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What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry – Part 1

on 21/09/2011

What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry

Origin

The other day I was invited to take part in the Battlefield 3 beta, so I signed up, filled out all the information got to the part where I download the program. At this point I was prompted to download “Origin”, Origin is EA’s game/content distribution service, basically EA’s version of Valve’s “Steam” service or Microsoft’s “Games For Windows Live” service. Anyway at this point I said to my self “No, no no” (a little like Amy Winehouse when people tried to make her go to rehab, but a lot more coherent) I refuse to install another online game store.

Years ago when Valve started “Steam” I was sceptical, but over the years I came to like it. One of the biggest things that persuaded me was when they added other publishers to the store. Over the years I have purchased quite a lot of the games through steam. But now EA want to try the same distribution method for they’re own software. I don’t have a big problem with that. I do have a problem with being forced to have Origin installed just to use their software. I know before everyone says it that Valve run Steam the same way but at least with Steam I have access to software that was published by other publishers.

Steam and EA Logo

I have already committed to one content distribution system, I don’t then want to have to install another for EA and then if Activision and Atari all come out with they’re own distribution system a few moths later, where will it stop? As gamers we are losing some basic rights. We are losing the freedom to choose where we purchase our software from and are being forced into accepting this corporate bloatware. We are losing the right to sell/give away old games, we are losing the ability to allow family members to share a game on the same computer.

Also if they run Origin anything like they have run the way they make games available on android then they will pull games from availability and change prices quite inconsistently. I feel that they are just constantly polishing up older titles to make them appeal to the hungry little monster that is the younger gamer market, but more about that in a moment.

Let me expand on the last point. If I purchased a game CD/DVD and install it under my account and then install it under my account and then my wife can log on using her user account on the same PC and play the same game. But if i paid for and downloaded the same software through Steam or Origin, I would be the only one who could play it unless I let her use my account, but unless the game supports multiple saves she wouldn’t be able to play her own game without messing up my game saves.

This also plays into EA’s strategy of eliminating the second hand games market. As a user of Steam I can’t lend games to friends or sell them, but it does mean that if the worst happens and my computer and/or all my games are lost in a fire or stolen I can still access them and all is not lost.

Although I must point out that all these observations about Origin are based on using Steam and Games for Windows Live and information from others who have used Origin.

Poor Quality of Games

I am going to try my hardest to not sound like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw from Zero Punctuation but I feel his pain, and even though I don’t always agree with his review of a game I usually agree with several points he makes on every title. but my focus here is going to be more on the fact that companies like EA, Activision and Atari are now pumping out a new update for they’re most popular IP’s (Intellectual Property, eg the Sim’s and Need for Speed are two IP’s) every year.

Call of Duty

The problem with this is that in order for them to reach an acceptable level of quality for each release they have to employ multiple software houses to handle the development of each title. When the Call of Duty series got popular Activision looked for another software house to help Infinity Ward by developing every other release. Activision called upon Treyarch to help with development. The first title they had to work on was Call of Duty 3. Now before I get into this I must say I’m a PC gamer and Call of Duty 1 & 2 were available on the PC. However Call of Duty 3 was only available on consoles (although the response from the PC community resulted in Treyarch being told by Activision that they have to develop a PC version in future.)

But by the time they got to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare I felt that they had lost everything that had appealed to me. I played Call of Duty 1 & 2 through multiple times purely on the strength of the story, after Modern Warfare the quality of the game in terms of graphics and game play mechanics it changed VERY little, in terms of story it became predictable and cliched. At this point I lost interest but one of the things that I did notice was the better quality releases were coming from the Infinity Ward development and the Treyarch releases were a very poor relation. But I also got further pissed off when Activision were trying to screw Infinity Ward over royalties, this resulted in my boycotting Activision’s games. (I am passionate about computer games!)

Need for Speed

This is probably one of the more diverse and constantly changing titles of all the IP’s I will mention here. I will pick this up at the point where to title tried to cash in on the popularity of the film Fast and the Furious, and they released a complete re-invention of the Need for Speed IP. This had features that hadn’t been seen in many racing titles and combined them with a nice simple arcade game, but this title had been quite rapidly developed since its start in 1994.

There have been 7 different developers working on this title but since Underground’s release this has become more “Street Racer” focused aside from the 2 Shift titles and Prostreet that are more professional racer focused. With the other titles being so story focused the quality of the story has been poor. I felt that a child that hasn’t learned to form words would be better at writing this crap. And the acting is awful and patronising, here’s a clip  from Need for Speed Most Wanted. Here’s another with a nice continuity error the PDA she holds up when she gets in the car gets rotated 180 degrees when the camera zooms out after the explanation of a completely redundant game mechanic.

But as time goes on this only seems to get worse, but that isn’t the only thing that has made Need for Speed one of the MANY IP’s that are making the games industry bad. Game play has only got worse over time. It’s patronising and insulting especially when some of the developers have been bad mouthing titles like Forza and Grand Turismo and saying they can create a more real experience with Need for Speed and completely failing. As a sim racer I have a huge collection of racing software, some sims, some games and the most arcadie and patronising of them all are almost always Need for Speed, Test Drive and Midnight Club. Conversely some of the most realistic racing games have been Forza, Grand Turismo, Race 07/On, but even these feel arcade-like when compared with the hardcore sims of Live for Speed, rFactor, iRacing.com.

So when a dev working on Need for Speed exclaims that he thinks his latest version of the most over polished turd in the history of racing games is better than some of the best examples of racing games, then that franchise loses credibility in my eyes.

This is the first part of why I think the Games industry is going to hell in a hand basket, I am working on part two but it may be some time before that one is released so if you have an opinion for or against me and anything I’ve said then comment, e-mail what ever you need to do to get your opinion to me (Just don’t call me at 4 in the morning or I’ll be very irate.).

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12 responses to “What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry – Part 1

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