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Only Speaking Professionally | Updating is Forever

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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 Maker of 2019’s Must-Have Interstellar RPG Within the Cosmos Talks Gameplay, Lore, and the Future

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Within the Cosmos

Some indie games look impressive enough to match anything coming out of the AAA studios. Within the Cosmos fits that bill to a tee. Every screenshot from the project shines with ethereal beauty, and the description makes it sound like a marvellous mash-up of Deus Ex, Mass Effect, and Halo

This RPG casts players as a would-be colonist intended to seed human life away from what seems to be an apocalyptic interstellar war.

To find out more about the promising project, OnlySP reached out to developer Francis Debois, who went into great depth about the gameplay, structure, and the processes involved in production across the last five years. 

OnlySP: I wanted to start by asking about the gameplay. In the marketing you’ve mentioned that objectives can be completed through stealth, combat, or diplomacy, which is always a plus for an RPG. Is that multi-path approach available for every mission, and how free-form are the player’s options?

Debois: The missions in the game generally give you multiple ways to affect how the mission unfolds, whether it’s through dialogue or how the player approaches the mission. Also, the options available to you are governed by the type of character you create. If you have a character that’s high in Intelligence, you might be able to hack a control panel that opens a door to a room that you’d otherwise have to fight through to get to, or if your Charisma isn’t high enough, and you try to convince them to leave the area, they might not listen to what you have to say, and they’ll become hostile, or you can simply avoid all of that and find a way to sneak inside!

OnlySP: From what I understand, the RPG levelling mechanics are tied to modules on the character’s suit. Can you tell us more about how this system works and maybe provide examples of some of those modules and upgrades?

Debois: Modules are essentially “perk points” that you can use to upgrade your character. Every time you level up your character, you will get a module you can use to enhance/alter your character. The perks available to you are tied to your attribute points. So, if your Agility is high enough, you can “spend” a module and get the “Light Steps” perk, which makes your footsteps much lighter, therefore harder for the enemies to hear.

OnlySP: The game also has a stat system, which sounds a little like S.P.E.C.I.A.L. from Fallout. Is that an apt comparison? Will players be able to improve and modify those stats through gameplay and, if so, how?

Debois: Yeah, it’s a similar idea to how S.P.E.C.I.A.L. works in Fallout or similar games. When the player starts the game, they will be given a fixed amount of points that they can assign to their attributes. So, if you decide to max out your Constitution and Agility, you’ll have a character who’s agile, sneaky, and strong, but that would come at the cost of not having much Intelligence, Charisma, or Perception. So, you’re really gonna have to think about what attributes you favour, or you could put a roughly equal amount into all of them and have a character that can do a little bit of everything but not a master of everything. It’s up to you. I feel like that system will really create the desire for players to have multiple playthroughs of the game, and still have each playthrough feel like a different experience.

As far as improving and modifying those stats… I’m still trying to get the balance right. There might be one or two instances where you can upgrade them, or get temporary boosts to them, but whether you can improve or modify them beyond that is still being determined.

OnlySP: While upgrading, will players be able to respec their character’s abilities at all or are they locked into the upgrades they use?

Debois: No, they won’t be able to respec. Once you select an upgrade/perk, that’s what you’re locked into.

OnlySP: If I recall correctly, I’ve read somewhere that Within the Cosmos has a linear structure. Does that mean players won’t be able to revisit previous locations? 

Debois: You WILL be able to revisit previous locations. It’s linear in the sense that you can’t visit a new region, or planet that you have no narrative reason to visit yet. For example, the first planet you go to in the game is Alios, the second planet you visit is Berith II. If you’re right in the beginning of the game and you just got to Alios, you won’t be able to just go straight to Berith II until you’ve reached the point in the story where it makes sense to go there, but once you go there, you can go back and forth between those planets as often as you’d like. Also, I used the term “linear” as a way to get the point across that it’s not a huge open sandbox or anything. The game is very story-driven.

OnlySP: Speaking of locations, the game has the character visiting a number of planets. How many planets are there, and how have you differentiated each of them?

