They Want More Money – The Good and Bad of Developer Tactics.


Gaming has been going on a bit of a downward spiral lately, while there’s been plenty of good games there’s also been plenty of bad ones or at least ones that merely seem unpopular. Its an undeniable truth that as games get more graphically intensive they take more time and effort to make therefore costing far more money. However some developers try far too hard to make as much as possible, sometimes enough to effectively kill whatever they made.  I will be talking here about a lot of things that developers do, what’s good or bad about it and when it’s obvious they’re going too far. Starting with something not directly money related: Hype.

Hype is like Alcohol, the more you have the worse the hangover and it might just kill you. (P.S. I actually hate alcohol.)

For those that don’t know what hype in gaming is it’s essentially when people really look forward to playing something (usually unreleased) because they believe it’ll be amazing. I could say that practically all companies try doing it for every product ever but its nowhere near as dangerous as it can be to the gaming industry. In fact its partially the consumers fault as well for constantly buying into it, you don’t see people going crazy over toothpaste because some apparently important dentist told you its good so why do people get won over at events so easily. Either way it needs to be adressed.

To create hype is to create false promises and like weeds will continue to grow until its out of control. From what I’ve seen there are 4 possible factors why we get more hype in videogames:

  • Firstly there’s the unavoidably expensive price of the videogames in the first place, compared to movies which can be rented for as low as £3 while a lot of videogames these days can go up to £60 (and probably more) and therefore its obvious people want their money’s worth.
  • Secondly despite all the noticeable screwups AAA games are still as trusted as ever and merely being in a big company nets you high expectations. This almost blind trust also extends to two other examples mentioned below.
  • Thirdly there’s the hype created when a developer (single person or group) known for making good games announces they’re making another. This can involve almost anyone including both indie and AAA devs but the most effected are probably the popular developers that have left the company for various reasons as many assume they can still make games of as high quality as before.
  • And lastly is buzzwords and promises, both slightly different but almost always used together to create hype. This ranges from innocently believing people will enjoy it to (idiotically) stating that your game is above others in some way (unique mechanics, world size, graphics etc).

The first 3 don’t seem to be the developers faults but its definitely their fault for making use of it and while it may seem like a really good way to make money it’s obvious how damaging it is. As long as a game isn’t absolutely amazing people will be disappointed and therefore ‘hate’ it ultimately killing the game. Theres been plenty of examples too. From what I know one of the only good cases of hype is apparently The Last Of Us although I haven’t personally played it.

The most recent bad (and almost impressive) example was that of No Man’s Sky made by a small team on Indie developers known as Hello Games. While I never watched their reveal I heard the promises they made were large like boasting a huge universe to explore and tonnes of unique creatures to discover which in turn was apparently misinterpreted by some people. Either way the end result (from what I’d heard) was a seemingly empty universe filled with cookie cutter creatures and enviroments, lots of pointless grinding for no reason and not even a hint of multiplayer. Despite promises of future updates it seems it was far too late and a huge 90% of players had already stopped playing after a mere week.

Other examples would be the Duke Nukem game that took forever to develop but barely anyone liked and Battlefield 4 which had a really shitty story and still has noticeable glitches (because truthfully its a multiplayer only game). Although honestly if I put all the examples it’d be a mile long.

Future games being hyped include Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild which is currently hyped as possibly the best in the series and Bloodstained which has something to do with a former Castlevania developer. There is also a way hype is used way before games are made though and that is Crowdfunding which is the next topic.

Despite the money that went into it gamers got back something that doesn’t even seem complete.

Crowdfunding is just as it sounds, getting funding for various types of content by whatever random stranger decides to throw some money in. It’s mostly a good thing funding products that would otherwise not be made due to costs and sometimes even helping people. However like most things it was destined to be abused, nowadays so called Indie devs have been using it to essentially sell concepts and it has honestly gotten out of hand. Some of the more notable crowdfunded projects have one thing in common, they’re lead by someone popular that used to be part of a bigger company but is now trying to work as an indie developer.

