Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Preservation (18)

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Star Trek (2013-2016)

So, I’ve been reading the Star Trek comics set in the world of the reboot movies. They are surprisingly good.

The sixth volume makes references to the events of the then-recent Star Trek game set in the same world, which surprised me–most Trek comics exist in their own isolated continuities, since mainline Trek continuity is dense with decades of lore by this point. But the reboot movies started with a cleaner slate and thus can have a single continuity between comics, movies, and games (well, there was just the one game, but still). So that’s kind of cool.

But it’s also clearly cross-promotional. If you read the comics and they tease you with references to the game’s events, maybe you’ll get curious and go buy the game. It’s a little blatant, but, well, I enjoyed the comics so much that it actually worked on me. I decided to pick up the game, which I’d previously ignored due to its poor reviews.

Here’s the dumb part: you can’t buy this game anymore. Not new, anyway. It came out in April of 2013 on PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows/Steam. In April of 2016 - just three years later - it was delisted from all platforms, presumably due to license expiration.

I don’t know much about licensing deals, but this really feels like a terrible model in which everybody loses. If I could have bought this on Steam, I would have, since I have a Steam Deck and no portable way to play a PS3/360 game. Instead, I bought a used physical PS3 copy and not a cent of that sale went to the developer, publisher, or IP owner. The cross-promoting comics convinced me to give Paramount money that Paramount actually refuses to take.

This is also a clear argument against digital-only distribution. If the game hadn’t been sold physically, it would now be almost impossible for me to play it at all… at least legally.

Thankfully, the game was sold physically, so I was able to grab it off eBay for ten bucks, and now I am excited to go play this terrible game.

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The Quest for Dragon Quest

Every once in a while, I like to pretend I’m going to catch up on Dragon Quest.

I played a lot of DQ 3 on the NES when I was a kid, but never really got into the other mainline games. Builders 1+2 made me wish I had a better grasp of their stories/worlds, and Heroes II made me want to better know their characters (especially from DQ 4).

These are widely-beloved culturally-significant games, and as such they’ve received a number of ports over the years. But when I look at the options for playing these games today, I’m flummoxed. I know I should no longer be surprised by basically any decision made by Square Enix, but their treatment of their notable back catalog really comes across like they hate money.

The first six mainline DQ titles all have relatively definitive ports… on mobile. (One can quibble over the graphics, but my understanding is that it’s not nearly as bad as the ports of classic Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, and unlike with those games, the DQ ports are otherwise generally considered the best versions of the games due to fixes and quality-of-life improvements.) None of these are available on PC. The only mainline DQ game on Steam is DQ XI. And for consoles - the first three of the ports were also ported to Nintendo Switch… but only those three.

I don’t understand this. Is the paying audience for classic JRPGs really bigger on mobile than PC or console? I find that hard to believe (especially because, like with all Square Enix games, they are quite highly priced for the mobile stores.) I know I don’t want to play a classic JRPG on a touchscreen, and I expect people who want to play old games to care more about preservation and prefer platforms that aren’t actively hostile to it.

And as the developer/publisher, once you’ve paid the overhead cost of getting the engine and translation in place and released the older, less-well-regarded games (3 is well-liked, but 1 and 2 are generally not as recommended as 4, 5, and 6), why not release the later games too?

Dragon Quest isn’t even the only series that Square Enix has treated this way. The first Star Ocean has a nice port on Switch and PS4… that is not available on PC. (At least this one isn’t mobile-only, I guess.) And the second Star Ocean, which uses the same engine and is already translated, has not received such a port and isn’t on any modern platform (at least in the US). Steam only has the fourth mainline Star Ocean game at this time (though thankfully the upcoming sixth game is supposed to come to it too).

I was so sure once the DQ 1-3 ports and SO 1 port came to Switch, they’d be followed by the next games and also make it to Steam, but it’s been quite a while now without so much as a whisper of that. Instead we’re getting… a new remake of DQ 3. What?

I don’t know what to do with all of this. I guess if I want to play DQ 1-3 my best bet is Switch. But 4 and 5 are the ones I’m most curious about and I don’t seem to have great (legal) options there, despite it really seeming like it wouldn’t be hard for Square Enix to provide them.

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PS5′s limited storage

It’s hard for me not to scoff at Sony’s claims that they “aren’t hearing” that the PS5’s storage is too limited (even before Masahiro Sakurai complained about it). I’m pretty sure “not listening” is a more accurate phrase.

It’s rare I can install a game on my PS4 without deleting something else first, and game sizes are only getting larger. (And it only makes things worse that so many games, even if you buy them on disc, still install 20 GB or more onto the hard drive.) And while I do applaud the PS5’s level of backward compatibility, the fact that it can immediately play existing PS4 libraries (not to mention the PlayStation Plus Collection) means a lot of players already can’t fit their library onto their console.

