Are Large Game Developers Getting Lazy?

Before we begin this topic of discussion, I must briefly let you all know this will be an opinion/editorial type series I would like to start called Clyde’s Corner. This will be my own internal thoughts and musing regarding a variety of topics. For now I’ll keep it to gaming and see how it does. If everyone likes my unorthodox brain, then I will expand the range of topics. You may agree with my thoughts, you may not, but you will get a rousing and entertaining argument and discussion. Enjoy!

BIG FOUR OR BIG BORE?

In the last 5 years I’ve noticed a rather boring and disturbing trend in the gaming industry. Based on games in recent years it feels like the big time game developers are releasing essentially the same games, year after year, with little to no changes or variety. Some even seem to be recycling features from past games and pasting them on to “new” releases. And yet people continue to flock to them with no thought about how little developers are actually doing. The companies I see as the worst offenders I refer to as the Big Four. The companies in question are Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, and, to a lesser extent, 2K. With sequel after sequel and a lack of innovation these developers continue to dumb down the gaming market. It seems nothing can save us from copy and paste game design. I could go on in grandiose fashion about the state of gaming, but you guys want hard evidence and facts. Let’s talk sequels, shall we?

SEQUEL SYNDROME

One of the best ways for a developer to have success is follow-up a great title with an even better one. Bethesda and Bioware (mostly, we don’t forget Mass Effect 3 or Andromeda) have nailed that formula. Others, like our big four, seem to be suffering from sequel syndrome. A new entry to a series comes literally every year from these guys, at some point you can only make so many sequels and still be interesting. EA has done this with Madden NFL since 2000. 17 straight years of basically the same game. What of Activision? Call of Duty, one of the all time biggest franchises in gaming, has had a new sequel every year since 2005. Granted, they have separate “blocks” of story for each series within the franchise, but they’re all CoD. Then there is the sad story of Ubisoft. They’ve accomplished sequel syndrome with two IP’s. Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry. Assassin’s Creed has had an entry every year for 10 years. Far Cry is not as big of an issue, but they’ve had several spin-offs of the main series games that fill in the gaps. Ubisoft published 3 spin-offs alone in 2006. 2K’s most obvious fit of sequel syndrome is the NBA 2K series, which has continued in a similar fashion as Madden NFL, games released every year with few changes. They do have NHL and MLB properties (Their MLB series is the best in my opinion) but none are more glaring than NBA 2K.

COPY AND PASTE

Here’s the part where developers get lazy. So many times it feels like we’re getting the same game with almost no changes. It’s not good in EA’s case when you introduced the most new features to your game 10 years ago. Madden NFL 07 brought a lot to the table in terms of gameplay and features. They did the same in Madden NFL 10, but beyond that little else has changed. Franchise mode, a popular Madden feature, was revamped three times and was not much different. Activision has recycled engines and features in many CoD games. They generally do a good job with story development but the game feels the same. I did not notice many differences personally between Advanced Warfare, Black Ops III, and Infinite Warfare. Ubisoft has actually made less effort in later entries, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate had fewer features than AC Brotherhood, AC3 and AC4 and felt quite boring at times. From what I’ve read about and seen from NBA 2K it changed even less over the years than Madden NFL. EA, however, is by far the worst offender. Since getting the rights from Disney, they have made 2 Star Wars: Battlefront games. They have the same engine and play the same as Battlefield 4 and 1. There’s also less load out and character customization in Battlefront. I’m astonished they can get away with such lazy copy and paste behavior. How can you attract new players if you aren’t innovative or creative? I honestly get turned off by numerous sequels. I think “Why would I play that, it’s the same as the last game?” However, new players may not be the goal.

BOTTOM LINES 

This is the factor that few gamers consider when evaluating the state of a developer. For our purposes, let me propose to you a quick financial example. These are huge, reputable (for the most part, careful Ubisoft) developers and if they want to innovate, they have to produce incredible games and content. New, groundbreaking games require large expenses while the game is under R&D. This could take quite a long time in some cases so the expense stays on the books and hurts, you guessed it, the bottom line. Sequels still require an expense, but its more cost-effective to pump out a slightly tweaked game than an entirely new IP. Keep in mind companies like EA and Activision are constantly working on multiple games, meaning multiple expenses, not to mention daily administrative expense of running the company, which becomes huge after a year. While game developers create a form of art that many people enjoy and crave innovation in, it’s still a business and they have to look out for themselves. Although, you could also argue that with the large amounts of cash some of these the developers have, there should be room for making new games. For 3 of our 4 there is. The debate is still out on which formula is better, innovation or perpetual releases. That my readers, is for each of you to decide. Feel free to discuss this in the comments.

