Week In Review: 3/14/14 – Back to the Drawing Board
Welcome to the Week in Review, a feature where Dan Oravasaari and Alex Osborn will break down what happened over the last week and discuss what it means to the industry as a whole, and to you the gamer.
Dan: If last week wasn’t a reminder enough of how turbulent the games industry can be, the recent unveiling of what happened between Alex Ward and EA/Nintendo, is a just another example of the problems that plague our favorite hobby. Criterion, the developers behind one of my favorite racing series of all time, Burnout, recently had their co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry to start a new company, Three Fields Entertainment. While not attributed as the “main reason” why the departure happened, the events surrounding Need For Speed: Most Wanted on Wii U, really do beg the question of how often something like this happens?
Sadly, what this means is that even though a developer can produce a product, there can be problems down the line, far out of their control, that will never give their work the chance to see the light of day. It is hard to say if there was something the publisher took as wrong with the product, since they didn’t release it in Europe, but for a game that some are calling the best looking version, and with the highest metacritic score of 86, the whole things just feels poorly handled by EA and Nintendo.
Alex: It’s truly a shame when we see developers pour their heart and soul into a project only to have it mishandled by publishers. Regardless of install base, sales numbers, or sometimes even quality, these studios kill themselves to create games that they believe in. Sure, in the end it’s a business and the bottom line is to make money, but one can’t forget that humans, with feelings and personal lives, are behind these “products” that eventually make their way to store shelves.
Alex: While we talked about this at great length during the latest episode of Bad Gamer I’d like to drive home the fact (no pun intended) that Sony and Evolution Studios’ decision to delay Driveclub is very much a good thing. For one, it shows Sony’s commitment to quality, having not forced Evolution to push out a product before it’s ready. On top of that, it sounds like Driveclub is going to be far more interesting and innovative when it finally launches than what we’ve already seen.
There’s a major online component to this next-gen racer, and just imagine how catastrophic it would have been if PlayStation 4’s online network simply wasn’t ready to handle this super-connected racing game. First impressions are everything, and if the game’s social aspects were a bust at launch, there’s a good chance all the hard work that was poured into Driveclub’s innovative features would have been in vain. Hopefully now, Evolution has a better understanding of the network and how to deliver a truly unique experience that will distinguish Driveclub from the rest of the racers out there.
Dan: Agreed, much like we had just said, the worst thing that a publisher and developer can do is push out a product that isn’t supported enough. Driveclub was really designed around its social features, and Sony’s network has never been as expected out of the gate, so it getting delayed was probably for the best. Depending on what aspects remain in the title after it being taken back to the drawing board, the extra time will help Sony sort out most of their network issues and give the game a second chance. But, as we still know so little about what is really going on with it, I guess we will have to wait and see.
Dan: As much as I do enjoy the blue aesthetic of Sony’s other game cases, this will be the third time the PS3 has seen a change, and it looks comparatively worse. Much like we mentioned on this week’s episode of Bad Gamers, it can also lead to all of their products looking overly similar and create confusion in the marketplace. It is understandable that they would want a unified look between all of their products, but the black PS3 game case design has always looked more elegant than the others, so this change just feels all the more unwanted and unnecessary.
Alex: I couldn’t agree more with you, Dan. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say. My obsessive compulsive tendencies really take issue with Sony’s unwillingness to stick with a single design, but in the end, it really is just plastic and paper. If we’re being completely honest, now that my shelf of game boxes will never again look nice and uniform only makes my decision to go all-digital that much easier.
Alex: While we’ve seen Sony’s streaming service in action, there’s still a major question mark attached to PlayStation Now, and that’s pricing. The Gaikai website has a picture that leads one to believe that Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Far Cry 3 will be priced at $4.99 and $5.99, respectively, but is that for a rental or outright purchase? Will there be some sort of membership fee required to be able to access this streaming service, or will we be able to purchase and/or rent these games a la carte? How will this marry with PlayStation Plus? There are still so many questions Sony needs to answer before the service launches this summer.
Dan: As I have said in the past, I think the idea of a cloud streaming service is great, but the details are really going to be what makes it a success or kill it off from the start. With Sony already having pushed gamers from the free PSN days of the PS3 to the now premium service with PlayStation Plus, finding a way to add another costly service soon may be a bit much, too soon. So, if Sony really does want to have gamers jump on this idea of PlayStation Now right away, then they are going to need to stay away from subscriptions, unless they plan on making the deal too good to pass – which will then just cause them or the publishers to lose money.
