To best and most accurately describe this year in video games, I would have to use the adjective “schizophrenic.” This year was nutbar. We had a slew of amazing game releases, such as Grand Theft Auto V, Gone Home, Papers Please, and The Last of Us. It was the year of Oculus. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Now it’s time for the worst. Since I’ve already posted my best video games of the year, let’s dive into the abrasive and stygian depths of the worst video game trends of 2013.
They’re terrible and if you don’t know about them, you are blessed.
Microtransactions in Full-Priced Games
I am not against microtransactions as a concept. A developer has the right to implement whatever pricing they feel is fair, which normally depends on how much the game cost and its demand to the larger public. F2P games have to bank on microtransations, so it’s not a dirty word to me.
Also, gamers will vote with their dollars, but this idea is often counterpointed with a highly anticipated franchise release and a marketing blitz. Gamers often never account for the actual quality of a game if it’s part of their evangelical love for a particular series. They’re going to buy the next Madden or Call of Duty regardless, so publishers know they have a captive audience. Games like Dead Space 3, Ryse, Gran Turismo 6 or Forza 5, which were all released at a $60 price tag, both had an insidious, creeping trend: microtransactions for in-game items, resources, weapons, cars, and tracks. Forza 5 is a the worst offender here, offering far less cars and tracks that its predecessor, along with putting some of the best vehicles and tracks behind pricy paywalls. Eat shit, Turn 10 and Microsoft. Eat it.
Microtransactions only truly make sense in a game that is free to play, or if the bonus received can be achieved in-game, or if the item is purely cosmetic. Thankfully, almost all of the games that include them meet one of these three requirements. But overall, adding these into games that already cost a whopping $60 smacks of “please sir, I’d like some more”, indicating a lazy or creatively bankrupt company that wishes to squeeze more out of you without properly doing a DLC pack actually worth your money. It feels like nickle-and-diming, especially if the reward shortcuts you to better gear, or “pay-to-win” as it’s called. Paying real dollars for ingame resources also communicates to me the game isn’t fun to play, that it’s a grind. If you can’t make your game fun to play, you’ve missed the purpose of creating a “game.”
EA Can’t Launch An Online Game to Save Its Life
Looking at the disaterous launches of SimCity 2013 and Battlefield 4, it’s become apparent that EA’s greatest strengths are great game tech displayed on the frontend, with abysmal networking tech on the backend. GlassBox (SimCity 2013) and Frostbite 3 (Battlefield 4) are marvels of gaming engineering, creating a palatte for exciting game design in the future. They just can’t launch anything that requires an internet connection without the damn thing bursting into flames and diving into the polluted Cuyahoga River, thereby causing an ecological disaster rivalling the VGX Awards show. Both releases were an embarassing trainwreck, spiralling out of control of PR monkeys into a fireball that reads “Server Not Found”.
What the hell is going on over there? Is it simple the power of marketing and great-looking graphics overshadowing the basic idea that an online game needs to be online? One of the largest publishers in the world put out Battlefield 4, a military shooter banking on the success of its multiplayer, and it’s the one of the worst, buggiest game launches in recent history. For the first few weeks, it was practically unplayable. EA basically released an alpha version of the game, rushing it out the door to meet the Xbox One and PS4 launches. The problems are so severe that EA Games, EA GAMES OF ALL PEOPLE, willing postponed making money to fix one of their games. The world is truly upside down.
EA recently purchased the rights to publish any future Star Wars game. They need to get their house in order if these games aren’t going to repeat those same mistakes. What happens if DICE, the developers for Battlefield 4, are handed the golden goose, ready to poop out the egg of Battlefront 3?
Underwhelming Console Hardware
Hey, if you got an XBox One or PS4 for Christmas, you’re probably very excited. You go, girl. We wrote a very positive review of the PS4, but when I keep looking at the hardware specs, I’m deflated a little bit. Is this it? We waited 8 years for this? And there’s the news that several games on the PS4 and Xbox One won’t even play at 1080p, with their GPU and processors surprisingly weak. We’ve been presented with moderately powerful gaming PC’s, in terms of architecture, back from the year 2007-2008, in console form. And let’s not forget the Ouya, which sounded better on paper. Nintendo’s WiiU with its gimmicky touchpad and inability to connect with gamers fell like a wet bag of napkins.
This isn’t really the console revolution we were expecting. It’s only impressive when compared to the previous generation of gaming consoles, which had limited hardware in 2005/2006 when they were each released. They found themselves getting more and more crusty, with developers having to squeeze every single pixel out of each games, leading to a long, stagnant series of linear and uninspired game design. I can’t count how many devs I’ve heard complain about the memory ceiling on the Xbox 360. I look forward to revisiting those conversations 3 years from now with the current gen.
Then again, most consoles gamers don’t really pay attention to hardware, their attention is more on the exclusive games (another disappointment). Or if they do argue about hardware, it’s how it’s better than their sworn fanboy enemy’s. It becomes a numbers argument with neither side really understanding the implications of what they’re arguing. Hardware defines design. If this is the future of console hardware, it’s not bad, just mediocre. (Here’s an excellent breakdown of the hardware for nerds.) This console generation will probably be the last in its current form. The boxes themselves, at least the ones that count, resemble PC’s more than ever, and with the Steam Machines shipping to beta participants, we’re about to see some interesting developments (finally).
It was a great year for games. Except for this garbage. Don’t be like this, games. Don’t be that guy.