In the wake of our confirmation that one of the numerous villains you’d be facing in the next open world Batman game is The Judge, there’s still one VERY big question about this game which people have been dying to get confirmation of (you already know if you’ve been listening to the podcast, though).
Originally, I had reported the protagonist under the cowl this time would be ‘Batman’s son’. As I, myself, am Batman illiterate, I wasn’t aware that this information would have been perceived as controversial. The outlets which ran my story had decided to slap Damian Wayne’s name on this, but they were jumping the gun, and I spent a good amount of energy attempting to set the record straight.
Honestly, Batman’s son could have been anyone. Depending on how many ‘universes’ you’re willing to take into consideration: Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Clark Wayne, Terry McGinnis, Tallant Wayne, Ibn al Xu’ffasch (yeah, I’ve been doing a little research)… and I don’t even know if that exhausts all the possibilities. You can argue alternate timelines, people he loved LIKE sons, or anyone that’s been ‘developed’ rather than naturally created isn’t a connection that shouldn’t be considered. But, fact of the matter is, if the game’s development studio is willing to change the face of Batman in gaming from Bruce to… well, someone else… then theoretically, they could go in any direction they please. As long as the player spends most, if not all of the game as a dude dressed as Batman, will game sales ultimately be affected? Doubtful.
In light of the recent information that’s come along, however, I made sure to inquire about the true identity of Batman in the new game.
And Damian Wayne it is.
To my understanding, Damian is the only TRUE son of Batman in the main continuity, so I guess the devs ARE trying to stay within that particular universe.
With people guessing Damian would be in the new game, I’ve seen opinions split down the middle. Some just don’t want to lose Kevin Conroy behind the mic, others are too used to seeing Bruce Wayne as the Bat, and some just flat out dislike Damian’s reckless behavior… or at least, reckless when compared to Bruce’s vigilante-in-hiding styling. On the other hand, there are plenty of others who genuinely prefer the fresh take that Damian has provided to a character that had been established for decades without TOO much change.
For additional news on this game – and there WILL be more – make sure to add bytesizeimpressions.com to your favorites list in your browser, and check out the podcast, which is available to stream or download on this site, or through iTunes Podcasts if you live in North America. After all, we did break the true identity of this Batman on the podcast first…
E3 was supposed to be Christmas for gamers. Sure, the conferences exist mostly to appease investors, but this should have been the one time of year internet hate mongers set their differences aside, treat each other like human beings, and rejoice in a weeklong celebration. Instead, what I’ve seen is a resurgence of the console wars, and it looks even sillier than it did at the beginning of the generation.
Since when did ‘fan’ become synonymous with gnarling your face and spitting the most putrid bile imaginable? Like, why is this even a thing? From where I’m sitting, it seems like all it takes is a difference of opinion. Forget context, forget reason. Hell, a number of the attacks I’ve seen on the net are completely unsolicited.
Is this really where we’re at? We’ve struggled for decades to show the world that gamers aren’t childish… and for what? To ultimately prove that stereotype is true?
Bravo, ladies and gentlemen. Bravo.
Now, I’m not blanketing my anger over the entirety of the gaming community, but for those of you that have engaged in pointless cock-measurement contests – and you know who you are – I feel a reminder is needed.
In case you’ve forgotten, we’re on the same team… all of us. So much time is wasted in Sony vs. Microsoft debates, and there’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.
How about the fact that this isn’t a two horse race? Why do people tend to forget about Nintendo? I know they haven’t done very well with the Wii-U, but it’s still a great platform to play great games on. Some people even prefer it. And let’s not forget about the PC, which plays pretty much all third party games and even has some exclusives that can’t be found on consoles.
I don’t think I’m being too idealistic here, either. If you want to know how dumb it is to compare consoles, just remember that most of what we play are the third party games. And you know what the conversation centers around when we talk about them? The games themselves, right? When you meet up with friends, you might say, “Have you played the new Doom? It’s freaking awesome!” They’ll probably nod their heads and say, “Yeah man. SO much fun!” Know what they’re NOT going to say? “Yeah man, totally! I’ve been playing it on my PS4, and guess what?! MY DYNAMIC RESOLUTION BUFFER IS BETTER THAN IT IS ON THAT CRAPPY XBOX!” These conversations don’t happen. They just don’t. And when performance IS discussed, it’s because there’s glaring issues that go wayyyyy beyond hardware capability.
