21 April 2013

Looking Back at Jak and Daxter

This week Sony announced that Naughty Dog's Jak and Daxter Trilogy was headed to PS Vita. This collection has already been released on PS3 and represents a new opportunity for fans old and new to acquaint (or reacquaint) with Jak and his furry sidekick.

But why should you? The Jak and Daxter series pushed boundaries in some respects without a single loading screen in the entire trilogy, that's impressive even by today's standards but beyond mere technical feats Jak's story told an accomplished and cohesive story in which the roots of Uncharted's compelling narrative can be derived.

Just as Nathan Drake's adventures were a clear step up from those of Jak so too was Naughty Dog's PS2 franchise a huge leap forward from Crash Bandicoot. The Precursor Legacy, the first Jak game, afforded players a remarkable platformer that holds up well - in gameplay terms if not necessarily graphically - to this day.

The Precursor Legacy is in some respects the purest of the Jak and Daxter Trilogy in that it is most rooted within a single genre, third person shooting and racing played a limited part in Legacy and would go to provide a much greater role in Jak 2: Renegade and Jak 3, somewhat diluting the platforming sections.

In this regard Precursor Legacy is in some respects a more full experience by focusing most intently on one element of gameplay. This is not to dish the racing and shooting of the later games but certainly the action, and Jak's arsenal, could never quite match up to the fluid combat of the Ratchet and Clank series.

Jak 2 meanwhile very much fit into the trilogy mantra of being the darker second act, The Empire Strikes Back of the series if you will. The formerly mute Jak found a voice and with it the corrupt and downtrodden Haven City.

Yet for all the races through the Stadium and the city's streets (the one against Errol I found particularly grating) there were also moments of pure gaming magic. The Mountain Temple proved a particular highlight while the game made great strides in recasting the Lurkers, the evil henchmen of Precursor Legacy, as victims of the war against the Metal Heads and human hostility.

The closing act of the trilogy, unsurprisingly named Jak 3, saw the pointy-eared hero blamed for unleashing the forces attacking Haven City and threatening to overwhelm it. Jak's exile brought with it some fine racing action and with it the surprising revelation of precisely what the Precursors were.

As Naughty Dog prepare to release their next IP, The Last of Us, in June you couldn't go far wrong by picking up the series they made for the PS2 which remains one of the best gaming trilogies ever made to see where they've come from (or, for that matter, their Crash Bandicoot game either). In time, we may get Jak 4 but until we do the Jak and Daxter Trilogy isn't a bad fallback.

Why Paid Multiplayer Services Aren't Going Anywhere

There have been several articles over the years arguing that PlayStation Plus is a better service than Xbox Live, such an opinion of course is entirely subjective (though there are often viable objective arguments to back up that assertion). Of course, PlayStation Network has a tendency towards much longer service downtime and everyone remembers the notorious hack of the system two years ago which denied PS3 owners the opportunity for multiplayer gaming for a month.

For PlayStation Network users this was a great inconvenience tempered somewhat by the fact the service is free, for PlayStation Plus users it was another matter. It's events like this, as well as the difficulty faced by many Xbox Live users logging in several weeks ago, which show we are not quite ready for always online consoles.

However, a great many people pay Microsoft for the privilege of playing games online and many people also pay for PlayStation Plus which, while not required for online play, nonetheless comes with a host of subscriber only benefits.

This week Microsoft released a raft of figures concerning their console and its online platform. 77 million Xbox 360s have been sold to date and of those 46 million are Xbox Live subscribers, or roughly 60% market penetration. If all of those Xbox Live accounts were Gold that would equal $256 million in annual revenues, if even half that number were Free and the other half Gold it would still net Microsoft $128 million a year.

To put that another way, Microsoft would need to sell an additional five million consoles annually to match what they would lose if they didn't charge for Gold at the $256 million figure or two and a half million at the $128 million level.

Inevitably Sony must be looking at these figures and calculating how much they're losing out on. The PlayStation maker has never revealed the number of PlayStation Plus subscribers but they have revealed that there are over 100 million PlayStation Network accounts.

