Epic Games and EA Try To Fool the UK Government?

With the recent craze of Battle Royale games like PUBG and Fortnite, video games have gotten even more into the limelight. While loot boxes are a topic of heavy contention with different viewpoints, governments and regulatory bodies have their own stance about it. Because of this very recently members of the UK Parliament sat down with representatives of Epic Games and EA to hear their views on certain topics and let’s just say that some things that they said during it were quite interesting.

When asked about what the companies thought and felt about loot boxes and whether or not the companies think it is ethical, EA was the first to talk about it. According to the EA representative, EA doesn’t use the term “Loot Boxes” and instead call them “Surprise Mechanics”. She likened it to Kinder Eggs where you get a surprise regarding what’s inside and she stated that people enjoyed the element of surprise, especially players who play FIFA and Ultimate Team.

She further went on to state that the “Surprise Mechanics” were fun and quite enjoyable and says that she doesn’t believe in the fact that Loot Boxes or “Surprise Mechanics” lead to gambling. According to her, the way EA has implemented loot boxes in their games is 100% ethical and that they have no qualms about it.

Throughout the entire meeting when asked pressing questions, Epic Games were very deflective and evasive as they would beat around the bush instead of actually answering the question and were even called out by an MP who asked them if they were coached to answer because of how they responded to questions.

While some of the questions asked were alright, some of the questions that were asked made it quite clear that the person wasn’t well-versed with video games and didn’t know much about the companies and topic at hand besides a few articles that they had opened up.

This begs the question that why isn’t there some sort of committee made up of people who know about the industry and are also well-versed with the technical aspect of it so that when such meetings take place, companies can’t just beat around the bush or talk their way out of it by throwing around technical terms.

The EA representative claiming that EA implements loot boxes ethically clearly doesn’t remember the Battlefront 2 debacle that occurred at launch. While the microtransaction aspect of the game has since improved, EA and other companies certainly seem to push microtransactions in subtle ways, especially towards pre-adolescent and adolescent teens.

There were a lot of other topics discussed during the meeting like whether or not they tracked how long players played a game(both companies replied they didn’t) and about addiction, parental control, and gambling which you can check out for yourself and see how bad some of the questions were and how evasive the responses were. The meeting is linked below and goes on for a bit over 2 hours long.

Meeting Video

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FIFA and Scripting: Fact or Fiction?

If you’ve played any of the recent FIFA games, online or offline, you probably have noticed how during certain occasions the game suddenly starts to feel off. Either your passes and shots are misplaced, your AI teammates act very dumbly, you keep hitting the post or maybe a player seems to have boosted stats during a match. Well, it’s not just your mind thinking that because the game might actually be making it harder for you based on a patent by EA themselves.

This patent that was first found by Juan Pablo caught a bit of traction after Youtuber jerrysoh619 made a video about the patent who discussed what was in it and how it affected FIFA. The video is linked below and contains mature language as the person in the video seems pretty livid with this patent.

We took a look at the Patent ourselves and decided to talk about all the points that we found interesting and how it would affect your FIFA gameplay. So let’s begin.

The Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment System

Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment is what this patent is called and its name makes it pretty clear as to what this system aims to do. The basis of this system is to get players to play more as seen from this statement in the first block of the patent:

All the quotes taken are excerpts from the Patent itself along with their block number in case you want to go through it yourself.

[0001] “The longer a user plays a particular video game , the more
likely that the user enjoys the game and thus, the more likely the user will continue to play the game.”

If a player plays a game for longer periods of time, especially if that game has microtransactions, they will most probably spend some money. So how do they ensure that the player plays the game AND spends money on the game? They dynamically adjust the difficulty to stop it from getting boring.

[0002] “Often, games that are too difficult or too easy will result in less enjoyment for a user. Consequently, the user is likely to play the game less. Thus, one of the challenges of game development is to design a game with a difficulty level that is most likely to keep a user engaged for a longer period of time.”

The first description of this system which aims to get people to play for longer periods of time by changing the difficulty level to make it either easier or harder.

[0009] “With some implementations, the modified execution of the video game is undetectable by the user.”

In some implementations of this system (which seemed to be almost the majority), the user won’t be able to tell when the game’s difficulty has been modified because it won’t tell the user.

[0029] “Before or during game play , the prediction model is applied to information about the user to predict the user’s expected duration
of game play. Based on the expected duration, the system
may then utilize a mapping data repository to determine how
to dynamically adjust the difficulty of the game, such as, for
example, changing the values of one or more knobs to make
portions of the game less difficult.”

