Rundown (3/28-4/03) Nat The Auto-Maniac

  • Post category:Rundowns
  • Reading time:18 mins read
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Wherein I discuss my destructive habits, the death of art, growing spheres of influence, a Sony game coming to Game Pass, a fallen fighter returning to the ring, and one of Platinum’s undead gacha game!

So, this past week I logged in about… 40 hours into my mobile game of choice, Dragalia Lost. Now, that might sound wildly irresponsible for any one person to do— unless playing games is part of their job— and you’d be right. However, I did not so much as play Dragalia Lost as much as I had it running in the background, auto-playing endgame quests. This is fairly common in the world of mobile RPGs, where auto-played dailies represent a sizable portion of most player’s time with a given game, and content needs to be grindy in order to keep players engaged. However, as I embarked on this process of auto-ing my way through hundreds of encounters, I had to ask… is this good game design?

If you asked me a few years ago, I would have said something along the line of: “No. If a game is encouraging players to let the game play itself and do the grinding for them, then the grinding is just filler.” And while that statement is not wrong, it has a discernable stank of ignorance. 

With mobile live service RPGs of this ilk, or possibly just Dragalia Lost, there is something that feels very… deserved from auto-ing these endgame quests. While its difficulty has lowered throughout its life as player power increased and bosses got nerfed, Dragalia Lost is still an action game that players need to put effort into in order to get past most content for the first time, and that is especially true for the endgame, which requires players to learn an MMO style raid boss, dodge one-hit kill moves, think through the mechanics when optimizing their team, and overall become better players. 

I defeated these bosses, I beat them dozens of times, and I proved myself. Because of this, it feels rewarding to see the game play itself, using the fruits of a player’s labor to trounce bosses and prepare me for the next wave of endgame content with the spoils they drop. And while that might seem self-defeating, the game is balanced around the fact that players are steadily growing in power, and offers more and more challenges. Almost all of which force me to dedicate a few hours to learning, researching, and bashing my head against each new foe. 

Like Legend Ciella, who I spent 5 hours labbing this past week, and I still couldn’t beat her. My lack of Freyja will forever haunt me, or at least until wind adventurers get their new wyrmprint slots. It would be dope if they introduced a Bow’s Psalm effect with the new Dominion boss. Because I need that skill haste if I want to get past the curse of nihility HP check.

…No, I don’t expect you to understand any of that… unless you play Dragalia like I do, then you might have some idea what I’m talking about.

Last week, word broke that Sony was planning on shutting down the online storefront for the PS3, PSP, and PS Vita. I went on a frustrated and impassioned spiel on why i think this is so destructive and bad for the medium as a whole, but what I failed to mention was that the source of this news was unconfirmed, and I was ultimately treating a rumor as if it was fact. I treated it as fact because it came from a reputable source and lacked the usual qualifiers that rumors or source-provided information usually do. Even so, I should have added a disclaimer before I reported this story.

Anyway, this past Monday Sony delisted the web-based storefront for PS3, PSP, and PS Vita games, so the only way players can purchase these titles is through the system-based storefront. They did this with no official notice, warning, or anything beyond the musings of journalists and informants. And while people can still technically purchase these games, the system-based storefronts for the PS3, PSP, and Vita will shut down this summer. The PSP and PS3 storefronts will shut down on July 2nd, while the Vita storefront will shutter a month later on August 27th. Following these shutdowns, users will still be able to download content associated with their account and redeem games, but that’s about it. 

Honestly, I’m almost impressed by how aggressive Sony is being here. When Microsoft shut down the Xbox Live Indie Game storefront, they let people know 2 years in advance, and did not start taking away features until one year after this announcement. When Nintendo discontinued the Wii Shop Channel, they gave people a 16 month notice, and a 6 month notice before customers could not add additional funds. But Sony… they did not give anybody a timeline for this sunsetting process. They did not give people a list of dates until right now, and we have 3 months to purchase some legacy content before it is gone forever. And this legacy content is FAR more valuable than any other legacy content the games industry has ever lost.

