Posts Tagged ‘dlc’

GamingMMORant

Dear Indie Game Developers…

Last year for E3, I made a post with a few guidelines I would have liked game developers to keep in mind while practising their craft. Naturally, nothing changed but I think I’ve found a new audience to plead to.

Steam Greenlight

A few days ago, Valve launched Steam Greenlight, a customer facing round-table where game developers (typically small companies and indie set-ups) get to present their digital babies and a raving horde of juvenile imbeciles Steam customers either rip the living shit out of them or fawn like drooling nincompoops critique and provide feedback in the hopes of uncovering potential hits and grooming them to take their place in the Steam store itself. It is, of course, a colossal travesty of ignorance and fanboy excess an exciting process to witness! So…

Dear Indie Game Developers…

…not every RPG game has to have blue text boxes and a white font. We get it, it’s ‘retro’! It’s like Final Fantasy! But you’re also drowning in a sea of similar clones who all had the same bright idea.

…you’re not a huge developer with hundreds of employees churning out mountains of quality assets and hours of content for a triple-A game. Stop pricing your slightly-better-than-shareware like it was the next Fallout or Call of Duty.

…I know ‘Hunt for the Ember Lodestone: The Challenges of the Fire-Scorched Demon Mistress from El-quor-Marankta Seven‘ sounds impressive, but unless this is the latest long-awaited part in a hugely successful series of games, maybe you should lay off the subtitles and pick something a bit more snappy/memorable.

…yes, Minecraft was very successful, yes, it wasn’t a wholly original game and yes, Notch has more money than he knows what to do with now. But, no, not every game has to be a multi-player adventure sandbox world-building survival-based voxel game. Basically, if you find yourself appending ‘-craft’ to the title of your game, you’re a joke.

…and while we’re at it, no Slender clones, no Super Meat Boy clones, no Terraria clones and no Day-Z clones.

…just because every major game these days seems to have a near-endless trail of DLC in its wake, like an incontinent goldfish, doesn’t mean you should. Your original content barely qualifies for DLC status alone so why do you think you can piecemeal it even further? You’re offering a game that doesn’t have the backing of hundreds of artist/coders/designers/musicians behind it – you should be offering more, not less (for more money).

…stop using the ‘retro‘ tag as an excuse for producing terrible graphics, ear-grating music and one-dimensional gameplay. We know you’re not really paying homage to anything – you just suck. That goes for ‘old-school‘, ‘classic‘ and ‘nostalgia trip‘ too. You’re not fooling anyone.

…your pretentious experimental art/thought journey ‘game’ might have gone down great guns at Indiefest 2004 but please don’t get too upset if it doesn’t appeal to the knuckle-draggers just coming down from a 8-hour L4D2, CoD, TF2 stint.

…enough with the silhouette artwork already. Yes, Limbo did well and looked great but they used it for atmosphere. You’re just a lazy bastard who can’t be bothered to spring for proper graphics.

…maybe your droning, nasally voice isn’t really suited for promoting the game in your trailer. You’d probably do fine for YouTube unpacking clips, rants about how Blizzard screwed you over in the last patch and narrating your clan’s new CoD kill-fest but for your game, just stick to gameplay clips and music. It’s for the best.

…while we’re on the subject, you and your friends aren’t voice-actors. The professionals get paid for a reason.

…six players at the same time doesn’t make your game an MMO project.

…just because whatever engine you’ve licensed can do a screen full of glows, motion blur, bloom effects and depth of field, it doesn’t mean you have to go crazy using them all. Calm down.  And no amount of post processing will cover up terrible graphics, anyway.

…spell-checker. Use it.

…let me guess, your game is all about zombies, right? Yeah, well, so is 95% of the other games on Greenlight. The rest are hidden object games or dating sims.

…you might have done well with your sub-Facebook game on the iPhone/Android or whatever but people might be expecting a little more meat on the bones of their PC games.

…people will figure out you’re nothing but hot air if all you’ve got to show are renders of art assets. Maybe wait until you’ve actually written some code before trying desperately to stoke the hype train up to speed?

…engines. Nobody cares you used the Unreal/Cryengine/Unity engine for you game as long as it’s good. You don’t get a special badge for mentioning it.

…engines. Nobody wants to play a game you churned out after ten minutes with some tatty game-maker. You might think you can get away with not mentioning it but we all know.

