Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: EA

An update and a few thoughts

A week or so ago, I went on a rant about Origin and EA customer support. It wasn’t the first time I’ve had issue with a game through those two stalwarts — and I use that term very loosely. For the second or third time, I had a game that worked just fine and then, without any updates to my gaming laptop, it suddenly quit working. Oh, it would play just fine in off-line mode but trying to log into the EA/Origin servers? Nope, it wasn’t going to happen.

Due to prior experience trying to get help from Origin/EA support, I exhausted every other avenue first. That included uninstalling and reinstalling not only Origin but the game itself. Turning off processes that might be interfering. Making sure all my drivers were updated. Nothing. So, out of desperation, I contacted Origin — multiple times. Once I basically told them to get over themselves when they wanted me to reinstall my OS. What none of them could seem to grasp was that the game worked fine, unless I wanted to play online.

Finally, I was told they were escalating my issue up the chain and when — and if — their techies figured out what was going on, they’d contact me. No other information was available. At some point in the future, near or far, they’d be in contact with me but only if they figured out what was wrong.

I’ll admit I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I’d been told that before. This time, however, my confidence in them was less than it had ever been. Why? Not only couldn’t they seem to understand the game worked fine. The issue was simply logging into that particular game’s servers. Every other Origin game worked and logged into its server just fine. What made it worse was the techs, both the tech dealing with me on the phone and the one up the ladder he supposedly went to for further help before escalating my issue, couldn’t read and understand a date code.

You see, when I’d talked with Origin a week earlier, I’d sent them all the data about my gaming rig, including processes running, etc. That information was no longer accurate because I’d turned off further services, etc., services they kept telling me in the current call to turn off.

So, with nothing accomplished except making me more determined than ever to deal with Origin as little as possible in the future, I rang off and wrote the game off. I knew I’d never hear from Origin again.

You can imagine my surprise when, day before yesterday, I tried the game and — gasp — it logged into the server without a bit of trouble. Nope, I hadn’t heard from Origin. So who knows what changed. At least the game works. Even so, that bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Origin and EA remains. As does, to be honest, the bad taste of having to use a 3rd party platform to play a game because game publishers don’t want to let us have discs any more but want us logging in periodically so they can see what we are doing.

But, the game works and I guess that is all that matters.

Moving on.

E3 is coming up in just a few weeks and the “leaks” and announcements have started. One of those announcements deals with Far Cry 5. Not only has Ubisoft released the official announcement trailer, it has released several teasers trailers as well.

Now, it’s pretty clear the game is going to center around a religious cult of some sort and the resistance against it. As you can imagine, there are already articles coming out praising Ubisoft — as long as they make the right political statement. I’ve seen headlines hoping they are “thoughtful” about how they handle the storyline. (Check out the Dallas Morning News) Gamespot says Ubisoft can make a “serious political statement. . . or get it very, very wrong.”

All of which had me asking when it became more important for a game to make a political statement than it did to have, oh, good game play and a story line that kept the players involved?

That is a lesson Bioware needs to learn — and quickly. It may not have officially announced the death of the Mass Effect franchise but the writing is on the wall. And that’s unfortunate because the original Mass Effect trilogy was a blast to play. Sure, the ending of ME 3 was a serious let down, especially after having thought our decisions through the games would actually make a difference in the outcome of the game. I didn’t mind Shepard sacrificing himself (or in my case, herself) at the end of ME3. Hell, I expected Shep to die. But the way it was handled sucked eggs. Dirty, rotten eggs.

Still, the trilogy was great gameplay with a great storyline that kept fans coming back for more.

I had great hopes when they announced ME: Andromeda — until they started talking about the storyline and I started reading comments from certain members of the design team. Bioware didn’t help itself when it released the game before it was ready. I’ll not go into the problems with facial animations and other issues. Been there, done that.

All that said, the combat system is more than decent and, in a lot of cases, fun. Bioware — much as I’m afraid Ubisoft is going to do in Far Cry 5 — didn’t worry as much about a storyline that would keep fans interested. They looked at current social and political issues and tried to feed those into the game in such a way that everyone would be happy. Then, when someone or some group voiced disapproval, they spent time trying to appease that group instead of working on the quality of the gameplay.

In other words, Bioware and, unless it is very careful, Ubisoft, is going the way of traditional publishing. It is forgetting that appeasing a few voices can and often will alienate their core fans. Sure, any business wants to expand its fan base. But you don’t do that at the expense of losing your core. Why? Simple economics. You know what your core is. You know basically how many units they will buy. If you alienate them, you cut, often sharply, into that number of units sold without a guaranteed new audience to replace the loss.

Am I saying that there shouldn’t be more gay or trans or non-white characters? Absolutely not. I love that modern games, at least most of those I play, allow you to choose not only the sex but the “look” of your character and the way you interact with characters can, at least in some games, choose your sexual orientation. However, that should not be the guiding force of a game.

Developers need to remember that gamers first want a game that looks good and that has mechanics that work. They don’t want to pay $50 or more for a game that looks like it could have been developed 5 or 10 years ago.

They want a game that will challenge their abilities, be it an RTS or a puzzle-solver or a FPS or an MMORPG.

They want a story that is engaging and helps them identify with the characters. Look at it this way, if you don’t grab a gamer and keep their interest, they won’t keep playing. In that they are like readers. If they aren’t invested in the book, they won’t finish it.

As a female gamer, I don’t want to see male characters who only think of female characters as fuck toys. I like being able to play some games as a kick ass female character. But that is all secondary to having kick ass graphics and mechanics as well as an engaging story. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Isn’t it time for game designers and publishers to understand that it really doesn’t matter how good the icing is. That it’s the cake underneath that matters. If that sucks, no one is going to come back for seconds and that is going to impact the company’s bottom line.