See what I’m saying here? It’s all about the GAMES. But, since you console warring trolls – again, you know who you are – can’t help but feed your superiority complex, I have a message I want each ‘side’ to consider:
Xbots – You fools. You damn fools. Sony fans have been giving you the business for years. I imagine you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to show the world you’re classier, more mature… and yet, the moment you felt victory within reach, you lost your minds. No, really. You did. I don’t think you understand just how stupid you’ve looked since the Scorprio was revealed at E3. It’s been like watching William Wallace’s army in Braveheart when they mooned their enemies… except instead of the ‘freedom’ battle cry, you’ve been banging on about teraflops. Who cares about freakin’ teraflops? I don’t. And you know what’s funny? Most of you don’t even know what a teraflop is. All you’ve been doing is parroting the latest buzzword. And besides, your victory is imagined anyway. You’re comparing two consoles that have yet to see the light of day. If that doesn’t make you feel sheepish, then you have a severe lack of self-awareness, my friends.
Sony Ponies – Yeah, the Xbots are coming off like a bunch of delusional lunatics right now, but to be fair, this is how your fan base has looked throughout the entirety of this generation. 900p or 1080p, 30fps or 60fps… who gives a shit? You act like hardware performance is the most important thing in the world, but if you really felt that way, you’d buy a PC. It’s really that simple. Why compare nickels to quarters when you can get those dolla dolla bills, y’all? And, I know what you’re going to say, too. “Not everyone can afford a PC!” True. Consoles are less expensive than a PC. There’s no denying that. But I see a ton of you excited to drop at least another $400 on the Neo… after having already spent $400 on the OG PS4. That’s $800 in a single generation… just for hardware. You could have spent that money up front to get a machine that was capable of Neo-like graphics a while ago. “But Sony are for the players!” Nope. They’re not. They’re the same as any other major corporation out there. They’ll smile in your face while they reach for the wallet resting in your back pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my PS4, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with bowing at Yoshida’s feet.
And while we’re talking about console fanboys being a little too mouthy for their own good, there’s a couple other camps that also need to be addressed:
Nintendo Fans – You are, undoubtedly, the nicest fan base of the bunch… but some of you take your affection for this brand wayyyyy too seriously. Yes, Nintendo is a great place to play great games that can’t be found elsewhere. But some of you straight-up pretend that games on other platforms aren’t any fun. I totally get that we’re inundated with annual franchises and iterative formulas, but I still – and this is coming from someone who loves Nintendo – find plenty of great games to play. Unfortunately, some of you believe it’s your job to hype the company up, and feed their bottom line by supporting every shitty business decision they’ll ever make. Folks, on occasion, it’s OK to hold Nintendo’s feet to the fire. You won’t lose your fan badge. I promise. Complaining is the only way to keep major corporations reasonably ‘honest’. Do you really think having DLC in physical form is a good idea, especially in such short supply? How about the short charge life on the Wii-U gamepad’s battery? Have gimmicky controllers ever made any of their games better? You don’t have to shy away from these issues. I’ve made my feelings quite clear on Nintendo’s business practices (read here and here), and yet, I still enjoy their games. I still consider myself a fan. Crazy, right?
PC Master Race – With a name like ‘master race,’ you’d think some level of ACTUAL superiority would come into play… but oh, the hypocrisy. You act like gaming on a PC puts you above the squabbles of console fans, yet you actively seek opportunities to fight with them, to let them know how much better your rig is, and likely has been for years. But at the end of the day, you’re no better than those people, especially since you fight amongst yourselves over which brand of GPU is best. I see hateful AMD vs. Nvidia arguments far too often, and I’ve only been actively looking in on those conversations since the beginning of 2016. This year, PC has been my platform of choice, but your community is by far the most negative. Outside of those pitiful GPU battles, you also come off as spoiled brats who won’t spend more than $5 per game. Oh, and you try way too hard to justify piracy. As gamers, we should all want to ensure devs get paid for the games we’re about to enjoy. I get you want a better deal and all, but even without taking advantage of Ebay-like sites, pricing on PC games have been WAY better than anything I’ve seen in the console market. There’s zero need to steal stuff. So, when you cry a game isn’t within your insulting price range, I’ve got zero tears to shed.
