All About Ninja-Hippo
Nowadays game developers don't have to lose too much sleep over a negative review or a community uproar over a tragic glitch, a shoddy ending or an overpowered weapon. To the contrary, the biggest problem facing developers today is the all-seeing all-knowing ever-present sigh of indifference. The internet has a word for it - 'meh.'
Allow me to set the scene if you will. I'm standing in a grassy canyon, tall rocky walls creating a playpen of mayhem beneath a scorching sun and blue skies. A bright purple alien aircraft flies over dropping an enormous green projectile before barrel-rolling out of view. An explosion follows, three of my team mates are scattered throughout the battlefield like rag dolls. The purple beast turns back into view and makes another pass, only to be swatted out of the sky by something slower but certainly more lethal; a tank rolls by, blasting away at the opposing force before itself exploding into a ball of flames, the victim of a bright red laser beam fired from some unknown corner of the landscape. A team mate sprints by, an enormous alien hammer in his hands. He swipes and pulverises one, two, three enemies before a bright blue ball is attached to his face at point blank range. It beeps. It blows. He disappears into a burst of blue electricity.
While all of this is going on, bullets whizz by, friendlies spawn and respawn, rockets fly overhead and impact behind me as I run for cover. A bright purple lance jets across the screen. I hit the deck. Time to respawn.
So what's the problem? Well, it's quite a doozie. I'm bored. REALLY bored. Amidst all of this carnage and mayhem, a rainbow of alien explosions and projectiles, constant noise and war-zone atmosphere sits a gamer, controller in hand, with a blank expression on his face and a complete disconnection from the events on the screen. At the end of the day, it's just another round of matchmaking. You'll probably play ten in one sitting. You'll earn some points. Your space-dude will unlock some new shiny colors and you'll be back playing another ten rounds tomorrow.
Or at least, some will. Me? I've reached the apex of indifference. I've sighed, laid my controller down and uttered the most vile and distressing word facing the industry, and about one of my favorite game franchises of all time no less - 'meh.'
I take the disc out of the trey and retire it to the shelf, where it has remained for almost a month now. Which brings me to the point of this rambling nonsense (you read this far? yikes).
If one of the biggest, most well-budgeted and sought-after franchises in gaming history can no longer hold the attention of never mind the average gamer, but its most ardent fans, what hope is there for the future of gaming as we know it? Much like the complete market saturation of shoot 'em ups and bullet-hell games that ruined gaming in its infancy, it seems gaming as a hobby has once again reached a critical mass. A point whereby every experience seems the same, regardless of the window dressing.
Be it pew-pew-pewing in Halo or brap-brap-brapping in Battlefield, it's all just one never-ending carousel of matchmaking games and experience points, cosmetic unlocks and levelling up. Reach max level? WELL DONE! I guess? Wait a month or so and the next Battlefield or Halo or Call of Duty, Gears of War, essentially *every* game on the market these days will release its next iteration and you'll be right back to repeating the same tiresome sequence all over again.
Call me jaded, you're probably right, but it seems gaming has fallen into a creative ditch and cant quite drag itself out. The emphasis now is on compelling the gamer to keep playing, keep earning XP, keep unlocking garbage, keep being compelled to play rather than playing for the sheer fun of the experience.
It's easy to point out the problem, but what about the solution? Well, it's been mentioned in many blogs over the last year or so but it's worth mentioning again - review scores. We're moving in the right direction. Call of Duty is no longer slapped with a 9.5/10 despite releasing the same game every year. Even Halo is no longer a sure-fire AAA critical hit. But we need to go further. Dull, uninspired films aren't met with excellent critical reception for being well-directed with lovely cinematography and an excellent soundtrack. If the movie sucks, it sucks.
Such a perspective doesn't seem to exist in gaming. Reviews are still a very technical affair. Does the game work? Does it have nice graphics? Does it support online multiplayer? How many maps? How many players? What if the game is just plain bland? What if for all of its technical brilliance and competent craftsmanship, it's just not that new or interesting a concept? These are 7/10 experiences but are too often heralded as the best the industry has to offer.
