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

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hype

So I’m trolling through the various gaming media outlets and creators I follow on Twitter and I came across this article on Gamesradar. The best upcoming games of 2017 and beyond (for those of you who don’t want to read the link).

Now, in principle, I don’t have an issue with talking about the upcoming games. But best upcoming games? I mean, come on. First off, this is total speculation. More than half of the games on the list are still TBA release dates. Which, in and of itself isn’t a big deal. You know, if the games had a substantial amount of info already released to the press or public, then one could at least make an informed decision on what’s available. But with the majority of these games, there is so little announced that one could barely interpret what to expect out of a tutorial…

I’m going to pick on Destiny 2 for the majority of this post. Why? Well, because it’s the easiest target.

Didn’t we learn anything from Destiny 1’s pre-release hype and subsequent launch? I mean, I would hope that the media at least would have the sense to treat everything about Destiny 2 with a grain of salt. But, nope. Here we are with this game already making the list of best upcoming games for 2017…

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Now, I don’t hate Destiny. I bought it. Hell, I even bought it for both platforms because my friends insisted I play with them on X-Box, and they paid the lion’s share. But what Bungie promised on Destiny 1 and what they delivered were worlds apart from each other.

Now here we are again: Bungie is making some big promises. So far I’ve seen promises of bigger, more diverse worlds that will feel substantial and different from each other. I’ve seen richer story with developed characters.

A lot of that sounds really familiar. I remember when Destiny promised to bring us total exploration. The ability to go anywhere you can see on the planet. How’d that work out? I also remember hearing about a big universe full of stories. Well, we did sort of get that, but definitely not in the game. And all Destiny really added was a bunch of really expensive expansions that didn’t change the overall play space.

So why are people getting themselves all revved up already? Why is the media leading people by the nose again? Fool me one, shame on me and all that.

Is the hype, the possibility of that sequel or that new game being exactly what we all want it to be worth the eventual disappointment? Because let’s all be real for a moment: Nothing is ever as good as what we build it up to be. I look at games like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and the new God of War game – and I know that those games are being made by studios who I have a lot of faith in. And I have yet to be disappointed by a God of War game. But the truth is: speculating and talking about how great they’re going to be without a shred of tangible evidence – well, that’s just begging for a let down.

Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe part of being a fan is buying into the hype. I don’t know. But what I can say for myself is that there is only so much I’m willing to buy into. I can anticipate and look forward to a new game. But what I won’t do is start telling the world that it’s going to be the best game of 20XX. From time to time, I’ll even buy into the hype. I will get more excited than I should. But there is still a vast difference from personally buying into the hype and selling it to the masses.

As always, you can find me on Facebook and Twitter. Let me know what you think in the comments. Is the hype worth the risk? Am I just being too hard on Destiny?

– The Ego

Just when I thought I was out…

What’s enough to bring you back to a game. And I don’t mean a franchise. I covered Second Chances on Monday. I mean, you’ve got a game, you probably bought it a year ago, but it’s being published by one of those good studios who keeps giving you content (for free no less). But it’s been sitting on your shelf for the better part of the last year. So what kind of content is enough to bring you back?

Take Diablo 3 for example. Now, Blizzard is renowned for constantly updating and providing new content for all of their franchises, and Diablo has been no different in this respect. Here we are nearly four and a half years later and they are still giving us the goods. Recently at Blizzcon, they announced a new playable character and a new mode.

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Yup, it’s the Necromancer from Diablo 2.

So is that enough? I know it’ll be enough for me to dust off the game. And frankly, if I’m willing to, I bet a lot of others will be too. I got the platinum for the regular release on PS3 and I got the platinum for the re-release on PS4. So suffice it to say, I’ve dropped hundreds of hours into the series already.

And it’s not like I don’t have other games to play. But I’m curious. Plus I feel like when companies go out of their way to provide free content and support after this long – I owe it to them to at least check it out. Plus the idea of playing the old Diablo on my flatscreen should be pretty cool. I wasn’t privy to the original Diablo games because I didn’t have a PC that could run any kind of games when I was growing up.

