What happens to AAA titles when money gets in the way

To be honest, before I even start, I’m aiming this at Digital Illusions CE (EA_DICE), Epic Games, Valve Software, and possibly a few others.

Warning, this is a big read. Click more for more information.

Preface

Most of my friends will tell you that I’m an asshole when it comes to video games. I have such high expectations now and don’t like very many games that are out currently. I don’t want to be the negative Nancy but as time goes on the only phrase I issue is “I told ya so”.

But then I started to look into it, why am I always the bad guy and why am I always proving people wrong with “I told ya so” logic? Its simple, the main reason is the publishers like Activision and Electronic Arts are pushing for faster releases and leaving the developers to catch most of the blame. I like money, everyone knows that but to steal from people (hacking, phishing, or robbing) is not the way to go, and in the last few years I’ve seen more robbing than anything in the video game industry.

Why money is bad

I will go back in time, back to the Original Call of Duty game that came out for PC. It was amazing, it blew peoples socks off, it was an amazing game. But why did it receive all of this praise? Of course it had its fair share of launch bugs and glitches (What game doesn’t?) but at the end of the day you had a solid title that many played. Then comes the launch of Call of Duty 2, 3-ish years later. Same situation Call of Duty 2 could go down in history as the greatest game of all time (Next to Halo 2 imo, but that’s another story). The legacy of what these games have left behind will soon be forgotten.

Forward to more recent, Call of Duty 4 in a short time of 2-ish years IW along with Activision had put together one of the best shooters of all time, which many games try to mimic because of its success. Who can blame them, overall Call of Duty 4 was a well put together singleplayer along with solid multiplayer (before the malicious modders stepped in). Then it all started to go down hill. As most people know Activision has pushed 2 teams to develop Call of Duty to give them that 2 year development cycle, therefore pushing a Call of Duty yearly by staggering the teams by a year. This answers nothing but money for Activision, throw in some extra paid-for features and you can now understand why Call of Duty is a multi-billion dollar franchise and Activision’s prized possession. Quickly after that the quality of Call of Duty games have dropped drastically. I’m not going to use the argument here that the game is a copy, paste, change a few things release. Because Call of Duty 1-4 were about the same way. But what you start to see is more shock value in Call of Duty games that quickly get blown off once you have seen it once or twice then you are left with a unplayable game due to the “good ideas” that were implemented that actually hurt the game in the long run. Fast forward to Ghosts which instead of creating a new game engine (Takes multiple years outside of the 2 year development cycle) or doing a huge overhaul of the ancient Quake 3 (1999) engine at its core, they just “hotfix” the issues with bringing the engine into future generations.

Ghosts to require 6GB of ram (later reduced) and a high end graphics card, for graphics that look no better than the previous version is absolutely absurd. Instead of fixing the core problems which most developers do through profiling, it seems they just ignore it and increase the requirements. (Hell I would too if I was forced to generate a “new” game every 2 years) I believe that this greed by the publishers is actually hurting the video game industry and at this rate we won’t have anything to play but indie games because they don’t really care about the money. #endcodrant

Moving on to one of my most favorite franchises, Battlefield. I dabbled around a bit in 1942, but my main love came in 2005 with the release of Battlefield 2 (Not Bad Company you idiots). I played so many mods, ranked, and watched so many videos of Battlefield during my childhood. I could remember the launch issues that occured, but EADICE quickly (or not so quickly) snuffed out most of the issues. Of course the game is still buggy time to time, but overall you had a solid performing game (On my single core 1.8Ghz processor with 2GB ram) I put probably too many hours than I should on that game. This is the legacy that EADICE had built, 1942 and 2 were the best titles (I like to ignore 2142 as it didn’t exist, personal reasons, still a solid game) I don’t like to count the Bad Company series as the true Battlefield lineup. The game should had been published by EADICE under Bad Company, not Battlefield: Bad Company.

Waiting 7 years for “this crap?”

Bring us into 2011, I had waited 7 years, watching E3 for the announcement of Battlefield 3. Finally it was announced and there was a Alpha Trial, that I had to be in. I got a code for the Alpha Trial of Battlefield 3 installed it and joined in. Holy crap I was floored, everything was so nice and I was very, very impressed with the new version (Going from BF2->3) There were major bugs and issues with the game that had to be resolved, but rest assure they were going to be fixed right? After all this is the same amazing developers who made Battlefield 1942, 2. WRONG!