Thank you.

Gaming

Too good to finish?

The Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword logoSo there he was, the fabled hero, Link, fresh from yet another dungeon-related victory and feeling rather chuffed with himself. It’d been a long journey – he’d travelled the length and breadth of Hyrule, picked up many new skills along the way and met a host of strange and interesting creatures. And now he is riding towards the castle for the final few encounters in what had been a truly epic adventure.

He reins Epona to a stop. This is it. On the horizon, the castle where his journey will surely end. The inevitable conclusion. It’ll all be over. The horse digs at the dirt, impatiently. Slowly, he turns Epona and returns the way he came. Maybe he’ll sort out this whole mess tomorrow instead… maybe next week.

This happens to me sooo often. Not just in LoZ games, either. Open-world crime capers, hardcore RPGs and the occasional story driven FPS all cause this pre-conclusion dithering in me. I just can’t finish them! No, that’s not true. I can finish them. What I mean is… I don’t want to finish them. I’m enjoying the experience so much that I’m loathe to see it end. But games aren’t typically endless so before you know it, there’s a final curtain call rushing headlong towards you just itching to spoil all your fun. Not finishing is my utterly self-defeating way of delaying that eventuality.

Sure, some games continue after the final boss battle but more often than not, in those cases, where you were once saviour of the universe, you’re now relegated to nothing more than ‘caretaker’, sweeping up the debris of forgotten collectables and tick-boxing the less engaging sub-quests. NPCs who were calling on you night and day for assistance with their downright dangerous shenanigans have suddenly either turned mute or disappeared completely. This isn’t how things should end – I saved everyone!

I suppose in some ways I should be thankful for the appearance of DLC, in that they extend a game’s life beyond the death rattle of the main antagonist. It’s good but it’s never quite the same. Even ignoring all the DLC that is pure kick-that-shit-out-the-door-for-the-suckers-who’ll-buy-anything grade, the good DLC rarely recreates the same feeling you got from the original content. They’re often lightweight affairs, lacking the key characters, locations and that sense of interconnectedness that made the main game so enthralling. I guess that once the general public’s palate improves and they stop accepting mere horse-armour (seriously, I’m full-on backing that phrase as the catch-all term for ‘absolutely shit and frankly embarrassing DLC‘), and demanding more meat on their downloadable bone, things will start looking up.

The worse thing about this last-minute all-stop habit I’ve formed when it comes to completing games is that more often than not, when I finally do ‘man up’ and load my last savegame, I’ve usually forgotten what the hell I was doing, where I was going and my muscle memory for quickly dispatching groups of shadow beasts has since been replaced with one for capping gangsters rolling through my turf. On some occasions, I’m so bewildered that it’s led me to restart the entire game from scratch. Yeah, finishing a game sucks but stumbling haphazardly through the ending, filled with confusion about what is actually happening, spoiling the whole shebang, is much, much worse.

I’m not sure I know the solution to my problem but with the new Zelda title, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword currently sitting in my sweaty mitts, I’m hoping I can overcome my anxiety and finish it without leeeeeeeengthy breaks. Yeah… who am I kidding?

 

GamingRant

DLC me?

CashSo the Steam Holiday Sale ended yesterday (6pm for GMT people round here) and during the event, my heart grew three sizes. And by heart, I mean games collection. It was bargains galore and I feasted, to a budget, which is probably the best kind of feasting to be had. I picked up some Indie classics that I’ve long overlooked, some on-the-fence AAA titles that I just wasn’t prepared to blow 40-quid on when they were first released, a strategy game I didn’t even realise had been made, a couple of FPS titles in the “don’t play them alone, with the lights off during a stormy night if you value your underwear!” variety and some DLC. That’s what I want to have a wibble about today – the DLC.

It’s no secret that I’m a little wary of the DLC bandwagon. Knowing the games industry and the people involved – I’ve always felt the prospect of withholding content that would have normally been part of the regular full-game release and later packaging it as a separate ‘added value’ release at an additional cost just seemed like it’d be too tempting. More money for the same work? Ka-as-they-say-Ching! Is it already happening? Always going to be difficult to say but we know the industry isn’t above trying it on (remember Oblivion’s Horse Armour?). Of course, not all DLC has this tainted vibe. Some of it will be honest-to-goodness extra effort, above and beyond, game expanding content. Of course, we have that murky grey area of proper DLC developed concurrently of the original game, using resources that could easily have been part of the full-game but let’s just stick our fingers in our ears and ‘la-la-la-la-not-listening-la-la’ that concept for now, shall we?

