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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TOP 10 SINGLE PLAYER PS3 GAMES

There are a great deal of amazing online games you can play with your mates *coughs* Killzone 2 *coughs* 😆 on your PS3.

While these are often really rewarding experiences it’s true that sometimes you just fancy going solo, staying ‘signed out’ and hitting some single-player action. Or you haven’t got the internet (Andrew (@shandation) I’m looking at you).

So for those of you looking for something a bit more story based that you can enjoy on your own here is my list of the top 10 best single player games:

10) MIRROR’S EDGE

Mirror’s Edge wowed everyone with its crisp, clean graphics and it’s unique first person perspective.

Obviously a lot of games have a first person viewpoint but most of these are ‘shooters’ whereas Mirror’s Edge is more of a parkour style run and jump adventure.

The game takes place in a slightly futuristic setting, in a city that is totally controlled by the government. They keep tabs on the general population by using surveillance cameras and tracking all forms of electronic communication.

You take on the role on Faith, a “Runner”, who uses rooftops and other means to help deliver physical messages between revolutionary groups within the city. Following on from a set of dramatic events Faith finds herself being hunted by the authorities and has to try to stop the government silencing her.

The perspective takes a while to get used to and it had a few really annoying parts where it was difficult to time jumps etc because of the view but Mirror’s Edge is certainly worth playing through as it offers a style of gameplay that is totally unique in the current games market.

9) RAINBOW SIX VEGAS

If you like your first person shooters with a bit of brain behind the brawn then Rainbow Six Vegas may be the game for you.

You play as Logan Keller a member of the elite Rainbow Six team. Initially sent into a small Mexican border town to flush out a terrorist ringleader. Soon after your escapades south of the border you’re deployed to Las Vegas where a new terrorist threat is imminent.

This game is a lot more tactical than your average fps, for the majority of the game you’ll have two AI teammates with you who you can order to move into position and even get them to ‘stack up’ (ie get ready to enter) at unopened doors.

And you’ll need all the help you can get. This isn’t an easy game and Ubisoft have gone for a more realistic tone. You’re probably looking at two shots before death and it’s possible for enemies to catch you with a headshot and kill you with one bullet.

Luckily your team mates are pretty intelligent and commanding them isn’t a problem.

With a good old fashioned SAS vs Terrorists style plot and lots of fun set pieces Rainbow Six Vegas is definitely worth a shot.

8 ) KANE AND LYNCH

The first of two, in my opinion, vastly underrated PS3 games that make this list.

While not setting the world on fire and suffering from some control/camera issues Kane and Lynch was a brilliant gaming experience.

You take control of Adam ‘Kane’ Marcus, a criminal on his way to death row for crimes committed in Venezuela. Kane is busted out of his prison van by a mysterious group called The7 who he worked with previously. They think Kane stole the money from their last job and stashed it somewhere.

If he doesn’t get them the money back in three weeks his wife and daughter will be killed. Kane claims he doesn’t know where it is but he does know who took the cash and will hunt them down. And so begins a thoroughly enjoyable ride into the desperate life of Kane…

My full review is available here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/lynch-do-this-lynch-do-that-lynch-stop-murdering-the-hostages/

While this game is fairly linear some of the set pieces are really impressive, the bank job and the jailbreak spring to mind immediately as stand out levels.

You can pick this up for as little as £14.99 pre-owned and it’s certainly worth a play through.

7) HEAVENLY SWORD

Another game that didn’t garner the respect it deserves, primarily because it didn’t live up to the pre-release hype.

I played this a while after it came out and wasn’t really effected by the previous hype so I really enjoyed it.

If you like God Of War you will like this game as it’s similar in style but it looks gorgeous in HD and I believe did a few bits (combos/blocking etc) better than the first two God Of War games.

Heavenly Sword tells the story of Nariko, a brutal female warrior whose clan protects the “Heavenly Sword”, a sword from the god’s that actually drains the life from whoever uses it. King Bohan, ruler of the land, wants to get the sword and use it for his own means.

The battles are frantic, often with hundreds of soldiers onscreen at once and the cut scenes have some of the best production values I’ve ever seen.

Heavenly Sword has a great story but is fairly short by game standards – you’re probably looking at around 5-6 hours to finish it however they will be a fun filled few hours!

6) ASSASSIN’S CREED

Assassin’s Creed is the story of bartender Desmond Miles who is kidnapped by a nameless company and awakens to find himself strapped into a machine (The Animus) that unlocks deeply buried memories from Desmond’s ancestors that are intertwined within Desmond’s DNA.

The memory they are interested in is of a man called Altair, an assassin around the year 1191 in the Holy Land.

Effectively you play through Desmond’s memories as Altair (with brief interludes as Desmond struggling to find out what is going on in the present day). You will need to research targets and carry out assassinations using a variety of options – sword, hidden blade, knife etc.

