Oh Game Industry

Phew, now that this post is out of my system, I’m going to try to keep up a string of posts, what I’ve been up to, what I’m games I’m thinking of making in the future, more complaining about video games (except Gravity Rush, amazing game), that sort of thing. Later, everyone.

I keep wanting to write more simple blog type posts about games I’m playing and my thoughts in general (remember my that one time I wrote an angry post about the Too Human demo??), but the longer I wait to post something, the more epic I feel the post should be, and the more epic I feel the next post should be, the longer I take to write something… Doesn’t help that I was writing this from my phone and the WordPress app crashed and killed most of the content of this post, so it ended up taking even longer to finish.

So let’s break the vicious cycle, here goes:

Recently I slapped a new (okay, now old) GTX 570 in my now ancient Mac Pro, sick of waiting for the new generation of consoles to emerge (don’t get me wrong, I’m hyped as hell for the Wii U, but Nintendo isn’t giving me nearly enough info to go on at this point). I picked up the PC versions of a few games that were in my need-to-play list (and even more during the Steam summer sale, arg!), and finally got around to playing the first Crysis and Crysis Warhead again.

There’s been a lot bugging me about the video game industry lately (DLC, online passes, DRM…), but there’s no better way to illustrate the absolute worst of video games right now than to go between Crysis 1 and Crysis 2.

Now don’t get me wrong, Crysis 2 is a good game. I wanted some pretty graphic’ed shooting and it scratched that itch just fine. Totally worth playing if you need more things to shoot in your life, or have a new GPU and want to see what next-gen lighting and motion blur is going to look like (spoilers: very nice). It also seems weird that I’m going to complain about ‘yet another shooting game’, because I really do like FPSes. When I say worst, I’m not exactly talking about the active sabotage of all video games as we know it, but the way that a handful of ‘features’ are being taken for granted by development companies (or more cynically of me, the publisher’s suits), and implemented without regards for the respect for or in the context of the game itself. The only way I can describe the changes between Crysis 1 and Crysis 2 is ‘THIS IS WHAT VIDEO GAMES ARE NOWADAYS, JUST DESIGN LIKE THAT!’

To be clear, though, most of these trends aren’t even a bad thing taken on their own. Halo set the new bar for FPS playability on a console, and yeah, I expect every game afterwards to make sure that they don’t fall short of that standard. Where we go wrong is when games adopt these features simply because they feel they have to, without understanding why they were in place the first time around, in the context of Halo / Call of Duty / Gears 1, and with respect to their own license.

First off, though, the changes that work. The new controls are absolutely fantastic. Switching through different suit modes to perform a single action in an augmented fashion, then just switching back to armor mode was clunky. The hold to use energy with the action idea works far better overall. Good to see better controller support, too (yeah I play PC games with a gamepad, what of it?? >:O )

I guess I could just rattle off the usual changes that leak into every game that’s been made recently: more cutscenes, more set pieces, more waypoints and simpler objectives, the general watering down and Call of Duty-ifying of the franchise, but the thing is, everything that made Crysis 1 great was what set it apart from other shooters at the time. The feeling of being able to go anywhere, approaching your destination from all different angles, and generally being left alone for most of the time, made for great gameplay. Some of my favorite moments were spent sneaking around a dense jungle, simply walking around out of sight — precisely because it was the polar opposite of bunkering down under under cover.

And it’s not like no one played Crysis. This wasn’t a franchise that needed to be reinvented. Sure, most people bought it to test out their 1337 new gaming rigs, but from what I hear, most people were surprised by just how free and entertaining the actual gameplay was.

And sure, there was a lot of concessions made to get the game looking great on console. The playable path ends up feeling like a pretty narrow bit of ground, while the ‘unplayable’ sections stand out in the distance, saving processing time and mocking you with their non-interactivity. Lots of concessions were made to get Crysis 1 on 360 and PS3, though, but those changes didn’t fundamentally re-write how the entire game was played.

