Wherein I discuss the future of gaming by way of servicification, a pause in preservation perils, and a lapsed localization.
Earlier this year I reviewed Genshin Impact as a request by one of my readers, and despite offering a boatload of criticisms for the game, I ultimately enjoyed the 40 hours I put into it, and still occasionally develop the urge to give the game another shake. This happened this past week when I watched CaptainCaption of re:Dreamer fame stream it while I ate my breakfast, listed to a TF audio drama where two people become Genshin Impact characters, and looked over some update notes (out of sheer curiosity) while my boss was taking a phone call during our Zoom meeting. As I did all of these things, I remembered how big of a game Genshin Impact truly is and how… it really is the future of gaming.
Back when always online games were still on the rise and when the mobile game market was switching over to free-to-play, I remember a lot of people in the game industry expressing concern for how this more service-oriented design would negatively impact games by turning them into something less about executing a creative team’s vision and more about capturing an engaged audience.
I’ve dabbled in enough gacha mobile games to see how developers have implemented these design practices with limited time content, rotating dailies, and menu-driven game loops that facilitate quick bite-sized chunks of gameplay. They are low commitment affairs with prolonged progression systems and a gameplay loop tailored around being a service, with a design that is fundamentally and structurally different from your typical ‘package’ game.
However, Genshin Impact is different. While it has the limited time content, dailies, gacha system, and routine updates, the game’s structure and design influences are clearly lifted from packaged titles, most notably Breath of the Wild, which changes the game on a fundamental level. If you released your typical gacha game as ‘packaged’ games and cut out the farming and gacha systems, then you have a title that is simply not designed like a package game, and the end result would be uncanny. For example, if you took those things out of my live service of choice, Dragalia Lost, then you would have an incredibly fragmentary visual novel and a series of small-scale enemy gauntlets or boss battles of wildly disproportionate difficulties. It, quite simply, would not be a very good game.
But with Genshin Impact, if you removed the energy caps, lowered the resource requirements, upped the drops, and ditched the gacha system… then you just have an open world anime action RPG, and a really good one. But there is no way to play or enjoy this game without dealing with these mechanics and limitations. So if you want to enjoy this game, you need to deal with these inhibitors that urge players to keep coming back to the game day in and day out. I think this is an annoying downside and… I know Genshin Impact will not be an exception. Many other games will try something like this going forward, and I am dreading how much this will transform the gaming landscape in a few years.
I don’t dread this shift because I worry that developers will keep making excellent package games, and even if they did, we already have enough to last anyone a lifetime. I am dreading this because so many would-be-excellent games will be made worse through the introduction of these mechanics, and that… that deeply upsets me.
But you know what doesn’t upset me? You know what makes me GOLDARN ecstatic? The fact that the PS3 and PS Vita storefronts will continue operations for the foreseeable future! Yes, after Sony announced they were shutting down the PSP, PS3, and PS Vita storefronts this summer, they were met with an intense wave of backlash from just about everyone; myself included. They have a responsibility to preserve the work of developers who made them who they are today, they have a responsibility to the medium, and they have a responsibility to themselves, so I am glad that they kept the PS3 and PS Vita storefronts around for now… but it’s also not quite that simple.
The PSP storefront, which launched in 2004, was not given the same extension, and will still shut down on July 2, 2021. However, I don’t blame Sony for this decision. That system is over 15 years old, its infrastructure is woefully dated, the PSP (UMD drive aside) was largely replaced by the Vita, and the vast majority of games on the PSP storefront can be purchased on the Vita storefront. As for everything that wasn’t carried over to the Vita, you can probably emulate it pretty well using PPSSPP, which boasts an impressive compatibility list beyond a few stragglers and what I’m assuming to be region-specific false negatives.
So yes, the PS3 and Vita are alive for the time being, and hopefully, those storefront shutdowns can be averted until Sony finds a more permanent preservation solution. However… I still don’t think that is happening. While this announcement was apologetic and SIE president, Jim Ryan, claims that he is “glad that we can keep this piece f our history alive for gamers to enjoy,” I don’t believe him. I still do not believe that Sony actually cares about its legacy unless they can pillage it for greater profits, and I believe this was a strictly robotic and calculated decision. Sony saw the backlash, realized that their PR is pretty bad at the moment, and decided it was better to eat the costs and keep maintaining these storefronts for the time being.
Until Sony announces extensive backwards compatibility for PS5, I will not consider the thousands of games they tried to sentence to obscurity, or outright kill, to be safe. So they are still on Nattie-chan’s Dirty Boy List, for this trend and several others. But for the time being, good job, Sony! You didn’t do something terrible… yet.
On the subject of multi-billion dollar corporations doing something decent, Microsoft has more or less conditioned people playing on Xbox systems that they need Xbox Live Gold to do pretty much anything online related. People have rightfully criticized this for years, as this $60/year subscription was needed to access certain media apps in the past and was a barrier that would prevent people from playing free-to-play games. However, in their continued move to earn the favor of customers, Microsoft has decided to lift the restriction on free-to-play games, so now all Xbox users can enjoy these games without a system-wide paywall. Nothing much to say other than good job, and keep tossing out the trash.
The Capcom Ransomware leak pretty much ruined any project announcements that Capcom could and will make for the upcoming few years, and one of these myriad announcements was a localized and remastered version of the Nintendo 3DS The Great Ace Attorney duology. Which Capcom did not bring over because of their dwindling faith in the Ace Attorney series and the Nintendo 3DS.
This was back when they were only giving new Ace Attorney titles digital-only releases in the west, and back when they felt it just wasn’t worth localizing certain 3DS games. Such as the Lost Planet spin-off E.X. Troopers, which was a flashy anime-styled third-person shooter, and supposedly a very good one. Or Gaist Crusher, a Monster-Hunter-esque action game by Treasure that had this whole multimedia push back in 2013, but failed to find an audience and is partially responsible for why Treasure no longer makes bomb-ass action games.
Anyway, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a compilation of both the 2015 and 2017 entries in this subseries, and, as expected, it looks like a quality investigation-style story-driven adventure game with visuals that clean up impressively well, and a presentation that does not bear the discernable stink of something that was originally designed for a DS or 3DS display. The game is due out on July 27th for PS4, Switch, and PC via Steam, and if I had the time in my schedule to have played through the entire main Ace Attorney series, I’m sure I would be pretty excited about this game. But from what I have played (the original Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney), the games are pretty darn dope, and I’m sure these will be as well.
I think that about covers it for this week, as nothing else in my newsfeed stuck out to me. Well, except for Resident Evil 4 VR, which was technically announced last week, and looks to be an impressive recreation and reimagining of a beloved title. However, I still greatly dislike the very concept of VR, as it effectively forces one to immerse themselves in a digital world. It’s innovative and there is a lot that could be done with the technology, a lot of new experiences can only be accomplished in VR, but it requires so much set-up, and you really cannot enjoy it if you are in a living situation where you have other people in your house who pop into your room and ask you to do things.
Seriously. VR really only works if you are single or living with a partner who knows when to leave you alone. If you live with your parents or have kids, then you won’t be able to enjoy it unless you carve out alone time away from them.