The Forge: Looking at Ubisoft Club and how cosmetic rewards should be part of the rewards for trophies/achievements

There has been suggestion, ever since their introduction, that trophies and achievements should add some sort of value to the games they are attached to. Idea’s like each platinum or one thousand gamer score of a game should garner you a few dollars in store credit. Others have been looking for something a bit less monetary, seeking stuff like themes, costumes and other in-game goods.

There have been many games that do this in some fashion, such as Dragons Crown and its artwork after completing levels and quests, Halo and Gears of War giving you avatar helmets, shirts and other accessories as well as many games now a days giving you pre-order skins, weapons or themes for your console. Before we jump into, what I consider to be, the positive aspects of Ubisoft Club lets take a moment to reflect on how Uplay was the first incarnation of their system and how god awful it was.

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Uplay, Ubisofts attempt at DRM, launched way back in July of 2012. While initially it was being touted as a distribution service, similar to Steam or EA’s Origin but it was quickly found out that Uplay was actually Usucks. As a DRM service it quickly became clear that Ubisoft were more focused on trying to control the experience as well as compete with the previously mentioned services as well and just as quickly as the DRM aspect was found out its user base found the service to be incredibly poor.

Not all was lost however, as Uplay introduced, and ultimately became the system I want to talk about here today which is Ubisoft Club. To give a bit of context, Ubisofts Club program which tracks, if you are signed up, your games progress across multiple platforms. As you get trophies or achievements within the game or complete in-game quests or challenges. What does this do for you? Well it gives you an app currency call units, which allows you to purchase in game items. Examples are things like gun skins for Rainbow Six Siege or character costumes in South Park: The Stick of Truth.  Like stated above, there has always been a drive to see our trophies or achievements reward the player in some stance, and while it would be nice to see a monetary value I highly doubt that will ever happen.  What I can see becoming the norm across all gaming platforms is something like Ubisoft Club, let me explain why.

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First off, lets talk about the potential negative aspects for a system like this being implemented across all platforms. The immediate though it sectioning off content from the main game to use for this system, much like some believe DLC content is being used. To be fair we have seen companies play on both sides of this fence and some of the less scrupulous one would opt to take the easy way out. Another aspect of this is watered down versions character creators or customization within the game as the developers would want you to play through as much of your game to unlock these options.

The other potentially negative aspect of this system is the cross-pollination rewards from the same developer. Ubisoft already does this as when you are going through one game, such as The Division, you see rewards for being a part of the alpha or beta for that game as well as having a copy registered of another game, such as Rainbow Six Siege in this example. Some may consider this to be a moot point, as you could make the argument for, “If I don’t want the game, I won’t buy it” and that argument is valid. However I do have the worry that this point couple’s in with my first point on sectioning off the best content to these essential pay walls.

Considering all of the negative aspects though, I personally think there is potential for this type of service/system to be a net positive overall. Obviously, if you don’t care about the cross promotional items then not having them will be a moot point, which goes double for customization options in general if that is not an important feature to you. What I think could be the driving force behind this however is the ability for each dev to give more to the players without really raising the costs of their development.

There is obviously the initial investment of setting up this Club type system but once that is in place on one game, you can start to streamline the process across all your other titles. Giving your players who beat the single player campaign of their game a new character skin or weapon skin is just a small piece of the picture. You could include themes or wallpapers. If you want to move away from Collectors editions you could include the soundtrack once you have platinum/1000 gamer score a game, or completed it on the hardest difficulty.

Coupling the single player aspects into multiplayer could also bring about significant longevity to a game as a new skin or taunt animation from single player could have some of us going back in to grind/work for it while multiplayer-centric unlocks and items could not only be tied to, once again, trophies or achievements but to quests or missions you carry out in the game. A perfect recent example of this is For Honor, which has a mission system in its game already, and once that could be easily modified or copied over to Ubisoft Club’s platform to keep people invested in said game much longer. Rainbow Six Siege already has this function enabled, and gives you in-game currency and experiences points.

