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Comment Re:Professional accoutant (Score 1) 369

Are you kidding?

I'm already seeing junior-level accountant positions replaced by software. The sophistication isn't quite there yet to take out the next step up in the food-chain, but it's probably only a matter of a year or two at most. Now, accountancy is a broad profession and there are undoubtedly sub-sets which will hold out for considerably longer, but I'd have put accountancy right at the top of the list of white-collar professions at risk from automation.

Lawyers are probably second placed. Forget the courtroom dramas; an awful lot of what your average lawyer does on a day to day basis is highly subject to automation.

Comment Are Denuvo really that bad? (Score 2, Interesting) 77

Denuvo have become a popular company to hate recently. There are long-standing complaints that their DRM "harms performance" in the games that use it. The time-to-crack on some of the more recent Denuvo-protected releases has been down to around a week or so, which is a big reduction from the "several months" they could boast a year ago. They can also come over as a bit cocky in their public messaging at times.

And yet... are they really that bad? The war against DRM in PC gaming at the conceptual level was lost years ago, the moment consumers (self included) decided that the convenience of Steam and its equivalents (and the general reduction in game prices that came with them) outweighed concerns about ownership and digital rights. There have been battles since then, to be sure, but those have generally been over the extent to which DRM inconveniences legitimate consumers.

So we had (fairly successful) protests against Spore, which limited the number of installs possible from a single key (a practice which is more or less dead now). There is continuing pushback over the inclusion of always-on DRM in games which don't require it, which looks like it still has some way to run. We've had outcries, again generally successful, against DRM schemes which compromise the security of PCs they are run on (see the recent additional of such DRM to Street Fighter V and its subsequent removal).

But Denuvo doesn't really do any of these things. From the end-users point of view, provided they have a legitimate copy of the game, it is pretty much invisible. The rumours of it having a performance impact persist, but when credible sources like Eurogamer's Digital Foundry have investigated, they've never been able to substantiate them. In many cases, Denuvo appear to have become the scapegoat for poorly optimised PC ports.

PC gaming is actually in quite a good place right now. Most major releases find their way to PC; considerably more than did so 5 or even 10 years ago. Previously console-only developers have realised that they can expand their market for relatively little effort by producing a PC port. This has gone hand-in-hand with a general improvement in the quality of DRM, which appears (though I'll admit the link is not validated) to have deterred at least casual pirates (accepting that the hardcore will likely never be deterred). If DRM is here to stay, I would much prefer Denuvo to some of the alternatives.

Comment Re:Always assumed (Score 2) 45

I don't think that's likely to be the case with the PS4. You can already remove the hard drive from the machine pretty easily (and replacing the hard drive is an officially authorised modification that doesn't void your warranty). PS4 hard drives, like PS3 hard drives before them, use an encrypted structure that locks content to the console in question. I'm guessing there will be a requirement to format any external hard drives used in the same way.

This, incidentally, means it is really important to keep backups (cloud or USB stick) of your PS3/PS4 saves. If your console fails, you will not just be able to stick the drive from it into a replacement console or a PC and get the data off it. Happened to me with my old PS3. Lost five years worth of savegame data.

Comment Re:I'd agree (Score 4, Informative) 231

Same here, to be honest. AVG became unusable due to bloat a couple of years ago. Avast can have some serious issues when presented with a combination of Windows 10 with Anniversary Update and a Skylake CPU. The remainder all seem to be as bad as much of the malware they ostensibly protect you from.

I confess I spent a while feeling paranoid after I finally gave in and uninstalled Avast, but a few months on, I've had no problems with a combination of Windows Defender and a weekly Malwarebytes scan.

Comment The value of "proper" games (Score 3, Insightful) 77

The big challenge for "alternative" ways of playing video games has always been "can you play a proper game that way". We've seen supposedly revolutionary new technologies come along before and then falter when it turns out that all they are good for is playing casual or party-games.

The Wii's motion control sold a hell of a lot of consoles on the basis of Wii Sports. However, before too long, it dawned on people that Wii Sports was pretty much the limit of the device's capabilities. Similarly the Kinect had a lot of early success on the basis of some party games, but every attempt to integrate it into a proper game was either irrelevant or disastrous (Steel Battalion says hi). It's becoming increasingly clear that if any of these new technologies are going to "stick", then they need to be something you could realistically use to play a major AAA title; a Dragon Age or a Call of Duty (not that I'm a big fan of either of those).

VR had looked like it was headed in the same direction as the Wii/Kinect; an initial burst of hype, then growing disillusionment. It generated a load of pretty but thin tech demos, a handful of novelty party games and, until recently, not much else. RE7 is interesting because it's an attempt to do a major release, from a well-known franchise, via VR, without diluting the thing beyond recognition. I've held off from buying a VR set myself so far; even if it takes off, the number of mutually-incompatible offerings on the market at the moment makes it a bit too likely I'd end up on the Betamax side of the divide. But I'd like to see it succeed and it's good that serious efforts are being made to adopt it in major games.

