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‘Playstation Now’ Could Be Insidious

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After much conjecture the commercial service based on Gaikai streaming technology has been revealed as Playstation Now.

The service will act like Netflix for video games. You pay a fee and then have access to a library of PS3 games that you play on Playstation 4 through the internet. But Sony’s vision goes further. They would also like Playstation Now to branch out and eventually allow tablets, phones, and TVs to play Playstation games as well. In addition to PS3 games there seems to be plans to bring both PS1 and PS2 games to the service.

This last point is the one I would like to examine because personally I am not all that pleased at what this could mean for folks like myself who never really stop playing their older game libraries. I can’t get JRPGs like they used to make them so I have to play the old ones if I want that gameplay. While I do have some of my old discs Sony has made the PS4 completely non-backwards compatible. The PS3 at least had some of that.

Without the ability to buy rare games at their astronomical prices it was time to start embracing the digital age anyway. PS1 and PS2 Classics were a great way to do that. I bought them through the Playstation Store which is of course a part of the PSN. When I got a PSP the main reason was that it would play those PS1 classics. When I finally upgraded to Playstation Vita again playing those PS1 classics was a big reason to buy it. Yes I want the new games and tech but Sony has shown time and again that they are supportive across consoles of customers who buy their digital products. This may not be the case with the PS4.

With the announcement of Playstation Now I think there is a genuine possibility that we may never see support for PS1 or PS2 Classics on the network. Yes I do plan to hang onto my PS3, but I’d prefer not to be tied to it forever. I buy new hardware not just because I want the new software but because of the record of positive experience as a customer, the belief that when I purchase something digital from their service it will be available on the platforms that support that service.

Playstation Now is potentially an insidious program. Software emulation for PS1 and PS2 games on the PS4 is something I’m confident would be easily achieved. But I’m understanding, I know a business is in the game to make the big bucks. Even if they don’t want to do any work to make my old discs function in the system. It probably shaved a couple bucks off the price to leave a CD laser out of it. Still, how difficult could it be to get those Classics back up on the network and functioning on the system? They did it for Vita relatively quickly.

The only reason to leave this out is to squeeze customers onto the Playstation Now service. “You don’t have to buy, it’s just an option,” the apologists will say. “Stop acting entitled” and all of that nonsense. It isn’t entitlement to expect what you buy, however digital, to be available to you so long as you are a continuing customer.

There has been talk that in addition to the subscription service there may at one point be a way to “buy” each game. To me what that looks like is you pay a one time fee to have access to that one game on the streaming service either forever or until they find another creative way to make you have to buy it again. Keep in mind I’m talking about games that, often, you have already bought from them twice over by now.

PlayStation-Now

I won’t even delve into the internet problems like latency, bandwidth caps, and service downtime we would have to deal with just to enjoy what we already bought. No, the bigger issue at stake is how this kind of thing is going to affect ownership in the future. I may be old school but I’m not blind, I know we are headed into an all-digital world of gaming. It won’t happen nearly as fast as everyone says but I do think that eventually consoles will be a thing of the past. In the mean time I think it’s important for gamers to put their thoughts out there in order to induce a conversation about just what will be available to us in the future.

We once feared a world where all of our games were packed onto a hard drive instead of a shelf, just a set of data that was constantly at risk. Now it’s possible that, very soon, we will even be deprived of that kind of collection as well if this new service is the only recourse for big-library gamers.

Sony and their PS4 is on top of the industry right now, but if they want to stay there I would caution them to listen to the gamers who have been with them for their whole gaming odyssey and consider keeping some traditions, even relatively new ones like downloadable PS1 classics, intact.

 

David D. Nelson is a polymath with a BA in English working as an independent writing and editing professional. He enjoys gaming, literature, and a good hat.

Features

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

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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.

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