Alienated and Isolated

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NOTE: This “Review” might contain some minor spoilers, but considering I only played about 30 minutes into the game, they would be VERY minor.

 

This is an almost not-played review of Alien Isolation. Almost not-played because I did attempt to play it, but less than 30 minutes of game time later I decided it was more entertaining to play with the cat flap. Or, to get some popcorn, a beer and pop on the original Alien DVD.

In a short and sweet and unambiguous statement: Alien Isolation is probably one of the biggest turds of a game I have come across in recent times. The fact is that 5 minutes into the game I wanted to turn it off again. I only played longer because I wanted to see more from a professional point of view. But after about half an hour I could not even use professional curiosity as an excuse to keep going.

Those of you who have read some of my other games reviews and design posts, will probably have realized by now that I have little to no patience when it comes to games. I am not a hardcore gamer that enjoys being challenged overly much. Now in my mid to late thirties I see games as a form of entertainment, I do not want to turn a game into a second job. I don’t mind thinking, and in fact I quite like it, but “puzzles” need to be presented properly and make me feel clever and good about myself to keep my interest. I consider myself an average, mainstream, gamer – and I think I am part of probably the biggest potential market share.

So I have to clarify. I THINK Alien Isolation is probably one of the biggest turds of a game that I have across in recent times, and that is because it is clearly not aimed at people like me. And that is ok! As long as Creative Assembly have consciously made a game which is not easily accessible and not very user friendly and their budget has reflected the smaller, much more niche, audience that is likely going to be attracted to the game, that’s totally fine and in fact, it’s good games like this exist! See one of my previous posts!

Having said that, essentially justifying Alien Isolation’s existence (not that they need me to justify it, but I do it anyway), I still think it’s worth taking apart the few bits and pieces of the game that I did see.

The first thing to talk about is the mixed bag of reviews the game has gotten. It was clear that the game would review well in the UK, Creative Assembly being a UK studio and with a massive Alien following and fan base in the country (in Europe in general it seems). The game fared less well across the pond, with bigger US publications generally giving itaverage reviews, highlighting some of the key pitfalls, which European publications seem to have overlooked thanks to rose-tinted spectacles.

You see in Europe we are content with old stuff. As long as the game faithfully sticks to the original canon, as long as it does not fuck with a masterpiece, as long as it gives players what they would expect from an ALIEN game, it’s gonna be pretty flawless. Add a bit of difficulty and punishing game-play elements, as well as throwing the player in the deep end and European reviewers (and to be fair a lot of European gamers) will love you for it.

In the US? Not so much. Alien is still seen as a classic, a masterpiece. But gamers of today, while aware of the movie, see it as something from 30 years ago. Which it is. Ancient. Who cares? So having a game, which really just replicates experiences and emotions and set pieces that a movie did 30 years, does not impress the average American critic nor the average American gamer. And why the fuck should it? Alien Isolation does nothing unique and new – it just copies what has been done before, and does so badly.

As much as i hate to quote Polygon, (Note: I have not read the entire article – this is a quote i took from Metacritic but felt obliged to link the entire article) but they have it spot on with this:

Alien: Isolation seems content to appear as a collage of borrowed elements from the films, with nothing new or original to say or show, eager only to get to the next reference.

And even in the short time that I played the game, that much was obvious to me.

Alien Isolation clearly is an Art driven game. Art direction, faithfulness to the original film, stands head and shoulders above all else. From materials, textures and colour palette to the actual assets, terminals, corridors and space suits – everything looks and feels authentic. It feels like you are on the Nostromo. The game is one big homage to the film and it has no identity of it’s own to speak of and it’s game-play actually suffers because of it.

The game starts with your character being brought to a massive space station, in orbit of a planet. The ship you are transported on is an exact rebuild of the Nostromo (a fact that is actually highlighted in dialogue) and the space station looks exactly like the refinery the Nostromo was towing in the film. There is no particular reason for this, but the game seems to scream “LOOK! We can rebuild what we see in a film! And we are capable of not adding any flavour and personal touch to it!”. The visual style and artistic direction simply is one of emulation and copying. The game looks good, even great at times, but where art should have allowed gameplay in, it seems to shut it out with a simple “It looks like this in the film! Tough!”.

This starts in the very first room. You, playing Ripley’s daughter (did it HAVE to be a Ripley?), wake up in an exact replica of the Nostromo cryo-sleep room. It being an exact replica of the film unfortunately means that it is extremely tight to navigate. Being told to walk around it, i did, and promptly bumped into every single sleeping chamber, bobbing camera and generally feeling like i did not want to move around.

 

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How hard would it have been to extend the space by about 30%? Accept the fact that it’s a game and the player will walk backwards, run around and generally move through the space – not see it on a 2D screen. 99% of the players would not have noticed the difference. But of course it would not have been authentic.

The same is true for the bridge of the ship you are on at the start. It is an exact replica (as far as i can make out) of the Nostromo bridge. As is the canteen area. Same rules apply: it’s a pain in the arse to move around freely and you get stuck or snag constantly. Yes, some die hard fans of the film will appreciate the level of authenticity. But from a game-play point of view it is just very uncomfortable.

Which brings me to the next part of the game which is influenced heavily by art and actually hampers game-play. They call it “Lo-Fi”, which in theory makes sense, because that is what the film had. Believable technology, almost analogue, mechanical – it looked beautiful in the film and, more importantly, it was futuristic for the time.

Watch this clip:

“If it couldn’t have been built on the original ‘Alien’ set in 1979, it won’t be in Alien: Isolation”. Many of you might well think that’s great and admirable. But in reality I found it to be horribly limiting. It’s probably the biggest load of pretentious shit an artist can come up with. “Oh look! Not only do we not have an idea of our own, but we actually think that’s cool and hip! Never mind that it means gamers will have a harder time! Who cares! We are making an interactive movie!”.

You see I play games on consoles (predominantly), on 47 inch TV, sitting about 3 to 4 meters away from it. All these little CRT screens you see in the clip? They are tiny on my TV. The text is pixelated, hard to read and trying to decipher button prompts or text in the game gives me a headache. It might well be ok on a PC screen, with the player less than 1 meter away, but on a console device and bigger TV it simply does not work properly.

There is a fine line between authenticity and playability and Creative Assembly does not even bother toeing that line – they go authentic all the way, with not a care in the world for playability. No obvious consideration for console users. It is clear they are, and always have been a PC developer at heart.

But it is not only playability that has no place in this game. It is the game itself which really has no place in this interactive movie. I honestly think that if Creative Assembly would have had the choice, they would have preferred to make this entire project into a movie. They clearly expect the player to go about in a very linear fashion and do exactly as the content developers (I refuse to call them designers) expect them to do. The game falls apart when you do not do as you are expected to.

Take dialogue for example. Ripley initiates dialogue with a random crew member. If the player walks off during the conversation, like i did, they will still talk to each other. It does not even matter if i am 3 rooms over and there are 2 closed steel doors between me and the other character. I am still having this conversation and i can still hear it. Obviously the content creators did not want me to walk off. But i did.

Then there is inconsistency. Some objectives are marked on the map, others are not. The first 2 objectives are clearly displayed on the map (you are not told how to bring up the map though – that only happens about 30 minutes into the game, when you don’t really need the hint anymore). But then it stops with objectives, or at least some of them.Having talked to some friends who played the game, several of us were stuck when first arriving on the Sevastopol Station – we were tasked to “Find Help” and ran around in circles for 10 minutes before finding a very small crawlspace we had to go through. There was nothing marked on the map – if I had not been fucking around with the fire (trying to suicide jump into it – which I could not, thanks to invisible collision), I would never have seen it.

In the first 30 minutes of the game I have experienced more inconsistency and hampered game design than i have in any other game in the last 5 years, if not longer. Judging by videos, reviews and comments from some of my friends, the game aims and delivers an authentic Alien experience – it is an Art driven copy of a film. For that audience it will probably be a gem. For anyone else, expecting to have proper game-play mechanics, for game-play to take the lead from time to time, for usability and common sense to overwrite the requirements of copy/paste art; for those of us who want a GAME and not an interactive movie, Alien Isolation delivers nothing at all, and we better stay away from it.

If I want an Alien experience I can watch the movie. It is condensed nicely into about 2 hours. I get scared and excited and I can see all the amazing Lo-Fi. I don’t have to force myself through hours and hours of painful and un-intuitive interaction to get the same result. I’d rather just suck on an alien egg.

If Creative Assembly set out to pay homage to Alien and stay as authentic as possible with not a single fuck given to playability, they have achieved just that. It won’t be for everyone. Hopefully it’s for enough people to allow them to at least break even.

Scores:

If you are a die hard Alien fan and want to be able to walk around a virtual copy of a movie set and you are also a fond of taking a cheese grater to your nipples: 9/10

If you like Alien but care more about game-play than hyper-authenticity and you also think creativity should be more than copying what came before: 3/10

No more wars

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So you might have heard of this thing called #GamerGate recently. I am not going into why it exists or how it happened or who said what – there are plenty of sites on the web that already do that. I don’t intend to add to the plethora of views nor do I aim to abuse the hashtag to make a point and/or gain exposure.

What I want to write about is the fact that this is being portrayed as a conflict, even a war, when in reality it is actually all very pointless and fabricated out of thin air. All this #GamerGate furore shows, is how easy it is to rile people up and manipulate them, even if the intentions behind the idea might have been worthy once upon a time.

And don’t get me wrong I do think the initial idea behind #GamerGate is noteworthy – namely that the gaming press is biased, corrupt, did (and probably still does) take bribes and that they most certainly try their best to promote controversy and conflict in order to drive traffic and thus revenue.

