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

Fadtastic

So, Skylanders, Disney Infinity and now Lego Dimensions.

The horizon seems more like an infestation than a boon. I won’t lie or pretend like I haven’t played it, don’t own it, etc – because I do.

The appeal of Skylanders, at first, was two-fold:

  1. My wife agreed to play it with me if I bought it (and better yet, she ended up splitting it and the supplementary characters I bought).
  2. I am a collector. The thought of having physical DLC that I could handle, display and appreciate – was pretty appealing.

The unfortunate truth, though, is both of those reasons were fleeting.

So, with 1, my wife had enough. Understandably. I put out a lot of time and effort in hunting these things, well after she lost interest. The truth is, when the figures were about 8$, it seemed okay. Grab the ones you want, pay a bit at a time, not a big deal. But then Skylanders: Giants came out. The Giants, of course, were huge and thus more expensive. 14.99$ was a hefty price tag for a small toy, but hell, there were only 8. Grabbing one at a time over a period seemed reasonable. But then Skylanders: Swap-Force came out. I kept it up. The prices, they also kept up. In other words, they got more and more expensive. Which seemed okay, again (you know, we can justify just about anything to ourselves), because the figures had new tech and were built a little better. But then the figures were 16.99$ and two per element…I kept it up, and I basically ended up buying almost all of them – mostly on the secondary market because the scalpers scalp well.

Then Skylanders: Trap Masters came out. So now it’s mini figures, regular figures, Trap Masters and traps. I knew the whole time that all of these things were a cash grab – and I didn’t care. But a man has his limits. You can imagine my opinion of the new annual release – Skylanders: Superchargers. I can only imagine what accessories you’ll have to buy beyond the vehicles.

The problem is, a game like this is tantamount to a virus. Once it settles, it spreads and multiplies. Which is way people convince themselves it’s okay to buy in droves, and in turn, sets a dangerous precedent for the publishers and developers.

So while I was busy buying and collecting a legion of Skylanders figures, Disney was hatching their own bundle of cash-grabbing monsters. Their concept, slightly different, but “compelling” enough to find a place for it in the market. With Disney buying both Lucas Arts and Marvel in a short period of time – it was obvious that they’d be making their Infinity debut eventually.

And then, like a classic 80’s wrestling match, a third contender is running down the isle to vie for the title.

Lego Dimensions. I get the appeal. The Lego games are way more fun that I’d have likely given them credit for before I’d engaged in a few of them. I was fortunate to be able to grab one of the Lego: Harry Potter games, I think I got Years 5-7 before 1-4, but I knew the series well enough to justify it. They’re easy, but compelling.

So, on that basis, I get why people would be interested. But the market is so saturated now with these toy/games. Something has to give. Given how little I see come into the store, and how little I see go out – I feel like the rug is about to be pulled out from under their collective feet.

It looks like the early fall is going to be a rumble in the jungle. All three games will be out within the same thirty day period. That being said, I feel it in my gut. I think this is going to be the year where the camel’s back is finally broken. Shelves are stocked and interest is waning. Hopefully we can all get back to business. Oh, and don’t get me started on Amiibos.

– The Ego

Better make a list

How does it even happen? Somehow I completely missed the fact that Dishonred – Definitive Edition is due out in less than a week. Maybe I’m slipping in my old age (30+ is old, right? I’m not wrong here?).

So here’s the question of the day: Do I keep it, knowing that I have it on my PS3, and all of the DLC that I haven’t even touched. Or, do I just pass (not so easily done), get around to it and finally finish it on my PS3?

I feel like buying it again – knowing I paid for DLC (which is annoying enough as is) and not finishing it will drive me crazy. I get hung up on weird stuff like this far too often.

At the same time: I have a hard time going back to my PS3 games. I don’t know what it is? Other than better graphics, and a more comfortable controller – there isn’t a whole lot of a difference. But whenever I go to play, and I get tired of waiting for a match to actually pair up in Evolve, I think: I should go play something else. Then, usually, I start getting a bit ADD with what I should play. I put something in I’ve played, or something that I’m nowhere near finished and then I get discouraged, turn off my console, put Netflix or Youtube on the TV, and just browse the web.

So I just endless flip back and forth between Evolve and Farcry.

The worst part of trying to make this decision, is probably that this is just one example of the problem. Every day I see the bright pink case of the DMC just sitting there, all seductive and all. Telling me: “Don’t feel bad about not finishing me on PS3…Just buy me again and I’m sure someone will buy your old copy”.

If I hadn’t of bought the DLC for the game, I don’t think this would be a question I’d even be asking. I would just buy it. But, the problem is, (aside from the money) it sets a bad precedent. Both for myself, and for the industry. I think we’re all a little too comfortable with the way DLC has worked for some time. Game of the year editions, definitive editions, etc have become the norm. When Borderlands 2 was out, and to a lesser extent the Pre-Sequel – I figured: Why bother? It’s a guarantee that they will release an edition, either the same price, or cheaper with everything on disc. And I haven’t been disappointed yet.

