Games As A Sevice – The Future Of Games?

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As technology has advanced, a lot of games have moved away from simply creating a product, selling it and then making extra content to be sold for it in batches. Being able to regularly update games via downloadable patches has meant that titles can now have a lifespan long beyond traditional game releases.

This means that older games like Overwatch (2016), Rainbow Six Siege (2015), For Honor (2017) and Battlefield V (2018) can have very high engagement rates and keep players coming back to discover new content, whether it’s new maps, characters or game modes.

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But as a large amount of titles look to move towards becoming what is known in the industry as ‘Games As A Service’ (GAAS from here onwards), what benefits – and drawbacks, are there for gamers?

One of the biggest positive effects of this trend is the fact that it can really help keep games fresher for longer. Take Overwatch as an example. In the old days, a character based Mega Drive game like Eternal Champions would release and if the characters were unbalanced or disliked you were stuck with the game as it was. Now if a character isn’t being used because people feel they are ineffective (Symmetra in Overwatch, for example) the developers can tweak the character to make them better or, as in the case of Symmetra, completely rework her ability toolset. This allows the game to evolve, rather than being stuck in a static state.

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These changes can help mould the game around the desires of the players. Although it must be said, depending on the game this could also be a negative because pandering to your audience doesn’t always bring the best results.

Something else that often gets raised when talking about GAAS is the ability to bounce back from a rocky release window. As a developer if you continue to support and tweak your title following a negative or disappointing release you can still find an audience. Rainbow Six Siege and For Honor are both great examples of this, titles that struggled at release but have gone on to be very successful and popular titles. On a personal level I started playing Rainbow Six Siege TWO YEARS after it released!

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Another reason people sometimes like GAAS is that you often feel you are getting a lot more value for your money. That depends on the game though, as if you’ve played full price for something you might feel the value proposition is less than a free to play game that gets constant updates.

Which brings us onto the negative aspects. The first of which is the flip side of the final positive point – sometimes GAAS can feel like a complete rip off. If you’ve paid £50 for a game there is an expectation that extra content will arrive without further cost but that often isn’t the case, especially with games that feature microtransactions, even ones just for cosmetic goods. This also plays into the Loot Box conversation and whether blind boxes are ever a good thing. I don’t mind them as a mechanic in games if I can also use in-game (earned) currency to unlock the same items. I do find them a bit sleazy if they are the only mechanic to unlock items.

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Another issue is regarding the care of workers and the people making the game. The more updates and changes the developers have to make, the harder and quicker people are expected to work. This has recently led to a series of articles about the poor work environments on some games:

The developers of the game Cuphead have also announced they are delaying new content exactly for this reason. Although it isn’t a GAAS, I still think this is great. It also leads us to the question of whether a GAAS will ever be truly finished? And if that even matters any more?

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The most valid criticism I’ve heard was actually around the game Overwatch. It was recently leaked that the game will be moving to a 2-2-2 locked format. Currently there are 30 characters formed into three ‘classes’: Damage, Tank and Support. At the moment you can play any characters you want – 6 Supports? No problem (although you’ll likely lose the game). The developers feel that having 2 characters of each class will better balance matches and gameplay.

As someone who plays the game a lot this makes sense to me, a balanced team is more likely to get results and probably has a higher chance of playing closer, enjoyable matches. But where this is a problem (along with the point I made earlier about tweaking and changing characters) is that the game can feel very different and might end up completely unrecognisable to the one you bought at launch and had enjoyed up until the changes. Perhaps you had a favourite character and now, months or years later, they now don’t match your playstyle and have completely different moves and abilities – I can imagine it would be really disappointing.

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So there are definitely positives and negatives to Games As A Service. Most of my experiences so far have been good but I can certainly see why some people might have reservations about them. I think my biggest concern is that every title might try to be a GAAS which would leave gamers worse off both financially and in terms of the actual time we get to play games.

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E3 2019 Preview

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E3 2019 starts on June 11th and looks set to be a strange version of the annual conference. Following moves by several of the big publishers (EA/Bethesda) over the last few years to host their own events around the conference rather than as part of it, this year Sony has declined to take part. Mainly this is because, with the PS5 not quite ready and no new games to talk about, they simply wouldn’t be in a position to hold an interesting event.

The good news for gamers is that Microsoft looks set to follow in Playstation’s steps and finally confirm details of their new console. Rumours continue to swirl about power and features but, alongside the official news on PS5 last month, it means that after E3 the new generation of consoles will be on the way!