While I am not sure if this will ever happen, to me it seems like a smart move as a publisher to start looking into something like this because at the end of the day, don’t you want a higher retention rate on your games? Maybe the gamification of games can help with that.

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For Honor review: Scream, Aim, and toss your enemies off a cliff! (Final review)

Ubisoft Montreal might have had a magic mirror into my heart when they started thinking up this game. As a long time proponent of action adventure games which focus on combat For Honor is a seemingly perfect package of visceral combat, fun customization and easy to learn but hard to master combat system.

For honor is a third person action fighting game which dives deeper into the traditional heavy and light attacks normally associated with action fighting games. Make no mistake, you are still aiming to crush your opponent’s head or lop off a limb, but the combat system has its feet firmly planted in the tactical nature that most associate with higher level traditional fighting games such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. In For Honor, you have three stances which correlate not only to how you attack, but also how you block. So if you are situated to swing on your left side, any attack’s coming from that side, your opponents right, would be auto blocked unless you are in mid swing or other more advanced mechanics like parry’s, guard breaks and unblockable attacks.

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What is fantastic about each faction, such as the Knights shown above, is that every character has the same base mechanics; light attack, heavy attack, block, parry and combo chains to do continuous damage yet each character plays in its own unique way. Even within the loosely based class system of Assassin, Heavy, Vanguard and Hybrid those characters have a different skill set you need to master to truly blossom in battle.

Mastering the characters you think are interesting or cool is both the focus and the detriment to the game though. If you focus merely on one character you start to fully realize their potential but then struggle to identify the nuances of others. I personally Play the Conqueror and routinely find myself struggling against the faster more agile assassins of each faction. If you are looking to hone your skills, the practice mode has a couple of bot’s which help you anticipate certain characters move sets as you increase the difficulty.

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There are six games modes you can pick from, five of them being multiplayer modes like Dominion, 1v1 duels and 2v2-4v4 elimination match’s while the sixth mode type is the single player. The single player runs you through six levels for each faction and in my experience so far, just finishing the knight campaign, it is a fun way to learn each of the characters at a basic level while helping newer players come to gripes how each character attacks and defends. The slightly annoying aspect is that if you already did the practice mode, which grants you some in-game currency called steel, then jump into the single player campaign, you will get these same tutorial prompts over the course of the campaign. Minor gripe, but I didn’t see a place in options to turn that off.

The real meat of this game however is in its multiplayer mode. I personally prefer Dominion as I am still trying to ‘git gud’ in duels but each mode brings you as a fighter into a well designed and beautiful looking world in which you can unleash your rage against your enemy, or just troll them and throw them off the side of a cliff, which is great when you do it to someone but incredibly rage inducing when it happens to you. One thing I will mention if you are duo queuing in duels is be honorable, fight your fight and if you win wait for the other fight to finish before jumping into the combat, if your teammate lost, and you should see many players do the same in return. The “honor of the duel” seems to be pretty well-respected in these match’s but every once in a while you come across a pair of shitheads who bring shame to their family.

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Not all is mead and cherry blossoms however, Ubisoft decided to run it’s multiplayer match’s off of a peer-to-peer system which, as many are painfully aware of, can cause issues with lag if you are fighting against people with poor connection or on the other side of the planet. Like many PtP connection they try to match you with users close to you so your connection is good, but you don’t always find those games, and on more than one occasion I am battling against people/ in Asia, Germany and Spain and the game starts to act a bit wonky. This has also caused issues with connecting to games in general as there are many times I have sat in a search lobby for two to three minutes only to be timed out. *After playing for a couple of weeks now, the peer-to-peer connection is still an issue that players have to deal with and it hurts the flow and pacing of most fights. Getting random disconnects, or taking five minutes to load into a match can really put a damper on your spirit to play.