Look, at the end of the day, we’re all gamers. Is it really worth arguing over minor fluctuations in performance? No. Of course it isn’t. For the most part, we’re still playing the same exact games. There’s only two times off the top of my head where I felt a noticeable difference because of a change in platform:
Dragon Age Origins – Its battle system was designed around a keyboard and mouse, and unfortunately, that means the console iterations had to suffer. Having played both PC and console versions of Origins, I can tell you that playing on a PC is almost like playing an entirely different game. I’ll never play this on consoles again.
Diablo III – Oddly enough, Diablo III’s situation is precisely the opposite. While the mouse and keyboard configuration worked well enough, hacking-and-slashing at a thousand clicks a minute wasn’t very comfortable. In Blizzard’s quest for more money, however, Diablo III was eventually ported to consoles. Not content with following in the steps of Dragon Age, Blizzard worked hard on ensuring the game felt nice to play on a controller. Well, not only does it feel nice, it is, in my opinion, the definitive way to play the game. Not sure they’ll ever convince me to play the PC version again… unless they patch in controller support at a later date. Seriously Blizzard, why haven’t you done this yet?!
I’m sure you guys have some other examples where gameplay itself can change from one platform to the next, but point is, these are exceptions to the rule. So, stop your squabbling. You’re wasting your time on that ‘mine is better than yours’ crusade. The cold, hard truth is that each platform comes with its own unique set of flaws. So, when you make it a point to attack another ‘side’ of the equation… well, you know what they say: “Don’t throw stones in a house of glass.”
My goal today wasn’t to just sit here and sling a bunch of shit talk your way, so please, don’t take it like that. Instead, I’ve merely attempted to show you all how foolish you look when you behave like children, a look which gamers simply do not need perpetuated by people who aren’t secure in the financial decisions they’ve made. Game on, everyone… but please, let’s do it quietly, or at the very least, positively.
The internet has been on fire with post-E3 impressions and controversy, and while I’ve been watching and participating in those conversations, there was little worth discussing on my site. My duty has been, first and foremost, to keep consumers informed when an industry ‘wallet predator’ comes along. The sad reality is that the video game industry is built upon unfriendly business models (for the consumer), so I’ve kept my mouth shut, lest I risk repeating the DLC and microtransations Doomsday spiel once again.
But I’ve seen something during a recent Steam sale that needs to be addressed.
This is going to come across as common sense for most, but it’s worth talking about. Why? Because gamers have a tendency to get attached to their favorite devices, services and development teams. There’s plenty of reasons why, the most important being that they want to defend the stuff they have fun with… but there’s another, more personal element they struggle with: How much their favorite entertainment providers care.
“They care about their customers” is a common discussion thread, and is hardly ever as true as people would like to believe.
And no, I’m not trying to say the industry is evil. But facts are facts, business is business, and money is ALWAYS the bottom line. If a model is consumer friendly but proves to be unprofitable, it won’t continue for the sole purpose of putting a smile on your face. So, some models are inevitably dropped, but most get reworked into something else… and that ‘something else’ is typically a better attempt to exploit your psychology.
The good news is that you can prepare to defend yourself against this. How? By learning about the products you’re interested in. Research is VITAL for consumer protection, especially now that impulse buys are just a click or two away.
We’ve been conditioned to jump for joy at the mere mention of a sale. I mean, the flash of excitement that sparks in most is virtually Pavlovian. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, either. Rich or poor, people will ALWAYS chase after a better deal.
And it all comes down to how our brains are wired.
When someone walks into a store and sees ‘SALE!!!’ in monster-truck sized font, they feel compelled to gravitate towards the sign.
Desire is triggered.
Next, their brain weighs the value of sale against the initial price. If the savings are significant enough, they reach for their wallet/purse and make the purchase.
Pleasure is achieved.
Amazing, isn’t it? We feel a rush, gravitate towards our goal, take it, and feel a sense of reward. We then have positive association with sales events, and keep seeking them out or take advantage when they roll around. And why? Because businesses have learned they can exploit sales to trigger a release of dopamine in our brains.
Haven’t you ever wondered why you buy so much useless crap? Dopamine. This chemical is highly linked with desire and reward, so when we emerge victorious at the end of the ‘reward pathway’, we’re more likely to perform the action again, logic be damned.
