I was having a conversation with a co-worker at my paying job today (donate more so Lusi can pay us too) about Diablo 3 and how she did not like it. After listing all the problems she had with the console version of the game, I explained how most issues she had were either fixed in Reaper of Souls, or did not even exist on the PC. Somehow, this made her dislike the game even more because Blizzard had not only produced a bad game (in her mind), but were openly admitting that they had made a mistake by making vast changes to the games mechanics. I feel that the changes improved the quality of the game significantly, but it did get me thinking about the times that ‘improvements’ have backfired in the faces of companies that have tried to fix problems with their products.
Firstly we have Sony Online Entertainment and the changes they made to Star Wars Galaxies. I have written about the crafting system of the game in the past. The crafting professions were part of a skill tree where players earned experience for a profession for every action they took that was associated with it. When enough experience was earned, a skill point could be placed within that tree, unlocking new skills or crafting patterns. This system meant that a single character could master any of the professions in the game, and with a little effort, could chose to give up some skill points to master something else instead.
This system provided a lot of flexibility for players who wanted to experiment with different builds, or tapping in to whatever was the most profitable crafting market. This all changed with the arrival of the combat upgrade, also know as the new game enhancements. This ‘upgrade’ did away with the profession system entirely, instead allowing players to chose from a list of classes, including the elusive Jedi. The player base was only given a mere two weeks notice before the changes hit the live servers, and the change was so radical that it had long-term fans leaving in droves. The game never really recovered from this loss, but still managed to limp along for another six years before being shut down in December 2011.
Moving onto Blizzard, World of Warcraft has never been the same since the days of Wrath of the Lich King. When Warcraft was in its golden age, the game still had some of the complexity from the old days. Cataclysm tried to fix this by simplifying raiding and raid buffs while breathing fresh life into the early game zones. This worked to a degree, but it had the twin edge effect of also stripping most of the interesting content that hung around. Players found that level sixty end game quest chains that took them across the world had been pruned completely. Quests that made even the highest level characters consider how they should be tackled were gone without ever getting a suitable replacement. Pandaria introduced gear scaling to add challenge back into the game, but by that point player numbers had dropped to low to ever see the peak of their glory days.
Developers are also looking to their back catalog to make some cash by selling old games on new systems (Square Enix, I am looking at you), but some try and spruce up their games to take advantage of the advanced hardware on modern machines. Others just try to take advantage of modern market conditions. This is why we get so many big franchises from the past popping up as free-to-play games on mobile devices. EA’s Dungeon Keeper is a prime example of this, as they took a game that fills gamers approaching the wrong side of thirty with a great sense of nostalgia. They then rip away any idea that this could have been a great game by constantly trying to sell premium items to the fans who unwittingly downloaded the title thinking it would bear any sort of resemblance to game it used to be years ago. Remember, this is how EA likes to innovate.
Right, onto Microsoft. I could fill an entire post with ‘enhancements’ that this company has brought into the world. Skype, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 are all prime examples of how they try and improve upon what come before, but for now I will focus on their gaming platform, the Xbox One. When the system was announced to have strict controls that could prevent gamers from playing used games on the system, the internet cried out. We were told that the system needed this feature to be able to work, a line we have heard several times for multiple aspects of the system. Not really though, as what has often happened to ‘necessary’ features of the system, they went away. Not without taking other features too. Like a child throwing its toys out of the pram, Microsoft removed the ability to share games with family and friends citing the necessity of strict controls to make the feature viable.
So, do you think a company should stick to their guns and hand the public a product that fits their initial vision, or would you rather they held up their hands and admit when things do not go as planned? Personally I liked the changes that were made with Reaper of Souls, but I can see how someone would be upset about having to fork out for another full priced title on the console just to get the quality-of-life changes that came free with version 2.0 on the PC. Where do you fall in this argument? Let me know in the comments!