And, as I will point out, it’s really all America’s fault.

 

Us vs. Them – The War on.. something

American culture is different. Anyone who has ever spent some time there, particularly lived there, can attest to that. Almost every single thing you do in America can be boiled down to or linked to, a competition, a struggle, a conflict of sorts.

This starts in school, where kids compete to be honour students, so parents can put bumper stickers on their cars. It carries over the higher education with college sports and it is incredibly predominant in the workplace, from simple things like “Employee of the month” and to the ever present bonus culture and companies undercutting each other to get the bigger share of the market. The American society thrives on competition and American’s probably think it brings out the best in people. Survival of the fittest, the strongest and all that, not to mention it keeps things cheap (the “loser” of these competitions often fall below the poverty line and are forgotten about).

A lot of American lingo and rhetoric these days reflects that – listen to any news report, or articles, sports broadcasts, business conversations in general and you will hear phrases like “War on X”, “In the battle for..”, “It is a fight for…” – everything is a conflict. We had the war on christmas, the culture war, the social justice war, the war on terror (of course) and the war on women – and god knows how many other wars we have had or are having or are going to have in the future. WAR!! makes a great headline.

But more than that, war and conflict has an additional “benefit”. People must take sides in a war. There are always at least 2 sides in every war. Conflict allows, even forces, people of a certain mindset and ideology to band together, to form a group and unity. It becomes easy to say “You are either with us or against us!” – this is true for the war on terror (and was used frequently by Bush and Co) as it is on the culture war, the business war, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on….

There is a clear line, drawn in the sand (or on an internet forum or other online space) and people are either on one side or the other. Unless of course people don’t take a side…

Because the ONLY thing that these so called “wars” have in common with a real war (you know the one where people actually get killed), is that there are plenty of people in the middle, who do not take sides. Those people in the middle, who tend to be the absolute majority, are often ignored, marginalized and attacked  – and suffer the consequences for not taking a side and just wanting to get on with life. People in the middle are pressured to take a side.

 

The people in the middle

If you have actually been following #GamerGate on twitter, through news outlets and social media, one thing you might have noticed is that the majority of hate speech, loud shouting and posting in general comes from the US side of the Atlantic. This I think is a direct reflection of what I wrote above – that conflict culture, the need to belong to a side, and the absolute need to establish that one’s side is the right (righteous) side to be on. And the louder you shout, the more right you are, clearly.

You have people on both sides making sweeping generalizations, trying to speak for a much bigger audience than they actually represent. These people will shout down anyone who dares to oppose or even question them. Some of these people will go to extremes and threaten opposition.

Anita Sarkeesian has received threats. Definitely a horrible thing and whoever is behind this should be exposed and dealt with by the law. But a statement like this is not accurate nor is it helpful:

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What she does, is lump everyone who ever thought positively of an aspect of #GamerGate together with those who take things too far (by far a minority would be my guess). Sarkeesian, in a way, is no better than those people she opposes. By generalizing, by lumping everyone who disagrees with her in the same pot, she makes it clear that she does not leave space for opinions other than her own. She (and those that support her) makes it clear that questioning her arguments means joining the war against women. Having an opinion, in her mind, is on the same level as harassment and threats of violence.

Nor does it help when games developer (who was threatened as well), makes statements like this:

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There is no literal war on women, at the very least not in the games industry. Men and women (because a lot of GamerGate supporters are actually women *gasp*) are NOT out on the streets with guns and hatches, wading knee deep in the blood of their female victims. I work with several women in my current studio and I can assure you they are quite safe, I have not brought weapons to work and I do NOT plan to hurt them in any way, neither does any of my male colleagues. Women in my work place are NOT my enemy.

Last time I checked we have not started to marginalize women, fire women, reduce wages or in any other way lower equality in any way – i.e. we have not started going backwards on all the equality gains we have created over the last 100 years. Last time I checked the vast majority of people were still working together, peacefully and with the hopes of continuing to do so in an equal and friendly environment.

Because the majority of people sit in the middle of this bullshit argument. The majority of people do not send threats. The majority of people do not even participate in the debate.I would argue the majority of people actually supports arguments from BOTH sides. Most rational, normal, calm, human beings can understand that there are issues that have to be addressed – on BOTH sides.

But the biggest problem of all is that people who sit on the either one of the sides – people heavily invested in the conflict – cannot accept people in the middle. Those of us who have an opinion of our own, those of us who question what we hear, think for ourselves and pick and choose the best arguments. We don’t have an affiliation and we reserve the right to change our opinion if we hear a better argument. We in the middle are either seen as enemies or potential allies. We either need to be fought or won.

The sad thing is, it is us people in the middle who keep the world running. I have met some of these extremists. I have worked with them. And one thing I can tell you: a lot, if not most, of their energy and time goes into their “war”. It takes time to read all the social media and articles, it takes time to come up with counter arguments, rants and blog posts (I know it does – I do write a few myself after all) and above all – it preoccupies the mind. Extremists, those who want to fight a perpetuous war, can’t stop thinking about it – everything else moves into the background. For some, the war actually becomes their work and life – often with financial, health and other consequences.

Those of us in the middle are the ones though that actually make society work. By being more open, being more tolerant and by simply getting on with life, we probably do more for society than extremists on any side will ever do – and we do not need the publicity or acknowledgment either.

The truth is, there is no war. The truth is, there are are a handful of people (on both sides) who try to perpetuate conflict, who WANT a war, and they do so for 2 main reasons.

  1. Because they want to feel better. Ranting, raving, threatening others – it is all done as a self defense mechanism and it is designed to deflect problems onto others. Venting makes us feel good. Venting on a bigger stage (such as Twitter) can make people feel elated, even wanted or desired – something they might be lacking in real life.
  2. For personal benefit or gain. This can be in the form of publicity and acknowledgement or, as it the case for many publications, real life money. Controversial news reports, interviews and articles bring readership. Readership brings advertisement money. This has been true since the start of news papers – headlines sell. These days it just includes comments.

So on the one side you have individuals who feel the need to vent, to deflect personal problems, insecurities and issues and on the other side you have people who can financially benefit from that – in hindsight, I think these conflicts do have more in common with conventional war than I might have realized. It’s all about ego and money.

 

Alternative Option

So what is the solution to all this? Well it’s really quite simply, at least in theory. Might be harder to fully implement. In one word: Abstinence.

If you consider yourself a moderate, if you think you are open to more than one view. If you see good arguments on both sides or you simply don’t want to take a side, the best thing to do, and in fact the only thing to do, is to abstain.

Don’t participate in discussions, stay away from news sites and outlets that perpetuate the conflict (either based on ideology or financial gain) and don’t listen to the voices of the extreme crowd.

This does not mean you have to stay clear of twitter and facebook – we live in a time where you can’t fully avoid certain things if you are online. But don’t subscribe to those who tend to fight on one side or the other. Don’t actively participate in debates and comments and above all, if you do see something that would normally rile you: ignore it and move on.

It is of course possible to still frequent news site and read all these comments and still not participate actively. But I think this takes a lot of willpower and restraint. The sheer volume of comments at times and the incredible stupidity of those who make them, can make it incredibly hard not to respond.

But imagine a world where every moderate, everyone in the middle, would do just that. Soon it would only be the extremists fighting each other. If there is no crowd that pays them any attention, if there is no ego stroking and if there is no financial gain to be made, they would quiet down quickly enough I believe.

And the sooner that happens, the sooner we can get on with life. The sooner we can all be friends and work towards sorting out real issues like Climate Change, Food Shortage, Poverty Healthcare and yes, total Equality and Humanism. Compared to any of those, how important is it really to have a “war” about anything to do with video games…

 

What am I going to do?

Well I am not strong enough to read certain articles and comments and to resist from replying. I am not strong enough to ignore what I read, I would dedicate at least some of my time and energy on thinking about stupid arguments from either side. I would get frustrated and that would probably lead to anger. And I have no space in my life for frustration or anger. I don’t think anyone should have space in their life for frustration or anger.

So I will take my own advice. Abstinence. I will no longer visit website which carry articles about #GamerGate or any content that talks about sexism, violence or other elements in games or the games industry. I really don’t care what other people think or what the media writes. I have no influence on these people or the media. So why bother with their views or waste time contemplating them in the first place? Have YOU ever convinced ANYONE online?

I will do what I have always done. Treat people I interact with in real life with the dignity and respect they deserve. I will continue to work with and hire people who are the best in their field and who are decent human beings (and avoid working with people who are not). I will continue to not give a fuck about a person’s gender, ethnicity, relgion or sexual preference. I will not be labeled and I will not label. And I bet you anything, the less time I spend with these issues, the happier I will be.

I will try to keep content for this blog coming, but I will no longer post on any social issues. Anything going forward will be related to content, design or the industry in general. There should be plenty of stuff to write about anyway!

Entertainment vs. Challenge

dark-souls-ii-soon_o_2214693The topic sounds confrontational, probably more so than it really is. Also, it’s not actually a completely black and white affair, it’s not an either/or situation, though to many people (developers in particular) it might well feel like it. Additionally, and this right at the start, gaming interests vary widely and there is a particular distinction between games from the asian market and the western (european/american) market. As someone who develops games in europe and predominantly plays western games, those are the games I primarily talk about.

There are many, many, factors that make up game design and determine how “good” a game really is. In fact how “good” a game is can’t be defined easy in itself – fun, scary, easy, difficult, entertaining, visually beautiful, amazing audio – all these elements contribute to how good a game is and all these aspects are judged by individuals, with their own opinions and ideas of what a good game should be like.

