Published in 2016/07/14 issue
E3 2016 has come to a close. What did everyone think of the announcements this year? Personally, I’m feeling increasingly restless at the consistency of North America’s AAA games. There’s a lot I could write about each title, but first, let me point out that Japan seems to be way behind when it comes to the “normal” techniques and pipelines for creating HD games.
The difference was particularly noticeable with Horizon Zero Dawn, a PlayStation 4 title that is nearing completion. Their processes for maintaining a stable framerate have high accuracy (perhaps most prominent with the automated fluctuations in the plants on the floor). These should be a matter of course when working on HD games, but it takes numerous completed games’ worth of experience to perfect these processes. Even though it’s standard to have them, they still make me go “Amazing!”
Repeated experience is important in all things. Using the same processes in several titles makes them more effective and easier to implement, significantly increasing the efficiency of your work. Right now, there’s already a gap in HD game creation difficulty. I fear that the West is almost so far ahead that Japan can’t catch up… Our only hope is to keep challenging ourselves, and I don’t want to give up.
Though E3 2016 ended, the FFXIV team remained in North America afterwards for our Global Marketing Summit, a meeting that we hold once or twice a year. The location cycles between Japan, North America, and Europe, and this year we held it at Square Enix America in Los Angeles to coincide with E3. Our topic was marketing and promotion policies for FFXIV’s next expansion pack. We spent three whole days cooped up in the conference room looking back on Heavensward’s policies, sharing numerical analyses, and planning our next approaches based on those.
This year we had over 20 participants, coming from Japan, North America, and the European territories (UK, France, Germany, Benelux, Northern Europe, New Zealand, etc.). We had many fierce debates, and the downside of making all of the decisions in one go was that it was extremely fatiguing. I’m dead tired now… *laughs*
I hadn’t gotten to rest since before E3 (prior to going to America, I was in Korea for 4 days), and after powering through all of this, I finally got a whole day off. My normal lifestyle is so reckless that I don’t really get affected by jet lag, but it was really bad this time… Since I had a day off, I decided to go shopping at the end point of Route 66, Santa Monica, under the pretense of getting some sunlight.
It was actually my third time visiting Santa Monica, since it’s relatively close to Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s perfect for a shopping day trip. In order to get there, I used a service that’s been incredibly popular in America for the past year or so: Uber.
Uber is a taxi service you call through a mobile app. This is another thing that makes me go “Amazing!” What’s great about Uber is that it supports unlicensed taxis. In Japan, in order to work as a taxi driver, you need to have a Class 2 driver’s license (a regular one isn’t enough). But Uber allows ordinary people to register as drivers after passing a simple background check.
Basically, if you have a car and free time, you can register as an Uber driver, take passengers, and earn some extra money. This modern app service allows drivers and customers to communicate directly and rate each other after the ride. Is this even legal, you ask? In America, you’re free to conduct your own personal business. There aren’t any particular restrictions, and Uber users use the service at their own risk.
This app is spectacular. First, you enter your destination, which immediately notifies a nearby Uber driver. All they have to do is hit the response button in the app and the contract is established. The customer waits for the driver to arrive, and both of them can see each other’s positions on the map. That way you can see that your taxi is say, three blocks away. The app also shows you the driver’s name, photo, car model, and license plate number.
The driver arrives so quickly that it makes you wonder, “How many Uber drivers are there around here!?” Occasionally when you look at the app you’ll see them circling around as though lost before picking up another customer and zooming onto the highway (cancelling your request in the process), but it’s still within the realm of fun. It’s actually exciting to watch the app and go “Steve (the driver’s name)! Where the heck are you going!?” *laughs*
America doesn’t really have a culture of hailing taxis on the roadside; plus, the taxis want to avoid picking up dangerous customers. Even when people wave at them, they usually won’t take them. You can only get a cab at places like hotel entrances, malls, stations, etc.
However, after Uber started up, it was so beneficial to both customers and regular drivers that it expanded at an explosive rate—people quickly learned how convenient it was after trying it. Since they’re all regular civilians and there’s a mutual rating system, the drivers are honestly much friendlier than the corporate taxi drivers. They smile and chat with you (assuming you can speak English); it’s very pleasant.
America is all about self-responsibility. That doesn’t equate to total freedom—it means that you follow the rules that the people have set, and so long as you do, everything beyond that is up to you and at your own risk. So with Uber, it’s not a matter of “What happens if there’s trouble?”; it’s “This is beneficial to everyone, so let’s follow the rules while we’re freely conducting our business.”
The same applies to game development: their work is thorough and consistent because they strictly adhere to their rules. Being able to create freely on top of that is simply amazing. I don’t want to lose to them, but at the same time, I think that America is truly an uber country.
 E3 stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo. It’s the largest game trade fair in the world, held in Los Angeles.
 Route 66, decommissioned in 1985, was the most famous national highway in America, traversing the continent east to west. According to FFXIV Lead Translator Michael, it’s common for American couples who just graduated from high school to take their first cross-country trip to Santa Monica, only to get into a huge fight halfway there and break up. This is American gossip. It reminds me of certain boats in ponds (it’s not the same). TL note: Paddle boats are a common date activity, and there are some ponds in Japan which are rumoured to break up couples (but solely because of superstition).
 The word “uber” is actually commonly used in online games in North America. It’s often used to mean “amazing”, “strong”, or “crazy”. For example, “Black mage is an uber job!” *laughs* Do look it up if you’re interested.