I still have leftover footage that I recorded from the Alpha Trial, Beta and final release. I compared them one day, The Alpha Trial looked unfinished but of course, it was still in development. But I loved where it was going. Bring us into the Beta, we were injected with Blue which the community wanted removed, and game breaking issues (falling through the terrain due to the terrain degeneration and issues with destruction). Moving along to the final game, it felt like the Beta just got slapped on with new maps and more and more features had been disabled. Going through the final game, there were so many things that were in the Alpha Trial Trailers and Beta Trailers that were absent from the final game. Terrain degeneration got massively turned down or off in most places. “The most destructible game” quickly became a full lie that EA or DICE had tried to cover up. The final DLC’s for the game featured near 0 destruction and or any of the features they promised us.

The community was oblivious. Or so it seemed, a majority of die-hard gamers that LOVED the previous installments in the Battlefield series were quitting Battlefield, or gaming all together due to the disappointment of Battlefield 3. Here we find the public relations staff were brain-dead or oblivious to anything that happened in and or before 2005. Many of the features that we had in Battlefield 2 were hidden away from the public. (Later found 100% working and available to use by modders like NoFaTe @ blog.nofate.me, and Frank from bfeditor.org) #pauserantaboutqa

The reason I want to pause here is due to the number of game developers and publishers that are doing this. I’m going to quickly focus my attention to Gears of War developed by Epic Games. The Gears of War franchise has been one of my favorite series until Gears 2. Reasons will be explained below.

Ghetto Patching

Ghetto Fixing, Hot Fixing, and Ghetto Patching, Rigging, Duct Tape fix, whatever you know these by they occur in everyday life and all over our gaming industry. These are fixes that are suppose to be temporary until the core of the problem can be resolved. Leading into Gears of War 2, it had many glitches but it was playable (for the most part, except for the elevation glitch that anyone could trigger by taking cover twice on accident, or tapping A one to many times). Client-Host connection was still unbalanced but it was possible to kill the host. Here comes the hotfixes, to get rid of some of their most gamebreaking glitches they released hot fixes that were suppose to be removed and the core problem fixed.

Epic Games Logic

  1. Levatation glitch
  2. Hotfix to stall the user long enough to prevent it from happening
  3. Hotfix causes users to be “stuck” to too long (delayed mantle over) defenseless, cannot move shoot just look around until the animation kicks in and finishes
  4. Hotfix the hotfix, add an artificial delay to all users not just clients (Severely changes gameplay)
  5. Hotfix the hotfix for the hotfix, confirm with the host that you are mantiling over before delaying you to prevent you from getting stuck too long.
  6. Hotfix the hotfix for the hotfix for the original hotfix (At this point I stopped playing so I don’t know if it ever got fixed, or hotfixed again, this was YEARS later when they are preparing to abandon GoW2 for a new project)

At this point, I don’t think I need to say anymore. By the time they released so many updates to keep addressing this problem that the community, the people who supply the game developers paychecks it was either too late, or they never fixed the problem that they could have solved in the first place by taking all of the hotfix time and actually fixing the issue.

You think that was bad, at least they were trying to “fix” the issue in that case. EADICE has been accused of way worse.

DICE Logic for Battlefield 3

  1. Game breaking issues, poor hit detection and terrible implementation, Overpowered weapons, game crashes/glitches due to terrain deformation and destruction.
  2. Nerf all weapons except for a select few so they are all useless except for a few weapons
  3. Say, the networking will be “fixed” in upcoming updates that never came.
  4. Disable features that were once shown off, and remove the mention of them from patch notes and have EADICE mp’s redact their statements from online forums and message boards. This has been proven by screenshots of users from different forums. It goes as far as even removing the stuff from the main battlefield.com page.
  5. Put doors on the floors of Grand Bazzar (Really it was noticable in singleplayer, multiplayer pretty much anywhere that needed that ground texture, do you guys even have Quality Assurance there, or is EA forcing you to skip it and publish)
  6. Overcharge customers for DLC that features 0 of the things that were suppose to be in the original game, and have bad map design.
  7. Give the community stupid skins and scopes and unlocks as compensation ignoring most of the game breaking issues, and keeping features that the community wanted locked to sell their next game.
  8. Removal of Commander Mode, Battlerecorder, Commarose (useful one), and a bunch of other features that were in past Battlefields that made them great.
  9. Acknowledge the issues only once modders unlock them and due to 0 map security they were able to also cheat in Ranked servers.
  10. Promise users the ability to change the most modded features that were not game breaking.
  11. Lie and never implement them in the upcoming patches.
  12. Look at the modding community for “wanted features” when all the modders did was listen to what the community wanted in the first place.
  13. Implement half-assed versions in their next tile and try to sell it back to you.

