Last Week’s Gaming – October 21st, 2019

PAX AUS WAS AMAZING!

Well, post PAX blues have come and gone, and reality is knocking. Back to work tomorrow – boo!

But PAX Aus was amazing. Thanks to everyone that joined in the PAX XP Hunt as well – it was a lot of fun!

I didn’t get to play quite everything I wanted to, and I only played a few ‘standard’ games this round. But it was a heap of fun, but I made one major mistake. I didn’t record most of them! I will talk about a few of them that I can remember, but PAX was PAX. A whirlwind of fun and activity and lines!

On that note, here are some of the gaming highlights I want to talk about ūüôā

Cyberpunk 2077

So we got to watch a live demo in the main theatre. I thought I was excited for Cyberpunk before – now I can’t wait!

Role playing video games are great, but there are rarely any games with true ‘do what you want’ mechanics. This isn’t being said as a complaint – the amount of work involved in developing such a thing is phenomenal.

This means games with choices and skill trees tend to get min/maxed by the internet hive mind. Again, not a bad thing, but it is how the games tend to run.

Waiting in the theatre for the demo to start. It was worth the sore legs!

Cyberpunk 2077 looks to change all that in a truly meaningful way. We saw a mid game quest and boss battle that was tackled by a netrunner (hacker) and a tank. And the changes were definitely there.

Anyone that played Deus Ex has an inkling of what I am talking about. Run and Gunner? Build yourself up and kick in the front door. Stealth player? Look for the vent/window/whatever to work around the opposition.

Cyberpunk 2077 takes this freedom and cranks it up to 11. The different builds lead to very different experiences, meaning players will have a very unique play experience. It makes the Witcher series look like it plays on rails!

I wish I could have taken some pictures of what we watched, but we were asked not to. Short version though, if you want an immersive world where you can truly make your own way – Cyberpunk 2077 will be for you!

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Another game where I wish I could have taken pics, the only game I queued up for was Final Fantasy VII Remake. And I am glad I did.

I have played Final Fantasy VII to death over the years. And I pretty much always will. It was my first Final Fantasy game, so it holds that special place for me as a fan.

What can I tell you from my hands on with the remake? It’s not the same game. It’s like Resident Evil 2 and it’s remake – yes, it shares theme, characters and experiences but it’s a completely different game and experience.

If you have doubts about it, I understand. But what I played has changed my mind. I have gone from “Yeah, I will wait until it’s on special” to “Yes please take my preorder”. It was that fun.

Don’t go looking for a pretty version of the game you already know. Be prepared to be playing a new game that shares a world, but is it’s own game.

The Legend of Zelda – Link’s Awakening (Switch)

I have never played the Zelda games, short of a quick round on the NES mini and a bit of Breath of the Wild.

While I really want to play all of them, time has been an enemy. But Link’s Awakening looks to be the game that will change that.

I have only been able to get a couple of hours in, but the game is great. Old school gameplay that is holding up so well. It did make me realise how much I have been relying on objective markers.

One dungeon down!

Link’s Awakening is a beautiful return to old school gaming, accessible to everyone. I am looking forward to trying to finish it off before Luigi’s Mansion 3 comes out!

The Witcher 3 Complete Edition (Switch)

So I have played the opening of The Witcher 3 about 5 times. I started streaming it a couple of years ago, but couldn’t keep a regular schedule up so had to give it away. I am hoping that playing it on the Switch will help with this, especially as I am going away for a week in November for work!

Before anyone starts, yes it looks bad compared to PS4 Pro/Xbox One/PC. But it doesn’t look terrible. NPC’s move funny in the distance. Grass doesn’t part when you walk through it. But really these are little things to have all of the Witcher 3 on Switch!

Blown up you can see blur and jaggies, but on the Switch screen - glorious!

Expect to hear more on Switcher 3 over the next few weeks, including a look at the mClassic I grabbed from Indiegogo and how it works with such a game!

Asphalt 9: Legends (Switch)

So just prior to PAX Aus, Asphalt 9: Legends was released on the Switch. I had heard of the series before, it has a pretty solid following on mobile. So as it was free, I thought I would give it a try.

And then played for about 12 hours.

Take simple Burnout style races and work them into small races perfect for mobile play. Yes, there are microtransactions. You can speed up improving your car by purchasing random booster packs. But I have yet to be tempted to put money down, and I have unlocked quite a bit of the game.

Some types of race have you hurtling down a mountain. It's amazing ūüėÄ

Give it a go, if you like arcade style racing games you will get a fair amount of play for free!

