Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The paradox of modern game design (Spotlight: Crysis 3)

I am currently playing through Crysis 3 on the Xbox 360. This is a brand new game that was just released yesterday (2/19). This game was developed by Crytek and published by EA. This is not a small, niche game. This is a AAA shooter from a very talented developer and a [I]giant[/I] publisher. As we all know, AAA games have a very large budget--I was unable to find the exact number, but it seems Crytek usually have a budget of between 10-30 million--and usually have a large number of people working on them. They're a 'big deal', and they're made as such. Herein lies the paradox, though. Even with all this money and manpower thrown at them, AAA games are still often extremely vapid, or they are riddled with annoying bugs and problems. This blog will be speaking to the latter.

This game is buggy, dudes; that's all there is to it. Right from the very first level there are very annoying sound issues. The sound cuts out frequently. This seems to be worse in cut scenes, but it is certainly present during gameplay, as well. Nothing can take you out of an experience more than having the experience break down around you. I am reminded every 30 seconds or so that I am playing a buggy video game. The frame rate on this level is also inconsistent. The rain in the outside segments is clearly too much for the game to handle on consoles. It would be much better if they reduced the visual fidelity a little bit to make it run smoother. Consoles aren't PCs after all, and there is no way for a person to change the graphics settings.

It is also my understanding from those that I have talked to--I haven't played it enough to form an opinion on this for myself yet--that the multiplayer is also full of issues. The previous Crysis game, Crysis 2, had some of the most severe latency problems that I have ever seen in a console FPS. It sounds like this game continues that legacy. As I said, though, I cannot fully endorse this view yet; I will need to play it more to make a proper judgment on the multiplayer.

My mind is boggled that these issues made it past testers. I can understand that the frame rate drops were excused. That is a fairly common problem--especially with those types of effects. And it's honestly not too egregious to just overlook. The only reason I found that to be so annoying, is that the sound was already grating on my nerves, and my patience was completely spent.

I do not know the actual decisions, timelines, or contracts that led to this game being released in such a state, so take what I am about to say with a grain of salt; it is merely an educated assumption. I believe that EA rushed this game. I don't see how anybody that has poured all their time and energy in to making this game could want to release it in such a state. It looks bad for the developer and the publisher. The majority of people just don't care about these things, though.

The bulk of their audience will go buy the game at full new price from Gamestop or Walmart. They will barely notice the issues, and trade it in when they're done. Many video game consumers have barely any knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. Many, in fact, barely even know what company makes what--much less what specific team makes it, not just the publisher. These companies get away with things like this because we, the consumers, don't hold them to a higher standard. They can still be rewarded for their laziness.

It's really a shame that the industry has turned into the 'big business' game that it has. I am hopeful about the changes that have happened over the past year, though. I'm not naive enough to say that Kickstarter can change everything, but I think it at least has a chance to make a ripple. Kickstarter allows for a completely different interaction between creator and consumer. It also presents an opportunity for the vision and quality of the game to come before the financial tight ropes that these big publishers tend to project onto the companies they publish for. I'm excited that there is a growing alternative to the EAs and Activisions of the gaming world. Hopefully someday it can grow enough for the bigger companies to take notice and make some changes. Oh wait, Call of Duty and Madden still come out every year. Never mind, the big companies won't be changing. :3

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