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There are plenty of games already announced that I want to know more about. Dragon Age Origins was a title I really enjoyed but the company behind it, Bioware, is reeling from two high profile games that have failed to make an impact. Mass Effect Andromedia disappointed fans of the series, while Anthem released in a bit of state and still hasn’t really recovered. Can they return to form on the new Dragon Age title? The teaser trailer confirms Solas will be involved and I wonder if many of the other characters will return. It’s not listed as part of the EA conference but I’d love it if they dropped another trailer as a surprise during their E3 presentation.

We had a good look at Cyberpunk 2077 last year so I’m not sure if it will be back again this year but I hope we get to see another slice of the game – maybe a different aspect of the game world. Another title I’ve been keeping an eye on is Indivisible, an RPG from the makers of Skullgirls. I had a chance to play this at Rezzed a few months ago and really enjoyed it. Would be great to get a release date for this one.

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Remedy have spent the last decade exclusively making games for the XBox so their switch to multiplatform means that the upcoming Control is the first of their games for a long time that I’ll have the chance to play. It looks really impressive and as it’s releasing in August it would be a pleasant surprise if they dropped a demo on the day for people to try out.

In addition to announced titles there are always a few new games that crop up, some more surprising than others. There is a lot of talk online around the next Watch Dogs game and whether it might be set in London. I think it would be great to have a big open world set outside of the US for a change and it’s been a while since the UK featured as a main game hub.

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Guerrilla Games have been very quiet since the release of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Rumours are that they are busy working on a follow up to that game which would be fantastic, although (and I know I’m in the minority) I would love it if they returned to the Killzone universe – either with a new title or a remaster of the excellent Killzone 2. Usually by this time EA would have a DICE-made shooter waiting in the wings for the Autumn but with content for both Battlefield V and Star Wars Battlefront II recently dropping, I’m not sure whether we’ll see anything else cropping up. Perhaps it’ll be more content plans for the games they have. To be honest I’d probably prefer if they supported the existing games longer and gave DICE more time to develop the new titles.

Bethesda have remained silent on a new Dishonored game but I really hope to see one announced at E3. The games have always been fun and got better with each title. Quantic Dream are another company that have gone multi-platform and, despite some heavy handed plot points, I’ve enjoyed almost all of their titles so far. We can’t be far away from them at least teasing their next game, even if it’s for the next generation of consoles.

So there we go, a slightly muted E3 compared to recent years but still plenty to look forward to.

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Top 10 Single Player PS4 Games

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I often get asked to recommend games to people, especially if they have just got a console and are looking to jump into the best games on offer. As the PS4 generation comes to a close I thought it’d be fun to try and whittle down a Top 10 to recommend.

Quick disclaimer, obviously I haven’t played every game out there and some of the well regarded, bigger releases (Spiderman, for example) may well have made the list if I had played them. It was pretty tough to get the list down to a Top 10 of just the stuff I’d played!

As you’ll see, even the Top 10 isn’t just 10 games… here we go, in no particular order:

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The Last Of Us Remastered

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The Last Of Us originally came out at the tail end of the PS3’s life cycle but received a welcome remaster when the new consoles arrived. Even now this is still one of the games I’m first to recommend to new PS4 owners. It tells the story of Joel, a grizzled old survivor, and Ellie, a young girl, as they travel across America in a post-disease world where the majority of the population has been wiped out. A mix of action and stealth, along with a strong story and some excellent voice acting, drive the gameplay while the stylised graphics look fantastic, especially with the HD remaster treatment.

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God Of War

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Having already played six God Of War titles on the PS3/PSP I genuinely wasn’t sure I needed another game when they first announced the PS4 title. I was quickly reassured when I saw the footage as this new game is a masterclass in single player storytelling. Whereas the previous games had a fixed camera and were viewed from a distant perspective, the latest game is much more up close and personal. It is set long after the other games and Kratos now resides in Norse mythology as opposed to Greek mythology, which adds a nice spin on things. The story focuses on a journey that Kratos has to make with his son and the many characters they meet along the way. The gameplay can sometimes be frantic and challenging but it’s almost always enjoyable.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn

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Guerrilla Games were most well known for the Killzone series of games, first person shooters with a sci-fi leaning. When they announced a new, open world third-person adventure game I was hopeful but had some reservations. Killzone had always been linear so could they deliver on an open world game? Thankfully the answer was yes, in abundance. In Horizon you take control of Aloy, an outcast who is looking to shed some light on her past. She lives in a world where most technology has faded and giant dinosaur-like robots roam the land and need to be avoided. The moment to moment gameplay in Horizon is truly fantastic – the way you need to plan encounters, especially for some of the bigger enemies, is a welcome change from the hack and slash of a lot of other games.

