One of the craziest things I have ever heard is that SEGA would like to make films and TV series based on Streets of Rage and Altered Beast. The truth is that video games are just video games and certain titles of the past don’t work well if used for different kinds of entertainment, even though publishers still pretend they don’t understand after all these years of nasty stuff and box office flops. A classic video game can afford getting a mod where objects and bullets grow legs, just to say, but a film about Altered Beast’s beastly transformations will always be a very bad idea.
I already said it in the past and I’m saying here again: on-line video games sicken me, maybe it’s the computing thing I hate the most after cloud, because playing on-line means being at the mercy of digital platforms that can fail miserably in reaching the popularity needed to start a game session. Otherwise, if you are unlucky enough, you download some “free” gaming crap but then you have to pay hard cash even to play a fucking solitaire card game without advertising. The fact that there are sympathetic and interesting communities like the Eve Online one as well doesn’t change much: playing on the Internet is a waste of time, and time is the only true resource that must never be wasted. Ever.
Being a fan of video games of every age and for every platform, yours truly is always open to the idea of buying disks, cartridges or hardware units which have spent more than a season in the houses of strangers. Unlike many of those experiencing the same sickness as me, however, the idea of spending a lot of money for something that someone else treated with no care, cleaning or attention to personal hygiene is rather disgusting to me. In an ideal world retro-new hardware would be always available and affordable, and maybe its sale would be managed by companies a little less rotten to the core than your regular GameStop.
The gaming assets of the studios previously known as Interplay are on sale, and that’s a sad news for two reasons: during the Nineties the publisher founded by Brian Fargo put on the market fundamental games like Descent, MDK and Earthworm Jim, and now some malicious actor could take advantage of the sale to get valuable intellectual properties exploiting them in the most cynical way. After all we live in a world where not even Super Mario is exempt from joining the “app” fraud for touch phones, while the most awaited games often turn out to be true scams that are pretty far from the original expectations.
As I had predicted already, piracy is thriving and fighting with us: Denuvo, the anti-tampering technology used together with the worst DRM by the worst gaming corporations, was swallowed by the best code pirates during a Summer that felt bitter for the eponymous Australian company. First came the exploit-based bypasses of DOOM and Tomb Raider, then the CONSPIR4CY super-crew (a partnership between CPY and CODEX) showed the world that the king is naked and that Denuvo got cracked as well. Piracy will live forever, and DRM will still be good for nothing.
Emulation allowed us to preserve a substantial part of the mainstream gaming past, but beyond software replication of known components there still is a gulf full of strange devices shrouded by mysterious fogs. Devices like the proprietary magnetic disk drive for Nintendo 64, for instance, or the prototype of a CD-based SNES console co-developed by Nintendo with Sony. The mists of an unclear past still cloak the copy protection of Sega Saturn CDs, while sometimes they let samples of historically remarkable gaming code or unfinished games emerge.
June 2016 was the month of E3, the Los Angeles fair where the new games soon to arrive are traditionally shown. A place where a lot of good stuff usually comes out, but also (mostly?) guilty for a series of dumb trends for an industry that always succeeds in fooling itself. But this past June was rather important for the Brexit, an event that will substantially affect video games development in the United Kingdom too, and for the celebration of the 11th anniversary of the Nintendo 64 arrival. An historic event as well, all things considered.
Every time I come across a new remake/sequel which includes the original game thanks to some form of emulation, right away I feel the urge to think about what “tricks” lurk within the source code to adapt a retro experience to a modern gaming environment, what open source (or proprietary maybe) emulator has been “assimilated” in the C++ code and more generally what complex “sorcery” brought to a result that’s always extraordinary. After all these years emulation still has many surprises in store, and publishers have started to massively exploit the classics’ commercial appeal on PC and elsewhere.
The kind of news you would like to read more often: Nosgoth, the umpteenth worthless free multiplayer game which dirtied the memory of the Blood Omen/Legacy of Kain saga with its mere existence, finally died this past April. No fan with a sane mind will miss it. News you always enjoy reading: an arcade prototype starring Beavis and Butt-Head was reanimated, hoping that sooner or later it will end up on MAME’s supported games list. News you would never want to read: GameFront servers went off-line, bringing 20 years of mods, patches, utilities and much more with them. Enough with this server death toll!
It’s 2016 and yours truly still likes to purchase his computer games on disc, a habit luckily still alive thanks to new releases of recent titles like SUPERHOT and the classics re-releases like the Revolution Software anniversary box. For me digital delivery services (excluding GOG.com) are the absolute evil, a lair of fake reviews and bits aimlessly gathered together with no “ownership” given to the buyer. Obviously I understand, the big shots of the gaming business would like to sell only digital files because they make more money. They can all go to hell anyway.
