Videogames, like pretty much everything in life, have their ups and downs.
To be fair, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we need the miserably disappointing things to make the great ones that much greater, and it often takes a few failures before you manage to find the perfect formula for success. So, we here at Continue Play have decided to jot down the top 10 moments in gaming that left us heart-brokenly disappointed – and that much happier that things like Half-Life and the Oculus Rift exist.
10. Tony Hawk: Ride
Peripherals, if used correctly, can really add to a player’s experience if implemented correctly – sadly, this is rarely the case and Tony Hawk: Ride’s skateboard peripheral is the perfect case in point.
On paper it seems like a great idea: who wouldn’t like to play a skateboarding game with a real(ish) skateboard? Noone apparently – Tony Hawk Ride, which was developed by Robomodo, published by Activision and released in 2009, has the lowest ratings as well as the worst sales out of all the Tony Hawk games ever released, and was subject to a ton of negative criticism and reviews due to the game simply not functioning as intended.
The result of the backlash was that Activision placed the Tony Hawk brand into permanent stasis, and a series that once dominated the genre now languishes in limbo, its reputation in tatters.
Apparently the skateboard controller was pretty sturdy though, so there’s that.
9. The Power Glove
Thank the heavens that I didn’t know this existed when I was younger (videogames weren’t exactly a top priority in South Africa during 1989), because there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have been one of those kids who begged my parents to buy me one and then leave it to collect dust in the corner after a day or two.
The Power Glove was an accessory for the NES and was, to put it mildly, an abysmal failure – criticized for being difficult to use, inaccurate and supported by only two games: Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. Another two games were announced, but never made it to final release.
The glove made use of ultrasonic receivers placed around your TV to track hand movements and gestures. The problem that players found was that playing games with the Power Glove seemed to be far more difficult than using the standard NES controller and that the NES hardware wasn’t powerful enough to handle 3D environments – the one area that the Power Glove was initially designed for.
Despite a large marketing campaign – which included an appearance in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare – the Power Glove flopped at retail, selling only 100,000 units in America.
8. Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XI was a massive success for Square Enix back in 2003 (Yoichi Wada announced that it was the most profitable Final Fantasy title as of 2012) so you would think what is essentially a re-worked version of that same base idea would also be a hit.
The initial PC release of Final Fantasy XIV back in 2010 arrived amid a tidal wave of negative reviews. It had a Metacritic average of 48 and suffered from massively unstable servers (an average of 400 crashes a day), a lack of content and minimal story for a franchise that is best known for having deep and complex plots. Another major reason Final Fantasy XIV failed was the heavy focus on graphics. Utilising a brand new engine
Yoshida showed a screenshot of a flowerpot outside of an inn in the original Final Fantasy XIV calling it “the loveliest flowerpot in an MMO,” but then he revealed why: That single flowerpot contained over 1,000 polygons and 150 lines of shader code, meaning it took up as many resources as a single playable character – this heavy focus on detail meant that they limited the number of player characters on screen at any one time to 20. While this made the game look amazing, it came at the cost of making the game feel desolate and empty and high system requirements meant that few players were able to enjoy the game without suffering crippling performance problems.
Square Enix eventually issued an apology to players, stating that they recognized the poor quality of the game and asked for the users to be patient, announcing free trial extensions and changes in the development team. This eventually led to the hit remake: Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, hailed by most as the game Final Fantasy XIV should have been at launch.
These days, thanks to the success of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV is doing well, and a major expansion was just announced a few days ago.
Just a shame that it took such a massive disaster for it reach that point, eh?
7. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy
Nintendo gave Virtual Reality a shot back in 1995 and the result was a disastrous headache – both for Nintendo, and the poor souls who bought the device.
Nintendo churned out a terrible tabletop console dubbed “The Virtual Boy” to fill the gap between the release of the Super Nintendo and the delayed Nintendo 64.
The Virtual Boy was designed by the mastermind behind the popular Game Boy (the late Gunpei Yoki) and was the first 32-bit Nintendo product, as well as its biggest commercial failure to date. The system made use of dual 1×224 linear arrays with flat, oscillating mirrors to present different images to each eye and create what Nintendo claimed to be “true 3D graphics”.
The console was advertised as “cutting-edge” but the poor design decision to make the graphics monochromatic (full color images would of been too expensive and the hardware wouldn’t of been able to handle it) made the console anything but that.