Steam sales are a perfect example of this. If you game on the PC, chances are good you have more games than you’ll ever be able to play in your life. Why buy so much if you’ll never have the time to get to it all?
The answer is, obviously, that you thought those deals were too good to pass up. Even though you didn’t need those games, you bought them anyway. It felt GOOD, so you acted on impulse. And all in part to dopamine.
Of course, not every sale feels like a win. In fact, some seemingly go out of their way to take advantage of us.
A short while ago, Grand Theft Auto V appeared on a Steam sale for… wait for it… $59.99 (regular price). How could this be? It was advertised as 25% off…
It’s because the ‘normal’ price was hiked up to $80.
Valve says this was an unfortunate glitch, but it matters little in the public eye. ‘The damage has been done’, as they say. People took a ride down the ‘reward pathway’, felt they were being had, and reacted accordingly. Instead of being treated with the pleasure of a dopamine release, their brains registered the experience as painful instead.
But I’m going to assume that Valve were telling the truth, and that this truly was done in error.
This sort of thing happens all the time. Not to this degree, of course, but it happens, and intentionally at that. Pay attention to those PS Store prices. During a good number of sale events, the ‘original’ price goes up. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Microsoft does the same thing. Either way, if consumers haven’t done their research, the subtle increase goes unnoticed, and they walk away feeling like they got a better deal than they actually did.
If the sales model sounds manipulative, that’s because it is. Again, not because it’s evil. That’s just how business works.
Every major business takes all aspects of human psychology into consideration, and I do mean ALL. Everything from store layout, to product placement, colors and even smell. It’s all diligently researched, tested, and (once fully optimized) implemented.
They’re essentially treating us like lab rats, with their stores as the maze. If the marketing department has done their job well enough, we’ll go through a majority of that maze to get what we want, impulsively grabbing things we didn’t intend for along the way. The end result, of course, is walking away and saying, “Wow! That place is great! I’ll have to go there again!”
You know, as if it were some sort of accident.
Of course, things play out a little differently on platforms like Steam (since there’s no physical property to walk through, nor any physical product to speak of), but it’s the same basic idea.
Soooo… where does this concept of trust come into play? Why do people feel the need to defend their favorite brands? Are the likes of Valve and Rockstar REALLY above doing this sort of thing? Of course not. EVERY company wants your money, and if they can implement changes to get more of it, they will. To believe otherwise is… is just silly. Especially in regards to this ‘console war’. Both Sony and Microsoft are willing to do whatever it takes to get your money… and people find it’s worthwhile to argue which one is ‘kind’ enough to fuck us the least?
The reality of the situation is that businesses only extend their hand far enough across the table to grab and pull you in. Forget about ‘trust’. It simply shouldn’t exist between company and consumer. The only things you should trust are research and your intuition. It’s a money hungry world out there, and everyone wants a piece of yours.
Consumers HAVE to be vigilant if they hope to come out on top, because this sort of thing isn’t exclusive to the video game industry. No, ANY business worth their salt knows the key to success is to keep customers happy, while not going as far as to ‘give the house away’. That’s why it’s so common to see things like the ‘original’ price go up during a sale event: It makes a larger psychological dent on the consumer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a local mom and pop, major retail chain, or even an internet giant like Amazon. They all do it.
The largest weapon in your arsenal is knowledge. With that in mind, remember that most sales are hardly worth the raise of an eyebrow. Some are certainly worth acting upon, but without your due diligence, you stand to lose more than you’ll gain.
As of late, the internet has made a huge a stink over the independent game Hatred, and for all the wrong reasons, at that. There’s seemingly little premise, other than the fact you play as a disgruntled man-hulk with anger issues, and he’s decided to ‘vent’ his frustrations by annihilating everyone who crosses his path, innocent civilians and officers alike. Predictably, both the media and public have brought their collective hand-to-mouth, gasping at the sheer audacity of Destructive Creations for coming up with such an idea in the first place.
The first natural question that comes to mind is, why DID the devs decide to embark on this project? I’m not flabbergasted, mind you. I’m just inquisitive by nature and want to know what the developers end-game was. Well, Polygon have already interviewed Destructive Creations in regards to this – who, on their very website, stated the game was a response to the trend of political correctness in video games – and upon reading it, I couldn’t help but let a bag full of chuckles out:
DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “The answer is simple really. We wanted to create something contrary to prevailing standards of forcing games to be more polite or nice than they really are or even should be.
