Apparently, Sony Computer Entertainment America Has Never Heard of Beta Tests

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Destiny had multiple Alpha and Beta tests. World of Warcraft‘s expansions always have lengthy testing cycles. Even SimCity had a stress test, though it didn’t do EA’s servers much good. Do you know what game didn’t have any kind of test to simulate post-launch stress? Driveclub.

Talking with IGN, Shawn Layden, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, had the following to say regarding Driveclub‘s development:

In the development cycle, we try to do all things. In the development cycle, we try to test against every possibility. We have a [Quality Assurance] team, we have a QA plan. You do a beta test, you scope against that. But now, in a connected world, you can’t effectively test in your house or in your beta group what it means to have 50,000, 100,000, 200,000 users hit your service. And the guys [at the studio] are struggling with that. It’s throwing up things they had not anticipated.

If its impossible to “effectively test” a game with 200,000 users, why are so many other developers doing it? It’s called a stress test. You invite a huge number of people into the beta, say “hey we’d really like if you all hit the service at the same time,” and watch the game break.

Recently Evolve had an alpha test. It went, well, pretty poorly. But that’s perfectly okay because it’s an alpha test. Developer Turtle Rock now knows what to needs to be fixed before next year’s release. If only they did the same with Driveclub, they could go back and fix the game’s connectivity issues.

Maybe they could also fix the gameplay.

We Will Never Have a Smooth Online Launch Again

Diablo III halloweenDriveclubDiablo IIIThe Elder Scrolls OnlineSimCityHalo: The Master Chief Collection. What do these games all have in common? Poor online launches.

Some have been worse than others, but the simple fact remains that they — as well as countless others — have had troubles launching their online services. It’s a bit ironic, considering that we’re making more and more technological advances each and every day. Why is it that we can accomplish the unthinkable, but we can’t get a game’s online service to run smoothly during launch?

Because it’s impossible.

In most cases, a game will be its busiest at launch. Everybody wants to get in on the action when it’s fresh and see what all the buzz is about. Servers are therefore overloaded, with little to no preparation. Sure, you can have betas and stress tests, but nothing can ever compare to the real deal. For a game’s hardware, it seems that the best way to find out if its got the goods to make it is trial under fire. The problem, though, is that a fire is always strongest when it first gets going. Over time, it will wear down and weaken.

The same can be said about a player base. Nothing will ever match the stress servers experience on launch night. So while it’s easy to say “hey, let’s just put up as many servers as we can and call it a day,” what are you going to do with those extra servers when you don’t need them?

Once someone finds a reasonable answer to that question, our problems may be solved. Until then, we’re going to have to be patient with our games.

Pure Pool’s Soundtrack Needs More Air Guitar

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I am not good at pool. That’s okay, though. I like to pretend.

I also like to pretend that my cue stick is a guitar. It eases the pain of defeat.

While my skills in Pure Pool may outweigh my real-life skills pool, my air guitar dreams will never come to pass. The game’s soundtrack doesn’t exactly lend itself to my air guitar antics. Instead of hanging out in a pool hall, the game’s locale is an upscale smooth jazz bar.

Now I don’t know about you, but this isn’t exactly my kind of place. I like singing along to the songs I pick on the jukebox, and dancing as if I’m in a concert pit. Sure, I could see myself softly snapping my fingers after making a clutch shot, but the setting offered by Pure Pool just seems…off.

Especially since my table felt is a cosmic background.

If I could use custom soundtracks, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But that’s a story for another day.

Pure Pool Makes Me Miss The Days Of Yahoo Pool

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Everybody remembers their first online game. For me, it was Yahoo’s version of pool, an incredibly simple yet highly addictive multiplayer Flash game. There wasn’t anything flashy about it. It was pool, plain and simple.

Pure Pool feels similar: no fancy bells and whistles here. There’s no extensive list of features, just a nice, simple game of pool. In some ways I can’t help but wish that Pure Pool offered a bit more, but then I get invested in my match and forget all of my critiques. I felt the same way about Yahoo Pool: no thrills, just simplicity and the desire for victory.

