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Gaming Opinion: Gran Turismo 5 Release

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

March 26th 2010. Woof, woof woof, who let the Gran Turismo 5 fanbois out? Oh it was me, sorry about that. So on Friday there was a little bit of a stir regarding my comments on the Gran Turismo 5 release, so I’d like to talk about this seriously for a moment from the point of view of both the developer and the publisher.

I am a Gran Turismo 5 fangirl. I pre-ordered it last summer. Driving games are my favourite genre and GT5P sits proudly on my shelf as the very first PS3 game I played at home. I’m really looking forward to Gran Turismo 5, although I’m now becoming afraid that it is going to be style, realism and feature-bloat over playability and addictiveness.

I won’t pretend to know I have any idea what is going on in the bowels of Sony or Polyphony Digital, but from past work experience I am pretty sure of at least two things: 1. They already know they made a mistake by not releasing sooner, and 2. Sony will be secretly relieved when this thing gets out into retail and it’s over and done with so they’re not bleeding away more money on it.

From the developer’s point of view

A project is never finished. It can always be refined more. New features and improvements can always be added. Perfectionism is paramount. Nobody wants to make a bad game. On my music gaming web site (www.totalmusicgaming.com), we are incrementally adding features and tweaking issues all the time, and it is very rewarding to see it become gradually better and better and more used.

The Gran Turismo 5 team want to make a perfect game and they will ultimately never be 100% satisfied with it, as is the case with all game studios worth their salt. If left to their own devices, development will go on forever.

From the publisher’s point of view

Analogising again to my web site, there comes a point where you have to stop developing and start marketing, otherwise you run out of money and don’t have any users. The web site is very, very far from perfect, there are years worth of extra features and goodies that could be added, I’m not happy with it and would have really wanted to push the envelope on a SingStar add-on a lot further before release – but it is feature-complete, and it’s not economically feasible to do it all before the product is released, and we have to see a return on investment or development cannot continue.

Up to a certain point, each man hour spent on development is worthwhile. Eventually a tipping point of diminishing returns is reached, where the potential market for the product is more or less maximized and additional work is simply a cost with little-to-no benefit. When a game is delayed for 6 months, not because it isn’t finished but because it is being padded with feature bloat, the publisher and gamers lose out in several ways. First the public become frustrated with the delay. Second the publisher loses money while it is shelling out for the development team to continue working when the number of copies sold isn’t likely to increase much as a result of additional features being added in. Thirdly the time spent on that could have been spent developing new games.

There comes a point where you just have to say, it’s good enough, push it out now. Steve Lycett commented on this in his recent TSA interview about Sega & Sonic All-Stars Racing:

“We’d love to include more, but then we’d never finish a game!”

This is exactly how I feel about development. If all publishers allowed perfectionist standards, there would be no games to play.

Some may argue that Polyphony Digital is an exception or that it’s important to let the game be developed until its potential is maximized. Of course, it’s important not to set the bar too low, but PD is really not an exception. I don’t think many people would argue that including 3D or Move support is necessary at this point, and that is a considerable time drain. Avatar: The Game was designed for 3D; did that make it a better game? Consider, what are the potential uses of the Move in GT5? A trade-off has to be reached, and in my opinion the appropriate trade-off has not been made for this game by a long stretch.

I am not suggesting for a moment that unfinished games should be released. If a game needs to be delayed to iron out bugs or finish the content, that is one thing. Polyphony Digital have already announced more than once that the game is essentially finished and that “we could release it now”. Gran Turismo 5 has been in development for over 5 years at this point and was meant to be one of the key early adopter titles to drive initial sales of PlayStation 3. Sony have clearly given up on this idea now and Gran Turismo 5 has likely become a monetary sink for them. That cannot possibly benefit us.

My opinion is that the developers at Polyphony Digital have lost sight of what is truly important, and lost their way. By trying to cram in every possible feature, they are neglecting the core of what makes a good game: the gameplay. If it is true that each car takes 1 month to model, then the modelling should have been simpler, or less cars should have been included. Is it necessary to include 1000 cars? There’s no doubt it’s cool – but would it be a worse game if there were 250 cars? Will you play 1000 races? Was Need For Speed Shift a worse game because of its more limited car selection and simpler graphics? If it was, then we are talking very small percentage points.

What is the target audience for Gran Turismo 5? Is it car enthusiasts, or is it gamers? Is it realism or is it fun? Of course it’s not a black-and-white argument and there is room to balance both sets of users’ needs, but I’m extremely concerned that these major issues are being sorely overlooked.

Gamers also need to have realistic expectations. The concept that the longer a game is in development, the better it will be, is false. In the same way there is a diminishing return on revenue with development time, so the quality of a game is also not proportional to the time it takes to develop. Spore is a classic example of this – a game with a 9-year development cycle. While some will argue Spore is great and others will say it is horrible, the point is, either way, it would be hard to argue it was worth 9 years of development. It’s also worth noting that Duke Nukem Forever was canceled after an 11-year development cycle due to lack of funding.

