Editorial: What They Need, Not What They Want

The UBERSITE

It is often tempting to think of Emos as out of the loop insofar as normal concerns are involved, closeted away as they are, writing bad poetry and cribbing pretentious Twitter names on which to hang their hats of emotional profundity (try fecundity). I have recently had to reconsider my position on this however, as several of my mirth-challenged colleagues have pointed out worrying trends in development procedure, both of which I had overlooked. Exhibit (a) is the most recent edition of Hey! Look! Listen! wherein Shambles Motok points to the regrettable development of one of EA’s bean counters identifying game difficulty and a lack of multi-player as being a defect inherent in both Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, claiming that this absence saw both games fall short of their full sales potential. The second melancholic morsel of wisdom for the week came from Lusipurr.com’s own The Fallen Sun, as he waxed lyrical his concern of Ubisoft ceding creative responsibilities to regular gamers, which proved to be quite the HOT TOPIC. These incidents, while each unfortunate in their own right, contribute to something far more noxious and pervasive. I speak of course of the unfortunate current-gen philosophy that contends that every game should be made for all gamers, and provide naught but the most distilled experience of all the currently popular playtypes on their rotating roster of bullet-point fail.

What makes such sentiments so diabolical is their façade of fundamental decency; they have phenomenal face validity. I mean who but the stuffiest old pedant would poo poo moves to make games more accessible to a wider audience? Who but the most insular of mouth-breathing scruff-necked elitists would denounce a developer for providing gamers with more of what they want? It all seems very decent and reasonable, yet it is my contention that it is chiefly these concerns that are responsible for reducing games to the status of grandpa Lusipurr’s favourite term of endearment: grey sludge.

The girls of Valkyria Chronicles II prepare for WAR!! ( where WAR is a metaphor for LUV <3 )

So, who played Dead Space wishing that EA had only seen fit to include multi-player? The simple fact is that when a story-driven action game is designed alongside a multi-player component, one or the other will often be seen as dispensable. How many of us will still be playing Dead Space multi-player one week after launch? Was it really something that Dead Space needed? Is it something worth diverting personnel and capital from the single-player campaign in order to implement? Wouldn’t everyone prefer to play to play Call of Duty, Halo or Killzone instead? It is no matter, multi-player hardly stands to be the most injurious change visited upon Dead Space 2. This time around EA have promised an easier game so that Isaac feels more bad-ass, and have also “improved” the story by giving Isaac a voice and having him remove his helmet to EMOte. In short: EA have changed everything that made the first game work, the lonely, mute everyman of Isaac will now be chatty and overpowered, way to build the tension EA. They think that they can keep the people that they won over with the first game, while fundamentally changing the formula to attract an entirely different crowd of fist-pumping space marines … then again, Sega’s transformation of Valkyria Chronicles into a dating sim went down a treat for our Lusipurr.com Otaku, so perhaps an amalgam of bastardised playstyles is not such a bad thing after all …

EA have demonstrated the method for turning a good game into a generic one, yet to make something truly wretched you really need player input. It is the role of game designers to give players what they need, not what they think that they want, because the two are seldom the same thing. Take Final Fantasy XIII for instance, Final Fantasy players want cutscenes full of explosions, emotionally charged character exchanges and lots of battling, ff has long been characterized by these qualities, and these have always been Final Fantasy’s best qualities, yet this has never been all that the series was- until now. I am inclined to assert that a less is more philosophy will produce a better game nine times out of ten, and it is certainly true that there are no peaks without troughs. And that is really the entire point; if you give gamers too much of what they want, then what they want becomes boring. Further, if gamers are allowed to fill games with their preferred pre-existing playstyles, then that precludes the possibility of original playstyles being created. In short, it stunts the INDUSTRY.

I am aware that I am mounting something of a sensationalist argument with this article, and that there is probably a way for both EA and Ubisoft to safely navigate the pitfalls of mass appeal software without ruining their product, yet I have seen all to many games spoiled by just such an approach. At any rate I would welcome any and all Otaku feedback on the subject of the INDUSTRY’s slide toward mass appeal gaming.