A large part of this can be contributed to the simple fact that the service is free. Were Sony to charge for PSN next-gen they would likely lose a fair chunk of those accounts, the balance to be determined therefore is would the additional revenue from subscriptions outweigh the potential impact on game and console sales?

Free multiplayer is one of the PS3's greatest strength and while it might seem foolhardy to throw that advantage away the fact is millions of people happily (or not so happily as the case may be) pay Microsoft for that very thing each month.

In all likelihood, I suspect, Sony will keep multiplayer free for PS4 but so radically expand the scope of PlayStation Plus that the standard PSN becomes utterly limited in comparison both to Plus and Live. The other option is tiered services, with additional features the more you paid, quite how many tiers might be too many and how much for a subscription might be too much will only be determined by gamers' wallets.

The reality is, Xbox Live fees are not going anywhere and Sony would be mad not to at least consider the possibility. They've said PlayStation Plus will feature prominently on PS4, it remains to be seen just how prominently.

20 April 2013

Games Have Come a Very Long Way

In 1947 Thomas T. Goldsmith and Estle Ray Mann developed the very first recognisable arcade videogame, a year later they received the very first patent for a game.

Their title, based on cathode ray tube technology, was a missile simulator inspired by the events of World War II. In other words, the first game ever developed was a war game. Jump ahead to 1962 and the students of MIT came together to produce earliest multiplayer game, Spacewar!

As the name suggests Spacewar! saw players assume control of a spaceship and lobbed missiles at each other.

We've come a long way since those days. Donkey Kong (1981) cost $100,000, Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011) came in at $200 million. Yet as the cost of game development has exploded so too has the size and scope of the industry.

In 1996 the US videogame market was worth about $2.9 billion, by 2012 that same market had a value of $14.8 billion. But of course, it's not the same market at all. 75% of households play games, 25% of gamers are over the age of 50, 47% of gamers are female and the average age of a gamer is 35.

None of those figures would have conceivable when Goldsmith and Mann got to work, or for that matter, in 1995 when Sony launched the first PlayStation in the West and heralded the arrival of 3D gaming (as opposed to 3D games).

Even the perception of games has been altered enormously in that time. While Sony were the first to radically expand the perception of what a gamer could be, largely with the help of accomplished marketing (though they would no doubt argue the games they developed helped), Nintendo carried that mantle forward by creating what was, for better or worse, something revolutionary with the Wii.

Indeed, the Wii's codename was Nintendo Revolution, and as we all know it got people who had never gamed before to pick a Wii Mote and play. That market has largely migrated to mobile and tablets of course, but that doesn't mean they aren't gamers anymore.

This generation of consoles has seen the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 become entertainment hubs as much as gaming devices with both consoles used more for movies, TV or music than games. In fact PS3 is the world's most used device for Netflix. When Sony placed a CD-Rom in the PS One they took a risk and it payed off immensely, the same when it came to the PS2's DVD player - and whatever else you might say about PS3, it's a hell of a Blu-ray player - this will continue next-gen and expand, a radical leap from a time when a game system could do was play games.

In 2004 Leonardo DiCaprio met with Quantic Dream's president Guillaume de Fondaumiere concerning the possibility of DiCaprio appearing in a game.

"He made us realise that from an image perspective, this wasn't going to work," de Fondaumiere revealed this week. However, Quantic Dream's next game, Beyond: Two Souls, stars Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page - who appeared alongside DiCaprio in Inception - while LA Noire's lead, Cole Phelps, was voiced by Mad Men's Aaron Staton.

There are many more examples. 

In every way games have evolved since 1947, they're art. Yes, the very first game was a war title, but each time a politician or a media pundit voices their angst at the violence sometimes found in games remember there are games like Papo & Yo, Journey, Beyond. The important thing is, music and movies had these arguments around them before, and each time the new form of media won out over the naysayers.

We've come a long way and despite the difficulties currently gripping much of the industry the only way is up.

