Sony Patents an AI for Gaming

Gamers could be seeing vast changes in how they play games.

Being stuck on a seemingly unbeatable level or boss in a video can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with, especially when you are crunched for time. Well, Sony may be in the process of helping players with this exact issue from the looks of a new patent that they submitted to the World Intellectual Property Organization, also known as WIPO. 

The patent is titled “In-Game Resource Surfacing Platform,” or an artificial intelligence (AI) that will be incorporated into gaming. Sony’s goal is to provide players with suggested resources, whether it be downloadable content (DLC), in game equipment or skill, or general tips that will assist a player when the AI determines they are stuck. The AI will provide these suggested resources by using the data of successful runs through the area that a player is stuck. The algorithm that the AI uses to determine the most adequate way to assist the player can be seen further in the figures provided with the patent application. 

The integration of such an AI has the potential to either be a huge hit or receive extreme backlash. Clearly, providing tips, tricks, and suggestions for a difficult area or stage in a game is something that many gamers could benefit from. The use of an AI that can assist you through these laborious bosses, fights, or challenges in a game will potentially allow for a more enjoyable experience. Think back to any game that you stopped playing just because you were unable to get past a certain moment; this AI would assist in getting past a sticking point. Even more so, the AI could also provide information about potential gear that is being misused or under used within the game. 

While the incorporation of assistance, such as this, can be helpful, it can also be abused by developers and Sony themselves. A concern that I saw while looking at the drawings and reading parts of the patent is the high incorporation of the “virtual store.” The AI may have a bias of suggesting that the player buy items, such as a microtransaction within a game, rather than providing suggestions on abilities or equipment that the player already has at their disposal. Such actions could arguably be considered predatory for players that are younger or those who struggle with self-control when it comes to spending. 

It would be ideal that such a system provide the player the option to turn off the AI. This will ensure an enjoyable gaming experience for those players who are at risk for spending money uncontrollably, as well as those who do not want help and wish to figure out the solutions on their own.  

The future of gaming is going to see some huge changes with the coming console generation. Some will be thrilling and enhance everyone’s gaming experience, while other changes will come with some backlash. Only time will tell how the game space, and how we enjoy games, will change. What are your thoughts on the potential integration of AI in gaming? 

Tides of Change for Console Exclusives

For years, console manufactures have held sacred video games that were exclusive to their console and have fought to hold exclusivity to parts of other games. The times seem to be slowly shifting towards companies giving a little leeway with sharing console exclusives, at least with PC. As seen in a recent report from Kotaku, Horizon: Zero Dawn will be coming to PC in the near future. This will be the first of Sony’s first-party exclusive games to go to another console.  

Sony’s decision to bring this highly regarded third-person action RPG to PC is exciting news for anyone who does not own a PlayStation. On the other hand, it raises questions for many current PlayStation owners and may bring some frustration. Before getting upset about this decision, it is important to remember that Horizon: Zero Dawn came out in 2017, and, since that time, it has been on sale multiple times on the PlayStation Store. The decision to give this game to PC players helps increase the sales of Horizon: Zero Dawn and could pique interest in a new crowd for the next gen PlayStation. 

Sony is not the only company bringing console exclusives to other platforms. Microsoft has also been making similar moves with some of their exclusives on Xbox. Microsoft has recently brought one of the biggest games on Xbox to PC, the Master Chief Collection (MCC). The MCC is a first-party game and was released in 2014 alongside the Xbox One. With continued support, the MCC has grown to become a well-polished product for those who are returning to the series or are just now getting started.  

With both Sony and Microsoft bringing key console exclusives to PC, it will be interesting to see the future of console exclusives and how they are managed and shared. How do you feel about the exchange of console exclusives with PC? What do you think the future of console exclusives looks like? 

Welcome One and All!

Hello! Welcome to Exploration Gaming! This blog is going to be comprised of news and reviews of anything related to gaming and video entertainment. I am Ethan Schmelzer, a Certified Athletic Trainer, working part-time at a division one high school.  I am a full-time graduate student, working on my Master of Science in Athletic Training.  I am an avid gamer and gym enthusiast. My goal is to give content weekly, grow as a writer, gamer, and critical thinker. I want to be able to provide my take on the latest news and releases, but I also want to hear your opinions along the way!

I have been gaming for approximately sixteen years, and my first console was the PlayStation 2!  Looking back, I had so many games that I never managed to finish because I was absolutely confused on what I was supposed to do! However, my dad’s decision to purchase the PlayStation 2 changed my life and allowed me to create connections with a countless number of people. I can remember the numerous hours sitting on the floor in my house playing video games with either my friends or by myself, and I will admit that I would not change a moment of it.