Rockstar and GTA V are another good example. Now, I have friends who play GTA Online and only GTA Online. Granted – it can be pretty fun. There’s a whole slew of things to do there. But after a while, I feel like greener pastures are calling. Playing the same sorts of missions against/with the same sorts of people gets dry and requires a break. But then they release major updates like Heists and Bikers. Again – for free.

With major updates to the game the likes of Bikers (giving you the ability to form a Motorcycle Club and buy and manage illicit businesses, run MC missions and purchase your own clubhouse) it’s a real game changer. And, again, something worthy of blowing off  the dust and popping the game in for another run.

Then again, there is also examples of games like Destiny. Where the running joke seems to be “People still play Destiny?”. They seem to be putting out a combination of free and paid updates to the game, and it seems to be a harder and harder draw towards maintaining and bringing back their player base. Though, that probably has more to do with the initial offering than the applicable content.

But is that enough? Is new content a good enough reason for you to come back or is playing the game while it’s new and fresh the only joy that can be derived from the medium? Especially in this trade and play culture that we have set up all around us. Once beaten, does it get dropped off for something new and shiny? What about when it’s not free? Are you likely to pick a game back up if it requires you dropping another 24.99$ to access the content and play with friends? Where is the limit as far as price goes?

You can sound off in the comments below, I always respond. You can also now find me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. So please like, subscribe, follow, etc. Everything helps. And as always, if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered here, just let me know. The new plan is to release content on here every Monday and Friday. This will allow me consistency.

– The Ego

Glad tidings

So my faithful readers, Christmas – the gift giving part at least – has come and gone. I hope you all had a great day, ate well, lived life and did what makes you happiest.

The question I have is: What games were underneath of the tree this year? Being that, as I usually do – what with me being an addict and all – I purchased the majority of the games I wanted this year long before the Christmas shopping began. So when it came time to grab that special game – well, I already had it. But there was a game that almost became a throw back and a forgotten game. That game is Sword Art Online: Lost Song. It didn’t review very well. And, for what it cost at release, it seemed a little hard to justify the price tag for something Gametrailers gave a 6. But, it’s Christmas. And, in the spirit of the season, I decided to give it a second chance. So it’s sitting back in my apartment just waiting to be opened. Being a huge mark for the anime, I feel like the game will have to work pretty hard to earn my ire. I just hope it holds up well enough to get some enjoyment out of.

This year saw me buying and trying a lot of games that I had already said no to, or, never considered at all. Along with SAO, I had thrown back Destiny at one point. I gave up on it, having played through the beta twice, I didn’t see myself stepping back into those space shoes. However, I had some people I like peer-pressure me into buying it. Which, normally, wouldn’t work for a second. But, we all have to fold occasionally. I have to say – I don’t regret it. Playing with them is fun, and the game really does have a lot going for it. I reserve the right to pass final judgement on it when I actually hit the level cap, but so far, so good. Only thing I wish Destiny had of kept from its initial run: Dinklage. Don’t get me wrong, Nolan North is great at what he does. That being said:

1. I love Peter Dinklage
2. I would love to play a game where Nolan North doesn’t voice a character

Nothing exceeds like excess. There is such a thing as too much. Right? Destiny boasts an all-star cast of voices from Idris Elba, Nathan Fillion, Lance Reddick and Peter Stormare. Why couldn’t they just keep Tyrion? I’ll admit, there are times having watched the video below that I like what North did better in terms of his take on the dialogue, but the complaints people had about Dinklage (mostly that he was too dry) make more sense than the animated persona done by North.

Anyway, that was a bit of a diatribe, but it was something I’d been thinking about since I bought the game, so I wanted to get it off of my chest.

