Di­a­logue

Edge read­ers share their opin­ions; one wins a Tur­tle Beach head­set

EDGE - - SECTIONS -

All about the Ben­jamins

I re­cently in­ter­viewed at a fa­mous free-toplay MMORPG pub­lisher. What started as a promis­ing ses­sion of en­thu­si­as­tic and heart­felt ex­changes about our com­mon pas­sion for videogames quickly turned into a heart­break­ing se­ries of dis­il­lu­sions as, one af­ter the other, my in­ter­view­ers kept bluntly declar­ing rev­enues were all that mat­tered, the bench­mark by which the value of its people was mea­sured, and the quin­tes­sen­tial goal of any of their en­deav­ours. They prided them­selves in copy­cat­ting game­play recipes that have been proven to work in Asian mar­kets, sim­ply im­port­ing them with a new skin for the western au­di­ence. As I lis­tened to the re­lent­less urges of the of­fended gamer’s voice in­side me, I dared ask about the place that the qual­ity of the game had in that setup, but my ques­tion was quickly brushed aside. While cer­tainly a nice sup­ple­ment, a pas­sion for qual­ity and a will­ing­ness to con­tin­u­ously im­prove games were by all means not an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity for any as­pir­ing em­ployee.

I was filled with in­dig­na­tion, frus­tra­tion and ir­ra­tional anger at the off-hand­ed­ness with which this com­pany treated game de­vel­op­ment and the play­ers, and at the very idea of such a de­hu­man­i­sa­tion of game pro­duc­tion, which went against all the fan­tasies I had al­ways en­ter­tained about game de­vel­op­ers and their pur­pose. These ones were ded­i­cat­ing all their cre­ative spirit to find ev­ery sin­gle most in­no­va­tive way of milk­ing play­ers. Don’t get me wrong: profit has to be the nat­u­ral goal of ev­ery busi­ness. But in­dulging in a shame­less ex­cus­ing of ex­tract­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble penny out of the play­ers in front of in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates mocked all that I ever held dear in the artis­tic en­deav­our of cre­at­ing videogames.

To my eyes, this ex­pe­ri­ence has dra­mat­i­cally put in per­spec­tive the back­lash triple-A pub­lish­ers have been con­sis­tently re­ceiv­ing for short­en­ing game ex­pe­ri­ences while not lim­it­ing the end­less in­fla­tion of re­tail prices with the pass­ing of con­sole gen­er­a­tions. Be­hind these triple-A ti­tles, there are still pas­sion­ate and cre­ative tal­ents who put their ef­forts to­wards cre­at­ing high­qual­ity prod­ucts for a sim­ple rea­son: if qual­ity was sac­ri­ficed for easy mon­eti­sa­tion, how would they jus­tify the high price tag? Be­hind them, there are still teams that want to make videogames for their ul­ti­mate pur­poses: en­ter­tain­ment, plea­sure, won­der.

This is not a cam­paign against free-toplay, which cer­tainly has a num­ber of mer­its as a busi­ness model. How­ever, the rise of free-to-play will have con­se­quences of which the full mag­ni­tude is yet un­known. One of its main per­verse ef­fects is that it has al­lowed for the emer­gence of a new and unique type of com­pany pre­vi­ously alien to the videogame in­dus­try: game pub­lish­ers de­void of any game sen­si­tiv­ity. There are now ex­clu­sively met­rics-driven, re­sults-ob­sessed cor­po­rate crea­tures whose only pur­pose is to en­hance the mon­eti­sa­tion of games as they would the mon­eti­sa­tion of vac­uum clean­ers, a pol­icy in­fect­ing and cap­ping de­vel­op­ers’ artis­tic am­bi­tions with the prac­ti­cal im­per­a­tives of rev­enue gen­er­a­tion. Al­though nu­mer­ous free-to-play ti­tles are of high qual­ity and right­fully re­ceive praise, this busi­ness model has at the same time al­lowed for easy-money com­pa­nies to be born at an alarm­ing rate, and swarm onto mo­bile and PC game mar­ket­places at the ex­pense of play­ers.

Pas­sion for games is a nice bonus for any per­son ap­ply­ing to these com­pa­nies, but be­ing a suc­cess­ful car dealer would catch their at­ten­tion far more. Af­ter all, if you can skil­fully sell a ve­hi­cle, what’s to pre­vent you from be­ing a stel­lar sales­man for vir­tual swords and mounts? Your back­ground,

“The rise of freeto-play will have con­se­quences of which the full mag­ni­tude is yet un­known”

in­ter­est or knowl­edge of games all mat­ter not, only your abil­ity to deliver on rev­enue tar­gets. So if you can get across with num­bers, you’re in. Games are com­mod­i­fied and it’s not about cre­at­ing the best con­tent, only the high­est-rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing con­tent. In this new par­a­digm, game pro­duc­ers are no longer there to make sug­ges­tions to im­prove the play­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ence, only to make it more prof­itable.

Games are about the play­ers. Could there be an uglier con­cept for a pub­lisher than that of sac­ri­fic­ing qual­ity for easy copy­cat rev­enue? De­vel­op­ers should be will­ing to cre­ate un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences, not bend­ing their game­play to ac­com­mo­date the whims of free-to-play pub­lish­ers. Real progress can­not be quan­ti­fied in growth rates, aver­age rev­enues per user or churn, so one cru­cial ques­tion re­mains: is this model help­ing the in­dus­try live up to its am­bi­tions to be recog­nised as an en­ter­tain­ment medium on par with other art­forms?

