Posts tagged Halo
I like Halo. I like shooters “OK”, and I’m not going to lift my pinky and stick my nose in the air to nitpick the plot or the execution of the series: I like the atmosphere, and it’s a fun game and a moving story, and the music is fantastic and contributes mightily to each offering. I give props to Bungie because the Halo series is really the only games I’ve finished with regularity (barring Halo: Reach, Halo 3: ODST, and 343′s Halo 4, which is outside the scope of this post).
Bungie has certainly earned their laurels. They’ve proven themselves to be on the positive side of competent, and while no product or producer is perfect, they know how to give people a good time. Now that they’re out from under the Halo shadow, and more importantly out from under Microsoft, they’ve turned their artful gaze towards something more ambitious in Destiny. The details are scarce at this point, but if you’ve got an interest in games and have a pulse, chances are you’ve seen the video documentary about it. That’s where I want to start.
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After watching the video featuring Bungie talking heads, I sat back and tried to nail down why the video felt familiar. Like I said, there are very few studios who have enjoyed such excellence in sales, and who have generated a brand loyalty. In many respects, those factors excuse Bungie when tooting their own horn in this video as they praise their own efforts in making Halo a world-wide phenomenon, and in elevating Bungie to the level where it has it’s own stable of dedicated fans…
…oh yeah! The video reminded me of the series of videos that BioWare did…for Star Wars: The Old Republic! Remember how many Atta-Boy fist-bumps they awarded themselves for past performance? How little information those videos and interviews actually provided? How sure they sounded that their legacy was firmly established and nigh immutable, and how sure they seemed that their reputation would continue to rise with their next, far more ambitious offering?
Know, however, that I am insanely intrigued with Destiny, the same way I was intrigued with SW:TOR. Despite how the later turned out, many of us were in the same boat, and claiming otherwise through the benefit of hindsight will not absolve any of us. I will not say that Destiny is…destined…to go the same route as SW:TOR because even a coin has the same chance of landing heads up as it does tails up with each toss. Bungie is good, and they may pull off…whatever it is that Destiny shapes up to be.
So retain hope, but don’t hold fast to blind faith. Still, I’m personally worried that this unmitigated self-congratulation is both a glimpse into the soul of the company, and a potential warning that Bungie’s reputation has gone to their heads. Only time will tell.
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Destiny‘s reveal video bothered me because of the undercurrent of sheer, unmitigated hubris. Granted, when biting off a chunk as sizable as what Destiny might be, convincing yourself that it can be done is paramount, and I’m sure that the Bungie offices have a 50 foot high-water mark of adrenaline each and every day that helps them believe in what they’re doing.
The problem with hubris (aside from it’s inherent definition), is that it makes people do and say stupid things. Things which seem totally awesome from behind the wall of the fish-tank one swims in, but which look and sound absolutely asinine from other side of the glass.
Bungie mouthpiece Jason Jones continued the avalanche of self-satisfaction with this statement:
We did a bunch of ambitious things on Halo deliberately to reach out to people. We limited players to two weapons, we gave them recharging health, we automatically saved and restored the game — almost heretical things to first-person shooters at the time. We made the game run without a mouse and keyboard. And now nobody plays shooters the way they used to play them before Halo ’cause nobody wants to. – Destructoid :
In fairness, “the way they used to play them” is absolutely ambiguous, but the quote is offered in the context of the question of whether or not Destiny will see a PC release. Given other triggers in the statement, it’s being widely assumed that Jones is saying that “no one wants to play shooters on the PC because of the way we innovated with Halo,” or even the more succinct ”no one plays shooters on the PC.” That’s insanely broad, absolutely false, and horribly head-up-the-ass. It makes me want to not have anything to do with Destiny, or Bungie from here on in because as a someone who is a PC gamer first, and a non-gamer second (console gamer seventh, after smartphone, tablet, board game, and card game), he just insulted me directly by calling me — and other PC gamers — “nobodies”. We don’t matter to Bungie, and apparently don’t fit in their plans, despite the fact that many of us would be quite willing to do so.
