Sunday, December 15, 2013

If it's in the game ...

It's in the game.

That's actually a slogan from one of the bigger games publishers (who I won't name because I'm boycotting them at the moment). Ok I will, It's from EA and it's a slogan they used a few years ago and it was one of the bigger lies in game publishing. It was supposed to mean that for their sport games, if you could do something in the real life sport then they'd replicate a means to do it in the game.

Did they ? No. Are they money grubbing bar stewards who continue to charge over the odds for inadequate software ? Yes - I was interested in Spore but ... it's a game that was released in Dec 2008 and even then it was rushed out by the publisher before it was ready. And they're still charging full price (£30) for it. That's daylight robbery and is just the worst example.

And there's other crimes like Battlefield 3 and the newest Sim City (even Yogscast can't make Sim City look interesting to play). No ... EA and the other big publishers seem bent on squeezing as much money out of the gamer as they can while only producing minor amendments to their existing franchise (FIFA2014 was literally just a data and names update). Oh and discounting the core Mass Effect 2 game on Steam but not the expansion packs which you can only get through EA. That's about a quarter of the game ... Things like including a minor story arc on the Mass Effect 3 disc and charging extra for access to it.

As an avid games collector, I've noticed a trend in the industry - the publishers will force developers to release their games before they're ready. Sometimes even years (Sports Interactive caved with Championship Manager 3, which never worked even with updates coming over several years). That's evolved into another problem - games are being released dependent on online architecture which simply can't cope with the demand. Most massive multiplayer online games see this problem and it's a problem even infesting single player games (Sim City).

Enough of that though - what am I playing at the moment ?

In a way, that's partly - what am I avoiding playing at the moment ?

There's been a shift in games releases ... Instead of games being pushed out in an unfinished state, they're being sold as "it's not ready yet, we'll finish it later". And you can get these through the usual online download routes. That's another shift, pretty soon the high street retail places won't sell PC games any more because it won't be a valid resale channel. Online may survive due to collectors editions bringing goodies.

I have to be honest, the games playing is partly due to avoiding watching England on the telly failing at the Ashes. The games (and youtube videos) are a good distraction.

World of Warcraft is still the addiction at the moment, although not as much as it used to be. A lot of the challenge has disappeared out of the game. It's too easy to crash through the zones as a single player. The only difficulty is hanging in there while you level (some of the zones are awesome, some are a tough, boring slog) and in having the professions keep up with you. The speed of levelling has increased a little too much. I've needed support from the guild to get me enough Stuff to keep those professions relevant (it's been appreciated and has taken a lot of nausea out of the game).

However, for its flaws (and dodgy endgame) it's still the best massive multiplayer online game out there and hopefully one or two features from the rest will enhance it. I'm comparing to :

Star Wars Old Republic - should have been a single player game but ... EA ... turn it into a subpar online subscription game.
Guild Wars 1 and 2 - interesting quest system in GW2, very poor combat system, curse by stupid jumping puzzles.
Terraria - very meh
And I'm sure there's a bunch more that I've blocked from memory now.

But ... there's some times when I log into WoW, do a couple of quests and get hit by a feeling of wanting to throw myself off a building ... I have to be in the right mood for it. Although if I am in the right mood, I'll do more in a few hours than some players do in a week ...

XCom Enemy Within (the expansion) is the current Not-Warcraft. It's an aliens invade strategy game. That strategy bit is part of the appeal, it's turn based so if you are wanting a slower pace the game will wait for you. It is however ... insanely, brutally hard. I played one of the new scripted missions last night and it was so stressful I was merrily digging a new hole in my arm to join the other ones.

Settlers IV is another one, it has a slow relaxed pace. Not opened that for a while though.

Tomb Raider is one that's waiting for me, I will probably have a go at this after the Enemy Within campaign comes to a conclusion (I suspect that may not be long judging by current horrible-ness!)

There is a new trend though - early access. This is where the developer is up front and honest about their game not being done yet and sends it out into the world with a promise of "Give cash, will finish". It's a nice philosophy but it's dependent on the developer. Some are honest and will pile the time in, some dump and run. Looking at my Steam wishlist (and one that used to be on it) :

Star Lords - a space strategy (something I've always been dominated by)
Dungeon of the Endless - a sci fi randomly generated action game
Darkout and Maia - scifi base building colony games
Starpoint Gemini 2 - a starship command and role play game
Don't Starve - is still in my wish list - I think this actually got quietly released
Project Zomboid - zombie horror survival

All those look quite interesting, although I don't know why I haven't removed Don't Starve from the list. The YogscastSips playthrough was amusing but I don't know how much amusement I'd get out of it.

You have to be extremely careful though with these early access and Kickstarter things. Some, like Don't Starve, are commercial standard games. Better, because some are totally stable and have no bugs. (Battlefield 3 was unplayable on my new system due to bugs). Others, like Stardrive are a disastrous, unplayable buggy mess and are an example of a developer dumping his poo and running with the cash. If you see "Kalypso" anywhere, beware for similar reasons.

Youtube is pretty good as a way of checking these things out. If the game is a buggy mess, the youtuber will tell you. If it looks boring (Sim City), not even the most entertaining commentator can get you interested. If it looks amazing, then there tends to be a lot of excitement about it.

The one I'm very curious about right now is Rimworld. It's a colony building game again and it looks rather interesting. It's pre Alpha (barely playable and without many features) but looks solid.

I'll close there with a :
Years ago - all we had to go on was what was written in gaming magazines, which were often blatant lies built on advertising revenue. These were the people who made me buy Championship Manager 3, which was ridiculously poor. They also said it's next version was stable. It wasn't.
Now - youtube is a much more reliable source of information.

If you're looking at games and wondering whether to part with the hard earned cash ? Have a peek on youtube, see what people think of it.

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