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.

A2

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.

A3

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.

Opinion piece by Ash @RGB_RetroBlog RetroGamingBlog’s Twitch

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3 Comments »

  1. Yes, and No. Yes, gamers are an entitled bunch of whining fucktards but no, demanding a working product is NOT entitlement, it is consumerism. We pay for extortionate amounts now for a video game product and they cost even more so to make and yet that money seemingly goes on BS PR stunts and outright lies instead of QA.

    So yes, in some circumstances we are entitled, and in others we are also entitled to demand a better product and service than what is offered as a majority these days.

  2. In my opinion the consumer works hard to earn every penny they spend, and they deserve a standard of quality that the value of that money represents, you pay ever increasing prices for titles that are luxury items and that’s what they are luxury items. It’s not a simple yes no question, it’s a statement of fact if anything. There is nothing worse than paying up to £50 for a game that isn’t worth the value of the disc it’s now printed on, and given the rapid decline of the demo prior to release these decisions simply get harder to make. The only exception to the rule is a free to play title which has the right to a longer development life cycle because you ain’t paying a penny. Imagine if Nintendo released Mario on the NES with jumps that only function every so often, or if half life 1 came out with the crowbar that doesn’t hit anything, it wouldn’t fly then and it shouldn’t fly now. However I’m not going to completely blame the devs, often enough this pressure to hit a release deadline is not of the developer but of the publisher, you need only look at elder scrolls online for a recent example that proves that point.

  3. Two things here, Firstly i have a small background in 3D Environmental and Model artist for videogames, and i dont mean i followed youtube tutorials i actually did it in a college for 4 years, and still do at home on occasion, its a skill that i enjoy but unfortunately dont use proffesionally, and i am in no way an expert, not to take it away from people who learn through youtube tutorials mind, alot very talented people out there.

    Anyway what i want to say on the part of “are we entitled to more?”, it takes a hell of alot of time and preperation to create a vast 3d world like such games as shadow of mordor, or alien isolation. models have to be created, textured, mapped so that the texture fit to the model correctly, they have to make sure they can run in a game engine, so on and so on. those are just a tiny few examples….and i’m not in any way going into detail of how they are done. That is all just to create a model, let alone wether it runs with other models in the game engine, on times its very easy to miss a texture here or there and realise with hindsight that it should have been done a different way. Now before i get ripped a new one let me go on. 🙂

    I am in no way making any excuses for developers releasing an unfinished game, not one bit. Its very disconcerting the way the industry is going where games these days are released with the nature of “we’ll sort it in a patch”, no! this is unforgivable and i honestly believe that most devs are under pressure from the publishers to get the game out, get the game out and make money! This is a growing trend and a crying shame, as it is giving devs a bad name where they could simply take their time and create a beautiful game before they release it. DriveClub at the moment is the epitomy of a game not being thoroughly tested and rushed through to sale, i say rushed even though it was already delayed from being a launch title.

    You could also look at it from a different point of view, many years ago when consoles were released without the capabilites of constantly being connected to the internet, games were released and what you got was all you were going to get. There was no patching games in those days, yes devs took longer to make games and most did very well, but you would also get alot of games where upon released they had game breaking glitches which for some were unplayable or unbeatable. Would patching have helped games in those days? maybe, but the point is patching games after release does help and fix most games, its a breath of fresh air for a game that you love to be fixed of its glitches through a patch.

    My closing thoughts on this though have to fall on the side of “finish the game before you release it”. developers should demand that they are given time to create their true version of a game and not be pressured into releasing to get the sales for the holidays. they have to stop cheating the customer out of their hard earned money and make a bloody game that works! Stop relying on patches to fix your broken game.

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