Be warned this is just my opinion, and is a collection of my thoughts on the topic.
With the recent release of Mass Effect 3, I find myself in a weird place. I want to play and enjoy the game, but part of me almost fears actually sitting down and playing it. I’m not afraid of the content mind you, though I did almost piss myself a few times playing Insomnia but that’s a story for another time. Rather it’s a concern that the game won’t live up to the standards I have from playing Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. All of my bitching about the Origin software aside, that fear is one of the only things keeping me from muddling through the game on a console instead of a PC. But then it got me thinking about other games, and the thought occurred that we might actually be spoiled too much to really appreciate a good game right now.
One thing to consider is our rising standards. I thought about this while recording For The Lore last night while Vince and I were talking about the possibility of a new Baldur’s Gate game. BG was an amazing game, especially for the time, with the very best of RPG elements, tactical game-play and bringing D&D to life in a way that hadn’t really been done before. If the game were released today, against the number of Triple A titles like Mass Effect, I hardly think that it would do as well as it did.
Over the years, we’ve come to expect nothing short of perfection from the various high profile games, or at least that’s what it seems. Games, even good ones, are met with the harshest of criticisms for even the most minute flaw. If it has bugs and it’s from a company like Bioware or Blizzard, then people jump on it and tear it apart, where as years ago they’d be much more forgiving about it. How did we get to this point? Personally I think we’ve just been a bit spoiled as gamers in terms of some amazing games. We’ll go back to Bioware here for a moment or two.
Dragon Age: Origins was a game that was magnificently received. Critics and players alike loved the game (to varying degrees) for it’s RPG elements, it’s game-play mechanics and the rich story that allowed you to immerse yourself into the voiceless character. Almost all of the DLC’s were well received as well, easily justifying the cost for content that you got and the expansion was well done and tied in with the books that framed the story of the world. In all aspects the game was a home run.
Then along came Dragon Age 2. What players got, I believe it is safe to say, was far from what we assumed we would get. Despite improvements to the combat system, allowing players to more fluidly move from story to combat and back again, as well as other improvement like a voice actor for the main character, the game fell short when compared to the opus that was DA:O. I know myself that I fell in with the group that was disappointed. But why?
Sure the dungeons and back drops were repetitive, but despite that when looking back the story was actually really well done. Almost on par with the first game though for different reasons. The combat and class system was vastly improved, and even the interface with which you were able to organize your inventory and party was vastly improved over 1. But it was different from the first game in so many ways that people rejected it out of hand. While it might not be the best game they’ve produced, it’s far from the worst.
It has to be perfect
Sticking with Bioware here, lets also talk about StarWars: The Old Republic. The long anticipated MMO was released to a flurry of reviews both supporting it and denouncing it. Most of the naysayers cited things like features that were not available at release that are available for other MMOs, using WoW as the main comparison. I think though, that we’ve become spoiled with MMOs as a direct result of WoW. While the game is far from perfect, over the years it has grown to offer so many different features with everything from faction changing, name changing, race changing, server transfers and not to mention all of the content that it has in the form of raids, dungeons, daily quests etc. It’s hard to compare any new game to what WoW currently is. That said, if you compare it to what WoW was when it was first released, you get a completely different comparison.
To be honest, SWTOR has a pretty damn good release. The client was mostly stable, while there were still some bugs, they weren’t all crippling and ones that took you so far out of the game it wasn’t fun to play. All in all, it was a solid release. But those flaws, those bugs and quirks, people just jumped on it. It highlights a larger problem; there’s a perception that every game needs to be perfect right off the bat. We’ve become spoiled a bit with the level of polish that some recent games have had, but in truth no game is perfect right from the start. That’s why there are patches, content updates and the like. I think we unfairly judge games based on what they are missing instead of what they have. It’s something I hope we can start moving away from. Games, especially MMOs, sometimes need time to grow and develop. Passing judgement on it right away does it and yourself a disservice.
Hype, from within and without
Hype is our worst enemy. Every triple A title is called the “greatest this” or the “best that” or otherwise coining some other phrases that is to signify what it is and set it above the others or to stand on it’s own. Hype is a game killer. We do it to ourselves without noticing, and people get paid big money to hype the shit out of games. The problem is that this can, and often does, lead to depressing soul crushing let down. Looking no further than at my co-hosts on For The Lore and Aion you get a perfect example of this. We generated our own hype based on what the marketing was doing for the game. We bought into our own hype. When the game was released, and it failed to live up to what we had built the game up to in our heads, it was sad really how dejected we were, or angry in some of our cases.
Media campaigns do their best to get you excited about a game, sometimes it just works too well and you bite so hard into that apple that when you finally get the game you wind up spitting seeds. I think we have to check ourselves a little bit here. We need to actively make sure we’re not just allowing the hype for a game to completely control us or our expectations for a game. I know that’s easier said than done, but I’m making a personal effort to try to curb this myself.
I think in general, we just need to adjust how we analyze and view games, and potential games. A little adjustment on what we expect will let us actually give games a fair shot, instead of “OH MY GOD THIS IS THE WORST GAME EVER!”. I don’t just mean at us, the end user, level either. We need to be able to see the forest for the trees so to speak, doing things to rip away anything that could cloud our judgement. I’m not saying we don’t, or shouldn’t, have preferences. By all means everyone has their own likes and dislikes, but it’s just so easy for one person to hate on something unfairly before everyone does so. It’s a symptom of the Internet times so to speak, where ideas catch fire and RT buttons are mashed. In the end, we just do ourselves a great disservice in the end.
Professional sites could also use a bit more objectivity as well lately when discussing and reviewing games, or when dealing with the hype train. but that’s a topic for another post. Just my two cents on a random thought.