And the suit. That stupid, stupid suit. Oh hey, excuse me while I attempt to actually get engaged in an NPC’s dialogue. You need me to go over here? Okay, here I… SUP BRO I’M YOUR SUIT LET ME REPEAT EVERYTHING THE NPC JUST SAID TO DESTROY ANY WHIFF OF EMPATHY OR HUMAN EMOTION YOU’D GET BY PERFORMING GAMEPLAY TASKS LAWLZ. OOPS ALMOST FORGOT TO SET A WAYPOINT WHILE I WAS AT IT, AND MULTIPLE WAYPOINTS THAT WILL STRAIGHT UP TELL YOU HOW TO APPROACH SITUATIONS, CAN’T LET YOU ACCIDENTALLY FEELING INVENTIVE, NOW CAN WE? LATER BROSKY.

Oh, yeah, and when you leave a vehicle on the map and walk away from it, it always turns into a red dot, which looks like you forgot to kill a baddie. For some reason this REALLY made me mad. Yeah, I don’t know either.

After beating the game, I was trying to show my cousin my beefy new GPU, and I was like, hey you should… oh wait, no, you can only do that in Crysis 1. Take that guy and… ah, no, Crysis 1… If you throw that barrel into that building and… ah, no, dangit, that only happens in Crysis 1! But he sure felt like he was playing Call of Duty, so… win?

Gah, I don’t even feel like I can do this rant justice anymore. I’ve already complained about the Call of Dutyification (see also: every game is Uncharted) of every single AAA game out there now, but going between Crysis 1 and 2, no where else has a franchise been so utterly gutted because, I don’t know, they thought it would sell better? The shareholders made them do it? Design by committee at its finest.

Look, industry, if I wanted to play more Call of Duty, I would have actually kept buying the Call of Duty games.

15 Responses to “Oh Game Industry”


  • Very… insightful rant, and most of it is valid, but what’s with the Uncharted quip? The difference between CoD and UC is innovation, NaughtyDog is constantly innovating and bettering their franchises, so even if a game is “Uncharted-ed” it’s probably still doing something right (see: 1313), where as CoD is pretty much a rehash with better graphics and a newish story (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still enjoy Modern Warfare games).

    Not trying to start a fight but I felt it necessary to point that out, not to mention that no, not “every game is Uncharted”, in fact, not many games are Uncharted-like. Prime example is the Fall of Cybertron demo, yes, it’s a third-person action/shooter but no, it’s nothing like Uncharted (actually plays more like a FPS).

    • I take it you didn’t watch any of this year’s E3…

    • http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2012/06/06/e3-2012-uncharted-is-replacing-call-of-duty-as-the-game-to-clone/

      I definitely love the Uncharted series (I got a ps3 for Uncharted 1, still my favorite), but as the series went on, combat became more and more of a chore, and at odds with the amazing cinematics and set pieces. Uncharted 2 did the best job of blending set pieces with playability (fighting in a building as it’s falling, ‘oh wait I’m playing now’ running from trucks), and while 3 had some great moments (falling from the cargo plane easily being the highlight, with the ship yard being a fun combat zone), for the most part, combat just becomes a way to slow the player down, going so far as to be completely at odds with the story at points (I REALLY wanted to find some water after the desert, but lolnope, combat!).

      Point is, it’s another instance of developers just copy / pasting parts of Uncharted into other licenses, instead of designing for the game itself. Suddenly everyone’s climbing, even Sam Fisher! Jedis are hanging out of tumbling starships! (??) Lara Croft forgoes her trademark plodding exploration and trial and error for linear set piece thrill ride.

      It’s even funnier, since, as I said before, Uncharted’s own elements are at odds with each other. Maybe other developers feel they can do better with the building blocks? Don’t know.