Dan: As I am going to be at GDC this year, I can’t wait to see what Shu will be showing off. But, given that the main concept behind this show is to be more about the development process and less about the actual games, It is hard to say what we will be seeing. Many people have been speculating that we will finally see VR implemented on the PS4, and that could be true and pretty cool. As the PS4 still has yet to implement its 3D Blu Ray functionality, adding on a VR option at the same time would be an interesting way to add it on and explain the delay.
Alex: We’ve been hearing so many rumblings regarding Sony’s answer to virtual reality that I’d truly be shocked it GDC comes and goes without some sort of headset reveal by the PlayStation manufacturer. It’s the new hotness right now with Oculus dominating the scene, and I highly doubt Sony plans to let them go unchallenged. PlayStation 4 gamers need a VR headset too, at least that’s what I’m sure Sony is thinking, so we’ll almost certainly hear something about it next week. I just hope it isn’t grossly overpriced.
Alex: Now that the excitement of PlayStation 4 has begun to temper in Japan, it doesn’t surprise me that 3DS sales are nipping at its heels. Gamers in the region love portable experiences, and Nintendo knows how to deliver that better than anyone else out there. As far as software goes, I’m glad to see Keiji Inafune’s work get some proper respect, as it’s clearly geared more toward an Eastern crowd. It will be interesting to see how upcoming software releases affect the hardware landscape in the coming months, especially with the impending release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes.
Dan: I know it looks bad, and it isn’t great, but I think that most of the buzz coming from the PS4’s launch was spent when it first happened last year in the US and UK. The system has been out for a few months already, and there really aren’t enough titles to keep the buzz going – at least, there wasn’t. As Alex just said, it will be interesting to see how the upcoming releases will affect hardware sales given the release of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Japan has had a much bigger interest in the handheld market than the US, and the 3DS is the undisputed king of that market, so there really is no surprise at the competition. The only issue that we will see, is if Sony can’t buck this trend and get themselves into a better spot in their native country.
Dark Souls II
Dan: Dark Souls 2 really is the game everyone has been waiting for, it is unforgiving difficult and looks to punish you at every turn. But, the fact that it launched with its online capabilities broken from the start, is definitely going to bother a number of people. Although, truth be told, I really didn’t have that much of an issue without the functionality, as I had to play through the game before the servers went online and I enjoyed it fully. Dark Souls as a series really is the embodiment of feeling alone and lost, and not being able to rely on anyone online just adds to that experience.
Alex: I know you’ve had your share of issues with the online component, Dan, and that really sucks, as much of Dark Souls’ charm comes from its asynchronous multiplayer. That said, I’m glad you were able to enjoy the solo experience for what it is: a brutally punishing action-RPG that tempts you to throw your controller every fifteen minutes. I don’t have the mental fortitude (or the skills for that matter) to even try to play From Software’s latest. My hat goes off to you, sir, and all the rest of the brave gamers out there who picked up Dark Souls II.
Alex: Speaking of online issues… Titanfall has had its fair share of problems right out of the gate, with both PC and Xbox One gamers struggling to connect on day one. As we continue to see more and more online-focused experiences, developers and publishers are going to have to figure out how better to handle these launches, especially for a game that is basically unplayable unless you can connect online. That said, from what I hear, Titanfall is an amazing first-person shooter that will appeal to Call of Duty fans looking for little more innovation. Am I drooling over it? No. Can I see why others are? Certainly.
Dan: This is obviously the game that Microsoft will be trying to rub in Sony fanboy’s faces, and rightfully so, it does look awesome. The fact that it also was having connectivity issues is just another example of products not ready for release, and just how dependent we have become on patches. Hopefully, if this game ever does come over to the Sony side of the fence (rumored to be a 1 year exclusive), it will have things figured out by then.
Not terribly much happened this week, but we did get two amazing games, so I think as a whole we came out ahead. Most of the news that came out seems to be steps for a better (or at least different) future, and with GDC ’14 around the corner it makes sense that we are only hearing about things to come.
Overall Score: 7.5/10