Edit:

EA: SINGLE PLAYER GAMES ARE “FINISHED”.

12 comments on “Editorial: What They Need, Not What They Want”

  1. Gamer input is okay, but listening to gamers for large sections of a game is bad. Why? Gamers don’t know how to design games. Leave game design to the designers, simple as that.

  2. Yeah, when companies create policies and make sweeping decisions about a game’s direction based on market research and nothing else, that scares me. While Uncharted 2 proved that the addition of multiplayer doesn’t have to dilute the main experience, it doesn’t mean that PR ideals deciding the content of the game isn’t a bad path.

  3. Listening to gamer feedback isn’t bad. It would have been nice if Bioware listened to feedback on Mass Effect. Instead of apparently listening and then doing the mirrored Bizzarro World opposite.

    If developers wanted to put out better quality games they’d first put somebody in charge with some idea what they want to make. They would take some input from the other team members, but wouldn’t go with the “throw in any fucking thing somebody comes up with” method used in developing FF13.

    If the game’s story is important and sequels are planned figure the fuck out what you want that story to be ahead of time. Don’t announce the thing as “Part I of an Epic Six Part Motherfucking Series!!!” and be surprised when you pull a Xenosaga/Too Human. Make the games self-contained and able to stand on their own as complete stories.

    And don’t charge $60 for a game and then have the balls to rape the shit out of your customers with DLC for $50 more. Particularly, when it’s an unlock code for shit that’s on the disc.

    Unrelated Note: Somebody recommend me some old school (or in that style) RPGs. Assume I’ve played NES/SNES ones along with any PSX game (which I wouldn’t really consider “old school” for the most part) that isn’t totally obscure.

    i r teh bored. ; ;

  4. Um, Mass Effect 2 had better sidquests, far fewer recycled buildings, and no Mako car. Basically fixing all the major complaints, so…

  5. It also completely gimped the character skill trees, so I wouldn’t hold that up as a shining example of mass appeal software done right. I live in fear of Dragon Age 2 being given the same treatment.

  6. Mass Effect 1 was a Western RPG that looked like a shooter.

    Mass Effect 2 was a shooter that had some Western RPG pinnings (mostly under the hood).

    I personally didn’t have any problem with the Mako, but I played on the PC which apparently had better controls. But if you didn’t like systematically driving the Mako back and forth along every random planet in a system to get minerals and crap…the planet scanning was an improvement? Maybe holding ‘Scan’ and moving the cursor was exciting and riveting gameplay experience on the 360, but it was boring as shit on PC. And you needed to do an awful lot of it to get sufficient minerals for upgrades. There was a patch that reduced it, but it was still tedious, boring, and the results were pretty random.

    The Citadel went from OMGHUGE and daunting to explore in ME1 to like two waiting rooms and an office in ME2. It’s supposed to be a massive fucking spacestation. There’s more explorable closet space at my small, crappy house than there is explorable space on this massive space station in ME2. (No, I won’t take the handwave, “lol Sovereign did it!”)

    I think Yahtzee reviewed both and probably laid out most of the complaints I had with ME2. I liked both ME1&2 despite Bioware seeming to take precisely the wrong lessons away from ME1 when they made ME2.

  7. Also, the final boss in ME2… Seriously? Giant monsters with blinking “f— me” lights were cool in 1991 in Lifeforce.

  8. I actually almost completely agree. I had no problem with the mako, and I was heartbroken when the citadel was gimped.

    I was just pointing out that the major complaints were, in fact, addressed; despite what was nerfed.

    Still, I’m in the same boat that Mass Effect 2 definitely felt watered down in the stat-building department. I hope the 3rd can bring the much better cast and performance with the better back-end and sense of wonder that the original brought. (Ilos and the Citadel > any area in ME2).

  9. I don’t see the sense in watering it down when Bioware games tend to offer an auto-levelling option …

    I just hope that DA2 doesn’t follow its lead, I like having lots of nice things to purchase with my level-up points.

  10. Dragon Age seems to be very self-aware in that its the more “hardcore” RPG. Mass Effect, for all its depth and wonderfulness, is definitely its more mainstream title.

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