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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...


wildmario wildmario's Blog
Quality Control, the Lack of It
Posted on Friday, February 14 2014 @ 12:29:11 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” While that quote may not exactly be word for word, the meaning behind it is all the same, including the video game industry. Remember how Nintendo back in the very early days of gaming had draconic policies regarding how games could be released on their systems? Most people would remember Nintendo’s infamous censorship policies (seriously, changing Holy to Pearl?), but what most people don’t remember is Nintendo’s iron grip over quality control.

For those of you who weren’t around for the event, the Video Game Crash of 1983 was an event that signified the death of video games. The crash was a time where the idea of quality control wasn’t invented (for video games at least), which meant anyone, and I mean anyone, could produce a video game and push it out to the market. You had over half a dozen companies all producing the same exact game all while trying to convince you to buy their version over their competitors’. You also weren’t guaranteed on the quality of the games, so it was up to random chance on whether or not the game you bought would have minimal bugs or even run at all. Between word of mouth, the media, and stores being unable to clear their inventory of unsold games and consoles, it wasn’t hard to imagine that video games were just a fad.

When Nintendo took control over the video game industry, they made it their duty that any video game produced on their console would have no game-breaking glitches and would be playable from the get-go. Nintendo’s vision came to fruition after the massive success that the NES had brought to the overseas market. With video games actually being fun to play and not having bugs that would cause the game to crash, the video game industry was revitalized. Of course, quality control came at a price; with Nintendo dictating what could and could not go on their video game consoles, developers were at the mercy of a monopoly that they had to either abide by the rules or go home. Censorship and limits on how many video games a studio could produce in a year was Nintendo’s main strategy in the gaming market. With censorship, Nintendo was able to have video games that didn’t offend a particular group or religion (thus maximizing profits) and with limits on how many games a studio could produce, there would be less incentive to rush out garbage games and focus would actually have to be applied to guarantee that a game would sell.

Nintendo’s strict policies came at a price; at first, game studios created smaller studios under a different name in order to bypass Nintendo’s limits on how many games can be made by one studio. However, since Nintendo had total control over how their consoles could be made and who can get what additions (some say that a few studios got the shaft on the SNES by being denied a bigger sized game cart), many developers felt frustrated that they were stuck on a console that left them with little leeway. Once Sony came along with the Playstation, many studios ditched Nintendo since Sony had less censorship and a console that was more open and friendly compared to Nintendo’s restrictive N64. Naturally, allowing flexibility for developers is a good thing, but sometimes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

As time progressed, video games became more complex and time-consuming to develop. The probability of bugs also steadily increased, but with budgets being how they were and time not being friendly to everyone, developers sometimes leave the glitches in the game if they are not that big of an issue. Games with major bugs have become more and more common, almost to the point of being commonplace where a game gets pushed out the door and then getting a hotfix later. In a strange twist of events, what was once seen as an abomination of gaming to have game-breaking bugs has now become so commonplace that we expect every newly launched game to have at least one. With restrictions on video games becoming looser and looser, games nowadays are being pushed out the door with either horrible bugs or dubious quality.

On top of all this, there are more games today being pushed out in the guise of early access/playable beta (or even alpha) with the promise that the game will get finished. Not only most people expect big glitches in newly launched games, but now we have people who are willing to pay for beta access to a glitchy game (basically paying developers to become bug testers) or others who are willing to go out of their way to remove glitches on their own time for free. Steam isn’t immune to the problem either since it’s slowly being filled with buggy games, low-quality games that got a free pass from the Greenlight service, and games that promise features that haven’t been delivered yet. The Wii also had a similar issue when the console was known for mostly shovelware games due to Nintendo easing up on who can develop for their console. The Playstation 4 was launched with bugs right off the bat with Sony telling people weeks in advance that they have to download a patch to address the bugs before people can even begin to use their console.