One of the implementations of the system takes place either before the game starts or during it. This system takes into account a lot of different information about the user and then tweaks the difficulty(referred to as knobs).

[0034] “Embodiments of the present disclosure can be used to modify various aspects of game state of a video game, which may
or may not affect the difficulty level of the video game. For
example, in a game where weapons are randomly dropped,
if it is determined that a user prefers to play a game using a particular in – game weapon, the game may be adjusted to
present the preferred weapon to the user more frequently . In
some cases, such as when all weapons are evenly balanced, the type of weapon dropped may not impact the difficulty of
the video game and thus, such an adjustment may be based
on user play styles or preferences rather than difficulty level
preferences.”

One of the use cases of this system is to change what items can be dropped in a game and to drop a weapon that is more favourable by the player to keep them in the game. This may or may not affect the game based on how weapons are utilized in the game. This example doesn’t really seem to signify anything FIFA related but the one below will make it clearer.

“Some other non-limiting examples of features of the video game that can be modified, which may or may not be detectable by the user can include providing extra speed to an in-game character, improving throwing accuracy of an in-game character, improving the distance or height that the in-game character can jump, adjusting the responsiveness of controls, and the like. In some cases, the adjustments may additionally or alternatively include reducing the ability of an in-game character rather than improving the ability of the in-game character. For example, the in-game character may be made faster, but have less shooting accuracy.”

This example is something that every FIFA player can somewhat relate too.  Your players suddenly start feeling sluggish, players like Cazorla might outjump Ramos and your AI teammates might straight up act dumb. This is what this system can do and more.

[0040] “Further, the knobs may include variables that modify the video game in a manner that is not perceivable by a user or is difficult to perceive by the user. In some cases, whether or not the modification to the video game is perceivable by the user may depend on the specific video game.”

Even more talk of how the “knobs” includes variables to finetune the change of difficulty of the game that the user/player won’t be able to notice in most cases.

[0063] “In some cases, the adjustment of the difficulty may be dynamic and may occur during a user’s interaction with the video game. Further, in some cases, the difficulty adjustment may occur in real-time or near real-time.”

This right here makes it very clear that this system can work in real-time and can happen while the game is being played and is dynamic. The sudden change in how your team just turns into a squad of bumbling fools who may have never touched a football before happens in a matter of moments and this properly explains why.

[0065] “In some embodiments, the prediction models are applied at the beginning of the game to determine how to adjust the difficulty of the entire game. In other embodiments, the prediction models are applied at different times during the game and/or at different stages in the game.”

Again, it’s describing how it can be changed during different stages of a game including the beginning. This could be why sometimes it’s easy to score a goal at kick-off while other times it doesn’t happen.

[0104] “Further, the user clustering system may parse chat
message data of the user to determine the user’s engagement
level and/or how difficult the user finds the video game.”

This right here has me worried. Going through your chat messages to find out whether or not you found the game difficult or how you feel about the game seems quite unethical. It may be hidden in the user-agreement for games that people seem to always skip over so that’s probably how they got away with this. Still, this seems like an invasion of privacy and I really hope there’s a better explanation for this.

[0116]  “If another user does not have a problem timing jumps, but has trouble aiming a weapon, the difficulty configuration system may generate configuration values that make it easier to shoot objectives by making the hit area of a weapon larger. In some cases, both of these changes may be made without the users realizing that the game has been modified.”

Describing how attributes of the player and opponent can be changed on the go to make it a more enjoyable experience without the user recognizing that there’s been a change. Reminds me of sudden late comebacks in FIFA when you’ve been dominating the whole game.

[0119] “In cases where the user computing system does not have a network connection to the interactive computing system , the video game may be configured to dynamically adjust its difficulty based at least in part on user interaction data stored in the user interaction history repository.”

And this system can happen even if you’re offline. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing singleplayer or multiplayer, online or offline this system can work. It can use your console, can be stored on disks and can be done on the server too.

The Conclusion

After reading all this you might think to yourself that this can’t be happening or it’s too vague or that it doesn’t really ever talk about Sports games but mainly other genres of games so there’s no way it’s on FIFA. But here’s the thing, it’s almost extremely likely it’s on FIFA and we’ll tell you why.

FIFA is EA’s biggest revenue bringer and brought in about $800 million in net revenue from Ultimate Team in 2017 and has only gone up since. Now consider the fact that they want to use this system to make people play for longer and to spend money. You add 2 and 2 together and it’s pretty clear that this system has already been implemented in FIFA 19 and has been in the older FIFA games as well in some form or the other.

If you have been following FIFA for a while you might remember things like “Dramatic Moments”, “Momentum”, “Home Advantage” and such from the older titles which all aimed to dynamically alter the tide of the game.

