Thursday, September 8, 2016

Overpriced and Underbaked

As wide as the sea, as deep as a puddle.
It seems like every year there are some new trends in the industry.  Giant Bomb usually dedicates a "please stop!" segment to the worst of them in their end-of-the-year deliberations.  Whether it be QTEs, Fee-to-Pay, or Bullshots, reviled industry practices have become an annual thing.  I'm not sure what the guys over at Giant Bomb will nominate for the category this year, but if I where to choose something it would be the one-two punch of overpriced and underbaked.

It started in earnest this year with titles like Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, XCOM 2, and Firewatch, continued to build with Slain and House of the Dying Sun, before culminating in No Man's Sky.  Before I get into that game in particular though lets go back to the first half of that two part problem I just mentioned.  There definitely appears to be a recent pricing strategy going on that basically boils down to figuring out how much people are willing to pay for a particular game at launch and then adding an additional 30 percent to the price tag.  I want to say this is merely video game publishers padding things out for the inevitable deep-cut discounts, but truth be told traditional Steam and GoG sales have been duds as of late.  The exceptions being DOOM 4 and the recent Survival Humble Bundle.  Other than that though it's mostly been a paltry 20 percent off poorly reviewed flotsam.

Slippy?  Is that you?
Now, normally I don't put much stock in review scores, especially with the constant tug-o-war that plagues aggregated websites.  For some reason there's a subset of people out there that really want to make games look better or worse than they actually are.  I don't get the motivation for doing that.  On the other hand, I do sympathize when the comment section is filled with numerous players having technical issues.  Particularly when they're stuff like frame rate dips, crashes to desktop, hardlocks, glitches, bugs, and generally poor performance.  Of course there are the inevitable apologists and that one guy who insists the game runs fine for him, but these sorts of issues really boil down to a simple case of the game needing more fine tuning and polish.  Eventually these kind of things usually do get sorted out, take XCOM 2 for example.  Three months after it's release it finally ran the way you'd expect.  Similarly the AI in Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak ceased to be brain dead after a couple of post-launch patches.  Another great example is Slain, which had garbage controls that took so much time and effort to fix that the developer re-branded it Slain: Back from Hell, to signify the overhaul.  Sadly, this isn't always the case.  House of the Dying Sun still doesn't have any of the sandbox rouge-like elements that were hinted at during it's pre-early access development.  Worse still Batman: Arkham Knight looks like it will never really receive the attention it needs to be played on most PCs.

The golden poo of this trend has to be No Man's Sky, a full-priced title that, when played, comes across as an early access indie product hamstrung by numerous technical issues.  Put simply it's a game that should have come out around Christmas for about one-third the asking price.  Sure a lot of people would have been disappointed anyway, but at least then the fault would lie squarely on Sean Murray (a.k.a. Peter Molyneux 2.0) and not on Sony (who should have known better).

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