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14 December 2013

On Video Games: Yearly Releases

Howdy Internet!

As I was in my state of "Fucking hell I can't sleep" last night/this morning, I got to thinking. How do they even manage yearly game releases?
(Yeah, my thought patterns when I'm trying to sleep are stupid, I know.)



So the situation with Call of Duty is that they use two different developers - Treyarch and Infinity Ward on an Every-other-year basis, giving each dev 2 years to make the game. Assassin's Creed currently use 1 developer - Ubisoft Montréal. Poor guys are getting caned to hell there.

But thinking back to Assassin's Creed, Black Flag was pretty awesome. I just finished it last week and after picking up my jaw after dropping it at the end reveal, I got to thinkin' - Compared to Black Flag, 3 felt... like a Beta for it.

Everything in 3 was in Black Flag. Sailing, Hunting, trading, tree clambering. Black Flag just had it more refined. Polished.

In the end, I felt a little bad for people who had bought AC3 for the full price on release. (I borrowed a friend's copy for PS3). Even before I played Black Flag, it felt a little unfinished. Admittedly, I did pretty much just dash through the story, but there was this huge wide open Frontier for you to explore, where you could hunt animals and collect things.. for collecting thing's sake. There was no reward other than achievements for it. The Frontier was a huge pain in the arse to navigate at times, and I found myself fast travelling a lot.

The Character writing for AC3 felt really rushed as well. the main protagonist, Connor felt blank. What you saw on the surface of the character was it, there was no mystery about the character to work out, no motives for him other than to save his village (And come on, how many times have we heard that?) Charles Lee was this madly evil man Connor seemed so desperate to find. "WHERE'S CHARLES LEE?"

In fact, the best character in the game was Haytham. Obviously because of his murky history, charm and sudden change of heart. But I'll shush before this turns into a AC3 review.

What I'm trying to get at here is that while yearly releases are good for the publisher, they can be hell for developers, and can result in a sub-par product for the consumer. It's a little disheartening to hear of delays, I know. I'd been eagerly awaiting any news of Kingdom Hearts 3 (Imagine my face on this year's E3 stream) for damn near 7 years. But lots of studios and publishers know - it'll be ready when it's finished completely. Just that some (I'm looking at you, Ubisoft), don't.

I do have aspirations of entering the games industry, I really do. And I know it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Publishers have a grip firmly on the balls of the industry and the rise of indies and kickstarters has been amazing for innovation and originality.

Yearly releases are there purely for the cash. Its annoying to play a game in a franchise you like only to find it's a little substandard compared to previous releases' polish or writing.
Mass Effect suffered this in the end, though I think that was more of an audience grabber if anything.

While I don't mind waiting years for Game releases, consumers have come to expect yearly releases for their favourite games and it's slowly and surely becoming the standard. It results in rushed QA, unfinished features, choppy writing and sometimes completely cut segments
(Cut segments doesn't sound too bad in theory, but gameplay is like a giant puzzle. Cut one thing out and the rest will probably look or feel a little weird.

Ride To Hell: Retribution was probably the best example of a rushed game. From looking at it, it had huge aspirations, it might have even been something great - but the execution looked totally awful.

Anyway, more pointless blithering over with. Seeya next time!