So, the online pass system being employed to combat used game sales is the big controversial issue right now. Only, there's an aspect to this issue that i am yet to read ANYWHERE.. A simple concept that i believe means many developers will actually make less money.
Let me preface by saying this is not about whether used games have a right to exist or not, this is about trying to predict the knock-on effect caused by implementing this system.
If online passes were immediately incorporated into all new games from now, perhaps it would be instantly successful. Used game sales may well be lessened, developers and publishers may make more money for their work. However, I don't think this is how it is working in reality. What we actually have is a large and possibly never ending transition period, where it is only the big name publishers that are implementing (and have the resources to implement) online pass systems and rewards into all their games.
So what, right? Those big publishers hand money down to their games' developers and that's awesome, right?
Yeah, but.... here's a scenario: 'Thelonius' goes into a store to buy a few games, he has about $90. He sees the two games he wants, one is Gears of War 4, the other is a game from a smaller, innovative developer that he loves. Both are available in the used bin but GOW 4 uses an online pass to gate off a chunk of content. What does 'Thelonius' do? He buys GOW 4 new and the other game used, where once he may have bought GOW 4 used (because he has no allegiance to the big name publisher) and the other game new because he wants to support the smaller developer and their innovative game.
If that example seems far-fetched, allow me to be more general.. If people buy more new games from certain publishers because of online passes, that means they will buy LESS new games from everybody else. Used games are still going to sell, but those games will become more and moreso, games from smaller developers that either don't have online passes or whose online pass is cheaper or unlocks less content. It adds another variable that a customer measures up when he or she values and compares products, a variable that has nothing to do with the worthiness of the game or the developer.
People will still play the same games they would have played, but i believe the distribution of which games were puchased new and why will shift dramatically. Developers that don't use a big name publisher will see an increase in used sales and decrease in new sales, i don't see any way to avoid this.
If the industry is really in trouble, which seems to be one of the main pro-online-pass arguments, is making the already richest companies richer (creating further monopolization) and not helping (perhaps even hurting) the rest, really the best idea? Is it possible more thought or regulation needs to be put into this?
Hey, i was writing this as an email to Anthony but it kinda grew into a blog post so i'm posting it here. FYI i'm playing the 360 version.
I'm a huge fan and have very similar opinions and taste in games. I'm also doing game design and programming on the side.
I almost don't want to say what this email is about for fear you'll stop reading but yes it's... Metro 2033! (please read on, this isn't necessarily what you think it is!)
To be upfront- I don't care and would have no right to care if you don't play it nor whether you review it, but you framed your non-review as a question on how it is that people are loving metro and i think i can answer...
I havn't played The Void (it's on my list) and i havn't finished Metro yet, but i'd hazard a guess Metro is more similar to The Void than Modern Warfare. Why? Because the gameplay rules are strict and nobody tells you what they are!
Is that 'broken'? yes it is, to an extent.
What you experienced wasn't a bug, the gameplay is strict and sometimes very challenging. I've so far worked out throwing knives to the upper back/neck or silenced fire to an exposed head (except monsters wtf?) are the ONLY instant stealth kills. If you shotgun or knife someone point blank, they will A. not die. B. Kill you. Horrendous design for a realistic context!
.....But there's something about the rules when played as nothing more than a set of rules that's really enjoyable. It's about the challenge of working out those rules and defeating them. 4 shotgun shells to kill someone is just a rule to 'defeat' which, with the ammo mechanics, create extra challenge. The game has so far not put me in an impossible situation but it does a good job of putting up serious pressure to make you think it might be, making success even tastier. That said, I can't defend it, i'm just stating why i think it's so enjoyable later on..
I'm writing this out of respect for your opinions and my desire to share an interesting gaming experience. Metro is no GOTY but i believe it has moments of greatness. Atmosphere and a constant tease of safety only to throw you out on your own, make the world feel truly dangerous. It's one of the first times in a long while i've felt disempowerment without a lull in firepower. I really don't know why the game feels so enjoyable and addictive. (i felt the opposite when i started it)
The game sometimes uses what i think of as immersion through psychology. Take what you will from the following examples..
(minor spoilers in next 4 paragraphs)
On the level where you pick up a boy and carry him on your shoulders, you can't see him but you feel the weight in all your movements through a novel control tweak. You can hear him (switch to russian track because the english VA kids are awful!) but that's it. The simple knowledge that he was there made me care a little more, i found myself replying when he spoke, i felt a little like i'd let him down when i died.
A couple of levels dealt entirely with an enemy that wouldn't attack unless i had my back to it.. i only ever killed one enemy but it felt nerve-wracking as i was never sure where they'd be or when one would drop down from the many holes in the roof. Sometimes one wouldn't let me pass, so i'd have to wait til he left then leg it and pray.
A minor scripted piece example- A platform started to give way so with an adrenaline jolt, i sprinted. It never fully gave way though and my AI comrades laughed at me saying i should have been an athlete, which made me laugh with them. This is so minor and not original and yet it stands out to me as an example of the way the game 'interacts'.. I don't know if they would have said it even if i'd stood still but these things psychologically trick me into playing my part and without knowing- feeling totally immersed.
Finally- earlier, during a particularly hectic battle i suddenly noticed the mysterious creature that had been following me was nearby. While i focused on the regular enemies, it was coming closer, entirely during regular gameplay and completely without warning. Tension and fear of the unknown rose, then with a flash everything was gone. I was alone with no answers and no idea where the danger was and it felt vulnerable.