“Yes, putting things simply, we are developing a game about killing people. But what’s more important is the fact that we are honest in our approach. Our game doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is and we don’t add to it any fake philosophy.
“In fact, when you think deeper about it…”
Here we go…
DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “…there are many other games out there, where you can do exactly the same things that the antagonist will do in our project. The only difference is that in Hatred gameplay will focus on those things. I also do believe that we’re pretty straight forward about this on our official website. Plus hey, you’ve got to remember that Postal was first and still is the king of the genre ;)”
Then, Polygon lobbed one of the dumbest questions I’ve ever seen in an interview:
POLYGON: “There has been a lot of negative reaction to your trailer, with people saying that it is unpleasant and gratuitous. Does this surprise you?”
No, Polygon. A new development team brands themselves ‘Destructive Creations’, creates a game about a man on a genocidal crusade, and had absolutely NO idea they’d generate this level of controversy…
DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “Not at all in fact as this is exactly what we’ve expected from the very beginning.”
NO! You don’t say!
POLYGON: “Some people say it has a very “shock tastic” ‘90s vibe, and that it is derivative of Postal. What is your reaction to this?”
DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “I’d say they have a lot of reasons to claim that. Especially that, as you can see, so called ‘shock tactic’ does its job very well and in fact we should thank all those haters out there for that. ;)”
You have to hand it to the sensationalist media, because when it comes to inserting foot-in-mouth, they are the undisputed kings. Gamers have been playing the likes of Doom, Night Trap, Postal, Carmageddon, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Splatterhouse, Manhunt, and Mortal Kombat for eons, yet the stigma of violence in this particular industry remains.
Every time the media finds a new punching bag to blame the world’s problems on, I’m compelled to grab a lawn chair and a bag of popcorn. I mean, the irony on display is sort of unreal, isn’t it? The media – that is, the entities which decide how to best spin a story to their advantage – points their finger at violent video games, citing THEM as the tool that brainwashes the young and impressionable. They hate any form of entertainment which features skewed depictions of murder, rape and war, yet tune into the news on any given night, and what are you likely to see? Skewed depictions of murder, rape and war.
Pot calling the kettle black, much?
Furthermore, when media outlets seek the moral high ground to abolish tasteless entertainment, they prove to be their own worst enemy. Journalists climb atop their podiums to say, “This product is deplorable, so nobody pay attention to it!” Yet, doesn’t putting these ‘awful’ pieces of entertainment in the spotlight amount to free promotion? Aren’t they pretty much guaranteeing that games like Hatred will succeed? It’s counterproductive, to say the least. Then again, the media knows this… and they couldn’t care less. Their goal isn’t to save us from violent imagery and interaction, but to draw us in with click-baity headlines and attention grabbing quotes. The more exasperated they appear, the more attention they draw. Basically, they depend on the very things they rally against to get attention. This is partly why one must ALWAYS question everything they read or see in the media. If they REALLY believed in what they were reporting, they’d be far less sensationalistic, don’t you think? Instead, we get headlines like this (once again, from Polygon): ‘The Worst Trailer of the Year Revels In Slaughtering Innocents’.
As a side note, Polygon gave Grand Theft Auto 5 a score of 9.5, and God of War: Ascension received a 7… I guess violence is okay as long as you belong to one of the special AAA clubs.
You would think I’d be infuriated, but I’m really not. As I said, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the media’s reaction to Hatred. Why? Because we’re being asked to believe that one side is a martyr while the other is outraged, and that’s clearly not the case. This is the first game the studio has made, and they know the only thing better than promotion is getting FREE promotion, so they endeavored to make a title that would make headlines. Of course, the media LOVES controversy, so they put on a show where they storm out of a gate with steam blowing out their ears… and then they cozy up to the source of the story and play ball. If you read the Polygon interview in its entirety, there’s a stark contrast between it, and the original ‘worst trailer of the year because bad stuff happens’ story. Things were quite friendly on both sides, and surprise, surprise, Polygon did everything to ensure controversy remained at the top of the bill, even if it meant deceiving their readers:
DESTRUCTIVE CREATIONS: “By the way, I consider ‘No Russian’ one of the best moments in the whole Call of Duty series!”