Almost everyone who is going to buy Gran Turismo 5 has probably made their purchasing decision already. In my opinion, it should be released now before the hype backfires, if it has not done so already. Game development is not a hobby, it’s a business – but Polyphony Digital seem to think otherwise, and that’s a dangerous game to play.

The Gaming Rant 3

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing: more controlled rage that will make me lose employment opportunities at Sony, Microsoft and Activision because their HR departments have no sense of humour. In reality these companies all do great work and produce great games – so let us waste no time in continuing to belittle their efforts.

Gran Turismo 5 Features

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support head tracking.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will have rally mode in-car replay.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support night mode.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support 3D.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will support motion control.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will show live weather conditions.

Polyphony Digital have announced that Gran Turismo 5 will use 500,000 polygons per car.

Great. Does it support cars and tracks? Does it support the use of a standard PS3 controller? Good, then RELASE THE F*CKING THING.

What I’m thinking is, they should cut us a deal at this point. Need For Speed Shift had none of these things and it was an awesome driving game. Now, I’d hate to think that for my £40 I was spending £20 on 2 years of development of things I’m never going to use and have no need or wish for, so I think as punishment for packing in all this useless chaff, they should release the original version which I assume was ready circa 2008 direct to platinum for £20. Then I can just pay for the bits I actually want. A more than fair compromise I believe.

Racing game release dates

Split/Second – 21st May. ModNation Racers – 25th May. Blur – 28th May.

Why?

Seriously, these games are probably all going to be reasonably good at worst. Do you want me to buy them all or not? Nothing really notable since Need For Speed Shift and Forza 3, a few relatively minor releases like MotoGP and Sonic & Sega All-Stars in February, and essentially a drought then until 2014 when Gran Turismo 5 comes out. How about spreading them out over the summer? You know, the people who buy these games in late May probably aren’t going out into the dangerous summer sunshine anyway, so it’s not like you’ll lose any sales. And by the way, Disney vs Sony vs Activision? Sorry Activision… family looks after its own.

The Tester: Episodes 3 & 4

Fame Girl, you are the weakest link, goodbye! Luge, you are the weakest link, goodbye! So what is my beef this week? Actually not the challenges; gridiron with giant ping pong balls and live action role-playing certainly seem like excellently crafted ways to weed out good QA testers from bad ones. Sega choose all their testers that way, and look at the quality of the PS3 port of Bayonetta – it’s second-to-none.

My bone is that I’m actually starting to get into The Tester now. I am waiting for episode 6 to come out with bated breath. It has weaved its way into my life in a truly insipid manner. I will concede that I almost pooped out a large pink vibrating blob when it looked like Star was gonna get eliminated. And I am sort of sad to see Luge go but rather her than Star. Of course, rather any male than any female too. That’s just a given. Women make better reality TV – it’s more bitchy and emotional – and sexy. Unless they’re from the north, of course.

There was one stroke of genius to getting rid of Luge though. Doc – a lonely, desperate and presumably virgin gamer guy – grabbed onto the first attention he ever got from a female and fell in love in about 2 minutes, sitting there stroking her arms and hair and smiling at her with his puppy eyes. Well, more like Eye of Judgment but yeah. No doubt he was having trouble keeping his EyePet under control. The woman – in classic female manner – was completely oblivious to his feelings, probably used to having steady boyfriends and not knowing what it feels like not to be loved, and said nothing about him for the entire series, while he repeatedly stuck up for her then cried when she was eliminated. Watching a desperate grown man cry over a girl he’s known for 4 days and become utterly crushed and heartbroken, without her even noticing he’s “in love”: there’s nothing funnier. I applaud The Tester for this masterstroke of comedy genius.

Also, congratulations to the winners for their awesome good fortune in bagging a copy of MAG which they already own. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll get at least a tenner for it on eBay. I would say that would more than compensate for the money they lost taking a week off work at Burger King to participate on the show, but I’m guessing they probably haven’t entered the job market yet.

