Thursday, October 15, 2015



So,.. I finished Soma last weekend... and it was... great! Really, I absolutely loved playing this game. Not necessarily because I am the fan of horror games but because I am a fan of science fiction and story - which leads right into the first and probably most crucial point you should know about this game: Soma isn't really a horror game! It has horror elements and it keeps you tense for a big part, but it is neither the generic jumpscare-festival we're all fed-up with, nor is it the atmospheric "fear of death" experience the likes of Amnesia.

If anything, don't think you will get a game like Amnesia out of this! They don't have a lot in common. Yes, some core mechanics are similar but Soma has a much greater focus on story as well as graphics. - And the naked dudes were replaced with some killer-zombie-cyborgs btw. On the other hand Soma "lacks" almost any gameplay mechanic other than running, hiding and picking up things for the sole purpose of rotating them in your hand. It certainly misses everything that made Amnesia what it was; there is no light/dark mechanic, so subsequently also nothing - let me repeat that: nothing - to collect at all,... not even matches to light candles, the monster encounters are far less tactical and a lot easier to manage and luckily we've lost all the medieval torture devices.

The story of Soma (here on Steam) takes place in a future about 100 years from now, if I remember correctly. It is a future where basically everything on our planet is destroyed and clouds of dust darken the sky. All of mankind was extinct by a meteor and the only installation that survived the impact is a collection of connected underwater facilities on the bottom of the ocean. Before facing global extinction humanity put all effort into a final project to preserve some sort of legacy. - Of course, nothing short of scanning brains and then copying people to a computer, placed in a self-sustained space module with a continuously running computer simulation.

Well,... at least that was the plan and of course something went wrong; the ark (the computer) never got loaded on the space module and the space module (satellite/rocket) never got launched to space. So now it is your task to find out what went wrong and to finish the job, for the sake of humanity, of course. - Pretty much for a guy who just (in our time) took a more or less simple brainscan due to persisting headaches and then suddenly wakes up on the bottom of the ocean about a century later...


Honestly, besides really impressive graphics, a perfect sound experience and a deep, immersive story, Soma doesn't work. - Not as a conventional game that is... I don't want to be too harsh on it because I really loved how the game puts you right on the spot while telling an extremely fascinating plot, but at some point it lost the status of a game in my opinion and what remains is more of an interactive first-person, sci-fi/horror movie with a bit of Jules Verne to it.

With previous titles Frictional Games usually hit the heart of the veteran horror game fans by emphasizing and focusing on simple things that were feasible for them as a small indie studio. They always managed to created something a little bit out of the box and overall appealing, thanks to immersion, challenging puzzles and the simplest, yet most playful mechanics. So if you, as the regular "stick&carrot-gamer", thinks that a game like Amnesia already missed out on gameplay mechanics, then you will be surprised that Soma tops that by a landslide and you probably shouldn't touch it.


Soma works and it is an absolute pleasure to play through it in almost every aspect, but I think at some point we have to discuss if something like that really counts as a videogame in the classic sense at all:

No HUD or display elements, no health, no death penalty, no saving, no objectives, no rewards, no weapons, no items, no inventory, no - at least in a minimal way demanding - puzzles, no map, no multiple directions, no skill, no thinking (except about the story), no secrets, no replay value, no nothing,..

Besides the mostly positive things to tell about it, there is definitely a lot of wasted potential in Soma. But as I said, Frictional always managed to deliver. And next to the fact that the result is really great and definitely worth a play also this time, I just think they delivered something nobody expected: Not a new Amnesia, not a horror game, but also - to me strangely - not a game at all.

Play more! Upload more!

Thursday, October 1, 2015




Alright, because it finally is one year since the release of The Sims 4, the world is still alive and my girlfriend remains very much insisting on it, let's write a bit about the one special game that dares to simulate life itself...

And since we are doing numbers, let's start with some of the speculative math that doesn't light up in the recently published figures from EA.

First, did you know that besides Sims 4 (for around 40 bucks now) there are already 6* "expansion"/DLC packs for an additional total of about 130€* bucks available? That means if you buy the game with all its additional content it would cost you - let's factor in some sales - about 160€*! Ouch, you new shiny virtual refrigerator! EA really knows how to make money.

What a mighty machine at work. It's not about woman in the field or about real graphical improvements. Honestly, this is how videogames industry has really changed from its past golden age and the most pressing issue...

While 20-15 years earlier a game was "completed" and hit the shelves, it stayed there, it had a price that dropped naturally over the years and sometimes, mostly only if you were lucky and the game was any good, there was another, complete and mind-blowing sequel about 2-4 years later. - Nice, right? Everybody knew what they got and more importantly what they paid... but nowadays... I cannot but smile and regret that I don't own any shares of that company; why sell a game for 60-40 bucks and then wait three years to sell the next one if you can constantly sell parts of the same game and make 4 times more revenues by releasing several addons and expansions all the time...