DICE Logic for Battlefield 4

  1. Create an otherwise unplayable game over the internet (where 99.8% of the players will be playing, works fine over LAN go figure)
  2. Implement a hotfix for being shot around corners by teleporting your “dead” body to where the client that killed you saw it instead of where the server/your client actually has a position.
  3. Implement a crouching hotfix for when you are crouched for a few seconds your body “sits” or “shrinks” down to be in cover instead of actually fixing the entire height all together.
  4. Implements a hotfix for the one-hit-kill bug by “laying down” a player after he has been killed instead of instant death. Original bug still exists where a player will go from 100->dead in 1 shot. Also related to the shot around corners bug.
  5. Ignores actually fixing the issue and leaves Battlefield in a “hotfixed” state.
  6. Reward users for not quitting their otherwise unplayable game with a 2x XP week or so.

The only reason it seems like EADICE are even fixing the game is because with the removal of so many features due to issues with them as well as performance issues the shareholders, the main ones who put money in EA’s pocket were treating to leave. I noticed this as a “You fooled me once, ¬†shame on you; You fooled me twice shame on me” If all of the shareholders were to leave they would take millions of dollars hit on the company. And as you know EA (Electronic Arts) loves money so an announcement was made that they are stalling making future DLC to fix the game. Only time will tell if “fixing the game” consists of a Gears of War 2 style hotfix chain, or they actually fix the core problem.

Attempting to do it right.

Moving on to another developer Valve Software, specifically two games that the community has spoken much to the developer about. Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Valve near the end-of-life (never really happens until a game is fully legacy for Valve, and we thank you for that) changed the engine that Counter-Strike: Source ran on from the older Source engine to the more up to date and improved Source engine (Also known as the Orange Box engine) This broke a bunch of things, as well as forcing the servers to be 66 tickrate. The community was flooded with anger, confusion, or happiness that the engine change. It was a mess during that time. But Valve as a developer took the approach “you gotta do what you gotta do to keep quality up” and was preparing for the launch of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. CS:S is no means unplayable due to the update, just changed after years of being one way, changing it to another. But still receives updates and patches from Valve. Mods and hacks were made for the srcds to increase tickrate and fix most of the old broken mods, all powered by the community and Valve does not shun doing so. (Unlike most publishers, developers now) Counter-Strike: Global Offensive was a mess during its launch with missing load pages, missing a ton of features that were in previous versions of Counter-Strike. I wrote CS: GO off a bit too soon. (But to be honest I wasn’t mad because they only charged $15 for the game because it was an upgrade, you aren’t getting an entirely new game; Unlike EA, Activision where you pay $60-120+ for the same crap over and over, being promised its a “new” version)

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Logic

  1. Implement stamina system to fix several problems with previous CS games (bhopping etc)
  2. Community Complains
  3. Valve applies hotfixes until a full patch can come out.
  4. Removal of the stamina system
  5. Community happy and still playing the game.
  6. Add Workshop to allow modders, community to expand the lifespan of the game
  7. Improve physics and engine over time with advancements of the Source engine.
  8. Community even happier. (overall community)

But there is something Valve is terrible at, Release Dates. Everyone hates Valve because they are on “Valve-Time” aka a time frame that nobody else understands and its whenever Valve feels is ready. This is due to Valve not wanting to release crap. I hate Valve-Time as everyone else does because they want to play the newest games, but I admire Valve-Time because they try to put together a decent product, and support it afterwards. Not brush issues under the rug and compensate the affected users by offering them something that they will a. Never use, b. Can’t use because the base game is broken.

Kudos, Valve for still doing shit right, or at least attempting to, since other users still have issues, but what matters is it appears to the community that you are actually trying, not saying “HAHA, WE GOT YO MONEY, now gtfo.”

All of this is knowledge already known to most of the community, I’d just think I’d put it down “on paper”.

Afterwards

At this point if the video game industry keeps going this way, there won’t be a shortage of games, just a shortage of playable good games. But as most of the gamer base won’t notice these problems or won’t do anything about it, the game developers will always be able to get away with this.

Hopefully Titanfall, Destiny, and a few other titles won’t get ruined if they are good.

Anyone remember Tony Hawk games? No? That’s because EA ran them into the ground and people stopped buying them.

#endrant