Something’s changed

I don’t know what’s different this year. Is it me? Is it the industry? I can’t say one way or the other. I’m just not into E3 this year.

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This whole blog kind of started with my excitement about E3 a few years ago. But this year something is different for me. Part of it, surely, is the lack of anything that was “to be announced” or leaked previous to the event that really caught my interest. Though without fail, something cool will rear its head eventually and probably change my mind to an extent. I mean, I’m not crazy. I’m still hoping for some big reveals and some new info on stuff like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and GoW4.

Though, like I said, I don’t think I can put my finger on any one specific cause – I think I can pick one biggie out. The proliferation of gaming media. Now we don’t have to wait for E3 for announcements and reveals. They’re happening all year long. Most of the stuff we see at E3 now, save for the occasional big reveal, surprise, etc – we already know about it months in advance. Take Assassin’s Creed: Origins, for example. We knew last year there wasn’t going to be a new entry in the Assassin’s Creed series. But I think we could say for certainty that Ubisoft wasn’t going to be holding off for more than a year. And, aside from that, the game had leaked images weeks ago. Far Cry 5 too. Hell, EB Games and Bestbuy both e-mailed me about how “Far Cry comes to America” last week.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that we get updates on great games and developers all of the time. But it’s kind of like how Christmas changes from when you’re a kid to an adult. All year you wait desperately for that day and then when it comes, you just tear through presents like it’s the last time you’ll get to do it. But as you get older, at least in my case, I tend to just buy the things I want when I want them. So when Christmas comes around, there may be a few cool things under that tree for me – but most of what I wanted, I already have.

It’s a weird transitional phase for me to go through – both personally and professionally (well, at least in terms of this blog because no one is paying me to do it…yet). I want to get jacked up. I want to do like I always did and go and tell the person next to me about how amazing the Bethesda conference was and how excited I am about the reveal of X game. And, of course, to take advantage of all of the amazing pre-order deals out there (though again, this may play into my lack of excitement as a part of my no pre-order pact I made with myself). I just can’t find anything within myself that’s telling me that I need to obsessively pour over everything that’s going on and dissect the minutia of every reveal.

Of course, I’m still going to follow stuff, and I think I’ve already shown that I am. Much like Christmas though, I’m afraid I’ve lost the vigor for it. That being said, it’s possible that this year is an outlier. It definitely didn’t help going into E3 that I knew I wouldn’t see a lot of what I hoped to see. Nothing big from Bethesda (Elder Scrolls, Fallout wise), no Kingdom Hearts release date, etc.

But I’m excited to see everyone’s offerings. So far I like what Bioware is doing with Anthem.

Who knows – as the conference goes on, I may change my tune. The hype train may just roll through this station after all. Forgive the tired cliché, I haven’t written in a while and I’m feeling a little rusty.

All I will say is: If this is what growing up is, I don’t like it.

– The Ego

 

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So, this is it then?

Say what you will about old games and the improvements in technology that the gaming industry has made over the last decade or so, but one thing seems to be turning into a constant: we are waiting for months after release for “finished games”.

Now, I don’t mean episodic games. I’m talking about release a full priced, AAA (often) game that comes out and is either missing a chunk of the story that was pulled to be included as DLC or games that just didn’t get the polish they deserved.

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As an aside, I don’t have a problem with DLC as a concept. Because, I’m sure most of you have been gaming long enough to remember, DLC used to be something to extend the life of a game. When fans were clamouring for more after the ending, sometimes they’d get a smaller nugget as DLC, like Bioshock’s Burial At Sea. Now, DLC is used to fill in purposely created gaps in a lot of narratives to be able to get a little extra on top of the title price.

I could probably fill up a Simpsons/Family Guy rolling credits list of games that would make a list of the kind of games I would describe, but for the sake of your eyes and my fingers, I’ll pass for now.

But let’s look at some of the major offenders here:

No Man’s Sky: This game is going to forever live in infamy. Released actually unfinished. The game lacked the lion’s share of features that the developers had touted. It received a recent update, seven months (approximately) after initial release and we’re just starting to get (what I feel) is close to what the game’s original concept was meant to include.