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Grand Theft Auto V / Red Dead Redemption 2

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I’ve included two entries under the same section here as this will boil down to your preference of genre. Do you prefer a satirical, current day gangster/heist setup? Or a lawless Wild West affair, with cowboys and Sheriffs? The gameplay isn’t too different whichever option you pick. Both are third person action adventure games with compelling stories told over tens of hours. Red Dead Redemption 2 is actually a prequel, wherein you take control of outlaw Arthur Morgan. You’ll see some familiar faces along the way but you don’t need to have played the previous game to appreciate this title. Grand Theft Auto V on the other hand sees you take control of three different characters as their lives intersect and unravel in various ways. The game features numerous heists, which I found to be great fun.

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Uncharted 4 / Uncharted: Lost Legacy

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Another entry with two titles, this time simply down to your previous experience with the series. If you’ve played the previous titles Uncharted 4 is a great game to play through as a final goodbye to the characters we’ve known/loved throughout the series. In Uncharted 4 Nathan Drake is retired but can’t resist the lure of ‘one more job.’ Will it cost him his marriage and every he’s worked so hard for? A globe-trotting adventure awaits! If you haven’t played the other games I’d probably recommend Lost Legacy as it doesn’t rely as much on previous knowledge of the other Uncharted games. Lost Legacy features Chloe and Nadine, both side characters from other Uncharted games. It’s well written and more concise than the mainline Uncharted games. Both titles have similar gameplay, with lots of exploring, climbing and gunplay. Both are graphically superb and would be a great addition to your collection.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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I’ve always been a fan of Metal Gear’s over the top gameplay and story. Metal Gear Solid V continues the tradition with a story that I’m still not 100% sure I understand. Once you get past the slightly sluggish and bizarre opening section the game opens up and the fun begins. The gameplay here is some of the best the gaming world has to offer – there is such flexibility that almost anything is possible. The game does an amazing job of letting you escape from situations, as opposed to killing you quickly and giving you a game over screen. The story doesn’t make much sense and the game, in my opinion, makes a serious mis-step in it’s treatment of Quiet, one of the female characters in the game, but overall MGS V has some of the finest gameplay out there.

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Dishonored 2

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Another title that gives you a lot of freedom to carry out your objectives is Disnohored 2. The first choice you make is whether to seek revenge as Corvo, the male character from the original game, or Emily Kaldwin, the Empress of Dunwall. Both have different abilities and approaches to the game. Even within these differing disciplines you still have the option of stealthing through levels as opposed to fighting everyone you see. For me, most missions started as stealth and developed into combat when things went wrong 😀 Set in a steam punk-like future and with a very distinct visual art style, Dishonored 2 is a game that you shape around your playthrough and choices you make along the way. The abilities you gain are very inventive and fun to use and it’s different to almost every other game out there.

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Persona 5

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Full disclosure I haven’t actually finished Persona 5 at this stage – I’m around 40 hours in though so feel confident enough to strongly recommend it in the meantime. The Persona series of games have been around for some time and the fifth instalment continues the series tradition of turn based combat, where each member of your party and the computer each take it in turns to attack/defend during each round of the battle. Some of the fights are over quickly while others take a bit more strategy. You play as a school kid who can turn into a superhero-type in an alternate reality. So as well as saving the world you’ll also be dealing with the day to day of school! One of the big draws of these games is the graphical style, along with the music, and Persona 5 doesn’t disappoint. With a cast of characters including a talking cat this is definitely a game you’ll love or hate. One word of warning though, as I mentioned at the top of the paragraph – it’s a looooong game. Likely to be over 100 hours to get through, this isn’t one for a quick playthrough.