Monochrome visuals worked fine for the original Game Boy, but the decision to render the Virtual Boy’s imagery in a painful red made it harsh on the eyes to the extent that each game came with the option to pause every 15 to 30 minutes, and came with a large amount of warnings stating that extended play sessions could cause headaches (and even seizures).
The whole migrain and eye strain thing wasn’t the only problem with the Virtual Boy either – it also came with a host of ergonomic problems too. It was difficult to operate the console while sitting in a comfortable position, even when it was placed on a tabletop as intended. Nintendo promised to release a harness that would fix the device to the user’s head, but the Virtual Boy was discontinued before these were released.
It wasn’t Nintendo’s last foray into the world of 3D gaming, of course – the 3DS, after an initially shaky start, is now considered a massive success; proof that sometimes you need to make a few mistakes before finding the perfect recipe.
6. Blizzard’s Titan MMO is cancelled
Blizzard has a way of making games extremely fun. Look at the Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft franchises – some of the most rich and diverse videogames in terms of gameplay and lore. This is why when Blizzard kind-of sort-of not really announced Titan back in 2007 and claimed that it was going to be a completely new world, players started to get really excited.
According to Kotaku, Project Titan was going to play like a first-person shooter, but with an added level of complexity where players would have to maintain professions in a similar style to what you would find in The Sims. The game would of had a complex AI that would attempt to recognize players and allow them to have deep levels of interactions with NPCs. The interactions would be seperate from the combat side of the game and played a fairly crucial part.
Players would have to maintain a job ranging from engineering to butchering when not shooting up enemies and opposing factions whilst also running their own business or shop. Players could even start families and build houses – apparently Blizzard hired a pretty large amount of developers who had previously worked on The Sims to try and implement the AI needed to support all these non-combat orientated features.
Honestly, reading through what Titan could of been actually reveals what could of been a pretty complex, but really awesome videogame – Blizzard didn’t feel the same way.
Blizzard announced the cancellation of Titan in September. The co-founder and CEO at Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, went on to explain that the concept was very interesting but the fun simply wasn’t there. He went on to say that “We didn’t find the passion.We talked about how we put it through a reevaluation period, and actually, what we reevaluated is whether that’s the game we really wanted to be making. The answer is no.”
The fact that we’ll never be able to see this grand design and concept in action is very disappointing.
5. SimCity (2013)
When the rebooted SimCity was released in March last year it was met with widespread negative reception because of it’s various prominent technical problems that related to its mandatory use of a network connection in order to play and save game data. The issues included network outages that prevented logging in, problems with saving your progress and an overall difficulty connecting to the game’s servers.
But SimCity‘s biggest problem is the almost ridiculous size limitation placed on cities. Less Sim City and more Sim Town, the limits on buildable space meant that realizing your vision of a utopian metropolis was all about impossible.
You might say a few of these issues are standard for new releases, but the problem was that the problems persisted for weeks to follow and as a result many were pretty much unable to play the game at all.
Some reviewers even came out and said that they simply couldn’t review, calling the game unplayably broken. The community – in an attempt to help each other out – kept urging people to wait until the issues were fixed before buying the game, but this took a long time.
Matters weren’t helped by EA publically stating that the online-only requirements were a necessity due the game’s use of cloud servers. This claim was proven false when hackers almost immediately released a fix which allowed the game to be played offline with all of its functionality intact. Today, SimCity now officially supports offline play, but the damage has been done and what was once considered the pinnacle of city management games now faces an uncertain future.
4. The Elder Scrolls Online forgets why people love The Elder Scrolls.
The Elder Scrolls Online merges the ever popular MMO genre and the Elder Scrolls universe – sounds amazing doesn’t it? Well it’s not, it’s an incredibly boring affair. What should of breathed fire into the franchise has done quite the opposite.
Players and critics were already undecided during the beta, and their suspicions turned out to be correct after its eventual release. It’s simply a buggy and tiresome game that failed to live up to its expectations – with the amount of hype it received who was really surprised? Nothing can live up to that amount of expectation.
The Elder Scrolls Online‘s problems lie in a number of areas, none of which are easily fixed without a substantial rethink of the game’s basic mechanics and existing content. For a series which built its reputation on large, open worlds and player choice, The Elder Scrolls Online is disappointingly linear – funnelling players through linear quest chains within gated-off areas and stubbornly refusing to allow them to leave a zone until they’ve reached a pre-determined point in the story.
Animation is stiff, texture quality is all over the place, and the user interface is horrendous to use, making finding simple information a chore.
