Archive for the ‘Dungeon Siege III’ Tag
Recently in a Steam sale, I picked up the game VVVVVV. The name draws attention to two features of the game, the fact that each of the six characters have names beginning with the letter and the triangular spikes that litter the game. The game is a deliberately retro platformer and it wears its intentions on its sleeves from the ZX Spectrum-era music to the loading screen from those by-gone days.
When I tend to think of retro games, I tend to think of games beyond a certain point in time, more than two generations in console terms. PS2 and Xbox games aren’t retro to me yet, but Playstation, Sega Saturn and N64 games (as well as their contemporary PC titles) are. What I’ve seen, however, is a lot of people use the term retro gaming to refer to games specifically from their childhood days. Now, my first gaming machines were from the 16-bit era and, as such, long after the video games crash of 1983. As such, when I see VVVVVV it really harkens back to an age of gaming where I was not alive, let alone playing games, but I have played video games from the 70s and 80s and do consider myself a bit of a retro-gamer, but playing VVVVVV made me think.
It presents itself as a very hard game and it really is. It also presents itself as very frustrating and, perhaps that is true for the hardcore fans who saw their first games before I was born and are pushing towards middle-age or have reached it by now, but I never found it frustrating. There’s this one bit where the game puts you through a series of levels where you have to dodge carefully placed spikes to reach a platform which you bounce off to get to a trinket on the other side and it almost seems to gloat (given the screen names) about how frustrating, unfair and, ultimately, how unrewarding the trinket is at the end.
And that’s something that bothers me. It’s not frustrating me at all because there’s no real challenge there. It’s simply a matter of time and death is barely a setback. Sure, I died a few hundred times getting through that puzzle, but the point is I got through that puzzle.
What do we actually want from older games? The fact is their difficulty alone wasn’t enough to make them good games. Castlevania on the NES was hard, but it was possible to do it first run, you just had to sit and think about how you were going to approach each task rather than learn by rote what you needed to do at what moment in order to get further. VVVVVV isn’t like that, there’s a lot you learn to do simply by rote and getting your timing right can be very hit and miss.
It’s not an awful game, it’s got a lot of charm to it. What it does, however, is make me very thankful that games have blossomed beyond the very limited set of genres and ideas that games in the 70s and early 80s had. In Charlie Brooker’s Gamewipe, he gave the example of a programme from the early days on computer gaming where one presenter dismissed games as lacking any long-term or mass appeal. He criticism wouldn’t stand today because, at the time, games only came as aesthetic variations on one of a few concepts.
My point to all this is we should not harken back nostalgically to a supposed golden era of gaming where things were better, because games are much better today than they have ever been. It’s fun to play some of the older games that were good at the times, but can we really compare classics like Space Invaders to the best of modern day gaming? No, Space Invaders bores me to tears quickly because it’s the same level repeated for the sole achievement of earning an increased number near the word ‘score’ that does not appeal to me as much as it did to those gamers. Pac Man is a little more fun because there’s a bit more balanced challenge and variety but, again, modern gaming wins out. After the NES came out, the face of gaming changed radically and grew into new forms; it still does.
The problem is every time a Brink or a Dungeon Siege III or a Duke Nukem Forever comes out, players are rushing to praise how older games had it right, but they are comparing the better games that they remember to any game coming out today. The fact is that there was plenty of crap coming out then, why does anyone think the crash of ’83 happened? But people won’t remember Custer’s Revenge or E.T. on the Atari 2600. People remember the first Castlevania more than they remember Simon’s Quest and we don’t realise that we do this all the time (and not just in gaming).
So I have a criticism of VVVVVV and that’s the assumption that pins a lot of the talking that games are too easy, too soft on gamers today. They’re not, because the difficulty of games like VVVVVV aren’t a complex, satisfying challenge; they are just arbitrarily difficult to extend game length and we should not condemn modern games for cutting this out. What’s worse, I don’t get irritated or give in to the frustrations of VVVVVV because death is so trivial and arbitrary that it’s turned itself on its head and become fairly easy to complete.
If there’s one thing I want anyone to take away from this, it’s that, regardless of how much we loved Black Isle and how good their games could be with proper QA, we should just stop buying Obsidian games until they either change or die off. The sad fact is they are not improving their QA after 8 years of buggy games.