14 April 2013

Remembering Ensemble Studios

Age of Empires II HD was launched on Steam last week having originally being released in 1999 including the Conquerors Expansion, released in 2000.

It was one of the earliest, perhaps the very first, real time strategy game I played and the series sold over 15 million copies before Age of Empires III was released. For a 14 year old game it holds up well, granted what were minor annoyances at the time have been aggravated by time.

Limited AI which, for example, allows units to be created behind a barracks (sometimes rendering them inaccessible) or making a villager stand still for several seconds for no obvious reason.

The most vexing issue, to me at least, are the farms and the need to replenish them regularly. Granted, you can set this to be auto-executed at a mill but it consumes valuable resources and time nevertheless. While the map editor does not seem to permit players to place resources (besides trees for wood) on the map - perhaps I'm merely missing the option to do so but it seems a rather odd omission. 

Regardless I've found it to be of great interest from the perspective of revisiting a classic game and seeing how, in general terms, it holds up quite well.

One of the great aspects of the game was the variety of campaigns offered. The conquests of Attila the Hun, the reclamation of Moorish Spain by El Cid, the Hundred Years War and the legend of Joan of Arc and more.

This range of gameplay led to less of a narrative than the one afforded in Age of Mythology, in part because it was grounded in historical events, in part because the story of these battles were told largely through the panels of writing with associated voice-overs rather than cutscenes.

Still, there aren't many games that grant such a broad range of story based missions even if, perhaps, the campaign - based far more on legend than history - in Age of Mythology provided for a more diverse game.

And in Age of Mythology there would certainly be interest in a HD makeover, if not a full blown sequel (the latter being significantly less likely). That game's setting, in a world with Atlantis and vengeful gods afforded players the chance to pitch minotaurs against sphinxes; not something a genre, usually founded very much in reality, often permits.

In lieu of Ensemble's games, there are of course a great many noteworthy alternatives. Total War, Civilization, Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis to name the principal titles which come to mind. Yet Ensemble's were very much suited to the task, even if age has tarnished their performance or appeal.

In 2009, Ensemble Studios was shuttered mere days after the release of Halo Wars for Xbox 360. The team were aware in advance that Wars would be their last game and that must have made development all the more difficult a prospect. Still, it was an accomplished title by the standards of the genre, more so given consoles are not traditionally RTS friendly.

Wars remains one of the finest games of its type on console and Age of Empires II HD shows why Ensemble were one of the finest RTS makers despite the wear and tear which would be apparent in virtually any 14 year old game - even with a glossy graphics overhaul.

At least until Rome 2: Total War or Civilization V: Brave New World launches I'll be re-conquering Medieval Europe in AoE 2 HD for some to time to come - unless that Age of Mythology HD remakes lands... 

For those intrigued in some history of the internet variety, interestingly enough, the game's website is still online. (The HD remake's website is here.)

Five Places Fallout Could Go

5. Anchorage - The US-Chinese War of 2076/2077 was partially explored in the Operation Anchorage DLC for Fallout 3 but how about a full Fallout game set in the state of Alaska centuries after the bombs dropped? Sure, Alaska wouldn't have been in the direct line of fire but that just make it all the more interesting.

How has the frozen tundra evolved? How have the wolves and bears mutated? What of across the border in Canada? A country invaded by the US in the Fallout timeline and likely therefore a target to some degree for the Chinese.

4. London - A decimated London was shown off in Mass Effect 3 but what about a Fallout twist? In Fallout 3 Alistair Tenpenny emigrates from the UK to the Capital Wasteland. Even if he saw an opportunity for Tenpenny Tower before he moved you'd have to wonder just how bad Western Europe must be in the Fallout universe to warrant a move to an area with Enclave forces and deathclaws.

There's also Moriarty whose dreadfully fake Irish accent would also seem to suggest there was some cause to cross the highly irradiated pond. It might also shine more light on the European Commonwealth, Fallout's version of the European Union - though one in possession of a united military force which was utilised in the Resource Wars.