So does FIFA really have some sort of scripting going on which screws with you or is it just you being bad, that’s for you to decide based on the information given above. If you’d like to read more about this, a tweet is linked below along with a link to the Patent which I highly suggest you read through because it goes over the Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment system in a lot more detail and is quite a fascinating read.

Tweet

Patent Link

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Top 10 Best PS4 Games | GamingMonk’s Best of 2018

2017 was a great year for PlayStation fans, and 2018 has only gotten better. With amazing titles like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man, this has been a blockbuster year for the PS4. Without further ado, here’s our list of the top 10 best PS4 games to come out this year (in no particular order, of course).

1. Red Dead Redemption 2

Whether it’s looks, or story, or characters, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a work of art. It’s an impactful story of loyalty and trust, of murder and betrayal, set against a beautiful but unforgiving environment in the Wild West days. Some gameplay issues notwithstanding, it’s seriously hard to overstate what an amazing job Rockstar has done with this title.

2. God of War

Changing the formula from an angry, young man, Kratos is back as an angry, old father. Taking his son on a journey to scatter his mother’s ashes, the game gives players amazing insight into his relationship with his son, Atreus. Moments where Kratos struggles to express his affection, and a terrible secret that may very well change his son’s life forever. It’s a polar opposite of what the original God of War games were about, and the direction it’s taking is impressive to say the least.

3. Marvel’s Spider-Man

What more can we say about the title that is the only game to ever receive the Marvel Stamp of Approval? It’s got everything you’d want from a Spiderman game. Multiple suits? Check. Swinging across New York from the tallest skyscrapers? Check. Webbing guys up in awkward positions? Checkity check. Also, Mary Jane is really cute, so that’s also there.

4. Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft is back, and this time she’s brought the apocalypse with her. After accidentally starting the end of the world, Lara now has to track down the notorious Trinity organization to make sure they don’t get their hands on the artifacts that have the power to reshape the world.

5. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

For the first time, there’s a female protagonist featured throughout an Assassin’s Creed title. It is set 400 years prior to Origins, where you get to play as a mercenary, exploring Ancient Greece as you fight your way to glory. Find the secrets that bind your family, take down a mysterious cult and become the best mercenary you can be.

6. Detroit: Become Human

At it’s core, Detroit poses some hard hitting questions, the most fundamental being, “What does it mean to be human?” In a world that is increasingly dependent on technology and AI in every way, the game’s philosophy cannot be overstated.

7. Battlefield V

Battlefield V is a pretty enjoyable Battlefield game. Though it no longer retains the same strategic depth as Battlefield 3 & 4, it is definitely a big step up from Battlefield 1. There are some standout maps, the weapons feels great, and the game is a delight to look at.

8. Hitman 2

Everyone’s favourite assassin is back with a vengeance. Not to spoil too much, but did you know you can kill people by placing a rake in their path? It’s genius, really. Also, to no one’s surprise, the first elusive target is none other than Sean Bean, so fun times galore.

9. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Call of Duty has made a triumphant comeback, with boots on the ground multiplayer and Blackout is easily the best Battle Royale mode around right now.

10. FIFA 19

I know it’s easy to disregard every new FIFA entry as the same as the previous year’s game However, hardcore fans and veterans of the series can appreciate even the smaller improvements and roster updates, and FIFA 19 is an easy recommendation to bring a few friends together over an enjoyable round of football.

So those were our picks for the best PS4 games of 2018. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

EA Reveals FIFA 19 Ultimate Team Odds, And It’s Disastrous

FIFA 19 is finally out and with it begins the quest to become the best FIFA player online. While some choose to stick to good old regular division matches, many love the Ultimate Team game mode and its mechanics. Well, this year thanks to the whole loot box debacle, EA has shared the odds for the pack unlocks, and oh boy are they not what you’d want.

Image Credit: Eurogamer

As seen from the image the chance to unlock a “Ones to Watch Player” is Less than 1%. Ones To Watch are those players cards that are dynamic which means they get a permanent rating boost throughout the season if they perform well. Cristiano Ronaldo also has a Ones to Watch card which will probably make that card the most valuable card right now.

Back to the chances, you have less than 1% of a chance to get those cards. That less than 1% could even mean a 0.001% chance or a 0.01 % chance. And this for the Premium Electrum Players Pack which is a type of Promo pack. While players can now see how much the odds are against their favour, I doubt it will change the fact that people will still spend their money on pack openings because of the thrill of it.  As always though, make decisions responsibly because every person’s decision counts when it comes to loot boxes and games as your wallet is what does the talking.

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