What’s more, the combat mechanics aim to fuse the real-time combat that the franchise is known for, with the more traditional hotbar approach seen in MMOs like World of Warcraft. Hell, originally there wasn’t even the option to play the game in first-person – one of the main things that has come to define The Elder Scrolls series (thankfully, the outpouring of disappointment led to Zenimax adding a first person view at a later date).
Last, but not least, the story that is there is bland, delivered by a cast of actors who sound as though they phoned in their lines and went out of their way to deliver dialogue in the blandest way possible.
The Elder Scrolls isn’t horribly bad per se – just not worth that monstrously high subscription fee, despite numerous patches post-launch attempting to add more content and fix its many issues.
Stick to Skyrim or Oblivion, folks.
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic fails to live up to the hype.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (I couldn’t help myself), Star Wars: The Old Republic attempted to follow in the footsteps of its beloved singleplayer story telling epic’s footsteps with the added MMO element. It was supposed to be the infamous “WoW Killer” and worthy of the much feared monthly subscription plan. It was met with some critical acclaim on release and managed to grab itself over a million in initial sales – it actually looked like BioWare and EA had pulled off a pretty successful MMO.
But then subscribers started to fall… In march 2012 EA confirmed that there were 1.7 million subscribers, in May they nervously stated that it had dropped to 1.3 million subscribers, in July they claimed that they were “below 1 million but above 500k” and finally in November 2012, the game went free to play. Unfortunately for Bioware, the manner in which the free to play model was implemented came under heavy criticism for placing many of the most basic features behind a paywall.
Users on forums speculate that the drop was simply because the game, although fun, couldn’t compete with long running heavy hitters like World of Warcraft which has been running and evolving for years before the release of SW:TOR (which was in development since 2006 and as a result featured pretty archaic MMO elements).
Things have gradually improved in the last year, with a huge amount of content updates, new features, and fixes to the game released that have seen it slowly shake off some of the worst aspects of its reputation; but the fact remains that at launch, Star Wars: The Old Republic simply didn’t live up to the hype.
2. Spore promises a detailed simulation of evolution; delivers a collection of mini-games.
What was originally a grand idea that promised an engaging and deep experience turned out to be little more than a host of cartoonish mini-games loosely strung together to simulate evolution.
What went wrong with Spore can be summized by explaining what was originally demonstrated and marketed before launch. Spore was heavily hyped as a semi-realistic sandbox game that included elements of evolution, that involved decision making on the player’s part that could heavily impact the way your game played out.
The original idea of creating a creature and the marketing that essentially implied that the design of said creature would influence things such as its lifespan and evolutionary path was pretty much ripped from the end product. The game suffered from lukewarm reviews, scathing player criticism, and quickly sank into obscurity.
Spore is a classic case of a game evolving through development (which took a whopping 8 years) and in this case the end product wasn’t an improved one. Will Wright, the designer on Spore, commented himself on what may called the “Cute” vs. “Science” perspective which states that what was originally meant to be a brainy science game ended up being a cute game that appealed to kids – this can be read here.
Spore is still an interesting experiment, and some fun can still be gained from it. But as an example of a game failing to live up to the promises of its hype, Spore is right up there with the worst offenders.
1. Duke Nukem Forever emerges from limbo to become an embarassing failure.
Announced in 1997 and finally came out in 2011 – that’s a 14 year development cycle, an absurd amount of time which saw it continually top Vaporware lists year after year – Duke Nukem Forever became something of an industry joke.
The reason behind the extremely long development cycle was reportedly because of downsizing due to financial reasons, lawsuits and various changes in development teams as well as several engine changes. Finally, in 2010 it was announced that Borderlands developer Gearbox had taken on the task of finally completeing the game. Players held their breath – surely, the studio behind the beloved Borderlands could salvage the mess and deliver something good?
Alas, it was not to be.
Duke Nukem Forever was seen as a huge disappointment upon release, with the majority of that criticism directed at the game’s clunky controls, extremely long loading times, offensive and juvenile humor and dated design. A particularly striking section which received a lot of criticism is a hive level that involves Duke encountering various abducted women who have been forcibly impregnated with aliens. The player has to kill them before the alien’s birth does so. Both the hive level itself and the inclusion of disembodied, slappable “wall boobs” were listed in GamesRadar’s “8 worst moments in Duke Nukem Forever“(yes, that’s a thing).
The anticipation that players had had built up after waiting 14 years for a new Duke Nukem (an old beloved franchise) raised expectations to ridiculous heights and what was expected, and what was eventually received, simply didn’t match up. Good luck, Half Life 3.
Have you got any examples which didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!