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So Mass Effect 3 is finally out. Actual game quality aside, I'm only writing this as a quick follow-up to my last blog entry.
I have spent 10+ hours with the game already and I want to tell you my experience with the Prothean character. Very early on you're given a mission to go back to Eden Prime. At first I didn't clue in but once you get there and see that fat Prothean stasis pod; it all becomes clear.
This mission played out much like any other from a bioware game. You do a cool, specific mission tailored to that potential squadmate and...well that's about it. Afterwards he acts just like every other squad member. It's just he's not very important to anything. He has very little dialogue outside of the mission and doesn't add anything that your other squadmates wouldn't. Plus, I've only met one person who actually acknowledges that he's a living, breathing Prothean. And it was just a passing remark.
Everyone assumed that this character would play an important role because he's a Prothean. Well I'm here to tell you that his role is far less substantial when compared to someone like Liara. Not to mention his powers are pretty useless in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it's because of my play style, but I like to have squad mates with abilities that rip through shields and barriers. So normally I role with Liara and...well I don't tell you who. But let it be known that this squadmate comes out of no where and is substantially cooler than the prothean. And for more useful as well. She has similar moves as Miranda from ME2 and is extremely flexible.
Now we come to the point where all you internet warriors are going to feel ashamed. Some people were so angry about this minor character that they attacked a bioware employee with death threats. They gave out her personal information and generally harassed the crap out of her.
Obviously a bunch of nerds probably aren't going to follow through with death threats, but that's not the point. The issue is that you people felt like you knew Bioware's game better than they did and decided to make life miserable for this one employee who only told the truth. This kind of behaviour is sick and should not be tolerated. It was very reassuring to know that bioware immediately created a zero tolerance policy for the harassment of their employees and banned a lot of users.
Internet mob mentality is a dangerous thing and can be sparked by even the smallest of grievances. Maybe next time you all won't assume you know better, Maybe you'll just wait and see exactly what it is you're so vehemently against before acting like a bunch of ignorant a-holes.
Today an Article went up on Gamespot concerning Bioware and their defense of the Day-One DLC in Mass Effect 3.
Many people very obviously didn't read the article and went straight to the comments. They then proclaimed that it should have been on the disc. They claim this is a scam and remember a time when games shipped finished. This is of course horribly misguided. It's clear why they would feel this way, but it's only because they don't know how the games industry works.
Allow me to enlighten you.
There are many different groups of people who work on a game. You have Directors, Producers, all kinds of designers, writers and many different artists. During the infancy of a game, the people who make the actual assets of the game don't have much to do, as there are no assets to create. Designers and writers come up with the story and general aesthetics of the game. Meanwhile artists are making concept art that they think will fit within the confines of their fantasy world.
Now you might be saying to yourself, "Well obviously Ryan, you didn't need to tell us how games are made". But this is very important. Not everyone is working at 100% for the entire game development cycle. Different points require different skills, and everyones job is dependent on how far other have come. Remember this.
A game typically goes through 4 points of development:
- Pre-Alpha: This is the pure concept phase. Characters are created and general story arcs are thought out. Your team is very small because of the lack of manpower needed. This is when you begin hiring for your super secret "AAA" project.
- Alpha: You have a general idea of what you want and assets have been created. This is your typical E3 Demo/vertical slice. They focus one part of the game they know is going to be there, and use it to show off their hard work. Your team has grown significantly in size.
- Beta: You're at a near final build. This is when general tweaks and focus testing are done to hone the experience and trim off the fat.
- Gold: This means your game is for all intents and puposes finished. You have submitted to the ESRB for approval, and then you send you game to get printed and shipped. This is also the time of hardcore bug fixing so you can maybe release a patch for launch day. Non essential team member are cut.
You'll notice I never mentioned DLC. This is because it's a relatively new idea that deserves its own full explanation.
DLC is planned. It always has been. They don't just think it up out of an urge to "screw the consumer". DLC is planned because it is a way to extend the life of your current game, fend off used sales and help accrue more money for a bigger, badder sequel.
Once the game has made it to beta, the job of a designer, while still hectic, is not as important as it was in the early stages. They are not pounded with deadlines to meet so their publisher can have a nice 3rd quarter or a big bump at the end of a fiscal year. This is when they plan for DLC. Now this DLC could be a new gun and armour set, or even a new character skin. Or it very well could be a side story and an expansion to the campaign that didn't quite fit in with the main story. In the case of Gears of War 2, they released a mission that was supposed to be in the game but didn't make it because of time restraints.
There are a lot of sacrifices and cuts made to games before they are released. This is why only the most popular games of old got "the lost level" releases because there was a demand for it and the money was there to release it.
Developers have different roles inside a company, and instead of resting on their laurels, they continue to work. This is something that would have never happened 10 years ago. All those people who are now working on DLC would have been fired or cut so that a smaller team could focus on making the planning stages of the new project. This is something not a lot of people know. Working in the games industry is a fickle matter because of how easily you are chopped off when the bulk of the work is done. Obviously senior staffers stay around, but it's difficult to become one and settling in with any developer is HARD.