Disappointed but not surprised

I’ve never made a secret of the fact I game to relax. I started out as a console gamer but have moved more and more to the laptop for my gaming needs. Like so many others, I’m a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. Also like so many fans, I’ve watched with a jaundiced eye as EA took over Origin and “little things” like customer support seemed to falter.

When Bioware and EA announced, finally, the latest installment in the Mass Effect universe, I was hopeful. The ending of ME3 left me a bit skeptical but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I even pre-ordered the game and played the first 10 hours under Origin Access, there were glitches but, overall, the game was satisfactory, especially since I assumed there would be updates before release.

Let’s face it, there is no excuse for the poor facial animations or the return to character animations that often looked like they had been done 10 years ago. Bioware did listen to the critiques and has tried to correct at least some of it. That continued with the latest patch yesterday. Of course, there is still that ghostly white shine in character’s mouths — although it does seem a bit less than before. But it is too little too late and, apparently, even Bioware admits it.

More on that in a minute.

While Andromeda suffers from some “WTF were they thinking” problems, not only with the facial animations but with dialog that often has you wanting to slam your fist through the screen — and let’s not discuss some of the bad delivery of those lines — the combat is fun and engaging. If you can zone out on the rest of it, there’s a game there worth playing.

Now, back to Bioware.

When it was announced that Bioware’s Montreal studio would be developing Andromeda, a number of us wondered if the powers-that-be had lost their minds. The Montreal studio had not developed a game on its own (at least not that I can remember). Sure, it had worked to develop DLC for ME3 but that’s a far cry from developing a full game, especially one of the studio’s cornerstone games.

Then there were the concerns voiced after Dragon Age: Inquisitions came out. Again, a decent game but not really up to what we’d come to expect from Bioware. There have been other missteps as well, enough to wonder what is going on in the company.

Now, on the heels of the release of the latest patch for Andromeda comes word that Bioware has put any further games in the Mass Effect franchise on hold. There’s no official cancellation but there are no plans to begin working on the next game in the series. Worse, at least for those of us who have purchased Andromeda, there is no sign that Bioware is working on story driven DLC for the game.

At least, if it happens, it is doubtful it will come from the Montreal studio as most of the gave devs there who had worked on Andromeda have been shuffled off to other projects.

And that, my friends, makes me wonder again wtf is going on. If you have a game that is so widely anticipated as Andromeda and then is released with as many problems, why in the hell are you rewarding the team responsible and by keeping them on and moving them to other key projects is rewarding them.

Does this spell the end of Mass Effect in any of its iterations? I don’t know. It sure doesn’t look good right now. Worse, Bioware and EA have breached their trust with their customers with this game. There is a level of expectation they have built with us through the previous Mass Effect games and that has not been met. Even with Inquisition, again not nearly as good as the previous games in that series, we got story driven DLC. The studio didn’t abandon the game or its fans — and that’s what it looks like they are doing now.

Considering the fact I’ve been trying to work with Origin tech support all week and finding them just about as helpful as the tree in my backyard, to say I’m leery of buying anything from them in the future is putting it mildly. And that’s a shame since EA and Bioware have been home for several of my favorite gamin franchises.

Here’s hoping Bioware pulls its head out of its ass before it screws up another franchise — in other words, Star Wars Battlefront II fans, beware. Some of those devs from Andromeda are being moved to your game.

Oooh, shiny

This time every year, gamers turn their attention to E3 to see if there will be new console or handheld gaming system announced and to see what new games are going to be teased. This year is no exception. Even though E3 hasn’t officially started, there have already been some exciting news coming out of the different venues.

Let’s start with EA’s press conference yesterday. I know, I know. EA is an abomination with Origin, etc. It also has some of my most anticipated games. So I guess it is a case of better the devil you know. . . .

Battlefield 1 has been much hyped and anticipated. It is a first-person shooter set during World War I. Due to be released this Fall, EA has been hyping this game for some time now. Looking at the gameplay trailer shown yesterday, it is easy to see why.

Titanfall 2 is another one I’m looking forward to. One of the biggest complaints about the original Titanfall was the lack of a single-player campaign. Titanfall 2 will correct that oversight and if the campaign lives up to the gameplay trailer EA released yesterday, it is going to be a lot of fun.

Finally, the game I am both looking forward to and dreading is Mass Effect Andromeda. I’m looking forward to it because I loved the Mass Effect trilogy, even with the botched ending of Mass Effect 3. I’m dreading it because I’ve been disappointed too many times by games, movies and books that don’t live up to the previous work in a series. I’m not actually worried by the fact EA/Bioware has delayed the release to the first quarter of next year (the last I looked). I would rather them do that than to push out a game that is too buggy to play or, worse, is nothing but a poor shadow of the previous games.

I will admit, I had hoped for some gameplay footage but that will have to wait. Instead, EA released this clip.

But EA wasn’t the only developer to release some exciting news. Bethesda, developer of one of my other favorite games, Dishonored, had some news of its own to release yesterday. First up was word that they would be releasing Quake Champions.

Next up is for those of us who have been drooling over the new Doom but who have yet to drop the $60 or so to buy it. Bethesda and Id are going back to the roots of Doom and offering shareware — oops, a demo — of Doom. For a limited time, you can download and play for free the first level on the campaign. Even better news, you can do it on your PS4, XBox One or your PC.

And then there was word on what is probably my most anticipated game so far: Dishonored 2. Coming out in November, if I remember correctly, it picks up with the characters from Dishonored some 15 years or so after the end of the first game. As with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, you can play as either Korvo, the playable character from Dishonored, or as Emily. Both have their own set of abilities and the video shown yesterday is enough to have me planning on getting the game just as soon as I can.

Ubisoft has its press conference later today. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

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