Can AI really help to make games more quickly? (Picture: Nightdive Studios)

The Monday letters page suspects Call Of Duty will only be on Game Pass Ultimate, as one reader enjoys the glory of Rainbow Islands.

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Meeting expectations
A somewhat strange Reader’s Feature by Domino, at the weekend, suggesting that stopping exclusivity will destroy Sony. Since both Microsoft and Sony are now abandoning exclusivity it is patently obvious that neither company are making large enough profits using their current models. Undoubtedly Sony have known this for some time, it certainly explains the dubious decision to develop an excessive number of live service games. You would have thought they would have realised… because of their time demands, that these games will end up competing with each other for players attention.

Many of the problems in the gaming industry are brought on by gamers themselves, as too many lack patience. A proper review system where the media has time to review games properly would help. but only if people paid attention to them. If a game is full of bugs, don’t buy it. Publishers are not stupid, if nobody bought their games because they were buggy they would stop issuing them.

Recently GameCentral has highlighted the problems with the ever lengthening game cycles and increased development costs, it is something I have recognised for some time. They are totally correct that Sony and Microsoft won’t admit it because they are too tied into a console development cycle based upon consumer expectation.

If the current trend continues, we will have consoles that can run at 8K and 240fps. The downside unfortunately is that they take 20 years to develop. It is difficult to see a solution, but hopefully the introduction of AI will help. Yes, I know people will lose their jobs, this is regrettable, However, one has to merely look at history to see that automation is necessary because in the long run it saves a lot more jobs.
John A

Rare Blast
Oh my word, what a great weekend. I haven’t played Blast Corps since it first came out, so to see it instantly available was a nostalgic hit I wasn’t going to pass up. The inner nerd in me wondered if they’d ‘repaired’ J-Bomb’s arm – and they have! I once read that the reason it was left as damaged stump was that Rare had no more space available in the code to model it. With that limitation removed I’m glad they saw fit to finish that model off fully.

A mixture of curiosity and hope then led me to browse the Arcade Archives section of the Switch eShop and low and behold there it was; Rainbow Islands! It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I have had my fingers crossed for years hoping this would finally appear. Bubble Bobble has kept me satiated for a while, but Rainbow Islands remains one of my best ever games. It was a permanent fixture on my Amiga in the early 1990s, along with Turrican (which is also available on the Switch).

As a contrast to the sheer joy of uncomplicated old school goodness above, I fired up Super Mario Odyssey again for the first time in years and it still leaves me feeling a little detached. The camera is always a fraction ‘off’ and it didn’t take long to remember why I hadn’t played it in a long, long time. I don’t think I’ll be clamouring to replay it in 30+ years time, unlike the glorious Rainbow Islands (have I said that I really love that game?).

GC: Rainbow Islands is indeed glorious. Even if we can never get over the new music in modern ports.

Free online
Has GC noticed Dead Island 2 has only gone into Game Pass Ultimate? I think this is a clear sign of what may happen to Call Of Duty. My guess it will only appear day-and-date on the top tier service. I understand why. But they’re sneaky sods not just announcing it. Will this apply to all Activision titles? Will it apply to other titles such as Indiana Jones?

I’ve thought for the longest time Xbox needs to get rid of paying for online play. So ditch Game Pass Core. If they want to go with a two-tier system for Game Pass, where maybe first party titles go into the lower tier service six-plus months later. Fair enough. If they get rid of charging for online play!

It’s essentially a covert price hike for Game Pass, preying upon the FOMO of gamers. Most will likely subscribe to the top tier if they have to wait longer for big releases. I understand why it makes sense for expensive titles like Call Of Duty.

It’s the underhand tactics which foreshadow this strategy I strongly disagree with. Getting rid of the online play fee is the only remedy. Otherwise, they’re in for it again! Expect another business meeting in the coming weeks!

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Out of time
I’m enjoying playing Pacific Drive with my wife on the PlayStation 5. She is a PC gamer and struggles with the controller, so with the fiddly control scheme for driving it’s been quite fun to watch her accidentally roll down a hill while trying to put the car in ‘park’. I like the rain, the dark, the neon colours and just the feel of the game. I can definitely see it getting boring, but I am enjoying it for now.

I do wonder if I’ll be able to manage to complete this and Final Fantasy 7 Intergrade before Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth comes out…

GC: Unless you mean just INTERmission, which is the new content added to Intergrade, we don’t see how you’re going to do it without giving up sleeping. Pacific Drive alone is at least 15 hours.

The Force is strong with this one
Will GameCentral be reviewing the Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster game this week? It looks like it will be another good remaster by Nightdive, going by their reputation, who have done a good remaster of PowerSlave Exhumed recently and other games like Shadow Man.

I was going to pick up Dark Forces on physical on PlayStation 5, hoping that it will get a release on Limited Run Games as a physical as other Star Wars games have and PowerSlave has. I played the original on my
brother’s PC but only briefly 25 years ago.

I hope someone makes a full remake of it one day, as it would be good to see that but will settle for
the remaster now.
Andrew J.

GC: We certainly will. We’re also going to try and organise an interview with Nightdive, although that won’t be this week.

No guarantees
Craig the Brute was laughed out of the room and had to go into hiding for a year to get some plastic surgery.

Meanwhile the game with possibly the biggest budget ever, GTA 6, had its trailer drop and everyone went mad for the graphics. The game was held by many as justifying the new consoles. The reason to upgrade. A game that finally takes advantage of the power of the current gen and is not possible on last gen, hallelujah.