So, apparently there were about 93 million Sims created which (assuming that number doesn't account for the Sims born in the game and taking the number of Sims from my girlfriend as average, as well as being a bit more generous because of a lot of hardcore players who individually created easily around 30 Sims already per account) makes somewhat between 3 to 4 million players. Of course I don't know it, but I think that is fairly realistic for a franchise of that magnitude, especially given the fact that the first game (wikipedia-) officially sold 16 million copies, there was sort of a mediocre shit storm about Sims 4 being "rushed" and released "unfinished" and at least vgchartz numbers suggest more than 2 million retail copies - without accounting for the digital distribution, as always.

On a side note, since we have those shiny figures, we know that all those players' data is mined by the almighty, yet most annoying, constantly updating and buggy Origin application, but now let's assume that about half of those people at least bought half of the available expansions in addition to the basic game... how many zeros is that? Just play with the numbers yourself... no matter how you arrange them it is safe to say that Sims 4 with all its addons must have accumulated at least about a quarter of a billion of revenues worldwide.

Furthermore, I can't be sure of course, but after speculating and taking a reasonable look at the numbers, I would bet my cat that in this case all the expansions sold in just this one year are already equal to about half of the whole sales from the stand-alone game. And that is sick! - Neither good nor bad... just sick!

Actually I am not that surprised. - But I hope you are! If you take a look at Sims 3 the same thing happened; Every year at least 2 expansion and 2 accessory packs and so on. This whole franchise always was a jackpot. And again...not bad, not good, just sick.


Ok, enough of the figures... seriously, I am not that impressed that all the Sims "woohoo'd" 235.000.000 times and even less surprised that the most popular trait of a Sim obviously is being romantic.

Yes, I think I have a pretty good picture of who exactly is playing this game for already 27.900 years of gametime, or to say it in Simlish: "Shooflee!"

So, have you played it? Are you a Simsolian - or whatever you call yourself? - Well, I am. I am an expert, obviously... no, not really - Haha! This game is too complex for me... seriously, I can hardly manage all the needs of one single Sim, let alone a complete household of Sims with children and pets and Sims-eating plants and whatnot. If I play I only play the single Sims, maybe have fun with some homo-erotic adventures between Sims of the same gender or set some annoying neighbors on fire... but ultimately I usually stop after I used all the cheats and bought myself a nice television.

Oh, but I like building. Yep, that's what I do... my girlfriend takes care of sending them to the toilet, giving them food and making them work for all the money and I am some sort of a building manager / architect. Which is a hard job too! - Especially when you can't cheat and you have to carefully consider everything. So trust me, it's not only design decisions we are dealing here.


How I like the game? - Well, I can say that my girlfriend likes it a lot... But honestly I have a bit of a hard time speaking for myself. I guess I like it too. It's fun. I know The Sims and actually, in one more questionable way than the other, I have also "played" every single part of the franchise. You know, the Single-Sims lifestyle with a focus on cheating until I get a big TV and so on.

I mean, in this case (compared to other franchises like FIFA for example), I respect the fact that it is such a big franchise... I get where the fun comes from and I can have that kind of fun for a while too. Furthermore I think that the FIFA by definition is far more of a rip-off than the Sims. But ultimately I am not the guy who needs a cartoony simulation of the real life. In a way most games are simulations, some more than others, but I prefer the ones with a real story, with a hero that is something else than "Casual Johnny", doing his laundry. I don't like the "Be your own hero" implication and I certainly am full with the real, real life to a point where I don't want to spend even on minute in a simulated version of that. - Virtually washing the dishes, cooking food, going to work, having a shower... I mean, come on!?! - Seriously? I'd be the Master Chief over that any day!

What I personally find rather interesting is that, at least according to a bigger part of the players that actually voice their opinion, the game is - supposedly - not as good as its predecessor. Hmm,... I don't know about that. I guess that's mostly because these people have played the older parts to extensively and might got used to them. Also you can't forget that there was like a gazillion expansions and game enriching content to enjoy, that is simply not released for the new part. I know there are also some people complaining about changes in how and what you can build, but personally I think the new building system is a lot more intuitive, easy, makes more sense and gives you even more options in most regards.


All in all I think the The Sims 4 is precisely what it's supposed to be and actually a damn good game. Finally the graphics are somewhat bearable for today's standard and everything plays really smoothly. Seriously, in about one year of more or less actively playing this game, there wasn't a single crash, a bug or something wrong with the game. - That is some damn quality right there! I think the build mode is fine and you can do the same cool stuff like in the older games.

What I don't really get is the new mood system for the Sims personality but at least from what I have played and seen I think it's not the total game changer. To all those people that still don't like the game more than part 3 - or even 2 - I would say: Have patience. In another year from now there will be at least 6 new things to buy and install that will give you exactly what you want, and need, or don't need,... and don't want... Just buy it! Buy and be happy!

If there is one game that shows the true face of our modern lives as the grand unification of consumerism and happiness, it's this one. Want to teach your kids what life is all about? Want to experience it yourself and simulate your life as if everything was great, you had a ton of money and you could buy all the happiness you will never get in reality? Or you just want to have a bit fun? What are you waiting for?

Play more! 1138 more!

* Please note that (literally) while publishing this post even more DLC packages got released, hence the long header. And some numbers aren't correct anymore, if they ever were in the first place. - Just wanted to let you know... not good, not bad... just sick.