News: A Far Cry from Sanity

... Because it appears that their brains are being starved of oxygen.
One wonders whether Ubi are developing Far Cry 4 on location in the Himalayas…

Ubisoft Talks Down Linear Games

Another week, another Ubisoft developer crawls out of the woodwork to say something stupid. It is almost as if they are contractually obliged to say something completely outlandish on a bi-weekly basis, else risk being sacked on the grounds of gross competence. This time around it is not the Assassin’s Creed Unity team making asses of themselves, but rather the Far Cry 4 creative director, Alex Hutchinson:

I’m really interested in emergent games and where that’s going with video sharing and Twitch. I think linear story games are really going to suffer in the modern marketplace.

They’re already super high-quality, and we’re already seeing their audiences migrate to the big open world games. If I open my friends list and see everybody on the same mission, doing the same thing…I think that’s nowhere near as strong a sales pitch as opening your friends list and seeing 40 people doing completely different things.

Right, this is precisely why gamers are moving away from traditional linear games like Mario, Uncharted, The Last of Us, Pokemon, The Order 1886, Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Halo, and flocking toward open world experiences like Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed Unity – oh wait… that is not actually true. With just four weeks until launch Assassin’s Creed Unity sits in the fifth position on the US all formats pre-order chart, behind three different versions of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. With just five weeks until launch the leading version of Far Cry 4 is in an even worse place, languishing in the twenty-third position, behind linear games such as the eighth placed The Order 1886 [with eighteen weeks until launch], the thirteenth placed Halo 5: Guardians [which does not even have a release date], and even Kingdom Hearts 2.5, which sits at the twenty-second position on the chart with seven weeks to go until launch. Apparently gamers are moving away from linear experiences though – Ubisoft must desperately want this to be true, but it is simply not the case. All available data suggests that gamers enjoy both linear and non-linear games, while maintaining a slight, albeit significant, preference towards linear game experiences. This is Ubisoft once again talking down competing products based on wishful thinking and fuck all else, which comes across as sad and desperate given that the competing products are so much more popular in this instance.

Another console which scarcely matches the preceding generation.
Nintendo are not looking to scale any mountains with development of the Fusion.

Nintendo Job Listing Hints At Another Low Power Console

After the Wii U was released onto the market and proceeded to flop hard, it was never going to be long until pundits and fans alike began discussing a successor console. The predominant rumours floating around about Nintendo’s successor console claim that it is being developed under the name of the ‘Nintendo Fusion’, and that it could release as early as the holiday season of 2016. People are claiming that the the Fusion will exceed the power of the PS4, and that it will in essence be a fusion between a Nintendo home console and a Nintendo portable.

One of the biggest disadvantages of the Wii U’s current market position is the console’s overly conservative capabilities and architecture. The system is scarcely more powerful than Sony and Microsoft’s seventh generation systems, while also lacking the x86 architectures which are a staple feature of the eighth console generation – making multiplatform ports prohibitively difficult. It is for this reason that many hoped Nintendo might have taken some initiative in terms of raw power by using some of their Wii money in order to create a console designed to be technically competitive, yet a recent Nintendo job listing has cast just a little bit of doubt on that prospect:

Description of Duties

Nintendo Technology Development is looking for a lead graphics architect in the system-on-chip architecture group in Redmond, WA. The group is responsible for the architecture of Nintendo’s game console SoCs. The graphics architect plays a key role in determining the SoC architecture. The job responsibilities are:
Evaluate HW graphics (GPU) offerings from SoC solutions available in the market based on performance, power, and silicon area.
Evaluate the performance of the SoC solutions for both proprietary and standard graphics APIs.
Determine workloads and simulation models for both performance and power characteristics of GPUs.
Keep track of GPU architectural improvements in the industry and devise strategies to incorporate them for future Nintendo gaming platforms.
Act as the graphics architectural evangelist working with global Nintendo teams for future and on-going programs.
Work with external SoC vendors as the Nintendo focal point for graphics GPU architecture.
Should be prepared to work through architecture, design, validation, and bring-up stages of SoC design in cooperation with internal and external teams.

Summary of Requirements

-The ideal candidate will have had experience working directly in a GPU architecture and design team with significant responsibilities.
-Low power and SoC design experience would be a plus.
-The candidate is expected to have good architectural insights and the ability to apply that for setting future graphics direction for Nintendo.
-A bachelors degree (graduate degree preferred) in computer science/engineering or electrical engineering.
5+ years of lead or architectural role experience are required.