Another aspect which seems a bit lack luster is their currency system, or I should say their acquisition of said currency. Like I mentioned above the practice mode gives you two thousand steel, while advanced practice mode gives you an additional fifteen hundred. However after that your steel generation is tied to your performance in combat and completing daily missions. All give you exp and steel but the quantity varies and if you are still learning the game, there are some missions that will be very difficult to complete.

Finishing up the review

After putting in another twenty or thirty hours, I can say my opinion of For Honor has shifted slightly. While still an overall positive review of this game, I think Ubisoft has, once again, harmed their own property with poor choice and sloppy implementation. Lets break down the last pieces of this review with the completion of the campaign and delving into some higher tier player vs player combat.

On the side of the story, For Honor delivers a pretty enjoyable single player experience. Each chunk, one for each faction is split into six missions. These missions are there to not only teach you about the various classes, as stated above, but also to break up the potential monotony of playing the same class. I played the game co-op on the realistic setting which increased the games difficulty up a bit for most of the game, but had random huge difficulty spikes, usually when it came to a boss. The end boss battle against Apolyon for example is utterly brutal, and made even more difficult with the addition of more enemy npc’s due to the co-op mode. On any other difficulty you get a well paced, albeit simple, story that is pretty enjoyable to play.

While I have enjoyed my time playing For Honor the bulk of its game play, the multiplayer, really started to show its short sighted nature over the last week or so. In the 1v1 and 2v2 dueling modes, the game is at its absolute best as you are competing straight up with another person’s skill, an aspect of the game I think the developers really nailed home. However once you start getting into the 4v4 game modes; elimination, dominion and skirmish, break down both the games skill and tactical nature of game play. Feats allow the player to alter their character in ways that are hard to predict, so in one fight you could hit harder, regenerate off of killing minions while in the next game you could face off against someone who has two ranged attacks which do huge damage to you. While I get the added flavour and surprise factor of these feats, it does detract from the actual fighting mechanics in For Honor.

Speaking of fighting mechanics, it seems once you get into a 4v4 game type, the concept of one on one fights, challenging capture points and tactical thinking while playing goes right out the window. No one fights in any meaningful fashion as it boils down to ganging up on lone targets, and running away from any fight that isn’t two to one in your favour. This really cuts down on the finesse of For Honor’s combat system and frankly segments the community a bit when it comes to the game overall. You have those who are looking for the skill based combat of duels and 2v2, and in the opposite camp you have the murderfest of the 4v4 game types.

At the end of the day, I still enjoy the game, as I have said a few times now. I find the combat enjoyable and the experience with friends to be an extra entertaining time as we yell and curse about being thrown into pits, hit by friendly teammates bleed damage and win that sweet 2v1 battle by the skin of our teeth. As with all of my reviews (going forward) I am using a -10 to 0 score where a -10 is utter garbage and a 0 is as close to perfect as you can get.

Final Score -2.5 

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The Rumour Mill: How the DCEU seems to churne under weight of speculation

Warner brothers and DC are currently at the end of round three in a twelve round fight with Marvel. Shots have been exchanged but Marvel is, by the score card, ahead in points. If this were a movie we would be treated to a flash back to the beginning of the fighters run as they go through their trials and tribulations to get to this big fight. This is not a movie however and there is no Denzel to lead us through the current battle. Fight analogy aside the WB/DCEU is in a box office battle against Disney/Marvel for the superhero crown and the last four months have not been kind to the house that is to give us the Justice League.

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Arguably the most popular and well-known hero in the world Batman has been a good card for DC to use when they need to draw interest. Whether it’s the Christian Bales/Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy or the newly minted Affleck from Batman v Superman, our caped crusader draws in a large and enthusiastic crowd. For all its positives though, this latest iteration of Batman has brought some turmoil to all involved.

Before touching on the Batman as a solo project lets look back on the three entries already in DCEUs current cinematic universe, and as an aside I personally enjoyed all of these movies and while I had issues with aspects of each movie I feel they were in the “good” category rating in line with some of the  Marvel films.