I don’t think I can even truly get bad at something like this because… this is just malice. You don’t just forget to announce a shutdown like this or accidentally make the window this small. This was all deliberate and… if this is the message Sony wants to project going forward, let them, and let them be judged for that. Let them be judged as a company that profits off of art but sees no value in it. A company that has no respect for itself, its past, or the people whose work they profited off of for decades. 

I just hope that people understand and internalize this. That people don’t forget. That people think back to this whenever Sony does… anything. 

Next on the agenda, we have some more investment related news in the games industry, as Nexon recently disclosed that they invested $874 million in Bandai Namco, Sega Sammy, Konami… and also Hasbro. Per their press release, Nexon claims they did this in order to strengthen their investment in companies with well-managed global intellectual property, as they believe them to be a good investment and often undervalued next to companies with promising new IP. Which I personally agree with, as if you are going to invest millions into a company, you probably want to have some assurance that they will still be around several years from now.

Upon hearing this news, I could not help but assume that the secondary, or possibly primary, motive behind this decision was to strengthen the relationship between Nexon and other game publishers, so they could facilitate deals and gain access to their IP. It’s a fairly common practice in the Japanese games industry, where you buy a minority stake in a company you wish to form a partnership/alliance with as a way of demonstrating your trust and desire to maintain a long and healthy business relationship. It’s why Nintendo bought a decent chunk of CyberAgent and DeNA back when they collaborated on mobile games.

However, the press release plainly states that is not the case, that these investments were not made with any consideration of future partnerships… but I don’t believe that, and the very next sentence the document states that “we are pleased with the dialogue that has ensued with some companies.” So, um, yeah, they are totally aiming to form a joint venture or licensing agreement with these companies.

Do I find this concerning? Well, not really. Nexon is a massive Korean and Japanese online game company with a sizable share of the global gaming market, but they have not done anything too scummy or egregious as far as I am aware. They are definitely a preferable case next to Tencent. A company who greatly concerns me, if only due to their inherent ties to the Chinese government, and habit of planting their tendrils in any company that is willing to accept their money. Money that I’m imagining smells a lot like KFC… because for whatever reason, I think all of urban China smells like fried chicken. Fried chicken and pollution.

Way back in December 2019, the official twitter account for Major League Baseball announced that MLB: The Show, the premier licensed baseball video game series circa 2005, would no longer be exclusive to PlayStation consoles. Instead, the Sony published and San Diego Studios developed series would be released on other consoles as early as 2021. While this did not particularly interest me, I recognized this as big news, as this would mark the first time a licensed baseball game released on a non-PlayStation and non-mobile platform in 15 years. Which is pretty crazy to think about, as people do not really view or treat this series as a major PlayStation exclusive, when… it totally is, as the games sell oodles every year, and I’m sure these games were the deciding factor for many sports fans who would have otherwise bought an Xbox console.

Anyways, I bring this up because while MLB: The Show 21 was announced for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S back in February… I completely missed that story, and was only reminded of this agreement after I saw headlines stating that not only is this MLB: The Show 21, a game developed by a Sony subsidiary, launching day and date on Xbox consoles, but it is also going to be an Xbox Game Pass title.

Damn. I’ve been surprised at just how committed Microsoft is to making Game Pass the best gaming subscription service imaginable, and just when I think they’ve hit their limits by commissioning Xbox ports for former exclusives, they surprise me yet again by nabbing the rights to a licensed AAA sports game… that is developed by a competitor. I have little more to say about this other than… I would pay good and dirty money to be a fly on the wall during the meetings discussing this agreement. Was it heated? Did Microsoft moneyhat everything? Did Sony actually have any say in this? Or was this all MLB’s decision? I don’t know, but I want to know… just for the sake of knowing, really.

