The Sky Is Falling

Posted by on Oct 18, 2017 in General

The sky is falling. Again. For, like, the third time this week, probably. Want proof? Here you go .

It seems that single player games are, once again, doomed. This makes, what? Seven? Eight times that single player was declared dead? According to the article above, EA has single-handedly decided by fiat that the decades-long ascension of single player games must come to an end, and has brought swift justice to the delight of the beleaguered multiplayer game segment and it’s underserved fans by shitcanning a studio working on a single, linear, single player game. Oh, to have the kind of power to re-route an entire industry on such a whim!

OK, look. I’m 43 years old, and for a while there I was kind of happy that games were getting better in terms of visual fidelity. Then the whole 8-bit revolution happened, and we’re now awash with the kinds of visuals I had hoped were left behind for good in 1992. Remember Diablo, Blizzard’s AHDH clickfest whose sole mechanic was to see how fast you can get loot to spew across your screen in the shortest amount of time? That’s credited with helping to put the nail in the coffin of computer RPGs like Baldur’s Gate, but which doesn’t help explain the sudden and incontrovertible success of Divinity: Original Sin II.

The video game industry hasn’t been around for that long, but even the most myopic of us can see that it runs in cycles, like fashion, music, and (sadly) politics. Nothing is ever truly “dead” when it can be repurposed in a few years for a whole new generation who wishes they were participating in the heyday of a particular style. Believe me, I wish side-scrollers would DIAF, but here we are, and people are apparently enjoying them, so who am I to judge?

As massive as they are, EA is not the games industry, and a single game is not any kind of lynchpin. EA has a lot of latitude to make bold moves that would sink smaller companies, and although they seem to be as risk-averse as any other, they’re not above making changes that benefit themselves. If they believe that the most self-serving move they can make is to ape their cousin Activision’s success with Destiny, why wouldn’t they? They have the power, the knowledge, and the maneuvering room fueled by many different sub-studios to be able to do that. But let’s not forget when the games industry flocked to mobile and console and PC gamers bit their nails at the thought that we’d be getting no more Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed games (oh the humanity!). How’d that work out for us?

Big ticket AAA single player games take money, and if EA’s closing of Visceral and the repurposing of their single player Star Wars game is viewed as a vote of no confidence in that direction, then we have a few options as a community.

1. Bitch and moan about the future of the games industry like it’s totally not the 9th time the industry has been declared to be headed for a fiery demise.
2. Realize that other seismic shifts that have occurred throughout the (relatively few) years that have basically left us with…a continuingly functional games industry which produces all kinds of games we enjoy in all kinds of formats and all kinds of genres, including resurgence in roleplaying, single player, strategy, and — yes — obnoxious 8-bit side-scrollers.

The interesting thing about the games industry, unlike, say, the pharmaceutical industry or the auto industry, is that every vacuum left in the wake of a decision is an opportunity for someone else to fill the void. Games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and the Uncharted series are not cheap to make, so I’ve been told. As sexy as both of those are, visually, would people be willing to accept something just as good story wise and gameplay wise if it were at a lower fidelity and made for a lesser budget? Do we NOW decide which games are worth our time strictly by accounting methods? Do we care that HZD was pretty while we ignore the writing, the gameplay, and the ramifications of the experience? Just as Larian and Paradox have stepped in to fill the shoes of other giants in their genres, so will other companies do the same for genres that larger companies vacate as they use their wealth to chase the safe-bet-of-the-hour. If it comes to pass that companies like EA, Activision, and their wards opt to spend their money chasing phantoms of each other’s successes, it’s not going to close the door on other studios. Far from it; it’ll take the corporateness out of the decision making and inject new blood into those genres.

I really don’t see this as a problem. Sure, we are loosing what sounds like would have been a really cool single player Star Wars game. I’d have loved to have had a “Force Uncharted” game. Like, really loved it. But lots of games are canceled or don’t pan out, and we still manage to find new games to get all hyped about. We spend our money where we think it matters, and if we decide that microtransactions in multiplayer games aren’t that place, then we save our pennies and give them to the smaller studios who ARE making the games we want to play. EA doesn’t speak for the consumer; they can only make what they think will sell, and it’s up to us to tell them whether they made the right decision or not.

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A Change to Levelcapped

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in General

Just a heads up for folks who might be interested.

I’ve purged 98% of the posts from Levelcapped.com and have moved them to http://archive.levelcapped.com for the following philosophical.

The writing was OK (asterisk)

I am assuming from the fact that no grammar Nazi has attacked any of my posts that my writing is OK. That or grammar Nazis lack the conviction of their craft to take on a whole post and are content to pouncing on “your/you’re” level mistakes.

Still, the asterisk is in regards to word count. I am verbose, and with the Internet transitioning over to video for all of our informational/’logging needs, following a link of potential interest and being met with a wall of text (usually sans images to add insult to injury) must be very irritating to many. Plus, I often felt like while I was using a whole lot of words, I wasn’t getting my core point across in a way that ensured it would be understood.

The tone was all wrong

Being negative is a “shields up” way of interacting, and being positive is a “shields down” way of interacting. I think to explain this fully would require its own post, but being negative or sullen or grumpy about subjects has become Internet 101 and there are literally thousands of places where you can find people bashing and complaining about stuff. There was a time when I was more upbeat about things, but that was back before Gamergate and the overall toxic culture we’re mired in these days. Despite the circumstances, I want to be a more positive force, rather than lean back into the easy chair of negativity.

The focus was all wrong

I spent a lot of time worrying about engagement, visitors, and page views. Since blogging isn’t the powerhouse it once was, I realize that worrying about those things is like worrying if your fireplace would survive if your house burnt down. Or something like that. The WHY of blogging shouldn’t be about popularity, but of expression and the sharing of ideas with those who want to partake of them. I am not making money off of this, and my reach is rather insular, so best to focus on those I can reach rather than trying to increase the circle of those I have not yet reached.

The voice was all wrong

Every time I wrote a post, I had increasingly negative feelings that I was using “I” way too often. Maybe in shorter posts, it could be forgiven, but in the kinds of posts you’d see on this site, the number of “I”s made each post seem (to me) like it was more concerned with me, and not so much about the actual topic. This IS an opinion blog, not a news site or an official outlet of any kind, but this is something that I (dammit!) need to work on.

I like this better than previous “scorched earth” purges of content because amidst more hum-drum posts there were a few gems that I liked and that other people seemed to like. I hope to do better for you, for myself, and for anyone who is just finding this site, going forward.

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