I think the main reason 2015 was such a great year for the industry was that it really felt like the current gen consoles really hit their stride this year. Which, I think, is the most important thing we should take away with 2015 closing out next week. The reason being: 2016 now is going to be (and really, has to be) the year where the new platforms have to show us what level we should set our expectations on. 2015, along with some extremely good games, showed us a lot of remastered games. It’s definitely an important step. Showing us what we have compared to what we just gave up. But now it’s time to hit the ground running. Bust out those new IPs everyone is waiting for. Show us that our collective faith in Sony and Microsoft (and to a lesser extent, Nintendo) wasn’t misplaced. Not that I think many people feel that way. But it’s time to make the nay-sayers and hold-outs get on board.

Merry Christmas.

– The Ego

A friend indeed

So for a year before Destiny came out, I was super excited to play the game. I pre-ordered it the day they demoed it at the E word. When the beta came out, I sat and anxiously awaited it to finish downloading so I could jump in – especially given that I had just a short period of time to check it out. When I got into it, I was impressed right away. The game looked great – easily one of the first games of the then “next gen” games that made real use of the hardware.

But then some of the realities started to trickle in…

I got to the beta level cap pretty quickly. That was disappointing. What was worse though, was that the story was basically non-existent at the time. Just a few lines of dialogue spouted out from Peter Dinklage. But even that (which normally would be a deal breaker for me) wasn’t the reason I was so dissatisfied. No, the coffin nail was the co-op aspect. The MMOFPS part. Now, I’m not an MMO virgin. I played WoW from the vanilla beta, through basically all of the content (missing some portions here and there). What was brutal was the nightfall areas. Getting stuck with people who you’ve never met, players who aren’t matched on some kind of skill level or some other relevant statistic. Nope, it was just a random match making system. Now, I’m not going to say I’m the world’s greatest gamer – especially not at any competitive level. You won’t see me at any Esports competitions. That being said, I’d definitely consider myself “hardcore”. So, knowing that my playing the game – my ability to progress and gear my character was hinged on playing with random people whose skill levels were likely not on my level – that’s when I knew the game wasn’t for me.

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Now, no matter how impressed I was with the mechanics of Destiny – and frankly, I’ve said it many times, I think Destiny is one of the best shooters (mechanically) that I’ve ever played – I struggled with actually purchasing it. I had written it off as a game I would likely never buy, regardless of how many people tried to talk me into it. And there were many.

But during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, the Legendary edition of Destiny dropped to 50$. At that price, the DLC alone is more expensive than the game itself. I had a co-worker and friend buy the limited edition console, and I let him convince me that picking up the game was a good idea. Even at that, it took some doing to convince me.

But I bought it. I know. I know. I have a problem.

Tonight marked the first time in a while that I’ve actually played a co-op game with a friend. Now, I played the living Hell out of Diablo 3, and by its nature, I played a lot of co-op. That being said – it isn’t the same playing with familiar strangers online. This was a genuine, I know you, you know me and we can plan to do some gaming together kind of occasion.

Running through the beginning, granted – not much of a difficult section of the game – was an absolute breeze. When the beta was out, the first Nightfall area was an unadulterated nightmare. People with sniper rifles rushing the boss…Inevitably dying, and in such a place that no one can save them. Would communication have helped? Maybe. But there’s definitely something to be said for playing with people you know and you know play well.

All this to say: Playing with friends is just the best. Clearing zones, having a good time and a good laugh. Just the best. The downside to the industry now is that it seems like only about 5-10% of the games are couch co-op. That’s what I really miss. But, I’ll definitely settle for knowing that a good player and a good friend is just a button click away.

– The Ego

Tell me a tale

How important is story to a game anyway?

I only ask because it seems there are two huge sub-sections of gamers these days. One group is the Call of Duty/Battlefield bunch. If they’re playing those games for some sort of story, then clearly I’ve been horribly, horribly wrong about the “quality” of the content those particular titles offer. I know it’s not something people play for the witty repartee. The other camp, from my experience and recent conversations: story is only worth mentioning if it’s too short or not good enough.

I can understand the concern with gameplay. Good or bad gameplay can make or break a title. That makes sense to me. Since, as the audience, we aren’t passive viewers. Even in games like Heavy Rain or L.A Noire, which are highly cinematic, they still force the player to take an active role. Quick-time events not withstanding, the end-user is a part of the game, part of the story. When thinking about how important gameplay is, it seems like the only time the story has that same effect is when the story is bad or too short.