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Detroit: Become Human / Until Dawn

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Both of the entries here feature the ability to create your own story. There are no game over screens on these games – you continue to make choices, both good and bad, until the credits roll. It makes for a fairly seamless gameplay experience but the fact is your version of the story might be wildly different from someone else. Perhaps a character survived that died in someone else’s playthrough? Or maybe because you chose not to intervene in a situation it escalated and had a knock on effect further down the line? The gameplay in these titles is very similar, locked in camera angles and lots of exploring areas looking for clues. There is also the odd chase and action scene thrown in for good measure but these games are all about the story. The reason I’m recommending both is down to your personal taste – Detroit is a sci-fi thriller set around Androids in the near future and Until Dawn is a horror game where a killer is stalking a bunch of kids staying in a remote lodge. Take your pick (or play both!) and enjoy the ride.

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No Man’s Sky

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No Man’s Sky is what I always hoped that games could be when I was growing up. The game is essentially a randomly generated universe that is ready for you to explore. Once you repair your spaceship in the game’s tutorial you can start making your way across the universe and start your adventure. It has a brilliant visual style and the randomly generated planets really can spark a sense of awe. There is a story path to follow but you can ignore that for the most part and just check out the different planets, mining for materials or discovering new creatures. The game is so huge and over the last few years a lot has been added, base building and underwater exploration for example, that I feel it’s easy to recommend as there is something here for everyone!

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So there you go, my top 10(ish) recommendations. It was really difficult to narrow this list down and so I have plenty of Honourable Mentions: Hitman, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate/Odyssey, Life Is Strange, Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor, The Order 1886, Transistor, Valiant Hearts and The Sexy Brutale all deserve a shout but ultimately missed out on making the list.

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Talking ‘Bout My (New) Generation (Of Consoles)

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It doesn’t seem that long ago to me that I rushed home with a massive, shiny 60GB Playstation 3 and plugged it in for the first time. It was, in fact, almost 12 years ago. Even the excitement of bringing home my Playstation 4 was 6 years ago. It almost feels too soon to be thinking about a new generation of consoles but here we are at the start of 2019 with rumours already swirling.

It’s been widely reported that Sony’s own first party developers, such as Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last Of Us), Sony Santa Monica (God Of War), Insomniac (Infamous, Spiderman) and Guerrilla Games (Killzone, Horizon: Zero Dawn), have already shifted focus to working on the new platform. IGN recently reported that both Bethesda and Square Enix are confirmed to be working on next gen titles so logically it’s likely that Ubisoft, Activision and EA won’t be far behind.

But what does a new console look like as we head into the 2020’s?

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For all the talk of the future being completely digital, this next round of consoles will most likely be similar to the current generation – you will have a box under your TV that you pop a disc in/download games to. In the future I can imagine streaming games rather than buying them to download but I think we’re still a little way off that technology running smoothly for people around the world.

An interesting aspect of the new generation of consoles will be the idea of streaming creeping into more widespread use. As services like Spotify and Netflix become the norm will Playstation increase the cost of of its Playstation Plus subscription and offer streaming as part of the package?

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Recently a patent was uncovered that seemed to indicate Playstation were exploring a much deeper implementation of emulation. It looks likely you might be able to play your old Playstation 1, 2, 3 and 4 games on the PlayStation 5 – which would be massive. At the very least the PS5 needs to be able to play PS4 games or uptake will be limited. Especially as forthcoming stand out titles like Last Of Us II and Ghost of Tsushima are both scheduled for PS4.

Aside from backwards compatibility there are several other things I’d love to see from a new console. Of course the most visual of aspects would be a boost to graphical capabilities, full 4k at 60 frames per second and HDR for every game would be brilliant but I’m not sure how realistic that will be. As mentioned above I think more options for streaming would be great – perhaps offering a form of Playstation Now as part of the regular monthly subscription would be a good start.

The other big thing for me is how much of the PS5’s power can be used for A.I in games. Nothing ruins a game quicker than amazing looking enemies who proceed to just stand in the open taking fire. I’m hoping for another big leap, similar to the one we got for Killzone 2 on the PS3. I’d love to think improved and challenging enemies will be the standard for next generation… we’ll see.

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Of course the main tipping point for most people on whether to jump to a new console is price. While the PS3 weighed in with a whopping price tag of £425, the PS4 was a more respectable £349. I’d expect around the same again if I’m being honest. In a dream world it would be £299 but I’d hazard a guess it’ll be £329. A little more I could stomach but if it tips above £400 again I think PS5 will see sluggish sales beyond the initial die hard fans.

In terms of release date – I expect we’ll hear more about the console at an initial reveal this year with the launch date looking like mid 2020. Pure speculation but this guessing game is sometimes the most fun part of the run up to a new console generation!