Over the last few years I have increasingly been looking at a very fundamental part of design, something that is (or should be) established early on when coming up with a new game concept: How accessible, how easy or how difficult do I want my game to be? How challenging should it be and challenging for whom?

I am not sure about other designers, but until recently I have mostly considered the difficulty of a particular game (as well as the pacing to a degree) towards the end of a project. The philosophy has always been to get all the content in, and polish that and bug fix it, before worrying about difficulty too much. After all it’s just adjusting a few values at the end right?

As I said, I can’t talk for other designers at all, but it was a bit of a revelation when i discovered that difficulty has to be taken into account from day one of design. That it permeates everything in a game and that each mechanic has to be evaluated with a view as to it’s impact on player experience as well as difficulty. If the player finds one mechanic or aspect of a game too difficult, she might not engage with that mechanic for example and this could have massive knock-on effects throughout, it could even lead to players abandoning the game.

Game development has changed a lot since the first few games were released. Games certainly have changed. But one thing that has changed very little is the fact that many game developers (and I’d argue that this is the majority) still make games based on their own preferences and their own abilities and gaming habits.

And there is nothing really wrong with that. Quite the contrary in many cases. Working on something you want to play yourself ensures enthusiasm, ambition, resourcefulness and enjoyment at the workplace – all absolutely amazing things to have. But it does very much depend on what kind of game it is you like to play. It does depend on what your target audience is, or rather it depends on the budget you want to spend and thus what your target audience has to be.

Regardless of their quality (both in terms of visual as well as gameplay), regardless of the critical acclaim they hold, games like Dark Souls for example are niche games. They are brilliant games, commanding a loyal following and a lot of respect from gamers, journalists and developers alike. But they are still niche games. Dark Souls has sold around 3 million units across 3 platforms. For a game with an 89 metacritic that is not a whole lot, considering there are about 160 million PS3 and 360 consoles out there and countless PCs, the game only has sold to a FRACTION of the available market. It is, by any account, a “great game”. The problem is simply that the vast majority of gamers does not enjoy that type of game – they do not get entertained by it.

This does not make people who buy Dark Souls wrong, nor does it make the vast majority right (contrary to what a lot of debate on the internet would lead you to believe), but it does give us a great example of what I mean with “develop for your intended audience”.

It is very simple really. If you are a developer (designer or studio,) and you want to make a game which (no matter how amazing it will be), can only attract a niche customer base, then your budget needs to reflect that. If your aim is to make the next “Dark Souls” and be as successful as they were, then your budget needs to reflect that you are likely to have 3 million or less sales. Ship a game with a budget that allows for that and you not only will have shipped a great game, but also one that is financially viable and will keep you in business to make more games.

The key thing is to be aware of difficulty and through difficulty often accessibility. To understand exactly what you build, why you build it and who you build it for. Unfortunately what happens more often than not is that designers and developers create cool mechanics (or, worse, a cool story) and develop away without any thought about target audience and budget correlations. And in the end, when it comes to difficulty balancing and pacing, they are so familiar with the game that the natural tendency is to crank it up, because they are gamers themselves and want a bit of a challenge. Only for developers who spent 2 years working on a game a “bit of a challenge” is something entirely than for someone who is brand new to the game. In the end you might well have an amazing product in many ways, but one that simply does not provide the accessibility for the masses. What good to create a masterpiece if nobody can squeeze through a tiny door to see it?

This does not just go for difficulty either. Mechanics which developers find self explanatory, natural and easy to master, will be alien and new to people playing the game for the first time. Developers see the game “how it is meant to be played”, but this rarely survives first contact with the consumer. So we developers (and to a degree I will always be guilty of this myself, though I am working hard to get better) tune games to our own skillset, difficulty likings and we take control input and mechanics for granted – in short: we got too close to our product and lose sight of bugs, usability issues and user experience problems.

As I mentioned earlier there are 160 million last gen consoles out there. God knows how many PC gamers there are. Yet few, if any, games truly break into the mass market. Some games, like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and similar break into the 20 million copies sold. The reason they do this is not just because shooters are so popular (which they are), but also because the entry level for gamers is very low. On an easy difficulty rating, everyone, even grannies, can complete CoD. Everyone can participate in online multiplayer, and thanks to some clever design, even feel powerful from time to time and at the very least progress steadily. A few more games (Skyrim, Assassins Creed, Batman) flirt in the 10 million range. These are still fractions of potential user base. These games make a lot of money, and are almost always profitable, but there is a lot more potential to sell more. I don’t think any console game will ever sell to every console owner – differences in tastes for genres alone does not allow that to happen – but I don’t see why 50+ million sales for a AAA title across 3 platforms (Xbone, PS4 and PC) cannot be achieved.

But it might take a bit of effort on the side of the developer. In some cases developers don’t want to spend that effort, happy with the sales they have/are likely to get (after all any changes are unproven and could just be a cost and offer no benefit – and risk is not a wanted thing in AAA), but in many cases developers simply do not consider other options. They make the game they want to make and they do not consider the target audience until it is much too late.

Another issue is that developers working on “proper games” (read: AAA or console/PC in general), often ignore mobile and social games and the information they can provide. Social and mobile gaming more than anything else has helped to grow the number of “gamers” in the world in the last 10 years. Angry Birds has downloaded more than 2 billion times across all devices. And while this might well be a one hit wonder for Rovio (and their business model based on their early success might well be flawed), it shows that there are a tremendous number of people in the world who want to be entertained. Who want to engage in gaming, even repetitive motions, for short amounts of time to have fun.

These “casual” gamers are often ignored by “proper game” developers. We often even make fun of them. Just read some press releases by studios and publishers alike: we aim for the core! Win the core gamer and you win the internet debate. The vocal minority still holds a lot of sway with developers and studios. But success for a game, in my opinion, lies with the quiet masses, the hybrid – the “casual” gamer who owns a console or a PC (which he or she uses for gaming as well). Those gamers who don’t necessarily call themselves a “gamer” on social media or when talking to their friends. Those gamers who don’t tweet or FB about the latest games they play or how long it took them to take down a boss.

If we create games that allow those quiet masses to have a great time, to enjoy themselves, to feel like they are mastering the mechanics and they can play the game in a way they want to play it. Do that, and by all means combine it with a “hardcore mode”, and you break into a whole new market, you can break the boundaries between core and social. You can create an experience that players across the divide can enjoy.

But in order to achieve this it is essential that the game is designed from the ground up for this. As I said, the ideal scenario is to create a game that allows both core gamers to get a challenge as well as the more mainstream (I don’t like to use the word casual) gamers to just dive in and enjoy it. Almost every game I ever worked on at some point used the line “easy to get into – hard to master” – none of these games ever delivered.

At the end of the day the vast majority of players, core and mainstream alike, want to be entertained. They want to boot up the game, feel powerful, feel like they progress, feel like they master the mechanics, understand them and apply them. Picking up a controller has to feel natural, the UI must support this and the game needs to be adaptable enough (either automatically, under the hood, or through difficulty settings) to allow for different types of gamers. Get this right and the sky’s the limit.

One of the best examples out there is World of Warcraft. It does not matter if you like it or hate it, if you have played it or not. Just looking at the game, and in particular it’s evolvement over the years shows that Blizzard not only is willing to spend the extra development time to create an experience for a much wider range of people, but it also shows that collecting data, analyzing how players engage with a product, makes sense.

When World of Warcraft first came out it was a natural evolution from games like EverQuest – hard core MMO games with tough as nails raiding, punishing death and grinding leveling. World of Warcraft changed that drastically. Raids were 25 man (compared to EverQuests 72) and split in instances (no more competing with other guilds). Death was a bit of an inconvenience, but you never lost XP or gear. Leveling was much faster and there were a lot of quests supporting your XP gain – so it did not feel like work.

WoW also let people customize their UI and create add-ons that worked with the UI and game mechanics – boss mods told players exactly what to do, quest helpers showed where quest NPCs where, map add-ons helped with gathering. Couple that with the fact that the game essentially ran on every PC in every household and it is no surprise that it broke every record for MMO games and many PCs games out there (at least in the western market – and WoW is to date one of the few MMOs successful in asia).

There are only about 400 guilds in the US which have currently cleared the entire high end raid content in WoW for 25 man raids (the tougher one to get people for). Even if you average 50 people raiding in these guilds (double of what is needed) that would only mean about 10.000 people have killed every boss in the game on highest difficulty – in the US. Double that for EU and Asia and you get between 20.000 and 30.000 people out of currently about 7 million who have done it all, completed the game in it’s current form. Those are the core, the hard core, the first, the achievers. If you want to know what it takes to be there, watch this:

If Blizzard would only cater to these people, WoW would have gone the same way as EQ and other western MMOs – they would have been successful to a degree, but eventually declined. The MMO world is littered with plenty of corpses to show this.

But WoW has always been casual and inclusive to a degree, and then it adapted. With each expansion new tools, new mechanics and new content came along, which allowed players who did not have 8 hours or more in one sitting, to still enjoy the same content and make progress. To feel powerful, to feel masterful and to project how awesome they too could be in a few weeks and months. Grouping was made easier, dungeons gave more powerful loot, special events were put on, world bosses were brought in. And then finally, 2 expansions ago, the LFR or Looking For Raid feature made it in. Players did not have to be in raiding guilds. They could consume and experience the raid content, previously reserved to those with dedication and extra time on their hands, in short chunks. Bosses were dumbed down a bit, loot not quite as powerful, but it was all there.

In it’s current incarnation WoW offers something for everyone. Regardless of whether you have 30 minutes or 20 hours available to play – you can always find something to do.