Thats what Mighty No 9 was, a game promised by former Capcom developer and Comcept owner to be a spiritual successor to Mega Man which at that point seemed fully dead. Honestly if I wasn’t poor I would of probably put in a some pennies myself, not only did the concept art look awesome but I couldn’t help but be reminded of  Cyborg 009. However people that did soon regretted it, after an insane amount of delays players were greeted with a short kinda generic game with graphics completely different than what was originally promised and cutscenes with seemingly non existent animation.

This obviously didn’t put people off though, despite this and the many rushed stuff trying to get crowdfunding there have been some good ones. 3 notable crowdfunding successes are Wasteland 2, Grim Dawn and Pillars of Eternity which all got very high review scores upon release.

Games that have been crowdfunded but not yet released are Yooka Laylie and Bloodstained which deserved their money for one reason, they actually provided proof. I still haven’t been able to play the Shenmue franchise but for whatever reason good or bad no ones mentioned Shenmue 3 for quite some time and I consider that a bad thing (is it already released?). Next topic is Preordering, another time when developers want your money before you can play the game.

The scheme got scrapped luckily so those that preordered got everything on the picture.

A Preorder is exactly how it sounds, basically ordering/buying something before its actually released so that it will get sent to you as soon as possible. It started as something rather innocent, after all if you preorder you’re less likely to forget about buying it or it going out of stock. However people started to get wary of it so in desperation companies started offering extras to those that paid early and in that lies the problem.

While most of the extras are honestly insignificant there are some cases where people may feel like content is being held hostage although its usually buyable later as DLC or a microtransaction. The worst types of preorders are the type that don’t even give you everything on offer, either by making some content store/console exclusive or forcing you to choose between different options. An example of this is the “Augment your Preorder” scheme that Square Enix used for their game Deus Ex: Mankind Divided which had many problems leading to it getting scrapped, not only would other people of needed to preorder for you to get stuff you could only choose 1 thing per tier meaning you were missing out on something. Luckily though consumers saw through this and those that preordered or got the Day 1 edition got all the items. Next is something I believe is worse than preorders in a way, Limited/Collectors editions.

Do you want to fork out loads of money for a cool mini fridge? Well you can’t now.

A Limited or Collectors Edition of a game is essentially a bundle which includes the game and something else alongside it, sometimes its something simple like an MP3 soundtrack and a bit of concept art on disc while other times you get incredibly well detailed models of an in-game character or item (for a much larger price of course). At first this seems innocent but it sadly has many problems.

To make something limited means there isn’t going to be many of them, this creates panic and ultimately the items seem worth more than they actually are but only if the game turns out to be good. People that can’t fork out money almost immediately are left knowing that something will potentially be impossible to get. Awkwardly developers want you to buy these editions in order to play the game so unless its a sequel or something there are times the extras just don’t make sense. After all unless it was awesome it’d be awkward to own something related to a bad game, it’d be like a constant reminder of your dumb decision. Because of this I find it more acceptable when one comes out after a games initial release but even then it feels like a case of money vs morals, not many people would buy things if they weren’t sold this way.

An example of how weird these Limited Editions can get would be the Jugger-Nog Edition of Call of Duty Black Ops 3 with the main gimmick being a Mini Fridge themed on a drinks dispenser seen in the Zombies game mode. However while people thought it was cool there was the problem with things like Mini Fridges costing much more than the game itself and therefore anyone that couldn’t afford its asking price will never have a chance to, although maybe someone with no spending money has a right to say that. Either way next topic is Early Access.

Early Access is a place on Steam (and recently Google Play) where developers can publish and sell games that are not yet complete. The idea of this is kind of like crowdfunding but the main difference is most of the development has already been paid and finished with any money from purchases hopefully being used to further improve it and get it closer to a full release.

While there have been plenty of good early access games like Kerbal Space Program, Besiege and Don’t Starve which were all very well built despite not being fully completed (note I’ve never played them) there are also really terrible ones that remind you of its dangers. After all to buy the game is to believe in the promise of future content and sadly there are plenty of developers that just stop or even worse never start.

