Linden Lab today announced two new products, along with a complete revamp of its Web-site. First up, the press-release.
The fact is that despite the movie and games industries bemoaning rampant and uncontrolled piracy of their products, both industries are burgeoning. The movie industry is “suffering” under record revenues, and the games industry revenues have grown more than 300% in the last decade (to more than double that of the movie industry).
And yes, rampant and uncontrolled piracy is happening – yet the industry is getting more money over the counter than ever before. It’s difficult, then, for the industries to show how much they’re being hurt. Would their record revenues be higher? By how much? Nobody knows the answer, but thanks to France, we can take a guess.
You see, back in 2010, France introduced stiff anti-piracy legislation that (after a bit of a rocky start in its early months) reduced online piracy by a whopping 66%. How, you might ask, did this affect sales?
It’s been a rather long and shameful road for Australia’s media classification system. The system itself requires that most forms of media sold, rented, displayed or traded within Australia be properly classified and labelled, but the system has been … well, uneven, at best.
While all other media had six classifications, computer and video games had just four, restricting the allowable content for games to that which was deemed suitable for a fifteen year old audience of minors.
The lack of an R18+ classification led to some games being restricted from sale, while others wound up getting grouped into an overstretched MA15+ classification, which seemed to contain an increasing amount of inappropriate content.
It has been announced today that the new classifications category has finally (after many years of wrangling and obstacles) finally passed the Australian Federal Parliament and Senate – to commence on 1 January 2013 – but that’s not the whole story.
A number of games feature multiple endings to their narratives. Right off the top of my head, I’ll name four: All three of the Deus Ex games, and Mass Effect 3. These come particularly to mind for a singular gaming conceit: The magic pick-an-ending button.
Regardless of what you’ve done, how you’ve developed and defined your character’s personality, who has lived and died, who you’ve befriended or opposed, you’re presented with three choices right at the end. Press the button (so to speak) and get the ending.
In narrative terms, that’s a cop-out. That isn’t even phoning it in.
I had Meltdown slip up behind one of the guards, who was kneeling behind a short barricade of sandbags, watching for an external threat. The guard had no time to react when Meltdown shot her twice in the back of the head. I knew there was another guard nearby, and expecting that he might hear the shots, I had Meltdown drop to her belly and slither around the other side of the barricade where she would be out of sight.
As expected, he heard the shots, and dashed out just in time to spot Meltdown before she got behind cover, but not with enough time to aim and fire before she was out of sight.
I expected him to try to circle around, and prepared Meltdown for that, but he didn’t. Instead, he hunkered down partly covered by the trunk of a small tree, aimed his pistol and just waited. Meltdown had nowhere to go, and all he had to do was wait.
While this standoff continued, I instructed Fox to belly-crawl towards him, along the side of a building. There was a low, concrete barrier to the guard’s left, just slightly to his rear. Fox easily slipped into position.
I coordinated the two. Fox would pop up, and fire a shot at the guard, then drop again. As soon as she fired, Meltdown would move up into a crouch and empty her magazine at the guard, who would hopefully have turned towards the new threat, but be denied a target as Fox vanished from his sight.
It worked beautifully. Fox took a shot over the barrier, catching the guard by surprise, and then dropped as he turned towards her. Meltdown popped up at the first shot, aimed and fired three of her own shots, taking him down.
He didn’t stand a chance, and that was just the way I wanted it.
There were other guards, but they were far too far away to have heard the action. I instructed the girls to reload, and began planning their approach towards the next guard post, checking the lay of the terrain, cover and patrol routes.
I was just fifteen minutes into playing Jagged Alliance: Back In Action.
Citing 95% PC piracy rates, Ubisoft seems to be quitting the PC games market. The problem with games piracy statistics are manifold: Nobody actually knows what the piracy rates really are (though they seem to be likely to be on a par with console piracy rates – probably – since there’s certainly no shortage of console games piracy), and there are other factors involved like release-timing, product quality and pricing that all play their part.
Ubisoft’s PC versions of their games have become increasingly so slapdash and cack-handed that it isn’t really surprising that PC gamers simply don’t want to buy them. I don’t have to tell you that this does not make for a good business model for the PC games market, but someone should probably tell Ubisoft.
There are essentially two broad classes of games that sell. There are the so-called ‘AAA’ titles, which might be big financial hits or big financial flops, and there are ‘ordinary’ titles – games with a lower production value, but significantly less financial risk involved. In times past, those ordinary titles have been the mainstay of the games industry, sometimes incurring modest losses, but more often providing the steady income that offsets the big flops in a publisher’s ‘AAA’ stable.
With big publishers increasingly focusing on those ‘AAA’ titles and shying away from those mainstay games, money is left on the table. Money that Indie devs are well-suited to pick up.
It’s been a while since I wrote about MMOGs professionally, but that doesn’t stop me having an interest. I have half a dozen MMOGs installed, and was recently ‘comped’ a copy of Star Trek Online and 60 days of game-time. I’ve just hit the equivalent of roughly level 20 (Commander, grade 1), and that set me to thinking.
Once you hit approximately level 20 in an MMOG, you’ve essentially seen all of the gameplay innovation that the game is going to offer, in all of the combinations that it is going to be offered.
I know, it seems like the various State Attorneys General coming to an “in-principle” agreement in favour of an R18+ rating for games would be a good thing for… well, actually for getting the rating passed.
However, it actually isn’t and it could delay this repair to the classifications system indefinitely. If the “in-principle” agreement hadn’t been announced, we’d likely have had an R18+ classification in the works by next week. As it is, it is actually looking increasingly doubtful that it will turn up any time soon.
This game (currently in alpha) reminds me partly of making Redstone circuits in Minecraft, and partly of some of the more complex and ambitious scripted systems in Second Life – where object oriented programming can involve actual visible objects, and motion and colour can be used to monitor or debug system states.