 

I have no affiliation to Electronic Arts, Ubisoft Entertainment, Activision-Blizzard or Take-Two Interactive. Any thoughts or opinions expressed are mine alone.

eSports Talk: SMITE Dreamhack Valencia & ESL Cologne

SK GAMING 3-0’s CLOUD 9

The ESL CS:GO Cologne Finals took place this past week in Cologne, Germany. After a long and arduous group stage 8 teams advanced to the playoff. This included the old standbys of Cloud 9, Faze, and Optic Gaming as well as up and coming teams Team Liquid and Natus Vincere. After a stunning playoff round with many teams losing 2-0, the grand final of SK Gaming and Cloud 9 was set. In an incredible turn of events, SK defeated Cloud 9 in only 3 rounds. I would not have believed the ESL finals would end with the loser taking not a single game. But, nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened. Congratulations to SK and the players Taco, Fer, Fallen, Felps, and Coldzera!

sk

SMITE DREAMHACK FINAL MATCH SET

In other news, the SMITE Dreamhack Valencia Finals began yesterday and already some big names in the SMITE pro scene have fallen. Tournament favorite Dignitas has already defeated Brazil’s representative Black Dragons and will move on to the semis. Fan favorites NRG also will move on after taking the set against Trifecta 2-1. Many argue that the jungler and mid for NRG, Adapting and Yammyn, are the best players in the field. We’ll see how far that will take them. After their sets, Rival and Obey also moved on to semis, which began early this morning.

In a stunning turn of events, relatively new team Rival was able to defeat Obey 3-1 in a BO5. Many would have expected the experience of veterans Ataraxia and Prettyprime, along with the great strategies of EmiLZy to take the day, but rising stars Deathwalker and wlfy would not be denied, making some great plays to help Rival pull off an upset.

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In yet another amazing semi-final match, Dignitas shut out NRG 3-0 in their BO5 set. Dignitas had the best record in the SPL coming in, and their hot streak looks like it will continue. Try as they might, the once dominate NRG eSports could not overcome the Zyrhoes led Dignitas. SPL star and the individual often regarded as the best pro SMITE player Adapting could only do so much to keep his team alive. Picking up former Paradigm support and jungle players Trixtank and QvoFred has been a great move for Dignitas and the two played a huge part in their run to Dreamhack Finals.

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The finals begin tomorrow and my money is on Dignitas to beat Rival 3-1. The current synergy and momentum that Dignitas in my opinion is simply too much for any team to overcome right now. $60k is up for grabs in this final match, this will definitely be a final to remember. Speaking of SMITE, I may have a bit next week about the state of the game. Some of the new changes coming do not bode well and I’ll tell you all why. Stay tuned.

Photos attributed to the ESL Pro League and SMITE eSports/SmitePro.

 

My PC Can Be a PS4 Now?

An interesting bit of news graced me this morning. It seems that Sony will now be adding PS4 titles to its PlayStation Now game streaming service for PC. This adds to the extensive catalogue of 500 PS3 games. It’s only a few games for now but the number of PS4 titles will probably be expanded.

PlayStation Now is a service that allows you to stream games across the internet to your PC. The service requires a subscription fee of $20 per month. The main draw of the service is you don’t have to download a game or use a disc, it’s completely on-demand. It is also possible to use it without a PS4, your PC can be used alone so long as you have a DualShock 4 controller. Those of you that already have a PS4, keep in mind you need a PS Plus subscription if you want to transfer your local save data to the cloud for use on PlayStation Now. If you’re not sure you want PlayStation Now, Sony is currently offering a 7-day trial for the service. One of the great features of this is you can take your PS4 essentially anywhere. Unfortunately, the PS4 is the only system that currently has support for PlayStation Now. The service has been removed from TV’s, blue ray players, PS3 and PS Vita.

playstation-4-slim-vertical-product-shot-01-us-07sep16

Xbox still has some catching up to do to compete in the streaming arena. PC streaming from Xbox requires you to connect your PC and Xbox and have an Xbox Live account. PlayStation Now only requires a PC and a separate subscription to its service independent of your PS4. Microsoft has launched its Play Anywhere campaign where buying a Play Anywhere digital title allows you to play it on Xbox and a Windows 10 PC, but the games currently supported is small and only recent titles. PlayStation Now allows you play the current PS4 games offered and basically every PS3 game. This seems like quite a big leap in gaming for Sony, we’ll see if PlayStation Now lives up to the hype.