POLYGON: “Editor’s Note: This is a notorious scene in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which the player is asked to kill innocent people in an airport, in pursuit of enemies.”
Anyone who’s never played that game wouldn’t know any better, but that’s not entirely true. You’re forced to participate in a terroristic mission, yes, but you can avoid firing a single bullet until you reach your enemies. I think the studio brought this up for additional shock value, and Polygon, in typical media fashion, ‘clarified’ the reference with a sensationalist slant. Kind of seems like they’re scratching each other’s backs, here. Even if they’re not, these statements are meant to be inflammatory, and in a very self-serving way, at that.
But oh, if that was only the end of it…
Some days ago, Valve decided to pull Hatred off of Steam Greenlight, a program which allows (Valve’s) Steam users to decide which games get added to the service. Of course, the internet caught wind of this and spread the word rapidly. So much so, that it was only a day or two before Gabe Newell issued a complete reversal, issuing an apology to the Destructive Creations team in the process:
Yesterday I heard that we were taking Hatred down from Greenlight. Since I wasn’t up to speed, I asked around internally to find out why we had done that. It turns out that it wasn’t a good decision, and we’ll be putting Hatred back up. My apologies to you and your team. Steam is about creating tools for content creators and customers. Good luck with your game.
In this case, I can actually believe Gabe Newell didn’t know about this. Valve is a decentralized organization, meaning there’s plenty of people who have the authority to make these kinds of decisions. While departments seemingly report to Newell on a regular basis, it’s not as if ideas are put on hold until they make their way to his office. As a matter of fact, people are welcome to switch projects at will. I guess this ensures employees will remain happy since they have a bit of freedom to do whatever they want (within reason), but when it comes to stuff like this, it’s also proven to be a major PR risk. It’s nice that Gabe reversed the decision and all, but Valve isn’t coming out of this smelling like roses. When they pulled Hatred from Steam Greenlight, they insulted their community. Again, the program is about allowing users to decide what’s what… and Valve denied them that. Now that Gabe issued this e-mail to Destructive Creations, it could make Valve look highly disorganized in the public eye.
But again, I can’t help but laugh. If the media didn’t already guarantee that Hatred would become a success, Valve sure as hell did. As a result of their actions, the potential day 1 install base for this game has grown. Not only will curious gamers buy this game to see how offensive it is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if free speech enthusiasts picked this up to support the developer’s right to artistic expression. Hell, even the most fire-eyed critics could buy it, just to give a complete rundown on the objectionable.
Personally, I don’t care if Hatred flies or flops. I don’t feel it’s the boogeyman, but I’m far from confident that it would be worth the money. The most intriguing aspect of this title is the blame circus that’s transpired over its existence. Otherwise, it looks like the bajillion other twin-stick shooter I’ve already played. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for a studio to come along and say, “If the media is so hell bent on witch hunting for murder simulators, let’s give ‘em one. Because of their sensationalism, games often hide dastardly deeds with some sort of gimmick, and we’re tired of it.”
And you know what? That’s fine. Who cares?
If you don’t support what Destructive Creations is doing, then don’t support them. If you think the game looks like fun, then throw some money at it. Outside of that, there’s not much of a conversation to be had, is there? It’s 2014, and I think at this stage of the game, most reasonable people would agree that violence isn’t the byproduct of film, music or video games, but a weak mind. With that in mind, controversy is only utilized to further business interests all around, so instead of allowing them to influence your feelings, I’d recommend doing your own research and formulating your own opinion, as I’m sure many of you already do. The only person who can determine if a game is right or wrong, is you.
I’ve spent an awful lot of time pointing fingers at companies that care too much about revenue, and not enough about consumer satisfaction. So much so, that I, at times, have twisted that finger back at myself. It’s hard not to feel like an asshole when all I do is bitch and moan, but being that I’m constantly reminded of the sad state of the video game industry, I snap out of that funk pretty quick. I mean, I’m not asking too much of the devs and publishers, am I? I just want games to work the way they’re supposed to. Not on day two, seven, twenty-one or beyond… but day one. That seems both reasonable and logical, yet any time I bring this up, people tell me to “just deal with it” because “that’s just the way things are.” More than that, their attitude implies that because developers have the ability to patch our games through the internet, we should just default to being grateful… and I can’t side with that sentiment at all. As with most things I’m asked to ‘deal with’, my gratitude can only extend so far.
