Editorial: Destiny of Service

Does it deserve it? Well, do most games?
Destiny is set to be one of the best selling games of the year. Already…

Regular readers will be happy to know that last week’s fit of nonsense was indeed just that. Having come back to my senses for this week, I would like to discuss something that is already in the minds and hands of many many gamers this week. Bungie’s Desitny launched this past Tuesday after a successful beta earlier in the year but, because Bungie did not turn on each region’s servers until local midnight time, the game also launched with no reviews. Destiny, billed as a game with MMO aspects and with elements of Halo and Borderlands, was heavily advertised as being a content-rich title with persistent multiplayer features. A few days after launch and, having played some of it myself, initial impressions indicate that Destiny was designed to add in many of the features it sold itself on presumably soon after launch. In short and despite being a full price title with no service fees, Destiny looks set to reenforce the trend of games as a service.

Destiny is supposed to be about playing with and against other players online in instanced content in a shooter with RPG mechanics like class systems, character levels and loadouts. It largely fulfills this but cuts it close in terms of its relation to an MMO. Player levels currently cap out at 20, though this is across couple sub-classes that can be switched to, and not all of the environments are currently accessible. What is on offer is likely enough for the average buyer, but the point remains that all of the content depicted was not quite on offer at release and still seems not to be a few days out. Sadly my own experience with the title was limited by how frequent Bungie’s servers took a dump and dropped me from the game. Despite playing on my own in the opening portions of the game, I was still required to keep a connection to the servers or face being dropped back at the beginning of the mission. After a few hours and a few more attempts at signing in and staying connected, I decided I would have to save it for another day. Clearly their servers were being strained beyond capacity and with only so much time to spend on the game in one sitting I decided to move on to something else.

It's also hard as balls, so good luck.
Nuclear Throne is a fine indie title that comes highly recommended, despite being in early access.

But it was not just this new AAA game that has given me reason to worry about games no longer being sold as full products. Even smaller indie titles are running into this concept, if from an entirely different perspective. Developer Vlambeer, makers of Luftrausers and Ridiculous Fishing, has put on offer their latest title for early access on Steam. As our own Bup can attest to, Steam’s reputation lately has been more than marred by the deluge of horrendous perpetually early access titles spawning out of its Greenlight section. Vlambeer, however, does have some reputation behind it and the product they are offering this time, Nuclear Throne, is a very solid one for $13USD. Essentially a Rouguelike top down shooter with various classes and weapon pick ups, the game offers a stiff challenge. My time with it recently was quite enjoyable as I slowly improved my dodging skills and learned how the various classes and weapons work, but eventually I had my fill and moved on. I got to the the end once, died in the new game + mode and called it a day. However, about every week the developer has added to the game one feature or another along the way to the game’s full release. In a way this is not unlike the service-scheme being offered by other games these days, though infinitely more understandable I suppose. In this case my issue was simply not having the time or the interest in going back to the game every time some small addition was made. Perhaps if and when the title exits early access then enough changes will have been made to justify a revisit, but in the meantime all of these updates seem lost on me. And with a development schedule as flexible as “whenever”, it is only likely more examples like this will crop up.

Still looking forward to the next major update, which comes soon and adds a new job.
My Dragoon is as strong as he’s going to get without taking on the insanely hard content.

Even games explicitly designed to be a service, like the very enjoyable Final Fantasy XIV, have a shelf life shorter than their expansions. Having explored the game’s content as fully as I care to, meaning I have leveled a Gladiator and a Lancer to 50 and got my Lancer to item level 95, I find the only reasons I come back to the title at present are to check out the seasonal events posted in between the major updates. So far none of these updates have gotten me into the game again for longer than a couple days, and the seasonal events are barely enough time to fill an afternoon of play. If the seasonal events were not for a limited time and did not also offer unique items I would probably not bother to play again at this point until a major update or expansion. At first the system was fine, and it remains understandable, but once I got to the end of the content it turned into a waiting game for new excuses to log back in. I guess this is just par for the course with MMOs, but I think it highlights an issue with the service model for games. While I appreciate the continued developer support I also begin to wonder if twelve dollars is worth it for that month’s little content update. Perhaps I am just asking the impossible in this case, but at the same time I fear it will not be long before this becomes a question asked of most games.