Warriors of Waterdeep – Android

One last push was apparently all I needed!

I have started progressing through the main explore dungeons again, but man was that a huge slog.

The grind is definitely there, and the online battles are becoming incredibly frustrating. I either face players that have little to no chance, or others I can’t even scratch. There is rarely a middle ground for a well balanced game.

At the moment I have a couple more weeks of this month’s VIP subscription, but I am pretty sure this will be my last month of playing, as great a diversion as it has been.

Given the amount of cash I have had to spend, and the prompts to buy more for a chance to be competitive, I am nearing the end of my playtime. Next set of dungeons where I meet a wall, I will be uninstalling.

I can finally take a room like this on to progress. Took a month though!

Even though it’s not the same sort of game, I would be giving the free Asphalt 9: Legends a go over Warriors of Waterdeep now. The amount of fun that I have had has been worth it, but it’s hard to recommend a game that you have to pay as much as a new game each month in comparison.

Funkoverse Strategy Game – DC

I saw these games at Minotaur games, and was interested. Such a simple concept – a strategy tactics game using Funko Pop minis. I saw them at PAX, but didn’t buy any as I wasn’t sure.

Luckily Alpal bought the DC starter pack, and now I want to buy ALL of them!

Simple enough turn based tactics, with variable player powers. Some of the rules I was a little worried would be to ‘bookkeeping’ for a simple tactics game, but those fears were unfounded.

Prepare to hear more about Funkoverse over the next few weeks!

Who wouldn't want to play a game with pieces like these?

What about you?  I hope you got some great games in.  Or are you looking forward to a new one?  Let me know!  Shout out on Facebook or @JohnHQLD me on Twitter!

Until tomorrow,

JohnHQLD

So R18+ still means something different for games in Australia

Once again, proof that our government doesn’t entirely give us what we ask for.

A few years ago, games lobbyists in Australia seemed to finally have a win in regards to adult content in games. By adult content, I am not talking about porn in video games, but adult topics that are shown on primetime TV and movies.

But as I discussed last year with the refusal of classification of We Happy Few, what we can see on TV for 20+ years still isn’t acceptable for games.

A large part of this is because games are still thought of as politicians as a child’s pastime. The fact that repeated surveys show the average age of gamers in Australia is closer to 35 than 15 doesn’t seem to be a factor in changing the rules.

The description is that same as for films, but it's not the case

What we got was the R18+ rating, sure. On the surface what we asked for. What we didn’t get was a change to the rules for Refusing Classification – the regulations that banned more games than the lack of an ‘adult only’ rating.

Like Fallout 3 years ago, We Happy Few was refused classification last year because of drug use. Not just drug use, but the fact you are seen by the rules as rewarded for taking drugs. If you look at the context of the game, this is not the case, and the classification was revised.

This was still an issue more than 10 years ago. How?

The change was only skin deep.

An update is coming for We Happy Few that required the game to resubmitted. Now the original Refused Classification rules have come back into play.

DayZ, a zombie survival shooter that has been digitally available for years, has been refused classification. Why? Because the players could use marijuana. And the bigger joke was marijuana didn’t do anything yet – the devs hadn’t implemented the feature.

Today this has been revised because the devs changed the game to remove the drug.

Don’t misunderstand, rating DayZ R18+ because of illegal drug use I consider reasonable. What isn’t is that adults can watch shows like Weeds or Narcos as a choice.

The problem is the base rules for refusing classification didn’t change. So if you have a game aimed at children where they get medicine from their parent to heal boo-boos, and that shows incentivized drug use. The refused classification verdict must be handed down.

DayZ. I never played it, but why should grown adults be refused the choice?

Why are you talking about We Happy Few again?

I keep talking about We Happy Few, and that is for a good reason. The gameplay is similar to A Clockwork Orange, considered a film masterpiece. But add ‘Hit X to take Joy’, and all bets are off.

Both A Clockwork Orange and We Happy Few are a known quantity to the mainstream, so that makes it handy as a quick example. But what about the last few weeks?

Rocksteady has been refused classification for Bonaire – and we don’t even know what it is. The thinking was a Red Dead Redemption 2 expansion, but only Rocksteady knows for sure.

Another high profile game coming up with various drug use is Cyberpunk 2077. With this recent spate of refusals, there is once again a genuine chance Australians will not be able to play it. Legally, anyway.

