E3 has come and gone again, the announcements are over and the presentations given. Its now time for the over-analyzing and theorizing on what the game will be like when it launches, and what hints and clues as to the topic and stories of the game we can gleam from the trailers. But over the past few years I think the way that this process has historically happened is changing quite rapidly. Games are having to do more and more in order to grab hold of our attention as we wait the additional 8-12 months that it takes for that game to actually appear on shelves. We have tools at our fingertips that allows us to get information about all of these titles incredibly quickly and we have dozens if not hundreds of websites whose main goal is to get us the most detailed and interesting information they can. I think it’s both the rising standards that we have for these games and the now near hyper-critical nature of some gamers today that is causing some of the decline in quality we are seeing in the games industry.
Now that doesn't mean that I'm saying the next time something as buggy as Battlefield 4 comes out we should just be happy that we got anything at all, but what I am saying is that there is one competing factor about video games that collides with our, the gamers, demands.
The fact is that the video game industry, is a business.
Take for example Call of Duty, a game which has been under flak from gamers since they hit their stride back in 2007 with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Many people would argue that Activision hasn't really changed a thing since then, which why would they, I mean as the old saying goes: if it ain't broke don't fix it. Activision gets so much money off of that franchise alone that they have brought in a third development studio just to make sure the annual release date isn’t affected by shoddy quality.
Which brings me to my point, a number of games have come out recently that looked, and sometimes played, remarkably different from when they were originally showcased at E3 regardless of whether gameplay had been shown or if it was merely a CG trailer. I have been reading through quite a lot of anger about this. People saying that they feel lied to or maybe something went wrong during development. However I think the issue is much closer related to the business side of things than anything else, a tech demo of a new game is just that, a Demo. The developers need a series of fairly scripted events to convey proper aspects of the gameplay and engine that they want to highlight to the gamers that they hope will soon be purchasing the game. In these demos they have the ability to not render or even use the rest of the game, whether that’s open world content or perhaps parts of levels, besides whatever area of the game they are using in the demo. For instance, the Watch_Dogs E3 trailer showed incredible detail and texture that we all cooed over at the time and when re-creating very similar moments in the actual game were presented with changed textures, reduced particle effects, and even restricted lighting that changed the overall quality and look and feel of the game. Perhaps Ubisoft didn’t have the time or the money in order to properly piece together the whole world, or perhaps they focused so intently on the next gen consoles that by the time everything was ready they realized that the PC version blew the consoles out of the water (hence the reduced fidelity). There are dozens of reasons that a development studio can make mistakes, but I would like to believe that a studio responsible for so many franchises may simply have spread itself too thin in order to keep up with the demand that current gamers have.
With our expectations set so high for these games I think we, as the community and as gamers, are causing some of this rigidity in the studios lack of innovation. If we want change we need to be willing to adapt to the changing market ourselves not just expect development studios and publishers to do it for us. The wave of DLC madness that is hitting Xbox and PlayStation titles is absurd, especially when it's day one content, and the amount of games that are being released before they are ready is increasing. On top of that we can see the studios who haven't released their title for the next gen pushing their titles back til next year in order to further refine and test their games, which frustrates us, as the gamers, when we are given dates that can’t be met.
So the next time you see a gameplay video at E3, or a new CG rendered trailer is put before you, remember that things are often too good to be true when it comes to what you see and what you get. There are an innumerable number of factors that come into play when we talk about games like Destiny, with its $500 million dollar budget, or even The Division, which I hope against hope will actually live up to it's own hype at launch. We shouldn't be tolerant of these lies, but until we stop throwing our money at the franchises or companies that we hold responsible I doubt they will listen too intently.