Battlefield, Halo

How the Digital Age Killed Gaming

Pre-ordering?

So I’ve seen many people discussing how pre-ordering is destroying what makes good games release perfectly. They make good points, why make a good game if you already have a player’s money? I disagree with this, for a publisher that certainly is the case. They don’t interact with the players and that detaches them from releasing a fully functioning game. But the underlying problem for everything is the Digital Age we currently live in. Let’s take a look back at gaming when it initially began growing and how it differed from today.

Information

If you were like me one of the first games you ever played was Pokemon. There was so much unknown about the game. I picked Squirtle because he looked cool. My brother picked Charmander cause he’s a freakin pyro. THAT WAS ALL THERE WAS TO IT! Now you can’t go without picking the one that has best stats and evolves into the best Pokemon and can beat all the Gym Leaders. Part of this is due to the evolution of gaming, a game can’t just be fun at the base now. There’s articles all over about Destiny being such an in depth game that has such smart designs and that’s what makes it good. This applies for just about every AAA game these days, but Destiny got the most attention for it.

Do you remember back when you picked up your Gameboy and played Pokemon? You knew nothing about anything. There wasn’t the Internet seconds away to tell you that Squirtle becomes a Blastoise with Hydro Pump. You had to learn by testing types against each other to find out what was strong and weak. This was a key thing in making games become such a big deal. But now things are laid out plain and simple for you. By the time you get to a certain point with a new enemy, your character is already completely decked out to take on what’s ahead. There’s very little surprise in what you do. But surprisingly if you let your players learn on their own it creates a better game. Not too much learning of course, but dying because you got caught off guard is kind of exciting. And that’s one thing gaming has lost.

As a Halo player I’ve followed the blog posts when a game gets close to release. I remember back when Halo: Reach came out and they mentioned going dark to avoid spoilers. This is something I try to practice with every game now. It’s really hard because that information builds up anticipation. And somehow no one finds that bad. It’s a weakness humans have. I have a decent laptop and a great tablet, yet when I see more tablets and laptops I want to replace them instantly. It’s a great way to make money so publishers take a huge advantage of this. All games must go big or go home with new features and big changes. Just look at Halo 5, they didn’t bother to go small and say lets add this one or two things. The game is faster, there’s 5+ new features that change how you play. This isn’t a bad thing at a glance. It brings a breath of fresh air into games so they don’t go stale. But now new games are so focused on new features they force some things that really shouldn’t fit in.

And the sad thing is developers are trying to get back to this old style release. But they miss because they think it’s something you can copy and paste. Frequently games try it by replicating a scene or a map layout all the while missing the key part that made it a success. There was no IGN month coverage, no details released every month. It’s really hard as a person to do that though. We all enjoy telling a great story and seeing the excitement on peoples faces. So let’s draw a comparison to something in the real world that gaming should follow. Books. How do you sell a good book? You certainly don’t give away just about every detail before the reader grabs it. You give the basics in brief sentences while drawing the reader in. That way when a certain surprise happens you are waiting on the edge of your seat to move on. You don’t have to do something like kill someone off to have them say “I never saw that coming”.

Fixing The System

Emphasis on new and big things can remain, but some of the biggest surprises need to remain hidden. Could you imagine playing Battlefield 4 and seeing Siege of Shanghai with that building falling for the first time, having no idea it was possible. Call me crazy but that’s the kind of feature that needs to remain hidden. Give players a reason to jump head first into a game. Easter eggs are something people hunt down like crazy. Imagine if the basic features of your game were given that much attention. The small features can be released to build that anticipation or even one of the few big things.

If it were me though, I’d base the whole game around the hidden features. I imagine being a company that has tons of players already. Give a few Youtubers or writers a chance to play one map and say find what you can. Let them go crazy and tell all their viewers or readers how excited they were finding something new. Maybe even label a few things as do not discuss, tease and hint at it all you want but build anticipation to actually jump into the game and play around with every detail.

So what do you think? Would you play games if you knew less about everything? Do you think an information overload can ruin the excitement of discovering new features? Leave a comment and let me know and thanks for reading.

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