Whatever happens it looks set to be an interesting and exciting time in the console space. I definitely feel like the PS4 has a year or two left in it but am really looking forward to seeing what Playstation deliver with their next console.

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Overwatch League – Season 2 Preview

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With the new season of the Overwatch League (OWL) starting in mid-February, I thought it might be worth taking a look at what’s changed since the inaugural season last year. There are a lot of new teams and some changes to the format, both of which I’ll get into later. To start with, let’s take a quick look at last season and some of the players you should keep an eye out for in 2019.

The first season of OWL was split into four stages, with each stage having their own playoffs before the grand finals. This was a good way to keep up interest during the season because it meant that, while the New York Excelsior were crushing everyone in the overall results, teams and fans had something to fight for throughout the season. The much fancied Korean roster of the London Spitfire won Stage 1, New York Excelsior took Stages 2 and 3 with the Los Angeles Valiant winning Stage 4. In the end of season playoffs the London Spitfire took home the championship, seeing off the Philadephia Fusion in the final. It was a thrilling end to a great first season.

There was some amazing play on display throughout 2018, here are my picks for the players to watch out for in the upcoming season…

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1. Profit (London Spitfire)

What can you say about Profit? One of the best damage dealers in the league, he has the ability to turn a match on its head with one smart play. Definitely a huge asset to the defending champions.

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2. Geguri (Shanghai Dragons)

As the first female OWL player, Geguri already had a huge amount of pressure on her and adding to that she joined the Dragons – who lost every game of the 2018 season. Her tank play was a bright spark and she carried the team at times, I’m looking forward to seeing what she can achieve with a more stable setup around her.

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3. Fissure (Seoul Dynasty)

Ah Fissure, the very confident (and highly skilled) tank player that left London mid-season for the Los Angeles Gladiators, only to not show for the end of season playoffs. And I don’t mean that figuratively, he literally stayed away from the arena after in-fighting with the team. Drama follows him everywhere but he’s a great player and, if he doesn’t throw a wobbly, just what underperforming Seoul need.

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4. Pine (New York Excelsior)

Pine is what you’d call an impact player. Often being used as a sub during games and pulling off daring damage plays that always seem to come off. I’m hoping he might get some more play time this season as his skill level is outrageous. New York’s stellar season fizzled out in the playoffs, maybe more Pine would’ve helped.

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5. Surefour (Los Angeles Gladiators)

Surefour is known for his Widowmaker play and I always enjoy seeing him in action. I don’t feel he had the consistency of someone like Fleta (Seoul) or Carpe (Fusion) last year but I think if he can deliver regularly through 2019 then the Gladiators have a real shot of making the end of season playoffs.

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OWL New Teams

The amount of teams in the league this year has risen from 12 to 20, which has also impacted the scheduling. Each stage will now be 7 games rather than 10, meaning each team plays 28 games overall. In terms of the end of season playoffs, the top Atlantic and Pacific division teams, along with the next four teams in the standings regardless of division, will automatically qualify for playoffs. In a change to last season’s format the 7th through 12th placed teams in the overall standings will also have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. These teams will be pitted against each other in a sudden death tournament, with the top two teams being able to join the playoffs for a total of eight teams.

So from the overall 20, 12 teams will be in with a shout of making the final 8 places in the playoffs. New teams that have paid upwards of $30m to join OWL come in the form of Atlanta Reign (US), Chengdu Hunters (China), Guangzhou Charge (China), Paris Eternal (France), Hangzhou Spark (China), Toronto Defiant (Canada), Vancouver Titans (Canada) and Washington Justice (US). Do any of the new expansion teams have a shot this season? Let’s take a look.

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A lot of the teams have picked up players that were in the league last season – Soon joined Paris, Hooreg joined Vancouver and Hotba joined Guangzhou, to name a few. Some teams went for players from the Overwatch World Cup with no league experience – Kyb at Guangzhou or Krystal at Hangzhou. Most of these teams seem a mishmash on paper, especially ones with multiple nationalities that could lead to language barriers. The front runner for a tilt at the playoffs has to be the Vancouver Titans, whose roster is a former title winning team in Korea called Run Away. This synergy could see them make a great start in 2019.

Personally my tips for the 8 playoff slots would be London Spitfire, New York Excelsior, Boston Uprising, Philadephia Fusion, LA Gladiators, LA Valiant, San Francisco Shock, Seoul Dynasty and Vancouver Titans. We’ll have to see as the season progresses!

