics and interaction do properly weigh such details.
Some controllers get lost in a pool of mediocre devices which fail miserably. Others range from honest to very good, generally to be enjoyed by large numbers.
Finally, a few near perfect ones are recognized as the blessed fruits of authentic genius.

One of such truly ecstatic features has been created by Apple; it’s known as the Click Wheel, and is found on the classic and nano iPods models (preceding the touch version).
If you have issues to identify the models, check out this list.

The controller version since late 2006 is pure and complete: Apple has reinvented the wheel.

Sorry, I’m not an Apple fan to any extent, but I think this piece of design deserves some recognition. It’s just… cool. From a handheld perspective, it rivals the awesomeness level of a touch screen.
This system, reminiscent of a touch pad, but much simplified for good, has the potential to be a great gaming tool, if fully exploited.
At the moment, the intricate, minimalist looking, smooth and almost sexy all-in-one system is, above all, an extremely efficient and seamless combination of three controllers:

- A four directions D-pad.
- The ring; stacked upon the D-pad, is a 16 segments touch-sensitive membrane grown out of an organic looking circuitry.
- A central button; a slightly bowl shaped depression, used as the action key, and a great spot for your thumb to rest while idling.

I’m tempted to say that making circles with said thumb could have never been so graciously easy.

Sure, a thumbstick can also be used to make circles as well, and their analog resolution would generally offer a more refined input, but no matter how a nice gaming tool a stick is, it’s also far from being perfect, not suited for all situations.
There are times when you actually don’t need anything but simple systems.
Eventually, Apple could put in place two or three concentric rings, and refine the sensory system as well by subdivision of sectors.

Besides, all thumb sticks have a native mechanical force feedback. It can get annoying after a while, as you often need to replace your thumb at the apex of the stick, especially when the chosen material lacks grip, as it does on the PSP (and on any Dualshock sticks as well as a matter of fact).

It’s not without saying that with a bit of smart tweaking, a thumbstick may find its place in the middle of the wheel, to replace the action button… assuming it could be made easy to nudge without too much resistance, easy to press (to keep the action button) but still offering enough vertical resistance to support your thumb as a neutral spot, not sticking out, slick and perfectly fitting the thumb.
I mean espousing the shape of the finger. Hey, here’s another tip for Sony:

Concave (stick) + convex (thumb) = good.
Convex (stick) + convex (thumb) = stupid.

Grooves are nice (especially when applied to triggers).

As it stands, the wheel would probably pave the way for some intense Shoryuken galore.

The D-pad could be enhanced, and given four extra contacts for the diagonals.
It goes without saying that if the digital buttons could be allowed pressure sensitivity, it would be a good addition.
Then, add the final four or six buttons on the right, two frontal triggers (again enabling with various degrees of pressure), and we’re likely looking at a potentially truly amazing piece of gaming technology which could grace our hands in a near future.
Assuming they’d get the thing’s whole shape right, of course.

Part I | Read Part II | Read Part III

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Liberty City, the other Dubai

Grand Theft Auto IV.
The game that the whole universe knew about.
Daunting in the amount of assets of all types involved throughout its entire development.

Here are some numbers:

1000 people worked on it (150-220 devs, varying from sources).
3.5 years long development.
40 hours of gameplay according to Rockstar, if you go straight to the point, 100 hours if you take your time (solo adventure uniquely).

Is this the new standard for the video game industry? Well, Times Online has decided that it is. “The future of entertainment” they say. They seem to fancy sensational claims, like GTA IV is the next Elvis. Rubbish.

The former instalments were cool, not exactly great, and somehow they bored me very quickly, most of all because I had other games to play, and other things to do than playing games, and the older you get, the worse it becomes.

Now, this behemoth has arrived, and I’m a tad worried. I know the industry is still young, I know that lots of lines have to be crossed and walls smashed to reach a nebulous unpredictable but I hope grandiose future, but I do not think GTA IV represents a standardized future of entertainment, but instead a record.

Least to say, I don’t think projects, which involve a thousand people throughout 3.5 years of development, and costing a “mere” hundred million dollars, represent a sane future for the industry. Eventually, the problem wouldn’t be the cost (the movie War of the Worlds was around $200 million, but even there no one would say it’s reasonable either), nor the total number of interveners on the project at some point (though it’s still high), but the time spent on it by those involved in its core development.
Sure, some high end games already reach the 3 years mark. Lowest dev times are around 18 months.
So just get used to it!