Obsidian Entertainment recently released Dungeon Siege III and while Metacritic scores are veering towards the better side of mediocre, user scores are hitting the same lows as games like Dragon Age II. While it’s easy to treat this as a sign that you shouldn’t take professional reviewers at face value due to their unfortunate tendency of being less critical of games that they ought to be, there is a distinct problem at Obsidian that needs to be solved.
I am talking about their bug-ridden software. Defenders of Obsidian often point to their game’s large scope and depth as a reason for the bugs and we should expect these problems. This simply doesn’t work as a defence, Dungeon Siege III had a larger number than any comparably-sized release I’d seen for a long while and, more importantly, launch-time patches designed to fix problems introduced even more problems that seem so surreal and outlandish that it is hard to imagine how any programmer could derail a patch so.
It’s not even as if Dungeon Siege III is the only bad release, either. Look at the Wikipedia pages for Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Alpha Protocol. Of them, only Fallout: New Vegas got a positive Metacritic score across both professional and user ratings. While it’s the case that Fallout and Neverwinter Nights 2 both have fans of older, non-Obsidian games lowering their user ratings, the lion’s share of complaints from both games seem to be about bugs.
It’s interesting they don’t mention Neverwinter Nights 2 or Alpha Protocol in this.
What is worse, as demonstrated by the Dungeon Siege III launch-time patches, is that Obsidian’s patching policy makes the problems worse. Dungeon Siege III with its control reversal problem or its hour-long game lockout due to two separate patches is not the first to do this, both Fallout and Alpha Protocol fell short here with new problems introduced as old ones are being (often only partially) fixed.
Dungeon Siege III is also plagued by a horde of poor design choices: co-op mode puts the second player, in the words of Penny Arcade, in the role of a side-kick in the first player’s story with no long term gains; players cannot reconfigure any keys or controls for the keyboard, and many complaints on the forums have been met with a “use a gamepad” response. There is also the fact that many older fans of the series complain that the game doesn’t live up to the earlier games, but to what extent these sentiments are based on problems or just dogged gamer conservatism is hard to tell.
If I’m not holding punches for Mojang over this, I won’t for Obsidian. Various game magazines have spoken with people at Obsidian about this issue and they have received the same line: Fallout’s problems were unfortunate, but we’re working extra hard on the QA of Dungeon Siege III.
They evidently didn’t work hard enough, as evidenced by these new patches. They are like the trainwreck spouse who keeps coming back with a promise this time will be different and ends up wrecking it for you yet again if you let them in. In this situation, part of the blame lies on the person who keeps foolishly letting someone like that back into their home, likewise the consumer needs to be more demanding and more savy about what they are getting for their money. There aren’t really any major consumer rights groups for video games out there that have really made themselves known and it’s long overdue.
The short of all this is that Obsidian needs to change the way it views QA, but no promised internal effort on their part has enacted such a change. If a company fails like this, repeatedly over the course of at least four games, then it is time for the consumer to force the change. The simply answer is do not buy Obsidian’s games, do not buy Dungeon Siege III because you liked Black Isle and want to see Obsidian survive regardless of how talentless they are at QA or because you need that third instalment of a loved series. Stay away from Dungeon Siege III because it is buggy and mediocre, just like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Alpha Protocol.
I’m abandoning main news in order to push for more separate news articles, leaving more room for quick-cap news here.
* Opposable Thumbs talked about the story and aftermath of the controversial Potato Sack promotion for Portal 2.
* One of the iconic Abe games (Oddysee or Exoddus) is getting a new HD remake sometime in the future, it has been confirmed. We can hope this’ll find its way to the PC.
* THQ’s Red Faction: Armageddon has been delayed by a week, no explanation has been given but last minute bug fixing is suspected.
* After disaster after disaster, F.E.A.R. 3 has been pushed back again from its already amended release date to later in June.
* EA’s latest Need for Speed entry, The Run, has been detailed and dated for a November release.
* Players will be able to download the Brink server software via Steam before the game’s release. Bethesda have also offered an FAQ about the configuration of the server.
* With their recent woes, JoWood have received a helping hand from GoG.com who are selling JoWood titles with up to 75% off this weekend. With a little luck, this’ll help keep the wolf from JoWood’s doors.
* John Romero has started work on a new Facebook game. The game, Cloudforest Expedition, will be the second game that Romero makes on Facebook and is expected this Summer.