This really comes in handy, since my virtual pool skills in no way correlate to the ones I have, or should I say “lack,” in real life.

Sadly, I somehow doubt that Pure Pool will ever match Yahoo’s pool in terms of popularity. There’s that whole thing about needing an Xbox One and then purchasing the game. The barrier of entry is a little bit steeper here. Those who decide to make the purchase, though, may be pleasantly surprised.

How Does Halo: Combat Evolved Stand Up to the Modern Competition?

Playing Halo Will Make You a Psychopath

There’s no denying the impact that Halo: Combat Evolved had on the first-person shooter genre. In fact, it had a massive impact on gaming in general. Halo is responsible for much of the original Xbox’s success. And the Xbox changed online gaming forever, thanks to Xbox Live. Without Xbox Live, who knows what online console gaming would look like these days.

Halo: Combat Evolved is a pretty damn important video game. But it definitely feels dated in some areas, specifically the level design.

Modern level design incorporates a philosophy that attempts to keep the player from feeling lost or confused. This prevents frustration and boredom. There is no worse feeling than trying to figure out where the hell to go for ten to fifteen minutes. By then, the answer is usually a new game. With Halo: Combat Evolved, new players constantly needed to explore and experiment. Levels weren’t exactly linear; they were large, open, and inviting. They also weren’t totally straight forward, leading to these moments of frustration and, at times, boredom.

These days, we’re given various audio or visual cues when we’re on the right track. At times, the same can be said about Halo: Combat Evolved. But compared to both modern games, as well as more recent entries in the franchise, things feel like a gigantic step back.

Then again, that’s probably because the game came out in a different era. The attention span of gamers today borders on nonexistent. Franchises such as Call of Duty dominate the realm, filled with countless set pieces and plenty of explosions.

Ultimately, the greatest strength of Halo: Combat Evolved is its pacing. Sure, things tend to drag on from time to time; the amount of backtracking and exploration may be a bit much, but slow pacing helps make the strongest moments even stronger.

It also helps that Halo’s controls are wonderful, and the enemy AI continues to be downright impressive.

 

Assassin’s Creed Unity’s Problems Probably Could Have Been Avoided

Assassin's Creed Unity characters

If you’re planning to buy every marquee video game this holiday season, good for you. Clearly you must have a job that pays well enough to afford the dozens of appealing games. Also, you must have plenty of free time, because the amount of games I’d like to play right now is staggering.

November is always an incredibly busy month for the video game industry. The holiday season is definitely a powerful force, but it would be nice if publishers would delay some of their games so our wallets could breathe a little, and we could spend some time with friends and family. [Read more…]

I’ve Already Maxed out My Xbox One’s Storage, and That’s a Problem

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It’s been nearly 12 months since the Xbox One hit the market, and I’m already out of hard drive space.

This isn’t a good thing, especially since Microsoft has been pushing its digital marketplace since day one. Right now, unless we pick up a brand new console with a bigger hard drive, we’re going to play a game of installation roulette. I plan on picking up three games within the next seven days (Halo: The Master Chief CollectionDragon Age: Inquisition, and Far Cry 4), which means I’ll have to do more uninstalling than installing.

This isn’t fun.

Plus, my EA Access subscription isn’t doing my hard drive any favors. Free copies of Need for Speed RivalsFIFA, and Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare? Yes please! I like these games, and I like not having to pay full price for them. I look forward to not paying full price for more games in the future. I won’t, however, look forward to uninstalling them when the next highly anticipated game hits the market.

Sure, there are options for external storage devices, but should that really be the norm of this console generation? I can’t help but feel that it’s a less than ideal solution. For every tech-savvy gamer out there that knows what they’re doing with external storage and hard drive space, we have dozens of people who just want to put a disc into the console and press play.

The Wii U Has the Best Exclusives, but Nintendo Isn’t Mentioning This

If you’ve seen a TV spot for a video game recently, chances are that game has been DestinyCall of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Shadow of Mordor, or World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. These are all enjoyable games with their own strengths (and weaknesses), but believe it or not, there are better games out there.