But it’s important to remember that just because a bunch of publishers opt to cut corners for the sake of deadlines, it doesn’t mean EVERY company is like that. No, there are studios that wholeheartedly believe in releasing games when they’re done. They know anything less would tarnish their name and drive customers away, so they try to do what’s best for EVERYONE, their company and gamers alike.
Let’s take Remedy Entertainment, for example. The studio is best known for its work on the Max Payne franchise (the first two installments), but I respect them most for the development cycle of Alan Wake. It was originally announced in 2005, with a brief tech demo shown to the press (behind closed doors, of course), but didn’t see the light of day until 2010. A long wait, sure, but the end result speaks for itself: It’s a game that exceeded both technical and conceptual expectation, and as a testament of this, stands as one of the best games on the Xbox 360. Will they uphold that quality with Xbox One’s Quantum Break? That remains to be seen, but this company has given me no reason to sweat them yet.
Rocksteady were supposed to release Batman: Arkham Knight this fall, but postponed it until June. The reason is unclear, but I think it’s safe to assume that they realized it wasn’t yet up to their level of standards. They have a decent track record thus far with Asylum and City, so why mess with it now? Warner Bros. Games Montreal took a stab at the franchise with Arkham Origins, and predictably, they shoved their offering out the door with a fair amount of bugs, including one which has been known to break the game.
You can say what you want about Nintendo, but one thing’s for sure: Their output is consistently problem free. When I turn on my Wii-U and pop in a first party game, there’s no question in my mind about how smooth an experience it will be. As a matter of fact, the only major issue I can recall is a game-breaking progression bug in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (which has since been fixed). Otherwise, everything I’ve played on their consoles has been technically spectacular.
So, why have I chosen this moment to break away from all the bitching and moaning to focus on something positive instead? That answer came in the form of an announcement from CDProjektRed:
Ever since we started working on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we knew it would be an ambitious game. We wanted, and still aim, to give you an incredible experience, an epic adventure in a vast, completely open fantasy universe.
The sheer size and complexity of The Witcher, key features of the title, have had a decisive impact on production. Now, nearing the end of our work, we see many details that need to be corrected. When we release the most important game in our studio’s history, we must be absolutely sure that we did everything we could to limit any bugs to a level that will allow you to enjoy the game thoroughly.
With this in mind, we took another look at current workloads and what they mean for the team. Even though everyone is working at full speed, we concluded that we need another 12 weeks, so we are shifting the release date of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to May 19th, 2015.
We owe you an apology. We set the release date too hastily. It’s a hard lesson, one to take to heart for the future. We know what we want to do to make Wild Hunt one of the best RPGs you will ever play. And we continue to work hard to achieve just that. So, we apologize and ask for your trust.
Thank you for the all support you show us on a daily basis. We truly do appreciate it. It has fueled us in our passion since the start and will continue to do so.
The Board of CD PROJEKT SA”
Oh, and just prior to this, they announced there would be plenty of free DLC in the several weeks following launch:
“As CD PROJEKT RED, we strongly believe this is not the way it should work and, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we have decided to do it differently. Cutting to the chase, everyone who buys Wild Hunt will receive 16 specially prepared DLCs absolutely for free, regardless of platform. You don’t have to pre-order, you don’t have to buy any special edition to get them — if you own a copy of Wild Hunt, they’re yours. This is our way of saying thank you for buying our game.”
Is there really any question that this is how things should be done?
I know some skeptics are probably calling me a CD Projekt RED fan boy at this point, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My first experience with this studio’s work was through The Witcher 2… and I only began playing that a couple of weeks ago. That said, I don’t have to be a devout fan to acknowledge the fact they just seem to ‘get it’. This company is openly against DRM, isn’t about to gouge their customers by selling DLC for what feels like an incomplete game, and they obviously care about the quality of their output.
It’s very seldom an entity in the industry decides to uphold these values, and while I understand that money has, and always will be the primary motivation, the likes of EA and Ubisoft should take note. If you ask gamers who they feel the most respectable studio is, you’re likely to find an overwhelming amount of people who echo Projekt RED’s name. Because of the respect they’ve shown for both their work and their customers, many in the gaming community feel they are a beacon of hope – at least as far as the AAA scene is concerned – that everyone should follow. There’s a reason why fans of this studio are increasingly loyal, and why more people swallow the RED pill each and every day. Hell, I know a couple of people who are going to buy The Witcher 3 JUST because they want to support this company’s business practices.