Cyberpunk 2077 Paramedics
Not the drug use the board is worried about, but drugs are a huge part of the Cyberpunk RPG

The biggest joke to me? I don’t even play We Happy Few. Reviews came out that things weren’t great, so I didn’t play it. I was going to play it sometime on Game Pass, but it looks like that might not happen now.

But it’s only a few games – what’s the problem?

Yes, it’s only a few games. There are so many other vitally essential fights happening at the moment. But it also shows what the Australian government and we as people have become. The message we sent previously was to rate interactive media (video games) the same as film and literature. What we got was a rating (yay) that because of a completely different set of rules means nothing. It was lip service to the majorities wishes.

It’s the same as when you only have $50, and a salesman offers you a new Tesla for half price. It doesn’t matter what the price is. I don’t have the money. Make the game adults only? That’s fine, but because the classification board can’t classify the game, it doesn’t matter what the rating is.

And if the government does this for simple things, think about what they do for things that matter. Yes, this is a political rant. But if you think I am picking on a party, remember that we didn’t get R18+ for years because of one man – South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. He didn’t want it, so it didn’t happen. What finally got through was a flawed bill that showed action but did nothing.

Sure it would be nice, but you can do a lot with the asking price

The video game rating issue demonstrates beautifully has become of the Australian political system. And everyone in the system seems to be fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way.

So what can we do about this?

We need to be aware that the Australian system has problems. Australia has the most closed democracy system anywhere. We are one of the few democracies that doesn’t have protected freedom of speech for its population. For politicians, there is protection.

The party system has demonstrated more and more that the system is there for the politicians first. The NBN is a simple example of this. How much money has been wasted following the existing US system of multi-vendor technology?

New Zealand proved that the original fibre plan costings were correct. Implementation was expensive to begin with but got cheaper as the rollout continued. New Zealand is now ranked 17th in the world for internet speeds. Australia is 50th and doesn’t meet the definition of ‘high-speed broadband’ anymore.

Now the fibre plan had problems as well, and this is important to remember. Because of Australia’s widely spread population, rural areas did need something else to connect them, but well over 90% of the country would have been better off. The people winning with the multi-vendor solutions? Companies, and mainly Telstra at that. Why is Telstra more important than 90% of the people the government is supposed to represent?

These are landline speeds. We are great at wireless speed, but think of mobile data plan costs.

I have given two examples of things that are important to me personally. Games are admittedly a luxury. Internet in today’s world is a need.

Look at what issues are important to you, and look at what your representative is doing about it. If you don’t know, ask. It is their job to answer you.

I’ve said it before and will continue to do so. If we can come together on the little things, imagine what we can do for the important ones. A simple view of democracy is majority rules, but the top 10% seems to be controlling this country.

OK, rant over. Back to games with tomorrows review ūüôā

Until then,

JohnHQLD

E3 2019 – My picks for most excited news!

How’s that wallet feel? Mine is tensing up, but it’s not complaining. Yet.

Day one is done. So many announcements and things that I am looking forward to. There were only a few things I saw that I was ‘Meh’ about, but a lot of things were largely classified as ‘keep an eye on’.

But the things that got me excited and thinking the most? Well, they are below ūüôā

Cyberpunk 2077

I used to play Cyberpunk back in the day. A pen and paper RPG, it was a great escape and showed me that sci-fi and fantasy are basically the same things.¬† Yes, they are, you know it’s true.

A year ago, I wrote a piece asking the Australian Film and Literature Classification Board to let me play Cyberpunk 2077. Drugs and other mature things are ingrained in this universe, and they have the power to refuse the game classification.

None of this has changed. What has changed is we know Cyberpunk 2077 releases April 16th, 2020. And it has Keanu Reeves. Yes, I have already preordered it on GoG.com.

XBOX Game Pass PC and Game Pass Ultimate

Last year I bought a second hand XBOX One S to play games I had missed with Game Pass. Last weekend, I bought a new XBOX One S because it was purple.

I haven’t had the time to really sit and play the games I have wanted to, but that is changing. Void Bastards has gotten some play time, and will be getting more this week probably. $10 a month for access to over 100 games? It’s a good deal. XBOX Gold? Not so much, as I am not playing multiplayer or really want to buy new games at a discount.

This may be the best sales idea Microsoft has ever had

But now, I can keep my XBOX Game Pass, have access to a bunch more games on PC, and have Gold and the 4 free games a month for $15 a month? Yes, I am already signed up.

Doom Eternal

I know Doom’s popularity is primarily from multiplayer, but the single-player campaign from the 2016 reboot was so much fun and felt just like the original Doom.