I also find it interesting that it seems to be Sony that is spearheading this effort via PSVR (RE7 isn't even their first attempt; there were some "proper" games, even if not of the same profile, among the PSVR launch titles). While technically superior, the Oculus and Vive still seem to be mostly pushing minigames and tech demos so far.

Comment Re:London Too (Score 1) 726

I'm in an outer London suburb - and a fairly wealthy one at that ("leafy Tory suburbia" pretty much nails this place). Back at the start of December, a huge number of Deliveroo drivers started congregating on the market street every evening, and then drifting off to a nearby park as the night goes on. It's not quite become a permanent encampment yet, but it's well on its way. From what I've observed, very few of these guys have more than a few words of English. It doesn't really feel like a healthy situation for anybody.

There's only one local takeaway that I use and it's an old-fashioned one that still employs its own driver. For all I know, he's horribly downtrodden and oppressed, but at least he's not part of that slightly creepy pale-green army.

Comment Re:Tough sell (Score 5, Interesting) 167

Almost every word of your post is factually incorrect.

The Wii-U did not out-sell the XB1. Not even close. The most recent "units shipped" numbers for the Wii-U are at 13.36 million, as of September 2016. The most recent equivalent number on the XB1 is 19 million, from January 2016 (so the gap has likely widened significantly since then, boosted in particular by the XB1-S release over the summer). Both numbers are "shipped" rather than "sold".

And don't mistake the fact that Nintendo sell hardware at a profit (which they don't always these days anyway and haven't consistently since the first 3DS price-cut) with them being profitable. Nintendo hasn't been consistently profitable since FY2010-11, which was the last year in which it reaped Wii-led mega-profits. Since then, it has flipped between loss and (small) profits, but with the main deciding factor being currency fluctuations. When Nintendo has reported an operating profit over this period, it has generally been on the basis of the 3DS. The Wii-U may not even have recouped its development costs, particularly after its abandonment by third parties led to licensing fees all but drying up and a number of first party titles such as Starfox Zero crashed and burned.

Moreover, the gaming section of Sony has been very profitable indeed since the launch of the PS4 (and, indeed, since the company got its house in gear in the latter part of the PS3 cycle). In fact, while Sony was a bit of a basket case until a couple of years ago, the company has bounced back strongly in recent years, almost entirely on the basis of its gaming division. Remember, whether a console is sold at a profit or a loss is not actually all that relevant - licensing fees are where the real money is. How MS's Xbox division is doing is a bit harder to judge, but they seem to have turned things around a bit over the last 18 months and are likely at least no worse than Nintendo now. As of late last year, Nintendo was posting some pretty awful financial losses.

It would be good if we could start to ditch some of the 2007-era narrative now. Nintendo's position today is a lot weaker than it was then, but we still hear the same old clichés trotted out.

Comment Tough sell (Score 4, Interesting) 167

It's hard to see this being a major success, outside of the (aging, shrinking) Nintendo hardcore. The consensus on gaming sites (and their forums) seems to reinforce this. So do the markets; Nintendo's stocks have fallen around 5.75% since the reveal.

The stock price shift will almost certainly have been driven by the price. It's higher than expected by at least $50 (and realistically closer to $100). Sony and MS got away with even higher prices when they were launching the PS4 and XB1, for sure. However, those consoles were significantly more powerful than their predecessors. They also launched at the same time as each other. So in essence, there were two expensive consoles without many games in direct competition with each other, which actually negated those disadvantages a bit. Nintendo are launching a less powerful console against two cheaper and well-entrenched mid-cycle consoles with extensive games libraries. That's going to be tough.

The launch games line-up is also poor. Zelda looks pretty good, but there is a cheaper Wii-U version also available that doesn't look appreciably worse. The rest of the launch window looks pretty pants. The XB1 and the PS4 had the same problem, of course, but again, their near-simultaneous launch actually offset that as a problem.

Beyond the launch-window, the games lineup is nothing special. The same first party range that didn't do much to help the Wii-U. A couple of more interesting (but still niche) second party titles like Xenoblade 2. Third party support from a few companies with a long-standing relationship with the Nintendo DS line (like Atlus), whose games aren't yet even confirmed for release outside of Japan. And a tentative dip of a toe in the water from EA. The poor specs, eccentric hardware and unusual control configurations are going to put a lot of other third party developers off.

I think the console itself is also going to be very hard to market. It's not quite clear what the USP here is. The thing looks large and clunky by handheld standards; more awkward than a tablet or even a PS Vita. As a home console, it's badly underpowered compared to the competition. Nobody has quite explained yet why the hybrid configuration is such a good thing, and the attempts to date to do so have been toe-curling.