Don’t get me wrong, the game is still not flawless, there are plenty of things which can be improved (Crafting, quest rewards, even some loot drops), but Blizzard is on it. With each expansion the game caters to more and more people. Pandaria introduced pet collection and pet battles and the next expansion will introduce base building. And all this time the core gamers still have their raids, still have the challenges, still can die repeatedly to the same bosses if they so wish – the (estimated) 5% of hardcore gamers get the difficulty they want.

So, in closing (this ended up longer than intended – it felt shorter in my head), i think we developers need to consider, from the start, who our audience is and who we want to include and exclude. We need to make this a conscious decision and that decision needs to feed into all the mechanics and systems of our game. Personally i think many developers need to actively try to include the non core gamers, realize the potential market out there and look at how they can be brought into the game in addition to, not instead of, the core gamers. There are plenty of options through design to achieve this. It does not need to be an either/or decision. Catering to the mainstream gamers does not mean we have to abandon the core. If casual gamers play our games, it is not a blemish and does not take away from the hardcore. The ideal game allows all types of gamers to gain enjoyment from it, regardless their skill level and time investment.

We live in times where we are bombarded with entertainment products. TV shows, internet media, movies, music, games, mobile games, social games, social media – we are constantly on our phones, our devices, on the PC and on the TV. We have to fit the entertainment we enjoy the most into our busy schedules. So i think the vast majority of gamers out there simply has no time to be challenged unduly. Most gamers want to pick up the controller or device and get lost, enjoy themselves, get entertained. They don’t want to be frustrated, they don’t want to think (too hard), they want to feel empowered, masterful, bad-ass and they want to kick some ass. They want gratification and they don’t want to work hard for it – in short, they want everything they can’t get (easily) in real life.

Once again, there are exceptions, and i can already hear some of you bristling about my points, thinking no doubt that it’s all about the challenge. Don’t worry! I am not calling for Dark Souls to go the way of the Dodo. There will always be a need and a market for games like Dark Souls. But if you are a developer i would argue that you should always reflect on the game you are making. Be sure you know what game you are making, what your market is and how many units you need to sell, and are likely to sell.Is your target audience the 3 million people who play Dark Souls? Is it the 25 million who play Call of Duty? Or could it be the 100 million who play Angry Birds?

GamerGate and arguing on the internet

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So it’s been a while since i wrote a post and in this time i have actually tried to take a step back from the discussions regarding feminism and sexism. I feel quite comfortable with my own view and my own position. I know how i treat people, and that i treat them regardless of who they are and what they are. I treat people based on how they are – their character, their attitude, their personality.

That step back does not mean i no longer have an opinion, or opinions of other people don’t result in a response of sorts from me. That step back simply means i have realized that arguing with extremists, particularly on the internet, has no use whatsoever. Anyone engaged in it, which to a degree included myself, is deluded that they actually have a shot at convincing people of a different opinion. The reality is nobody really convinces anyone.

Which brings me to the whole #GamerGate and Sarkeesian issue which has been blown out of all all proportions over the last few weeks.

It started with the whole Zoe Quinn debacle, where a spurned ex dished out the dirt on their relationship, which happened to include infidelities with games journalists and other influential people in the industry. It clearly did highlight that at least some games journalists are biased and anything but objective.

But why is this news in the first place? This is someone’s personal life, and personal issues. Regardless if Zoe Quinn has used her body to gain an advantage or not, this should never have become such a big news item as it has. It’s her choice, her life and her story – nobody’s business but her own and that of her partner at the time.

It was meant to point to the fact that the gaming press is largely untrustworthy, biased and has an agenda. Well who does not know this by now? I don’t think i have a single friend working in the industry who can tell me a single gaming news site that is 100% reliable and worth reading. I could list at least a dozen articles and videos on games i have worked on over the last few years which have blatant lies and falsehoods in them – not necessarily because the reporter is mean or has it in for the game, but simply because they were too lazy or too incompetent to ask questions or do 5 minutes of research.

The gaming press, for the most part, is utterly rubbish. And it only has itself to blame. It’s all about speed and competition these days in in a rush to beat the competition quality suffers. And then of course it’s all about money. Getting those clicks on an article, getting the advertising money.

But be that as it may. Sides were drawn – those pro Zoe and those anti Zoe waded in. The internet was full of homemade videos, pictures, conspiracy theories, linking threads and finding random emails and posts – years old. For what? For what purpose? Does anyone think that they can convince the other side they are right? People have made up their mind already – either you are with us, or against us!

Shortly after the Zoe stuff, Sarkeesian put up her latest video, followed immediately with a few tweets about online threats and police involvement. Again both sides of the argument sprang to life. Those against Sarkeesian pointed to the fact that the anonymous twitter account was posting too fast, Anita’s replies too quick – suggesting she had sent them herself. Those in the Sarkeesian camp branded every critic a misogynist hater.

It does not matter what is true. It does not matter who thinks they got it right. Does anyone actually believe that either side will convince the other?

No matter how many videos with evidence surface (true or not is irrelevant), the people who think Sarkeesian set the threats up herself to promote the launch of her new video, won’t convince a single Sarkeesian supporter that this was the case. Likewise, no matter what Sarkeesian or her followers say, nobody on the other side will believe a word.

Instead what we get is insults, threats, twitter stalking and hack attacks – from both sides. This actually will lead to nothing, and it’ll only get worse as time progresses. Firing off insults, threats and being nasty on the internet is simple. You never have to actually face your “opponent” – it’s all done long distance. People use language and actions they would never consider to use in real life, people behave like assholes. on both sides.

What is the disgusting part is that people make money off of all this. Regardless of what Zoe Quinn and Sarkeesian have done or not done, regardless of who is right – the spectacle around them has made them a ton of money. Zoe Quinn’s patroen has shot up to over 3000 USD a month in support of her plight. Sarkeesians video has received a much increased number of hits. Both have received a ton of media attention and favour.

And this is where the rub lies. Not necessarily that the gaming press is corrupt and actually not that good at reporting on games, but that a lot of the gaming press actually has picked up these so called “Social Justice Movement” stories, which are not at all related to games themselves. Simply because they are click bait. They are contentious topics and those bring in the cash.

An average news post on Eurogamer (you know, about games and stuff) will attract between 40 and 200 comments. A Zoe Quinn or Sarkeesian article attracts up to 10 times that. It’s not about games anymore. It’s about creating as much controversy as possible, stir up the shit, shout very loud and then see where it ends up.

Even some game developers can’t help but wade into the debate, or get dragged into it, taking sides. God knows why, because we should stay as far away as possible from any of these issues as we can. We sure as hell did when some aspects of the media and certain groups tried to claim that mass shootings are linked to violent video games. When THAT was raised, i can’t remember hearing a single game developer saying “yep! It’s us. we make games that encourage people to kill others!”.

The vast majority of male and female developers simply want to make games. Games and content they are passionate about. Not games and content which is tailored to suit either side of the Social Justice debates. We don’t want our games analysed on some arbitrary social or moral scale. We don’t need people who never in their lives have gone through the process of creating a game, putting blood sweat and tears (and many extra hours) in it, to tell us “oh well.. this scene is sexist”. We don’t need people taking elements of our game completely out of context to try and make their point – in fact using our materials to further their agenda, using our work to make money for themselves.

On the other hand we don’t need anyone to defend us either. We don’t need gamers sending hate messages and threats to people who don’t like what we make. We don’t need gamers threatening the lives of developers and their families when they tweak the balancing of a weapon.

All we want to do is make the games we want to make, with the content we believe in, the story we want to tell and the characters we have built. Let us do that and then judge us with your wallet. If you like what we create, if it entertains you, if it makes you cry, if it makes you laugh or if it gets your frustrated when you chase that high-score – then pay us for it. That’s all we ask. That’s all we want. In many cases we are just happy when we entertain you.

But please don’t wage this battle of social justice on our backs, using our products to fuel your arguments.

How about we all take a step back then? we accept that people can think differently, that people don’t necessarily see things the way we do and that they don’t necessarily have to. We also must accept that what we think of as normal, or moral or just even acceptable, does not necessarily apply to others. Just because we find something extreme or morally wrong, does not mean it is. There are laws for a reason and as long as creative content is within the rules of law, it is nobodies business to claim the moral high ground. Once you take a step back, you actually let go of the hate and anger, life becomes a lot more fun, games become a lot more fun when not viewed through a critical eye every time. It’s still ok to have an opinion, just stop arguing and trying to convince others of your opinion – it’ll never happen anyway and all that energy is probably spent better elsewhere.

Enforcing your worldview, your moral compass, on content you do not create, judging others for what they make and how they think, that is bordering on censorship. That never works and it only gets people upset. If you want content that conforms to your views, make it. Publish it, if enough people like it, you can life of it. And if you work in the industry and you make games you don’t agree with, but still bitch and moan about content – get off your high horse.

Stay away from content you object to. It’s quite simple really.

Anti-Feminism is the New Feminism

zegerman1942:

Great article – well worth a read!

Originally posted on elizabethkhobson:

I identified as a feminist because I believed in “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes” (Oxford dictionary). I read. Without, I hope, stooping to dualism I felt a kinship with other women, especially mothers once I joined those ranks.