The worst case of developers screwing around was with Godus created by Peter Molyneux who is basically the king of overhype. What players got was a port of a freemium mobile game with slightly nicer graphics but not much difference to the super boring gameplay even with an update. What makes it more notable than games that just died and were never updated is that he had already crowdfunded it to the tune of around $800,000, then said it was Kickstarters fault for giving him money and he won’t deliver on promises before sticking it on Early Access for £11 which is far more than a lot of popular (and massive) games. Next topic is rushing, as sometimes games get a full release that should’ve been in Early Access.

Yeah, this looks totally complete…

Unlike other topics rushing a game is always bad for the consumer although to say its always the developers faults would actually be wrong unless although there are plenty of examples when they are. The more innocent causes of rushing would be from something that’s honestly there fault like trying to create something thats too much for them and higher ups interfering either by giving a project a tiny budget or even a unchangeable deadline with no chance of delays.

Most of the time though games are rushed for the sake of being rushed and end up needing huge patches, one of these games being Assassins Creed Unity which had a freaky glitch which caused NPC’s not to load their faces and instead have floating eyes and mouth. In fact glitches everywhere is a sure sign of when something has been rushed. That’s not even including cut content but considering some content is cut for other reasons its hard to tell (check out The Cutting Room Floor if you want to see a bunch of unused stuff though).

However there’s an example of rushing far worse than the above and thats Tony Hawks Pro Skater 5. To most people’s surprise an IP can’t always just be held by a developer forever and have a rule that a game must be made every so often to keep it valid. However Activision had practically forgotten about the series and in desperation to keep the rights to the series published a game far from complete and filled with glitches. I’d assume they thought people would forget the game and buy the sixth one despite essentially killing the series. Even the fact they patched the game with a bit of new content didn’t heal the damage its shitty launch did and people were fast to forget about it. If you think about it killing the series is something a bad company would be fine with doing since they could lose the rights to it and sit back in the knowledge that no one will want to pick it up. Next thing to talk about is frequent releases.

Even without hype the most profitable time for a game is on its release and some developers have realised that increasing the amount of games released in order to get more profits without letting the game before age. One example of this would be the Call of Duty series which actually goes through a development cycle between 3 developers so its not as bad as others. However while there it definitely looks good for a developer it actually has many problems and some are in a bit of a grey area.

The main problem is that while you’d obviously get less profit as a game gets older a new release is likely to kill the one before unless it was a story based game or just terrible. Sports games are guilty of this being multiplayer games that are released yearly and honestly as someone who can barely afford anything I often question it, improved graphics aside a lot of the things that get updated seem like they could just be a patch or DLC to an older and more complete game.

There is something worse than killing off a previous game by releasing too much and thats murdering the entire series and there is only one example of this I know, Five Nights at Freddy’s. The concept of the game already meant it had a lot of haters (me included) but there were fans at first, however games almost seemed to be rushed out and as soon as it got to what I believe was the 5th game people had already gotten tired of it. The proof of this was when a supposed “sister game” to the series was announced and nobody cared, even now I don’t see many people mention it. Next is game splitting, something there are two kinds of.

There are 2 well known methods ways to split games, one would be to have 2 different versions with slightly differing content while the other is to take a single game and make it episodic which has its own problems. There is a rare 3rd type of game splitting though like Golden Sun, an example of when developers made a game too big to fit on a single GBA cartridge which ended up being 2 games with the 2nd being notably more difficult.

The idea of having different versions of the same game isn’t always bad, its true that it is definitely a tactic to get more money but that doesn’t mean from the same person. The most well known example of this is the Pokémon series which usually has 3 versions per generation each with differing Pokémon to catch depending on the one you buy. While it was harder to do in the older games the idea was to get anything you couldn’t find in your copy by trading with other people. Although I imagine its far more satisfying to catch them yourselves.

