Vague Patch Notes: Why I’m anticipating Blue Protocol


My anticipation for Blue Protocol is something that I cannot adequately explain because at the end of the day it’s more based around a feeling than it is actual evidence. But sometimes those feelings can actually contain some evidence, and so I’m going to be talking about that too while I talk about this game.

If you were going to assume that I’m just a sucker for cel-shaded graphics, well, you would be absolutely right. I am entirely a sucker for cel-shaded graphics, but that only gets me interested in how your game looks. If that were enough to keep me playing, I would still be tempted to noodle around in Tower of Fantasy, and that’s not something that’s happening. Or Genshin Impact. And yet here we are, and I am still really looking forward to Blue Protocol even without having played with the character creator much.

So why do I have good feelings about it in the first place? That’s what we’re going to find out. But what are feelings, anyway?

Calm down, I promise that I’m not going to wind up diving into a deep analysis of how human beings process emotional information. That’s complicated, for one thing, and it doesn’t have a simple answer. The thing is, for all that certain very stupid people repeatedly claim that facts don’t care about your feelings, we actually use our feelings to process a lot of important facts around the world and paint a complete picture of what we’re dealing with.

For example, when I was very little, at one point I accidentally put my hand too close to a stove burner and burnt myself. Lesson learned! I don’t want to feel that way again; I need to be careful around these things. The world we understand is in many ways a synthesis of emotional and factual information, pieces that contribute to a whole.

I know that Bandai Namco, as a studio, is not an operation that tends to be first in my mind as being good at… well, a lot of things. But not only do I not know where that assumption comes from, I know for a fact that that’s wrong. The Tales series has its brighter and darker spots, but the last two installments have both been absolute bangers. Code Vein was a really fun take on the Soulslike genre – which makes some sense, since Bandai Namco has been publishing Fromsoft’s games in that series for ages now. Scarlet Nexus was fun. Bandai Namco Studios in particular has been hitting a lot more than missing over the past several years.

It's a Scary Man!

None of those is an MMO, of course. But if you look at the output, a lot of them are about providing satisfying RPGs with a solid action base, and they… work. These games are consistently working. If you told me that you wanted to make Tales of Arise into an MMO, it’d be a little surprising but certainly plausible. The foundation is there already.

One of the tricky things about feelings is that often, they’re based on information you can’t immediately access. You can’t say what is wrong with a picture, but you can tell something is wrong. There are more than a few occasions where I’ll read a new press release announcing some title or another and it’ll all look normal enough, but something about it just seems… off. Some detail nags at me, and I have to go digging further, sometimes for a while.

But the odd thing is that I have never had that feeling and found myself wrong. If I look at something and feel that something is off, something is off. Sometimes it’s as minor as just disguising an old game under a new name; sometimes it’s obvious grifts or scams. But it’s always a case where I suspect something is wrong, and once I dig into it, something was indeed wrong – even though I couldn’t have told you what was wrong before doing a whole bunch of digging.

There’s an instinct that comes along with having spent a lot of time in a certain field. Often it’s difficult if not impossible to articulate, but it’s there just the same. And it’s not the same as liking or disliking something. If you’ve ever met a carpenter who looked at scaffolding and just frowned, or a musician listening to a piece who twitched at a particular moment with no explanation, you know what it is.

So here’s the obvious question. If Bandai Namco Studios has the talent, which it clearly does, and it has an American publishing arm, which it also does, why is it working with Amazon? Why not just manage the game itself?

This had better not have changed.

I don’t have the answer for that, but I do have a guess. Bandai Namco could certainly afford to bring the game out here itself. But then it wouldn’t be able to benefit from something that Amazon can likely provide at scale and cheaper than usual: servers.

It’s not that Bandai Namco doesn’t have servers for online services; the company does, considering the aforementioned Fromsoft games. But they’re not very good, and it seems clear that Bandai Namco does not really want to invest a whole lot in servers for the American market, especially if it doesn’t have to. A publishing deal, in this case, might seem like a natural fit, and it’s probably offering pretty nice publishing deals to outside titles.

Obviously, we don’t know exactly how much influence Amazon will have over the game’s design and monetization, but this isn’t a mobile-and-PC title that is beholden to those standards. For that matter, it’s not being developed by a company that tends to rely on those business models. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but at this point there’s nothing to really raise alarm bells from where I sit.

And when I dig at it, yes, this is why I’m excited. Sure, the game looks lovely and stylized, but it’s also a game being developed by a studio that not only has shown its ability to develop smooth action combat but has been killing it for a while in the RPG sphere. The things being emphasized in videos, the style being shown… it all points to a labor of love made by a team capable of doing this well.

None of this means that it will be good. It’s still possible for it to have awful monetization or just not be very fun to play. But that would be rather unusual given its origin. Far from being a game that kept fumbling what it was supposed to be and getting redesigned, it feels like something that is quietly building momentum until it comes out.

We exist in a time when most MMO studios and projects are intent on broadcasting what they’re doing at all times, building constant hype for each new feature no matter how far the game is from release. Blue Protocol reminds me, emotionally, of riding down to see the first build of Final Fantasy XIV in a preview event, seeing a game that had completely rebuilt itself and was going to surprise people once it went live.

Do I have proof of it? No. But sometimes these feelings do turn out right.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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