Anachrony

2009-09-09

What I Hate About You: some pet peeves about gaming

Filed under: Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — halbyrd @ 21:33

I love gaming.  It is one of the defining passions of my life, and the source of a lot of the better stories in my life.  Someday I’ll tell you about some of those, but today I’m going to talk about how my favorite avocation drives me crazy.  So with no further ado, here’s what I hate about you, gaming.

Half-assed PC ports:

Why is it that PC gamers, a group I would say are probably some of the most dedicated to the love of gaming, are so mistreated of late?  Games that worked perfectly fine on XboxStation360 come out on PC months late, missing features, sometimes completely non-functional–Gears of War, I am looking at you!–and laden with screw-the-customer DRM.

The piracy argument is a non-starter; people who do that probably weren’t going to put down cash for your game anyway.  The “it’s hard” argument doesn’t hold water either, porting from PS3 to PC is no harder than the other way around, and anybody who’s made their game for 360 has had Microsoft do half the work for them already!

Bottom line: if you’re going to do a PC port of your game, take the few extra weeks of time and effort to make sure it works properly.  Gamers are used to slipped release dates; we don’t even remember them most of the time.  Broken games don’t get forgotten, though.  Broken games get you blacklisted by a lot of gamers in a hurry, and that’s a blow that’s years in the mending.

On Game Price Gouging:

Why is it deemed desirable to price every game coming out at the same price-point as AAA-list blockbusters?  There are quite a few games out there that are quite enjoyable, but have been harshly panned by critics and gamers alike because they fail to deliver the premium experience we expect from a premium-priced title.  Games like Shadow Complex are a wonderful counter-example to this trend, but they are mostly relegated to the slums of console download services, which many are still leery of.

If they had tossed that game on a disc and sold it for $20, I’d bet we would now be talking about the surprise millions-seller of the year.  This is not because the game is inherently brilliant, though it is.  This is because it is not $60 or more.  I know every game is some dev team’s baby, but not every game is going to be the next Half-Life.  Setting more reasonable prices on middle-of-the-road titles would go a long way towards making this whole game publishing business more successful.

On Console Download Services:

The ability to pay for and acquire games over the Internet is a marvelous invention, and one that I partake of on a regular basis via Steam and Direct2Drive.  I will not, however, touch XBLA or PSN with a 10m pole.  Why?

It all boils down to a difference of philosophy.  Steam, and to a lesser extent Direct2Drive, thrive by offering you conveniences and extras that buying the game on a disc does not.  Not only can I pull down the game off the Internet in a half-hour or so, but I can do so on as many computers as I please (provided I only play the game on one at a time).  Should I so desire, I can generate compact backups of all of my games, in CD- or DVD-burnable chunks or as one megalithic file for storage on an external hard drive.  I don’t really need to do this though, because Steam even keeps a master list with product keys. Once a game is on my account, I never have to worry about backups, patching, product keys, activation, and all the rest.  Deleting a game to save space becomes fairly painless, since I can always bring it back with a few clicks.  Combine this with a social network/im/voip solution that succeeds where Xfire and others have failed, and losing the physical disk starts to look like a significant upgrade.

On the other side of the fence, we have XBox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.  These services have a thin veneer of the appeal that Steam has, but differ in several significant details.  Not only can I not download my game to more than one console, in the case of XBLA I can’t even back up my games to an external disk for safe keeping.  The PS3/PSN situation is somewhat better in this regard, as it has support for both external backups and redownloading of games.  Voice chat on these services is middling-fair: both support in-game chat, but neither supports game-independent multi-user chat rooms or cross-game chat, both of which severely hurt the social aspect of the service.  XBL also gets demerits for charging me $50 a year for basically the same matchmaking and voice-chat services that Steam and PSN give me for free.

Valve also understands the pricing game a lot better than Sony or Microsoft: price drops on older games and frequent weekend promotional discounts have kept Steam’s sales thriving.  Also, Steam is in the business of selling full games, not overpriced mini-games.  PSN and XBLA don’t have much that’s worthwhile, and what they do have tends to be overpriced.  Gems like WipEout HD and Shadow Complex are wonderful to be sure, but aside from games you could just as easily pick up at Gamestop for $20 I have yet to see anything else on these services worth buying.  DLC expansions are fine and good, but unless you’re a nutter for Rock Band/Guitar Hero, there’s not much there to sustain you.

On Games For Windows Live

This one is addressed straight to the folks at Microsoft Game Studios.  Ladies and gentlemen, why have you not yet gotten your house in order?  This service is two years old already, and still I hear frequent complaints about how your software breaks otherwise functional games.  You don’t even have the excuse of inexperience: you’re Microsoft!  You own the operating system that this platform runs on!  You are known around the world for hiring some of the best and brightest minds in the world! Why is this not fixed? I don’t hear complaints about Steam breaking games anywhere near as often, and many of these are from clueless users who have fouled their systems up and don’t want to admit it.  GFWL, on the other hand, is brittle.  Horror stories of games put onto fresh installs of Windows utterly failing to run are still far too common.  Get this fixed, or you will find yourself destroying the very Games For Windows brand you have so carefully tried to establish.

In Conclusion

I know it sounds like I’m filled with naught but bile and poison when it comes to gaming.  Therefore, my next few posts are going to be about what is good and right in gaming.  Meanwhile, sound off in the comments if there’s something about gaming that really ticks you off.

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