Friday, 13 June 2014

Bit of a rant - computer game player sheep

[I've had to go and get a drink before I started writing this post...It's one of those!]

Remember those good old days of computer gaming? You know, when you would sit around with a  group of mates and discuss how 'wouldn't be a cool game if...' and then come up with seemingly the most stupid idea for a game in the world ever. AND YET, many was the time, a couple of months later you would read a preview of a game in ST Format or Amiga Magazine just like the one you you thought up!

This was even truer in the days of the Commodore 64, BBC Micro and Sinclair Spectrum. The craziest ideas would make it to 'tape' (and later 'floppy') because the whole gaming community was really a community and chances are one of those mates (or even you) could actually code the 'stupid idea' to some sort of completion.

OK, I admit, the downside of this were that there were literally hundreds of really (really) crap games out there but the marketplace for game ideas was directly driven by the wants of the actual game players! And chances are someone somewhere would even like - what you thought were - the crap games! (How else can anyone explain 'Llamatron'!)

Anyway, to my main point.

This morning I sat and watched a review of EA's latest instalment in the Battlefield franchise by the well respected YouTube gamer FRANKIEonPCin1080p called 'WORTH BUYING?! - Battlefield Hardline Beta'...

Now Frankie was quite pragmatic in his laboured neutrality over the game and his opinion about this BETA (and I reiterate that it is just a BETA) which really boiled down to a simple restatement of the old Roman adage Caveat Emptor ('let the buyer beware'). Perhaps the controversy over his role in the promotion of Battlefield 4 where he was alleged to have taken payment from EA not to make overly negative comments about the game and it's blatantly obvious faults prior to general release has somewhat tempered his willingness to seem unaware of any failings in this one - so best to say as little as possible, other than note some personal preferences and put the onus for buying another lemon on the poor consumer! ...Phew, long sentence...Sorry!

However, the one thing he said that was majorly critical about the development side of things was that he noted how game play features that were present in an earlier episode of the franchise - BF3 - were not now in this latest edition. Why would EA take away good features in a game that is supposed to be the most evolved version of the series?

And here's my point (at last you say)...

The whole sorry tale of the Battlefield series (and I guess Call of Duty and Ghost Recon, et al) is - obviously - that game design is no longer directly driven by the needs of the gamer but rather some vague marketing 'concept' the goal of which is trying to juggle various statistics and demographics in order to come up with the most sales.

...And in stating this I know you - dear reader - will be saying to yourself 'and you've only just figured that out'?

The but the final nail - and what is the main cause of this rant - was when Frankie announced the intended price for Battlefield Hardline. This game is likely to cost you and I £50. FIFTY POUNDS!

Particularly maddening as despite having had our fingers burnt many, many times you and I just know that thousands and thousands of gamers will pay out this money knowing that they will soon after start moaning about it's faults and glitches while EA laugh all the way to the bank!

FIFTY POUNDS! Think about it...If all those people took their £50 or Dollars or whatever and gave it - just this once - to a Kickstarter project like 'Ground Branch'* (a game inspired directly by the long term wishes of a body of gamers) we would have games that WE actually WANT for a change AND at the same time inject some much needed creativity and variety into a very, very stale gaming market.

Don't give EA your £50 on the month of release - PLEASE! Give it to a creative work that really needs it, and then if you really must then buy Hardline the next month (when the price will have dropped due to poor sales).

...Of course this won't happen because we are all sheep. :(

* Pick you own Kickerstarter gaming project.

Above: 'Ground Branch' development prototype. This Kickstarter FAILED to
meet it's funding goal while BF4 racked in millions for EA. It was designed
specifically to fulfil the long-held wishes of the Classic Ghost Recon player
fan-base. There are lots of these niche projects out there but we still insist on
investing our hard earned cash on games which we know will be, at best,
half-complete on release.


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