* Lord of the Rings Online creators Turbine are merging their US and EU LOTRO servers, relieving Codemasters Online of their duties maintaining the EU servers on the 1st June.
* After a bumpy ride with Alpha Protocol, but success with Fallout: New Vegas and preparations to ship the new Dungeon Siege game, Obsidian Entertainment have apparently gone through a round of layoffs.
* Mojang have released details about the modding plans to be implemented in Minecraft Beta 1.6.
* Bethesda have released details of the changes from Oblivion to Skyrim. Looking at some of the changes (especially to attributes), I don’t think this’ll be the breaker in my downward preference for Elder Scrolls games (from Daggerfall onwards, anyway).
That’s all for this week. See you after the weekend.
* Epic Games will host a two day set of tutorials on the Unreal Development Kit at the East Coast Game Conference.
* Dungeon Siege III has been delayed, now releasing in late June.
* Hi-Rez has switched Global Agenda to a F2P model with those of us already having paid getting “elite agent” status.
* Funcom’s Call of Cthulhu-esque MMO The Secret World, announced four years ago, is officially on the back burner.
* Myst Online is now released as open source, fulfilling promises made as far back as 2008.
* The Call of Duty versus Battlefield 3 marketing war is estimated to end up costing US$200m. This truly is the war to end all wars.
* GameStop are opening a Facebook store. The new system allows sales and pre-orders done via the Facebook interface.
* It’s been reported that Apple has rejected PopCap’s experimental label, Unpleasant Horse, from the App Store on grounds of “maturity” issues.
* Multiplayer has, sadly, been ruled out of Mass Effect 3, but the details are looking good.
* Wrestling star The Rock wants to star in a Black Ops film adaptation. Given his last foray into game-based films, I hold little hope for great artistry.
Minecraft is leaving beta this year, with plans to release the final version on 11th November. This coincides with the release of Skyrim by Bethesda. Many may be disappointed by the fact that the final release won’t look much different from the beta (which itself is not a whole deal different from the alpha), but assurances are that development will continue. Other reports are that beta 1.5 will add weather effects.
Busy week this week, see you after the weekend.
The quick cap news
* The Battlestar Galactica Online beta is open.
* LittleBigPlanet shoes auctioned for Child’s Play, but you wouldn’t find that out via Fox News (see below).
* A new Dungeon Siege III trailer, as well as a preview for Dragon Age II.
* For fans of F2P games, Eurogamer reviewed Bloodline Champions, giving it a respectable 8/10. Also, Paradox Interactive announced the F2P MMORPG Salem, set in the early days of American colonialism.
It’s been a very interesting week for the first of my blog’s existence. The first item is that EA has closed three Warhammer Online servers, two American and one European, it is offering free character transfers off the closing servers.
In the PC v. console wars, there was talk of the effect console porting might have on Dragon Age II. On the other hand, despite not being a PC exclusive, Crysis 2 will be superior on the PC in every way according to Crytek. Quite frankly, if they can make the game stand out from the crowd in something other than its graphics, like perhaps gameplay, they will have made a superior product to the original as far as I’m concerned. There’s also a rumour that Battlefield 3 will be supporting extra features on the PC as well as the higher player limit.
Of the two big pieces of news, first we have the whole nonsense from Fox News. In service to their dark gods of hyperbole, Fox has attacked Bulletstorm on the grounds that it “ties the ugly, graphic violence into explicit sex acts: ‘topless’ means cutting a player in half, while a ‘gang bang’ means killing multiple enemies.” The fact that people at Fox think being topless is an explicit sex act almost worries me more than the fact that they won’t listen to the more rational arguments, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone; these are the people who think Bill O’Reilly is a journalist. The good news is that, apparently, if you pre-order Bulletstorm (made by People Can Fly, the makers of the excellent Painkiller) from the EA Store, you’ll get Shank for free. Fox have nothing to say on whether Shank will increase the likelihood of rape, so be careful.
Activision has cut quite a lot recently. There was news of job cuts at Vicarious Visions and FreeStyleGames as well as the killing off of Guitar Hero. This got expanded when the 2009 acquisition, 7 Studios, was closed down. This prompted Harmonix to encourage GH fans over to Rock Band. Not that Harmonix has had the best time of it, either. Activision Blizzard’s share price dropped 8% after reporting 2010 financial results on Wednesday.
That’s all for this week. A good weekend to all.