Doom Eternal, the new sequel, seems to be taking a new twist. Run around and blow up everything with a huge array of funky weapons? Yep, that’s still there.

But now apparently you (as Doomguy obviously) have got the attention of the heavens. Angelic combat, anyone?

Doom is not a subtle series, and I hope they keep this up. Either way, more Doom coming November 22nd, 2019.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

OK, it will just be the first ‘episode’, but we now have a release date for this long teased Square Enix favourite.

The new trailer shows even more Final Fantasy XV style combat, but by itself that doesn’t worry me. As I have said before, I am not one of the people asking for a straight remaster, so I am looking forward to seeing what Square Enix has done.

And I will find out March 3rd, 2020. Luckily it is the first ‘episode’ – Bloodlines 2 and Cyberpunk are right in this same time frame!

Project Scarlett and the cloud

This is an area I am not so much excited for, as keeping an eye on. Microsoft’s cloud gaming service turns your XBOX One into a local server – essentially download the game locally. Not a bad idea, but a new packaging on an existing idea.

The next gen console though. Hardware wise, Scarlett and the PS5 (if that’s what they call it) sound the same – new hardware with early access to PCI-E 5 technology to use ridiculous amounts of bandwidth internally.

So the gauntlet is thrown, Sony.

Tech upgrades aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but people balked at the price of the XBOX One X. These new consoles either have to be crazy expensive (comparatively), or the respective companies will be making a massive loss on initial sales – much more than previous generations.

Who is going to buy this straight away? Early adopters and mega fans sure, but for the first time possibly the PC gaming ‘master class’ that has previously snubbed consoles.

The number of people that dropped around AUD$1,500 – 2,000 for the Nvidia 20×0 series before the specs were even confirmed was ridiculous. Having early access to new storage tech and the apparent blazing load times, this is a key area where PC players cite that PC beats consoles.

I am not saying that console gaming is about to make PC gaming obsolete or anything like that.¬† But the market for people who will throw massive amounts of money because a single number marks it as ‘the best’ has grown significantly, and I am wondering if the traditional console war is finally on the way out.

Want to play old games? Depending on your platform, you can buy them again, have some backwards compatibility or streaming. If you are lucky enough to be in an area that PlayStation Now exists. (Yes, shots fired. Stop advertising things to me you know I can’t access Sony!).

Want to play new games without expensive hardware? Stream them. You will need the internet that only about 8 countries in the world can provide, but there is no doubt that streaming content is the future.

Hardware wise, the XBOX and PlayStations are basically identical these days (yes there are differences, but they are now AMD computers with different tweaks in a broad sense). Nintendo has always done its own thing, and look at the success of the Switch.

But now more than ever before, the content is what the war is about, not the hardware. On the PC, Epic has paid for exclusive deals on big titles to woo people over. Microsoft has made it all but a no brainer for people to just hand over $15 a month, and look how much Netflix makes from the same deal. Sony is still as stubborn as ever in its ways, but that might give Microsoft an advantage.

I don’t think the end goal for hardware like Scarlett and PS5 is as focused on getting hardware to the masses anymore. That will be handled by streaming onto comparatively lower spec machines.

But that goal is still probably 5-10 years away. If you want to play the new games and don’t have access to streaming, these high-end machines could put gaming out of your reach.

It will be an interesting 12 months to see what Sony and Microsoft do about all this.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

To the Australian Classification Board – let me play Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 Feature

When your government doesn’t think your adult enough

So after all is said and done, the most excitement over all of the trailers over the last few days is Cyberpunk 2077.¬† This is a game I didn’t even know I wanted to be made until CD Projekt Red announced they were making it.

As mentioned, I have played Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk 2020 at various stages of my life.¬† Cyberpunk as a genre offers so many possibilities, it’s a genre anyone can jump in and out of at any time.¬† Or even be neck deep in it without realising it.

Relaxing and looking at a few things, one headline in my feeds from Kotaku caught my attention.  In it, they had the following tweets from one lucky journalist that got hands-on time with Cyberpunk 2077:

And Julian Rizzo-Smith is not the only person saying this.  Many feeds are echoing the concerns, especially over what seems to be the drug delivery system entrenched in the game Рan inhaler.

Most descriptions at the moment talk about the inhaler being how you heal yourself, and a generic hypo was a tool in the original Cyberpunk games.¬† And that’s when it hit me – drugs were all through the original¬†Cyberpunk RPGs.¬† I think David Milner summed it all up quite nicely:

A little while ago, I wrote an article about the Refused Classification status of ‘We Happy Few‘.¬† Cyberpunk 2077 is a long way from being put in from of the Australian Classification Board, let alone being reviewed by them.