It what seems to be an ironic twist of events, easing restrictions on what can be developed and how they can be developed has caused a drop in quality for video games in general. After all, if you’re free to make games to how you see fit, why bother going the extra mile for quality assurance, knowing that your consumers will buy your product anyway or knowing that you can start charging people for beta testing so that you don't have to hire actual bug testers?

Now, some people would tell me that we don’t need publishers or even the big companies like Nintendo telling developers how to develop their own games, but we are now living in an age where time seems to be the enemy on release dates and a game has to be pushed out the door, bugs be damned. People seem to be too afraid to delay the release of a game from bug issues just for the sake of selling on a hot release date (usually Christmas season) and it’s hurting everyone in the end; with games having glitches that could have been easily stomped out before release, the consumer starts to invest less in video games due to the low quality (on a technical standpoint), and then game studios start laying off people or even closing down due to low sales. The industry should not be afraid of making people wait a little longer for a mostly bug-free game to be released, for the wait shall be very worth it. No one should be afraid to put their foot down and say, “This is unacceptable and you will go back and revise your work."

A firm grip on control and what can get pushed out doesn’t restrict creativity. In fact, doing so would make developers work even harder to make sure that people will enjoy and buy their games. At the same time, we as the consumer should not be okay with paying for an unfinished product to test; we are not bug testers. We are players and we are here to play the game, not debugging it. While the old video games of yore had their share of glitches, do you even remember them compared to modern games of today?

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article, posted originally on February 6, 2014, has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan

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Treating Gamers Like Morons Doesn't Work
Posted on Monday, April 15 2013 @ 15:10:08 PST

In the past few years, the hatred for the video game industry has significantly risen. DLCs were once met with smiles and are now usually met with scorn and anger from gamers and video game reviewers who feel companies are making games half-finished and charging extra for “new” content. Games that were hyped up to be played were sometimes met with outrage and disappointment when it was revealed that game-breaking bugs had to be patched before people could play it.

It seems that more often than not, the higher-ups in major video game companies and publishes have been treating their consumers and related partners as if they wouldn’t know a good game or console if it came up and slapped them in the face. The most recent outrage is rumors of Microsoft making the next Xbox require people to have their internet connection be “always on” (that’s a meme one won’t forget), which could mean people with spotty connections will have a big paperweight. For years, people have put up with all the problems that games have been plagued with and some may even try to justify them, but there has been a rising issue that people aren’t going to take lying down and that is the big guys talking down at them like they are little kids.
Granted, most gamers are a loud and whiny bunch that doesn’t know what they want, but there are just as many gamers who are not spoiled brats and they know when someone is trying to screw them over. Recently, Microsoft’s creative director, Adam Orth, responded to people who heavily disliked the concept of the next Xbox by using troll logic analogies and told everyone to “deal with it”. Adam also included a meme image of Obama with the captions just to rub salt in the wound.

What happened next? Microsoft basically told people to not listen to what Adam said and other people went and made their own memes of Adam overnight. While Adam may not hold a lot of power compared to the others in Microsoft that are his superiors, his condensing attitude hit hard with people that were looking forward to the new Xbox. Thanks to what Adam said and how he said it, many people are now jumping to buy a Playstation 4 instead, not wanting to support a company that has someone who mocks them. It is very likely that Adam believed that the Xbox fan base would simply buy the next Xbox anyway and anyone who dared to complain was just being spoiled children who could not deal with it. With Adam acting like a snob, he just caused many people not to purchase the next Xbox and cost Microsoft future sales. Microsoft apologized for the incident Adam caused and sacked him from the company. Good going, Adam!