DCs first entry was Man of Steel and it gave us the starting point for both tone and feel that Warner Brothers wanted to head in for their movie universe. Superman squares off against true warriors of his race as he battles to find his place in the world of man. The next movie jumps us forward into a pre-justice league style movie with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman featured prominently with cameos from the remaining team members; Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash. The holy trinity battle against Lex Luthor (from earth 3 it seems, but that’s neither here nor there) and the monster known as Doomsday. The last movie WB has put out is the Suicide Squad, a ragtag band of villains who get forced into work for a secret part of the government to take out even bigger threats.

You might think “Well why do those movies matter if we are going to talk about Batman” which is a great question. Ben Affleck was one of, if not the, best thing about Batman v Superman in many people’s eyes as he brought a great look and feel to both sides of the character. Fast forward to the last six months and the Batfleck has been the eye of the storm for many of the rumors and speculation. Before his movie Live by Night came out, Affleck seem to have carte blanche for his producer/director/co-writer/actor roles for the upcoming solo Batman movie. A weak performance at the box office and Life by Night might have actually cut off some of the freedom that Ben had. Couple this potential issue with statements like “I will only direct if the script is good” when he is writing the script and one can surmise he was getting pinned in a corner. We have now, over the last month, gotten information that Affleck is no longer directing and no longer writing. For the directing chair it seems Warner brothers is looking at Matt Reeves and the script has gotten one full rewrite treatment by Chris Terrio with a potential second heavy/full rewrite.

Add to the fact that there are rumors that the Terrio script was liked by Ben and WB, that it’s going in for full rewrites and the potentially A-bomb that Affleck wants out as Batman and fans have a plethora of potential reasons to be concerned with the future of this cinematic universe.

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While all of the Batman news eats up most of the headlines, there has been rumblings that the Wonder Woman movie is not shaping up well. These rumors claim that the movie is a jumbled mess, which is a pretty serious accusation to throw around on a movie which has a huge load on its shoulders. Wonder Woman is the first female lead super hero movie to hit the big screens from either company, which is huge on its own right, but it is also another chance for DC and Warner Brothers to get the double thumbs up; a critical and box office success. Out of every DC movie I personally want to see Wonder Woman and Aquaman crush it, so these types of rumors kill me inside a bit.  On the positive side, the lack of mainstream coverage on this could be a good thing as these accusations of a poorly constructed movie could be nothing more than simply that, accusations.

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This brings us to the last movie I have heard a ton of rumors/issues about and that is the Flash. This movie has been struggling for over quite a while now with the numerous script rewrites and directors leaving the project which, in my opinion, puts it in the most jeopardy of cancellation or push back to 2019/2020. The Flash, tonally, is the lightest out of the entire DC movie roster as the character is often depicted as the comic relief or heart of the team. With the delays and rumours about this project stagnating and being slow to start-up again, it is worrying on how Flash will fit into the overall DCEU universe, especially when he is likely to be the vehicle that Cyborg will also be introduced with.

So all of these seemingly negative aspects for Warner Brothers and DCs cinematic universe are more than enough to give the average person pause. It seems, if you only listen to the rumors, that nothing is going well and everything is doom and gloom. This type of mind-set that the general audience can get is what really hampers the studio’s ability to get the most out of their movies. While it’s not strictly a competition many compare Marvel studios and the success their films have had over DC as a marker for what success is, usually the billion dollar mark, and when the DC films miss that mark, they get labeled as a “failure”. This is obviously false as a universally loved movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, made less than Batman v Superman, which was highly divisive with fans and critics alike.

At the end of the day, I think there is one thing that WB and DC could take from the Marvel studio’s style of story telling and that is to come up with a solid movie first, then add their respective character flavor to it. Oh and let’s stop announcing projects 10 years into the future please, as we know they are not going to stay in the places you initially mention them, and it looks pretty stupid when you have to cancel/move projects multiple times because of flash in the pan hype on something, and yes I am looking at you Birds of Prey movie.