Everything sounds perfectly fine until we get to the summary of requirements and find that a key quality that Nintendo is looking for is “Low power and SoC design experience” – this seems to suggest Nintendo is looking to produce another ‘power efficient’ console. It must be said that the situation might not be as bad as all that, as they could be looking for someone to work on the handheld component, or alternately even the PS4 and Xbone can be described as being ‘low power’ machines relative to desktop PCs. The potential definitely remains for this to be a perfectly benign detail. This is Nintendo we are talking about however, and they have time and again shown themselves to be capable of turning around in the face of a bad decision about as briskly as certain doomed ocean liners. When one hears ‘Nintendo’, ‘low power’, and ‘graphics architecture’ mentioned in the same sentence, then that usually only means one thing.

I suppose Halo fans best count themselves lucky that they're at least getting the one disc... :/
Half-Life it ain’t!

343’s Frank O’Connor Attempts to Justify Master Chief Collection’s Mammoth 20 Gig Day-1 Download, Fails

Many were left somewhat agog last week with the revelation that Microsoft will be requiring a bloated twenty gigabyte day one download for people who have bought the physical version of the Halo: Master Chief Collection – if one remembers correctly it is only slightly smaller than a fresh download of Final Fantasy XIV on the PS4. Many gamers had incorrectly assumed that this download was an inexplicably large game patch, yet in actual fact it would appear that the game is too large to fit on a single Blu-ray disc, and so rather than shipping the game on two discs Microsoft have instead opted to make players download the majority of the game’s multiplayer component in order to shave a penny. The game’s development director, Frank O’Connor, this week took to the interwebs in order to justify Microsoft’s meanness, claiming that it was simply impossible to launch the game on two disks:

That’s not a patch, it’s content. The game is designed to run as a single, unified product, digital is seamless obviously, but we also wanted disc users to have the same experience, without swapping discs. Since the bulk of it is MP or MP related, the logic is sound. There will ALSO be a TU in there, but that in itself is a tiny fraction of the content.

We realize that this isn’t ideal for everyone, but it’s the path to the smoothest eventual experience.If fixes were required for Campaign, they would be very small, but that’s not the case. All four campaigns will run directly from the disc without the content update. As will some custom game features. Again, the bulk of the CU is MP and MP related.

No need to call bs. Anything is feasible, it simply wasn’t practical for this product, this year in this timeline. The Xbox One platform continues to improve and mature, arguably faster and more meaningfully than others and maybe next year two discs or some other method would have been the right approach, but this year it’s the option we have available that on balance, makes the most sense for this giant, ambitious project.

In essence O’Connor’s argument is that the decision to launch on one disc was made in order to keep the experience unified, so as to prevent players from having to switch out discs in order to access various bits and bobs – it is also essentially poppycock. To the best of one’s knowledge the Xbox One is not even capable of running games directly from a disc, instead requiring that disc contents be downloaded directly to the hard drive. This means that a two disc physical version would have functioned in exactly the same way as a digital download version once both discs were installed. In short, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as a justification for cheaping out on the number of discs that ship with the game. It is possible that the reason that the game is not shipping on two discs is due to some structural impediment rather than the greed of Misersoft, but if that is the case then gamers deserve to be told the truth instead of being treated as complete idiots by Frank O’Connor [even if they are Halo fans].

5 comments

  1. Microsoft is reaching NintenDOH! levels of lunacy with their explanations nowadays.

    Maybe we can tie them together with Ubisoft and shoot all three of them into the sun.

  2. Leave it to MS to potentially keep disc swapping alive past 2013. Not since I unplugged my old 360 have I had to deal with that nonsense. So they seemed to have designed around the need to swap in exchange for a massive download most people’s connections will be tied up with for a long time. If you added up all the little amounts of time you’ve ever spent swapping a disc for any console I wonder how much time that would be. Probably not the average person’s download time for 20 gigs…

  3. I install my 360 games to the hard drive, so no subsequent swapping.

    A 20GB download would take me the night [and 1/5 of my monthly data allowance].

  4. I don’t really need a more powerful Nintendo system than the Wii U. I mean, I would take it, but it’s not what I think about when I play Wii U games. Although that might change with Zelda. What is more important, I feel, is the point about making it very difficult for third parties to make cross-platform games. Now that Nintendo is HD, I’m perfectly content with Sony playing the power game and Nintendo doing its own thing. As long as its own thing isn’t going back to waggle.

  5. The power of the Wii U is fine for first party Nintendo titles, but not for multiplatform games. If Nintendo doesn’t want any third party games on their system then they should stick to their present course!

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