So if any reader out there cares to make their voice heard on the issue, let me know what your thoughts are on this below. Any little thing is fine, trust me I do not need an essay. Let me know if you have had similar experiences with this or other MMOs, your experiences with other content updates in other games, or something similar. I am getting desperate, folks! I do not even have anything witty to end this week’s post with.

Also, we are still looking for new people to apply. So do that too if you are so inclined.

9 comments

  1. Fret not Mel. We’re reading.
    I’ve only played one “MMO” and that was Phantasy Star Universe. It’s really hard to think of that game as a service because the community when I finally got around to playing was so small that most of the time it was a single player experience.

  2. “So if any reader out there”

    Translated: “Not Lusipurr. Please, not Lusipurr.” TOO BAD.

    “At first the system was fine, and it remains understandable, but once I got to the end of the content it turned into a waiting game for new excuses to log back in. I guess this is just par for the course with MMOs”

    Yes… –to varying degrees. Final Fantasy XIV can provide us a case study in some ways. At its initial launch, there was hardly any content at all. Okay, fair enough, it was a botch. They asked for a re-do and got it, which they delivered upon. But even then, several months after, you know how I fared: I completed the game: every quest, every job, multiple atma and zenith weapons, the best gear available from the highest level raid content, etc. There was nothing left for me to do. And how long did it take? Less than two months of not-very-dedicated less-than-daily play with a couple semi-casual linkshells for the raiding stuff.

    Now, if that is one of the better examples (and I assert that it is), imagine what other MMOs are like. I have no interest in going back to XIV or WoW (I’ve learned, long ago, that seasonal MMO events give you pointless items and are just designed to squeeze another $15 out of you for what amounts to $2 of content and 50¢ of enjoyability), but these are some of the better examples of content delivery. (That said, I do realise that WoW hasn’t had a significant content update in more than a year. It’s dead, for serious MMO fans, and Metzen pooping out a half-finished, already-hobbled Draenor isn’t going to change that.)

    It’s for this reason that I’ve more or less gone off of MMOs. If XIV isn’t the last one I ever play, it’ll only be because some future MMO completely revolutionises the way that the genre functions. At present, even the best examples are a series of repetitive chores which are only made bearable in the long-term by doing them with friends. But I have plenty of genuinely fun things that I can do with friends, so I’m going to play those things instead.

    With the larger problem of games as a service, this is driven by two things: indolence, and greed. If companies can do less work for the same monetary reward, they will. This is how businesses operate: at margins. Less work is less money spent, hence greater profit margins if the income is unchanged. As gamers, we have an obligation not to support endeavours such as these and, I think, most of the readers and staff of this site act accordingly. The problem, then, is the great unthinking mass of uncritical gamers who, driven by social and commercial pressure, buy into everything their corporate overlords serve up, often to the disadvantage of the industry as a whole.

    As I play FF7, and love every moment of it, I occasionally think to myself that such a game could not be made today–could not be delivered like this, today. Every side quest would be DLC. Every weapon would be DLC. The extra characters would be DLC. I wouldn’t be able to sit down SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER, on a device several generations removed, to play it whole, complete, and entire. These profit-driven innovations are the tools by which our narrative, art, and history will be made inaccessible.

    And that is what worries me about the future of this industry most of all.

  3. Thanks, Dice and only Dice because I don’t see anyone else who commented here at all. No one else.

  4. HEY!

    We’ll threaten the readers during this week’s podcast. I’ll set the building on fire. I will.

  5. I picked up Destiny on launch day and I haven’t had any problems connecting with the servers.

  6. There’s a line of code somewhere in my body that causes everything to glaze over the moment Destiny is mentioned. I cannot explain or justify it – maybe others can – but I cannot. I’m already typing this while staring off into space.

  7. Everything I’ve heard on Destiny suggests that it is a competent but underwhelming experience – just like Halo.

  8. To date my connectivity with the game has been much better. However, this is probably because I’ve run a wired connection to my PS3. First time I’ve had to do that, but I’m willing to say it’s a problem on my end (possibly).

    The game itself is indeed quite average. Not worth any real scorn beyond the over-hyping it got. About par for the course with the biggest AAA titles these days, I’m afraid.

  9. If one thing is to be applauded about Destiny, it is that Activision has made sure that the game has sufficient servers to function as advertised. It is a sorry fact that this is a rarity in video game releases.

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