Google Stadia and the Game Preservation Problem

Most people are already aware of the major issues with streaming video games. Latency, data caps, subscription models, and ownership seem to get brought up every time a newcomer enters the streaming scene. However, these are all problems that will be sorted out over time. There is another concern that people don’t bring up as often as they should, though, and that is the problem of video game preservation.

This week, Google announced Stadia, their new service that will allow users to stream AAA video games to just about any screen they can think of, whether it be a television, a phone, a PC, or a tablet. The idea behind Stadia is great; lowering the entry barrier to gaming will open the doors of this great medium to so many people, but an all-streaming future presents problems that haven’t quite been experienced at a large scale yet.

Stadia games aren’t owned by the players, they’re just streamed from whatever data center the players happen to be connected to. What happens, then, if a game is pulled from Stadia? What if Stadia shuts down entirely? Games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Doom Eternal, both of which were featured prominently in Google’s keynote, will still be available on other platforms, but what about Stadia exclusive titles? Stadia Games and Entertainment is Google’s first-party studio tasked with creating exclusive games for the platform. This studio is comprised of incredibly talented developers who will no doubt create excellent games, but what becomes of these games when Stadia is gone? Even if Stadia is a runaway success, the servers will be turned off one day. It’s an inevitability, and when that inevitability happens, those games are lost.

Scenarios like this aren’t even hypothetical. They’ve already happened to beloved titles, both low-profile and high-profile alike. Konami pulled P.T. from the PlayStation Store following the cancellation of Silent Hills, and even those who own it can no longer redownload it. Aside from some very wonky workarounds (and a very faithful fan recreation on PC), P.T. can no longer be played. Being a strictly digital release that can no longer be downloaded, P.T. practically doesn’t exist anymore. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game were both pulled from digital storefronts as well, presumably due to licensing issues. On top of these examples, the closure of the Wii Shop Channel in January left a multitude of WiiWare titles abandoned, unable to be redownloaded.

Luckily, these games still have homes on consoles where they’re still installed. However, a service completely centered around streaming like Stadia won’t allow users to install games locally or access the files at all. When Stadia goes the way of the Wii Shop Channel, those games will be gone for good.

Even if games aren’t pulled from the service outright, there are still other issues that arise with an all-streaming future. Final Fantasy XV has undergone radical changes since its release back in 2016, and although it may be a better game in its current state, the vanilla version still has value, at least from a historical perspective. With a disc, the vanilla version is playable offline if updates aren’t installed, but a game like Destiny 2 doesn’t have that luxury. Vanilla Destiny 2 doesn’t exist anymore. Destiny 2 is not playable without updates or an internet connection, so there’s no way to experience the game as it launched.  At least with single-player games, older versions can be accessed offline, but with online games, the experience is constantly evolving, and older versions are lost. With streaming, even single-player games cannot be experienced pre-patch, and games might even be replaced by inferior versions, like the awful Silent Hill 2 HD version replacing the original masterpiece.

Game preservation is a tricky subject, especially in today’s climate of live services and ever-changing games. Regardless, video games are art. They’ve been recognized by the government as art since 2011 and they’ve been recognized by gamers as art for far longer, and it’s time for people to start taking game preservation more seriously, before some games end up permanently lost and forgotten.

Rainbow Six Siege’s Reverse Friendly Fire Aims to Combat Toxicity

Rainbow Six Siege has a team killing problem.

It’s no secret that friendly fire is an issue in Siege, with complaints about toxic team killing dating back to the game’s launch in 2015, but a new patch introducing “reverse friendly fire” is Ubisoft’s first attempt at solving the team killing problem. If a player shoots their teammate, the damage will be reflected back at them. This even applies to gadgets like Twitch’s shock drone, which is frequently used by toxic players to harass their teammates. With the new update, any damage that would’ve been inflicted by the drone onto an ally will be reflected back to the drone itself.

Of course, team killing is a core aspect of Rainbow Six Siege. Being able to accidentally injure allies in the heat of the moment is a large part of what makes Siege’s gameplay so tense and rewarding, so Ubisoft is allowing for some flexibility with reverse friendly fire. The system only starts after the offending player’s first team kill in order to allow for some accidents. After a teammate is killed, the victim can choose to forgive their killer if they believe they were killed by accident. If the kill is deemed accidental, the killer is not punished, but if the kill isn’t forgiven, reverse friendly fire is activated.