      Again, though, I’m complaining about games that I still believe are good games, just a bit on autopilot right now, which could be WAY better, more interesting, unique… Pave the way for new design paradigms…

      • I ended up getting a hevily edited verson of E3 (I had surgery and some strong pain meds to boot) so I didn’t see that. But I both agree and disagree, 2 was a HUGE step forward: combat was more fun, the story was even better somehow, set pieces were bigger, the bonuses were even better (Eddy’s golden gun w/unlimited ammo finally accessible by human means). Was 3 a step back? Of course it was, combat on “normal” (occasionlly “crusing” compared to previous entries) wasn’t so much a way to slow the player down as the AI got a major upgrade and just made everything frustratingly slower (in 2, the example you gave about the finding water part would of just been “pew pew” [Deadpool!] then the Salim cutscene, not the full-on assault on Ft. Knox it actually was), the last third or so had a very “rushed” feel (up to the cruise ship level everything was great, then it wasn’t until the last cutscene [besides the cargo plane] that it felt like an Uncharted game again). UC3 was focused more on the subtleties of a good story than huge CoD setpieces (ironically enough), and the story was one area that didn’t dissipoint, especially with Sully this time around. So, even though a LOT went wrong, there was a lot that went right too. And I’m not even going to start on Golden Abiss since I’m not independently wealthy and don’t yet own a Vita.

        We could go back and forth on this forever (though it seems we agree on most of this in all actuality), will the market eventually get flooded with Uncharted clones? Of course, just gotta look up “Unearthed” for evidence of that, it’s what remains after that counts, at one time every other game was a platformer (or fighter, or shooter), now that the general market has moved away (or moving away, like with shooters) the strong are what’s left: Mario, Street Fighter, -blank- vs Comic Company, other-games-that-fit-that-I’m-too-tired-to-think-of. The point is that, yes, it will happen, but, no, it’s not the worst thing to happen, and going by the line of trends so far it’ll even be shorter than the CoD clones (most of which were actually CoD’s). In a few years it’ll be on a diffrent game altogether and this convorsation will be had again between two guys in Austria or Scotland or somewhere. So let’s just enjoy Fall of Cybertron and respect everyone’s opinion, even Jack Tompson’s.

  • Yeah…Well, All I have is a 3DS, my iPod and a PC with an ancient ATI graphics card, so I haven’t really played many good games yet. My dad told me that I can get a new PC with any components I want IF I can assemble them myself, otherwise I have to wait till my current one gets corrupted beyond repair. Thing is, I don’t know squat about how to build a PC, and unlike everything else I do, I can’t wing it.

    • Well, I enjoyed Kid Icarus, Revelations, and Mario 3D Land far more than anything on PC, so if you haven’t played those yet, fix that immediately!

      Since my CPU is benchmarking, I’ll probably end up building a standalone gaming PC eventually to leave hooked up to my TV.

      http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=455869

      Lots of people online also with no clue on how to build a PC, see what the internets decided on. Parts are pretty much fast enough nowadays that anything decent will play EVERYTHING over 60 fps, with some AA, true next gen games at 720p30, worst case scenario.

      The GTX 570 that I got is solid (and pretty cheap), and any CPU over 3 ghz with 4 cores will remove any bottleneck there.

      Of course, if you’re strapped for cash, just wait for a Wii U (HD Mario and Zelda!!).

    • I’d see about finding a couple of “how-to” series on YouTube and seriously get them down before thinking about trying. Treat it like a class really, take notes, find reference material (a new edition “…for Dummies” could really help) and maybe find a workshop or two to get some “hands-on” experience (I’m sure they exist), then keep your references near as you do it. You could probably start with a kit and modify it with better components too if you want.

  • wii u new smash bros! (the best games)

  • “yeah I play PC games with a gamepad, what of it?? >:O ”
    WHAT?! You just went down in my list of favorite heroes! j/k, being able to play a PC game as if it was a console game is nice, but I am still waiting for the reverse to be true. Where is my mouse and keyboard support for halo on the xbox?! I have tried playing shooters with a controller, but I just can’t do it. Those grunts kill me every time… Give me a mouse though, and there is no boss I will fear to take on.

    • Psh, it really just boils down to sitting at my desk with headphones on a 23 inch monitor, or chilling on the sofa with a 50 inch plasma and 7.1 sound. No game controls so bad on a gamepad that I’d lose all that for a mouse ;)

  • Such a long post. :O

  • No kidding, huh? Halo 1, Melee, uh, DVDs… all over 10 years ago.

    I think for me, though, I’m just not that great with a mouse, just feels like a tool to me. Give me a tablet if I need to be quick and precise.

    Now Wii IR aiming or DS / 3DS touchscreen aiming, mmm mmmm.

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