Those of you with the ability to scroll down a few blog posts worth of headers may remember that I have taken Ubisoft to task for their poor handling of Watch_Dogs graphics issues and their outright lies about the nature of those graphics issues on PC.
But holy hell, these past two weeks have made me spew bile in a way that most doctors would agree is not the default setting for said expulsion. Ubisoft has made mistake after mistake, and I feel its time someone categorized and explained them to you if you are curious about why people are currently so pissed off with Ubisoft at the moment. Because all these mistakes are of Ubisofts own doing, and honestly they deserve to be torn to shreds for their behavior. However, let’s start at the beginning of the nightmare that was Assassins creed Unity’s launch, by qualifying its development teams ideas and why these ideas may have been a warning sign from the get go that this game was going to come out of the gate with three broken legs.
30FPS is more cinematic
Alright, first of all let’s just stop this festering sore from erupting right now. If you prefer 30FPS, I am not saying you are wrong but 60FPS is objectively better. Preference is opinion and numerical fact is that 60>30. If you like 30FPS, that’s fine but it’s not based on objective fact. I say this because I want to focus not on that but on the idiotic idea of being cinematic. Our medium is one of interactivity, and therefore comparing it to a medium of non-interactivity is foolish. And more to the point, the argument that its more cinematic is nothing more than a red herring to distract from the real issue, namely that the designers cannot get the game to run at 60FPS (or at 30-but we will come back to that). And that’s ok.
It really is ok.
But lying that you think it’s more cinematic and that it’s not due to a limitation makes you look stupid, and Ubisoft’s looking pretty stupid from the get-go, especially considering that films run at 24FPS due to LIMITATIONS OF THE TECHNOLOGY at the dawn of movies that are kept around for no other reason than stubborn refusal to change. Yes The Hobbit looked weird, but this is the first time anyone tried that level of FPS, and of course it’s not going to be perfect the first time someone tries it. So already this cinematic argument falls apart, as an excuse and a stupid one at that. Had they simply just admitted they needed to make the concession to make sure crowds ran well, that would be ok, but they chose the stupid buzzword approach.
And then? Things got worse.
You may remember that I leveled accusations that Watch_Dogs was graphically downgraded due to incompetence or actual attempts to make it the same as consoles to make them have parity. Why would they do this? It occurs to me that Ubisoft makes poor PC ports, constantly insults PC players as pirates, and forces its Uplay bull on us to play games-even games bought from Steam, a DRM service that unlike Uplay, actually functions well under high stress. So it’s in their best interest to keep console owners happy and buying consoles, because they don’t like PC and don’t want to be stuck with it on a raft for a couple of weeks when they can try and appeal to a little yacht that’s forced to endure them, though it is slowly sinking-but I digress. This is all just speculation on my part, and the second idea is pure speculation.
That first one though? Not so much a speculation now, as Vincent Pontbriand revealed when he told certain game sites that both consoles were locked at the same level to “avoid the debates and stuff”.
Look, let’s not tiptoe around the issue here-what that statement implies is that one of the consoles was not able to handle the same level of graphics as the other. And while it may be unfortunate that the Xbox-One can’t quite get to the same level as power as easily as the PS4 (PC gamer, no investment in console wars so calm down), that is an inherent trade-off that Microsoft made for other benefits of the system aside from graphics.
But tough crap, because people know that and accept it and reducing the parity of one to help the other one hobble along is dishonest and morally repugnant. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s how it is and Xbox-One owners knew that when they picked the console. Reducing, or at the very least not optimizing graphics for the PS4 means delivering an intentionally worse product to make people feel better about their system. This is stupid because people will debate anyway, regardless of petty things like subjective opinion, or facts (look at literally any console war forum for evidence, cause I’ll be tazed with a cattle prod before I even think about diving into that swamp). And of course debate kicked up anyway, because internet, but now most of our ire was reserved for Ubisofts stupid decision that proved they weren’t above reducing the potential of one game to make the other seem similar on a different system, which led to the obvious conclusion that Watch_Dogs was most likely not mere incompetence. It was most likely intentional, though the reasoning behind this stupidity may never be known to us.
50 cc’s of Steam to Uplay, stat!
So while all of this is stupid, it’s only the beginning of this sordid little tale. Next Ubisoft pulled their upcoming big games from Steam in the UK, and then the rest of the world. They have since been returned, although I believe they are still not up in the UK. This is speculation, but I would imagine that since the UK gets treated like crap anyway for gaming, they wanted to test a rollout there and see if switching to Uplay would cause an appreciable drop in sales. The rest of the world, well that was most likely a mistake that was swiftly corrected but evoked the ire of gamers yet again. Irregardless, I believe this signals an attempt by Ubisoft to move us to their Uplay service much as Origin was an attempt to do the same for EA. And much like Origin, I would most likely only touch the service if I needed to. Still, if I was confident in their ability to keep their servers up, I would understand the decision. It’s a stupid decision, to be clear, but from a business perspective I understand it. They did say something vague about reaching a deal with Steam, which means they want a bigger piece of the pie and far be it from me to argue that Steam is perfect. But Uplay is a terrible service that’s just an irritant, offers barely any extra value, crashes when they sell a bunch of games meaning you can almost never play on day one or when a bunch of new players jump on a new sale, and honestly they just treat PC like such crap that I fail to see why I would give them the benefit of the doubt. I predict they will try this again soon though, so keep your eyes out for an announcement of that nature.
