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.
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.
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.