In the bizzarre world of video games there are very, very different kinds of developers. If you are lucky you end up dealing with a product made by someone that doesn’t fuck with you with over-discounted prices, or with an independent team that worked passionately and hopes to at least recover the money spent on development. If you are not so lucky, you are forced to waste money, time and mental energies on some obscene shit like the latest manifestation of Godus - the most recent digital dung defecated by Peter Molyneux which doesn’t spare new bad surprises every now and then. Luckily we have the indies, the honest ones at least.
Once in a while someone comes out with an apocalyptic prediction that seems destined to turn into reality, like Bird Sister and the others from the 3DM Chinese crew that talk about “uncrackable” DRM technologies two years from now. A PC gaming market with no pirate releases, that from my standpoint means a PC market with no future at all. Bullshit. The future is full of piracy and free games, as much as it is highly unlikely for the virtual reality of expensive helmets by Oculus and company to become something more of a dusty curiosity to exhibit for relatives on Christmas. Really: what kind of self-destructive idiot would put an uncomfortable helmet on to relax with video games?
John Romero recently published the video of a demo for Super Mario Bros. 3 for PC, a port created by id Software in 1990 to secure the official rights for the conversion of Nintendo’s platform game. The engine created by id (and later used for Commander Keen) clearly shows that the PC hardware of the era could achieve scrolling performances on par with those of a console, and it suggests the existence of a potential parallel universe where Nintendo accepted the American company’s proposal and the entire history of video games went on in a completely different way. Like, Half-Life 3 never existed…
What’s up with your head, you people wasting money on extra contents or DLC for Electronic Arts’ mutilated games funding a dishonest money machine that should burn out rather than thrive? And what are the motivations driving you, who turned a tiny obsessive-compulsive crap like Candy Crush in a business Activision is willing to spend 6 BILLION dollars for? Or you recording your embarrassing and boring Let’s Plays, what kind of profit you get from annoying YouTube visitors to death with your ridiculous voice that would sound bothersome away from the mic too? Really: you are all sick. Go get cured.
On October 2015, the USA Library of Congress set new exemptions to prohibition to bypass DRM measures, essentially deciding that it is legal to modify an “abandoned” game when the software doesn’t work anymore because of an unavailable on-line server. The decision should guarantee that, in the future, a game which must be authenticated on-line or which is completely Internet-tied like Diablo III will still work. Easier said than done, considering that for the aforementioned Diablo III the server manages the game’s logic besides the authenticating DRM. I’m calling this an half-victory, and I will continue to hate Internet-tied software with all my heart.
Some gaming “brands” seem to be destined to endure the test of time like the infamous joke about the three-headed monkey behind your back, while some other ones turn into vaporware and become target of mockery by outside developers. The most despicable end is however the one set aside for high-born series like Metal Gear, with Konami saying to be quite happy to leave the AAA market to fully devote itself to casual apps for mobile gadgets.
In short, how much is the performance improvement coming from DirectX 12 really worth? The graphics libraries exclusive to Windows 10 (the worst tragedy ever happened to computers since Microsoft Bob, but we will talk about that later…) promise to greatly increase the fps counter thanks to the optimized use of the GPU, and benchmarks seem to confirm the qualities of the new technology. On the other hand the “closer to the metal” approach in using the graphics co-processor isn’t just for Microsoft, while reality seems more complicated than a simple benchmark and the PC hardware around the world is full of crap. My PC, conversely, is even worse than that.
Technology progress is relentless but requires time, just like the new DirectX 12 libraries already hailed by someone like a revolution a few years before their times; success, then, is never guaranteed as shown by Ouya, the micro-console that wanted to rule over the world's living rooms and it ended up like the silly flop I was expecting since day one. In the end, when change comes for real, the PC as a gaming machine isn't dead anymore and remotely-censored digital delivery services have trapped us all. Forever. I liked the MS-DOS better.
How long does a videogame’s life last? I mean, how much time does it take to turn a “simple” game into something worthy of being in a museum, or into a downright phenomenon which endures the passage of time and is still played, modded and appreciated decades after being released? Selling millions of copies surely helps in reaching the “classic” status, as much as it’s useful to not to exclusively depend on digital stores that are on-line now and will likely be off-line tomorrow. In the end, as the 2015 E3 in June showed, gaming memories strike back on new generation machines as well.
The past that never goes away: Capcom still sells the same game with the Resident Evil brand, and someone is still buying it; CRPG games that were hot in the Nineties are updated, fixed and twisted in a worthless succession of “enhanced versions” with no end in sight (at least available on disk and fully translated as well); the monsters that were trendy in the Eighties are still relevant today in games, so good luck with creativity and renovating the collective imaginary. Today, if you want to play some really new game, you must turn to indie developers. This industry is brain dead.