I have been playing games for a rather long time, from the days of Atari to the current time squandering titles like Call of Duty. I have been present for the birth of game genres, loved and hated titles, discovered my personal strengths and weaknesses, and I must say I’m not happy with the direction I have seen games go in the last few years.
Game development, I feel, had a sense of pride in the past. Games almost depended on piracy and open development back then, and built a reputation with it. I think the peak of great gaming development was when Valve released Half-Life. The modding community went crazy! Not a lot of people even know that some more recent releases started as free releases from groups that saw the potential in Valve’s engine. Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike to name the most successful were what brought the days of LAN parties to fruition.
I think the downward spiral started around the release of World of Warcraft, when Blizzard realized that large numbers of people could be bilked out of a small fee per month instead of a one time cost. (Yes, I realize that EverQuest existed first but because it did not appeal to the vast number of players that World of Warcraft did they did not bow to corporate greed to the same degree.) You can see just from World of Warcraft alone how corporate greed affected things. Just look at the patch distribution system, Blizzard relied on a custom written torrent client so they could drastically reduce the cost of patch delivery. While I’m proud of Blizzard for doing such a thing as legitimizing torrents, I feel a little violated when a company uses the bandwidth I pay for to perpetuate its greed. When EA purchased Blizzard things only got worse. Server transfers, faction transfers, and purchasable items, where does it end?
About the time EA saw their player base rise to 6-8 million we were introduced to MMO features in First Person Games. This broke the entire concept of balance by giving players who have more time to play access to more features than other players. This tactic was not misunderstood by cooperations, it was calculated to keep players playing longer and therefore purchasing more, until the next clone could be spit out. So much for reputation, and building a solid game.
You would think that would have been the end, but now corporations have taken to bilk players of the second hand market. By including keys that only work once, and locking you out of content unless you pay.
What has me so irritated is how money focused the industry as become. I understand the need to make money off a product to continue a companies progression and cover overhead, but attacking players pocketbooks multiple times for one game is a little bit ridiculous. Where has the innovation gone?
Let me end this article by defining the type of gamer I am. I, like a lot of other people, enjoy a good story. If I forget exactly where I am during a movie for the majority of time I consider it a success. (The only exception to this rule being a comedy.) I find that I like to also apply this, somewhat more lightly, to a game. I have been so enthralled by a game’s story line that I got upset when I had to deal with life’s everyday tasks. Game play in my book takes a second seat to story. It has been far too long sense I have felt that and I fear with the continuing trend I wont feel it again.
Honestly, I’m amazed that Blizzard has not offered a cash for gold transfer system yet, to capitalize on the gold farming market they created.