Believe it or not, that’s not the point of this second half!
Instead, think about it: if you are interested in Destiny, you’ll need an Xbox or a PlayStation (sorry WiiU! Support group at St Catherine’s rec hall at 8PM!). I have both, so I’m still in the running, but what if you don’t? You’re basically S.O.L. unless you want to buy one now, on the tail end of this current console generation. In essence, Bungie is deciding for you where your loyalties need to be if you want a piece of this sweet, sweet Destiny pie.
OK, this is nothing new. If you wanted Halo, you needed an Xbox. If you wanted Uncharted, you needed a PS3. If you want Mario, you need a Nintendo machine. We’ve lived with it, accepted it, and we’ll have to continue living with it, but the problem is that it’s becoming more and more widespread.
It used to be that companies earned loyalty by making the best product on the market, and selling it for a fair price. When the competition comes out with a better product — and that used to be the only way to get people to switch from one product to another — each company had to double their efforts to make something even better! At the end of the day, the consumer wins because companies fought each other over merit while we reaped the benefits.
We’re now in the era of Cheap Tricks. Companies no longer have to compete for your constant attention because they have found a way to skirt anti-trust accusations and to allow us to willfully make ourselves hostages of our products. For the average consumer (and even for a lot of above-average consumers), once a decision has been made to buy into an ecosystem, the chances of leaving that ecosystem drop with every subsequent purchase.
How much money have you spent on apps for your smartphone? What happens if you switch to a different ecosystem? Those apps aren’t gone, technically, but they’re useless to you on your new device. Can you pull yourself away from the investment you not only made in the hardware, but the software as well? How about your Steam library? Steam’s not the only game in town for digital distribution, but many, many people have invested heavily in Steam over the the years. If Steam abandons Windows for Mac or Linux, will you abandon Steam…or WIndows? Don’t bother answering, I know what you’ll choose, because it would be ludicrous to turn your back on the thousands of dollars you willfully funneled through Valve.
People still like to frame these situations as choice. Smartphone users will swear up and down that their choice was informed and they made the right one based on knowledge alone. Folks jumped up and down with glee when Valve announced Linux support, despite the fact that their own sprawling libraries would be mothballed — possibly indefinitely – until (or more truthfully, if) those games could be retrofitted to work with Linux. Linux fans rejoiced: FINALLY, an end to the tyranny of Windows! But wait! Having Steam only on Windows, and having decades of game developers focusing almost exclusively on Windows, meant that we were forced to use Windows all these years! Don’t cry for Microsoft; they’re just as guilty.
So you see my point.
Content producers and gatekeepers are increasingly controlling what had been our choice, if we ever had choice at all. You may not like Linux or Mac, but all it takes is a nod from St. Newell, and Windows support vanishes like a mob snitch in the night. Supporters of other platforms might say good riddance, but it it can happen to one, it can happen to any, and we’re all poorer for having fewer choices in any and all walks of life, even if we never partake of them.
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Bungie is just the latest company making decisions for us, but I think this is one of the few times that a company has come right out and backhanded a segment that would have gladly partaken of their product in exchange for the cash. In that regard, I can’t fathom the reason behind Jones’ statement. Is he actually hateful towards PC gaming? Or is Bungie so steeped in their own self-satisfaction that they are comfortable saying what they believe, and believe what they say?
I hope for everyone’s sake that it’s neither. I hope he and the folks in the video had a momentary head-rush that caused their euphoria, and that they come to realize that while their bro-fisting grandstanding will certainly garner them untold wealth and prosperity in a certain segment, they should also consider what the same prideful behavior did for BioWare. Every single developer is one self-assured success away from abject failure and shame, and I personally think it would do them much more good to focus on being as inclusive as possible, with significantly less high-octane hubris than they’ve started this project out with.