3. New York - So good, they nuked it twice. Or at the very least it would likely be a high priority target for the Chinese. New York is, of course, home to the UN headquarters which we're told was transformed into a toy store after the UN was dismantled in 2052.

Another interesting aspect of setting a future game in New York is the city's large Chinese population. We saw the internment camps for Chinese citizens in Point Lookout but in such an integrated city as New York how were their lives affected by the growing hostilities between the US and China? It's also likely there would Chinese infiltrators and propaganda outlets such as the Mama Dolce factory in Fallout 3.

2. Boston - Home of the Commonwealth and rumoured to be the setting of the next Fallout Boston might allow for a more radical break from the series than what has come before. The retro-future tech of other Fallout games might be replaced with the advanced cybernetics and other technologies hinted at in the Harkness missions of Fallout 3.

Obviously if Bethesda choose to go down this route they would need to be careful not to anger fans by producing too radical a departure from series' norms but that doesn't mean there isn't scope for innovation.

The Commonwealth's practice of keeping android slaves would also open up a game set in this region to great moral implications and would almost certainly prove pivotal to the game's core story.

1. Beijing - The least likely option on this list but also perhaps the most interesting. Fallout has shown us how America prepared for the war; the Vaults, the internment camps, Liberty Prime and the propaganda. But what of the Chinese, what did they do when nuclear conflict seemed inevitable?

What sparked their decision to invade Alaska?

A Fallout title set in Beijing would show us what the Asian nation was up to before the war as well as granting us a look at their society. Were they as atom-obsessed as the Americans are made out to be? Did they attack America using conventional means specifically because they wanted to avoid a nuclear holocaust?  

All of these options could be explored in a Fallout located in the Oriental city.

12 April 2013

The Costs of AAA Games Development

Today cloud computing firm ProfitBricks released an info-graphic detailing the costs of making games, the pitfalls and benefits of cloud gaming and what information to take into account when selecting the correct publisher model for your game.

Yet the really interesting information, at least to me, is the look at the money involved in game development and where that money goes during the cost of development.

The chart highlights six games and compares the risk (the finances dedicated to the project) and the reward (the number of unit sales).

Stretching from 1981's Donkey Kong all the way up to 2011's Star Wars: The Old Republic, the information reveals the staggering increase in costs along the way. Donkey Kong sold a mere 1.13 million copies yet it only cost $100,000 to develop or, adjusted for inflation, $356,000.

By comparison, The Old Republic, the most expensive game in history, had a cost of $200,000,000 - excluding marketing. That game sold 2.56 million copies and clearly represents a breathtaking increase in terms of the money invested with only a minimal (just over double) increase in unit sales.

Of course this is in relation solely to those two games. As another example, it highlights Grand Theft Auto IV which came in at $100,000,000. However, it sold 20.63 million copies.

Clearly, from that information alone, AAA games development relies on more than capital invested to ensure success. This can also likely be reflected by the series of closures which have riddled the industry lately.

Redundancies at EA, the closure of LucasArts, the collapse of THQ. The resignation of John Riccitiello and Yoichi Wada. The co-founder of BioWare saying the industry is facing into "a sick market for old-school gaming."

These are just some of recent major occurrences. The list goes on.

Part of this contraction is natural, the fact is the industry probably did grow too large between 2005 and 2011/12. We're now seeing it contract back to more manageable proportions, which, naturally, is of no comfort to those directly effected. As a sizable chunk of the market moves from traditional gaming devices to other platforms we should perhaps see more of the same to follow.

And indeed, it seems highly unlikely that next generation consoles will match the success of current systems. Which is not to say they cannot be successes in their own right, certainly, for now at least, there's significant buzz building around the PS4 - whether this interest translates into sales remains to be seen.

Both Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat and Ubisoft Toronto President Jade Raymond have said they expect the AAA market to contract, perhaps to 8-10 core titles a year. While this may not seem like much it leaves enormous scope for excellent indie and middle tier titles. In the case of those two studios, with 2,700 employees between them, it seems there's at least some life in top of the range development - unless, perhaps, Assassin's Creed 4 tanks which seems an unlikely prospect.

