How times change… I remember how I grew up with computers and computer games and I remember how we have been playing games then and how games are played now. I remember exactly the intensive matches at late nights in front of our monitor and I compare that times with now but let’s start from the beginning.
The last three months I bought more games than in the past few years. That’s because of getting more involved in some great projects about game programming. I thought it would be time to get some of the latest games. If you read the previous blog posts about Steam and censorship in Germany you know that I bought the Half-Life series and added also Crysis, Fear2: Project Origin and Far Cry 2 to my list. It’s no secret that I have my favorite games like Blood, Quake and Doom series and anything that is id Software related. I thought now it would be time to get something new and see how the progress is. When it comes to sequels I like playing them from the first part to the last. You don’t start watching Terminator 4 and then continue to watch Terminator 1, 2 and 3. Back to the story I bought the complete Half-Life series on Steam with all add-ons and start playing it. After finishing it I continued with Far Cry 2 and Fear2. I played Dead Space and continued with Prey. Ok these are not only new games but since I did not played them I thought of giving them a try. With every game I finished I got more and more disappointed.
Back to the times where Doom and Quake ruled my world. I remember how fascinated I have been when I first installed my Wolfenstein3D copy and played it. Wow. It was a non-stop wow effect. Something like that was never seen before I thought (not only me but friends of mine did also but I will still talk for myself in this post). Short time after a friend gave me a Doom copy to play. I installed and that wow effect was now “damn wow²”. Impressed? No. I was impressed². This was more than groundbreaking. Tight atmosphere, great graphics… everything. Doom 2 was released and the expectations were met. Cyber demons and imps. This was my world. I have never been so addicted to any game like I was then with Doom. I was a big Ghosts’n Goblins fan, I was a big Bubble Bobble fan and was addicted to The Great Giana Sisters. Everything which run on an Amstrad CPC and on a Commodore C64 was good and even better on an Amiga but owning a PC you don’t really had good games. This should change soon, and the start did id Software. While we learned the terms deathmatch, rocket launcher and spawning we eat, drink and sleep Doom! Not for long. The next groundbreaking game hit the grounds when Quake was released. These guys are awesome I thought. The gave us Wolf3D, Doom and when there comes a moment where you think “This cannot be done better” id software showed us that Doom was just a breadcrumb. I won’t talk for other genres since they did not interest me very much (or they did not interest me at all to be honest). I was totally Quake 🙂
Soon other companies came up with interesting games and the whole computer games branch became a lucrative business. Games like Unreal, Half-Life etc. dominated the shooter world either with groundbreaking technology and graphics or with tight stories. So years passed and we are now in the year 2009. I played as I said the games mentioned above. Some of them new games, released in 2009, others released the last 3 years. Not one of those games could impress half the way they should. I mentioned already that I got disappointed with each game more and more. Let’s take Far Cry 2 as paradigm. This game looks awesome and starts with introducing you to the story. After that you spend nearly 80% of the time walking, driving or riding through the world, 15% with matches and 5% with story. It was more boring than playing 3 years Tetris non-stop. Let’s take Fear2 as example. This game was played within 3 hours. It was shorter than anything else I have seen. This cant be true. I thought a good game is balanced between some new graphical experience, some tight story and having fun doing the things in the game world, the developers want you to do. All games (Half-Life2 is an exception) I played have no fun and are either too long or too short to play.
Next point is the fact of sequels. How can a developer still think he can release a sequel if a title was successful? I know this is a pure monetary reason, but are they kidding? I think FarCry was a good game and was from the technical aspect great. Far Cry 2 sucks. No relation to the first part, absolutely no fun and way too long. In fact, having a long play duration would be usually a good thing but if the long parts are boring because nothing happens it’s a very bad thing. How can you release a sequel which doesn’t have anything in common beside the title? I mean that’s like Quake2 would play in Russia. In Quake you learned about the stroggs (or you heard about them since there was no story in Quake) and you would expect Quake2 to continue with the stroggs (like it did) but id software would say: “no let’s do something better. You are a lone marine in Russia and have to fight against yetis”. WTF. Let’s take Fear2. I loved Fear. I played it late night with the volume turned up and I was frightened, shocked, impressed and wanted more of Alma. That’s the reason why I bought Fear2 and with my enthusiasm I started playing it and to my surprise I finished it the next evening. Ah Ok. It’s business as usual in our days if games are sold for 49€ with a duration which is not even half the money worth. I mean the Quake or Quake2 add-ons cost about 20€ and have longer game duration than Fear2.
I understand the extra long developing time since it’s not easy today to release a competitive title within a year. Engine programming, textures, sounds, scripting, threading, networking all that shit takes time. Some failed since they were arrogant enough to think they could produce a game within 2 years and stay competitive with their title (hello Daikatana). Others just are kidding and telling lies about their production (hello DukeNukem EVER? now never). But hey. Talk to your publisher and tell him that it’s realistic to release a very good game in 3 years and having it sell good or to release it in 2 years and it’s not worth the money.
Yeah that’s the year 2009. The times where Quake dominated the game scene we had fun, fun, fun. Now we have empty pockets because of the high prices and no fun, and we still say thanks to the publishers. I will avoid now the discussion why publishers have a lot of nerve to change the content of a game only to sell in Germany and Australia. This would take too long. But it’s important to mention that if they wouldn’t do this and would spend the money for changing the content to improve the released game they would most probably have better sale numbers. It’s only an idea. While it’s order of business to change content just to sell in countries with strict laws this is also the wrong way. Microsoft didn’t sell a game in Germany just because the changes in content would have changed the story that much that it would be a complete different game. Id Software never censored their games just because of Germany and however everyone here owns id Software games. They did not become bitches of the German government. If others would follow this example the German government would change its laws since selling something means taxes and taxes means money for the government so software developers should really think about.
Where are the good old times where playing computer games means fun and not filling the gap between TV-serials and lunch. where are the good old times where developers have been idealists and produced games with content and story and not this bitchin censored stuff just to make some dollars more.
Just some thoughts of someone who enjoyed playing games and now suffers from the capitalistic behavior of software developers.