On the plus side, it's region-free. That's actually pretty huge news and is a sign that even the most authoritarian of the platform owners is now being forced to open up a little. I might actually buy one just to reward that, because the fear is that if the Switch fails horribly (as I fear it might), then Nintendo will swing back to region locking in future. But it is really hard right now to see a pathway to this thing being a success.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Games of the Year 2016

So, another year gone, and another opportunity to talk to myself about my favorite (and otherwise) games of the year. It's not been a particularly bad year, all told, with plenty of perfectly solid games and just enough surprises (pleasant and otherwise) to keep things interesting. I've missed a few of the year's big releases: Civilization VI (I've learned not to touch this series until the first few expansions are out) and Dishonoured 2 (the original is still on my backlog-of-shame) in particul

Comment Re:Why so many studios? (Score 5, Informative) 54

The current CryEngine is not the one that powered Crysis back in 2007. Like "idTech", "CryEngine" is sometimes used as a generic term for a family of engines that has evolved over time. Crytek's "core" business model has involved quite a lot of licensing of its CryEngine technologies to third parties for them to build games on; much like the id model. There's a handy list of which games have run on which generations of CryEngine technology over at Wikipedia.

Crytek's challenge has, to some extent, been that while their engine (across successive generation) can be used to produce visually stunning results, it can be notoriously difficult to optimise for performance, particularly on console hardware. This year's Homefront: The Revolution (partly developed by Crytek before the IP was sold to Deep Silver) was an absolute dog in performance terms on consoles (and only moderately better on a high-end PC) and received a critical slating at least partly as a result. Everybody's Gone To The Rapture also had some eye-wateringly poor performance on PS4, though for genre-reasons, this mattered less than it would with an action game.

The Dunia engine used by Ubisoft (who acquired a lot of Crytek assets after they published the original Far Cry) to power the Far Cry sequels is a distant fork of the first-generation Crytek engine, though it has diverged so far over time that the two have only a very loose relationship indeed these days.

Comment Re:Well just wait until they see how StarFox Zero (Score 1) 221

StarFox Zero was, by all accounts, a pretty bad game and was a horrible commercial flop. But it wasn't actually "news" that it flopped. Investors had already basically written off the Wii-U by the time StarFox Zero released, so all it did was continue the current narrative.

If Super Mario Run doesn't pan out properly, then that is "news". Nintendo's stocks have been buoyed a bit in recent months by their planned entry into the mobile market. Their home-console sales have been moribund since around 2011. The handheld market has been a lot healthier for them - and Pokémon remains the jewel in their crown (Mario lost that accolade years ago) - but nobody seriously thinks there's a long-term future for dedicated gaming handhelds. Investors who were hoping for a serious return from Nintendo on a par with the early days of the Wii have been putting a lot of weight on their entry into the mobile market.

If that entry turns into a belly-flop, then said investors will take fright. If it turns out that putting Nintendo franchises on a phone isn't an instant profit factory, then they will be distinctly unhappy. Don't forget that other major developers and publishers have struggled to turn established gaming franchises into successful mobile titles. Indeed, many of the biggest mobile hits to date have come from left-field from developers nobody had previously heard of.

I suspect that in the eyes of investors, mobile is seen as more important to Nintendo's future even than the Switch (which some, at least, seem to have written off before it even launches). It's too early to know for sure whether they'll pull off the mobile thing or not; early signals are mixed.

Comment Re:Only Fixed by Resigning (Score 4, Insightful) 410

When I started my first "proper" job fresh out of university, my first boss told me:

"Your reputation can recover from even spectacular incompetence if you look apologetic and keep your head down for a year or two at most. The moment you lose your integrity, it's gone for life."

Would be a better story if he hadn't been fired and referred to the police a few years later for fiddling money from consultancy contracts.

Comment Re: More like "most bitched about" (Score 1) 88

Yes, one of the big stories of the US 2016 election does seem to be that states and counties which were not considered to be in play suddenly switched camps. What I'm less sure about is how much pollsters could have done to predict this.

Based on what little data I've seen so far, I think one of the tactical errors Clinton's campaign made was to focus too heavy on "attacking" (hitting not only swing-states, but also states traditionally in the Republican column) and not enough on defending states that looked like they were in the bank.

The UK's 2015 General Election again offers a direct parallel here. Labour's "ground game" focused on 100 Conservative and Lib-Dem held "target seats". The Conservatives, on the other hand, went for a "40/40" strategy. They attacked 40 of the seats they thought they were most likely to take and threw resources at defending their own 40 most vulnerable seats.

The 40/40 strategy proved far superior to the 100-targets one.

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