The only problem I had with this game was the initial scouting – you cannot progress into certain areas (your memory is blocked 😮 ) until you have scaled a huge building and surveyed the surrounding area. I found this a bit boring and repetitive however you must stick with the game past this part to get the best of it.

This game is great fun and I’m looking forward to the sequel which is on it’s way.

5) KILLZONE 2

Don’t need to say much about this game really, my review can be found here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/killzone-2-review-ps3/

The multi-player is what everyone has concentrated on and rightly so, however the solo mode is definitely worth playing.

The cinematics are brilliant and some of the set pieces really do feel like you’re there.

While it might not have the best storyline ever written if you have a PS3, whether you plan on getting online or not, this is an essential purchase.

4) GTA IV

One the biggest selling games of this generation GTA IV features the fortunes (and lack thereof) of Niko Bellic – an immigrant arriving in the US at Liberty City to find empty promises and broken dreams from his cousin Roman.

As you work your way up the criminal ladder you’ll encounter all sort of dodgy characters and befriend even more.

The amount of things you can do in GTA IV is mind boggling but never feels overwhelming.

Once you get the hang of the aim and cover systems you will be blasting your way round the city in no time.

This is one of those games you really have to play to believe. The way the world carries on around you, the overheard conversations of other pedestrians, the fact you could play this game for hours experiencing new things without even touching the missions.

Liberty City is a wonderful, if run down, place and Niko Bellic’s story is one you will enjoy playing through so make sure you pick this game up as soon as possible.

3) METAL GEAR SOLID 4

Well, well, well. If it isn’t the Magnum Opus of the PS3.

Hideo Kojima’s tale of Solid Snake’s final mission is a brilliant showcase of the Playstation 3’s power.

Metal Gear Solid 4 is set seven years after the events of the 2nd game (Metal Gear Solid 3 having been a prequel) and sees Snake back in action – but this time as an old man. Because of his accelerated aging process (play the other three games to find out why 😀 ) we find ourselves playing as a hero who is, I suspect, about 60.

Obviously this doesn’t really hamper him too much apart from the odd moan about his back giving him jip 😆 and where the previous games featured mainly stealth, Metal Gear 4 allows you to be a bit more gung ho.

This is a game that often gives you three or four different ways of approaching things – whether you realise it or not.

One thing about the story is that the cut scenes can be long – and I mean long. Some of them clocked in well over half an hour and obviously that’s a fair while to just sit watching.

But this is one game that rewards those patient enough to stick with it by giving them a great gaming experience, with some memorable boss battles, that they won’t forget.

2) DEAD SPACE

Coming on somewhere between Event Horizon and Aliens, Dead Space is a third person survival horror game.

You take on the role of Isaac Clarke, a ship engineer who finds himself trapped onboard a stricken spaceship infested with an alien outbreak which is threatening to take over the ship.

Full review of the game here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/dead-space-review/

Needless to say this was one of the best games I played last year and it deserves to be above both GTA IV and Metal Gear 4 for its storytelling and atmospheric setting.

The use of sound is immense and the fear of the unexpected they create is awesome. I am not a big fan of horror movies or being made to jump all the time but Dead Space kept on the right side of all that by being unpredictable enough to be enjoyable as a ‘horror’ experience.

1) UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE

Nathan Drake, the character you control, is an explorer and treasure hunter.

Uncharted maps his journey as he tries to find the lost treasure of El Dorado encountering, among other things, rival treasure hunters and mercenaries.

Initial impressions article here: https://greghorrorshow.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/uncharted-drakes-fortune-quality/

I still maintain this is possibly the best PS3 game I have played as an overall experience.

The graphics are unbelievable and the gameplay is well paced and well thought out. The characters and story and really well conceived and Nolan North, who voices Drake, is absolutely spot on with his irreverent humour and wisecracks.

At its heart Uncharted is an action adventure game much in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider but, and I say this as a fan of both of these, it is better than either of them.

There is no reason for anyone not to buy this as it’s now in the platinum range (£19.99) and can actually be bought online for as little as £14.99. Get it.. now!

So there you have it.

This list is obviously based on stuff I have played and enjoyed so there are bound to be a few great games missing (Bioshock, which I must get at some stage, Call Of Duty (although again I’ve heard that is stronger in multi-player?) and Resi Evil 5 but I’ve only played a couple of levels of that so far).

I have to give an honourable mention as well to Fallout 3 – I am nowhere near finishing this as the game is absolutely huge with tons to do and lots of different ways for your character to affect the story. If you’re looking for a game to get lost in for ages, as opposed to the usual 8-12 hours, I would give this a thumbs up.

The list above was formed with shorter bursts of gaming in mind and with a view to gamers who’d rather finish a few 10 hour games than start four or five 30+ hour games and never get to the end of them!

Feel free to add any games you’ve enjoyed in the comments that might have been left off the list.