Connect with us

Features

Only Speaking Professionally | Updating is Forever

Published

 on

I played some Battlefield 4 multiplayer last night. I know, I know, OnlySP and all. But hey, we all have our guilty pleasures.

Well, actually, that’s not quite true. I tried to play some Battlefield 4 multiplayer last night.

Getting comfy in front of my desktop gaming PC, at which I do all my high intensity gaming, was a simple process. Bum meet chair. Headphones. Gaming mouse. Power switches. Up and running, all according to plan.

After that, it should have been a simple(ish) process to get into my game. This is the process I expected:

Step 1: open Origin.
Step 2: open Battlelog.
Step 3: play game.

Instead, I was greeted with the following:

Step 1: open Origin.
Step 2: update Origin for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: relogin to Origin, since updating wipes username and password data.
Step 4: download massive update for Battlefield 4 for about 15 minutes.
Step 5: open Battlelog through Origin.
Step 6: update browser plugin for Battlefield 4.
Step 7: reopen Battlelog since updating browser plugin closed Battlelog.
Step 8: reset server browsing settings, since they got wiped somewhere.
Step 9: start game.
Step 10: get a popup prompt from the game to update my GPU drivers.
Step 11: ignore popup prompt from the game to update my GPU drivers.
Step 12: get hit with a game breaking audio bug.
Step 13: get a quick hand of scotch and have a lie down.

I ended up playing for about 45 minutes. It took me about 30 minutes to start the game in the first place. It would have taken maybe another 15 minutes to update my GPU drivers, had I chosen to do so. So I wasted an hour and a quarter of my very precious time (I’m not getting any younger) on what was essentially a broken experience.

Yes, I know I should update my GPU drivers often. And I hadn’t played BF4 in a while so there were a number of updates all at once. And yes, the audio bug is a known one and everyone else had it too since the latest server update. But geez, can I catch a break here please?

Are all these updates really necessary?

Firstly, the Origin update. Opening Origin with an older version is completely impossible. Instead, it AUTOMATICALLY updates. What if I didn’t want to do that now, Origin? What if I just wanted to check my settings, or launch a game that doesn’t even use Origin as a launcher? Like Battlefield 4? What if I see an update, realise I don’t have time for the runaround, and want to just stop altogether? Unfortunately, you cannot open Origin unless you have a current version, and you can’t cancel the update and then open Origin, meaning you will always have to wait for a client update at some point. That’s not a particularly fun or time-economical way to go about things, EA. Couple that with the fact that Origin may be a completely unnecessary game launcher in and of itself – they could use Steam, or, y’know, nothing at all and make life easier for everyone.

Next, Battlefield 4 update. Yes, updating games is good. Patches and stuff. And playing different versions online is difficult. I know it has to happen. But again, warn me first please? I like to know beforehand when I have to do the 1.whatever GB download the update requires.

Next, Battlelog. Yes, Battlefield 3 and 4 launch through the browser-based launcher of Battlelog. We’ve known that for years. Doesn’t make it any less unnecessary, though. Sure, it offers some actually pretty great functionality, but can’t that be secondary, instead of having to launch through Battlelog? Old argument here.

Next, browser plugin. Again, with Battlelog comes a browser plugin. I don’t know what it does. I don’t care what it does. It’s in my way of having a good time. Why should I have to update it, restart my browser, and start back from Origin again? Can’t you launch BF4 from Origin, skip Battlelog and the browser, and not have to use a plugin at all?

NEXT, GPU driver prompt. Yes. I know my drivers are about three versions behind. I haven’t had time to update them yet. It’s on my to-do list. I don’t need you stopping my game from launching with a prompt telling me how lazy I am, especially when older versions of the drivers actually run the game. Maybe not as well, but I don’t particularly care about benchmarking right now – I just want to shoot some army dudes in the nutsack right now. At least it was a relatively quick click to dismiss the optional update. Unlike the previous three updates.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – don’t wrap your game in a whole bunch of extraneous programs that also need constant updating. Battlefield 4 (and 3) are the pointed example here. There are other pointed examples (Ubisoft). I mean, at least Steam has the decency to let you play games while it’s updating. Most of the time.

On the upside, Origin and Battlelog are constantly under improvement, which is undoubtedly A Good Thing.

But what if it weren’t?

