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Games Inbox: How does the pandemic affect video games?

Horizon Forbidden West screenshot

Horizon Forbidden West – hopefully it won’t be delayed again (pic: Sony)

The Wednesday Inbox asks why Microsoft killed Project Gotham Racing, as one reader complains about the weight of the Xbox Series X.

PLEASE NOTE: As we get our own Christmas and New Year content ready for the end of the year, please consider sending in your own festive Reader’s Feature to run over the Christmas break. It can be on any subject but if there’s something you’ve been meaning to write in about, but never got around to, now would be a good time for it.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

Risk of delays
I know it’s not really much of a surprise but knowing that the PlayStation 5 will probably still be hard to get in 2023 is just crazy. Does it really matter though? It’s selling extremely well any way and Sony don’t seem upset or desperate about anything.

It seems obvious to me that the real problem the pandemic is causing is not with hardware but software. Sony might be happy about PlayStation 5 console sales, but you can bet they’re not pleased that all their Christmas games got delayed. And that’s a problem that’s not going to go away, for anyone, until probably well after 2023.

Companies are going to be backed up for years and everything that’s released between now and when things are back to normal are going to be compromised in some way. There’s nothing anyone can do about it but gaming isn’t going to be back to normal for a very long time. I just hope Horizon Forbidden West isn’t delayed again…

No switching up
I can believe Zelda: Breath Of The Wild 2 will be out in November but at that point the Switch will be almost five and a half years old. Which begs the obvious question of when are Nintendo going to replace it? The average for a generation is five years and while it can be longer than that you usually get the replacement announced long before it actually comes out.

I wonder if the semiconductor shortages have changed Nintendo’s plans and the whole thing about the Switch Pro was actually true and they just cancelled it at the last minute, once they realised they wouldn’t be able to make enough.

Since the first game was a launch title I would’ve thought Breath Of The Wild 2 would’ve been the perfect way to end major support for the console, so I’m really not sure what they’re planning for afterwards.

Weighty purchase
Merry Series Xmas to you all!

I managed to get hold of the Xbox Series X. It’s available in decent numbers in Hong Kong, since the Xbox brand lost its appeal in the last gen. Store shelves were pretty even between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but the Xbox brand is now a distant third after the Switch and PlayStation 5.

As I slowly start to download (via Game Pass) all the titles I plan to play over Christmas and beyond, it’s still shocking to see the massive size of the console in person, especially when put next to the Switch. Plus, both my arms are so sore after carrying the thing back home yesterday!

Hope everyone at Metro, and the readers, have a great holiday. It’s been a tough couple of years!
ttfp saylow (gamertag)
Now playing – deciding what to download off Game Pass!

GC: The Xbox Series X is the Game Boy Micro compared to the PlayStation 5.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Perfect year?
In response to Dalglish, I think it’s Microsoft who have come out on top this year. They had a slow start but from the summer on have just been gaining momentum. Microsoft Flight Simulator was new to console even if it wasn’t new-new; 12 Minutes irrespective of opinion was a distinct experience. Then ending the year with Forza and Halo right next to each other and then both seemingly being more popular than Battlefield and Call Of Duty is crazy to think.

Alongside this they have the top two ‘new’ 2021 games according to Metacritic.

Deathloop and Psychonauts 2 may not be exclusives to Xbox (Deathloop isn’t even on Xbox), but as I said Microsoft came out on top not Xbox, they count as a win for Microsoft too. They also serve as very good final games from the studios on PlayStation, leaving a message that if you want to play our next game, go buy an Xbox.

It doesn’t feel like they put a foot wrong all year, but it will be interesting if they can keep the momentum into 2022. To me it feels like it will be tough to do, other than Starfield is there anything else big left?

GC: 12 Minutes is not an Xbox exclusive, it’s even on Switch.

Lost race
Why did Microsoft drop the Project Gotham Racing series? I thought those games were excellent. Project Gotham Racing 2 is the game that got me into Xbox Live, and the fun I had on Project Gotham Racing 3 attempting to qualify for tournaments has not been surpassed by any other racing game.

Yeah, the Horizon games are good, but there’s little to no skill needed in the racing. Project Gotham Racing tracks were of the sort where you could really learn the racing line to shave off seconds in lap times, even though you were in central London or similar. With Horizon you can just drive your hypercar across a river and through several trees without penalty, and you’ll even get bonus points!

