Game Development Pitfalls

Mar 8, 2013

Fireside Discussion: Chapter 7: Gaming Superficiality Bullshit

Are you tired of shallow game design? I am sick to death of it. In fact, I would pay twice as much money; thats right, $120 for a solid game experience that delivered on all cylinders. I know many of you are thinking that’s absolutely crazy and financially it is but when you look at how far many games have fallen or new IP’s that look promising not deliver, it makes you wonder, is $60 worth it initially for all games?

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, the geeks thought about ‘why’ we wanted to start a website and eventually a podcast. The bottom line was that we wanted to bring relevant, valuable information to people like us, who enjoy gaming to assist in buying habits and to ultimately experience gaming and it’s many genres and facets in the most fulfilling way. This discussion focuses on value in gaming and is in reference to a post last month about ‘Next Generation Gaming‘.

Without getting too carried away, lets talk about the $60 price tag. It goes without saying this is the standard for most new games on the major platforms (excludes handhelds, iOS etc). Obviously it’s hard to believe that each of them are actually worth $60, that would mean they all receive a similar dose of love and exit to the distribution center with shiny new stickers that say “quality tested”. Well that simply isn’t true!! In fact it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Let me begin by illustrating a little about what I mean…..

Final Fantasy has had trouble with sequels. In fact they have only attempted it twice and both times, though sales weren’t bad, were utter disappointments. FF X-2 was a joke and a slap in the face of fans. SquareEnix took on this project just after the merger and gave this idea the stamp of approval! Wow is all I can say! The game design featured a combat system never mentioned and an advancement system that made me want to cringe. The voice acting was just as annoying as FFX but the entire game felt meaningless. You can argue with me about how ‘good’ FFX actually was and I’m not arguing it was the best FF game or even in the top 5, BUT it significantly is better than it’s sequel and at least left you with a heartfelt farewell and fond memories, at least Tidus didn’t talk anymore.. am I right? The difference is superficial and developers actually used old content and changed things to bring a new game together fairly quickly. The trick here is that it was successful because it was a sequel to a well thought of game by the majority of fans and a story that needed closure or at the very least may be interesting. That is why I purchased it! What you actually got was ‘lip-service’, a shallow shell of FFX, with scantly clad females running across the screen. Is that supposed to make this easier? What happened to making a game with a story and reasons to explore and love/hate the characters?

As a short side thought, I wish there was a definitive line between update/DLC and ‘new game’, it’s a good idea and one I feel needs to be defined so people can feel good that what they purchase warrants a ‘full price’ sales point, $60 in this case. To give you an example a studio could argue, “hey we put in alot of development time and yes the game world is essentially derived from previous developed content in part but we felt it was enough to make a new experience from”. Now that argument is valid, they could make a new experience from old content, just like the above example in FFX/X-2. Now look at this: What about companies like Blizzard only charging $39.99 for their expansion, which by definition is the same thing. They put in alot of time and effort adding more content to an already existing idea and they called it a new game but sold it by what it is, and expansion. So back to my original question, what makes content a ‘new game’ vs expansion and who makes that call?

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Moving along, FF XIII-2 was very similar although they did a better job of masking it. Flashy cut scenes and a somewhat more interesting story allowed them to “fill in gaps” that fans said were present in FF 13. What you ended up with was a restricted, less exploratory version of Gran Pulse and a design that enabled them to ‘instance’ the game and therefore release something that resembled a game in a very short time. This cut out all the effort in a sense for creating the world or too many new areas. Heck I would have been happy to just have the old one back, it at least would have made more sense. They tied the experiences together with a very shallow use of old playable characters. So again, you get a fraction of the old game but it looks nice. Did you see the ending? Don’t you feel a bit cheated?

Lollypop Chainsaw looked so interesting when I first saw it. A familiar studio, zombies and a ‘hot heroine’ with a chainsaw, didn’t see much room for error here…. man was I wrong. The game was terrible, I couldn’t even finish it. I looked forward to that game for so long and yet again, the hook was exactly what I mentioned above.. the character visual, action and premise… ie: more ‘lip service’.

Those are just 3 examples but well thought out ones. Back to my point, are you tired of shallow game design? I illustrate this to show you that the same $60 price tag on the games you want to play are the same for the superficial garbage/spin-offs listed above (just a few). So in essence, as long as they ‘look’ worth buying, they warrant a full price tag of $60. What you actually get though is more like a $30 experience!! Food for thought!

Another example of this, although from a different arena is Microsoft’s release of Windows. If your a Mac user, then you can laugh and shake your head in agreement. How many Windows OS’s have been released in succession that were worth buying? In other words, have you felt compelled to buy the latest operating system because it is legitimately an upgrade or that you felt it should be given that it’s new and looks cool? This is just an opinion, but I don’t feel Microsoft releases good OS’s back to back. Let’s back up to an old one, 98 2nd Edition. Maybe not the best OS, but it was solid. Then they released a crappy one, Windows ME. Then came XP, a great edition, looked nice and was easy to use with decent security. Next… absolute garbage.. Vista! Then came Windows 7.. another nice OS… -> then 8. Ok 8 isn’t bad BUT it isn’t necessary and came out way too fast to be more competitive with the mobile world. So in essence it gets put on the “bad” list by association. This just shows you another picture of large companies spending too much money creating an audience and then reaping the mild – moderate success of sub-par software to make up the ground they lost.

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Remember when people cared about their products? Makes me think of back in the 50s and 60s when companies would apologize and make it right when things went wrong. Now we have forums to talk to each other about our grievances and we can check sticky posts to see the latest corporate drone response listed in a different color. They don’t care anymore, as long as you buy it, they could give a rats-ass as to if it is a good game, complete or worth your time. Doesn’t that piss you off? It costs you full price didn’t it?

Back to my second point! Instead of paying for 2 games that together kinda make the game you hoped for, wouldn’t you pay $120 for a great game worth every penny? It doesn’t sound as crazy given the specific context and that is where I hope to see the new console generation spark. A passion to sell hardware by bringing titles and experiences up past par to new territory! Places we have never been, things we have never seen and a nexus where we can rest and buckle down for the next adventure.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there existed a ruling body of gamers that could pass judgement on bad game design, lazy studios and publishers? Imagine reading online that the latest Call of Duty wasn’t good and had obvious flaws in the multiplayer experience. Or that the new Devil May Cry is an utter mistake and total blunder. The board reviews the game and says these things need to be addressed OR you must sell the game for $49.99 as is. Sounds weird I know, but think of the implications if it was managed correctly and had a legitimate system to analyze games for quality based on the market and past experiences from the franchise. Maybe they lose 8-15% of their sales because people don’t want to buy a ‘crappy’ CoD or DMC when they can play the old tried and true one they have at home or maybe they wait till the patch comes out. It would give incentive for studios to release games worth their time so consumers would come confidently to the store and happily lay down 3, $20 bills for a game they will rave about to their friends.

In closing, please please read about these new games. Put pressure on companies by not paying full price for garbage and doing your homework to find the ‘right price’ for any game you are interested in. Gaming is an experience, hobby and passion of many people, don’t give your time and money to people who lost these things in the name of ‘business and profit’, ‘f-them’. <—- not intended to making money, good studios make money, it’s the crap studios pump out in between to make a dime at the cost of consumer confidence that deserves the f-bomb and a swift kick to the mid section of the 3 guys standing next to the hot girl wearing a Tapout Shirt in those cheesy “gaming magazines”.

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