Penalties are being reworked with this update as well. Prior to this patch, team killers would be kicked from the match after a certain number of team kills, accidental or not. Now, even if a team kill is deemed intentional, the offending player will stay in the match with reverse friendly fire activated. Ubisoft will continue to track team kills and issue appropriate punishments, usually timed bans, to repeat offenders. The patch is currently live on Siege’s test server. There is no word on when it will be added to the main game.

Reverse friendly fire is just the first step in dealing with Rainbow Six Siege’s rampant toxicity problems. Ubisoft detailed a bevy of changes when it laid out the content roadmap for the game’s fourth year, and while map reworks and new operators were at the forefront, Ubisoft made a point to highlight the adjustments being made to minimize toxicity. With a game as rapidly growing as Rainbow Six Siege, it’s imperative that Ubisoft make the game as friendly and welcoming to new players as possible. So many players are already turned off by Siege’s very steep learning curve, a curve which grows steeper and steeper with every new update, and the game’s well-documented toxicity only serves to scare away prospective players and sour the experience for existing ones. Reverse friendly fire is definitely a step in the right direction, and upcoming changes to the ranked matchmaking system alongside other quality of life improvements prove that Ubisoft is not planning on slowing down support or content updates for Rainbow Six Siege anytime soon.

Rainbow Six Siege is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Cuphead is Coming to Nintendo Switch in April

Microsoft’s first-party side-scroller Cuphead is coming to Nintendo Switch next month, Nintendo announced in today’s Nindies Showcase.

The game, developed by Studio MDHR, was originally released in 2017 as an Xbox One console exclusive. While it released simultaneously on PC as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, that was the full extent of its reach until now.

Microsoft has also stated that they are working with Studio MDHR to implement Xbox Live functionality into the Nintendo Switch version of Cuphead. Now you’ll finally be able to earn achievements on the go. Cuphead is the first non-Xbox game to receive Xbox Live achivement support, but more are likely on the way with Microsoft planning to bring the service to both Switch and mobile.

Cuphead will launch on Nintendo Switch on April 18. The game will be priced at $20, and it’s already available for pre-purchase on the eShop.

Google Stadia is Google’s Game Streaming Service

Google has officially unveiled its long-rumored game streaming service during a keynote at GDC earlier today.

The service, called Google Stadia, will allow users to play AAA video games on any device. At launch, Stadia will be available on any desktop computer, laptop, TV, phone, or tablet. Stadia is the full release of Project Stream, which allowed users to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Google Chrome browser window. While Project Stream only streamed up to 1080p at 60 frames per second, Stadia will support streams up to 4K at 60 frames per second with full HDR and surround sound support. In the future, Stadia will even support 8K streaming.

The Stadia controller was also unveiled alongside the service. It’s available in three different colors and will connect to Google’s data centers hosting the game through Wi-Fi to minimize latency. It has joysticks, a d-pad, and just about everything else you’d expect from a standard video game controller, but it also has a share button like the Dualshock 4 and Joy-Con controllers as well as a Google Assistant button which will allow you to ask for help with whatever game you’re playing using the controller’s built-in microphone. Stadia will also work with any controllers you already own, too.

Stadia will come with an array of features specific to the service. YouTube videos of certain games will have a “play now” button that will let you start playing the game through a Stadia stream. Stream Connect aims to bring back split-screen gaming, enabling multiple streams of the same game on one device. Crowd Play lets streamers open up their games to their audience, creating a lobby for viewers to wait in until they get to play with the streamer. State Share lets you create an exact copy of your game’s state down to the contents of your inventory and the amount of health you have left, which you can then share with others through a generated link. Other players can then go experience the exact moment you shared with them.

Google has partnered with Unreal and Unity, two of the most popular game engines in the industry, and both will fully support Stadia. Google revealed a number of other partners ranging from Havok to Cryengine, so there’s no shortage of initial support for the platform.

Because Stadia is a cloud-based platform, developers don’t have to neuter their visions for their games to meet certain hardware requirements. A single Stadia instance is more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X combined according to Google, and developers will no longer be held back by hardware restrictions.

While Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was primarily featured throughout the keynote, other games were shown as well. Doom Eternal, the follow up to 2016’s Doom reboot, will be playable on Stadia at a 4K resolution at 60 frames per second with HDR. Other unannounced titles were hinted at, but they haven’t been revealed yet.

Multiplayer was another key point of the presentation. Because every game will be hosted through Google’s data centers rather than the players’ internet connections, there will be minimal latency because the experience won’t be held back by the player with the slowest connection. Stadia will also support cross-platform play and cross-progression if developers allow it.

