2014 wasn’t a bad year. We had some ups and downs just like we do every year. With any luck and a small amount of vigilance hopefully we can recognize the good and bring it with us into the coming year, while exiling the bad and leave it where it belongs. 2015 is a fresh start and we should really use it like that. While we as gamers should remember our mistakes, lest we be doomed to repeat them, we need to be able to address them before we can improve. This little list will include a few things from 2014 that we as a community can most certainly do without in the coming year and beyond.
Freemium Fever: This one really has to take a back seat in gaming, it’s even become such an apparent money trap that South Park decided to do an episode dedicated to “freemium” games. Now I am 100 percent certain that free-to-play games on mobile devices are going to be just as big in 2015 as they were in 2014, if not even bigger. There is a simple truth that many people need to acknowledge about these types of “games.” Most of them really aren’t that fun. I’ve given these kinds of games more than one chance and they’ve always gotten uninstalled a few days after trying them. The majority of them are mind-numbingly boring and terribly designed in my experience. On top of that, these games are developed to get people’s money, that is plainly obvious to most of us by this point, I would hope. The games are designed just well enough to produce some odd, addictive behavior so people can’t stop playing them while leaving them unsatisfied so they have to keep pouring money and time into them. They’re little more then heavily monetized Facebook games.
These mobile games are basically gambling, except without the small possibility of actually being re-reimbursed for all the time, energy and real-world money people have dumped into these things. If you look at it from this point-of-view they’re actually worse than going to a casino, which is also throwing away your money! I am not against the idea free-to-play models all together, what I am against is how most companies implement them. They are simply designed to milk money from the consumer with virtually no new game mechanics, ideas or entertaining hooks. There is no storyline, there is no “end” of the game and there is no benefit to actually playing money to play it because you never truly “win.” EA has been particularly abusive with this kind of gaming. Games like “Heroes of Dragon Age,” have players dumping real-world money into the game to compete in tournaments to win things that aren’t worth anything. There are even players who’ve been known to dump thousands of dollars into this game only to have those investments be ultimately worthless. EA updates the game so that players need to basically start from square one every once in awhile. We can’t forget that EA will also removed or make items obsolete in these updates as well, meaning there is a pool of wasted money for users.
Most of these freemium games don’t appeal to hardcore gamers as it is, but that doesn’t seem to matter much. Freemium titles are the “future of gaming” according to EA so we can all put a sock in it apparently. Calling these things “Video Game,” really seems to be a bit of a stretch in many cases. When freemium games are compared to other PC, console and handheld games there is a clear difference between them in quality, scope and design. They are thinly veiled attempts to separate people from their money through addictive and repetitive behavior. So while we certainly can’t stop companies from making them, we can sure as hell stop playing them, or at least spending real money on them. Freemium simply isn’t worth the money people have spent on it. If you’re going to game save up all those micro-transactions for something that’s actually worth investing your time and hard earned cash into.
Yearly Franchise Releases: I’m looking at you, Ubisoft! Stop all the damned madness, it’s not working! Gamers are still buying these releases for some reason, but then most of them end up on the internet bitching about the product immediately after playing it. Assassin’s Creed Unity was a train wreck that could have easily been avoided had developers spent just a wee bit more time on it. Not only that but you launched another AC title at the same time which is just ridiculous. It’s fine if you want to invest in these franchises and release them relatively frequently, but a small gap in these launches may be in order here. Gamers would rather play a great game every once in awhile rather than a mediocre title regularly.
Assassin’s Creed Unity could have been a much better game had you waiting. Far Cry 4, while a good game could have been great had the developers spend just a little bit more time on it. The game was full of bugs and lacked a lot of story depth in a game that has the potential to be brimming with it. The community is taking notice to the bullshit embargoes that are being put on Ubisoft titles as well. Sure it could be so a game doesn’t get content leaked or so a review isn’t unfairly released that skips the content only available online. The reality is most of this content in itself is supplemental and reviewers will still manage to get a solid core experience. Many professional known reviewers have done a wonderful job at informing and compensating for those facts in the past and I see no reason as to why this would suddenly change now. This development cycle is clearly and noticeably hurting these money-making franchises; franchises that many gamers really love(d) and we’re being taken advantage of because of it. Ubisoft has some of the best franchises that consumers are really starting to criticize regularly and with good reason. Their tactics have even got gamers worried about titles like “The Division” that won’t be out for easily another year or more.