I do not own any properties of Sony of PlayStation™. Photos credited to PlayStation™. All rights reserved. Any opinions expressed are mine alone.

TEKKEN 7 Review – King of the Average Fist Tournament

Developer: Bandai Namco – Publisher: Bandai Namco                                                                   Platforms: Xbox ONE, PlayStation 4, PC                                                                         Reviewed On: Xbox ONE

As they are apt to do, Bandai Namco has released yet another entry into the TEKKEN series. TEKKEN 7 continues the story of the feud between father and son Heihachi Mishima and Kazuya Mishima. The story begins with Jin Kazama going missing in the Middle East after his fight with the demon Azazel from TEKKEN 6. In an effort to maintain his power and locate his grandson Jin, Heihachi Mishima retakes his role as leader of the Mishima Zaibatsu. And of course, G Corp leader Kazuya Mishima seeks to stop his plans to locate Jin and finally win the war that has been raging between the two factions.

STORY

In this game, we are introduced to the story by a crestfallen reporter who lost his family in the war between the Mishima Zaibatsu and the G Corporation. You follow his quest to expose the Mishimas for the monsters they really are. Sounds pretty rough, right? Well, the reporter’s voice certainly does not capture the gravity of this. It is the most boring and unemotional narration you could imagine. A rock has more feelings than the voice acting! Everything is delivered in a bland, monotone way and it simply does not lend itself to this type of story at all.

But to make a long story short, Lee Chaolan, Heihachi’s adopted son, is able to capture Jin with the help of Lars Alexandersson and foils Heihachi’s plans. All the while, our reporter friend is staying with Lee in order to gain information about the Mishimas. By the way, after every story chapter (there’s 14) we get a cut-scene narrated by our as-interesting-as-a-cardboard-box reporter. Fantastic… Now we come to something I just don’t get, why the hell is Akuma from Street Fighter in this game? For whatever reason they do some pointless tie in with him saying he owed Heihachi’s dead wife Kazumi a favor and now seeks to kill Heihachi and Kazuya for her. Anyway, there’s some big fight between him and Heihachi, same with Kazuya later. None of them die in the course of this, however. Continuing with this, our reporter friend is able to interview Heihachi and learns that Heihachi murdered his wife Kazumi because she transformed into a devil and tried to kill him. Now we know where Kazuya and Jin get their temper from… Anyway, more character development, banter etc. until we get to a final fight between Heihachi and Kazuya, in a volcano of all places.

Screenshot 2017-07-05 11.42.55

(SPOILER ALERT BELOW)

Now we can talk about one of the most unfair fights I’ve seen in a fighter. The battle starts out simple enough, just a standard fight between Heihachi, who you control, and Kazuya. There’s a cut-scene once you get Kazuya low enough. Then his devil eye opens and you have to fight him again while he has use of an eye laser. The third stage comes after this and Kazuya transforms into his full devil form and you have to fight him again. And finally, when it looks like it’s over for Heihachi, he gives it one last shot and fights Kazuya at his full power. Once Kazuya’s health is down by about half, he goes into a state where he cannot not be interrupted or knocked down by your moves and he will spam his rage arts. It’s incredibly frustrating because you need enough health left to survive his attacks at this stage. He also will use a rage art that’s a KO if you get hit. God forbid you’re in the middle of a combo. You can block it, but it happens quite fast. Finally, when he’s low enough, you’ll get a button prompt to use your rage art. Unfortunately, Heihachi loses anyway and Kazuya dumps him in the volcano’s lava. You do also get a special fight with Kazuya against Akuma, but it’s about as unfair as the previous fight so I’ll just skip that bit.