When ma­chines are able to make more in­formed de­ci­sions than hu­mans on which gift bun­dle and events gen­er­ate higher rev­enues in a game, a wave of un­em­ploy­ment will sud­denly crash over these pub­lish­ers’ em­ploy­ees. Is there truly no additional value to these people? Com­ing out of the in­ter­view room, I was wait­ing for them to show me that there was a soul some­where within the shell of this com­pany. But as I par­tic­i­pated in a last round of hand­shakes, walked down the long cor­ri­dor to­wards the exit and closed the door of the build­ing be­hind me, I never glimpsed it.

Name sup­plied

Free-to-play copy­cats may not last, but their po­ten­tial im­pact on a gen­er­a­tion of de­vel­op­ers is a huge con­cern. Good luck with find­ing some­thing more ap­pro­pri­ate soon. In the mean­time, a prize is on its way.

A quote quib­ble

In is­sue 265, you re­it­er­ated Shigeru Miyamoto’s fa­mous quote: “A de­layed game is even­tu­ally good; a bad game is bad for­ever.” Like most fol­low­ers of the videogame in­dus­try, I have great re­spect for Miyamoto’s achieve­ments, but ev­ery time I see this quote I feel that it is not as in­sight­ful as it first ap­pears.

Firstly, many de­layed games are not, in fact, any good. Some­times this can be be­cause the project turns in to a death march, or be­cause the game misses its zeit­geist mo­ment.

Sec­ondly, the im­pli­ca­tion of the quote is that a rushed game will al­most al­ways be a bad game. Again, this is not true. It is not easy to pro­vide ex­am­ples; gen­er­ally the de­vel­op­ers of projects that were rushed but turned out well don’t like to dwell on it. Nev­er­the­less, we of­ten read about games launch­ing with a re­duced fea­ture­set, and in many cases these are great games.

Let’s keep quot­ing in­dus­try he­roes, by all means, but only when their quotes stand up to close in­spec­tion.

Chris Tomkins

Doesn’t that quote seem more ap­pro­pri­ate than ever in an era where con­sole devs ship in haste and re­pent across end­less patches? But fair enough – the next time we see Miyamoto, we’ll sort him out.

An Ocu­lus rift

I watched with a mix of amuse­ment and res­ig­na­tion as my friends took to their Face­book ac­counts to de­cry its cre­ator’s pur­chase of Ocu­lus. The Rift head­set will now, if their fears are to be be­lieved, be­come a taste­lessly branded feed-viewer re­duced to run­ning stereo­scopic ver­sions of Far­mVille and Be­jew­eled. This is patently ridicu­lous.

There seems to be some gen­eral sense of be­trayal – that a scrappy, crowd­funded com­pany find­ing fur­ther in­vest­ment some­how un­der­mines the pledges made on Kick­starter. But that cam­paign was all about mak­ing the tech­nol­ogy work. Pro­to­types are al­ready avail­able, so it did the job, and while it’s un­der­stand­able that a sense of own­er­ship would be at­tached to people fund­ing a de­vice with their own money, they seem to be for­get­ting that Rift is still far from ready for the aver­age con­sumer.

In or­der to get to that point, Ocu­lus needs the money of a larger, es­tab­lished com­pany, and Face­book’s vi­sion for us­ing VR in so­cial ways can, as far as I can see, only be a pos­i­tive thing for Rift. If Face­book can fol­low through and make the VR head­set a main­stream de­vice, then that only in­creases its ap­peal as a gam­ing plat­form and will at­tract more de­vel­op­ers. That Face­book has no VR ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t a bad thing ei­ther – it means it will look to Palmer Luckey and John Car­mack for guid­ance. And as for those Far­mVille fears, it makes lit­tle sense for Face­book to aban­don the work al­ready un­der­taken by the likes of Fron­tier and CCP for the de­vice.

Mo­jang’s de­ci­sion to drop out is stupid too (Notch cit­ing his con­cerns over the “creepy” and “un­sta­ble” na­ture of Face­book on so­cial me­dia), con­sid­er­ing that the de­vel­oper was happy to work so closely with Mi­crosoft, a com­pany fac­ing re­peated pri­vacy in­va­sion ac­cu­sa­tions and that has been crit­i­cised for its un­clear vi­sion.

In his open let­ter, Palmer Luckey re­it­er­ates his de­sire to make VR avail­able to ev­ery­one. While it might ini­tially seem like an odd fit, if you take some time to con­sider the po­ten­tial be­fore an­grily up­dat­ing your sta­tus, it’s easy to see why Luckey chose to go ahead with the deal. All of this de­pends on both com­pa­nies fol­low­ing through on their prom­ises, of course, but the point is that it’s too early to judge – es­pe­cially not when your opin­ion is founded in para­noia. How­ever it turns out, we can at least be sure that with Face­book’s fi­nan­cial might be­hind him, Luckey is in a bet­ter po­si­tion than ever to move his vir­tual vi­sion into re­al­ity.

D Fos­ter

Suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies di­ver­sify, but we shouldn’t let that sort of thing get in the way of some good old-fash­ioned rant­ing.

Is­sue 265

Tur­tle Beach’s Ear Force PX4 (RRP £149.99) is com­pat­i­ble with PS4, Xbox One and PC set­ups

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.