Yakuza 0 (First Impressions):

[This first impression contains spoilers]

I played about two hours of this game today. It was wacky and over the top in every way you’d expect of a Japanese melodrama. Yet, its core it had something I wasn’t expecting, a mafia story.

I haven’t played heaps of the game, in fact, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Yet the game very proudly tells me spraying stuff in people’s face while brawling somehow ‘sobers’ them up. Karaoke is a real rhythm mini-game. The combat is bombastic and fun. In fact, the combat in someways feel like a rhythm game of their own.

The voice acting, so far, is really good. It has just the right amount of dramatic yelling, filled with a good amount of pauses.

So far, I’m intrigued. Awesome!

A Video Game About Video Games

I know, it’s super meta, but the fact is many fans of video games (including me) aren’t exactly certain about the process that goes into developing and creating one.

I know it can involve tireless ‘crunch time’, that there are coders and artists that don’t always see eye to eye. That these things can take years to make, ect. But I don’t know how it works in detail, the process, the time, the budget and where it goes, so on and so forth.

I think that this would make a great game that could not only be fun, but teach people how to games are actually made. How would it work? Is it even possible to have a ‘teach me game’ and make it fun. Sure, and it’s been done before, just not in this industry.

Shirobako is great example of this. It’s a show I’ve yet to watch, yet it’s influence on the anime community could be felt by fan’s everywhere (and on most forums). It’s a show about, you guessed it, creating anime. It had such an influence that people would reference it in discussions about how anime was made, and it was as much a work drama as a show about ‘how to make anime’.

And this is how this game would work! Make a work drama about making a video game. Hell anime already tried to make this show with New Game! (another one I might have to check out?).

It could start with a young person (man or woman, depending on your choice) who’s a college drop out that has no clue where to go from here. They thought they wanted to be a lawyer, but after two years of barely passing tests and a recent death in the family (their grandmother?), they don’t see much point to it any more. They’re lost in their life.

Well while walking to the store for some milk, they see a flyer on the ground in a puddle, ‘programmer wanted: no experience required’. They pick it up, and it starts raining. Running home, they realise, ‘I don’t want to keep cooped up in my room any more’, so they make a call.

Who answers but a twenty-something that never finished high school. A person with artistic talent, a dream, and a need to make a game. You meet with them at their house where you find four other people. Everyone who at some point lost their way, so you agree to help them make a game. You’re quick to learn and the drama is never ending.

Maybe someone ends up pregnant, someone else recently quit a dead end job; and the other girl of the group is a stay at home mother that just needs some time in the week away from her kids. And the choices you make either help this game to finish or never get completed. You don’t even need to ‘really code’ in the game.

It could even all be in the same graphic level of Pokemon Gold or Undertale. My point is, I think this is just one example of how a game like this could be made and I’d love to see it. I hope someone makes a really cool game about game development, because I think it’d be a great way to know this stuff. So that there isn’t this great divide between a developer and a fan. So there is just a bit of understanding to be had, and hell, it could just be a cool game too!

Gaming’s Reputation (is it going down the drain?)

Microtransactions are becoming an issue in this industry, and not because they’re creating a profit. For companies they’re great. They’re a passive revenue stream that is the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. For the companies, that is.

For the customer, they’ve become a leech. How many times can you purchase a game? It’s impossible to tell how bad this is going to get. Just this year NBA 2K18 made you pay for a different hairstyle. I mean, buying the game isn’t enough.

Battlefront 2 had issues with microtransactions that have become well publicised, so did Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Assassin Creed: Origins and even Overwatch is starting to get backlash. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Ubisoft is making more money from ‘player recurring investment’ than their ‘digital distribution’. They’re making more money from their ‘live service’ model and the revenue has only grown year on year.

Sony is looking into it, with their CEO John Kodera stating ‘appropriate exploration and decisions taken in the future’ in reference to microtransactions. I think PS Plus is bad enough, but this is getting excessive.

There is only so much blood you can get from a stone.

Games have an ‘entrance fee’ of a certain amount. In America it’s generally $60. Then consoles expect you to pay for online multiplayer. In most games you don’t have the option of couch co-op. Then you now have to pay for things that used to be unlockable content, or in the worst case scenario, gameplay features.

This won’t last forever.

People aren’t made of money and soon they’ll stop playing; or, and this is worrying, it’ll turn into the mobile gaming market. Yes, there will still be good games, with indie games being particularly healthy in this regard, with just an ‘entry fee’. Or as it used to be known, a purchase.

People may continue to pay enough microtransactions to justify this move, but I don’t think it’ll last. Gaming will get the same reputation that mobile gaming has. All it takes is for enough teenagers to ‘accidentally’ spend their parents money for a real issue to occur. Or a spouse to spend too much money for their significant other to really blow a gasket.

It’s a ticking time bomb. In a few years from now, if all games require additional purchases, how long will it be before people decide gaming, or to be more clear AAA gaming, is just too damn expensive? When a parent looks at a kid and says, I already bought the console and the game, what else?

It won’t be what a parent remembers from their youth. It could stop lapsed gamers from ‘coming back’. It also doesn’t help that the practice of microtransactions are being compared to gambling. It’s an unflattering look.

It’d be different if games updated consistently with new free content to offset this ‘cost’. Titanfall 2 did it a little bit, Overwatch did, so did Arms, Witcher 3 and Splatoon 2. Three of these games you only had to spend money on once (the last three). When Witcher 3 had additional content for sale, it was worth it. The expansions were so big, they were ‘games’ on their own (in terms of length). Even Horizon Zero Dawn had an expansions in a similar vein.

But generally speaking, this isn’t happening.

Gamers are a stone that’s been bled dry. I’m convinced that if it keeps going this way, in a few years, they’d have killed the golden goose. And gaming? It’ll have a reputation that it just won’t be able to shake.