Rundown (4/26-5/02) Empty My Wallet For an SSR Waifu

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Wherein I discuss my Gleo thirst, the most brutal of us, Viking assassins, and how Japanese work culture has been adversely affected by the global pandemic due to a separation between work and home.

I haven’t really talked about it too much but I am still regularly playing Dragaliga Lost, the gacha action RPG developed through a collaboration between Cygames and Nintendo, and while I do like a vast number of things about the game, the part that intrigues me the most is the same part that intrigues me about any gacha game. The design around monetization, luck, and probability. They are products designed around recurring and willful user spending that entice players with the ability to purchase resources, materials, power, and new characters and or equipment to make their overall power level and in-game capabilities better.

I try to view games like these from multiple perspectives, and Dragalia Lost’s monetization method is honestly one of the more scattershot approaches I have seen. There are so many varying packs and limited offers that if and when one decides to spend money on this title, it can be difficult to determine what exactly they want, what the best deal is, and how much they want to spend. I plan on talking about this more as part of a Ramble in November, but the monetization in this game is so bad that, as a dedicated player, I was not aware that the game did, as a matter of fact, offer me a feature I have wanted for months. The ability to straight-up buy a character and avoid the gacha entirely by ponying up the green.

I thought the only way to guarantee a 5-star (or SSR) character was to buy or earn a 5-star voucher, which gives you one of a predetermined list, or participate in a periodic and limited Platinum Showcase where, for premium currency that loosely equates to $20, you can get one randomly selected 5-star character from a list that ranges between 3 and 43 characters. But just recently, after playing this game for 9 gosh dang months, I learned that the Dream Summon Special is pretty much what I‘ve wanted all along. This is only held about once a quarter and by purchasing the product, which costs about $20 of premium currency, players are given both the ability to summon one permanently available character of their choosing and a Tenfold Summon Voucher (which is normally about $5) as a bonus.

It is a very reasonable deal considering the economics of the game, but I think their approach here is limiting their potential revenue. As I said, the Dream Summon Special can only be used for permanently available characters who can, potentially, be summoned at any time, but it does not include any of the limited characters who are only available during set intervals, who are, in many ways, the true lifeblood of any gacha game. If players could just outright buy one of these limited units of their choosing, I am sure that more people would be willing to spend, because then you are no longer selling to people who are susceptible to gambling and risky investments or want to get power right now. You are selling to people who are willing to spend real money towards something they know they want, and something they might not be able to get outside of this one window.

Hell, I think it is stupid to spend money on something completely intangible and stored on a server that the player has absolutely no control or agency over… but I would totally consider spending $20 on a limited edition SS tier SSR waifu. …Or S tier SSR soft-boy husbando. And I am saying this as somebody who, just a few weeks ago, saved up enough summon currency to summon 1,000 times. …I swear, the next time Gleo, Galex, or Geuden get an appearance boost, like half of my freakin’ wyrmite is going into the furnace and probability, hopes, and dreams.

Alrighty, 600 words in and I spent it talking about my dumb mobage that relatively few people play! This week in video games, not a whole lot of substantive announcements cropped up, but there were three stories that I wanted to talk about, so let’s just dive in.

Story number one centers around a series of high profile and confirmed leaks centering around Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II, a title that was recently delayed from its May release window on account of the collapse of physical retail and is currently set to come out on June 19th. While I will not indulge in these juicy details, pillage for living links in this ResetEra thread if you are interested, but I did look over the details myself, and they make the game sound exceptionally brutal and ugly. All of which culminates in an ultimate conclusion and revelatory plot point that seem to double down on what I personally disliked about the first game.

The Last of Us was a title that low-key reveled in its realistic brutality and rawness, with detailed death animations, a grim conclusion, and a core gameplay loop that encouraged the player to embrace the beast within. While this was clearly successful in its implementation, as so many people adore the first title, I personally never really jived with these parts of the game, preferring the less interactive and more somber moments. This led me to ultimately come away from the title with a more mixed perspective than most, and my thoughts towards the game were not necessarily helped by how my 2013 playthrough was rather… suboptimal.

First off, I did not get to pet the giraffe due to what I can only assume to have been an audio cue that I did not register, or poor camera placement on my part. Secondly, my playthrough was as nonlethal as possible, as I have very strong reservations about using scarcely placed ammunition when melee is an option. This, incidentally is why I don’t play stealth games any more, because I view them as trial and error puzzles. This mentality does not jive well with The Last of Us, as it wants the player to be brutal and savage, for the violence to be visceral, and for the blood to flow like wine. It helps characterize the protagonist of Joel throughout the story, and especially during the ending.