I own all current gen systems and recently invested in a high-quality gaming PC. I will be sure to let everyone know where I am playing the games when doing reviews or gaming updates. I love being able to experience such a plethora of games from each console and a variety of developers. Being able to see the artistic styles used to make games one of a kind is fascinating, and experiencing the game play firsthand is like no other. I look forward to sharing my views on a variety of games.

My interest in video entertainment, such as movies and TV shows, has largely grown from my wonderful girlfriend. The first summer we were together we probably went to see a new movie every week! With both our schedules being so busy, and opposite each other, we haven’t had as many opportunities to go and see movies close to the release date. When both of our schedules free up, I am sure we will begin to see more movies together, especially when all the big summer blockbuster hits come out!

As my interest for the gaming industry grows, I want to be able to take this interest and passion and combine it with that my desire to become a stronger writer. Deep down I have always had an interest in writing but never made time for it. That is all about to change. As I stated earlier, I will be bringing weekly content. It may be an update on the movies and TV shows I am currently watching or games I have been playing.

Gotta Watch’em All!

Pokémon fans everywhere are feeling the excitement as Netflix is releasing a Pokémon movie that is sure to bring back fan nostalgia. The new Pokémon movie, Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution, is a remake of the first Pokémon movie that came out 22 years ago in Japan. While Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution has already been released in Japan, it will finally be available for American audiences on February 27. The remake utilizes new CGI animation, giving the beloved movie a brand-new appearance. This remake will be bringing all the Pokémon you loved as a kid to life with greater detail than before.

I am personally excited to revisit a movie near and dear to my heart. However, being a remake of the first Pokémon movie that I watch and owned, the change of animation feels a bit off. After having the opportunity to watch the trailer, the body language and facial expressions feel off. Ash Ketchum’s emotions during interactions with other characters, or the antagonist Mewtwo, show a few of the quirks of the new animation. His anger seems to be over emphasized from an odd glare, or excitement appears to be less than sincere due to a weak smile. I am also partial to the older animation style, so it will take time to become accustomed to the new CGI animation. 

Regardless of these first takes from the trailer, I am excited to see the new iteration of this beloved movie, and all the adjustments that are sure to come to make a unique experience for this generation. Of course, we can’t forget the best part, we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home to enjoy Pokémon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution!

Check out the trailer on YouTube, and let me know what you think!

“No Console Exclusives” for the Next Gen Xbox

With the next generation of consoles right around the corner, discussions about console exclusive games have begun to arise . Console exclusives are the key for selling to and winning over a new audience, as well as keeping the previous patrons. Microsoft, however, has different plans for their console exclusives. Xbox Game Studios’ Matt Booty told MCV UK that the new Xbox series X, and Lockhart, will have “no console exclusives.” He further went on to say that if anyone has already invested in the current generation Xbox, Microsoft wants to make sure that “they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.” The news of Microsoft supporting current generation consoles for at least another year with first party games is huge for gamers and creates good public relations for Microsoft. 

For gamers on a tight budget, this will allow them to continue using their Xbox One series consoles without having to worry about the, sure to be pricey, cost of the new Xbox series X. For those who do not currently own an Xbox, this news is even better. These individuals can hop in on all the actions of the next and current gen gaming for a fraction of the cost by purchasing an Xbox One series console rather than the new Series X console. 

This move for Microsoft helps undo some of the bad blood they created with the Xbox One launch. While Microsoft may see limited sales during the first year of the next gen life cycle, they are surely more interested in getting individuals to be a part of Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate. As consumers utilize these features to play all the new games, I would predict more sales in hardware in the long run. The dedication to supporting current and next gen consoles shows that Microsoft is dedicated to its player base and trying to pick up the pieces from the horrific Xbox One launch. 

As far as we know, this news is only relevant to first party Xbox games. Therefore, if a third-party developer wants to create a game exclusively for Xbox Series X, it may not be compatible with current gen consoles. However, with Microsoft’s recent acquisition of multiple developers, there will be no shortage of first party games. 

What are your thoughts on the next console generation and Microsoft’s efforts to continue to support this console generation?