We heard not too long ago that the PC based Games for Windows Live “service” is being shuttered in July. While this is for the best, since GFWL is pretty much Satan, what it does mean is that a lot of games – including my beloved Dark Souls – will be losing something that might actually be necessary for running the game. For example, many GFWL titles have save games linked to a GFWL account – without the account being recognised due to no GFWL, will saves still work? Will you lose progress? Will games need to be patched to remove the wrapper individually, or will Microsoft do it all automatically?

It’s an actual, genuine dilemma for gamers who have games wrapped up in the caution tape that is GFWL. Will I be able to play a game that currently requires the service, after said service will be shut down. I don’t know, maybe. Probably. But it’s a problematic precedent.

What happens when Origin gets shuttered? When Battlelog goes down? Will I be able to play Battelfield 4 in the future? Probably not, eventually. And that makes the potential expenditure on the product in the first place essentially moot. I don’t like spending money on entertainment products that aren’t guaranteed to work into the future.

More problematic is the wrapping of BF4’s SINGLE PLAYER in the same rubbish as the multiplayer game. To be unable to play my single player campaign into the future because of server issues or unsupported legacy software wrappers, is disconcerting, to say the least.

Consoles are getting that way too. OS updates, game updates, launchers, companion apps, publisher specific accounts – it’s all reliant on the idea that someone will be around forever to service it. Or that consumers don’t care about spending their money on entertainment with a contrived termination date.

All of these wrappers and constraints and extraneous bits and bobs of update reliant software are unnecessary, and potentially damaging. Stop doing it.

Post script – don’t think I’m giving Steam a free ride here either. If their service goes down for good, I’ll lose hundreds of games – and hundreds of dollars. I trust Valve to create some sort of way out, but it’s nowhere near a guarantee. So think about that next time you buy a digital copy of a game on Steam – or through any other digital distribution method.

Former Editor in Chief of OnlySP. A guy who writes things about stuff, apparently. Recovering linguist, blue pencil surgeon, and professional bishie sparkler. In between finding the latest news, reviewing PC games, and generally being a grumpy bossyboots, he likes to watch way too much Judge Judy. He perhaps has too much spare time on his hands. Based in Sydney, Australia. Follow him on twitter @lawksland.

Features

“The Perfect Canvas To Build a Game World On”: Talking Hand-Drawn Horror in the Hills of Mundaun

Published

 on

Mundaun

The Swiss Alps are best known as a holiday destination. Snow and skiing dominate the public imagining of the region, but horror lies in all hills. The folkloric horror game Mundaun promises to subvert the usual perception of the area.

The horrific twist on an idyllic locale is accompanied by an eye-catching art style like no other in gaming.

With Mundaun being such an intriguing prospect, OnlySP reached out to the game’s director Michel Ziegler to find out more.

OnlySP: Could you please begin by providing a brief description of Mundaun for any of our readers who may not be familiar with the game?

Ziegler: A [while] ago, I came up with the description: a lovingly hand-pencilled horror tale. I like the word tale, because it emphasizes the type of narrative the game is going for. It’s a first-person adventure game inspired by the dark folklore of the alps. The aesthetic is really unique, since I combine hand-pencilled textures with 3D. It’s kind of hard to be brief about what makes the game unique. I think it’s the combination of all the things in there, some pretty well hidden. Mundaun should be a mystery, an enigma.

OnlySP: Curiously, Mundaun is a real place. How accurate a recreation of the landscape is that found in the
game?

Ziegler: The levels are a condensed interpretation of the real thing. It’s more about how that place feels than accurate topology. The steepness of it, the objects and architecture you encounter that is very specific to that place. It wouldn’t be possible to meaningfully populate a large sample of the real mountain range. I want the give the player the feeling that in every corner there could be some small and unique thing to discover.

OnlySP: Do you have any personal connection to the real place? Why did you settle on it as the setting for the game?

Ziegler: My family has had a small holiday flat there since before I was born. I spent many summers and winters up there and so it became like a second home. Especially for a child, the nature feels huge and full of wonders. I would spend my days finding well-hidden spots and imagining adventures. I chose this setting, because it is dear to me and it is full of buildings that are many centuries old. It always felt like a timeless and mysterious place. The perfect canvas to build a game world on. Four years in, it still inspires too many ideas to ever fit into one game.