Not acknowledging that storage is quite limited feels like denial of customer reality - the time and cost of having to download and re-download huge games because you can’t have them all on your drive at once, as well as the fact that the store will eventually be taken down preventing any future re-downloads. If that happened right now with my PS3, I’d mostly be okay - it’s got all the games I really care about installed right now. If it that happened right now with my PS4, I’d lose a lot.

(By comparison, on my 3DS, Wii, Wii U, and Switch, I have never once needed to delete a game to free up space.)

I think it’s plausible that given SSD costs, launching the PS5 with relatively low storage makes sense - but claiming that the feedback isn’t happening just makes Sony look out of touch.

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Sideways compatibility

There’s something deliciously ironic (if slightly tragic) about the fact that the Xbox Series S can play PS2 games when no PlayStation console since the first-gen PS3 has been able to do so.

It’s my new favorite piece of evidence that if you’re concerned about artistic and cultural preservation in media generally and games particularly, you basically can’t look to the rights holders. You have to look to the people commonly thought of as pirates.

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Buying the Farm

After eleven years, FarmVille is shutting down at the end of 2020.

I never tried FarmVille. As I once discussed, I wasn’t exactly a fan of what it represented - games successfully hijacking prosocial behavior for profit. Now, though, it seems almost quaint. I mean, on the same day I saw this news, I also saw that EA is promoting FIFA lootboxes in a children’s magazine. Keeping in mind all the other controversies of the past decade, it’s hard not to feel bizarrely wistful about the gaming culture problems of yesteryear.

But here’s what really does bother me about FarmVille’s shutdown: the reason for it and the impact on games preservation. Per the announcement, this is happening because “Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player for all web browsers, and Facebook will stop supporting Flash games on the platform completely after December 31st, 2020.”

Whatever your feelings about FarmVille as a game, it’s undeniably a significant part of gaming history. It peaked in 2010 at 83.76 million monthly active users (about seven times the peak World of Warcraft reached in the same year of 12 million subscribers). It would be difficult to overstate its legacy on the design of social and mobile games over the next decade (not to mention directly inspiring Ian Bogost’s infamous Cow Clicker).

There are many, many reasons to be nostalgic for Flash and sad for its passing. Few of them had as much impact as FarmVille.

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The Platform is the Playstyle: Missing the Point

So, while I love the Nintendo Switch, there is something about it that makes me sad: the death of pointer-based games on console and handheld.

In 2004, the Nintendo DS came out. At first, people didn’t know what to make of its touchscreen and stylus. It felt gimmicky. But then games like Trauma Center: Under the Knife, Elite Beat Agents, and The World Ends with You (to name just a few) showed us what you could do with it - things that you couldn’t do on any other game system. Then in 2006 came the Wii, showing that by using a Wiimote and sensor bar you could do the same things on a larger scale on your living room TV. Everyone talked about the Wii’s waggle, but the pointer was the real game-changer, as seen in games like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (not to mention three more Trauma Center games). You could even play light gun games like Sin and Punishment: Star Successor or Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles with no extra equipment!

In 2011 we got the 3DS, an improved DS that allowed for new experiments like Kid Icarus: Uprising and in 2012 the Wii U combined both the Wiimote/sensor pointer and the stylus/touchscreen pointer. Not only could the Wii U play its own pointer-based games and Wii pointer-based games, but through the Virtual Console it could play dozens of excellent DS games by using the TV as the top screen and the GamePad as the touchscreen.

But the Wii U failed, and the hybrid console Switch has replaced both the Wii U and the DS line. It technically has a touchscreen, but it’s easy to forget - most games don’t use it because it’s not accessible while the Switch is docked. The system doesn’t even come with a stylus.

As a result, an entire interaction style is lost to console games. To port any of these games to Switch would require completely reworking them for a very different experience. Sony and Microsoft never adopted these interaction methods on a large scale - Xbox had its own Kinect experiment, and PlayStation Move was never a major player. The only place you can find reasonable pointer-based games now is on PC via mouse, which is not quite the same.

I’ve written before about how the convergence of gaming platforms will mean more homogeneity of game experiences. This is why that makes me sad. There were some great games on DS, Wii, 3DS, and Wii U that are now unlikely to receive any real follow-up and will be increasingly difficult to find and experience as their native hardware ages out, and which can’t even be preserved via ports without losing a lot of what made them special.

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#gaming #video games #games preservation #nintendo switch #wii u #wii #nintendo 3ds #nintendo ds

Tags: Thought, TOPIC: Preservation