I recently purchased DLC for two of the games I own, both for slightly different reasons. The first game was Grand Theft Auto 4 which I have to say (and will probably annoy some blinkered zealots by doing so), I didn’t enjoy half as much as I did the games from the earlier GTA3 series. For all it’s shine, I felt the core was spinning slightly off-kilter. It just didn’t seem right. The main problem I’d cite would be that driving felt waaaaaaay too loose, as if I was directing barges across an ice-rink. Add to that a game design/mission layout that emphasised long-distance to-ing and fro-ing (drive across two islands to a mission hub, pick up the mission, back across two islands to the mission site, usually involving more driving). They even put toll-booths on the bridges! Throw in an over-reliance on scripted chases (“So, there was no point in me weaving about like a idiot, emptying my entire ammo supply into your vehicle for the past ten minutes – you were unrealistically invulnerable until you passed some completely arbitrary location?“). I know it’s more ‘dramatic’ to have scripted missions but if I have acquired the tools and the skill to complete the mission early, let me. It is a sandbox game, after all, FFS.

Anyway, I purchased ‘The Lost and Damned‘ and ‘The Ballad of Gay Tony‘ as every review I’d seen for them had emphasised how much they improved on the core game. I’ve already consumed the biker gang portion of the DLC but have yet to finish my night-clubbing escapades as Gay Tony’s bouncer/business partner. Of the two, I think I’m enjoying TBOGT more and for the same reason that blighted the main game for me – driving. But, I hear you cry, they tidied up the motorbike handling specifically due to all the ‘in-formation’ posturing you do in TLAD. Yeah, but the way I got around all that mind numbing commuter-sim business between missions in GTA4 was to taxi ride the entire game. Once I realised I didn’t have to endure that lousy snorefest aspect of the game, it was a revelation. One that TLAD stomped all over with it’s insistence that I needed to be staring at hairy biker arses for 90%  of the DLC. So TBOGT wins big time in that respect.

The other game I purchased DLC for was Borderlands, an MMO-esque FPS that I didn’t really think would be my cup of tea but turned out to be a game I thoroughly enjoyed (and would recommend). It has four pieces of DLC out and since I’d heard that ‘Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot‘ was a bit of a weak cash-in and people thought that ‘Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution‘ was a little ‘meh’, I decided to try out the other two – ‘The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned‘ and ‘The Secret Armory of General Knoxx‘.

One thing I’ve noticed playing both these DLC and that’s the desire of the devs to pad out the experience somewhat. There are no fast-travel points within the DLC apart from the one you come in on. In the regular game, you’d wander off to a new zone, splatter whatever needed splattering and then hit the closest fast-travel point back to town to complete your mission. Since new missions would regularly send you back to those other zones, the fast travel points were also handy for skipping ahead to where you needed to be. In the DLC, they’ve tried to artificially extend the lifetime of the content by forcing you to traverse from point A to point Z and all the dreary letters in-between. I can see why they did it but they’re not really fooling anyone and all they managed to achieve is to introduce a major annoyance that hampers my enjoyment of the DLC. It’s more apparent in TSAOGK as it features highways to drive through (again… and again).

While on one mission, the happy little Claptrap announcer informed me that new missions were available to me back at the main hub, two zones away. So finishing up, off I drove. And drove and finally reached the hub, only to be told the new missions take place all the way back in the zone I’d just come from. Desire… to… finish… DLC… ebbing.

All-in-all, DLC can be fun and we’re only going to see more and more of it appearing. We buy it. If you ever get that niggling feeling that the game you just laid a wad of cash down on was a little short just as the devs announce a plethora of upcoming DLC, we’ve no-one but ourselves to blame. And padding? That’ll probably be with us forever too. Sure, there’ll be some stand-out examples of great DLC in the future but for every downloadable self-contained hunk of pure joy, there’ll be a mountain of flimsy, light-weight fluff strung out for much longer than the content can sustain. And we’ll buy that too.

By the way – Happy 2011! Hope it kicks your 2010 in the nuts like I’m hoping it’ll do to my past year.