Debois: There are three planets in the game. Each one is aesthetically different, with different fauna, different factions, and the architecture of each planet reflects the dominant faction or factions on that planet. Aside from those locations, there are other places you’ll visit for a mission or a series of missions.

OnlySP: Looking at the Steam Greenlight page, there’s mention of vehicles and survival mechanics, but those seem not to have made it to the final version. Can you maybe explain how the development process has resulted in changes from the game you initially set out to make?

Debois: The direction the game was headed when I created the Greenlight page was completely different to what it ended up being! Initially, I intended to make an FPS with survival mechanics, but as the game progressed, and I started writing more of the story, I realised that survival mechanics didn’t really make sense, and it negatively impacted the experience. There were many things that were added and cut out in the end, so vehicles, and the survival mechanics were just two of the many things that simply didn’t end up feeling right as the game really began to take shape. As I wrote more and more, I felt like an RPG would be the best way for players to experience the game and the story.

OnlySP: You’ve mentioned that the game should take between eight and ten hours to complete. Does that factor in all the content available in the game or just the main missions?

Debois: 8-10 hours is a rough estimate of what I would say an “average” playthrough would be. Which is someone who has completed the main story, and did a few side missions. If you decide to do everything possible in the game, it will certainly take longer than that, but if you decide to strictly follow the main story, it will be shorter than that.

OnlySP: As I’ve been following Within the Cosmos, I’ve felt that it looks a bit like Halo and sounds a lot like Deus Ex. It’s got me wondering what you feel as though it’s most similar to and what sort of inspirations have shaped the look, feel, and overall tone?

Debois: Oh, there have been so many inspirations! I love the FPS RPG genre, so Deus Ex was a massive inspiration, as was Fallout: New Vegas. Those are two top tier FPS RPG games that I absolutely love. Space-based games have had an influence as well, such as Halo and Mass Effect. They helped shape the game in one way or another. I’d say the biggest inspiration behind it all has been Star Trek, I think the story and lore will reflect that to some degree.

OnlySP: Within the Cosmos is set against the backdrop of an interstellar war. How much of that background lore will players be privy to as the experience goes on?

Debois: The interstellar war is the reason that the player, and the factions are there in the first place. You will be exposed to the history of the war by reading some of the logs in the game, and through some characters you meet, etc. The war is what ties everything together. As you play through the game, you will see that even though you’ve escaped to this region of space, which is far away from the war itself, you still feel the effects of it. What you decide to do can really influence how the war plays out.

OnlySP: Meanwhile, the main story follows an individual sent to safety to preserve the human race. We’ve seen similar ideas of species protection and propagation in the likes of Fallout and Mass Effect: Andromeda. How is Within the Cosmos distinct from those earlier games?

Debois: Well, I really don’t like to compare Within the Cosmos to other games, but Fallout is more of a sandbox, and Mass Effect is more of a story-driven action RPG. Within the Cosmos falls somewhere in the middle of that.

OnlySP: As I understand it, Within the Cosmos, is entirely self-funded, self-developed, and self-published. Did you ever consider crowdfunding or partnering with a publisher to help get the game across the line sooner? Why or why not?

Debois: Not really, no. Some people suggested that I should try crowdfunding but that was something I was never interested in for Within the Cosmos. This was really a game that I wanted to make myself, so funding it and publishing it myself felt the most natural to me.

OnlySP: I know there’s still a little while before Within the Cosmos launches, but what’s next for debdev?

Debois: Once Within the Cosmos is out, I’m going to listen to the feedback from the community, and just work on updating the game with more content as time goes on. I really want to give this game all the support I can give it. Anything after that, we’ll have to see what happens! I would love to work on some of the other ideas I have, some more RPGs. There are other games that I really want to make, but after dedicating nearly five years of my life to this game, I’m not sure I will have the financial means to be able to do this again! 

OnlySP: Finally, do you have any final comments that you’d like to leave with our readers?

Debois: I’d really like to thank those who have been giving the game compliments, and those who have been providing feedback! It all really means a lot to me, and proves that all the years of hard work that I have inputted into the game, has been all worth it!

Thank you all for reading this, and for having an interest in Within the Cosmos! I really hope you check it out on Steam, wishlist it, and play it when it releases on 1 August!


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