Best Games of the Decade

As 2019 has finally wrapped up, what better way to reflect upon the decade than looking at some of its best games! From 2010 to 2019, there have been thousands of games made, some amazing and some horrific. However, let’s not worry about those lackluster games. When considering my personal list of best games of the decade I considered graphics, game play, story, and cultural significance as factors to be considered. I only included games that I played, so games such as Borderlands 3, Jedi Fallen Order, Spiderman, and Red Dead Redemption 2 were not considered but should not be over-looked. Now let’s get started! (*Potential Spoilers Ahead*)

10. Fortnite

With the ever-changing battlefield and constant updates, Fortnite is a must for any best games of the decade list. While I am not a personal fan of the game, nor very good, I will be the first to say that the game is well made and has unique graphics. The major reason that Fortnite deserves to be on this list is the MASSIVE cultural impact that it has created. Fortnite continues to be one of the biggest games of the decade and doesn’t look to slowing down anytime soon. The ability of Epic to consistently update the game and draw in new players in baffling. Fortnite has not only streamlined the battle royal genre but has also created one of the largest esports league in the world. The concept of finding new guns and collecting resources creates a play style that is unique to Fortnite. The ability to build structures that can change the battlefield is an experience unique to Fortnite and makes every battle different. Fortnite provides an experience that no other battle royal can give with the ability to build, fight, and collect different weapons as battlefield begins to shrink.

9. Grand Theft Auto 5

From its long story to the ever-supported online function, Rockstar has created a game that will be forever immortalized in the history of gaming. Rockstar has created a game that took the industry by storm and is a high-quality game. The story mode has a good plot and enjoyable mechanics. I have talked to those who have rolled credits on the game and they loved every moment of it. For those who are looking to get a bang for your buck in offline play, this game will do exactly that. Plus, who doesn’t love buying guns and battling some thugs to just get blown-up? However, story mode isn’t why this game deserves to be on a top 10 list, the GTA online game mode is what separates it from other games during this decade. GTA online gets frequent updates and keeps making Rockstar plenty of money. The ability to play through a second story with your friends and complete strangers is an exciting experience. While I am not a GTA fan, GTA 5 gives plenty of fun and exciting moments for just about everyone.

8. Overwatch

This game was actually a last-minute decision to add this game to the list. For Christmas 2019 a friend gifted this game to a few friends and me. After being able to play this game for a few hours I am happy to say that it deserves to be on a top ten list of greatest games of the decade. The online game play is fantastic, teaming up with five other people and being able to go into combat in different game modes is a blast. I have yet to play through all the characters, but the ones I have used as are enjoyable to play as. With so many characters to choose from, there is a character for anyone’s playstyle. While I am not entirely great at this game yet, I look forward to getting to play this game more over the next few weeks and months, learning new ways to play and learning new characters. The animation style is more cartoony than that of other games on this list but is phenomenal. Once again, Overwatch is another game that took the gaming world by storm when it was released, and still has momentum going into the new decade. Being able to experience the game now is enjoyable and I look forward to the release of Overwatch 2.

7. Call of Duty: Black Ops

The Call of Duty franchise consistently puts out one of the top selling games of the year with every new release. While I do not buy and play every Call of Duty game, I felt that Call of Duty: Black Ops was able to capture a wide variety of an audience and lead to the creation of the longest running Call of Duty sub-franchise. The story mode was brief but was a fun time despite lacking a depth that you may look for in a single player story. The competitive online multiplayer was fantastic and how could anyone forget fighting for their life at Firing Range! With enough time, anyone could become competent at online multiplayer in Black Ops. With Black Ops we also saw the return of the zombie game mode. The zombie maps and Easter eggs within each map made for countless fun Saturday nights with friends. Without the creation of Blacks Ops who knows where the Call of Duty franchise would be, maybe we would be playing Call of Duty Ghost 4.

6. Divinity Original Sin 2

I have a natural draw to and love for turn based RPGs. Growing up I can remember playing 8-bit final fantasy games with my cousins on the DS, so Divinity: Original Sin 2 (DOS2) brings back the nostalgia and such sweet memories. With that being said, DOS2 is visually pleasing, with the isometric and combat views you are able to assess the battlefield and the surroundings. With each new armor piece, you are able to change how your character looks and can make them look like true gods of the battlefield. The combat is deep and engaging, and the flow of battle can change in a heartbeat. I have strictly played this game in a multiplayer format and being able to strategize with my friends adds to the excitement of every big battle. The story of the game can be muddled at times, as there are a multitude of ways to continue in the story that may or may not affect outcomes later in the game. There are countless side quests that provides new skills, items, and abilities to help with your adventures. You’ll also probably hear plenty of cheesy lines and exaggerated voice acting that will make you laugh or cringe at times. Overall, DOS2 deserves a spot on the top games of the decade for the gameplay and countless hours of soul eating.