Despite having garnered a strong following among the fighting game community, the Virtua Fighter series has pretty much been left hanging on the rack for nearly a decade. Virtua Fighter 5 came out in 2006 for arcades, received a final rendition for consoles in 2012, and since then… Sega pretty much hasn’t touched the series, even as fighting games have undergone a boom of sorts thanks to the prevalence and accessibility of streaming. 

While Sega is notorious for neglecting their IP, this one stung especially hard, as it was a major franchise that received solid support for nearly two decades. It got to the point where all fans were hoping for was a version of Virtua Fighter 5 for modern consoles. And Sega actually did just that and brought Virtua Fighter 5 to PS4, Xbox One, and PC… as a minigame in Yakuza 6, Judgment, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, where the game lacked any online play.

I always thought this was exceptionally wasteful. I get why this version lacks any online play, but how hard would it be to take this ported version, add in online play, add rollback netcode, and then release the game for $20 to $30? Probably kind of hard, but not that hard.

If this lead in was not clear enough, the actual news here is that Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown was rated for PS4 by The Game Rating and Administration Committee of Korea. Rating systems seldom lie, so I’ll take this as an inevitability and thank Sega for remembering to bring at least one of their games forward… before immediately following up with criticism that they should try to do try to do better next time. Seriously, if you are making fans wait this long, you should probably release an anniversary collection with 5 games or something.

Remember back when PlatinumGames was getting all buddy-bud with mobile developers? They collaborated with Cygames on Lost Order, a mobile RPG headed by Final Fantasy Tactics director Yasumi Matsuno, but the game was quietly cancelled after a private beta in 2017. Then in April 2018, PlatinumGames and DeNA announced World of Demons, a mobile third-person action game with a gacha-flavored RPG system that soft-launched in June 2018, was delisted from all storefronts in September, and shut down in October.

I honestly feel terrible for developers who work on games that are shut down like this, as the work done on these projects can never be enjoyed by a sizable playerbase, and once these games are gone… they’re just dead. Most mobile games with a good community live on with gameplay videos, story summaries, and fan wikis, but games like these? They don’t get the luxury, and most of what these games did or were about is lost to time. Or locked on a hard drive hidden in some guy’s desk drawer, never to see the sun again.

Sure, they sometimes come back but there’s maybe a 1% chance of that happening, and… that’s precisely what happened with World of Demons, which just released exclusively for Apple Arcade this past week. Now, this is a rather perplexing scenario that I would love to hear a developer break down the details of, but I will offer my own interpretation of events for the time being.

It appears that DeNA and PlatinumGames did not believe that the original World of Demons was worth maintaining and building upon, leading them to shelf the project. However, Platinum kept the rights and assets to the game, and many people within the company wanted to bring the game back in some form. When Apple Arcade was announced, they suddenly had an opportunity to get some funding to clean up, finish, and rework up their game into what I believe to be a mostly linear action game, without the gacha, RPG leveling system, and obligatory live service malarky.

Personally, I think the game looks gosh darn spiffy. You can tell it was designed as a mobile game with the UI, story sequences, generally low fidelity, and simpler than normal combat system, but it’s another Platinum action game, and one that is the most Okami looking thing since Okamiden. People are still coming to grasps with the game, and assessing it, so I’m not sure if it is truly good or just alright, but based on the gameplay I’ve seen, it seems like an enjoyable action game… if you hook it up to a 20+ inch screen and are using a controller.

…Look, just because I play a mobile action RPG every day, that doesn’t mean I think action games aren’t dramatically better with a controller

Also, April Fools was this week, meaning that some companies and creatives put out quirky and otherwise interesting demos, shorts, or other projects. While others put out irritating gags that play with the heartstrings of fans by showing them something they want… and not giving it to them. I never understood the latter camp, and while I love the former, I kind of hate how these things need to be relegated for April Fools, and people can’t just drop weird or bizarre side projects whenever they feel like it.

I mean, sure, I put out a few projects on April Fools, but that’s historically been more of a coincidence than anything else.

Leave a Reply