OK. Then, how long before we reach 4 years of development? And then 4.5 years? And 5?
Is that exciting? It’s not like we were crafting bullet trains, nuclear boats, airplanes or complex buildings! We’re creating entertainment, which is meant to be iterated once completed, and some would even say we’re making art.
I can’t convince myself that the initial creative gist behind this spawn would remain as vigorous so many years later.

What a sad thing to spend so much time on the same product. Life is short, and nearly 4 damn years on the same baby looks like a waste of time and creativity.
GTA IV doesn’t seem to revolutionize much. Certain functions and side quests are seamlessly integrated into the environment now, and above all, the game seems to be supported by a good plot for once, but what the hell?
Much more than 3 years on a game which is not that different from the former one?
A pity, really.

Sidenote while talking about GTA IV’s plot, there’s something funny worth citing:

Dan Houser, Bellic’s English creator, said he created the scenario because Hollywood had failed to produce a decent gangster film.

It would depend what he had in mind when he evoked Hollywood, but this made me chuckle.
Why do I have the feeling that the script for GTA IV won’t be up to his author’s pretentiousness, even if superior to former GTA “plots”? The man likes to speak his mind, it doesn’t mean what he says is wise.

Anyway, back to the main topic.

GTA IV is definitely an outlier today, one which doesn’t look much reasonable and not accessible to the majority of the industry in terms of resources it would consume, and I really hope, for the sake of versatility and parsimony, that it won’t drag other studios in its wake.

I also wonder what kind of repercussions this evolution will have, when, on one hand, you have more and more shovelware on certain consoles, and on the other hand, a growth of life drainers. The consumer side of the industry shapes its creative counterpart. Could a whole segment of the industry literally suffocate, by being stuck between flood and overweight?

I am not trying to tell people what they should play, but I’m woefully concerned by the little variety some people bring into their playing habits, and games, for which is announced at least 40 hours of straight play (much generous, most people don’t rush to the end of the game) and being presented as what some forumers will play for months, I’m worried.
I really hope many players do bother having a pause in the course of completion of one of those games, to relax and eventually try something else, breathe.

The other problem is considering the constant rise of inflation and menace of crisis, consumers would logically tend to minimize their investment in video games. Thus look for those hits which provide the most hours of gameplay for the less of their bucks.
Which sucks, in terms of experience, and then in terms of generated variety as far as the middle level of the industry is concerned.

The ever growing size and appetite of AAA titles may force newer studios to start smaller and quicker projects, as it becomes extremely difficult to compete with those titans, especially when more and more of these monstrous games are sandbox ones, be they MMOs or not, and phagocytize life.
Now, could you imagine GTA turning into a Massively Multiplayer Online game?

As an inevitable consequence of these ultimately repetitive and stale playing dogmas, not absolute but still there, it might become harder to find a suitable market in the middle for those still interested in more than mere rehashes of Defender or hollow noname action games, but not wishing to tread the field of super massive projects being allotted colossal budgets.

We always fall back to the same point about development costs, and notably the creation of art assets becoming more and more expensive and time consuming.

If the gap keeps widening, won’t there be a day when medium and small ventures will remain stranded in the lower levels of the industry until the moon crashes, never getting a chance to find resources, time, sales slot and an audience for middle ground games?

Which in my opinion is one of the reasons why the mobile gaming industry is blossoming, as the next generation of phones will globally attain the technical level required for 3D entertainment, and why developing on handhelds is so great, as the limited hardware, which is totally excused, enables developers to capitalize on their experience (PS2 -> PSP for example), all those systems more or less cheating time and delaying the unrelenting aging, before you’ll spend 4 years, three digits millions dollars and two thousand people on the next Gameboy game. Maybe if the Wii was a bit less gimmicky (but then I’m afraid it would have totally failed) there could be a solution there…

As a whole, consumers want what they’re conditioned to acquire by the hardware leaders and major publishers. This is not the work of the majority of devs, more or less unwittingly submissive to the system, either embracing it or dying. It's the labour of a few and those who define the standards of tomorrow. Maybe it could be time to slow down a bit, but such is not an original soapbox claim, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s just another story about pity, doom and dinosaurs.