Saturday, 28 September 2013

Gaming was different in my day


Being a PC gamer and console gamer today is very different from what it used to be.  I started out playing games on systems like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, great machines of their time and some fond gaming memories, but for a long time after them I was playing Nintendo and SEGA Megadrive.  Both of these consoles had their ups and downs and I never really fell into the whole console loyalty thing a lot of players used to do.  Hell I had both so I didn't need to pledge fealty to one brand or another, so I missed a lot of this very early factional warfare between gamers.

The PC however was where I found the best experiences to be held.  I started out with a 486 that my dad bought me, complete with Windows 3.1 and a heap of crap from the previous owner that needed wiping.  Still it was good for the time and could run several of the newer PC titles of the age.  Rebel Assault II, Quake and TIE fighter made my early PC gaming days pretty memorable.  Back then i never once considered the graphics to be all that important or the production values or gameplay time versus cost.  Back then you bought PC games, you either enjoyed them or you didn't and moved on.  Mechwarrior 2 in hindsight was pretty basic and it's only real selling point was the awesome 3d graphics of the time.  Released today and it would be considered a poor budget title purely based on it's content alone.

Nowadays players always find something to bitch at.  The introduction of downloadable content being one of the biggest bugbears to date.  Now I agree that Bethesda pretty much soured the idea of DLC when they released that over priced horse armour and pretty much went the wrong way about introducing gamers to the concept of downloadable content.  You see it was Oblivion where you first saw content was cut from the finished product to sell at a later date, look at the Orrery which was behind a locked door.  This door magically unlocked when they sold the text file to open it up for several pounds.  It was this that pretty much turned a majority of gamers against the idea of DLC.  If content was first introduced to gamers as an optional item that was actually created by the developers post launch it would have been a very different picture today. 

Bethesda's example allowed other developers and publishers to do the same thing now because people bought the Orrery, Horse armour and wizards tower.  Why wouldn't they, it was Elder Scrolls a series that is worshipped for some bizarre reason.  Morrowind was the best of that series and has gone downhill ever since the games shifted to consoles, but that's another topic entirely.  No we have developers like Capcom who purposefully kept content locked and charged a fortune to unlock it and have the gall to call it downloadable content, which it wasn't.  Street fighter X Tekken was the breaking point for players, but it was a shame it took such an expensive piece of DLC for people to finally call out the developers on their bullshit.

Of course Capcom aren't the only developer to do this kind of thing, plenty of others do this such as EA, Activision the now dead THQ, the list is large.  I don't agree with the opinion however that developers are still cutting content from the final product to sell as DLC.  Borderlands and it's DLC packs are not cut content, they are planned during development to continue bringing in money but that's it.  If DLC actually added new stuff to the game it would be more acceptable to players.  Maps, skins, boosts and other tertiary items aren't DLC as far as I am concerned because they add nothing to your experience they just gouge your wallet.  Downloadable content should be new story additions, playable characters, skills, expansion packs and more substantial additions that actually expand the game instead of tacking on superfluous fluff.

Preorder bonuses are another issue that I sort of agree with.  Early adopters are fans who should receive some reward for putting faith in a game purely based on trailers, previews and websites alone.  I don't like content being cut though and offered as special bonuses for preordering a game.  Take the new Thief for instance.  They are offering an entire mission as a bonus for early adopters and no doubt this content will be unavailable for those who couldn't afford the special edition or whatever at least for a few months after launch anyway.  Instead of keeping it away from everyone else for so long, why not offer it for sale at launch?  Well that creates another issue as players then feel like they aren't playing a complete game until they own it.  Total War Rome II offered the Greek states culture pack for free for everyone who preordered.  Post launch the pack was available but at a steep £6.99 a ridiculous price for unlocking three factions.  If this was lower it would alleviate the issue a little.

Pricing is the main issue with DLC.  Developers and mainly publishers would have you believe it costs a fortune to make this stuff, when in reality a majority of it is done concurrent to the main game or is content specifically made for post release purposes.  Battlefield 3 premium cost £40 for 5 packs, a knife skin, weapon skins and eguides.  The packs each cost £11.99 so you would save in the long run but the packs are subjective.  Some players will love certain maps more than others and the price suddenly becomes a major issue.  If I could re-do my premium purchase I would opt out and buy Return to Karkand, Armoured assault and endgame.  Close quarters and aftermath both sucked ass for me, but as I said others may have absolutely loved them and hated my choices.  Now Premium wasn't worth the price it asked but it still made a lot of money regardless.  I think it would have made more had it been closer to or on the £20.00 mark, as much as your average season pass.