Of course, Adam’s shenanigans almost mirrors what Sony did several years ago with the Playstation 3. Sony was riding the high of their sales from the Playstation 2 and Playstation 1 and thought their fan base was loyal enough to buy the Playstation 3 no matter what the price was. Despite tons of people pointing out just how ridiculous a $600 console was, there was a member from Sony’s department who had bragged that their fan base was so loyal that they would work extra hard to save up money to get a Playstation 3. Electronic Gaming Monthly (remember them?) once interviewed someone from Sony about the high price point and low sales of the Playstation 3 and were told that the consoles were flying off the shelves, even though EGM showed them proof that there were many unsold units sitting at the stores. Sony basically thought they were king of games for three generations in a row, but their arrogance and unwillingness to budge over the price point (at first) made Sony look like a group of colossal jackasses that told their fan base that they were going to buy whatever Sony puts out because it’s Sony. Sony’s arrogance and other factors hurt the Playstation 3 for years and would not recover for quite some time.

Remember, Sony; just because you were king for two generations in a row doesn’t mean your fan base is always going to stick by you when there are better deals in the market. Even if some people were going to get the Playstation 3 anyway, despite the price, insulting them isn’t going to make you look good. You don’t see Nintendo bragging that people are going to buy whatever Mario games they make because it’s Mario.
Electronic Arts, voted worst company in the United States twice in a row, hasn’t fared any better either and are probably not going to change anytime soon. Seeing that everyone hates them, EA had weakly attempted to defend itself by saying no matter what gamers say, they are still buying EA’s products; therefore, the gamers are wrong. EA attempted to back up the claim by showing numbers and sales while leaving it at that. EA is basically saying, “Look at the numbers! We can’t be THAT bad if people are still buying our stuff and registering for our services!”

There are many things wrong with that mindset. Firstly, high sales do not equate to happy consumers. All a sale shows is someone brought your product, that’s it. Second, using numbers to prove that you are not a bad company is a piss poor way of doing it. So what if 45 million people registered with the Origin service? Unless you can actually show that people are actually happy with the service, I may as well say that you’re pulling numbers out of your ass. You could have the next Madden sell five million copies in one week, but if the majority of the people who bought the game are complaining about its issues, maybe you should take a listen every once in a while instead of touting at how many people brought your products. Just saying.
And who could forget the letdown that was Duke Nukem Forever? After waiting for over fourteen ball-busting years for the most anticipated game to be released, Duke Nukem Forever was summed up as “meh” by most people on average. Since not many people were impressed by the game while others claimed the game was total garbage, the PR guy, Jim Redner, was less than kind in response. Jim did what any other fanboy would do; he shunned all the reviewers that gave Duke Nukem Forever less than stellar scores and threatened to withhold review copies of future games because apparently, his golden child can only be perfect and he will be damned if anyone tells him otherwise.

Naturally, his responses on Twitter were rectified. Of course, the fiasco didn’t end there. Duke Nukem Forever’s lead developer, George Broussard, vocally attacked a reviewer that gave Halo 4 a score of 70 out of 100 while putting a spin on the “cool story bro” meme in his Twitter post and called the reviewer a retard. Fanboy doesn’t fit what George did, but pot calling kettle black is a more suitable term for a guy who was head of a game that everyone wasn’t too fond of. Threatening to withhold review copies of a game just because people didn’t kiss up and calling game reviewers a retard for not giving someone’s favorite game a high score? If I wanted to see something like that, I’d just go read reviews posted by the community.

Just like how politicians and celebrities have to be extra careful in what they say on the internet, so do people that lead video game companies. It doesn’t matter if you are a lowly game designer or a CEO because once you say something stupid on the internet, the internet never forgets and will kindly remind you of that fact every day. Think you have balls for telling gamers off on what they think? Keep telling yourself that as you try to explain to your boss why you caused the company to lose a ton of money in future sales. Gamers may not always be a smart bunch, but treating them like morons is a quick way to make you look like a bully.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly Vox Pop competition. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick

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The Use and Misuse of Multiple Endings *SPOILERS AHOY!*
Posted on Thursday, January 10 2013 @ 17:47:40 PST

This member blog post was promoted to the GameRevolution homepage.

