A Week in the Life of a 41-Year-Old Gamer: August 5-11, 2015

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“The Long Grind of No Man’s Sky”

Like so many others, I was deeply anticipating the launch of No Man’s Sky. E3 showings were incredible, and the underdog story of Hello Games building the biggest video game of all time warmed the heart. I had Skyrim-style missions and 100+ hours of fun dancing in my head.ResourceLab

The first four hours of the game delivers on the promise of the previews. The survival element keeps the heat on, but it’s not too oppressive. Searching the environment and learning which elements are needed to repair your ship is interesting. Blasting off into space is deeply rewarding.

But after that four hours… the game starts to feel like little more than a grind. You’re alone in this world, fighting only for your own survival, with no real civilization in sight. After having a great first gameplay session, I found my second session to be very repetitive, and there has not yet been a third session.

My first big issue with the game is that it seems not to be skill-based at all. It’s really more about leveling and inventory management. More meta-play than gameplay. I know that some players love this type of experience – fans of World of Warcraft and Summoner’s War come to mind. But it’s not for me.

My second issue is that the game doesn’t feel crafted, it feels arbitrary. Planets don’t feel organic, they feel randomized. Alien life forms look like they’ve been stitched together without any evolutionary rationale.

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Is it worth buying the game to experience the great first four hours? Yes, if you know what you’re getting into. Moving from planet to planet freely really does feel new. There’s a high novelty quotient in those initial hours. Just don’t expect Skyrim.

Oh, and Remote Play is pretty busted. Shooting is done by pressing the top-right of the touch screen, which means that you can’t aim. It’s a bummer… Remote Play could have been a saving grace. Playing on the VITA with The Daily Show on in the background sounds like an optimal way to enjoy the game.

“What are You? I’m Bruce Wayne.”

Batman: The Telltale Series starts weakly. Things begin with a big action sequence that is driven entirely by quick time events. Instantly, you miss the beautiful flow of Rocksteady’s combat system from the Arkham games.

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Counter to any Batman story I’ve ever digested, things get interesting the moment Bats takes off the uniform. Telltale lets us get to know Bruce Wayne. For roughly 75% of the first chapter, you are not wearing the cape and cowl. Instead, you’re helping Harvey Dent with his Mayoral run and attempting to de-tangle yourself from a smear campaign against the Wayne family. This stuff is really compelling, and it adds depth to your understanding of a tragic hero. The game also introduces a new ‘clue linking’ system that makes you feel like a master detective. Ultimately, the game solidly complements the Batman action games, providing a unique perspective that deepens the brand’s mythology.

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“No, Premium Mobile Games are not Dead.”

Three stories popped up this past week decrying the death of premium games on mobile.

Games Industry.biz said, “Premium is dead. That’s a fact, so let’s deal with it.”

Gamasutra asked, “Are paid apps dead? There’s only 1 among the top U.S. grossing, and it’s Minecraft.”

Pocketgamer.biz claimed, “Paid apps are truly dead.”

From a business perspective, I believe this is true… when you are talking explicitly about mobile phone games. Phones offer a level of ubiquity that makes this inevitable. The traditional barriers to entry for video games – ownership of a gaming device and familiarity/comfort with the controls – are non-issues here. Phones provide a fertile ground for unlimited spend, free-to-start experiences to thrive. If the audience a publisher captures is large enough, there’s a reasonable chance that they will hook a handful of high rollers, which can be enough to make these products very profitable. Statistically, more than 50% of the revenue in an unlimited spend game comes from .15% of the audience. When this model works, it brings in far more money than premium gaming. It also trains players to expect not to pay upfront, making it even harder for premium titles to gain traction. This is a significant business problem, but thankfully, it’s not a consumer problem.

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As a player, you can opt out of uncapped spending, obfuscated cost (via virtual currency and blind packs), and sunsetting (game closures) on mobile entirely, and for the rest of your life. How? Buy a VITA or a 3DS, and start building a collection of carts. Both machines use physical media. Games built to run on physical media NEVER die. Your grand-children will be able to play VITA and 3DS games, long after Game of War has closed its servers. And you’ll never be confused by monetization systems designed to hide the cumulative cost of your hobby.

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Yeah, it’s a bit cumbersome to carry an additional gaming device with you, but it’s so worth it. My VITA is always in the same pocket that my mobile phone is. And while the guy next to me on the BART has to settle for Candy Crush Saga, I get to enjoy Persona 4 Golden or Uncharted: The Golden Abyss.

Purchased

  1. No Man’s Sky (PS4): $0; gift.
  2. Batman: A Telltale Series: Episode 1 (PS4): $4.99
  3. Dead or Alive 5+ (VITA): $17.99
  4. Norn9 Var Commons (VITA): $22.49
  5. Reality Fighters (VITA): $4.99
  6. Walking Dead: Season Two (VITA): $17.99
  7. Wolf Among Us (VITA): $8.99
  8. Tetris (VITA): $13.49
  9. Spy Hunter (VITA): $8.99
  10. Shovel Knight (VITA; boxed copy pre-order): $24.99

YTD: $1,548.75

Played

  1. No Man’s Sky (PS4): 4h 56m
  2. Sly Cooper and the Thievious Racoonus (VITA): 2h 56m
  3. Batman: A Telltale Series: Episode 1 (PS4): 2h 15m
  4. Legend of Heroes: Tails of Cold Steel (VITA): 1h 13m
  5. Dead or Alive 5+ (VITA): 43m
  6. Walking Dead: Season 2 (VITA): 24m
  7. Tetris (VITA): 18m
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