It’s probably something worth replaying regardless. Looking at it that way makes it an easier pill to swallow. But then I think about getting the trophies – ha. That’s at least two playthroughs. Can’t do it.

Even as I write this – the decision is getting clearer and clearer. It’s a fringe benefit to writing this blog. I don’t really have anyone who I can use as a sounding board. My wife will just tell me I don’t need another game. She’s right of course – to an extent. Can’t tell her that of course. None of my friends are real gamers and customers aren’t about to weigh in on the issue.

I know a lot of the time, I ask questions in this blog that are either rhetorical, or posed for (philosophical) effect. But this is one of those rare occasions where, writing down my problem, actually gave me a good idea of what I need to do.

I think at a later date, if I have the time, I will get it. For the time being – I think if I get the hankering to pick it up again, I’ll just force myself to work through that DLC of my own volition when I have the extra time to take care of it.

Wow, that feels good. Closure. It’s a nice change. I think we should do this more often…Did this just get weird? Yea, it really did.

– The Ego

It’s new, but broken?

I think this one topic, even above the DLC problems that gets people up in arms, drives them even crazier.

Day. One. Patches.

They will forever live in infamy, and yet oh so prevalent in the current gaming market. This is the worst. So, you’re an AAA development studio. You’re releasing major IPs annually. But, instead of say, figuring out if the game is actually 100% functional, you just release and cross your fingers?

The Assassin’s Creed series is a great example. Ubisoft has turned the brand into one of the top-rated IPs currently on the market. I’ve been a staunch supporter and admirer of the AC titles from the get-go. So, when Unity came out, and after going online to see what everyone was complaining about…

I left it on my shelf for about two months without opening it. Frankly, if I came across that dude, he’d be haunting my dreams until today and then some. So, I have to ask:

Is this really what’s considered acceptable for a major release. Hell, if I were the CEO or lead-designer at any game studio, I’d be ashamed to produce something this bad. And, I don’t embarrass easily.

I know putting out a quality game is extremely difficult, and sometimes when you’re doing pushing for a deadline, stuff can get overlooked or put on the back-burner. The issue, really, is:

Why release something that isn’t finished? If I were still in school, and I turned in a paper or presented a seminar, but told the professor that it isn’t a big deal that the first two pages are the only parts that I got done, because I plan on finishing the last five pages later that day and I will get it all in – I’ll be honest, even the profs that liked me, I can guarantee that they would just laugh at me and drop a super low grade on my work.

And this is a major publisher/developer. If anything, what should be happening is for these companies to just say:

“Sorry, games are delayed in order to fix X amount of crippling bugs before we actually launch this title”. Now, I get that it’s going to be an inconvenience to the excited (read over eager) fans who expect to walk out of a store that day with the items. In my opinion, they will more than likely be happy to wait if it means getting something that is playable out of the box.

I know sometimes there are a few bugs here and there that testers weren’t sharp enough to catch (sometimes it happens) or that the studio just can’t warrant the extra labour to finish. But the sizes of the patches that are coming out are unreal. 10’s of gigabytes. Which shouldn’t be a big deal, but considering that the  installs for games are anywhere from 25-50 GB, HDD space is already at a premium.

And, I haven’t even touched on the inconvenience that it causes the players when they get home, coveted game in hand and ready to break the cellophane seal a get down to business, only to find out that the patch to actually be able to go forth into the virtual world is delayed by a patch that is going to take at least an hour to download (which, at least, runs concurrently with the install of the game disc), I digress.

So, am I happy? Yes and no. Happy that the studios are making an effort to fix the issues they find or are reported to them. But no, at the same time, because there is nothing worse than seeing the only hour you’re going to have to actually try out that new game get spoiled by waiting on a massive download.

Just push it back. Batman: Arkham Knight did it – and they still ended up with a major issues on PC. Push that much harder for a proper release, and just delay if need be. It’s definitely more forgivable.

– The Ego

Can’t help it

I finished writing my last blog post, and I felt like I didn’t quite cover some of it.

This is going to be painful for someone. That someone – Cashcom (formerly Capcom). I think that’s the one company that leaves the worst taste in my mouth as far as the whole DLC system goes.

When I say I am an old-school player of the Marvel Vs Capcom series, I mean old school. I was dropping 10’s of dollars in arcade machines when arcades were big. I don’t mean like the diversionary arcades that you find at your local Cineplex or Chuck-e-Cheese (does that even still exist?). Yea, so, I won’t proclaim myself to be good at them by any means. But I love(d) that series. Going to the arcade, seeing the capability of the “graphics” and the full impact of the environment was really something. Even though I am not good at fighting games, playing in the arcade there would always been the three levels of skills.

Tier 1 – The newbie. Some kid whose parents brought them there to entertain them at a (relatively) minimal cost.

Tier 2 – Good at games in general, likes to try their hand at a little of everything.

Tier 3 – That guy who was so indomitable that you had to put your quarter up for next, despite knowing that he is going to demolish you.