Bring it back!

Final challenge
RE: Deli. The final boss of Metroid Dread is not that hard. Although saying that, Metroid Dread is one of the hardest games I have finished this year.

The boss is certainly not easy enough to complete first try but once you have seen and understood how to avoid all the clearly telegraphed moves it is perfectly achievable. You may, however, need to find a few more upgrades.

It probably took this person with aged reflexes around 15 attempts, with most tries seeing me get a little further than previously. Moves that completely destroyed me the first time encountering them were effortlessly avoided after a few repetitions. I found it very rewarding to overcome.

There are collectibles in the game far, far harder to reach than the final boss was to defeat. I spent nearly three hours collecting the last four upgrades as the button strings that you are required to quickly press are very challenging. I can definitely see why Metroid Dread has received many criticisms over accessibility.

Essentially I recommend giving the boss a few more attempts. I am sure you will be able to beat it.

GC: We disagree. Metroid Dread isn’t that hard overall (although it’s not easy) but the final boss is considerably more difficult than the rest of it. Unless you’re saying it only counts as hard because of the optional collectibles? But that seems an odd way to judge it.

Follow the money
What I didn’t realise until recently is that often times when we gamers are upset about something a publisher is doing so too are the developers. This business with Ubisoft has been a real eye-opener, with them not only upset about NFTs but the fact that Ubisoft is becoming obsessed with free-to-play games as service titles instead of ‘real’ games.

I really don’t think anyone wants them, and it seems the developers don’t want to make them either. But of course, some accountant with a spreadsheet has decided they’ll be profitable and so that’s what Ubisoft had fixated on.

Window to the soul
I enjoy following the comments regarding the calibre of acting in games. The thing is that acting, when it is ‘good’, is pretty invisible. The audience gets immersed and is unaware of the acting. I have presented my Acting for Animators masterclass at most major game companies and I see certain aspects of performance to be problematic across the board. Eyes in games are pretty god awful. Eye movement and blinking illuminates thought patterns. I have been told a number of times that facial capture also captures eye movement and blinks, which I am sure is true, but eye movement and blinking in a mocap session is not the same as it is for actors in an Anthony Hopkins movie.

Mocap actors, no matter how talented, are balancing performance with physical movement. If you think at all about something, it will show in eye movement and blinks. Therefore, to really ‘fix’ eye movement and blinking, the animators need to control it. Many, if not most, video games hide the characters’ eyes behind masks and dark glasses, probably because eyes are time-consuming to animate. The industry needs to cross this bridge at some point, if video game performance is going to be on a par with, say, what Daniel Day Lewis or Anthony Hopkins or Benjamin Cumberbach are doing in big movies.

The other big challenge for video games is that so many of them are over-written. Acting, surprisingly, has very little to do with words. Especially on film. Stage plays are about words, characters talking to each other. When you see a stage play, you tend to watch the person talking, yes? On film, we tend to watch the person listening. Therefore, film editors ‘cut to reaction’. Video game developers tend not to trust that the player will get all the subtle points, so they put it in dialogue. You have two characters carrying on a conversation in a back yard, and a truck passes by… one of them is likely to say, ‘There’s that truck again…’ Unnecessary.

With games, it truly takes a village. Many artists have their hand on the quality of the performance. Therefore, everybody in the pipeline really should understand what I am talking about here – not just the animators.

Anyway… I will continue to follow. You guys are doing excellent work, and I appreciate it.
Ed Hooks

Inbox also-rans
I too feel that Splatoon 2 is always overlooked and overrated by people. It’s easily my favourite online shooter and I still go back to it even now. Couldn’t be more excited about Splatoon 3.

The Oculus Quest 2 is all well and good but what happens when they want to make an Oculus Quest 3 that’s only a bit better? It’s not like the jump from 1 to 2 was all that great. There needs to be some sort of discount for people or even a subscription service.

This week’s Hot Topic
Since this will be the last Hot Topic of the year we want to end on a positive note, so the subject for this weekend’s Inbox is your favourite video game related memory of 2021.

If it’s a moment in a game try to be specific about why it was so memorable and if it’s something that happened in real-life, but was video game related, try and explain a bit about the backstory of what it meant to you.

Overall, was your year with games better in 2021 than 2020 and how important was gaming in help you to get through the tribulations of the pandemic?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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