The title I have in mind, as a good example, is The Order 1886.

Now I can’t go into detail defending the game. I haven’t played it. I want to, and I will, despite the “issues”. That being said, I know the arguments against it:

(She’s hilariously stupid by the way. I couldn’t resist using it once I saw it)

So it’s a five to eight hour campaign. Yes, generally speaking, it’s less than desirable. I like my games to last as long as they can. Getting value for my dollar is very important. However, the statement that duration =/> quality is a far sight from the truth. It’s like the seasons of the BBC Sherlock. I wish they were 20 episodes at an hour a piece, but they’re not. Does that detract from the quality of the story, writing or acting? No, not at all. I think if we all had our way, every piece of media enjoyed would be never ending, because of course, forcing something to stay in the public eye never takes away from the overall quality…

I digress. So it seems like quality and length are directly tied together. With that in mind, though, it seems like even the length camp of fans can’t agree either. It’s a real Goldielocks situation. Some say too short, others complain too long. When the game is just right, no one seems to care. I can’t say I personally have a “perfect” amount of time I want a game to last. I think it is like any story or piece of literature or media. If the ending is satisfying, things are wrapped up into a neat little box – then I’m happy. Even if it isn’t all that tidy, it can still be a good thing.

I definitely know that a game severely lacking story can be a huge issue *cough* Destiny *cough*. Playing that demo and knowing the “story” was going nowhere made it a pass for me. Despite being one of the best mechanical shooters I’ve played. So I can certainly empathize with someone saying the lack of story is a derivation from a quality game.

But what is it that makes people call a good game a good game? I don’t know that there is a single idea, a single specific set of criteria. I know a lot of this stuff is subjective. It’s the appreciation of art, after all. I wish I could point at something and say “Yup, there it is. The secret to a great game”. But we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon. What makes something great usually falls somewhere between the truth and illusion.

Oh, and I know I’m breaking my one pic per post rule again, but I had to throw this one in too.

It’s just so apt, and who doesn’t love this Joker, right?

– The Ego

“Coincidentally”

I read a couple of good, albeit old, articles on the concept of day one DLC. You can find them here: Forbes + Cinemablend.

They both offered some interesting perspectives on the day one DLC issue. I have to say, I hadn’t considered it from the business perspective, that, offering that extra content to the end-user up front definitely influences the possibility of the extra purchase attachment. So, go businesses, I guess.

Pretty sure this is how the first meeting went:

That being the case, honestly, I still feel like releasing DLC that is a paid release the same day as the game comes out, is a huge gob of spit right in the face. To me, and others I can safely assume, telling us that the money that we’ve chosen to spend on that particular diversion over, say, going to a movie, a night of drinking, etc isn’t good enough for the developers/publishers. Now, obviously, not all of them fall into that boat. Getting that in my copy of the Witcher cemented in my mind that I will be that much more likely to purchase a CD Projekt Red title. Even if the DLC is minor contributions (though they are adding a New Game + option), I’ve never been as moved by a videogame company as I was when I cracked open my copy of Wild Hunt.

So when I see games go live, and then they “offer” you the further experience that can be added at a minimal cost, I just get mad. The issue is with the duality of my interests as a gamer. Because, like many, I do want the “complete experience”. Now, I’d like to have that out of the box, but the industry seems to think that we are just brainless consumers who are going to buy whatever is put out in front of us. Sadly, to some extent, they’re right. If we weren’t buying it, it wouldn’t keep being made and put under our collective noses. So we want it. Not necessarily on day one, but knowing that it’s there and you can buy it and then complete it at your leisure, it makes it that much harder to avoid. Especially if you want everything that is meant to capture the full picture. While the other side of me is screaming: THE GAME JUST CAME OUT AND YOU WANT ME TO BUY MORE!? So, where’s the line?