What’s even more remarkable is that these better games can be only found on one system: the Wii U. Don’t feel bad about not realizing this, though, because advertisements for Wii U exclusives have been virtually nonexistent.

Hyrule Warriors hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but fans of both the Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors franchises have had a great time with itMario Kart 8 was a bonafide smash hit when it released earlier this year and combined with last year’s Super Mario 3D World, it provides an excellent one-two punch to help move systems. The recently released Bayonetta 2 has received universal acclaim; the fact that the original Bayonetta is included is just icing on the cake. Then, of course, there’s the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Wii U release later this year, which should go something like this:

Super Smash Wii U

Image from FunnyJunk.com

Sure, games like Shadow of Mordor and Destiny have received great reviews and sold millions, but they’re not exclusive to a particular system. Yes, timed-exclusive DLC is a thing, but you don’t buy a console just to get some maps, right? You buy them for the games and experiences you can’t get elsewhere. This is something Nintendo has in spades. Why they’re not touting it is mind-boggling and, as a Wii U owner, I find it to be completely frustrating.

PlayStation 4: Does Greatness Still Await?

“Who are you not to be great? You, with the imagination of a brilliant child and the powers of an ancient god.”

During the PlayStation 4 launch, Sony’s marketing campaign revolved around greatness: great console, great games, and the creation of a perfect day. Sadly, that idea has become more of a dream than reality.

While the PlayStation 4 is enjoying success over its competitors, its hard to deny the console’s troubles. Remember that Perfect Day TV spot? Three games were featured: The Elder Scrolls Online, which is currently only available for PC currently and didn’t meet expectations; Driveclub, a game that was delayed for a year and has been a colossal disaster; and Killzone: Shadow Fall, a game that is averaging a 73 on Metacritic and has been best described as “good, not great.” In fact, the PS4’s best exclusive is Infamous: Second Son, a game that was criticized for being too familiar.

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In the world of non-exclusives, Destiny has been an incredibly divisive game, Call of Duty has always been associated with the Xbox platform, and while Shadow of Mordor is a pretty damn good game, it isn’t exactly enough to move PS4s.

The PlayStation 4 has a software problem, which is a shame because the console is affordable, stylish, and sleek as hell. The DualShock 4 is a fantastic controller, despite its battery life, and is extremely comfortable for extended play sessions. But we don’t buy consoles because they’re cheap and look cool. We don’t buy them because the controller is nifty. We buy them to play games.

Sony’s been doing a fantastic job with the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection thus far, but we’re a year into the current console generation. We should be seeing some more killer apps hitting the market. This is when the Xbox 360 saw Gears of War and the PlayStation 3 saw Uncharted. The Xbox One just saw the release of Sunset Overdrive and is about to see the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

Plus, lets not forget about Titanfall.

And what’s Sony’s answer to their competition? A semi-exclusive Destiny expansion?

I Can’t Stop Playing Clash of Clans

I Can't Stop Playing Clash of ClansChances are that you’ve seen the TV spots for Clash of Clans. Or the ads in trains. Or buses. Or signage.

Advertisements for this thing are everywhere, I swear.

One can’t help but wonder what would be so appealing about a mobile game. They carry the stigma of Facebook games: lots of action early on, but in order to make serious progress, you’ll have to wait or pay money.

To a certain extent, the same is true of Clash of Clans. In order to upgrade your village, you’ll need to either be extremely patient or fork over some cash. Yet there’s still plenty to do while waiting, and that’s where the games become enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s absolutely awful waiting for a crucial upgrade, but somehow the game is still addicting. There are battles to fight, troops to train, upgrades to research, and resources to collect. The amount of content available isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but the mobile platform thrives around games where you play four a handful of minutes at a time. Have a second at lunch? Got some time on the bus home? Stuck in line waiting for your morning coffee? Waiting for dinner to cook? That’s your Clash of Clans time, and the game offers an environment that thrives on them.

Then, of course, you have the people like myself who are completely OCD about arranging their village in the most incredibly perfect manner and begin to question their life choices.

Also, I may have launched a handful of attacks on other villages while writing this up.