An early mornin’ embargo
Now, we approach the hill before the summit, the warning sign that beyond this hill lie something more hideous than Renee Zellweggers new face, apparently. A day one embargo is never a good sign, and while it does not necessarily mean a game will be poor, it’s a worrisome indicator of publisher faith. The embargo released at around 9 in the morning and then…then the gates were thrown open. Yes, some people had access earlier and posted to forums, but most of us were waiting for the reviews.
And before us was laid bare one of the most high profile disasters of a big-budget AAA game we have seen in some time.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations…… of horrible Q&A and testing
Assassins Creed: Unity was widely panned as being a buggy mess of a game, with reviewers noting game breaking bugs, problematic AI and broken animations. Even worse, it was later revealed that Ubisoft had not only added microtransactions, which I have talked about before, but there were chests in the game that could only be unlocked via the companion app on phones. And additionally, reviewers wrote nothing of these horrid microtransactions because the system-with some microtransactions reaching the 100$ mark-wasn’t online until after the review embargo was lifted, which may have been a coincidence but looks awfully suspicious in light of how the company has been acting. There was a day one patch, but it didn’t fix a lot of bugs, including the now infamous broken face image that haunts the souls of men in a way only these animation glitches can. More updates have been rolling out, but they still haven’t quashed all the bugs even this far along. That the game was released in this state is embarrassing, and since companies often don’t seem to care about that, financially damaging. Ubisofts stock dropped around 9% for their blunder, causing such a blow that they vaguely stated they would consider retooling the way they handled Assassins Creed development-though I doubt we’ll see it go back to a realistic cycle anytime soon.
And in the end, all of this damage, embarrassment and insult was incurred in a massive amount that had us calling Ubi the new EA. And for what? Short-term thinking turned this franchise into an annual one, destroying its potential and producing games that are not nearly as good as they could have been with more time. Many gamers, myself included, are burned out on this schedule and haven’t bought one of these games in years. And for what, I ask once more?
A mediocre game. Bugs may have plagued it, but regarding the core of the apple, most reviewers gave it mediocre scores, and it got almost no large praise. 2 years of effort went into building simply the Notre Dame, much effort was made to make the city look good. This should have been a return to the Italian heights of the games past, and yet all it turned out to be was a mediocre game in a line of the same. Maybe Black flag was alright, but Brotherhood was the last one I tried and found some enjoyment in. All of this, Ubisoft brought upon itself with its shortsighted greed and a team of developers who I have less and less faith actually know how to make a game properly. All of this could have been presented with smart budgeting, prevention of franchise exhaustion, and heavy testing. But Ubisoft did none of those things, and reaps the thorns it sowed for itself.
But we aren’t done yet, shockingly enough.
Ubisoft blunderbuss blast!
Ubisoft in the preceding week made it very clear to those observing that they had fired their PR team, because they went on to blame AMD-even though the issues impacted NVidia PC’s as well- for some of the issues. They also brillantly announced there would be no new Blood Dragon game, a game which a lot of people, present company included, absolutely loved, for no reason. It was just an announcement that they weren’t going to make another one. And while Far Cry 4 is getting good reviews, it too has some bugs plaguing it currently and it’s a game that is considered one to avoid till patches make it better. Assassins Creed: Rogue has received almost no attention or press, and reviews say it’s alright as well, an interesting concept wasted on an icy reskin of Black Flag. Ubisoft has with one game become one of the most hated companies in the gaming publishing scene, drawing ire from all corners towards themselves. At this point, people have been calling them the new EA, due to the immensity of their error. And what of EA? I have referenced them here a few times, but what about them? Have they released a game recently? Have they messed up recently?
The king of Idiot Mountain dethroned…..for now?
EA recently released Dragon Age: Inquisition, to universal acclaim. It has a few bugs, but it’s a monstrously large open world game, and that’s to be expected, as was the case with Far Cry 4. It was released in a working state, had the embargo lift a week or two before release and EA has been relatively silent on stupid comments. While that is actually be a bit worrying-silence doesn’t equal reform-it appears to be a hell of a lot better than a company that used to be not nearly so close to the crap pile. And we can only hope Ubisoft starts and EA continues their march from that pile towards something respectable. Because this crown is a hard thing to lose, and can be an easy one to gain if you’re not careful.
Ultimately, this whole saga has been a mess from day one, and no one wins. Preordering becomes more of a impedance than a benefit, punishing loyal customers with a broken unfinished product, we see a franchise some of us used to love further pushed into the ground, and Ubisoft loses financially. PC gamers get screwed over and over on this sort of thing, console gamers got a broken buggy game and an intentionally worse product in some cases.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft Montreal becomes the laughing stock of the Ubisoft stable of devs, messing up on a game that was set in the main company’s HOME COUNTRY and one of the most interesting settings any ASC game has explored in a while, not to mention among other games. It’s been a mess of terrible decision after terrible decision, and we can only hope that this sort of thing gets prevented from happening again. Nobody won here, nobody gained anything but a franchise that has imploded on itself and a mess of a game. And that’s just disappointing all around.