My controlled rage over the hairdressing application last week

Last week I said I’d go to the salon with a Move and ask her to do my hair like my EyePet, Sirocco. Well, just for fun, I did. No, I’m serious, unlike everything else I’ve written for TSA, this is actually true and here is the proof:

<pictures lost, sadly>

(Sirocco is the one on the right in case you’re confused)

As you can see it’s almost an exact likeness. Even Sirocco’s clothes are exactly what I wear on a daily basis. Yes, Helena the hair stylist did good. Except for a few things, which suddenly made me realise why Move Hairdresser is actually a genius piece of forward-thinking by Sony. Check out this bug report I filed at the salon:

  1. Helena refused to make my hair totally purple and orange because she said it would look “stupid”.
  2. Originally I wanted green as well but the salon had run out of green hair dye.
  3. It took 4 hours to style my hair.
  4. I had to pay actual non-in-game money at the end for reasons that were never really explained to me properly (£288.90 – I was expecting the standard Norway price of £140 – I nearly choked on my own bile)

The result? I had to butcher poor Sirocco’s hair – twice – to make this article look authentic. Sirocco would never have questioned my judgment so rudely like that, he would never have run out of green dye and he certainly wouldn’t have had the audacity to make me insert coins in the Bluray slot to continue. Plus, think how many times I could’ve beaten God of War 3 if those 4 hours hadn’t been so cruelly stolen from me. Sirocco takes 10 minutes to style, max, and he’d never demand I leave the living room, although he does make me move my glass coffee table and sit at an uncomfortable angle on the floor. But I blame his parents – Mr and Mrs. Sony – for stupid design.

Helena also declined my generous offer to cut and dye my hair with a Move. Despite me showing her how realistically I could punch her in the boobs with it, and that it has a futuristic feature called “buttons”, she stuck to her old-fashioned ways and used actual scissors and hair dye to do it. To be fair, I can respect a hair stylist who is skilled enough to do her job without a motion controller – that takes genuine commitment, not like us EyePet stylist wannabes. We think because we can do it with a magic card we’re gonna be great at it in real life. So who here owns a plastic guitar and plays on expert? Yes, you are not a good guitarist, get over it. I can own you in Need For Speed, but put me in a real car and people will inevitably die, although I’ll probably still get a lot of “points” for it.

So I’ve decided. I’m going to buy a 3D TV, 3D capture card and 3D printer. Then I’m going to shave my head bald. Every time I want to re-style my hair, I will just fire up the EyePet, set it how I want it, then print it and glue it (with Pritt Stick) to my forehead. The expensive initial investment will be far outweighed by the benefits within a year or so. I recommend all women seriously consider this option to help cut their costs in these tough financial times. Obviously, the advanced Move hairdressing application will only make this better, so I retract last week’s statement and I would now like to applaud Sony’s forward-thinking attitude towards women’s needs.

Games with Twitter feeds

I mean seriously, what the f*ck? As if being forced to use FacePalmBook to stay in touch with a load of friends I don’t have wasn’t bad enough, now games are going to twat you with my progress?

Katy turned on her PlayStation 3.

Katy loaded Noby Noby Boy.

Katy’s nob grew by 20 metres today.

Katy paused the game to go for a crap.

That’s… just what I always wanted. I’m all for socialising, but automating it sort of defeats the point doesn’t it? Were you reading last week? If so, imagine Twitter only had 4 letters. You get my drift.

PSN Chat

Fritz. Trou. Pene (the Norwegian word for pretty). Imbecile. Transsexual. Hitler. Lesbian. Panties. Just a few of the many words that are censored on PSN text chat.

Masturbate. Bollocks. Transvestite. Bush. Gay. Boxers. Just a few of the words that aren’t censored on PSN text chat.

A bit self-contradictory no? It’s ok to be a gay man, but if you’re a lesbian, oh no, that’s bad. We can stick up for Bush but not for Hitler? Seriously, who is the one most at fault out of those two. And why is it that masturbate isn’t moderated but masturbation is? Nobody should ever moderate masturbation – it’s a beautiful thing (as long as I don’t have to watch you on webcam).

How do I know this amazing information? Well I had the displeasure of humoring a new PS3 owner with text chat the other day. I promised him the video and voice chat was much better and that text chat was added as an afterthought. He (rightly) bemoaned the lack of time-stamping and described the interface as “this is what NASA had in 1986”. Though seeing how fast NASA gets things done, that’s probably what they’re still using now. So we went through all the swears, political, religious, sexual, geographical and fetish words we could think of since trying to have normal conversation was proving inviable due to the over-zealous starring out of normal words (I was in the middle of a game of FFXIII, so naturally I was bored). It was a good laugh but I really learned something about myself that night, namely that I know way more bad words than even I realised, which coming from my potty mouth is really saying something.

When text chat was first released, the word ‘Katy’ was moderated. I kid you not. My name is a swear word people. Wrong. My middle name is a swear word, much like Gordon Ramsay’s. Also what’s

with the character limit? It was 32 but

now it has been increased to a staggeri

ng 64. Which makes for conversation

s like this.

Dragon Age Origins Awakening DLC

How much?! Do I have a money tree at the bottom of my garden? (I did actually, but Gamestop cut it down) Are CB and I doing secret drug trafficking deals on the side to meet our financial DLC needs? Well.. he might be, but I’m not. I don’t even have more than 2 kilos of cocaine in my house at any one time or it would be illegal. Hell I don’t even sell Romanian children anymore since they introduced a £40 fine for getting caught – and besides, children don’t grow on trees (thank God).

