The Friday letters page continues the debate over rising game costs and development times, as one reader shares his Jeff Minter memories.
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Hopes vs. expectations
So by the time you read this The Game Awards should be over (I think, they still don’t seem to have said how long it is) and we’ll all know whether it was filled with amazing revelations… or just lots and lots of CGI trailers.
I’m not expecting Half-Life 3 or GTA 6 but I hope we get some nice surprises. My preferences would include Metroid Prime 4 and Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom, as well as the new Mass Effect and Mortal Kombat 12. Problem is, I don’t really expect any of these. Maybe Zelda but only because we have a date for that, but I think the rest is just too far off.
We still need to catch up with the delays the pandemic created and so until the games we already know about, but haven’t really seen, are out I don’t think we’re going to see an awful lot that’s brand new. I’m still hoping for a new Sony reveal but I fear it’s just going to be that The Last Of Us multiplayer and we’ll just be back here next year hoping for the same games.
Was The Game Awards worth watching? I don’t know yet but the trick is always to expect nothing and not be disappointed.
Wow, that Days Gone developer is properly unhinged. Between those comments and the fact that he’s working on a NFT game I think we can get the measure of the guy. I know some people like the game, and I wouldn’t say it’s terrible, but I’m glad Sony didn’t do a sequel.
As other readers have said, there are plenty of great games that I wish didn’t have sequels just so the developer could work on something different. Naughty Dog, Insomniac, they’re all stuck making the same game forever, basically. Imagine if Bend Studio was in the same position but had to make endless Days Gone games!
There was some good stuff in Days Gone, so all they have to do is learn from that and make something better without being shackled to a bunch of characters nobody cares about and the 20th zombie game of the year. The team should look on not having to do a sequel as a blessing not an insult.
It seems that the economics of video games, in both time and consumer cost, is coming to a head with the cost of living crisis. I kind of think the opposite to a lot of commenters on it, in that I think we’ve been under paying for gaming for quite a while, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
I’m baffled by the idea off half length, half price that’s been floated recently. It doesn’t cost half as much to make a game half the length… it still costs largely the same for the artists, music composers, technological R&D, designers, and everything else. Video games scale well, so the base costs no matter what the length probably account for the majority of the budget.
Games are now just so expensive to make… even when being subsidised by subscriptions, battle passes, DLC, ads, microtransactions, cost savings on QA leading to bugs, and everything else; while all the time gamers are driving for the latest and greatest technology. People moan that the new generation of consoles aren’t providing an upgrade, yet also moaning that games themselves are too expensive.
It costs a lot of money for developers if you want to see that generational upgrade and someone has to pay for it. The reason games have gotten so long and time consuming is to try and justify the increasing costs to consumers, more content (even recycled filler) is really the only lever to pull to justify the need to increase prices.
Nintendo made the smart move here, realising the technology arms race was unsustainable after the failure of the GameCube and reworking their business accordingly. Now we’ve hit a rough patch they are arguably the only ones with a sustainable model.
GC: While halving the length of games would not make them half as cheap to make, it would clearly be cheaper to some degree; as well as having other benefits in terms of pacing and storytelling.
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Cut the stream
I am unhappy to report that after a while with the streaming portion of my PSN account, I probably won’t renew that aspect in the future. Not because I don’t like any of the games on offer, I really do, but for me, it just doesn’t seem practical.
Am I right in believing that the PlayStation 4’s online functionality – downloading content and streaming – is notoriously poor? Now, maybe if I had the house to myself the games might behave. As it is, I share the bandwidth with others and I even I can’t be that big a jerk and tell them to stay off YouTube or Netflix for the next half dozen hours while I grind away in Disgaea 3. Yes, DIsgaea 3! It has been regularly kicking me out of my game!
And if it can’t handle Disgaea 3 (which is a standard definition game, lest we forget) then it probably can’t handle much else, can it? It’s a real shame, too. If only Sony gave the option to just download it properly.
Good to see your interview with Jeff Minter. I met him in 2019 at Arcade Club in Bury, and we had a good chat about the arcade machines he has owned. He currently has Tempest and a JAMMA cab, and in the past he had a M.A.C.H 3 LaserDisc machine and an Atari Star Wars cockpit.
He ended up giving away the Star Wars for nothing when he moved to the US to work for Atari! A very nice guy and talented programmer.
Worst of the best
I finally got a PlayStation 5 a few weeks ago, along with a copy of Elden Ring. The console itself is great. The loading times alone make it a worthwhile upgrade, especially as I got £185 for my PlayStation 4. But what I really want to talk about is Elden Ring. I think I’m about three quarters of the way through (over a 100 hours of play!) and in so many ways it’s magnificent! From’s art design is stunning as always and the sheer craft that has gone into the game is mind blowing.