I was probably somewhere in between 2 and 3, depending on the night.

Nostalgia aside, I have a point. Marvel Vs Capcom came out a few years ago now (2011). When it came out, I pre-0rdered it, had it in my home and in my PS3 within minutes of making it in the door. And I went all out – collector’s edition. For pre-ordering, you were given access to two DLC characters – Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath.

Now, like I said – I like the idea of DLC. But what Capcom does is release a game where the DLC is locked on the disc. Now, I know Capcom isn’t the only company. Lots of others are guilty of it as well. Here’s what kills me though: Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom is released within nine months of the original release – but this time with “re-balanced” fighters and twelve new characters. Granted, they lowered the price of the re-release, but come on! And they keep doing it. Street Fighter IV, for example, was released something like fives times on the last-gen consoles. Five times Seriously. Obviously people kept buying it. They had to, otherwise they wouldn’t have kept making them. So yes, we the consumers/gamers were responsible for our own end. I, however wasn’t one of them. Though, admittedly, I did buy UMvC3…Sigh. It had Ghost Rider and Dr. Strange. I’m only one man! The whole time that I was playing it – I was just waiting for the Super Mega Ultra Epic Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3.5 Hyper Turbo Collectors Edition. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

What is infuriating is that they did release it that many times. Five separate runs for, effectively, the same game. In what universe can anyone explain to me how that is acceptable. Considering the sorts of piddly crap that most gamers complain about, this is the sort of thing that should have the public assembling torches and pitchforks. Yes, I realise that this was years ago, but this sort of stuff is still happening. EA is another one of those companies who is guilty of launching titles and then burying the end-user in heaps of DLC. It’s sickening.

The only place I will give Capcom credit for in the DLC space is that, at least, the majority of their DLC was costumes/skins so that you’re not getting bogged down in pay-to-win or disc locked characters who you have to buy to fully enjoy the game.

So let’s go industry, we all know that you’re better than that. Eventually you’ll push too far, and then what? Then what?

Oh yea, day 1 DLC/patches…That’s a whole other giant bag of crap.

– The Ego

Double/Triple/Quadruple Dipping

As a rule, I’ve always played my games one at a time. Maybe I’ve been corrupted by folksy wisdom/cliches about finishing what’s on my plate before moving on.

Lately, I’ve been doing the exact opposite. It definitely has the drawbacks that I thought it would. The more I steep myself in the games that don’t require me to remember story elements, the more I forget the important story elements of the games I’m playing when I’m “taking a break”. So, it is problematic. However, it’s nice to have a bit of variety.

I’d been playing Witcher 3 pretty heavily. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong. The combat style took a bit of getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I liked it. The story is good, but having not played the originals, I’m finding it’s taking a fairly big investment of time to get going. Probably not helped by my deciding to play the game on Death March. Dying a lot tends to slow things down a bit.

That being said, the investment of time needed is not something I always have…

So it’s nice to have games where I can turn it on, play for a half an hour or less and then turn it off. Because staying up till the middle of the night because I’m “trying to finish this part” isn’t the best option.

Evolve is proving to be a good diversion. That kind of sounds like I’m writing it off and I’m not. It’s incredibly fun. Like I said in the other post I wrote, unlocking characters is proving to be a bit tedious. And having to pay to unlock the rest, doubly so. That being said, I’m having a blast. The differentiation between characters in the same class adds a lot of depth.

So, currently, I’m bouncing between Evolve, Far Cry 4, Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel. Even within those games, I’m not sticking to a single character. I’ve already beaten Borderlands 2, so I’m running through it the second time with a different class. I picked it up late into the release, because I wanted the GOTY edition (and I wanted it at a good price…30$ on sale), so my first playthrough was with Krieg, The Psycho. I have to say – it was a pretty awesome choice. I imported my save file over from the PS3, but I left him be for now and I’m trying the other DLC class – the Mechromancer.

I specifically waited for the Pre-Sequel on the PS4. I started as By the way, kudos to 2K Australia and Gearbox for making sure, several times, that I actually intended to play as Claptrap. I digress.

I was talking to a co-worker about the other classes, and the Lawbringer sounded pretty cool. So I started a new save file today with the new character.

I’m working on multiple tiers of attention deficit now.

So, all of that to say that I’m breaking my rules and I’m loving it. It’s kind of freeing. At least in the sense that I can just do what I want. Playing a mission here or there in Far Cry is all I really need to keep pushing through what I have divined about the story so far. Borderlands – not all that complex. Just keep note of the best butt and fart jokes so I have anecdotes to relate later on.

Just being able to game when I have free time, instead of considering the amount of time I need to make any real progress, is amazing. Like I said – freeing. I don’t have to feel like I’m not being productive. I don’t need to say “Oh, I want to play, but I have to finish up quickly because I have to do the dishes/walk the dog/run those errands or meet so and so at said time. Bailing mid-match in Evolve is bad, but not the end of the world. The game will finish itself.

Now, to start Batman. Mmmhmmmmm.

– The Ego