The core problem is the cost of game development. With each successive generation of platforms the price of game making rises. The forthcoming console era will be no different even if costs are tempered somewhat by the PS4's and Xbox 720's PC-like system architectures.

In the ProfitBricks info-graphic the breakdown of how resources are divided in the making of a $10,000,000 game are laid out. Though this would be a very modest price for console releases these days it's likely not too different with higher cost games.

55% of the money is contributed to marketing, publisher fees, console licensing and manufacturing copies of the title. The remaining 45% goes on actual game development.

With $100,000,000 games the ratio likely leans more heavily towards marketing even as production cots increase. Imagine what could be done if all 100% was dedicated to development? (Not that it's feasible for AAA development of course.)

Game costs will continue to rise and they may very well come with associated increases in prices charged to consumers. We may well see fewer top-tier games going forward but throwing money into development doesn't always lead to success at retail.  

07 April 2013

Why Alternative Consoles Don't Really Stand a Chance

Over the last week several reviews for the Kickstarter backed Ouya appeared online. Both Engadget and The Verge determined the device to be decidedly mediocre.

Critiquing the console's controllers Engadet noted what it called "sticky buttons and gummy analogue sticks" while The Verge noted the system's lack of exclusive titles at this point. $8.5 million was raised on Kickstarter for the console, keep in mind the PlayStation 3 reportedly cost $500 million to develop.

There are core differences of course, the Ouya, as an Android powered device, already has an operating system and development tools in place meaning they didn't have to construct the system from scratch.

But to realistically expect a $100 to compete with the $300 Xbox 360 and PS3 (not to mention their original, much higher price) seems somewhat naive. If that was their intention there had better be a significant boost in outside interest. At present, developers betting their futures on Ouya may find things do not go exactly according to plan.

It's perfectly normal for a kid to say 'I want a 3DS!' 'I want an Xbox!' 'I want a PlayStation!' These are devices with broad reach within the public consciousness, even non-gamers will likely have at least heard of them due to the extensive advertising campaigns which accompany these major console launches. Not so with Ouya.

The average household may have a Android phone lying around but how likely is it that means the average house will want an Android console? Especially one, which on the surface at least, lacks compelling exclusive titles?

Ouya is a free-to-play orientated console, all games on the system are required to use this model and certainly there's significant success to be found it given the right gameplay model and circumstances but it seems to be an unnecessary restriction on developers and attracting developer interest ought to prove especially difficult with new consoles on the horizon.

$8.5 million is a lot of money. But it can't match the resources of Microsoft or Sony, even cash strapped as the latter has been in recent years. The PlayStation maker has been doing its utmost to appeal to developers, including them in the console design process and signing exclusive deals for a range of indie titles, hopefully Microsoft will follow suite.

So what does the Ouya have to offer in competition? That remains to be seen.

The company is quick to point out the devices are those sent out to Kickstarter backers, not review units. Yet if that is the case than it can hardly be realistic to expect a radical overhaul by the time the system is fully launched, and if there is one then backers may well have found themselves cheated.

Yet Ouya is far from alone.

Yesterday PlayJam announced shipping of its GameStick consoles -another Android system - to backers would be delayed until June.  Apparently due to high demand. Described as the world's smallest console the system is entirely contained on a USB. Its portability may make it an appealing prospect to some, while its limited size may entice others - especially those with small living room - yet again it remains a device which will likely struggle to make headway in the public domain.

Remembers E3 occurs in June. Microsoft will likely unveil the next Xbox near or at the annual industry event. PlayJam will want the GameStick to be something very special indeed to make a splash among the announcements and wave of publicity and hype Sony and Microsoft will be building around the release of their consoles later in the year.

