EA Does It Again!
EA has done it again! The company has not been voted as the worst company in America for a couple of years now, and it seems they have begun to miss the notoriety! That is presumably why the company which is notorious for acquiring developers, draining them of their innovation, before discarding them like broken fetuses on the way out of Planned Parenthood has decided on returning to form by removing Visceral Games with a coathanger!
This is not to say that EA should never close studios. If EA were to decommission Bioware then few could blame them, especially if the forthcoming Anthem should happen to tank. Bioware is no longer a good developer, and thus they do not deserve to be making vidya. Visceral on the other hand seem like they are being punished for playing the hand that EA dealt to them.
Visceral turned Dead Space into a multi-million selling franchise with the first two installments, before EA decided to kill it off by insisting on forced co-op and an excessive amount of micro transactions. Following this EA forced them to help out on tired EA franchises like Army of Two and Battlefield. Recently EA had Visceral working on a single player Star Wars adventure, yet apparently at this late stage the EA execs have suddenly got a bee in their bonnets about turning the game into a Destiny-esque experience, and so they have handed it over to EA Worldwide – a studio which specialises in sports games:
“Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”
Visceral was a studio which specialised in making great single player games, and had even hired Amy Hennig, the creative force behind Soul Reaver and Uncharted, as the creative director of the game. A great single player game is what would keep players coming back for a long time, whereas yet another multiplayer Star Wars game is something which will be switched off in a couple of years time, leaving nary a trace behind!
Activision Patents Wrongdoing
EA might fancy itself the front runner for this year’s Golden Poo (TM), but they certainly have some stiff competition from Activision. It is almost like in response to the previous story an impressed Warner Bros. Interactive loudly proclaimed “Wow, there’s simply no beating EA for worst company this year!“, and in response Bobby Kotick said “Here, hold my beer!”
This week a document has come to light which pretty much confirms that Activision have patented the concept of evildoing! It is one of the most brazen and predatory patents yet seen in gaming, and is designed to manipulate players into purchasing micro transactions through a deliberately coercive matchmaking system.
The way that it operates is that if the player has a history and preferences which indicate that they like using a certain type of weapon, then the matchmaking system will attempt to match them up against a player who has that type of weapon at a much higher level than their own so that they are motivated to go acquire this high level weapon from the store using real money. This all becomes much worse if one considers the fact that many publishes have adopted the “gacha” style of randomised lootcrates with great enthusiasm, meaning that the sought after weapon likely cannot be bought outright, but rather must be attained through luck, in a process which is practically indistinguishable from gambling.
“A system and method is provided that drives microtransactions in multiplayer video games. The system may include a microtransaction arrange matches to influence game-related purchases. For instance, the system may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player. A junior player may wish to emulate the marquee player by obtaining weapons or other items used by the marquee player.
In one implementation, when a player makes a game-related purchase, the microtransaction engine may encourage future purchases by matching the player (e.g., using matchmaking described herein) in a gameplay session that will utilize the game-related purchase. Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases. For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase. This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results.”
And there you have it, folks. The muddy-brown pool of creativity which powers the science of evil! The science of turning customers into helpless hyper consumers! Activision plans to transmute you into Pavlov’s dog, and then rub your belly. Hope you brought your wallet, because it is time to go fetch!
Steam Direct Has Been a Failure
Steam Direct has failed. It was implemented in place of Steam Greenlight last year owning to 2016’s unprecedented number of game releases: 4200. Steam was keen to get the number of shovelware releases down, and thought that by requiring a publishing fee Steam Direct would help eliminate nonsense releases. Sadly that has not transpired, as 2017 is on track to see over 6000 game releases!
Think about that! In a single year Steam will see roughly six times the number of game releases as an average Playstation console will see in its lifetime!
While Steam Direct has been an unequivocal failure, it seems more like a failure of implementation than a failure of concept. The policy change seemed underdone from the outset, as a $100 fee is simply too low to serve as much of a disincentive. Thus, it is not much of a surprise to see Steam Direct failing to this extent. The publishing fee should have always been at least a thousand dollars, if not two or three thousand dollars. Steam does not take a cut of a game’s sales until the publishing fee has been paid back, so any game that actually deserves to be on the platform will not leave its developers out of pocket. Hopefully Steam Direct can be re-calibrated for success, rather than being thrown out with the rest of the bathwater.