To access the ending, the player must navigate around a large number of enemies in a stealth action sequence that I went all stealth on, naturally. At the end of the sequence, the game urges the player to press a button to do a thing that I did not want to see happen. So I did not press the button. For my insolence, or due to how the guards were alerted of Joel’s presence prior to the cutscene that led to this event, I was met with a fail state and was sent back to the last checkpoint. Upon reloading, the game began acting as if I had pressed the button I did not want to and did not press, and I was funneled through the ending sequence, where I was befuddled by the malice of the protagonist, and why the ending was so vehemently sorrowful. It actually made me ambivalent to the very idea of a sequel as, in my mind, the story should have ended on a hopeful and optimistic note. Which the sequel evidently does not. The devs wanted to make something miserable I guess, and, from the sound of it, they succeeded.

Shifting gears to something less miserable, following a not-so-subtle tease from 2019’s The Division 2, Ubisoft have released a pre-rendered CG trailer to announce Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. A Norse and Viking themed entry that sells itself on expanded RPG mechanics, town development, raids, combat that is described as “visceral,” and the ability to not only grow a protagonist, but also a helper character who you can share with friends in a move reminiscent of Dragon’s Dogma. Nothing substantive was shown beyond promo materials and screenshots, but considering Ubisoft’s contemporary line-up, I’m sure it will be a solid affair that, while bloated with mass-produced content, I’m sure people will like, and that it will do well. The title is poised to release in holiday 2020 for every relevant system the game could run on, meaning PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Uplay PC, Epic Games Store, and Stadia, but not Steam because of deals

Honestly, the most interesting part of this story to me is how it raises two questions. The first is what Ubisoft’s plans are for the launch of the next generation, and how these cross-generation releases are going to be handled physically. After the underperformance of last year’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Ubisoft got cold feet about their poised Q1 2020 line-up and decided to delay Watch Dogs Legion and Gods & Monsters likely to polish up the games and release them as cross-gen titles. With Assassin’s Creed Valhalla likely being planned as a launch title, not unlike 2013’s Black Flag, how does this affect the other titles? Though, with COVID-19 still at large, I suppose that this very issue has been the subject of many passionate conference calls, and like everything nowadays, I’m sure the true answer is subject to change..

The second question this announcement raises is how cross-gen physical releases will be handled. Sony releases are likely going to see separate PS4 and PS5 game boxes on store shelves due to how backwards compatibility will not be uniform at launch. However, Microsoft has committed to Smart Delivery, which allows XSX players to play the XSX version of a game using an Xbox One disc. Does this mean the physical copies will be released in a single box and on a single disc? We have not seen store pages go up for any Xbox Series X games, or seen any final cover art, so we cannot say how it will go one way or another, but I remember seeing this idea poised in the past, and I would like to see it come through fruition.

The final story this week comes from an article put out by VentureBeat, who has spoken to various Nintendo partner developers and learned that there is no Nintendo Direct planned for June 2020, and posits that there may not be another Nintendo Direct until the end of summer. While the publication lacked any corroborated reasons why this is the case, they do bring up the fact that Japan as a nation is far less equipped at working from home than most western nations, and operates on a more traditional divide between work and home. Home offices, home wifi, and even home PCs are rarer in Japan than a lot of other nations, which has put a major stopgap on productivity.

A lot of the reason for this is just cultural, as Japan is a country where the home is often relegated to a place where individuals sleep, bathe, and prepare for the rest of the day. It’s not like in a lot of western cultures where one does spend about roughly half, or more, of their time in their home, and is instead largely based on a cycle of early mornings, daytime work, night time socialization and merriment. While this is naturally not a universal routine, it is the traditional Japanese way of life from what I have been told, and gathered through cultural osmosis. And this is also part of the reason why console sales have dwindled in Japan, and why arcades, handhelds, and mobile games are still thriving. Because a lot of people who want video game fun might not have the living space, and entertainment set-up, to really enjoy it. Or in other (worse) words, home is not for the work or the fun in Japan, home is for the sleep and the rest!

Anyways, my point here is that Japan, as a nation, was not equipped with the ability and infrastructure for people to access their workstations remotely, run a home office, and comfortably fit an entire family in a home for weeks on end. I am sure this is affecting every Japanese company, and for one as traditional as Nintendo, I’m sure that they are having a rough time getting used to the concept, let alone the implementation, of people working remotely. If people cannot work, or at least not work productively, then games cannot be made, trailers cannot be edited, and Nintendo Directs cannot happen. It sucks, but that’s COVID-19 for ya.

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