The Oculus Rift, a fascinating concept, and one that stands ready to potentially revolutionise virtual reality, will likely come with its own problems. One would assume the risk of headaches and disorientation is a very definite possibility when using the device, at least for some users, while those who wear glasses will likely struggle to come to terms with system's headgear - as anyone who wears glasses and goes to a 3D movie can no doubt attest.

For all the name dropping of the Oculus Rift at this year's Game Developers Conference it really will be a matter of seeing if developers match with games the enthusiasm they expressed. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect we're not quite ready for the era of virtual reality yet.

Then there's Nvidia's Project Shield. As a major chip maker it may perhaps be interesting to see what they can do with the system but again it comes down to developer backing and realistically, at this stage, there's little reason to suspect a mass exodus to the device.

The often overwhelming success of these systems on Kickstarter suggests a hunger for new consoles certainly exists - undoubtedly perpetuated by the length of this console cycle - yet if these devices fail to make a deep impact in the market this interest may well ultimately benefit Microsoft and Sony more than anyone else (barring a remarkable reversal of fortune for the Wii U of course).

Perhaps one, or all, of these alternative consoles will steal the limelight from traditional gaming platforms, only time will answer that.

06 April 2013

Regenerating Health and What it Means for Games

Jonathan Blow, the designer of Braid and The Witness, posted a number of Tweets this week on the subject of recharging health within games and particularly shooters, his comments being prompted by his playthrough of BioShock Infinte.

In all, there were ten Tweets and you can read them all on his timeline, they've also been collected below as a whole.

"Playing Infinite, I realize that Halo-style recharging shields are actually a huge mistake in shooter design. But all shooters use them now. Since people are going to ask: There are two problems; one is about emotional pacing, one is about gameplay crispness and fairness," he wrote.

"With shields, you are always doing okay in the medium and long term. They low-pass filter the emotional high of surviving a tight situation. You can have a tight situation on the order of 10 seconds, but not on the order of 5 minutes, which matters more.

"The crispness problem is: In order to provide difficulty, designers now have to overwhelm your shields all the time, which means designing situations that are spammy (get hit from all directions so you can't process what is going on).These are confusing and not fun.

"These feel messy to play but they happen all the time because they have to. Or, like Infinite does, have super attacks that take away all your shields at once *and* 1/3 of your health, which feels steeply unfair.

"Also, shields train the player to ignore getting hit most of the time, which becomes grating at the end when guys start hitting hard. (You trained the players for one thing but then gave them another!) I think shooters are much stronger experiences when it matters if you got hit. In shield games you get hit all the time, like flies buzzing," Blow concluded.

Even if you don't agree with his overall thoughts he provides some valuable insights into the process, even Adrien Chmielarz, the former creative director of Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgement creator PeopleCanFly accepted Blow's points as entirely valid.

It's notable that one of the most tense and atmospheric shooters of recent years is Insomniac's Resistance 3 in part because it saw the return of health packs to the series. With this feature also game a more tactical game, you couldn't run into combat knowing a few seconds behind cover would fix you right up.

And let's face it, hiding against a wall having been shot in the head a few seconds before magically is absurd, even by the usual standards of game logic. Some games at least account for this, MJOLNIR armour accounts for Master Chief's recharging shields. Nanites account for this miraculous self-healing in Deus Ex.

Yet in Call of Duty or Battlefield you're just a soldier, you're very much human and there's no explanation given as to why you have this miraculous capacity to regenerate (naturally, it's not something one thinks about when picking up a controller to play one of these game though perhaps it should be).

Of course, health packs are hardly any better, at the very least they provide a mechanism at least superficially similar to medicine.

There is also a degree of backtracking where medkits are concerned, especially on a first playthrough when gamers are unsure if any lie ahead in a particular area. 

In an industry as big and diverse as this, there has to be a developer with a solution and if they have one then perhaps they can look to boss fights - one element of gaming which has much altered in 30 years at the very least recharging health is a relatively recent innovation.

Chmielarz suggests a 'hope' system where by health is drained away due to injury but restored with the deaths' of enemies. Perhaps not what Blow had in mind, but there's surely a meaningful way of making injuries and the prospect of death within games well, meaningful.