Then I joined Twitter and I bonded with anti-feminists, Honey Badgers and other critics with whom I enjoyed insightful, progressive discussions about the movement. They were all ultimately respectful of my decision to defend my label but at some point I began to feel that I was spending a massive amount of time explaining who I was and where I sat- on the periphery of the movement- to the detriment of the amount of time I had to spend talking about things that really matter. At the same time I was contributing to feminist discussion on there and finding that as a voice…

View original 838 more words

Elder Scrolls Online

New year, new exception. The last one was BF4 in December, but i am actually reviewing a game i have played! Don’t hold it against me, but there simply is a lot to say about Elder Scrolls Online and i do have this blog space. Besides, if i don’t get to break or bend the rules a bit from time to time, where would the fun be! In essence this might actually not really be a review as such, strictly speaking you see, but more my current experience of playing the game. No exceptions needed after all!

 

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Developer: ZeniMax Online Studios

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Release Date: April 2014

Platforms: PC (Xbox One and PS4 to follow in June)

So Elder Scrolls Online then.  Mannander reviewed the last installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise, Skyrim, back in early 2012, after having not-played it. And his opening line was a strong one:

In all likelihood, the green-lighting process for The Elder Scrolls V was a very short meeting. They only needed to look at the progressive increase in sales between each sequel to validate the potential for yet another instalment. It’s no secret that publishers like money just as much as the next guy.

The exact same thing could be said for Elder Scrolls Online, the first MMO in the franchise developed by ZeniMax Online studios. After the huge success of previous titles, in particular Skyrim, it made sense to greenlight an MMO. Clearly the audience was there and as World of Warcraft has shown, there was an interest in MMOs, even monthly subscription based ones.

So has ESO, as it’s come to be known, succeeded? Has the game delivered a worthy installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise and have ZeniMax Online created a potential rival to World of Warcraft? These questions are actually not as easy and straightforward to answer as may seem. I will try to give my thoughts on each of the elements of the game, in an attempt to find answers to these questions.

 

Is this an Elder Scrolls game?

The first question and probably the easiest question to answer. Yes, i truly believe it is. From the moment you create a character and are dropped into the open sequence of the world, the game feels like an Elder Scrolls game. Everything you come to expect from the franchise is there. Story driven quests, great VO (including Michael Gambon and many other amazing actors), fantastic character development and a great element of exploration (including searchings crates, sacks, urns etc.) – the game literally is full of great content that all helps tell another chapter of Tamriel. It is not surprising to find some weak areas, considering the scope of the game as a whole (and also the VO can be a bit hit and miss), but the game provides a lot more depth than many other MMOs did at launch. And lets not forget it just launched, it did does not benefit from 10 years worth of content like World of Warcraft right now.

As with Skyrim, quests usually have a deeper meaning, a story and always some VO attached to them. The player gets to meet new characters and while not all are as well developed as those characters linked to the main story, they all have something to say. Rarely do you have to go out and just kill stuff or go on a random delivery quest, and if you do, there is a reason for it, and that reason makes sense. Questing feels interesting in ESO and quests are a main way of peeling back layer after layer of the story.

And story is what Elder Scrolls has always been really good at. ESO is, thankfully, no different. There is the main story of course, involving the mysterious Prophet. There are also 2 other main story threads linked to the fighters and mage guild, which have chapters as the player progresses and levels up (every player can do all quests, these are not linked to classes). But more than that each new region has it’s own storyline, which the player can discover and participate in. From dealing with a plague that threatens a village to preventing an all out war between allies, the player’s actions are comparatively small, but add up over time. This makes it believable how one person can achieve so much, and it also makes the game addictive as there is almost always a “oh i wonder what happens next” moment.

The story at times is also quite mature and, like players of Skyrim might be familiar with, is not afraid to shy away from more controversial story elements such as slavery and racism. On several occasions you can make decisions along the way that are based on your views on these issues, either helping people or, at times, condemning them to death. You can even try to teach some characters a lesson and hope that in the future they will be behave better.

As you make your way through the world, learning about the areas, learning about current events and getting sucked into the main story, you also continue to grow your character. A very familiar level up and skill based system is in place, so anyone who has played an Elder Scroll game before will feel right at home. Similar racial traits and benefits as in previous games apply as well. Unlike previous games though you do choose an arch type when creating a character. This is more in line with traditional RPGs and MMOs and not something that was enforced as much in Skyrim for example, but it does make sense in an MMO environment to ensure players can fulfil certain roles in a group, at least to some degree. There is still a lot of flexibility to develop the character over time and plenty of skills to chose from to create a unique set of abilities though, so even hardcore fans should be alright with this approach.

Combat is based on some of these abilities and skills, again heading more into a traditional MMO space, again probably in order to sync up a group and provide synergy and co-op capability. It is up to the player which skills to learn but you can only ever have 5 active in a hot bar (plus an “ultimate” ability). It’s a mix and match of abilities that suit the players style and ideas, and abilities can be used from several trees (though realistically, to get the most out of each “class”, it’s best to focus on 1 or 2 skill trees, rather than spread skill points too thinly across too many skills).

Crafting on the other hand is very much in line with Skyrim. The usual crafting professions can all be picked up and there is a good amount of depth and usability for each one. Raw materials are gathered, items gained through quests or explorations can be de-constructed, traits can be researched and new items can be crafted, imbued and improved – it’s all there and it’s deep and meaningful. A good variety of skill points also tempt players to invest in crafting rather than combat skills and at least early on in the game that can be a tricky choice.

To round all this up the game presentation is very good as well. On a top end PC the visuals look stunning in places, and audio and visual effects are very good indeed. As mentioned VO is probably among the best in any game and the music, as always, is simply stunning. Carrying many of the familiar themes from previous games, the orchestral soundtrack is a perfect fit to the world. Animations range from truly horrible to very good indeed – depending on the context and character. Main characters and player characters are generally animated quite well, while some of the weirder creatures seem to slip and slide a lot.

All in all the entire game is a great package and for the initial purchasing price it offers a great installment in the Elder Scrolls Franchise. I like to think of it as a Skyrim on steroids, as it potentially holds more content and it certainly has a much bigger area. So as a game, as a single player game, ESO certainly is worth playing. But is it a good MMO. Is it worth investing 10 USD/Euro every month to keep playing it?

 

Is ESO a good MMO and can it rival World of Warcraft?

This is much more of a subjective question, but my gut feeling is: no.

I have played the game for about 3 weeks and i am well on my way to reach the current max level. In all this time i grouped once to clear one of the tougher dungeons. While the dungeon clearing itself was not necessarily a bad experience (and the game certainly has some interesting concepts with regards to group dungeons), it was also not really a pleasurable experience and it felt more like a chore than something fun to do.

I have not seen any higher end content or any PvP content, so i can’t actually comment on either of these, but i know for a fact that i will not bother doing another group dungeon again (the only exception being if i was forced to by the main story, towards the end).

And there is a very simple reason for it, and it’s almost painful to say it: it’s too cumbersome to find a group quickly. Over the last 10 years World of Warcraft has shown us a transformation. At launch people sat in cities and used public channels to find groups for dungeons. After finally finding the right people at least 2 had to run to the dungeon to summon the rest. It was tedious. Blizzard, over time, responded. Nowadays you open the “Looking For Group” tab, press a button and 5 minutes later you will be ready to join a group which has all the right classes. You press another button and you are transported inside the dungeon.

In short: the game has become a lot more user friendly, as has the interface. Elder Scrolls online feels like the developers never once looked at World of Warcraft, of simply failed to understand why the game works and is so popular. Elder Scrolls Online has taken us back in time about 8 years and made it harder to get into some aspects of the game, to enjoy certain aspects of the game. And it does not stop with the grouping tools.

The entire user interface in Elder Scrolls Online is horribly designed and extremely cumbersome. It feels like you are wrestling with it, as you try to do what you want to do. As far as i can tell it’s also not customizable. Trying to do any kind of social interaction becomes a chore, even just typing in guild or party chat involves several clicks and button presses. Navigating the group, guild and PvP pages in the interface is a tedious experience, to the point where i just don’t want to do it. It feels slow, sluggish and unresponsive. Some elements, like the PvP tab, also lack proper explanation and guidance.

But i think the worst of the lot is the entire trade and banking system.

You see, there is no Auction House as such. A feature which has been a core staple in MMOs for some years now, pioneered by World of Warcraft, is not present in ESO, a game which is heavily focused on crafting and actually provides a meaningful use for crafting (unlike large parts of World of Warcraft, where many crafting aspects feel utterly useless). Apart from using general chat as a trade channel (something i have not seen since the early EQ days), the only option to realistically trade is to join a guild and utilize the guild trade.

Guilds have an internal auction house. Guild members can list up to 30 items for sale and browse items listed by other members. Considering any player can join up to 5 guilds, this is in theory a decent idea. But it very much depends on the success of a guild. If you have 500 members or more, you might get a decent selection of items to chose from, and you might get some competition, regulating price. But if your guild is rubbish, or you chose to be part of a smaller friends guild, chances are you won’t have much choice or much of a market, and spamming general chat will be one of your main ways of selling things.

Guild_Store_Listing

Of course you can join several guilds, but you never see an entire listing of all guilds. You manually have to switch between listings for each guild. To make things even more cumbersome there is no way to specifically search for a specific item (i.e. “Iron Ingot”) – you can only narrow down searches based on crafting materials, but that still can leave you with pages of listed items.

My character was part of 2 guilds and i have seen items listed in one guild about 500% cheaper than in the other guild. The current ESO system almost certainly will prevent the development of a proper market system where prices don’t fluctuate and you almost always have a guaranteed buyer. Instead the system caters to those who play the market, buying items cheap in one guild and selling at increased prices in another guild. Other players will never find out, as they won’t see price differences unless they happen to be in the same guilds. It is a shockingly bad design and how it ever made it into the final game i have no idea.

To top it all up, all these services are run through the banker NPC and there is no way to “go back” in the menu flow – the only way to switch between services on the same NPC is to exit and start from scratch by interacting with the banker again.