Finally really finally- The moral system in this game is so simple. Now and then you have a choice (sometimes unspoken). the more greedy choice earns you bullets. The 'good' choice gives you nothing and nothing is said of it (i don't know if there are later rewards or endings). The only reason i make 'good' choices is because that character is me and has my conscience. I like that.
Make of this what you will, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the game but i can't try to convince anyone to play it. Only that maybe it has some good ideas alongside it's flaws. I hope in a round-a-bout way i've shown why many are loving Metro 2033.
Commenters are saying Tomb raider should learn from Uncharted, MGS etc. Yes it should because they are great games. Howabout this for a new inspiration though.. Endless Ocean..
Imagine this.. As Lara, you drive your boat to a certain hidden island, no cutscenes, no breaking immersion. in 3rd person you are driving the boat, you moore and dive in with snorkel ala Underworld.. But there are not 20 sharks to kill, instead there are some fish and coral. You dive to check it out..
You swim to the beach and emerge.. the beach is rendered beautifully with the jungle looming ahead.. With a FarCry 2 style 'real world' map and compass that zooms to over the shoulder cam so you can see it in her hands, you navigate to your destination.. If the island is the games playground, it could be true open world. FIND YOUR OWN WAY through the jungle. But you would not be able to progress to sealed areas etc til certain puzzles are solved that open doors, this creates some linearity in it's game progression.
Through the jungle.. full of vibrant sounds and colours, Lizards scatter here and there, a bird chasing an insect flys through, foilage brushes past you. You stop to check out some ruins only just visible covered in jungle growth.. you notice a skeleton holding something that simply crumbles when you touch it. You go on your way.. Using the compass and matching landmarks with those on your map you find your way by yourself.
With Binoculars you are able to check out the flora and fauna in detail, rendered with love..
With your handgun you know you are safe from any predators that roam the island should one attack you, though you don't see any for now.
After a period of time you move into a clearing and find a set of ruins. This is the place your local informant had marked on the map. You investigate the ruins for a while and decipher that certain markings mean the stone floor may be able to open up somehow, you get to solving it. The puzzle is not obvious or unnatural. Blocks you need to move are not all square, ledges you need to climb are not all straight and cubic. It is a natural feeling puzzle created in a natural environment. You solve it and the floor opens, you stand in awe as it opens leaving nothing but a pool of darkness. You switch on your flashlight and descend..
45 mins gameplay or more. Only one major puzzle encountered. No enemies encountered yet.
Real feeling of exploration and wonder? feeling of achievement because the game doesn't hold your hand to do anything, you are the explorer? atmosphere? fun? ..I think it would be.
Trading some of the development time that goes into having constant action, cutscenes, setpieces, hordes of enemies etc and putting it into atmosphere, diversity, animation, rendering etc. Could this help recreate some of the success a game like endless ocean is enjoying? Would it not totally fit the Tomb raider franchise? (which has been suffering from an addiction to action for too long)
To gain a real sense of fun exploration we need natural feeling environments that are 'alive', good writing combined with level design. Environments should tell stories that are not all related to objectives.
Lastly we need surprise. Give us something amazing to discover now and then, keep us exploring further. Don't do it with a shining alien gem that can turn back time and calls forth atlantis to deliver you a gods power in the form of a giant stone penis. Do it instead with some amazing new environment or some amazing ancient mechanical architecture, or stories we can piece together from the environment of the explorers who have come before and how they perished..
Get creative and I believe it could work.. I'm interested to see where the next official Tomb Raider game can go.
Matt Razak just posted this article about a God of War director taking interest in Dante's inferno - a blatant 'rip-off' game. Some of the comments irked me and i just really need to put these thoughts into words..
The feeling from some commenters and many gamers can be summed up by this first post from Neo Gio-
"For me it was too much like god of war. If I felt like playing god of war I would just hook up my PS2 and play it. Rip-offs for me are just not good, no matter who they are ripping off."
I'm currently creating a game i hope to be able to start showing soon. Since starting this learning experience and dreaming of games i may be able to make in future.. i've often had the following conflict:
If i create a great game, a game that is a great experience to me - I can never actually fully experience it as the audience can. Because simply by creating it, i know how it works and how it ends.
That doesn't diminish my drive or enjoyment of creating it but it's a different kind of pleasure, that of the musician, not the fan. I would LOVE for someone to take game mechanics or ideas that i love enough to include in my games and use them in their games. Then i might be able to have that very different kind of experience as an audience member but still experiencing my own idea or influence.
In the article, GOW3 director Stig Asmussen said of Dante's Inferno: "This is my favourite genre, and the more people that are making [these games] the better.."
I recall Hideki Kamiya, the creator of the original Devil May Cry also saying in an interview (that i can't find!) that he was basically dismayed after DMC that nobody else really picked up the ball and ran with it. As i understand it, Bayonetta is in part his answer to that.
All music and art is influenced by what came before, everything we do builds on what we see and know, it's the best way to evolve and i think game creators want people to pick up the ball they create and run with it. Even games that don't innovate or are bad are good! It still pushes the concepts and if it doesn't innovate then it still solidifies what works and what doesn't within that concept.
There's a line i think to do with what is 'bad plagiarism'.. You wouldn't make a Dead Space clone about dismembering aliens in space for example..
That said, have the 'space marine game clone wars' really been bad for the industry? Other genres are doing fine (including the indie scene) and many first person shooters have become really refined..
No matter how many rip-offs exist, i think it's hard to argue there is actually less originality than there would be without.
That's why i think rip-offs and clones are great. Because it's great when game designers grab other designer's balls and run away with them.