Mass Effect Andromeda: Can’t say I made the wrong choice in cancelling my pre-order here. The thing that makes this a real debacle is that BioWare is one of those studios who I feel (and I’m sure many would agree) was great because they showed serious attention to detail in their games. And then this happened. Now they’re releasing updates (granted in a timely manner) that are meant to fix and “tweak” the animation issues and increase customisation options. Good for you BioWare. Too bad you didn’t think about this, I don’t know, before selling it?

Destiny: I won’t over scrutinize Destiny. If you read me regularly, you know how I feel about the lackluster release that Destiny received.

So, now we ask: Why?

Well, the simple answer is money. The companies that own these studios want to see results in their quarterly profit reports, and sometimes that means shoehorning in a game to a release date it isn’t in any way prepared to meet. I know this is a business. I’m in no way naive. But when the companies do this, when they release unfinished, terrible looking games – it isn’t just the companies at fault. There is a level of complicity among us as well.

In some cases, like ME: A, how could we know? People take for granted that BioWare produces excellent games, especially for a series that is more or less beyond reproach. And then it ends up having serious issues. But in cases of games like Destiny, we know. We know what the first game was. We know it came out unfinished and missing a lot. But I guarantee, even for a lot of people who complained about it, they will be on the front lines to pre-order and pick it up day one same as the last. And in that, we show our complicity in this crime against the medium.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure. I know that we need to find some way to make it clear to companies that we won’t be apart of the cycle any more. Whether it means boycotts or at least turning every game into a “wait and see”, something has to change and hurting the profit margin is all they understand.

– The Ego

“Entitled, elitist, etc” or “That being said”

I have to preface this by saying: No, I haven’t finished the Mass Effect series. I know it’s been out for some time. It is sitting on my shelf, with the rest of them, waiting to be played (I like the series, just didn’t like the class I chose and I’m debating using my old save file, or starting from scratch, and it’s been a lengthy decision).

That being said: What gives people the idea that the fans, or anyone really (outside of the people who actually produced the game) has the right to say whether that the ending should or shouldn’t be what gets released?

As a writer, I’m used to commentary. People think an idea should go here, or there and most people aren’t shy to tell you. And that’s just part of the game. I can live with that. But if you don’t like an ending, or some storyline doesn’t end up where you expected it to. Does that automatically mean you should complain until it’s changed? Well, as most are likely aware – apparently the answer is yes. I know I’m kicking a dead horse here. I’m sure the concept, at least surrounding Mass Effect 3 anyway, is a debate that’s long dead, or has been done to death – but it’s something that came up today and I just had to get it out.

I know there are different ways to look at this argument. I think there are two clear, and definable sides. 1) Art is open to interpretation or 2) The value is entirely defined by the end user.

There is definitely some spill-over between the two options I’ve put forth. Of course interpretation is kin to the concept of the end user’s value of the story/product. That being said: I doubt Hemmingway, Fitzgerald or King sat around in their houses, reading complaints about the ways their stories ended, thinking about how they can re-write them to make the “fans” happy.

In case it isn’t readily evident by this point – I fall hard into category 1. Your experience, and how something affects you is a common outcome from both options, but the experience is interpreted through the art itself. And the piece, be it a painting, a story or a videogame, is all open to interpretation.

That’s why I like people who say “Hey, this is what I’ve done, do with it what you will”. Like this guy:

If anything, I hate the fact that they caved and added DLC that “fixed” or “improved” the endings. I get why they did it. The fan dollars speak louder than artistic integrity. Shareholders and the money-people always have the last and loudest say. Which is a shame. And I’m not going to get into the artist vs the artist who sells out vs “the man”, but, well, that’s kind of where we’re at. It’s an amazing thing to get paid for one’s art. One’s talent. But subjecting yourself to having to pander to an audience because someone or some group isn’t “pleased” by what you’ve produced. That’s the worst.

Vonnegut said it best:

“As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.”

Now, we’re not talking literary criticism, but the point stands on it’s own. Well, except for the part about the audience being critics. I guess it’s another one of those situations where you can’t please everybody. With that in mind, though, I really hate the mentality. Do I like every ending of everything I read/watch/play? Definitely not. But it is what it is. Either it has merit, or doesn’t. That doesn’t mean having paid to consume the product, that if I’m displeased with how it turns out, I should moan and complain until someone fixes it. Just deal with it.

– The Ego