Apr 24 2016

Quantum Break for Xbox One – And why it was not worth the wait

Published by under Games

When I saw the first Quantum Break teaser trailer a couple of years ago, I thought that I looked at a real platform seller: A game that makes buying an Xbox One an obvious choice.

Then the Xbox One was released, but the release date for Quantum Break kept slipping and slipping until the Xbox One was already in her third year and the game that was supposed to lead the launch titles for the new platform was several years late to the party. That alone was disappointing enough, but it’s not the real issue with Quantum Break.

It’s not a secret that I’m a big fan of story-driven shooters, and I think it’s also not a big secret that I think that the original Half-Life still is one of the best games in that category that was ever made. The folks at Valve did everything right in Half-Life. Back then it was a jaw-dropping experience and even today it still manages to pull you directly into its realm of fiction. Half-Life is a standard-defining classic. You are deep in a story, move through it, play it, breath and live it. Sure, the plot is static and has no dynamic elements (except for the two choices in the ending, maybe). But the player is always actively involved in everything.

Remedy’s Alan Wake fulfilled all of these criteria as well. It had a very strong narrative that did not get in the way of the game flow or harmed the game play in anyway. Alan Wake just felt right and the atmosphere sucked you into the game world right from the start. Like Half-Life, Alan Wake is a master piece in its own right.

In Quantum Break, none of this is the case. Quantum Break feels like you’re watching a TV series and are allowed to hit the fire button once in a while. They were not satisfied with giving you scripted cut-scenes (which are completely okay in any game), they really had to show your four long TV show episodes in between where you can literally do nothing. Someone at the Remedy studios very obviously had completely forgotten what GAMING is all about.

To put this in context: I’m basically a casual player. I can only steal a few hours every now and then, usually on Friday nights, where I can play a game. So long games, where you would have to spend weeks playing through a story, are not a good choice for me in this scenario. But games with a net playing time of four or six hours or so also not necessarily satisfying. And the net playing time – read: the time where you can actually DO something – in Quantum Break is very, very short. You spend half of the time watching TV in that game, and that really pissed me off. I watch movies or TV series on the ICE, when I’m commuting to my job. I don’t want to do that when I sit in my cozy little Xbox room and want to shoot things. When I wanted to play Quantum Break on the second evening, the sessions started with a very long TV show episode and by the time I could actually continue playing the game, I was extremely annoyed and close to wiping it from the disk and play something else instead.

It really didn’t help that the story line itself is mediocre at best and just not very interesting. Everything has already been done before, and mostly better.

The same can be said about the game play, the level design and the game mechanics, by the way. Timeshift has done similar things years ago on the Xbox 360, and it was much more fun. Singularity had some of the concepts as well, and was also more fun and more interesting.

As much as Remedy outdid themselves on Alan Wake, as much of a disappointment is Quantum Break in direct comparison. Maybe the expectations just were too high after all these years. Maybe the bar that Alan Wake had set was just too high for any successor to reach.

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Mar 08 2016

GPL No Fun

Published by under Programming,Software,Thoughts

I saw a blog post called “GPL Fun” by Jonathan Riddell on Ubuntu Planet today, and it triggered this immediate stomach reaction:

The GPL remains the #1 reason why it’s always a smarter choice to bet on FreeBSD or other BSD-/MIT-licensed products/projects for commercial use. I doubt that the Nas4Free Folks will ever have a discussion – or lawsuit – like the one that VMware is seeing because they use some kind of modified Linux kernel in their ESXi hypervisor.

I believe that putting the Linux kernel under the GPL was a very, very bad idea at the time. I never understood when Linus Torvalds said that he “was afraid that somebody could take away Linux”. Did somebody ever “take away” FreeBSD? Yes, Apple built something called OS X and later iOS on top of FreeBSD that they didn’t have to openly share with the world anymore – but the original FreeBSD was still there for everybody else, so in my understanding of the term nobody took anything away.  Did Apple take away SQLite (which is in the Public Domain) when they integrated it into Aperture? No, SQLite is still there for everybody to use.

It is the whole purpose of the BSD/MIT license to enable the kind of business that Apple has been doing with their taking of the FreeBSD foundation and turning it into a commercial product.

The reason why the author of SQLite put his work into the Public Domain was to make absolutely sure that “anyone is free to copy, modify, publish, use, compile, sell, or distribute the original SQLite code, either in source code form or as a compiled binary, for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and by any means.

Unless you want to force a certain ideology down your user’s throats, one where everybody is FORCED to share his own derivative work with the world, there absolutely is no upside to choosing the GPL as your license. Putting something under the GPL only means that you’re not really willing to give something away and let it be truly free   – you want something back in case somebody wants to build something else on top of your work and you’re intentionally sabotaging traditional software licensing business models with the GPL. That’s not really the spirit of “free” and “open” – it’s the spirit of restriction, it’s the spirit of “I want to keep control, just in case”. I don’t think that this is “fun”, it’s the opposite, actually. Hence “GPL No Fun” is a more fitting title.

I understand the temptation behind the GPL. After all, a lot of time and work goes into any piece of software, so once you decide to open it and share it, isn’t it only fair to get something back from the people who might want to use and modify it? Sure. But it’s also inconsequential to impose onto others. It was your own choice to open your work and share it, that is what YOU, the original author, wanted to do. In my view, it’s just not right to force others down the same road – unless, of course, your intention is to prevent them from maybe making money with your work. But if you’re going down that route, then you could as well use a proprietary, commercial license for your product. That would at least be consequential, and there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. People deserve to get paid for their work. But if you’re pretending to give something away and if you’re pretending to make software free by using the GPL or similar open source licenses with certain backdoors and trapdoors, then you shouldn’t be surprised when someone like me will question your motives for doing so.

I don’t want to have a religious or ideological debate about this on my page, so comments will be disabled for this post. It would all be redundant anyway – the web is full of that stuff, just google your way through GPL vs BSD and have some fun with it.

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