It’s unfortunate that so many companies have lost their way… that they’ve forgotten their customers are intelligent human beings who actually notice – and will respond negatively to – nickel-and-dime practices. Something else these companies have seemingly forgotten, is that people will actually REWARD the studios that treat them right. After all, CD Projekt RED hasn’t been elevated to ‘hero’ status amongst the gaming community for nothing. That’s not a label I’m comfortable bestowing upon them, however. My take is that they’re merely exercising common sense, but because various other companies have set the bar so low, it makes them look like saviors by comparison.
Still, the fact that an ever growing studio has managed to stick by their moral code, not to mention continually expandtheir business as a result of that, is highly encouraging. More encouraging than that, is that CD Projekt RED aren’t alone.
Take, for example, 11 Bit Studios. Their latest effort, This War of Mine, had (of course) inevitably leaked on The Pirate Bay. Their course of action? Well, they didn’t call their lawyers, or release numerous ‘join the fight against piracy’ statements to the press. No, their response was pure class all the way. Direct from the comment section of the torrent page (which is now missing, due to The Pirate Bay going belly up):
“It’s Karol from 11 bit studios, the developers of This War of Mine.
We are really happy to hear that you like our game. They prove, that spending 2 years on it was worth it.
I would like to say thank you to everyone, who decides to buy the game and support us — because of that we’ll be able to develop TWoM further and create even better games in the future.
If because of some reasons you can’t buy the game, it’s ok. We know life, and we know, that sometimes it’s just not possible.
Here are some codes for the steam copy of the game, so some of you can take a look at it. And if you like the game after spending few hours in, then just spread the word, and you’ll help us a lot.”
They elaborated their position with Polygon, as well:
“It’s just that not all pirates are the same. Of course there are people that would pirate the game even if it would cost 10 cents, but you can do nothing about them…”
“What many of us often forget though, is that there are also other people. Folks that are doing that, because they are simply pissed about the current quality of many games, or those who simply can’t afford the game at the time, because of some personal reasons,” he continued. “That’s why we believe that instead of treating everyone the same way, where pirates are the most evil people on earth, it’s better to talk and try to find a solution, where everyone somehow benefits.”
“You can’t buy the game, but you would like to suport [sic] us? Tell your friends, and who knows, maybe one of them will pay for it and that would give us few bucks,” Miechowski told Polygon.
“Pretty well known Polish indie developer Sos did something similar some time ago, and just like in our case it proved, that it always pays back if you try to understand people, instead of condemning everyone.”
Every studio has tales rooted in humble origins, and while some have forgotten what it means to provide and interact with human beings, others remain humble regardless of success. Again, the studios I’ve mentioned aren’t alone, and I believe the future of gaming may not be as bleak as it often looks. Think about it: We have a slew of independent developers making a splash on both consoles and PC, and they, more than anyone, understand how important it is to let hard work and positive word of mouth lead them to success. As we’ve seen with multiple AAA releases in 2014, good things will not await those who release games that don’t work as intended… especially when DLC and microtransactions are involved. No, instead, the ‘indies’ know they need to take their time, say ‘thank you’ to their loyal customers, and hopefully if they’ve done a well enough job, reap the benefits.
Years from now, I believe at least a handful of independent studios – such as 11 Bit Studios – will grow and become as respect as the likes of CD Projekt RED, Remedy Entertainment, Rocksteady Studios, etc. All we need to do in return is ensure that those who show us respect, get it back in spades, while those who treat us like bottomless piggy banks are brought to the forefront of conversation… you know, to keep them on their toes. And believe me, it works. Obviously Microsoft had little choice but to listen to their potential customers when it came to the Xbox One. In more recent news, Ubisoft said they’re going to change the way they interact with people, while Electronic Arts looks to improving the overall quality of future projects. Why? Because this contrast exists within the industry, and our collective voice DOES have an effect on how these businesses conform.
Bringing this back full circle, I know I spend a lot of time bitching on this site… but when it comes to the gaming industry, I DO believe hope is very much alive. Support the companies whose practices you applaud, and the rest should fall in place.