Andy Kelly: Combat evolved?
Evolve is out! And despite following over a thousand gamers on Twitter, no one on my feed is talking about it. Not a single person. It’s unusual for a game to be so widely ignored, especially one with such marketing heft behind it. This general feeling of ennui towards the game has been pretty constant, ever since it was first announced. There are more people talking about Besiege than Evolve on my feed right now, a tiny indie game with no marketing budget whatsoever. But, hey, maybe I’m just following the wrong people. I have a copy of Evolve and I’m going to give it a fair shot this weekend, if I can find someone to play with...
Samuel Roberts: Games are too hard! Wait, hang on
Interesting to see EA’s Richard Hilleman comment this week that their games are too hard to learn for some players: “The average player probably spends two hours to learn how to play the most basic game. And asking for two hours of somebody's time—most of our customers, between their normal family lives… to find two contiguous hours to concentrate on learning how to play a videogame is a big ask." I was playing one of the company’s recent FIFA titles the other day and was impressed by how breezy an introduction it makes—I picked up the basics in about 30 minutes, even if mastering them would take a lot longer.
Something like Dragon Age might require two hours of commitment to learn, sure, but that’s okay. Not every game has to tap into the same audience, and when the game in question is something like a BioWare RPG or DICE shooter where a large amount of commitment is required to get the most out of it anyway, what’s two hours?
It’s a question well worth asking, though, and as an increasingly time-poor person, abstract or off-putting tutorials can be a pain in the arse if you only have two hours to play games after work, which is a reality for people with boring distractions like gym memberships, dinner parties and families (I have none of those things). Finding new ways to get people into games is good, but every game I’ve played from a major publisher in the last year—Alien, Shadow of Mordor, Titanfall, Wolfenstein, Dragon Age, Far Cry—give you the information you need to play right away. Any additional learning is part of the curve when playing a game anyway. Not sure that’s a part of game design that needs a rethink.
Chris Livingston: Sinking feeling
Under the Ocean, the very first Steam Early Access game I ever bought back in June of 2013, has been removed from the Steam marketplace. The development team of two, after spending over a year trying to turn the side-scroller into a 3D game, decided to part ways after struggling with differing visions of the finished product. The remaining developer then decided to remove it from the store, though vows to finish it. Somehow. Someday.
It's yet another link in what feels like an ever-growing chain of problems with the crowdfunding model, and I genuinely feel for people on both sides of the equation. The developer seems crushed over his inability to have delivered the game he thought he could, and while many buyers are supportive, they're still no doubt incredibly disappointed. Some understandably want their money back, but the developer says he's low on funds.
It's a pretty terrible situation for everyone involved, and I feel like it's one we keep seeing, and will keep seeing, again and again.
Andy Chalk: Swat are you thinking?
The video posted by Runescape player Josh Peters immediately following his swatting last week was utterly gut-wrenching. For the crime of sharing his gameplay with fellow Runescape fans online, he ended up with heavily-armed police banging on his door. That in itself is awful enough, but that it was his ten-year-old brother on the wrong end of those guns was obviously devastating: Peters was in tears as he spoke, literally begging people on Twitch to not do it again.
This kind of thing is beyond infuriating. To put someone in harm's way—and let's be clear, that's exactly what swatting is—because you don't happen to like what he's pointing and clicking at on a screen is reprehensible. Most of us probably enjoyed a quick point-and-laugh at the recent, ridiculous episode of Law and Order: SVU, but the truth is that extremists in the gaming community have directly damaged everyone else. And until they stop acting like stupid children with no concept of consequences, we're all going to be stuck with it.
Phil Savage: Light's off
I started playing Dying Light this week, and... well, it turns out Richard Hilleman has a point. Sort of. I think he's identified a problem, but he's seeing it from the wrong side. The issue isn't that games take two hours to learn, it's that games are taking two hours to teach. New games should be amazing. They should reward you for the fact you've spent money on wondrous virtual entertainment. Dying Light's opening hours are not fun. They are a long cutscene followed by a long tutorial followed by some more long cutscenes followed by a mission that is both long and not very interesting. I'm sure there's fun there, but I'm resigned to the fact that it doesn't happen until an unspecified point in the future.
This is the tension between an executive’s fear that someone will be alienated by things they don't understand and my annoyance that I'm not immediately doing awesome things. I know how open world games work, and I'm perfectly capable of pressing buttons to see what happens. Basically, if your game is a playground, there should be an option to skip the class.
Tim Clark: Night following Daybreak
It feels close to inevitable when a development studio changes owners that layoffs follow as part of the rationalisation process, or whatever jargon is used to describe job losses these days. So it appears at Daybreak Game Studios, the former Sony Online Entertainment, where a number of staff departed this week following its acquisition by investment management firm Columbus Nova. Having been through layoffs a few times (the equally grim term in the UK is redundancies), I don’t want to trot out any of that trite ‘thoughts are with those affected’ stuff, because when you’re on the receiving end that comes as pretty cold comfort.
Without speaking to those involved, it’s also hard to get a sense of what it might mean for the games under the Daybreak umbrella, but the departures are high profile. Dave Georgeson, who confirmed his departure on Twitter, was to all intents and purposes Mr Everquest. For what it’s worth, I thought his exit was super classy. I met with Georgeson at GDC last year to talk Everquest Landmark, and he had the kind of passion for his project that you can’t fake. Today also brought confirmation that Matthew Higby, creative director on Planetside 2, is out. I wonder what the future holds for those two games. Certainly I’d be surprised if the end result didn’t also include at least one project disappearing entirely.