Speaking of banker, expect to spend a lot of time in banks and sorting through your inventory. In order to work better in an online environment, as well as create balance (and a bit of a money sink), EOS has introduced a bag slot limit to your character and your bank. Skyrim, by comparison had a weight limit on the character and realistically speaking no limit in various chests in your own house. You could store everything and you only had to worry about weight when out adventuring. In EOS you start with 50 (or 60?) slots in each bank and character. And that fills up very very quickly. Since the crafting is as evolved and deep as Skyrim, you can expect to collect a lot of flowers, cooking ingredients, potions, runes (for enchanting) and before you know it you are knee deep in wurmcult blood and about to loot an awesome new weapon, only to find out your inventory is full and you need 10 min to sort through what you can actually throw out.

Inventory has not gotten better since Skyrim. You can sort in categories, but it’s still just a massive list, and the user can not sort in any specific way. Again World of Warcraft says hello, where players can organize their own bags and will know exactly where they can find what they want. Expect to literally spend hours organizing your belongings, offloading from bags to bank and throwing stuff out you don’t need anymore. It’s not fun.

Skyrim (and other Elder Scrolls game before it), never were the most user-friendly games ever made, and their inventory and interface has always been lacking. But ESO made some changes in order to fit it into an online environment and create money and time sinks, and that’s only made it worse. Instead of finding clever solutions like player housing (which other MMOs have done successfully, as has Skyrim), they opted for a bank space. Instead of delivering a similarly powerful bank space as World of Warcraft, they created a far inferior experience which is frustrating and time consuming. Instead of delivering an amazing Auction House experience across a mega-server, they delivered guild based trading only. The list goes on, but essentially what it boils down to is this: ESO, as an MMO, simply is not very good. It could be forgiven a lot of it’s flaws as a one-off-payment single player game, but as a MMO with monthly subscription it simply does not compare with what else is on offer.

If ZeniMax Online would have actually analyzed what made World of Warcraft such a big hit, how and why it has changed over the last 8 years and learned some lessons from that, the game could be an outstanding MMO experience and it could truly challenge WoW – it certainly has a lot going for it.

ESO seems to punish players for wanting to use the very aspects which make the game an MMO, the social aspectts. Communication, trading and grouping is made harder for no other reason that bad design. It’s been done better by several games in the last 10 years and ZeniMax Online has no excuse. This cannot be blamed on a rocky start (and it has been a bit rocky), these issues are fundamental design flaws. The fact that there is no auction house, the fact that the interface to find a group is horribly convoluted and the fact that you can’t search for specific items in the guild store, are all designed features and functions. Skyrim was not perfect. Inventory management, HUD and UI and even the skill tree system were all a bit bloated and hard to access, but they rarely ever really got in the way of adventuring. When you have to run to the bank every 45 min to do inventory management, when THINKING about inventory management is the first thing you do before heading out to adventure, then you know the game systems are actually getting in the way of game fun.

I wish there was an offline single player mode, as it would actually keep me playing and probably buying potential expansions. As it is i won’t pay 10 Euro a month to keep playing, i prefer to just boot up Skyrim again.

Ultimately it will come to high end game content to a large degree. If the game holds enough interest and challenge for those who reach maximum level then it could hold a decent amount of people. But with accessibility being extremely poor and another WoW expansion scheduled for later this year and Wildstar lurking around the corner, i fear that ESO will struggle to maintain a viable user base beyond 2014. And this could end up in a downward spiral. Fewer users will mean fewer guilds and fewer members in each guild. This in turn will make grouping and in particular trading harder – which will only alienate even more people.

I would be very surprised if the game has more than 100k paying subscribers by the end of the year and I feel this game will go free to play before the end of next year.

If that happens, i’ll happily pick it up again and pay for new content and expansion packs.

Elder Scrolls MMO Score: 5.5/10 (score of the game as is)

Elder Scrolls Game Score: 8.5/10  (if this was just a single player game in the franchise)

 

Spoiler Alert

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It’s Tuesday morning, you get to work, you have yourself a cup of coffee and you start talking to your work mates about the latest Game of Thrones episode (yes this happens on Tuesday in Europe). Next thing you know, you find yourself on the floor, 200 pounds of sweating, angry, colleague on top of you – Terry Tate style:

 

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“NO FUCKING SPOILERS IN THE OFFICE!!”

Hands up who has had this happen to them (minus the Terry Tate tackle perhaps). Hands up who has been told to not talk about a film, book or game in a social environment because you might be revealing spoilers. I bet most of you have been in this situation.

And you know what? i think it’s fucking bullshit. Take Game of Thrones. People who don’t watch the latest episode on the day of release (Sunday or Monday depending on where you live), expect a large part of the population who have watched it, to keep quiet, to not discuss it, to essentially refrain from referring to it at all. And if those who have not seen it come across a spoiler, no matter how tiny it might be, they react violently, often out of any proportion to that fact. Heated arguments, tears and (in some rare cases) actual violence follow.

And for what? A bit of entertainment?

Realistically lets look at this, because i understand that everyone wants their entertainment as spoiler free as possible. We all love to discover things on our own, see the twists and turns, see the plot reveals and find out what happened next. I can see that someone telling me ahead of time that Rob Stark was going to die in the Red Wedding could have been a downer (of course that would have had to happen about 5 years ago or so – when i read the book).

But at the same time what do those people who hate spoilers expect? That the world stops until they catch up with all their entertainment products and sports events of choice? That social media enforces a black-out, nobody is allowed to post? That people can’t have water-cooler moments at work and are only allowed to discuss the weather? Or at the very least that we have to wait until we have these water-cooler moments until everyone and their dog have caught up with the shows they watch.

That simply is not going to happen, nor should it! People have a right to post, blog, tweet and say anything they want about any entertainment product or sports event that has been publicly broadcast and has been available for consumption. Those who are in there first, those who watch shit as it happens, as it is broadcast, should not have to shut up or consider those that come behind. That is just stupid.

If people can’t be bothered to pay for SKY or HBO to watch Game of Thrones, if people can’t be bothered to pay 10 Euro to watch a film in the cinema, if people can’t be bothered to pay full price for a new computer game and if people can’t be bothered to get up at 5am to watch a sports event on the other side of the globe, then that’s their own problem really. Those of us who do pay for entertainment or who go the extra length to experience these things as they happen should not then be gagged by those who are not as committed or fanatical. Essentially those that are not there first simply can’t be bothered enough to be there first. So why should the rest respect their wishes for a spoiler free environment?

So in essence what i am saying is: if you don’t want spoilers you have 2 choices. Firstly you can actually show enough interest in something to ensure you are there when it happens. Secondly, if you can’t be there when it happens (for whatever reason, including if it’s not your fault at all), stay clear of all social media. Don’t read the news, don’t read forums, don’t read reviews. Stay clear of anything that could mention something about a program or event which you want to consume later on.

But don’t expect people to shut up about something that they are clearly excited about, something they want to discuss, something they are burning to discuss the moment it finishes – often times something they are burning to comment on via social media while it happens, because it is so good and so exciting and so amazing.

If you cannot consume at the very moment something happens, it is up to you to stay clear of spoilers.

There is only one exception to all of the above that i can see, and that is if people deliberately post spoilers so that others can see it, for no other reason than to be a dick. I.e. someone goes on a friend’s Facebook page and posts the plot for the latest GoT episode, knowing fully well that his friend has not seen it yet. Since it is posted on the friend’s wall, it can’t really be avoided – so that is a dick move. Deliberate spoiling like that is wrong, no question about it. But these, i think, are rare moments and to be honest, if you know people who are dicks like that: you should avoid them altogether.

 

Notplayed review: Wolfenstein New Order

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Developer: MachineGames

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Platform: 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC

Release Date: 20th May 2014

Well then, it’s been a while since there has been an actually review on this site. No game really has tickled my fancy enough to write a pre-release review. But Wolfenstein New Order certainly tickles my fancy. It appears to be a dark horse this year. While there has been some marketing buzz about it, and quite a big presence both at E3 and Gamescom last year, this has tapered off a little bit over the last few months, potentially because the game got yet another delay and marketing money might have started to run dry. So i think it’s worth having a look at this game, the first release of fabled MachineGames, a studio full of high profile developers (it essentially being the offspring of Starbreeze Studios).

Wolfenstein is a classic for me. The franchise is one i grew up with, and i actually enjoyed the last installment in 2009 (released the same year MachineGames was founded). So when i heard that some of the devs who had worked on amazing games like The Darkness and the Riddick series, were working on the next installment of a Wolfenstein game, i was well excited. I was expecting over the top gameplay, killing Nazis, taking down the German Reich single handedly, wrapped up in probably the industry’s best through-the-gun experience and with great AI. All in all – i was expecting a total hit, a game that would be an all time great, an amazing debut game by yet another fantastic Swedish Developer.

And in a way New Order delivers on those expectations, at least somewhat. It is a solid and fun shooter, with over the top brutality, an interesting idea for the story, decent AI and above all great guns.The problem is, that with few exceptions, the game never really goes above and beyond. By any modern day standard, the game is average. Which does not make it bad, but it also does not make it special. In many ways the game appears to have been made in the 1990s with some truly awful and clonky gameplay elements coupled with questionable level and game design decisions. The game has fun elements and charm, but it certainly does not stand out.

The player takes on the familiar role of BJ Blazkowicz and once again the task is to thwart the plan of the evil Nazi empire. And this time round, there really is an empire. New Order mixes things up nicely story wise right from the start and instead of going full throttle occult like the 2009 outing, MachineGames opted for an alternate history approach. In New Order, Germany’s technological advances helped win the war and the Nazi empire extends far beyond Europe.Expect robot dogs, mechs and giant alien looking mechanical constructions.

