Posts by Tag / TOPIC: Preservation (12)

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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

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Backward compatibility would make moving to the PS5 much easier

PlayStation wants to move its established community from PS4 to PS5 quickly. Here’s PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan, as quoted by gamesindustry.biz:

These are gamers who are networked and sticky and engaged and passionate about PlayStation to an extent that we’ve not seen in previous generations. As we move towards the next-generation in 2020, one of our tasks – probably our main task – is to take that community and transition it from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5, and at a scale and pace that we’ve never delivered on before.

He goes on to talk about how impressive the PS5 is, and how easy it is to develop for, and how great its games will be, as well as how PlayStation itself is improving its internal organization. But I was really hoping he’d talk a bit about how the transition will be made appealing to the existing community. To me, the obvious thing is to make the PS5 not be a hard break from the existing PS4 ecosystem.

When the PS4 came out, I was very disappointed to learn it wouldn’t have any backward compatibility. I’m sure this saved money during development, and of course it meant that old games could be sold to us again as “classics” or via PlayStation Now or whatever, but it still seemed like a mistake. It meant that the PS4 wasn’t just an upgrade to the PS3, the way the PS3 had (originally) been to the PS2 and the way the PS2 had been to the PS1. For the first time, a new PlayStation console came with an entire separate ecosystem. Its value wasn’t enhanced by your existing investment in games and the community. It wouldn’t replace your existing console. It was more analogous to buying a Nintendo or Xbox console to supplement your existing console. And in that case, suddenly it’s a lot less obvious that you shouldn’t just buy one of those instead.

It was a while before I bought a PS4, and longer before I was confident I’d been correct to do so (and my PS3 is still hooked up next to it). If the PS5 wants me to be more confident that I should move over to it quickly, it should at least play every PS4 game, disc and download alike. Similar compatibility for games for older PlayStation consoles would be even better, and while I personally don’t do much online play, cross-play with gamers on at least PS4 seems like it would help too. There are rumors (supported by a patent) that the PS5 will in fact be backward-compatible (though perhaps not for the unusually-architected PS3) but it’s unclear yet whether this is true and whether it would mean we could reuse our old discs and downloads. Guess we’ll still just have to wait and see.

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Black Hole Stunt

So. Like. I’ve never played Fortnite. I’m not really their target market. And if I had any doubt of that, the events of the past few days confirmed it.

Because if I did play Fortnite
If it was how I blew off steam and connected with my friends…
If I’d spent money on in-game currency and gear…
If I were a streamer who relied on the game to make content, and in turn provided free marketing for it…

I would be pissed that they took the game down for multiple days as a marketing stunt.

And it would not exactly instill me with confidence that this was an ecosystem in which I should invest time, money, or effort, and certainly not one I should rely on being around and available.

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You want decay in your game? Require an online connection.

To me, it feels weird that games aren’t subject to the ravages of time but real life is; apparently to Randall Munroe it’s the other way around.

If you want to go back to an old game world and see simulated change and decay, you can always revisit a neglected Animal Crossing town.

For real decay, check out multiplayer servers for old online games. It’s like a memento mori for games with kludged-in online/multiplayer requirements.

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