I know you get a lot of content for your money here, but, £35? Please. Make it £10 or even £15 at a push and I’m sold. For £35 I can buy another game. Or 1/4th of weed. Or 1/8th of a mediocre haircut.

People telling me I have a dream job

Been told that quite a few times this week for some reason, so let’s see. Taking notes. Replaying sections repeatedly. Changing every setting one by one. Playing game modes you’re not interested in. Playing entire games you’re not interested in. Drafting and re-drafting article outlines. Submitting technical bug reports. Using an Xbox 360 controller. These are just some of the unpleasant acts associated with beta testing and reviewing games.

The worst thing though, is when you take something you love and it becomes a chore. A guy told me on PSN a while back “wow you have more games than Jesus!”. So Jesus didn’t have a PS3? Christ Almighty I would never have figured that out if you hadn’t told me. The reality is I have inserted a lot of game disks into my PS3 which by coincidence happen to live on my shelf. Have I played the majority of them? No, they’re just there to look cool. By way of illustration, here is a picture of some of the games I acquired between November and March:

<picture lost>

I know what you’re thinking: you lucky bitch, right? It’s not lucky if you don’t have time to play them. Think of it like this: you’re a 35-year old man. You have 40 Russian brides (don’t ask), they’re all hot and you want to do them all so badly, and they’re all lying naked in your house with their legs spread wide open indicating their readiness. You have a little ogle at each one for a few minutes reveling in their beauty and craftsmanship, but you’re tired from work and you know that the next adoption is happening tomorrow and she’s gonna be even sweeter. You tell each one softly you’ll get round to them soon but you have some other, younger brides you have to attend to first. But it turns out the new ones take a lot longer to cum, and work is bogging you down, so you struggle along trying but failing to satisfy the new ones and wish you had had time to entertain the others.

So, my games are just like my girly friends: they are all so tempting, but one is never enough; focus on one and the others will all start bitching for your attention, but when push comes to shove you can’t really get involved with any of them even though you really want to. Which makes the next rant deliciously ironic.

I got a new girlfriend

Well, that’s a fair bit of creative license to put it mildly. A more accurate description would be, I met this random bitch who shows some potential. She’s heard of Final Fantasy and hates World of Warcraft – that was all I needed to know. Please, hold your congratulations, this is a disaster of epic proportions. Not only do I have a very busy and extremely important gaming schedule to keep, but now I have to sexually amuse some gorgeously attractive, intelligent, interesting, funny, kind and caring whore as well? How am I going to fit her in between gaming, er I mean, how am I going to fit gaming in between her? Well, depends how tight she is I suppose.

Then there’s commitment. I can’t even commit to one game at a time, let alone one woman. And of course those inevitable nights: me, busy whoring away at Bioshock 2 trying to nail those last trophies, and the bitch: “Katy… I want to go out. Katy, I want to have dinner now. Katy, you need to clean up. Katy, you never spend any time with me! *pout*”. Yes, well, talk to the careface. This kind of social interaction is way over my head. But I’m guessing when she reads this, it probably won’t be a problem anymore. Whoops.*

Video games corrupt children

Yes, yes they do. Video games are the root of all evil. Sort of like TV, movies, magazines, print media in general, the internet, Twitter (which is not part of the internet and deserves its own special category) and occasional use of marijuana. It’s not called the Sixth Axis for nothing you know. But the real question is: who really gives a fuck?

I’m in favour of Darwinian selection. If video games or any other form of media corrupt a child, then that child is by definition too easily influenced, therefore doesn’t have a stable self-image, therefore is weak, therefore should be shot. Parents are not exempt. If Mr and Mrs. Stupid buy their 12-year old son an 18-rated game and then he finds daddy’s gun and shoots him in the face, well it was probably well deserved and I applaud the child for having the courage to punish irresponsible parenting via active eugenics. What about online devices? TV is an excellent tool for education as we all know, and all parents watch TV, therefore they know very well that 240% of internet users are pedophiles. So then they buy little Johnny Stupid a 360 and act surprised when they find videos of him being molested by a 50-year old on YouTube.

I mean look at me. I’ve been playing video games since I was 3 years old, and I’m a perfectly calm, balanced and well-rounded individual. I don’t show any signs of rage or aggression at all.

I leave you with this thought: wouldn’t it be better to just let the advocacy nutters have their way? Let them ban children from playing video games. Why? Well first of all we’re all adults so it won’t affect us anyway, and those of you with kids might be forced to do some actual parenting. But the real reason why I say let them win is simple: it will make the gaming world a better place. We will no longer have to put up with their kids’ stupid friend requests and malformed sentences, but best of all, we will no longer have to listen to them bitch and whine on their fucking headsets.

I wish you all a great weekend.

* She has now dumped me. Told you.

 

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