In a prologue mission BJ gets a big ole knock on the head and ends up in a mental institution. Years go by and it takes a brutal event happening in front of his eyes to wake him up from his stupor.

But wake up he does and what follows is one of the most fun and satisfying as well as one of the most boring and frustrating experiences computer games can deliver.

BJ himself has not changed much. Macho, gung-ho and stereotypical as ever, he has not evolved much since his first inception, down to the one liners which might have been fun 20 years ago, but will only entertain a small and geeky crowd in the 21st century (“Fuck you moon!” he exclaims when realizing the Nazi’s won the space race). This is a missed opportunity by MachineGames as they essentially created a blank slate for themselves by creating an alternative history. Yet they completely fail to capitalize on this opportunity and do nothing to drive the character or franchise forward in that respect, maintaining that one (very flat) dimension. Sure, you might ask how much personality a character really needs when all he does is shoot Nazi’s, and you’d have a point. I just feel that given the way the story of the game goes, the opportunity would have been there to do more.

Waking up in the mental hospital the player quickly gets down to business. The knives come out and Nazis soon die left right and center. And once the player starts picking up guns, that’s when the fun really starts. One of the best new additions is the option to dual wield pretty much every weapon in the game – a sheer sign of mad brilliance by MachineGames, who understand the core of fun, arcade first person shooters. Give the player the tools to have fun, and let him have fun. Wolfenstein New Order definitely ticks that box. Running around with 2 heavy machine guns, pumping tons of lead into nazi soldiers puts a massive grin on your face. The guns feel meaty, the feedback feels amazing, the audio is perfect – it is a joy to fire these virtual weapons and every single one feels slightly different and the variation is great.

But that smile on your face can just as easily become a frown, the fun turn into frustration, when clunky ammo and health pick-up elements rear their heads. You run out of ammo too fast, obtaining ammo and reloading, as well as getting health packs (yes, health packs…) is another thing that does not seem to have moved on in the last 20 years. It feels awkward to pick up ammo, to pick up health packs and to reload. It takes too long and it distracts from the fun to be had. MachineGames gives us the tools to have fun with, but every so often, like a stern (german?) teacher, they seem to shout “nein nein nein BJ, zis is enough fun! You must pick up some ammo now, ja? We can’t have you shooting all ze time!”

Guns, awesome as they may be, also get in the way. Dual wielding everything definitely sounds like a great idea, and for the most part it works, but when the guns are bigger than a persons leg, it can become an issue. Wielding 2 massive weapons, both with particle effects like muzzle flashes and even fancier stuff, at times can mean you have no clue at all what is going on. You can literally not see past your weapons. And in environments which are semi dark on a lot of occasions (why do Nazi’s prefer the semi dark?), levels which are constructed partially unreadable and for which you will need a chaperon to help you through, as well as enemies which often blend into the environment (hello same colour palette!) this can be an issue. If you really want to see stuff, and want to know where you are going, i recommend you just stick to your knife! MachineGames seem to think the same, because they made a knife-kill an especially gruesome and detailed experience – almost as if to say: this is what you should be doing all the time!

The game can look stunning at times (using the same tech as Rage though, it does have it’s limits), but the simple truth is: a lot of times you just don’t notice it. Either through pace of action or simply because everything blends together or is obscured, a lot of the attention to detail that MachineGames have obviously put in, is simply lost. Even high quality videos of in game environments make it clear that the game was never intended as a full next gen experience. The only reason it seems to land on next gen consoles is because it kept getting delayed. And as of yet iD-tech 5 does not look stunning on next gen. Perhaps another year would have helped with that.

One of the things that stand out is the AI. Again the heritage of former Starbreeze games shines through and it is clear that opponents in New Order can think, at least somewhat, for themselves. There does seem to be some inconsistency though, both with AI senses as well accuracy. AI for example never really seem to hear you approach from behind and the ease with which knife kills are achieved appears to be slightly on the comical side. Similarly whenever the game veers into a more open setting and there are multiple enemies firing at you, their accuracy seems to be ridiculously low, giving you plenty of time to pick up the uber weapon, conveniently placed nearby, and unleash a rain of death and destruction on enemies and environment alike. The AI works best in mid to close range when aware of the player. Then they behave like proper soldiers and they can be lethal.

Overall then Wolfenstein: New Order is a frustrating title. You can clearly tell the dark and edgy story underneath is done by a crew who helped to make greats like The Darkness. You can clearly tell that guns, AI and environmental art are lovingly crafted and well designed. You can clearly tell that MachineGames understood the essence of what Wolfenstein is: a light hearted, arcade, fun and fast paced shooter. All the elements are there, but it appears to me that in almost 5 years of development MachineGames have failed to bring all these ingredients into the 21st century. It jumps from being fun to being insanely frustrating when you get lost, when you run out of ammo, when struggling with some of the dated game design elements.

The game appears to have been made by hard core gamers enjoying shooters for hard core gamers enjoying shooters. It is not a game for novices to shooters or someone who simply wants to dabble and give it a go. It is a must have for any Wolfenstein fan and for anyone looking for a few hours of fun with amazing through the gun experience. But anyone looking for more, looking for depth,  anyone looking for replay value, better look elsewhere. I think the game severely lacks in usability and i feel for that reason it will fail to find mass market appeal. It is not the Wolfenstein iteration which finally will bring BJ Blazkowicz to the masses. And i think ZeniMax knows this, which is why it tried to give the game even more time and now has coupled any purchase with a Beta pass for the next Doom game, in an attempt to generate interest. Unless you are a hardcore fan of the franchise, pick this up second hand or wait for a sale. Due to little to no replay value the first used copies should in stores within a week of launch and i would not be surprised to see special deals with this game reasonably quickly.

As a first outing by MachineGames it is an average one. With the pedigree of the studio, 5 years of development time, an established engine and the backing of ZeniMax, they should have been capable of delivering more. It will be interesting to see if this project will manage to break even and what the future will hold for MachineGames. Will they be able to try again, or will they become a porting studio for ZeniMax? If they try again, they should get some fresh, young, blood in that helps them move out of the 1990s of game making.

I certainly would not mind a true 21st century version of Wolfenstein.

 

6/10
Disclaimer: nobody at notplayed.com has actuallly played the release version of Wolfenstein: New Order. This is a mock-review purely based on material available on the internet (marketing, game-play videos, articles and interviews). 

Social Accountability

In my last post as well as some previous blogs i talked about gamers acting out, using the anonymity of the internet to their advantage to harass and threaten others. We have all seen how people behave on the internet, mainly because they don’t have to worry about consequences and repercussions.

“Don’t read the comments…” or “Just read the comments, they are hilarious…”- hands up who has heard someone say this about an article on the net in the last few years. As a developer i have heard these statements a fair bit. Comments on reviews and news articles, in the gaming industry in particular (but not exclusive to it), can be a source of frustration, anger, disappointment, joy and entertainment. The public being able to state their own feelings and emotions without any (or little) form of censorship or consequences can lead to comments which are frightening, painful, embarrassing and fun. Internet comments can show humanity at it’s best or worst. People can come together or tear each other apart.

The internet is brilliant. It connects people, it allows for instant communication across the globe, it gives information to people, it allows us to be more transparent, it allows us share data and it allows us to grow and evolve as human beings. Imagine a world where there is no internet. Even now, thinking back to about 25 years ago, when nobody i knew had access to the internet, i can’t really remember how that was. It feels strange even thinking about it, as if there was a mental block in my brain saying “No, the internet always existed. There was no “BEFORE”!” Sure i enjoy being away from all the digital noise for periods of time, being out of reach, but to contemplate a prolonged absence of all things internet is impossible.

But like almost everything in life, the internet also has it’s bad sides. Direct human interaction is reduced. It provides new opportunities for fraud and other forms of crime. It has made gambling easier than ever. Entertainment is provided effortlessly and often at reduced quality. “News” outlets spring up left right and center where contributors have no training, no moral compass and no requirement to vet their “news”. Fiction is often peddled as fact and once it’s on the internet it becomes fact, as long as enough people share the information.

I grew up without the internet. Which means i grew up having to interact with other human beings through other means, often face to face. People knew who i was when i talked to them. When i had an opinion on something, when i agreed or disagreed with something, and when i  voiced that opinion, i generally did so in a respectable fashion. Why did i do that? Simple: because people knew who i was and if i was anything less than respectable, there would have been consequences. I would have been socially shunned. My friends might well have distanced themselves from me. In short, if i had been a dick, people would have treated me like a dick.

This behavior actually is mirrored and adapted by the internet, at least to some degree and in social circles. If their real name is on the line, if their real identity is behind an interaction of any sort, if a certain accountability applies, people are a lot more conscious when they post. Facebook is a good example for this. Yes there is a lot of junk on facebook and at times it feels it was created purely for the sake of sharing cat pictures, but look at the content and form of comments people leave. The vast majority of comments is generally what i consider “clean” – free from excessive obscenity and free from threats. I have yet to come across a person threatening another with murder on Facebook (i am sure it exists, the sheer number of users dictate it exists, it is just a lot less frequent). The reason for that, i believe, is that your friends on Facebook would hold you accountable. They would tell you it’s not on to behave like this, they might even unfriend you. So there is a risk of consequences and the average human being stops and thinks before doing something, if there are potential consequences.