Anyway, that’s about it for the story. Our tiresome reporter spills to the world who the Mishima’s really are and what the war was about. That’s most of the epilogue by the way, just the reporter talking. Then it ends with a cliffhanger of Jin, Lee, and Lars on a rooftop with Jin preparing to end the way by using his devil powers. And that’s it, the ending leaves a lot to be desired, guess TEKKEN 8 is coming then. This is turning into Dynasty Warriors…

(SPOILER ALERT OVER)

I was also disappointed that few of the characters in the roster appear in the story. Why put all that in if they’re only going to show up in other modes? They do put in this character episode feature, which is a character specific fight with a cut-scene before and after, but it literally takes five minutes for each episode. It’s not particularly interesting and it seems like it was tacked on so they could say “See, they’re in the story!” Some of them are funny, but it’s just not enough.

Bob episode

GAMEPLAY

Let’s talk gameplay. It plays like any other TEKKEN and Bandai Namco once again shows off its ability to make fighters good. Combos are smooth and use timing very well. And as usual each fighter has a large number of combos for a variety of play styles. The character animations during fights look good, smooth and natural. Size of the fighter matters too, smaller fighters have quick combos and can string together low power attacks well. Bigger fighters are slow but have short combos with large power attacks that deal a lot of damage at once. Voice acting is great for the characters too, Eddy’s could be better but it’s probably hard to find a Portuguese voice actor. The Rage Arts are a nice touch as well, similar to the super moves that Netherrealm has in Mortal Kombat and Injustice. These can also be blocked or canceled with well timed attacks. Each one is unique to the fighter and provides a way to make fights more interesting.

OFFLINE MODES

Moving on to the offline modes. Offline offers four modes, Arcade, Treasure Battle, Practice, and a standard 2 player offline battle mode. Arcade is the TEKKEN staple, you fight a series of fighters and a final boss. In this game you fight Kazumi at the end. In Treasure Battle you fight a series of fighters to earn fight money and unlock character gear to customize fighters. More on that later. The last two modes are fairly self-explanatory.

Tekken gameplay

ONLINE MODES

Online is fairly basic, there’s Ranked Match, unranked Player Match, Tournament, and the Leaderboard. Ranked is exactly as it sounds, you fight an online opponent and if you win your rank goes up, lose and it goes down and its very intense and competitive. Matchmaking can take a long time at higher connection quality parameters, lowering it speeds the time up but you’re more likely to disconnect or have lag issues. I was not impressed with the matchmaking myself. Player match is unranked and is simply for fun, you can also use your customized character for this. It has the same matchmaking issues but you can make custom sessions and invite other players or make it open to join. Strangely, there is a text chat feature on the console platforms of this game and PC. It didn’t seem like players were using it. Finally, there is a tournament mode where you fight a series of other players and try to get to the top. You can also do custom tournaments. This can be fun if you’ve got the time to spend playing. Unfortunately there is no co-op or team mode in this game, so it feels quite bare.

CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION

And now for the last meaty bit, customization. There is extensive character customization of the existing roster in this game. First, you can customize your player profile. You can change health bar designs, player title, and player badge (this shows your rank in the pre-fight screen). These can be unlocked or purchased with fight money, which you gain from playing the game. Second, you can also customize the character roster. There are several clothing and accessory options for you to unlock and purchase. Each character has unique items, there are also some items that can be used by all characters. You can even change the particle effects of attacks and the character picture that is displayed on the pre-fight screen.

character customization tekken

Overall, TEKKEN 7 is a decent game and a good fighter. The story is interesting and finally wraps up the feud between Heihachi and Kazuya. It works even though the narrator is awfully boring and the ending leaves a lot on the table. Gameplay is top-notch as usual from Bandai Namco. TEKKEN’s gameplay has always been is calling card. Few characters contribute to the story and the lackluster Character Episodes don’t make up for it. Offline provides continued playability but only has two single player modes and they’re basically the same. Online can be entertaining if you’re into competitive play, but the matchmaking is simply too slow. I do like the customization feature, it can provide lots of entertainment with how ridiculous some of the options are and provides a reason to continue playing.

THE FINAL VERDICT: 7/10

Don’t get me wrong, TEKKEN 7 is a good and entertaining game. Most of it is well done, but there’s a lot of little things that I feel are either wrong or just not finished. The story narrator, the pointless Street Fighter tie in with Akuma, the lack of modes and poor utilization of the other characters bring this game down from what would otherwise be an 8 or 9. I’ve always been a TEKKEN fan but I’ve got to be honest, this game is disappointing…

I do not own any properties of Bandai Namco or TEKKEN 7. All assets trademarked and owned by Bandai Namco© and TEKKEN 7™. All rights reserved. Any opinions expressed are mine alone.