So while these grunts are toiling away on DLC (Day 1 or otherwise), there game is being submitted, approved, pressed and shipped. This is something that happens for every game. I read a great analogy where a video game is like ice cream and DLC is the sprinkles. There weren't always sprinkles. But now that we have them; they're still not necessary. You can get them if you want, but if you don't, it doesn't detract from the overall experience because you still have your delicious ice cream.
I find this mass effect debacle to be especially interesting because what they're giving you is very much sprinkles. You get some extra weapons, a robot dog pet, alternate skins and a hoodie for when you're on the Normandy. Hardly something integral to the ME3 experience, wouldn't you say? Aren't you glad that no resources were diverted from the main game so that you could have these wonderful add-ons on the disc?
If you really want your shepard to wear a hipster N7 hoodie, petition Bioware to stop product, resubmit and print those millions of discs all over again.
Or you could lose that misplaced sense of entitlement.
Let me start off with a little background. I've been a member of this site and many like it since 2004. I have become part of their culture and am even going to school in an attempt to be a journalist. I consider myself to be well informed and know there are far more casual visitors to Gamespot. But one focal point for everyone in gaming journalism is the review process. This is where people come to see if their pre-order is justified, or if a game they were on the fence about is worth that leap onto the other side. It is also a place of ravenous and disturbing "fanboyism".
Everyone who plays video games has a genre they love the most. Some are fans of lengthy and deep RPG's while others love the run and gun adrenaline rush of the First Person Shooter. They become attached to franchises within these genres and the fine details found therein. This is when the preview coverage becomes just as popular as the reviews themselves. With high profile games like Uncharted, Elder Scrolls or Battlefield, these events feature highly scripted and carefully thought out demos. These demo's are a lot like an interactive commercial. The whole point is to sell you on the game so that all important pre-order will be made. They're known as a vertical slice. All the mechanics (the vertical part) crammed into a small amount of time (the slice part). Editors/News-hounds impressions are based solely off these small teasers. Playing a game in it's entirety and experiencing all of what it has to offer is a completely different story.
The hobby of video games is also an expensive one. Depending on how early in the life cycle you choose to invest, you could be paying anywhere from $200 to $600 (lets hope that never happens again). That's a lot of money to lock yourself into one brand. Think about this for a minute. When you buy a Toshiba DVD player, your not restricted to the "Toshiba DVD's". But when you buy a Playstation, you are only allowed to play Playstation branded discs. This creates a very unique situation for console developers. Their whole livelihood depends solely on how well the consoles are selling. Plus they ask for another $60 on top of that for each game. To the average person, that is a decent chunk of money (especially come November). There's suddenly a lot of money involved in you having that single experience, and when a review comes out to be contrary to your opinions, this can create a problem.
Herein lies the rubs. Game sites, by their nautre, post as many of these vertical slices as possible in order to gain more traffic. This creates false expectations for the final product and then when the review lands, if it's not a perfect 10 (or at least a 9.0) that the consumer inferred; a proverbial "feces-storm" ensues.
There's an inherit problem with a 10 point scale that passes over most people. All games have a written review and a number associated with them. This number is a reflection on the reviewers over-all thoughts on the game. But more and more frequently, this number is what's used to determine how good a game is, and not the reviewers more in-depth analysis. This is partly the fault of aggregates like Metacritic who average out scores of professional outlets into one "super score". This itself isn't particularly egregious, but it also makes the numbers more prominent than they should be.
This leads us to the biggest mistake of the average consumer: comparing numbers. I believe that reviews are completely seperate entities from one another. This is especially true when talking about games of completely different genres. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but that number is always there for direct comparison. For example, Jeff Gerstmann gave Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 a 10 for this website all the way back in 2001. It's perfectly reasonable to say that game is not worth a 10, but if the argument is valid then the score is valid. But this Tony Hawk review teaches us two valuable lessons. Just because it has a higher score than say, battlefield 3, does not at all mean it's a better game. I'm sure most of you would agree with me. The second lesson is that games age. I'm sure if that exact same game was released tomorrow, it would not receive a 10.
So many games are released now-a-days with such high quality standards that it's sometimes easy to forget that Gamespot uses a 10 point scale. A lot of games do get in the 8-10 range, but that's only a reflection on how well the industry is doing. Saying a game is inferior to another because it recieived half a point less is as ridiculous as it is frivolous.
Maybe it's a sign of the times, or maybe the 1-10 scale needs to be rethought. The fact remains that the score today holds a much higher value in many eyes than the written review itself. It's a quick and easy way to compare two games someone might want to purchase, but it's the wrong way to go about it. Maybe the current trend of making everything in video format has soiled our ability to read, but it it shouldn't ruin our ability to reason.
P.S On a personal note, a prefer a 5 star system with no half stars, like Giantbomb. It provides a clear indication of what the reviewer thought while being simple enough to avoid the "this game should have gotten a 9.5 not a 9.0" craziness. But as i understand it that's not good for recieving games on time because it doesn't transfer over to metacritc very well. It's weird how peoples bonuses and salary increases are dependant on certain goals on Metacritic. Maybe we should just shut down websites like Metacritic and Gamerankings?
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