Season passes, there is an item I fucking hate in the current gaming climate.  This idea that I have have to pay in advance for stuff to be delivered is a joke.  Some games that have them are so short that by the time the content arrives you have long since finished with the game.  Aliens Colonial Marines had a season pass for a game that was short, buggy and was in no way in any position to warrant a long term online player base.  Borderlands 2 and it's season pass was bullshit also.  You got the packs which varied greatly in quality.  Captain Scarlett was crap, Torgue was fuckin' awesome, Hammerlock's was really bad and assault on dragon keep was just dull and added nothing to the Borderlands experience.  But season pass holders didn't get all the DLC for their money, not receiving the creature slaughter dome, skins and Krieg character.  So basically the season pass now doesn't even cover the entire DLC package for a game according to Gearbox and sadly because Borderlands 2 was such a massive hit, other developers will do the same.

I do however agree with downloadable content, if handled right it will keep a game fresh and keep the community talking about your product.  I miss the old days of expansion packs but as the Internet continues to evolve and gaming along with it expands the need to deliver content as it is finished makes sense, especially as consoles become more and more like PC's.  I don't think the whole "vote with your wallet" cry will work because the key part of DLC is that it is entirely optional, you don't need to buy it to play the game.  Still the argument will continue and players will buy it if they want to, it's their right after all. 

Entitlement has taken over the gaming world these days.  Players who think a developer owes them everything and then some has become common online.  A PC game is released that doesn't immediately work like a console game and suddenly the threats of legal action come about.  These people never check their systems to see if it's a problem on their end because that would suggest something was wrong on their end and not the developers and that would be insane.  No developers have to appease these whining, mewling motherfuckers whenever they start to bleat about imbalance, bugs, glitches or additions.  Developers these days must all be saints because the amount of fucking shit they have to suffer through on the average forum is horrendous.  God help any poor bastard on twitter who tries to communicate with the community these days.  The slightest mistake and you receive death threats.  Death threats over a computer game for fuck sake, not something important like civil liberties no the current the state of a game is more important to these people clearly. 

The Internet has sadly allowed these people to think they are more important than they actually are as they congregate online talking amongst themselves, convinced they are speaking for the majority when they aren't.  These people form clans and basically begin to dictate the direction of the game by incessantly moaning at developers for balance changes to suit their preferred style of play instead.  Seriously developers need to stop listening to clan players because they aren't interested in the community as whole.   

It just feels like the Internet as far as gamers are concerned has become a playground of over entitled little shits who got everything they wanted from mummy and daddy and think the Internet will work the same way if they cry long enough.  I guess the generation that grew up with PC's and gaming in general as it was developing appreciated it more and were more forgiving.  Developers are fans of games themselves and know what gamers want so the idea they would create a bad game on purpose is false.  I grew up playing things like the Spectrum through to today and I find myself more forgiving when a game isn't perfect on release.  This notion that PC games released in the mid nineties and beyond where all perfect and never had bugs clearly never played Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries, but it was still patched even back then when dial up connections where the only way to download patches.

Maybe corporate entities like Activision Blizzard, EA, SEGA and more have also changed the landscape and now pressure developers to release products earlier than they should have been.  Total War Rome II was a clear example of this.  Now whether this was SEGA being in need of a cash injection or fearful of low sales because of GTA V I'm not sure but it's clear that if Creative Assembly had their own choice of release dates, they would never have picked September 3rd.

I think this new corporate mindset mixed with the over entitled player base these days has created a monster.  A monster that complains on forums, spouts racist remarks to other players online and acts like the world revolves around them.  Anonymity allows this, if only there was a way to deliver electric shocks to these little dickheads whenever they acted up both in game and on forums, that way they could act up as much as they want but we have a means to let them know when they have gone too far.  A man can dream I guess....A man can dream.

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