I also hate how a lot of companies sell the concept of day one DLC like it just so happened to work out as such. I can tell you, from my experience working in the gaming industry as a tester, DLC doesn’t just fall out of the core product like an apple from a branch. It takes weeks to prepare something as simple as a fully functional E3 demo. Weeks. And that’s, generally, a subsection of an (otherwise) functional game. Actually putting together a complete piece of DLC is something that can take months.

So when something comes out as DLC the day the game drops, there is no way that they just happened to wrap it all up after the game has gone gold. Hell, when I was working on the project I was on, they stopped even finishing correcting polish bugs just to make things look a bit shinier. So you can bet your sweet-ass they’re not producing even something as small as a new bonus character.

Like I said, releasing expansions, like WoW or Borderlands, at least, isn’t something that drops at release, and is easily justifiable in terms quality. If I have to put any real thought into whether or not it’s something worth it to pick up, then the truth is, it probably isn’t.

Now, I know how businesses work: They aren’t running charities. So, even when they are doing something good (Witcher 3) there is probably still something they’re planning on the back end.

Stay tuned, I’m prepping to tackle day one patches next. Hot topics in-bound.

– The Ego

The razor’s edge

Ok, so I find myself walking a thin, thin line these days. Even when I find a game at a price that I’m happy with – there is always dlc…

Now, here’s the problem: I like DLC in theory. It shows a developer’s willingness to continue supporting their product and that they want to give fans their money’s worth. And, to that end, I certainly understand the need/desire to be paid for that effort.

At the same time, though, when I do get a game cheap, and then I get home, turn on the PS4, load the PSN store and see that there is over 40$ of DLC, it’s kind of a turn off.

So I picked up Destiny tonight.

Now I played the beta, mechanically – one of the best shooters I’ve ever played. Bungie really knows their business. Story-wise, lacking to a degree that I’m not entirely comfortable with. But I have friends playing it, and I’d like to be able to play with them. I’ve also been bludgeoned with the concept by just about everyone that surrounds me. I’ve never told them they were wrong – but from what I’d experienced and what I’d read, I didn’t think I’d end up buying it. But here we are…

But therein lies the problem. So I bought it, but I’m having huge pangs of buyers remorse. The Taken King, due out September, is the latest expansion with all of the DLC packed in. Here we are, just a few days out from August, and I’m thinking: Do I keep this version, buy the DLC (ideally when/if it goes on sale) or do I just wait out the latest disc version and hopefully find that at a cheaper price?

Like I said – I like DLC in theory. The idea of the company giving me more for a game I love as time goes on is awesome and I do feel like they should be paid for their time. However, DLC releases are not like they used to be. They feel a little more like this:

Destiny and Evolve are great examples. Want to keep raiding? Want to have all of the content to make the game worth while? Drop 60$. Oh, you like these new hunters and monsters 5$ for each hunter (or a whopping 5$ saved if you buy the first season pass at 15$) and 10$ for the monster (oh, did I mention there is a second season pass?). That’s 40$ for characters that could/should have been on the disc from the get-go.

Like the picture says – expansions are one thing, but charging for content that should be a given? That’s despicable.

Companies like Blizzard are doing it right (though, monthly fees suck). They release a new expansion every year or so. It’s a big up front cost, but then that’s basically it. It’s supported by new patches, changes and content as time goes. You’re not paying for the ability to pick up a new class.

I think DLC needs some re-tooling. In the case of Destiny, I guess you’re technically buying expansions – but that’s a lot of expansions so far. Three in a year, at 20$ a piece – it’s basically the cost of a new game. Having not played it, I guess I’ll have to assume it’s a large chunk of content and totally worth the cost.

Realistically – DLC should be cosmetic. Or large enough that picking it up is totally worth it and easily validated without having to do extensive research on what was actually added. Like I said – DLC good. Micro-transactions make sense in the space. That said – things like skins, costumes (like Littlebigplanet) and the like are perfect. They don’t affect the playability or access to stuff that should be or need to be included in the original game – and they’re priced such that if you do go that route – you’re not breaking the bank.

The problem is too many companies are doing it and they think we’re just sheep for the sheering. I won’t say baaaaaaah much longer.

– The Ego