Stories always have an ending (we hope) and once the reader reaches it, that’s the end, though sometimes there’s an epilogue to extend and expand upon the ending. People were content with the ending, whether they liked it or hated it, because the story reached its conclusion and there’s no loose threads hanging around the reader’s head. This also applied to video games for many years, even the ones with a very basic and bare bones story. Players wanted to reach the end just to see what happened and once they saw it, they would talk to their friends about the trials they endured to see the ending.

Of course nowadays, most video games have more than one ending for the sake of extending the game’s play time. Most of the multiple endings are a simple good ending versus bad ending while others are more complex based on the player’s actions. While multiple endings give the player the incentive to play the game over again to see a different ending, it can also create confusion.

One of the major problems multiple endings have in video games is players trying to figure out which one is the canonical ending, especially if the endings are not fully clear. After all, it’s naturally not possible for multiple events that contradict each other to all happen at once and it gets more confusing when the writers behind the game don’t state which ending is the real one. Usually, a sequel addresses the issue since they take a leap from one of the endings in the previous games. However, by doing so, the sequel basically tells you that you wasted your time with the other endings.

An example of this is in Parasite Eve where if you beat the game normally, the ending shows that the rogue mitochondria awaken within everyone in the audience, including the main character, implying that the threat is not over. The alternate ending, which is found by beating the extra area in the game that unlocks after beating the main game once, shows the main character having her powers completely vanish after the (supposedly) spirit of her sister within her own mitochondria vanquishes the evil ones trying to take over her body. It was hard to tell which ending was the canonical one, but Square stated that the alternate ending is canon, even though Parasite Eve 2 shows the main character having her powers again.

Multiple endings can also cause major confusion if they are all vastly different from one another. Games that use multiple endings usually alter just a few key elements that justify a different ending while keeping everything else feeling familiar. When the key elements get altered too much, it becomes inconsistent and it confuses the players further as they try to determine which ending is the real one. One personal experience of this I had was Drakengard, a game that has several different endings. One ending involved the main character turning against his dragon partner, another ending showing the world being invaded by giant mutant babies (not making that **** up, I swear), and another ending showing the two main character being thrown through time and space until they reach the present (our own time) and are shot down by fighter jets. Each ending felt so different from one another that it felt like the story went all over the place.

Games that rely on good karma versus bad karma are also a victim to multiple endings. The gimmick behind the karma route is that the player feels like whatever actions they do in the game will determine what will happen next, so they will try to make their decisions carefully if they are seeking a specific ending. However, the technique of letting player actions determine what happens in the end is usually not applied properly and it is simplified to the point where Action A gets Ending A and Action B gets Ending B. While both routes can alter the script of the story and have the player character’s personality reflect upon the good or bad route, it can cause the willing suspension of disbelief to be broken if the character(s) act too obvious to the role they are assigned.

Let’s take a look at Bioshock that uses the good karma, bad karma gimmick. In the game, you encounter little girls known as the Little Sisters and they become vulnerable after you kill their Big Daddy guardian. From there, you can either choose to spare the girl’s life and heal her, which gets you a reward later, or you can harvest ADAM from her which kills her but nets you a nice amount of ADAM right away. To get the obvious good ending, you have to save every Little Sister and to get the bad ending, you can either just kill a few of the Little Sisters, which is enough for the game to consider you an evil prick, or kill them all for the same effect. The game continues as normal no matter what choices you pick and the only changes are some lines in the script and the ending. This means if you want to see both endings, you have to play through the game twice and do the same things again while only altering one type of action in the second playthrough. This is not a good example of the player being in control since it forces the player to mundanely alter some key actions while doing everything else the same and being obvious about it.

There are also a few games that may require the player to see multiple endings in order to unlock the true ending of the game. This not only means you have to play the game from start to finish multiple times, it also means that you are also going to be doing the same actions again and again while only slightly changing other actions just to change paths. The worst offender of this is Shadow the Hedgehog, a game that hyped up the gimmick of choosing which side you wanted to fight for (good versus evil) and having your ending be based on that gimmick. The game had 9 endings to see and that meant replaying the same handful of levels again and again while changing just one or two actions in order to change paths. There were several levels that players hated and being forced to go through the same bullcrap in harder levels to get other endings just screamed of padding.

