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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From my time

As a sort of indirect follow up to my last posting regarding unfinished games, I wanted to give a bit of professional perspective to things.

Now, one of the big complaints about a lot of games these days is the lack of QA. Now, for those of you not in the know, QA is Quality Assurance. Every game goes through different levels of QA testing. Be it compliance (making sure that the release meets the standards of the specific platform Sony, Microsoft, etc), localisation (compliant with language standards of the region it’s being released in) and functionality (making sure, you know, that the game works and all).

I used to do QA testing for a living. And before people start getting all “wow playing video games for a living? AWESOME!” It’s not as cushy as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong, the company I worked for is definitely my favourite that I’ve worked for to date, but there is a lot to be said for the actual job. I’m not going to get into this now. If you want to know more, I’m happy to answer questions in comments or you can e-mail (theegogames@gmail.com) or tweet me.

What I want to focus on is how some of the issues we’re seeing become predominant in gaming arise.

The biggest issue, at least in my opinion: not enough time. The last big project I worked on was a AAA title for the PS3. Now, this game was a sequel and what I can tell you is that the original time from from start to release was approximately two years. The development cycle for the game I worked on: Nine months…Now, there are some things to take for granted like the fact that an engine doesn’t need to be developed for the game the second time around. But, where as the first game had a little over a year for testing/development, this one didn’t have anywhere near that kind of time. This one had about six months. Now, as a tester, you’re expected to find tens of thousands of bugs over the course of the project. Which, given how many builds a game goes through, isn’t really a challenge. But it is a challenge for the devs to be able to fix everything. There comes a time in a project, especially when they are rushed, that choices have to be made to decide whether or not it’s worth the time to fix said issue. Now, there are going to be a lot of small things that your average player won’t run into, the issue is when those things you don’t have time for, end up in the forefront. Like it did in AC: Unity, ME: Andromeda, etc.

The other big issue I ran into was devs butting heads with testers. Like any time you’re dealing with other people, you’re going to have clashes over decisions. For me, I can remember a series of what I considered extremely obvious bugs (one being a game breaker if you play like me) just being flat out denied (ignored too, but consciously) by the devs. I had to watch one of them play out during an E3 demo. There seems to be some level of animosity between the two stations, with the devs often feeling superior due to their more “prestigious” placement in the scheme of things. Sometimes the end result of a bug going un-dealt with is simply a matter of opinion or (sometimes) pig-headedness. One such instance I faced, having a background in writing/editing, I pointed out and corrected a number of text issues (grammar, spelling, etc) where rather than just copy/pasting my corrections (as emphasised by my supervisor and the functionality manager of the company) they chose instead to leave the mistakes in place.

Well, that’s a small glimpse behind the curtain and a bit of my experience. It definitely doesn’t answer all of the questions, but I hope it sheds a little light on things.

– 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