This week I’m going to catch up on a few things that I missed over the past month or so as the holiday season has really kicked into high gear. First up I will be taking a look at a great interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and his opinions towards AAA games and the rival consoles. Then there is a nice rant about EA and Ubisoft’s business practices, followed shortly by a new meta being introduced for StarCraft 2.
Here’s to another good week, Cheers.
Well, That Was Interesting
Recently, Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto has been rather vocal about his displeasure with AAA gaming and rival consoles – saying that they are “boring” and uninspired. Nintendo has flown under the radar since their launch of the Wii U but with three huge titles (Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and Captain Toad) released this year, they have seen an resurgence in interest in their once-floundering console and brand that has seen their revenue stream rocket back into gains instead of last years losses. No longer are critics and fans musing about the end of Nintendo and it’s long run of innovation and greatness; no, that folly is now reserved for the Xbox. Instead we see praise being rained down for Nintendo’s continued restraint at over-indulging game budgets while still developing innovative and fun games.
This has always been the case, ever since the Gamecube first started to distance the company away from “the best graphics possible” mantra that has plagued AAA games, Sony, and Microsoft. Instead Miyamoto has said he wants to focus on fun games that help the players tell their own stories while still exploring rich and colorful worlds that inspire the imagination.
It almost sounds like I’m a marketer for Nintendo, but really I have been impressed with all of their first party titles for the last ten years. This does of course ignore Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword which, in my opinion, both suffered from trying to be AAA games.
Miyamoto has always staked his career – and the company whose reputation he helped build – on doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing, and you can see that philosophy in games like Captain Toad, Mario Galaxy, and the Wii itself. His interview with Robbie Collin of the Telegraph is an insightful look into his thought process and approach to game design. Hearing his stories of simple inspiration that evolves over time into games like Pikmin and Zelda is simply miraculous and makes me eye this weeks deals on the Wii U ever more. I still hold up the Gamecube as one of the greatest consoles ever made because of it’s first party titles, and the Wii U is looks to be shaping up to share similar grounds. Unfortunately, it also looks as if both systems will be ignored by the general population in favor of spectacle and AAA pomp and hapenstance.
Demand more from your games, or else we’ll keep getting more games like Assassins Creed: Unity.
Speaking of Assassins Creed Unity, it’s a game that by all rights should have been delayed as most AAA titles seem to be for the new generation of consoles as the developers struggle to handle the new systems and problems derived from implementation of said systems. Everything from Bloodborne to Watch underscore Dogs has had their release dates pushed back for various reasons, but it all boils down to the games not operating at the level expected of a finished product ready for purchase. However, Ubisoft didn’t give two thoughts of a care about that as they seemingly saw the unfinished state that is Unity back in September and said to themselves: “this baby is ready to go”.
The annual release cycle, coupled with investor demands, created a perfect storm for disaster – all in the name of getting money. Consumer happiness be damned.
EA and now Ubisoft are quickly losing footing as industry giants because of the shady practices and short-sighted goals that prevail throughout the corporate culture of most industries. Only now, as fans of some of these franchises, are we becoming acutely aware of these issues that have been building for years into an impressive monument dedicated to the bottom line. Both publishers have a long and storied history of being on the cutting edge of micro-transactions and DLC that should have been in the main game shenanigans, and for the most part they have had a direct hand in leading to the rise of the so-called “it’s about ethics in gaming journalism” movement.
However, I digress. Both companies are capable of making great games should the planets align and the development cycle gods be kind. EA has had its ups and downs, but Dragon Age: Inquisition is a good game that has pleased many fans of the series (though this could also be because of the low expectations set by Dragon Age 2). Titanfall is also a welcomed take on a genre that Activision is trying its best to make stale and leave a funny aftertaste in your mouth. Where as Ubisoft is only one short year removed from Assassins Creed: Black Flag which topped many of the game of the year lists (including our own) in 2013. Earlier this year we saw the release of Valiant Hearts and Child Of Light, both of which are two of the better games released this year from a large publisher.
So I plead with them both and ask that they do not kill themselves for short term gains, as it is evident that the annual release cycle is a non-sustainable way to conduct business and is buckling under the pressure to meet demands. It leads to derivative games instead of innovation, and we end up with six identical Call of Duty games before we finally get Advance Warfare that seems to be a good step in the right direction. Furthermore, higher expectations have sundered franchises like Dead Space, and Tomb Raider, while a host of others did well, but not Call of Duty well.
I’m going to predict now that the AAA gaming bubble will burst next year. Already, I’ve stopped buying AAA games in favor of smaller and mid-tier titles like Dark Souls 2, Binding of Isaac, and Transistor. The closest to AAA games I’ve come to owning this year have been Shadow of Mordor, Alien Isolation, and Civilization Beyond Earth: all of which are mid-tier, albeit on the larger size of that designation.
Last month Blizzard unveiled plans for their next StarCraft 2 expansion, Legacy of the Void, and with those plans comes a new meta for the RTS. The “theme” as they call it for the expansion is harassment and speed as it seems they are angling to undo the damage they did with Heart of the Swarm which saw the meta shift towards slower more drawn out matches. This is a welcome change as many have complained that the game has become boring and as such a decline in interest has hurt it in the eSports landscape with StarCraft being dropped from MLG and losing other tournaments to Dota.
However, the new units and potential meta unveiled continue another trend that has existed throughout the two expansions, and that is the one of raising the player skill ceiling to make the game more difficult for the average player. The new units and compositions will require much more micromanagement control appears to be targeted towards the higher end professional players and would hurt the average one. Swarm Hosts from HoTs are a prime example of a unit that an average player cannot handle even in smaller numbers, where the pros need them to be “swarmed” to be effective. The new unit details all come with the caveat of saying “player skill has a large influence” over determining the effectiveness of their abilities.
I’m not bad at video games by any means, but the raising of the player skill has lead to a game that I no longer have the time to dedicate myself to practice the way I once could. That being said, I’m perfectly fine with the trend towards a higher skill ceiling. I love to watch StarCraft being played by professionals and I welcome a change to their meta; I’m perfectly ok with being neglected by Blizzard in this fashion. I for one am looking forward to the conclusion of a plot that has been building since the original StarCraft, and in turn I hope Blizzard shifts their RTS team over to developing a new Warcraft title independent of Word of Warcraft. Maybe a remake of the very first Warcraft in time for the 2016 movie?
Stranger things have happened within the halls of Blizzard over the last few years.
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