OWL London

With some teams starting to play in their hometown this season, and everyone doing so in the next few years, the league will no doubt be looking to get more teams involved from around the world. I would love to see teams from places like Russia, Brazil, Sweden, Australia or Germany. Overwatch is a global game so it makes sense the league would look to try and get teams started in as many places as possible, especially if they will playing matches locally. I can’t wait to see the Spitfire play in London at some point, it would definitely help increase the bond with the team.

So there you have it, an overview of what to expect from the OWL in 2019. It starts on the 14th/15th February and the league has a deal in place with Twitch to show all the games live so head to http://www.twitch.tv/overwatchleague to catch up on all the action!

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Grand Operations – Should DICE Advance or Retreat?

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Battlefield V launched back in November of 2018 without much fanfare and alongside a bunch of negative headlines (Eurogamer: “Battlefield V physical sales down more than half on Battlefield 1” / VG24/7: “Battlefield 5 drops down to $30 in new sale“) which did a good job of killing most of my expectations for the title. So I was surprised, when I picked up a copy, by how much I enjoyed the online action in the game.

The big, main mode, alongside series staple Conquest, is Grand Operations. A new version of Battlefield 1‘s Operations mode. In that title you had a few attempts to take ground against your opponents, and the losing team was able to call in a Zeppelin to try and turn the tide. It was a fun mode, which I liked playing. In Grand Operations you play across three ‘days’ of various game modes, although Day 3 is always Conquest. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of it so far but there are some under-lying problems that leave me concerned about the longevity of the mode.

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So what are the issues and what can be done to fix them? It’s a tough question because how do you make online play fun over a long period of time in a title where the individual player has such a small influence? In something like Overwatch or Rainbow Six: Siege, you are part of a team of 5 or 6 and your actions, such as the use of a gadget, skill or ability, can directly win a round for your team. In Battlefield V, while you have a squad of four, there are 32 players on each side and your actions rarely impact dramatically as events unfold.

Let’s start with the positives and what Grand Operations does right. It evokes memories of the excellent, and similarly titled, Killzone 3 Operations mode – especially with the parts where you’re aboard a plane before rounds start and you’re waiting to jump down into the action. I’d like to see more cut scene variations between the days if possible but what we have is a decent enough start. Grand Operations certainly feels grand in terms of time – rounds can last between 45 minutes and an hour depending on how close they are. It’s interesting to move through different sections of the map on each day and generally rounds do seem to finish quite close for the most part, which gives it the sense of a thrilling battle.

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Grand Operations is likely the best mode in the game… if you have the time. Conversely, on occasion the rounds seem to drag out – especially when the victor is obvious. The first two days are almost pointless as only victory/defeat on the final day decides the battle. This would be fine if the first two days counted for anything on both sides. Attackers do get benefits if they win the rounds (extra respawns etc.) but the defenders don’t, they just stop the attackers gaining an advantage. There’s nothing quite as disheartening as, while defending, winning the first two days and then losing the final day to be greeted by a ‘Major Defeat’ screen. The game is also glitchy during gameplay and cut-scenes, including instances of Day 3 just being a black screen, meaning you have to quit and lose your progress. Also people quit (or perhaps can’t join due to technical issues) between days, leading to wait times between rounds and sometimes completely uneven sides.

I have some ideas to remedy these problems and make Grand Operations the go-to mode for Battlefield V. Some are simple fixes and others more complex suggestions but let’s get into it.

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My first suggestion is the easiest to call out as a player, though only the developers will know how much time/resources would be needed: fix the bugs. This isn’t exclusive to Grand Operations but it would make a huge difference. Unlocks not happening, players dropping out of games, standing in the plane literally INSIDE another player – tidy it up please DICE. Secondly, give more rewards for playing Grand Operations. Maybe it is exclusive outfits or even a special gun. Anything would help bring people into the game mode.

DICE have to change how the ‘Days’ system benefits each side. My suggestion would be to scrap the respawns and make each day count as an automatic flag capture on the final day. So, if one team wins both days on Day 3 they start with two flags already captured. Currently if you’re defending, the first two days seem quite pointless. While the extended sessions are great, perhaps the addition of a ‘Mercy’ option like the one in Destiny could help. In that game the ‘narrator’ character ends the game early if one team is completely dominating. Given the World War II setting this would be in keeping with the atmosphere of the game if your ‘commander’ called for you to retreat. In one way it saves you the humiliation of spending another 10 or 15 minutes in a fruitless battle but brings the embarrassment of having to retreat.

