A question brought about by the most inane and insignificant thing, something I especially find myself doing more and more, and I’ll admit right now it is absurd.
Not to cause disharmony with such an obtuse title, but a question I asked myself when I found myself inwardly complaining during my time on the rather wonderful, and most excellent game, ‘Shadow of Mordor’.
So, where could this come from on what is a seemingly flawless experience?
It was at the moment I was leaping from roof to roof under the guise of darkness. Looking up, I saw a plume of smoke bellowing from a chimney, beautifully illuminated by speckled embers that danced around it. I ascend the chimney and rest upon it to realise –
There’s no hole.
What I saw was a flat stone plinth, a texture from which smoke miraculously materialises and then evaporates as it is carried off by the southerly winds of Mordor.
Then it struck me. My initial disappointment, which genuinely broke me away from the moment, made me question why the hell was I even thinking about such technicalities? Why did that even occur or matter to me?
Was I expecting too much? And there it is, the birth of this opinion piece.
I did feel slightly embarrassed after realising such a question would hit me, then that feeling washed over to guilt. A team of talented people created this world from nothing, spent months crafting and coding – and here I was moaning about the lack of ‘detail’. It was such a minor thing in what is great game.
And I’ll say it again, the game is fantastic.
Looking back, as I write this now, it shouldn’t matter, but at the time I was thinking why didn’t they model it properly, or just remove the smoke completely? I then made assumptions perhaps it was down to either time, resources or just plain laziness. The latter being the most offensive to the team I’m sure.
I have seen such debates raged in forums about other games for similar things over the years – whether due to technical bugs or limitations of the hardware. And the bigger the budget and profile of the production, the more scrutiny these games seem to face for minor things. Especially if there’s a fan base surrounding the game.
Then, there has been such things that are not so minor and I can’t help but feel these were known about but pushed regardless due to deadlines. One offending culprit is actually one of my favourite games this year, Alien Isolation. It so badly suffers from levitating objects and horrendous stuttering during cut scenes on the PS4 – something that is hopefully fixed soon, but these eventually accumulate to an experience that is waned as we keep getting pulled out from the immersion to point at strange happenings – and not the good kind.
It would be nice to see stricter rules applied, if an additional month remedies flaws or improves the experience, then why not. The only question raised then would be one of patience. Game delays infuriated fans in the past (Nintendo fans especially).
Taking all the above into account I can’t ever see developers or publishers ever winning a release that appeases everyone, including themselves. The businessman in me says you need to ship a product, then patch it as it’s impossible to predict all the flaws within limited testing on a range of platforms – unless you have time and money. But this approach then breaks the trust of the consumer if defects are widely reported, it can harm not just the game, the lifeblood of the franchise. Battlefield 4 being such an example.
I draw to the conclusion that we have perhaps become a little too self-entitled. Jaded even. Maybe we should focus less on sales and what the companies are doing and try to have fun. But I can’t help but feel we’ve somehow lost that innocence in a day an’ age where everyone seems to know everything before it happens. Like a movie trailer revealing the entire plot before we get to experience it.
That’s not to say the people should remain silent when they feel they are being taken advantage of – but show a little more compassion and understanding.
Perhaps the job of that remains with publishers and developers, where they need to help their consumers understand? No one likes to be labelled ‘fickle’ or ‘brat’, but when you hype a product up to sell it surely it is because they are passionate and excited. No one likes to have the rug pulled from under them – is destroys any trust.
The industry should respect where their income is coming from, and if there is some confusion or backlash on any product, they need to be open and honest and bring the consumer into their world, not use damage controlling marketing speak. The video game industry has a very different consumer base, one that understands some of the technical aspects of the work they create, different from any other industry because in other industries marketing talk can be perfectly valid. But here – it simply make things worse.
Casing point: the Xbox One announcement. It was one such debacle, we all cringed when the marketing speak kept digging Microsoft a deeper hole, one they are still trying to climb out from.
Perhaps a leaf out of the movie industry can be taken here, in that the use of empathy in storytelling is powerful tool, and one that could be used to alleviate a lot of issues. If the industry could translate their own issues to the end user in a manageable humanistic manner then maybe the relationship between them can be harmonious.
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