OnlySP: I’ve seen the game described as ‘folk horror’—following the likes of The Wicker Man and Children of the Corn. Would you consider that to be an accurate assessment of Mundaun?

Ziegler: I think so, even if my game isn’t inspired by those particular works. But I think there is a certain ambiguity to the scenario that makes people immediately think of fiction that has a similar feel in their cultural circle. Even if I draw much inspiration from things that are specific to where I live, I find that the world and tone of Mundaun resonates with people from all around the globe and from different cultural backgrounds. That said, the haymen that haunt you in Mundaun make the comparison to The Wicker Man an obvious one.

OnlySP: If so, what sort of local legends are you drawing on for the source of the horror?

Ziegler: Not really any specific ones. If I had to name one story that influenced the plot of Mundaun, it would  be Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider. The oppressive mood it conveys has always fascinated me. Also, I loved collections of small folk tales as a child and I think, I’m remixing elements from those, creating my own folk tale. I’m not restricting myself to only local influences at all though. I take everything that I think is interesting and fits the world and universe of Mundaun.

OnlySP: How does the monochromatic art style contribute to the player’s sense of tension?

Ziegler: For one, it invokes the aesthetic of old movies and photographs. For me personally, those often have a sinister quality, hiding something in the dark shadows. In addition to that, the hand-drawn textures give the game the quality of a darkly illustrated picture book.

OnlySP: Speaking of the art style, it certainly is one of the most intriguing elements of Mundaun. How did you come to settle on it, and what is the process by which you bring these hand-drawn artworks to life in the game? When you began, did you have an idea of how much work would be involved?

Ziegler: I just love drawing on paper. I’ve never gotten into drawing digitally much. For a small game prototype (The Colony) I made before Mundaun, I also applied a hand-made approach. I love the combination of hand-made textures with 3D, it’s a strange thing. Pencils just seemed a perfect match for a more dark aesthetic.

The process is similar to the usual 3D process, but with a small detour. After unwrapping the finished 3D model, I print out the UV maps. I trace the outlines to a new drawing paper and then I fill in the actual drawing with pencils. After scanning them back in, I apply them to the models. I probably didn’t properly anticipate, how many drawings I would end up making, because I underestimated, how much Mundaun would grow.

OnlySP: The puzzles that appear in the trailers seem to draw from an older tradition in games wherein they don’t necessarily feel realistic (although that interpretation is, admittedly, based on brief snippets taken out of context). Nevertheless, do you have any concerns that that approach might turn away some players?

Ziegler: Yeah, it’s a concern. I try to make the puzzles quite logical. Playtesting seems to be the key here. I’m not trying to break the flow of the game, the puzzles are just a great way to add detail and flavour to the world. I try to integrate them into the world and make them feel organic and unique to this place.

OnlySP: Aside from the puzzles, what else will players be doing in Mundaun?

Ziegler: Encountering, avoiding, or fighting off different types of enemies. Finding and talking to some of the eccentric native folk. Making coffee, smoking a pipe, carrying around the head of a goat. Driving a chair lift, a hay loader vehicle and a sleigh. There’s a whole lot of different things to discover. I think, the mix of high-stakes death threatening situations with more mundane activities is one of the most interesting qualities of Mundaun.

OnlySP: Explore” seems to be one of the keywords of the game. Does it feature an open-world design, or is it more of a level-to-level affair with expansive levels? And, in total, about how big is the game world

Ziegler: It features three discrete levels, each with their own flavour. You start in an area with meadows and trees and then make your way up to a more sparse, stony area. Then there’s the snow-covered summit region. The levels are quite sizeable and the player is given freedom to explore them, but it is not an open-world design per se. Each part, activity, and task is unique and lovingly hand-crafted.

OnlySP: How long do you expect the average playthrough to last? Or is it still too early to be able to say?

Ziegler: It is a bit early, but I think it’ll be 4-5 hours.

OnlySP: Speaking of, we first came across Mundaun about a year and a half ago. How long has it been in
development?

Ziegler: It has been in development for 4.5 years now.


Ziegler and his team at Hidden Fields are currently targeting a Q1 2020 launch for Mundaun on Mac, PC, and Xbox One.

If your interest is piqued, let us know either in the comments below or on our community Discord server.

Otherwise, be sure to bookmark OnlySP and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube for all the latest from the world of single-player gaming.

Continue Reading