Google will be creating exclusive first-party content through Stadia Games and Entertainment, headed by former Ubisoft executive and industry veteran Jade Raymond.

Stadia is slated to launch this year in the United States, Canada, UK, and Europe. More information is set to come this summer, but whether or not that means news will come at E3 remains to be known.

The Problem with Devil May Cry 5

Capcom’s Devil May Cry 5 is currently sitting at an 87% on Metacritic, and I don’t understand why. The game is flawed on a fundamental level, holding onto tropes from over a decade ago for no reason, especially when so many advancements in game design have been made over the past two console generations. Devil May Cry 5 is an awful video game and it’s insulting that its myriad of issues have gone unnoticed by so-called game “journalists”.

Devil May Cry 5’s problems begin to present themselves as soon as you start the game, the first issue being a complete lack of direction. Where are the objective markers? The waypoints? There isn’t even a minimap, which is a complete oversight on Capcom’s part. This is abysmal game design. How am I supposed to know what to do without a gold diamond hovering over my destination? How will I know which route to take if I don’t have a dotted line to follow?

Navigation is only the start of Devil May Cry 5’s problems. For a game so heavily centered around combat, you’d think the combat would actually be good. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 drops the ball in this department as well. The game is a mindless hack and slash in which you’ll find yourself mashing the attack button until the enemies die. There is no variety, there is no skill, and there is absolutely nothing engaging. Two of the three playable characters have guns, but the lack of any sort of customization through attachments or perks alongside the completely baffling design choice of not being able to aim down sights makes Devil May Cry 5’s gunplay feel shoddy when compared to other contemporary titles like Battlefield V or Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2.

Devil May Cry 5’s combat is not only insulting in its simplicity, but also insulting in the literal sense. The game’s archaic and dated rating system keeps calling my attacks “dismal”, which discourages me from even attempting combos. I did not pay $60 to be ridiculed, Capcom. On top of that, parts of the battle theme won’t play unless you can achieve high style rankings during combat. This sort of elitist game design hurts Devil May Cry 5 in the long run, restricting the soundtrack to the same repetitive drivel throughout the entirety of the game’s campaign. Arbitrarily gating things off and rewarding more skilled players creates an artificial barrier within the community, and this game would benefit infinitely from a paid easy combo system ala the ingenious easy fatality tokens in Mortal Kombat X.

Multiple weapon types are supplied in an attempt to break up the monotony, but they ultimately fail to spice things up due to their poor implementation. Nero’s devil breakers, for example, cannot be freely cycled between. Not only that, but they can also be broken. Without any kind of crafting system to repair or modify these disposable weapons, the devil breaker system feels contrived and poorly thought out. Considering the Tomb Raider reboot had crafting all the way back in 2013, it’s downright unacceptable for Devil May Cry 5 to launch without crafting 6 years later.

The game is also incredibly linear. There’s no open world, not even a social hub or anything, and the majority of the levels feel like hallways. Player choice is completely ignored in favor of an old-fashioned predetermined plot. I really wish there were dialogue options in the cutscenes so I could make my Dante feel different from everyone else’s Dante. A story with a defined beginning, middle, and end is a relic of a bygone era, and it feels like something straight out of an antiquated 2001 video game like Metal Gear Solid 2 or Max Payne.

Fans of the series will be exceptionally disappointed with the changes made to the Devil May Cry lore as well. Dante has white hair again, which totally ignores the changes made to his character in 2013’s DmC: Devil May Cry. Stomping all over continuity only serves to further scramble the franchise’s already confusing timeline, and for little to no purpose. Again, if there was a choice between hairstyles when playing as Dante (or even a wholly customizable protagonist, which should be a given in 2019) then maybe this would work, but in its current iteration it doesn’t feel earned.

The story isn’t the only thing that lacks any sort of choice or interactivity, either. The progression system is also very restricting. Devil May Cry 5 forgoes skill trees in favor of an old-school upgrade system in which you spend red orbs, the game’s currency, to upgrade abilities for different weapons. While this works in theory, in practice it only succeeds in annihilating any semblance of build diversity and taking freedom away from players. If players could specialize in ranged combat or stealth and be free to engage enemy encampments in their own way, it’d vastly improve the experience.

A weak story and campaign could be saved by a fulfilling endgame, but Devil May Cry 5’s endgame is anemic in comparison to its competition. The developers just expect players to repeat the campaign on a higher difficulty or aim for higher rankings on missions. Sadly, Devil May Cry 5 doesn’t have any challenging content to work toward or gear up for either. This is a full $60 game without a raid. Of course, Capcom hasn’t unveiled the 2019 roadmap for the game, but launching in a state this content light is a mistake, and the game will bleed players until new content is released.