When review scores reflect creativity and novelty of experience, developers will feel more inclined to focus on making their games creative and novel. So long as we're quite happy to tell developers that they've done a fine job on yet another spin of the compulsion matchmaking carousel, we can't complain when that's all the industry wants to give us.
How's it hanging? We've had a tough relationship this generation, you and I. I bought one of your garish white boxes at launch, and it only went and broke down on me. Having owned dozens of consoles since the SNES, it was the first of my collection to ever do so. And then it did it again. And then again a third time. But i digress, we're not here to talk about that.
Can i bring up my xbox live account getting hacked? And then hacked again? You said i must have given my information out to a phishing site. Good thing we all know now that your customer service reps got duped into giving that information out, but hey, thanks for blatantly lying about it. Dammit, i digress again. I need to get back on topic. No, to start the topic.
Well, the topic is DLC Microsoft. Specifically timed DLC or as i like to think of it, literally the dumbest, most pointless, most logically and economically vacuous feature of the gaming industry to exist since... hell, i dunno... the powerglove? Let's outline your strategy, first:
1) Presumably spend a sizable amount of money to secure a contract with a developer
2) This contract, in exchange for your money, gets you nothing
3) Repeat, you gain nothing
4) What they will do however, is release the thing they were already going to release anyway
5) Only... they will wait a month or two before the release it on your rival platform
That's right, to re-iterate, you spend large amounts of cash to get nothing. And you wonder why Apple is the most valuable company in the world? When Tomb Raider was demo'd at this year's Microsoft E3 press briefing, i was fairly impressed. It was a decent looking game and a bold new direction for an enduring franchise. And then right at the end you stepped up to the plate and announced the megaton; it'd be exclusive to the Xbox 360! Nah. It'd get exclusive DLC! Nope. It'll get DLC as normal, but if you dont have an xbox, you have to wait to get it!
.....yay? What reaction do you expect from me, Microsoft? "So... i get the DLC as usual, but my friend who has a PS3 has to wait a month or so?" What benefit does that bestow on me? What is it that you think you are offering me? Anyone over the age of ten years old isn't going to seriously brag to a friend that they get to play a downloadable mission right now, whereas you - stinky pants - must wait a few weeks. What sadists do you think take pleasure in that? What do you *think* of your product audience, exactly?
A system that's been short of compelling exclusives for a while now, and this is what you spend your money on? Essentially screwing with the competition? But not even the competition, the innocent, did nuffin' to hurt nobody gamers who happened to buy a console not made by you? And your market strategy is essentially to troll them?
I genuinely cannot think of a dumber and more frivolous waste of your own budget than timed-DLC agreements. Far from the reaction you're looking for, every time you tell me Call of Duty map packs are going to be withheld from PS3 owners for a few months, you don't come off as the grand overlords of gaming, you come off as... well, kinda like a bunch of dicks. Take that PS3 owners!
Ninja-Hippo, Halo fan, wishes-it-was-published-by-a-different-company enthusiast
Now, this is the story all about how
My life got lolly-gagged upside down
And I'd like to take a starfire
So just protect your knee,
I'll tell you how I became the jarl of a game called Skyrim
In south Cyrodillia born and raised
On a horseback was where I spent most of my days
Chillin' out craftin' enchantin' all cool
And all shootin some arrow into the knee of some fool
When a couple of orcs
Who were up to no good
Startin raping'n'pillaging in my neighbourhood
I paused and drank two potions and my guild got scared
they said 'get in back of a wagon, your gona fight some bears!
I whistled for a guard and when he came near,
he said "Execution time" but suddenly a dragon appeared
If anything i could say this Dragon was rare,
but i shouted "Fus ro dah" and ran off with some gear
I pulled up to Riverwood about seven or eight
And I yelled to the Nordie 'Got a bed and some drink?'
I stole some potatoes,
Got a bed at some Inn
then main quest got bugged and i uninstalled Skyrim.
//Not my creation, but damn it made me lulz all over the place.
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