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My final idea, and likely to be the most controversial, is to make Grand Operations the ranked/competitive mode of Battlefield V. Firstly, it would stop people quitting out between rounds. If you couldn’t play another round until the one you quit finished or you rejoined, it would be a good deterent for quitters. Assigning a specific ranking to performances and having you climb the ladder season to season in the mode would keep people interested for longer. This could tie in with the extra rewards I mentioned and could possibly involve the Tides Of War side mission content. If they actually fixed the issue I mentioned above in regard to balancing rewards for Days 1 and 2, Grand Operations could even be the mode that EA utilize for Battlefield V’s esports angle. It seems like it would be a great fit with potential rounds of up to an hour and I’d love to see what sort of tactical plans teams and squads could come up with, given advance preparation time. I suspect EA will more likely be looking at their Battle Royale mode for that but I think this could be a much more enticing option.

So there you have it, some ideas to help enhance what is a promising game mode. With a few changes here and there Grand Operations could be a stand out mode and Battlefield V’s trump card. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out as 2019 progresses.

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GregHorrorShow’s Year In Gaming 2018

maingoty

It seemed 2018 was as good a time as any to mix up these end of year posts, mainly due to the way a lot of games are becoming sprawling services that span years of content as opposed to annual franchises. A lot of what I played this year wasn’t released in the calendar year but that seems to matter less and less as time goes on. I’ll list the release date next to anything not from 2018.

For anyone interested here is the non-gaming round up in case you missed it. For now though let’s delve into last year’s gaming…

hitman

I know Hitman 2 came out in 2018 but let me tell you about Hitman (2016). This was a game, like Life Is Strange, that really nailed the episodic format. It was a joy to jump into a new level (each with varying locations around the world) and spend a good chunk of time messing around, trying to find a stealthy way of taking out a target. Then I’d be happy to put the game back on the shelf and return to a new area in a few months. 2018 was the year I finally finished the last of Hitman’s content and I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.

I played A Way Out in full co-op with a friend and had a blast with the game. I’m not sure it would’ve been as much fun playing solo and while the story was fun it wasn’t the greatest narrative I’ve ever played through. This year I also played This War Of Mine: The Little Ones (2016), a title I’d been keen on for a while. It tasks you with scavenging to survive in a war torn country and really gives you a sense of how tough that kind of thing can be. The mental effects can completely change the game, if the characters become too scared or depressed you can lose control of them and they won’t respond to commands. It was tough watching my little group of survivors deteriorate until they fell apart, a rough but worthwhile gaming experience.

vallhalla

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action was a game I was super excited for and I really enjoyed taking on the role of a cyberpunk bartender, despite not being the best at remembering the drink combinations! Luckily there is a recipe book on hand to help. This is a visual novel on Vita so it’s a lot of reading, with a small gameplay element of mixing the drinks – giving customers different drinks can alter the storyline, which is cool. Hue was another Vita game that I put alot of time into, the puzzle solving was good fun and the use of colour was interesting.

Two games that took me an age to finish were Assassins Creed: Origins (2017) and Fallout 4 (2015). I wrapped up both this year and they were enjoyable for different reasons. Origins was a real high point for Assassins Creed, with a good story and lots of fun gameplay additions. I’d still rather they lost the current day set up as I find it really detracts from the main story but maybe there will be a payoff for that stuff at some stage? Fallout 4 left me in a frustrating spot so I didn’t ‘finish’ the game in terms of seeing the credits but felt I’d told my characters story to it’s conclusion, the game was exactly what I wanted from it and I look forward to playing the next numbered Fallout title when it arrives.

I also played through The Walking Dead: New Frontier (2016) and finished that a week or so before the sad news that the game studio behind it was shutting down. While the technical cracks were showing throughout the game I still enjoyed spending some more time with Clem and watching her grow over the course of the five episode arc. I didn’t play much of Gran Turismo Sport (2017) but the hours I put in were really enjoyable. I’m terrible at the game for the most part but as usual the joy of the game comes from heading to the car dealerships and picking up lots of different cars to race.

fortnite

In terms of online gaming its difficult to talk about 2018 without mentioning Fortnite. I’ve dropped off of the game in the last 3 or 4 months but I imagine I’ll be back at some stage to play some more. I enjoyed the tense, high stakes gameplay of solo the most, although it was definitely fun with friends as well. FIFA 19 is, finally, a more than cosmetic update of the yearly title. I think the changes they have made are certainly for the better although the issue of ‘rubber-banding’ (allowing slower defenders to catch up to attackers and tackle them) needs to be addressed as it can completely break the game flow and seems totally unrealistic. Another fun multiplayer game was Laser League (2017), which I picked up as part of PlayStation Plus. This is a futuristic sports game where you turn lasers to your colour on the playing field. If your colour laser touches an opponent they are taken out of play – it’s a really interesting idea that is well delivered.