Other developers are also guilty of this kind of development cycle and gamers are catching onto that too. Activision’s latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise has sold significantly less copies than it’s predecessors. This is actually somewhat ironic since Advanced Warfare attempted to add some new mechanics to the franchise for the first time in quite awhile. The popular EA Sports games are plagued with problems upon release that drive gamers crazy. Many FIFA and NFL fans can’t help but trash the releases as they come out. As far as the Madden series goes, there are quite a few sports gaming fans who wish more than anything that another developer could make an game using the NFL trade mark and it’s teams. Don’t even get me started on the NHL games either from EA. These things have been terrible for years and only seem to be getting worse as years go by. At least EA Sports has somewhat of a good excuse in saying they are trying to keep up with new rules, players and changes that actually happen in real life with these sports. Granted just about all of these things can be patched into a game after it’s been released, but there’s a half-assed excuse for it. Ubisoft isn’t the only one to pull this kind of shitty predatory development on the gaming community, but they’ve certainly been the worst in 2014.
Graphical Manipulation: To put it bluntly Ubisoft has had a horribly track-record in 2014 and they’ve done a superb job at earning it. This is another great reason why the community finds the company to be untrustworthy recently. Watch Dogs was a highly anticipated game and for good reason. It boasted being the first real next-gen open world sandbox game that brought a slew of new mechanics, ideas and of course gorgeous graphics. The problem was that these “amazing graphics” were nothing more than a “bait and switch” marketing technique that tech savvy gamers caught onto very quickly.
Watch Dogs was meant to be a PS4 launch title, but got delayed only weeks before the release of the new console. The game resurfaced a few months later with a new trailer, which people in the community seemed to be more than willing to pick apart, especially after it’s questionable delay. Most gamers immediately noticed that the graphics were very scaled down. Ubisoft denied this ferociously, despite there being plenty of gamers and websites who published screenshots and videos of the original trailers comparing it to the newly released videos. These bits of media had shown a discrepancy in the game’s graphical quality moving forward in it’s development. Well Watch Dogs was released and wouldn’t we know it? It didn’t look as good as was originally advertised. Ubisoft still denied that they made any real changes to the quality of graphics in the game… That is until someone spent a lot of time looking at the installation directory of the PC version of the game. They uncovered the original files that made the game look like it had during it’s initial preview and announcement. Now that they’d been caught red handed their story changed a bit. Suddenly it wasn’t them saying they made no drastic changes to the graphics, it was that they had to change it due to stability issues within the game. After much testing and re-testing of these “modified” graphics people re-instated, most of them discovered that Ubisoft was at least partially telling the truth. The problem was that most gamers experienced the same level of instability from the original graphic settings compared to the modified versions. TotalBiscuit did a wonderful job and illustrating the bait and switch tactic that Ubisoft pulled with this game and if you haven’t seen it, I’d strongly recommend giving it a look. It may be old news at this point, but it’s something that consumers should be on the lookout for in the future. This is especially important because Ubisoft pretty much got away with this kind of deceitful marking scot-free.
These kinds of tactics shouldn’t be getting used to sell a game. Any game, let alone a triple-A title should be able to make it on it’s own and without having to be drastically doctored from test footage to release. It preys on the consumer’s inherent desire for the next thing in gaming, while delivering a shoddy and second-rate product. It rewards a company for underhanded marketing tactics and ultimately leaves gamers with a inferior product that could have easily been avoided had the company been honest. Sure, it’s entirely possibly that the developers found an instability that may have caused problems for gamers when it was released, however it’s something they could have been honest about. Watch Dogs would have still sold a boat load of copies and most likely Ubisoft would have still turned a profit from it. The fact that they tried to hide it is the biggest problem that I see with this, especially once they had been caught in their own lie. The company essentially stuck their fingers into it’s ears and repeated the same lines over and over despite the facts that were uncovered. Hopefully this experience with Ubisoft and their deceit will stay firmly embedded in gamers minds for years to come and each of us look at all up and coming titles through a more critical lens.
