In the past couple of decades, the world of videogaming has shifted considerably from one extreme to the other. The progress made on a technological standpoint alone can be considered a leap from Earth’s surface all the way to Mars and back again, and the millions of crossroads that have been walked by developers only lead to more intersection as to what to do next. Even though the progress has been astounding, there’s still something that resonates deep from the bowels of gamer community, a growing unrest of sorts, that seems to be growing each and every release.
This resonating cry is more or less the same with every game that rolls off the production line and onto the shelves; Videogames are getting worse.
With growing popularity, an evergrowing percentage of the world’s population is getting into gaming, comes a growing demand for more games which appeal to more people. The growing trend in this movement is that quantity is overpowering quality. Now, I’m here to defend videogaming, pointing out it’s obvious saviours amongst a legion of failures, but it’s something that even I can’t deny. In this column, I want to light out a couple of notable changes I’ve seen in the many years I’ve spent holding a controller or smashing my keyboard.
Before the year 2000, many developers were in charge of their product. They made a mockup and a general idea, tried to appeal to a distributor to arrange financing and distribution to retailers, and they in turn fixed up most legal issues surrounding a game and it’s promotions. This is how it always has been, the distributor took as much work off the developers as they humanly could so the developers could finish up their product as fast and complete as possible.
Nowadays, however, you see a shift in that agreement. As of some time, distributors have become more and more involved in the game development process, setting a release date to their liking, optimizing efficiency for maximum profit and altering certain aspects of games to better suit the distributor’s corporate image. Now I do believe that certain steps should be make by a distributor to ensure the final product is beneficial for both them and the developer, and I have to admit that some games aren’t really suited for certain distributors, but that’s just my point of view on survivability as a company.
As a gamer, I’d like to see more time spent on the game itself and less on creating a hype around a certain title, or rushing it to completion by cutting certain parts of the game or denying a product extensive bug testing/fixing. A prime example of one of the first games that had to suffer this torment is Star Wars; Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 had an immensely populare prequel, high hopes to fulfill, a genius development team backing it’s creation and a powerfull franchise to fuel it’s sales. The final product however, although a solid game, was incomplete and ridden with tiny little gameplay-crushing bugs. A quick sift through the game’s data files after installation quickly reveal a treasure trove with several hours of cut dialogue and cutscenes, two entire planets which you never encounter in the game and several items and NPCs that only see the light of your monitor if you open them in some form of editing program.
The story was cut short and felt incoherent and rushed, especially near the end of the game’s storyline, and some references ingame still point to that cut content.
Everything you’ve read here, was cut due to ‘time constraints’ according to the game’s publisher. In other words, they forced the developer to wrap it up so it could be released for the next financial season in order to chip in a few more bucks of tax deduction when the final paperwork has to fly through.
But, like I stated before, I’m not here to join the massive chanting about how games are declining due to these circumstances, I’m here to point you all to companies which I deem are worth the money you put in to them. Companies that are among the few remaining developers that can turn to a developer, and flip them off when they start making demands about releasedates, content or updates.
Blizzard is the prime example and king of these developers I speak of. Blizzard has always delivered complete and solid games, virtually bug free, complete storylines and brilliant graphics. Blizzard has upheld it’s strict ‘It’s done when it’s done’-policy up to this date and has never turned any gamer down in any way. Recent issues regarding Starcraft 2’s copy protection have met with some early resistance, even on this site by a fellow columnist, but I’d like to point out to those people, that a company like Blizzard will put everything they earn from a product back into the next. The only reason Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 look so appetizing is because they have World of Warcraft, Starcraft and the earlier Warcraft titles fueling their resources in both money and experience.
Another powerful example would be Square-Enix. There is no RPG more succesfull in it’s long career, than Final Fantasy, and each Final Fantasy game shines brightly through the myriad of muck that litters the gaming universe. Sure, there are exceptions on who likes which Final Fantasy best, but if you just sat down for each Final Fantasy with a clear and open mind, and no other Final Fantasy titles as comparison, each installment is a masterpiece on it’s own.
Capcom also brings out the best in games, as it takes daring and sheer developing skill to pave the way for over-the-top Japanese action games and works of art like the Resident Evil series, Megaman and Street Fighter. Same hail goes out to Konami and Namco, respectively for Metal Gear and Soul Calibur.
But what, in the end, are we to do about this? Do we boycot certain developers or publishers? Or should we just sit by and moan ever louder untill they appear to get it when they see their sales drop? No…
The best thing we as gamers can do is to unite and start being critical. With times changing, it’s also natural for everything else to change with it. My point of view on this whole ‘evil publisher’-idea, is that nothing harms a company more than a loud, strong outcry that put’s the facts on the table. Magazines are guilty of having their grades influenced by the game’s production budget, hyping of games sets you up for ever bigger dissappointments as they get more cunning in showing you exactly those parts of the game you want to see, even if it’s only 0,0001% of the final product. 99% of all gamers who say developers are being pushed by their evil publishers are gamers who fell for the initial stunt they pulled by getting you pumped up about it in the first place.
It’s almost like McDonald’s, they make you want it so desperately by making it look so darn appetizing, but as soon as you delve your teeth in it, you realize it’s rubber meat on foam buns.
The best defense against evil publishers is, and always has been, to nip things in the bud and be ciritical about the final product and to let your voices speak out in unison about one product, and not just by generally murmurring in an unintelligable buzz that publishers are evil. Write a collective letter, post things on big websites (not just the publisher’s own forum, where they can just moderate you out), and just don’t let the commercial hype get to you.