I can fully understand why it’d be lots of people’s game of the year. The problem for me is that I think it’s the worst of the From games I’ve played, for two simple, interlinked reasons: the extremely unbalanced difficulty and the overly vast open world.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still an exceptional game but I just much prefer the more linear Soulsborne predecessors. The world of The Lands Between is so vast that it becomes unmanageable, particularly in terms of difficulty. With Bloodborne or Darks Souls, From knew roughly what level you would have achieved at any given time and could target the difficulty appropriately.
In comparison, Elden Ring is all over the place. In the same game session I can be trouncing the demi-god Radahn (in hindsight I left him too late to fight) and then not much later be struggling with a set of run of the mill soldiers.
There were about five or six bosses in a row that were super easy because I was overpowered, which saps all the fun out of them. To be fair, this is a problem with all open world games but as Elden Ring is combat focused it seems even more acute.
I find it telling that my favourite parts of Elden Ring are the legacy dungeons. Stormveil Castle in particular is wonderfully designed, managing a greater scope while still maintaining the intricacy of previous titles. The vast size of The Lands Between is impressive, especially at the beginning when all the content was brand new, but the further I get in the game the more things are starting to repeat.
The first dragon I fought was breathtaking, the third not as much. I’m particularly fed up of Godskin Nobles and Apostles. I’ve not even got to the dreaded duo yet! I’m starting to suffer slightly from boss fatigue too, as there’s just so many, the last genuinely good boss fight I had was Elemer of the Briar.
I honestly think cutting half the content in Elden Ring, particularly repeated battles, would lead to a much tighter game. Bigger is not always better.
PS: Just for the record my From games order would be Bloodborne > Dark Souls 3 > Darks Souls 1 > Elden Ring. I’ve still got Sekiro and Demon’s Souls to play.
Value for money
Well, I completed The Callisto Protocol yesterday and have sold it for £36 to CeX so the game only cost me £10. I really enjoyed it and, yes, there’s a few issues but it looks great, I enjoyed the story and beating the hell out of necromorphs.
What I don’t understand is why they are talking about releasing a season pass? For what!? Are they gonna add some more story? Or is it just for cosmetics? I can’t fathom it and doubt it will add anything significant.
GC: Probably not, but some new story content is promised.
So all this talk of £70 games and whether they offer value for money, are in line with inflation, etc. got me reminiscing a wee bit.
I started gaming in the mid 80s on my old faithful Spectrum. At that point a full price game was about £10, but you could pick up a Codemasters budget game for between 2-3 quid.
Anyway, I then got my Amiga in 1990 and the price of games jumped significantly to £25 or something like that. For the graphics upgrade it was expensive, but I could understand why.
If I recall PC games of the 90s (so for example Half-Life, X-Wing) were also around the £25 mark and – I know this is going to sound weird as it was nearly 30 years ago – this is still my benchmark for the max I will spend on a game. I will generally never buy games on release (Project CARS 2 was the last one I bought on release, even then I managed to find a bit of a discount) and will always wait for a sale. I did spend £35 on the Automobilista 2 season pass – but that was still half price and I had previously picked up the base game (along with loads of others) in a Humble Bundle for a tenner!
With Epic giveaways and the like so many games I wanted to play but never got round to have been given away!
Although this is partly driven by me being tight there is another reason: patches. Let’s be honest even after the day one patch games still aren’t right. With the kind of epic open world games I like it can be months, sometimes years, until they are sorted, so it makes sense to wait to play the best version of the game.
Mind you, I totally understand why modern games cost £70 on release. Back in the day a £3 game would literally be the Darling Brothers coding in their bedroom, a £10 game would still be a very small team.
Now hundreds of coders, actors, writers, directors, quality controllers, etc., etc., etc. are needed to pull together things with movie budgets! The games are usually only £70 for six months anyway, and price per hours entertainment compared to a trip to the cinema is, in my mind, a bargain.
So I think £70 is here to stay, reasonable if you simply must play day one and also if it’s a deal breaker for you, just wait like me!
Microtransactions? That’s another matter. Damn you Oblivion horse armour!
The Dude Abides
I love the idea of a war between Sonic the Hedgehog and Genshin Impact fans. Is there such a thing as mutually assured destruction in fan wars?
I love how publishers can’t help but instinctively release their games at the same time, even when they don’t know the release date. It’s like a superpower always being able to pick the worst date possible.
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Cranston and asks what is your favourite and least favourite entry in a long running franchise?
There are plenty of video game series that have been running for 25 years or more, some with dozens of sequels, but which do you think is the best and which is the worst? Try to keep your suggestions to mainline sequels, but other than that you can pick any games from any era or format.
Does a sequel need to have a lot of new ideas to be successful and how much can it differ from the original game before it loses its identity? What advice would you give for the next sequel in whatever franchise you’ve picked?
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