As for episodic games its essentially like taking a game and putting it into sections and selling them all seperately, imagine FF7 being split up between the discs or something. While it does allow for a unique way to let people demo it by making the first part free it has its own problems. A well known creator of Episodic Games are Telltale Games who create what are essentially interactive stories based on popular series/franchises. However despite it being popular and making plenty of money its focus on splitting it meant on thing, the story couldn’t change much (or at all) between parts and from what I can tell a lot of decisions weren’t even good enough to give players an illusion of choice. Next to quickly talk about ports.

For those that don’t know what a port is its essentially taking a game from wherever it was originally and putting it somewhere else, usually a newer console or perhaps PC. In fact said ports tend to be made digital which is a breath of fresh air to anyone that doesn’t want to hunt down a working physical copy for their old console. However some companies seemingly want to port their game to everything and either failed via an idiotic move or just rushing.

One of the most recent examples of a bad port would be the PC versions of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2, although I’ll keep to just the first one. Starting on PS2, PS3, Xbox and Xbox 360 it saw itself getting ported to quite a variety of consoles and it seemed to be doing alright. However problems appeared when it was ported to PC mostly due to controls, not only were some of the keyboard keys seemingly unchangeable but you couldn’t use a controller despite being ported from consoles.

Thats not the worst though, there have been plenty of cases where ports have had things from unnecessary blurring and frame locks to tonnes of bugs and frequent crashes. Its almost sad how many ports are actually worse than the original. Either way next is Remasters which are similar to ports but have there own problems.

I know this game isn’t bad (even though I haven’t properly played it).

Unlike a mere port a remaster is essentially taking an old game and making it look a bit prettier, usually by editing some of the textures and adding more objects like grass that the original couldn’t handle. A good remaster doesn’t need to look unbelievably amazing but it helps, the more important thing is it has to be far enough from the games original release to not be seen as a cash grab. However remasters coming out too soon or having not so great graphics aren’t the only problem.

To do a remaster means that sometimes a few things need to be tweaked and sadly the developers may decide to do this to the gameplay as well. An example I know of is The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD which despite being popular apparently had a few things tweaked including making something easier. Surprisingly though the worst thing about the remaster was the optional message in a bottle feature that was added letting you find what was essentially miiverse posts, the premise was ok but being a family game played by kids meant it was doomed to be filled by idiotic questions of how to do everything. Next to talk about is remakes which is a 1-up to a remaster.

Unlike a remaster a remake is just like it sounds and usually means building the whole thing from scratch and is therefore far more costly. They’re usually made far after the games original release with the perks usually being far better physics, graphics and additional content. Since this is almost like making an entirely new game a good company uses the time to add a few new little things into the mix although sadly Remakes can also backfire.

This could be a small problem like a change of art style not being liked much to new bugs and glitches due to a new or completely different engine. Worst case though is when they make major changes to the gameplay itself (but don’t call it a reboot) with the most notable example being the Android Remake of Dungeon Keeper. I have to admit that I never played either of them but from what I had researched they had taken a loved game and slowed the gameplay to super slowmotion snail speed meaning the only people that could really ‘play’ it were the super rich or immortal aka no one. Next is Reboots.

They didn’t even try to keep the original designs…

A Reboot is far more drastic than remasters and reboots as instead of remaking a certain game you could see it as an intended start of a completely new series but not a spinoff. This usually means major gameplay changes but one of the most logical reasons to reboot a series is to rewrite parts of the story or even start the whole thing altogether (the upcoming God of War seems like a reboot). However just like remakes they can go completely wrong.

One of the most well known cases of a bad reboot was Bomberman: Act Zero which was a game released on Xbox Live. For those that don’t know about Bomberman its a nice cartoonish game and people in colored costumes trying to blow themselves up in a maze with bombs.However despite the series popularity Act Zero decides to throw away the cartoonish graphics for super gritty future robots with generic looking gameplay which got boring super quickly. So while I say it is well known its something everyone wants to forget about. Next is Spinoffs.

Unlike the above 3 a spinoff means making a 100% new game alongside the series and usually means having completely different gameplay. You don’t usually see these made unless a series is not only popular for the gameplay but the characters as well. A good example of a spinoff would be Mario Kart which ended up becoming its own series unlike other ones like Mario Slam Basketball (still an ok game). However like most things greed and/or stupidity can take over.