Diminishing returns have seen many say they see no reason to upgrade and won’t until they see something that isn’t possible on their current console. But look at the expense you have to go to, to achieve that.

Until more gamers value graphics less a multiformat future might be the industry we deserve. Those bemoaning the loss of exclusives but praising and valuing them for the no expense spared ‘prestige product’ status might be trying to have their cake and eat it.

Console adaption and gaming budgets have collided and something has to give.

Increase prices? That didn’t go down well when Sony were the first to introduce the £70 game this gen.

Sell more consoles? Console adaption has stagnated, with roughly the same total units for generations. Sony’s roster of big budget exclusives couldn’t of been more impressive last gen but they haven’t shifted the dial.

Reduce budgets, release less powerful hardware and have fewer triple-A games bulked out with less expensive games à la Nintendo? My preference for all sorts of reasons, but as Sony’s foundation for success is being the premier, no expense spared, triple-A hitmaker they might not want that for the reasons stated above.

Releasing on other platforms, the extent of which is currently unknown? The gamble they look like taking. Could be what allows them to continue to exist in their current form or cause it to all fall down like a pack of cards.

GC: There’s also no guarantee GTA 6 will actually look like that on current consoles. Rumours suggest that Sony will be pushing the PS5 Pro as the best way to play the game, implying compromises on the existing PlayStation 5 models.

A year or two
So how long are we giving it till Microsoft and Sony realise that making their games multiformat isn’t going to make any difference? That’s not going to increase overall console sales in anyway, which as far as I understand is the central problem, and while it’ll bring in some additional many it’ll probably make both console seem less alluring and push people towards PCs.

The way they’re carrying on at the moment seems borderline idiotic. As GC have said, just admit game budgets are too big and cut them back. But oh no, let’s just crash the games industry instead. That’s got to be a better idea, right?

Don’t wait
On Saturday morning, I read a rather angry Reader’s Feature called Why I’m never buying an Atlus game at launch again, and I thought it rather interesting that the only things mentioned were that Atlus do it for money, which we all know – Persona 3 Reload doesn’t have The Answer or the female protagonist, and Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance… exists.

Firstly, I wanted to talk about Shin Megami Tensei re-releases, because for every Lucifer’s Call/Nocturne you also have some weaker ones, such as Strange Journey Redux, which ruined the alignment choices by giving optimal, good endings. Shim Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse isn’t as bad as you think, honestly, but, like, there is a good ending and a bad ending and that very much hurts that game.

Nocturne’s True Demon Ending is a masterpiece, I will not dispute that, but it came at the cost of devaluing all of the other endings. Practically speaking, there is no gameplay or lore reason to choose the… Reasons. (Hah.) You are actively choosing not to participate in the most recognisable fights from Nocturne (the Fiends, Dante/Raidou, Lucifer). In this way, the re-release hurt the final product.

But Shin Megami 5 released in 2021. It’s 2024. That’s not an every year release and, more importantly, they aren’t changing Shim Megami Tensei5 . Vengeance is adding a whole new game-sized game totally separately, whilst giving the original tweaks and love as well. This doesn’t remove the merit of having played Shin Megam Tensei 5 at launch, because you are still getting value for money from the entirely new game that you bought.

It’s not a superficial re-release of the same game with one new dungeon. It also avoids the pitfalls of the previous games by not just adding new endings that invalidate the old ones, and to boot it brings the game to many platforms the original simply never reached. And, also, Shim Megam Tensei 5 released three years ago, you probably had time to play and enjoy that game.

And, as a fan of The Answer, it obviously hurts to not see it in Reload, but… the thing is, the take that you should just wait for the re-release ignores the fact that Persona 3 Reload is one of the best role-playing remakes ever made. The combat overhauls were beyond good, the manual control is both satisfying and rewarding, and the interface is chef’s kiss.

The ending is also, like, extremely good. No spoilers, but The Answer (FES’s Aigis-led epilogue) spends a rather long time mulling over the ending and complaining about it. The Answer was for people who wanted an extra dungeon and didn’t care about story, who wanted harder combat and the like. I think releasing The Answer would have taken away from Persona 3 Reload’s amazing characterisation in so many ways.

And the female protagonist route is also something I have problems with, namely because a certain extremely important gun-related moment simply does not have the same consequences in Persona 3 Portable, in service of allowing a character to have a social link. This is one of the most memorable, important moments in Persona 3, and it is ruined. This might be personal hatred, but I’ve never been able to forgive Portable for that.

There is so much merit in buying and playing Reload as it is. It’s one of the best role-playing games I’ve played in my entire life. The combat is extremely fun, even more so than the original, and all the new content is enough to satisfy all but the most voracious of fans. You will love the game. Not in spite of the missing content, but because this is the state that Persona 3 was designed for.

Inbox also-rans
Playing Metropolis Street Racer for the first time in years and driving round London listening to Passion is pure nostalgia! I’m rubbish at the game but I’m just enjoying driving round failing at the races listening to the soundtrack – probably the best soundtrack of any game.

Ignoring a sure fire hit that will only make an ordinary amount of money in favour of a long shot that will make a fortune is the decision of a desperate loser. Sony making 12 live service games is like someone buying a 100 lottery tickets in the belief that’s going to make any kind of statistical difference.

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The small print
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MORE : Games Inbox: Nintendo going multiformat, Bloodborne on PS6, and Mother 3 on Switch

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MORE : Games Inbox: What PS5 games will come to Xbox, Pacific Drive disappointment, and Endless Ocean 3

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