02 April 2013

BioShock Infinite is a Masterpiece, But a Flawed One

NB: Spoilers Ahead

BioShock Infinite is a masterpiece. Yet it is not a without faults.

People have said they have been bowled over by it. It has a plethora of 10/10 scores on Metacritic. Without question Infinite is one of the finest games of this, perhaps any, generation. But by no means is it perfect.

No moment in the game swept me off my feet (either literally or figuratively) but it remains both highly admirable and utterly commendable in terms of what it was trying to do. There is no getting around it, at least for me, Infinite is a flawed gem.

As anyone who has played the game will be aware a moment a little past halfway through has you retrace your steps several times in a bid to find and permanently put to rest Elizabeth's mother. Somewhat earlier, players are also required to return to the same location, a gun shop, several times. At least with the gun shop each visit occurred after entering a tear and, as such, each visit was slightly different.

Games regularly perform this tactic of set replication, it's an effective cost cutting tool after all. Yet it fells particularly noticeable in Infinite, perhaps because of the limited nature of the path available, there are no sky lines here, no alternative routes. You pass through Columbia's financial district into the market district. Then you turn return to the Bank of the Prophet in the financial district and, yes, you guessed it, proceed through the market.

In a game such as Dishonoured, for example, when areas are repeated (beyond the Hounds Pits Pub which serves as the central hub area for the game) there is at least some time between revisits. This section of the game slows the narrative and seems an obvious, however understandable, attempt at recycling assets.

Then there are minor design oversights. Each time the game is loaded the tutorial messages display again when you pick up a new Gear for instance. Players have read the messages and most likely remember them, there's no need to show them more than once or twice.

Players may also have noticed the game has only one save file option. Now, there's a case to be made that this makes sense given the Infinite's universe and themes. Just read up on the no-cloning theorem of quantum mechanics, or don't. The point is it makes sense given what Irrational were exploring within the game.

However, this is an example of the developer putting the game universe ahead of the gameplay, or rather, in this case, the game design. Other examples of this include the airlock in Mass Effect, something which was bizarrely replicated when passing through security on the Citadel in Mass Effect 2 and the scanner by the war room in Mass Effect 3.

There are also the muskets in Assassin's Creed 3. Sure, they make sense given the game's historical setting but not in terms of actually playing the game, especially when Ezio was running around Venice two centuries earlier with a gun that could be loaded and fired faster.

These are instances of developers putting things which make sense in the narrative they've constructed and the world they're building, but generally not to the gamers who go on to play these games and come across these issues.

Booker is also limited in that he can only carry two weapons. Certainly vigors such as Bucking Bronco give the former Pendleton agent a distinct advantage but sooner or later Elizabeth will call out that she's found ammo when you've run low. Being able to carry more than two weapons would even the odds in some of the larger fights.

Infinite's good at giving you the weapons you need as you need them but sometimes you find yourself wishing you'd brought that sniper rifle you had to leave behind.

Here, Adrien Chmielarz, talks about Infinite's opening moments:

"BioShock Infinite's opening is confusing, I cannot spoil it for you because I have no idea what was going on. There was this guy, weird things in a lighthouse, and then I was in Columbia."

Chmielarz points to the fact that the Lutece siblings comment on which one should be rowing, and whether or not Booker should be as well. Yet there are only one set of oars. In retrospect, further clarity is shed on the brother and sister, and the nature of their existence, much later in the game. Yet at this point they, and everything that is occurring, is very much an enigma.

There's something to be said for a mystery. Lost is still exactly that. Yet it helps to have some inclination as to what is going on.

You may laugh off Chmielarz's arguments and argue Bulletstorm and BioShock are at two very different ends of the spectrum, and apart from being shooters they largely are, but that doesn't invalidate his views and they are well worth reading.

If I were to review Infinite I would give it a 9/10. It's a truly excellent game, but it's not gaming's messiah as some would seem to claim.