Devil May Cry 5 has moments where it shines, but these are few and far between, absolutely overshadowed by the assortment of flaws. Sometimes revivals of classic franchises work out, just look at Mega Man 11. Other times, however, it’s best to let the classics remain just that: classics. Maybe there’s a reason it’s been 11 years since DMC 4. Unfortunately, Devil May Cry 5 has a ridiculously small amount of content that is almost never compelling in any way. Its desire to hang on to what made the originals so great ultimately drags down the final product in the end, resulting in a game that feels straight out of the early 2000’s.


(In case you couldn’t tell, this is 100% satire. Please play Devil May Cry 5.)

Anthem Players Are Boycotting the Game to Protest Loot Changes

Anthem players are taking a week off from the game in order to voice their concerns about the game’s changes to loot.

A recent patch making multiple changes and adjustments went live two days ago on March 9. This patch changed respawn times for certain events. Other issues were fixed too, like the game crashing multiple PlayStation 4 systems as well as problems with the way the game scales weapon damage.

The other big change this patch made was the removal of common and uncommon drops from level 30 loot pools. While this sounds great in theory, in practice it’s a little more complicated. BioWare removed commons and uncommons but did not increase the rate at which rare, epic, masterwork, and legendary items drop, making Anthem’s endgame loot payout feel a lot less satisfying than before, and the playerbase is not happy.

What makes this worse is the so-called “11 Hour Bug”, which caused fantastic loot to drop in droves just prior to the most recent patch being released. Reddit user -Supp0rt- came out of a stronghold with a whopping 10 masterwork items, meanwhile players are struggling to find even one post-patch.

To combat the changes to the loot and call for more liberal payouts of cool gear, Reddit user Afinda made a post on the game’s subreddit asking players to boycott the game from March 11-March 15. “Time Invested Vs. Reward is a complete Joke at this point,” says Afinda. “You want to make a point once and for all? Well, what could hurt a game that has Real Money transactions for cosmetics (lol, yeah there are nearly none I know) or is a live service more than anything? Player Numbers.”

Afinda’s cause has quickly picked up steam, with the original post currently sitting at 11.1k upvotes. “Jokes on you. I stopped playing last week,” wrote a user who goes by Zomgrofll in the comments. They’re not alone, either. Several commenters have said they’ve already stopped playing Anthem, while others are still hoping for Anthem to improve. A number of people have said they’re switching to The Division 2, which launches this week.

Neither EA nor BioWare have issued a statement regarding the boycott, but BioWare’s head of live service Chad Roberston tweeted Saturday night acknowledging community feedback.

“We appreciate all the feedback from the community on the game. We love the passion and share it,” he tweeted. “We’re not yet fully happy with the game’s loot behavior either.”

A post on the Anthem subreddit sums up the players’ response to this perfectly. “Bioware, you don’t need to be happy with the loot. The players do.”

Apex Legends Was Leaked a Year Ago, Dismissed as Fake

Respawn’s wildly popular battle-royale Apex Legends was leaked an entire year ago, but nobody cared.

Reddit user hiticonic made a post on the Titanfall subreddit 11 months ago with an image that very closely resembles Apex Legends’s current map.

The comments were quick to express their disappointment and disbelief. “I really hope this doesn’t happen,” wrote one user. “They better not add battle royale in the next game,” wrote another. The thread only amassed 14 comments in total, and then, silence.

Nothing was heard about this supposed Titanfall battle royale until one month ago, when rumors began circulating about a Titanfall battle royale game called Apex Legends. Rumors said the game would be revealed and then launch shortly after on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. We all know how things went from there.

Now Apex Legends has recently hit 50 million players, and the leak from last year resurfaced on the game’s subreddit to much amusement. Respawn’s community manager even chimed in in the comments. “Haha I remember this!” he wrote. “It was a relief to see folks blow it off and I was thinking, ‘well, he’ll be able to say I was right when next year comes along.'”

In an interview with Eurogamer, Apex Legends Lead Producer Drew McCory spoke about the game’s surprise release. “We’re doing a free to play game, with essentially loot boxes, after we were bought by EA, and it’s not Titanfall 3. It’s the perfect recipe for a marketing plan to go awry, so why have that – let’s just ship the game and let players play.” A lot of Apex Legends’s success can be attributed to its surprise release. There was no marketing campaign, no build up, the game just dropped and people started playing it

Maybe its for the best last year’s leak never caught on.