5.  Warframe

Warframe is a game that is beyond unique, with the ability to craft new “warframes,” weapons, and other key items you are constantly hunting for. Warframe is a free to play “game as service” game that can be played solo or with friends. The ability to travel the solar system, via the star chart, allows you to experience what the universe looks like in a Syfy future. The mechanics are stimulating as you are jumping and flying through the air while shooting enemies relentlessly. Each warframe has its own unique abilities that change how you play, such as support, tanks, and damage dealing warframes. While each warframe has its own abilities, you can drastically change the duration and effectiveness of said abilities with the use of mods. The depth of the gameplay of Warframe is beyond my expertise, and more than what can go into a short exert about the game. The one area that Warframe lacks is the story, the beginning of the story is confusing, and I did not quite understand what the objective or lore was. Once you have completed approximately 50% of the star chart the story picks up exponentially. The grind in this game is real and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy free games or just want a fun game to play with friends.

4. Witcher 3

When looking back at highly anticipated games of the decade, the Witcher 3 was high up on the list. With deep lore and a heart racing story line, anyone and everyone can appreciate the Witcher 3. Not only do story mission take you deeper and deeper into this world of monsters, both human and nonhuman, but create a story line that is worth every hour. The developers at CD Projekt Red also manage to make almost every side mission just as entertaining. With the depth of the main story and side missions, you can spend hundreds of hours playing the Witcher 3. When it comes to game mechanics, the Witcher 3 has a soulsborn feel where dodging, blocking, and parrying is a MUST! However, if you crank the difficulty down to easy you are able to kill most enemies that are at or below your level with ease. The RPG mechanics are set to be picked and applied as you level up within four categories: combat skills, signs, alchemy skills, and general skills. These skills can be enhanced through the use of mutagens, which goes along with the lore of witchers being enhanced. With the never-ending selection of weapons and armor, you can adjust to your play style as needed.

3. Borderlands 2

Borderlands has grown into a series that numerous people look forward to. With “87 Bazillion Guns” Borderlands 2 drastically improves upon the foundation of what the first Borderlands was going for. The game play is drastically improved from its predecessor; the guns feel the same, and the skill trees allow for players to create a more specific build within the game. When initially getting to play as one of the original four characters or one of the two DLC characters, you can tell that the creators at 2k have worked to improve each class and give them all a unique spin. The story of Borderlands 2 is also superior than that of the first Borderlands. With having the characters of the first game be CPUs in the second created for an exciting and nostalgic experience as each new character was introduced during the game. Each quest felt meaningful, with minimal feelings of performing meaningless tasks. The villain in Borderlands 2 was relatable and at points you could see why he was acting the way he was (and hint hint, it helps lay the groundwork for the pre-sequel). Borderlands 2 also does a great job at making the open world feel a little less lonely as there are new allies everywhere you go. Borderlands 2 increased the popularity of looter-shooters and developed many key systems that we see in todays “games as service” style games.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda has been a long running franchise that has been loved by many over the years. It should be no surprise that the latest addition to the franchise would be amongst the greatest games of the decade. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW) re-invents what many know to be a Zelda game. BOTW created many expectations for open world games. One of the greatest additions to the game is the ability to climb anything. As long as you have enough stamina you can go anywhere that you wish. Then, once you decided to climb that huge mountain in the distance, you can jump off the edge and use your glider to get your next objective! The combat is reminiscent of many 3-D Zelda games, you can lock on dodge and attack just like days of old. However, with the introduction of RPG like elements, weapons are picked up around the world or from dead enemies and can break just as easily as they are found. The addition of weapons breaking is extremely frustrating early on in the game, but as you explore more of the world you find places where top tier weapons will respawn every blood moon. The graphics of BOTW are limited simply by the Nintendo Switch. If you’re an individual, such as myself, who enjoys playing handheld, you will see lower resolution but a constant frame rate. The story of BOTW is well done overall, but exploring the massive open world is arguably just as fun. The Legend of Zelda: BOTW is a game for the ages and a top tier game of this past decade.

1. God of War (2018)

When trying to decide on my personal favorite game of the decade I wanted to make sure that the top game was outstanding in many ways. When you first begin your journey with the angry Kratos, you quickly realize that this is not going to be a game where you are out to kill all the gods of a new mythology. The story of growth and development between a father and his son is beautiful. What I was concerned was going to be a lonely world and story quickly turned into a small ensemble cast that you grew to love. The world within Midgard has breathtaking views and I found myself repeatedly rotating the camera to take in all of the environment. The lore of Norse mythology is woven deeply within the game and I enjoyed hearing many of the stories as I roamed the world. The combat was flawless and as smooth as butter. Being able to use the Leviathan axe for close and ranged combat was excellent, switching between the two could be executed easily. I will say that learning to use Atreus was difficult at first but once you got the hang of it and learned how to utilize him, it could make the hardest battles drastically easier. God of War had it all in my opinion, a great story, game play, graphics and deep lore. While the cultural significance may not have been as extreme, God of War is absolutely a console and decade defining game, and an example of what video games can and should be.