Remember how you could choose a side in the game’s war between good and evil? None of that even matters because once you got all the endings in the game, an extra ending can be unlocked and that one shows Shadow choosing the side of good.  Not only does this mean you wasted several hours of playing to get all the endings, but you are basically told that it doesn’t matter what side you pick because the game is going to choose for you and show you how things really end. Games that use endings like this makes the player feel like nothing they do matters because the golden ending is the one that determines the fate of all the characters, not the player.

Multiple endings are quickly becoming a fading element thanks to the internet. Because the internet is around, players are able to see what games are padding themselves out to force the player to play longer. After all, why should a player force themselves to play the game over and over again when they can play once, go online to see the other endings, and never touch the game ever again? This becomes more apparent when the endings are badly implemented: they don’t change the game overall or requires the player to do something mundane just to change their path.

Are the days of multiple endings numbered? I do not think so, but the use of multiple endings has to be done better to engage the player. A player’s actions or change of actions should make the player feel like what they are doing is causing everything to change. If a player acts mean towards a bunch of kids for example, then all other kids later on will either be scared of the player or even try to attack while the ending shows the player being put under a curse because they were not nice to innocent kids. If the player acts nice, however, the kids will help out with information leading to secrets or they can offer you better items while the ending shows the player getting a nice reward for being nice to kids. Remember, developers, if the player character is represented by the player, their actions should determine what changes occur and if the character is their own character, they need a defined path rather than giving the player the illusion of choice for the sake of longer play time. If there is a planned sequel, then it has to be clear which ending is the canonical one.

The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar and image inclusion. It has been submitted for our monthly Vox Pop competition. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick

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Dark and Gritty Themes: Do Video Games Really Need Them?
Posted on Monday, October 1 2012 @ 14:59:43 PST

Is it just me or have video game characters become dark and gritty like “realistic” graphics? Instead of throwing them in the wash with bleach and hope they shine and sparkle again, video game characters need a trip to a psychologist, a v...   read more...

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Casuals: Enemy of Games or Paranoia?
Posted on Wednesday, August 8 2012 @ 13:31:55 PST

Casual gaming. Chances are if you heard this phrase, you either loathe hearing it as they ruin your favorite games or you just don’t care (hopefully the latter). Casual gaming has existed for eons, but it hadn’t become insane...   read more...

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Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft: A Retrospective Review
Posted on Tuesday, June 5 2012 @ 08:49:00 PST

The years from 2006 to 2012 have been a crazy one. The United States has its first black president, Osama Bin Laden is finally killed, the northeast coastline of the United States experiences a minor earthquake, and Dick Clark has passed...   read more...

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April Fools: How You Can't Trust Anyone
Posted on Sunday, April 1 2012 @ 06:34:01 PST

            April Fools Day. It is a time that comes about once a year, yet it is that point in time that I dread to endure like those times you have to put up with that uncle every Thanksgiving ...   read more...

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Be Positive: Why Being Negative Sucks as a Gamer
Posted on Wednesday, January 4 2012 @ 06:57:58 PST

In today’s times, there is not a lot to be happy about. Sure, Osama Bin Laden is dead, but our economy is still in the **** hole, businesses are weary on who they will hire next and how many, the President of the United States i...   read more...

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What Happened to Video Game Cheats?
Posted on Monday, May 9 2011 @ 09:33:09 PST

In the old days of video games, cheats weren't exactly in your face but once it was known a game had a cheat inside, you would probably try everything else in your power to see if there were other cheats you can fiddle around with. Unlock all cha...   read more...

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Why a zombie outbreak would suck
Posted on Wednesday, January 19 2011 @ 08:05:25 PST

            A zombie invasion is every nerd’s wet dream where they don’t have to listen to the law, loot all they want, get people to listen to them if they want to survive, and blow ...   read more...

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