Now take something like NeoGaf, Reddit or any random internet gaming news site. People create anonymous accounts and there are no consequences. This is when the worst in human beings comes out. Things they would never say in front of friends and family, things they instinctively know are wrong to utter, come out in a fit of rage and anger. Anonymity on the internet removes a certain check-box. It removes the need to stop and think “what would my friends/family say”. It removes the need to stop and think about possible legal ramifications if a threat or comment was made in real life. People have been convicted for abusive language and death threats made in real life.

It is not enough to ask users to stop and think if they would make a certain statement in real life. Users won’t stop. The fact that they are anonymous is so ingrained, the power they feel about being able to say whatever they feel like, without the fear of consequences, is too alluring. Some sites and forums use a voting system to allow a certain user policing. Comments voted down will disappear from view for example, discouraging abusive comments. On a lot of moderated forums bans and blocks can be used, but they only work in the short term. Services like Twitter, in the name of freedom from censorship (which in theory is a good thing), continue to allow users to abuse other users, even issue death and rape threats. All you need to do is check Anita Sarkeesian’s twitter space. As far as i know, nobody abusing her in this manner has faced any kind of consequence so far.

As my generation is growing older and face to face interaction is taking more and more of a back seat, the next generation of internet users is growing up with this lack of accountability. It is natural for them to be anonymous, hide behind gamer handles and harass those they disagree with. In fact they feel entitled to this and they never ever are put in a position where they have to consider other people’s views, thoughts, beliefs and requirements. In short, people are getting more narrow minded rather than more open minded.

So what can be done about this? After debating my last blog entry with a good friend of mine, he planted a seed in my brain. A seed of a possible solution. So i can’t claim credit for the idea, i am just fleshing it out a little.

In theory it is possible to use the very systems that make the internet great to enforce a certain measure of social accountability. All the hooks and functionality are already in place, it is just a matter of someone having the balls, and the money, to bring it all together and form an underlying architecture will allow for a certain level of internet decorum. Many sites and services at the moment allow users to sign in with their Facebook details (i.e. Spotify, Songkick, Eurogamer etc.). This is currently mainly done to allow ease of use as well as to collect further marketing data and, i the long run, make money. But it is that very functionality, linking a user to an existing real life profile, which can enforce a certain level of social accountability!

Imagine if, going forward, people had no choice but had to use either a Facebook or Google+ account to sign into the vast majority of services on the internet. Twitter, news websites, gaming websites, gaming console profiles – the works. Every comment, every tweet, every reply would show who posted it. Each comment would be a public statement by the person who made it – an open public statement: “This is who i am and this is what i think!”

Additionally every single comment and interaction would be posted on the news-feed on Facebook or Google+, so that friends and family can see and read comments, statements and tweets. After all – if you post it in a public domain, why would you not want your friends, family and co-workers to know?

Imagine this in full flow. Imagine if every single comment you make online is peer reviewed by your friends and family and you are judged and evaluated on those comments. Wouldn’t that be something? This accountability would usher in a new wave of respect i feel. People would actually pause and think “should i really post this? is this how i really feel, or do i just post this because i am angry right now? what will my friends think?”. This can make all the difference.

Heavy handed policing and censorship is bad, which is why i am not totally against Twitter not taking action. The freedom to post ones opinion, regardless of what that opinion is, is important. But i think what should be removed is the ability to hide behind anonymity. If people want to post hurtful comments, if they want to rant and flame, if they want to harass and threaten others, they ought to do so when everyone knows exactly who they are. Let the internet be policed by peers. Let peer pressure work it’s wonders. I think the results would be quick and they would be permanent.

All the functionality is in place. All the hooks and systems are there. All it needs is some person or some company, or a group of companies and people, to step up and make it happen. Facebook and Google should get their heads together and work with some of the biggest names in news (gaming and otherwise). Enforce login using a verified account and get this thing rolling.

Yes, there will be people setting up fake accounts, there always are. But the more hoops you throw in the path of someone who wants to be abusive on the internet, the better. The more hassle it is for them to be abusive, the higher the chances they won’t bother.

Us vs. Them

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I have been blogging about entitlement a few times before. Gamers feeling like they are entitled to content, feeling like they have the right to behave a certain way. We certainly saw a lot of that attitude in the last few weeks after Facebook announced it had bought up Oculus.

The outcry from gamers (many of whom never supported the original Oculus Kickstarter in the first place) was out of any proportion and even involved death threats to one of the Oculus founders. This is where we are at right now, in the 21st century, with widespread internet access and no ramifications for behavior at all.

People can hide behind their anonymity (take my own case, this blog as an example), and write/say what they want, with little to no consequences. People can make death threats and harass others via services like Twitter and won’t even get their accounts closed down, let alone face criminal charges. Prosecution is extremely rare and from what i gather it’s mostly terrorism which seems to be taken seriously. I guess this might change if a game developer  or their family actually will come to harm.

But it should not have to come to that. Why should people like Luckey and others be exposed to this hatred in the first place? What kind of action warrants such hatred, directed not only at the developer alone, but also their family, friends and even pets.

What is it that makes gamers so fanatical over an entertainment product? what is it that makes them blow up so massively that they threaten someone they have never met before, someone who works hard to produce more entertainment, with rape and murder? I honestly believe that it is this sense of entitlement which has been growing among all human beings over the last 20 to 30 years. I would argue that my parents never really felt entitled to anything. They worked hard for everything they got and i would guess most people born in the 70s and early 80s would say the same about their parents.

I was born in the 70s. By the 90s i already felt entitled, at least to some things. I felt entitled enough to consume some entertainment for free, copying video tapes (a friend of mine had all Star Trek episodes on original tapes and i copied them). By the end of the 90s it was Napster and free music download. Throughout, on my C64 and later on PCs i was playing pirated games, expecting games to be free, feeling entitled.

Now think about kids being born in the late 90s and early 2000s – bombarded with entertainment and marketing. Is it any wonder the current generation of gamers in the mid to late teens, and even early 20s, feels a personal slight when a developer does something they don’t agree with? Change the sniper rifle slightly and the gamer crowd goes nuts.

I honestly have no idea on how to fix it. Perhaps we can’t fix it. Perhaps it’s a runaway train. Consumers presented with too much choice, developers constantly trying to make everyone happy, in order to get the sales needed, instead of delivering games they want to deliver. I am not sure we can change this internet experience without consequences. Thanks to sites like Imgur, twitter, facebook and similar, it is easier than ever to spread a rumor, with no need to back it up with facts. Facts no longer matter, telling “your side” of the story no longer matters. What matters is information, “news”, regardless if they are true or not, spreading like a wildfire, generating hits, links and thus revenue. It’s much better to get 10.000 hits on a rant that  does not contain a single shred of evidence, than 10 views on a properly researched article.

So what can we developers do? Well first of all i think we developers can treat each other with respect and tolerance. Because that is actually rarely the case it seems. A bit of friendly banter and competition is natural and actually good, it keeps us on our toes and can spurn us on. But over the last few years i think this banter and competition has slipped down right along with the behavior of our gamers.

Gamesindustry.biz was (and to a degree still is) a good source of industry news, interviews and opinion pieces. But ever since the site opened up a comment section for each article, i feel the site has degraded. There are some guidelines in place and open hostility is not tolerated, but what the comment section shows is very much an ego centric attitude and open hostility to all that is “other”. There is very little tolerance for views which are different, for developers who happen to follow a different path.

Nothing illustrates this better than an article on F2P i think.  The very first comment reads:

“because you cannot have the same fun for 50 dollar in a f2p game. the same amount of fun (=same kind of round game experience) usually costs 500-5000 dollar in f2p games and these games have a less good quality in compare to AAA games. “

Grammatical and spelling errors aside, it is the absoluteness of the comment that strikes me. “cannot have”, “500-5000 dollar in f2p”, “have less good quality” – absolute statements, not really allowing for exceptions, let alone a different view. The person behind this comment lives in the extremes. That person does not consider the literally hundreds of AAA games that turn out to be rubbish, but where the player has no refund available (and there was no demo). It does not consider the hundreds of F2P titles where players can get hundreds of hours of fun in return for not a single cent spent.

In short: narrow minded. A lot of developers these days seem to be so absorbed by what they do and what they believe in, that they simply do not care about what other people think. They don’t even consider that another view might be possible, that something can be seen from different angles.

Not everyone is like that of course, and gamesindustry.biz is not all bad (also i am just using it as an example, the likes of gamasutra etc. are exactly the same). There are some moderate voices out there, preaching and practicing tolerance, understanding that game development, like the market it tries to reach, must be diverse and that there is room to for pretty much every game we can think of.

So you don’t like F2P? That’s totally fine! Nobody forces you to like the concept or even play a single F2P game! F2P games will not kill off AAA games development. All sorts of games, developed in all sorts of ways, for all sorts of platforms and with all sorts of monetization models, can quite happily co-exist.

As an industry we are reaching a wider market than ever before. In 2006 people were laughing at F2P. Today F2P has brought people into the gamer fold that would never in their life would have bought a console, let alone a boxed AAA game. As with everything else in life: how can diversity be a bad thing? How can more choice, more options, more diverse content, be a bad thing?

So what’s the moral of this post? I don’t know. I really don’t. Personally i am just fed up with this Us vs. Them attitude between a lot of developers, in particular developers who create along the lines of more modern monetization and design ideas, compared to more traditional developers. I am fed up with developers not respecting each other’s opinion and work. I am fed up with people feeling like their opinion matters above all others. And i am fed up with gamers thinking they own developers or have the right to threaten and harass them, just because they spent some money on an entertainment product.

Perhaps if developers start working together, respect each other and support each other, we can present a unified industry and ensure those we produce games for can’t act the way they do now.

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