It may not be as noticeable today but there was a time where practically any series that got any popularity would make spinoffs and it seemed to change depending on the era, at one point there was a lot of generic RPG’s being made and at a later point there was a surprising amount of terrible racing games for no apparent reason (Sonic R isn’t terrible but its not good either). In fact some of the worst spinoffs belong to popular series. The most well known terrible spinoff is a Sonic themed Edutainment game known as Sonic Schoolhouse.

Now I don’t know much about the game since I watched a few letsplays and honestly forgot quickly, you don’t do much at all and its very badly made. In fact its apparently so well known for being poorly made that most people have forced themselves to forget about the game entirely, whether this is true or not though you can’t argue with the fact multiple people sold this game on Ebay at a loss just to get rid of it. Next is DLC aka Downloadable Content.

DLC (usually meaning “Downloadable Content”) is extras that a player can buy to improve a game in some way ranging from small things like a few new cool weapons or armor to entirely new areas on the map to travel too. As the cost of developing increases a good bit of DLC can help cover costs or increase profits with a good piece of DLC extending the life of a game and sometimes being packaged into a complete version at some point in the future. However like most things Developers can and do abuse this quite often.

While it might just be something terrible like the well known Horse Armor the real abuse of DLC comes from when it was developed and released with the common belief being that anything made before a game’s release should be part of the base game. However its gotten to the point where DLC is sometimes advertised as early as preorders and I believe in a few cases before much gameplay was even seen. The worst case of this though was when the DLC didn’t actually mean Downloadable Content but Disc Locked Content instead.

Disc Locked Content usually exists of characters or missions that are actually part of the initial release but need to be paid for anyway with one of the most well known users being Capcom. The idea of having on disc content locked away is apparently a desperate attempt to stop people buying games preowned by making it impossible to have all the content without buying a new code. This ends up having the almost diturbing realization that its entirely possible for said DLC to be taken down and become completely unavailable as with usual DLC despite technically already owning it.

There is also Season Passes which is essentially paying for the promise of DLC in the future (that may also be already made before a games release) and I personally think it’s always a bad thing so I didn’t feel it needed its own section to explain. Last is Microtransactions.

Microtransactions used to be something simple for those with little time to play games, sometimes your character needed a quick boost or a sum of cash and with a little real world money you could get that. However it slowly devolved into what we have today and I personally believe the ones to blame are supposed free to play games.

Like I mentioned in the Remake section sometimes gameplay is heavily adjusted around the existence of microtransactions, this usually means making it either hard or super slow and/or locking away everything cool looking behind some sort of premium ingame currency paywall (how free to play makes their money). At some point people started to realise they didn’t do much so in response free to play games started off perks and powerups for the players money (and usually making the games even slower/harder). This is how Pay to Win was born and sadly there are games like this that have the cheek to have leaderboards despite the obvious bullshit. However there is far worse than microtransactions and that is the similarly named but not fully recognised macrotransactions.

The thing about microtransactions is the fact they’re meant to be micro and honestly even £5 would be stretching the limit in my opinion except these days games will ask you if you want to buy huge amounts of their virtual currency or in game items going well above £100 or 2 or 3 times the price of a brand new console game (or tonnes of digital PC games via bundles or sales). Its gotten crazier and crazier and honestly I don’t think they’ll ever stop.

One of the worst examples may be from a certain Train Simulator on Steam (forgot the exact name) where every place and train is its own microtransaction and buying a single train and area can cost more than the base game price of $40. In fact it apparently costs around a scary $4400 if you actually wanted to have all the content. There’s also the fact they’ve been getting into paid titles recently and once again effecting their gameplay too so hopefully it doesn’t get any worse.

Sorry for the insane wall of text, thanks for reading to those that did. I’d appreciate it very much if you helped share this as it took far longer to write than I thought it would.

Advertisements

Please comment before you leave.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s