#GamerGate: Jesus Christ where does one start with this total fucking explosion of stupidity, self-entitlement and blatant across-the-board hypocrisy? At this point if you’re a gamer then you know about #GamerGate. If you have thought critically about it, then you also probably know how utterly fucking stupid and pointless it all is. What started as a few people being dickheads to a female developer for a game they didn’t like then judging her based on the choices she made in her private life leads right into some less restrained writers who felt they held enough of moral high ground to lecture the gaming community. These writers basically came to the laughably illogical conclusion that the entire gaming community was responsible for what a small subset of Chud did.
As if it weren’t enough of a mess already people started boycotting writers, entire websites and leaking emails that showed a somewhat orchestrated opinion from the gaming media regarding what has now been know as “#GamerGate,” since sometime in August. To take it a step further Social Justice Idiots and ill-intending morons began doxing people from both sides of this “movement”. If you were publicly in support of or against #GamerGate and you had a relatively large following there was at least a small chance you were a target of doxing. If you’re not aware of what “doxing” is, it basically means someone releases a bunch of your private information to the web for people to do whatever the fuck they want with it.
#Gamergate has done nothing good for gaming any way you slice it. It has consumers distrusting more Gaming Journalists than they trust these days as well as made gamers look like some woman-hating hobby where the cavemen come together to collective bash women. #GamerGate is the digital equivalent of two unruly mobs with different opinions meeting in the streets and fighting to the last man. If you approached the topic with any sort of rational middle-ground you were automatically marginalized by everyone. It is nothing more than a movement of extremism from both sides about something that honestly doesn’t matter at all, here’s why.
At the end of the day people are going to play and support the games they are interested in. As long as those games are making money developers are going to continue making them. People are still going to criticize many games because they find it “offensive” or “wrong” in some way and they’re going to be loud about it. It’s happened with books, music, movies, TV and you’re damned sure it is going to continue to happen in gaming. Try to remember that people have every right in the world to say they don’t like something. This doesn’t give them any real direct power to change it. They are simply complaining about something that they find offensive, which for the most part is a largely subjective experience. What one of us finds offensive others may not. What someone else finds totally acceptable may be the reincarnation of Hitler to another. As long as it’s not infringing on someone’s personal freedoms then there isn’t anything wrong with the content we choose to expose ourselves to. I support peoples’ right to contact developers of all forms of media that someone finds to be distasteful and be given a chance to plead their case. I also support the developer’s right to choose not to change their own creation. It is their ultimate right and final say what happens to content they are making and paying for the development of. When it’s all said and done that’s really all there is to it. Consumers are left with a choice to buy the games or not. If it doesn’t sell well, it won’t continue to be made moving forward. In capitalism the most effective way to vote is with your wallet.
This same concept goes for sites and writers whose consumers find the content to be done poorly or have an obvious bias. These people also have the right to contact their advertisers to request them to pull media. Those advertisers also have every right in the world to tell those people to take a hike. Everyone has different views, different values and different “triggers.” These same people can easily go somewhere else to get the same information. Large websites don’t hold a monopoly on information. It’s not rational or acceptable for the entire world to walk around on eggshells, worrying they could offend anyone or everyone with facts or even a simple opinion. The world doesn’t work like that and it never will. If it does one day, God forbid; we’ll lose all true artistic freedom as well as technological vision and social advancement. Can we just leave this embarrassing, self-entitled bullshit known as “#GamerGate” in the past where it belongs. I along with most other gamers are sick of seeing it and most of us are well passed the point of actually giving a shit.
I am sure I missed things that people would also love to leave in 2014. I just figured I would cover the big ones for myself. Things that stuck out to me as either trashy, poorly implemented or just downright embarrassing for either companies or the community itself. Feel free to chime in with something I may have missed, since most likely there is a lot out there we’d be better off not carrying into the new year. I am sure that 2015 will unfortunately have no shortage of sad moments in our favorite hobby, but lets hope for the best and move forward.