But a lot of the red flags from We Happy Few are front and center in Cyberpunk 2077.¬† I already was curious what was going to happen with Call of Duty 4 and their return to an active health system (applying stims).¬† According to the loose standards of the ACB, ‘being able to continue playing’ seems to be a reward for drug use and banned.

It’s true that most narcotics in Cyberpunk were optional, but some were not.¬† Health definitely is not optional for a game.¬† Nudity and violence are generally subject to review and must be ‘in context’, but has anyone on the ACB watched Game of Thrones ever?¬† Oh wait, they must have.¬† It’s OK if they want to watch it then.¬† Even the latest Netflix Cyberpunk show Altered Carbon, which shares a lot of Cyberpunk 2077s themes in a general sense, had what I would consider incentivized drug use and nudity.¬† Why is this OK because it’s on TV?¬† Oh, and rated MA15+, so anyone can still watch it legally with a guardian anyway?

It’s important to keep in mind that the Australian Classification Board hasn’t said a thing about Cyberpunk 2077 – this is all conjecture and thoughts from fans that really want to play this game.¬† But because of an inconsistent set of standards in Australia, there is a possibility that we will not get what is shaping up to be a genre-defining experience.

The only thing I would like you to take away from this article isn’t fear¬†that we won’t get another computer game.¬† In the day to day¬†battle that is life, not being able to play a game¬†is an inconvenience at best.¬† No, what we should be concentrating on is that Australia needs to look hard at its politicians and systems and push for changes in both.

Why are games held to a different standard to every other form of entertainment?¬† This¬†should be a simple argument.¬† We speak loudly enough, the rules should all be bought into line.¬† It’s not making new rules – it’s applying consistency.

And if we can get together on something so relatively trivial in the grand scheme of running this country, imagine what else we could do?  There are plenty of vitally important topics screaming for common sense reviews that can make life better for Australians as a whole, not just for some groups with a specific interest.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Cyberpunk 2077 owned the XBOX E3 Conference for me. Reveal 101 is in session.

Cyberpunk 2077 Feature

One cyberpunk door is closing, but another is getting closer to opening

Way back in 2013 CD Projekt Red was getting ‘close’ to finishing the highly anticipated The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt.¬† Fans of the game were clamouring for any morsel they could get.

Then this little nugget dropped with the title reveal of the next project CD Projekt Red.

I love the cyberpunk¬†genre as a whole.¬† Growing up, the role-playing¬†Cyberpunk was my second RPG campaign.¬† Burning Chrome was a constant travel companion.¬† It’s numerous short stories meant I could carry one book, and have a variety of things to (re)read constantly.

After seeing the improvement in basically everything from The Witcher to The Witcher 2, I was already happy that the Cyberpunk license had ended in the hands of this amazing company.  Back then, I was already preparing myself to get The Witcher 3 on PC to finish the trilogy as it began (and the upgrades to the PC to handle it!) as well as double buy on PS4.

The thinking was simple Рhow will they handle consoles?  Only one way to find out!

Fast forward a little over five years, and I was watching the XBox E3 Presentation WAY too early in the morning and preparing to go to work.¬† There were things that raised my eyebrows, and things that I looked at with a ‘meh’ attitude.

At the end of the XBox presentation, as Phil Spencer was closing out the event, the sound of Archive’s ‘Bullets’ began and the screens and lighting glitched.

On the screen a DOS Prompt flashed, and the directory changed to HAX.  Then, someone entered ICBRK.exe.

Beginning of Xbox 'HACK'
Programming wise, these don't mean anything. They do kinda look like Windows product keys though.

This was all done slowly, milking the atmosphere for all it was worth.  Then, some hacky looking code scrolled up.

**UPDATE: It has been found since these were actually working giveaway codes for complete versions of The Witcher 3, including all DLC!

Once everything had ‘loaded’, it was time for the new teaser trailer for Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s still not gameplay.¬† It’s ‘just’ another teaser.

But the world building is starting to be shown.  The snippets of player choice suddenly gel with the world displayed on a screen.  CD Projekt Red has already said that the world of Cyberpunk 2077 will dwarf that of the Witcher 3, and the information on the setting is starting to give clues how this could be.

I can’t wait to play Cyberpunk 2077.¬† Like everyone else though, I will have to though.¬† Ah well, patience isn’t a lost art.¬† Just one I wish I didn’t have to practice so often ūüôā

Until next time,

JohnHQLD