My favourite online games from 2018 though were Battlefield V, Overwatch (2016) and Rainbow Six: Siege (2015). As a Battlefield veteran (from Bad Company on) I’ve enjoyed but not loved the recent titles in the series. I think Battlefield 4 was the last one I really put a lot of time into. Hardline was something different and Battlefield 1 was good but didn’t hold my attention. However something about Battlefield V just clicked with me – possibly it’s the heavy emphasise on squad play but this, for me is the best Battlefield since the Bad Company 2 days. It certainly has some issues but overall a really solid title. I absolutely love Overwatch. I still play regularly and have a great time with it – the updates with new maps and characters help keep the game fresh and with the newly launched Overwatch League, it seems the game is here to stay. That works for me.

siege

Having said that my pick for online game of 2018 is 2015’s Rainbow Six: Siege. The recovery of this game from a troubled launch is astounding. It has a vibrant esports scene and the continued release of maps and content (now stretching into the game’s fourth year!) makes sure the game is constantly evolving. It’s similar to Overwatch in that two small teams face off in a map with one objective and the teams take turns attacking and defending. Another familiar aspect is that a roster of characters each have different specialisations that can be used to gain an advantage or swing a fight. While Overwatch is like a bombastic, Saturday morning cartoon, Rainbow Six takes things a bit more seriously, although some cosmetic options allow you to lighten the mood a bit. The gameplay is finely balanced and it’s really unforgiving but definitely worth your time.

sexybrutale

In terms of single player games Detroit: Become Human was a highlight. While it was maybe heavy handed with its messaging I found the game itself to be enjoyable and the sheer amount of choice, in terms of the branching storyline, was hugely impressive. David Cage has done this before but each game genuinely improves on the last. The fact I can talk to other people who played it and we have very little in common in terms of the story of the game is actually quite astounding. One of my other favourites from this year was The Sexy Brutale (2017), a really clever puzzle game in which you relive the same day over and over, trying to stop a bunch of murders. It’s a touching, smart title with a great graphical style and some excellent music. A real joy to play through.

I’m still making progress through Persona 5 (2017) and loving that. The story is starting to build and I’m adding more characters to my roster of crime-fighters. The Persona games always have a lovely sense of style and this is no different – the music is as amazing as ever and graphically it looks brilliant. Another superb title I’m still finishing off is God Of War. This is one of those titles that really show off what a PS4 can do and also give a good reference point for non-gamers to see how games are progressing. It’s a tour de force really, while still maintaining a fragile father and son story that doesn’t feel melodramatic or forced. The script and voice acting help with that, it’s a game I can’t recommend enough.

rdr2

There is only one game that can be both my favourite thing from this year and also the best game I’ve played in years. Red Dead Redemption 2 arrived after a seven year wait but it was worth it. A prequel to the original title it tells the story of Arthur Morgan, a member of the same gang as the first game’s protagonist, John Marston. This is a huge game with so much content it’s likely I won’t experience much of it at all in the grand scheme of things. I’m about 25 hours in and still only midway through, I’ve spent a bunch of time just living in the game world, hunting, playing cards and fishing while completely ignoring missions. The world feels alive and there is always something going on just around the corner. I haven’t really touched the online beyond setting up a character but I’m also looking forward to getting more into that in the future. Red Dead Redemption 2 is my game of the year for 2018.

division 2

There was a lot I didn’t get around to playing that I want to try – Spider-man, Hitman 2, Iconoclasts and Life Is Strange 2 to name a few. As my backlog builds there is also plenty to look forward to in 2019. I think The Division 2 (above) is my most anticipated title, although if The Last Of Us II does get confirmed for this year that might just pip it. As well as games, it seems like another generation of new consoles are also on the horizon which should lead to some interesting announcements and game reveals.

Exciting times ahead in the world of gaming!