Complexity and difficulty do not deter sales

Continuing from last week’s ex tempore Guilty Gear post, the concept of making something more accessible in video games should be looked at a bit closer. The myth is very clear cut; make a game’s play less demanding in order to attract consumers. For long running franchises, there already exists an installed consumer base, changing a series’ latest entry to be less whole than its predecessor usually isn’t met with the most positive reception. Fighting games are interesting in this regard, because they exhibit series-within-series mentality. All five mainline Street Fighter games series have their own unique approach to the core mechanics introduced in Street Fighter. Street Fighter II expanded on the cast and introduced combos by accident. Later Street Fighter II games would introduce speed modification, new input methods and the industry standard Super moves. Street Fighter III revamped the whole pace of the game and made Parrying an essential part of the game. Third Strike landed Ex Moves into the series, which have become more or less franchise standard. Street Fighter IV modified Super concept a bit more with Revenge Gauge as well as introducing Focus Attacks and Red Focus Attack would be introduced later. Street Fighter V is a platform for each and every update for the game. This sort of tweaking applies to Guilty Gear as well, where most of the sub-titled game outside the first game have iterative versions. X has X+, XX has its fair share of update to the point of some arguing Accent Core should be considered a sub-series on its own rights. Xrd of course had Sign first before Revelator, and then Rev.2 came around. With New Guilty Gear, we should expect them to take a step back toward the original game, as that’s the standard procedure with both Capcom and ArcSys, and build up from there. However, every time a developer announced they want their game to attract new customers, or that they want certain customer crowd, red flags are raised. However, not for the reason you’d think.

Games have always been complex and stupidly hard. Dark Souls is not any exception to the rule, but it the series is perhaps the best example of a game that mainstream has taken under its wing despite it being brutally difficult, requiring relatively high execution due to its relatively complex mechanics. Dark Souls is just modern equivalent of the NES era Castlevania anyhow. Both are based on Western horror and both are deemed brutally hard games. Both are very successful franchises. The NES era is very good example of games becoming more complex and the same time gaining more popularity and seeing increase sales. Castlevania is of course example of this, but so would Super Mario Bros. By modern standards the first game is archaic, extremely basic. When it first rolled out, it was one of the most technologically advanced game on consoles, the game to define cartridge games before Nintendo rolled out Disk System. We know how that went down. Super Mario Bros. 2 made more characters available with different properties, much longer stages with numerous tricks to them, and more demanding game overall. It may not be Lost Levels, but Lost Levels is just an update for the first game with new enemies and no mechanical changes. Super Mario Bros. 3 on the other hand wiped the slate clean with more demanding stages, more complexity with flying, more mechanics to play with new suits and options, stage gimmicks and so on. If complexity and difficulty would deter the customer, none of these aforementioned series would’ve been successful.

Modern video and computer game developers should look at the arcades’ success to learn a thing or two. Arcade games were often butt puckeringly difficult in order to make their earnings, but with that they also were required to deliver excellent burst of gameplay. Cabinets that didn’t were quickly empty, with customers slotting their quarters into something more worthwhile. The games needed to attract the customers first, and that’s why the cabinet design had to be excellent, eye-catching and sometimes extremely wild. The attract mode was integral to this, which either was pretty damn good or rather terrible. There was no real in-between. The standard was to start with some sort of video sequence that sets up the setting for the game, showcasing some of the characters before the title screen hits, often with a bang. After that it would move to gameplay, which would be either AI playing the game either via game’s own instructions or prerecorded inputs, or just have the player character being dumb and taking hits before dying. Show some scores from other players, maybe splash the title screen once more than then loop the whole thing, until a player throws a coin in. Later in the 1990’s, these attract modes would find themselves very sophisticated, like how Choukou Senki Kikaioh presented itself as an opening animation for a Saturday morning cartoon.

I’d also recommend checking out Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade gamesattract modes.

Presentation is all-important with games still. That is the first thing the consumer will see, from advertisement to in-game graphics. Graphical fidelity in itself is not as important as how those graphics are represented. ArcSys has always been able to pull this off, devising visual flavour that pulls in the audience. The main reason original Guilty Gear is a footnote in the series, and in fighting game history overall, is that it was just another game among others in a time when 2D fighting games were pushed away in favour of 3D. It didn’t make its mark because of being difficult or too complex, Tekken had more on it than Guilty Gear. Third Strike: Street Fighter III hit the scene years later, and you can guess which one of the two are is more complex and more played nowadays. Of course, SFIII wasn’t exactly a mass hit during that time either, but that was the era when arcades were dying. That, and SFIII a totally new cast that rubbed SFII fans the wrong way. Very few companies would be willing to completely replace their game’s cast nowadays, though SFIII‘s unique cast has been accepted retroactively as worthy successors and the initial reaction is seen rather overly drastic. Visuals is what the player will be looking at all the time, and if they’re up to par in terms of design and sheer quality of ’em, the game has to pull double duty on making the entry worthwhile.

That is only the start though, an ever-important one. Once you’ve gotten the customer’s attention, the best way is to engage the him to full possible extent with well designed and coded play. The answer to rope in new players is not in making game easier to play, that is the wrong way to make a game more accessible. Easy to learn, hard to master is the mantra of every great game out there, not just electronic. The best card games are easy to understand and learn, but stupidly hard to master due to other elements. Poker, for example, is simple enough to teach to a three-years old, but everything else calculating odds to reading other players takes time and effort. This isn’t an argument for people to get good at a game, but rather that by allowing the player to naturally learn what does what should be the priority rather than automate things. Automation and cutscenes take away control from the player, and though it helps early on and may give a cinematic effect, it should always be an option to remove automation once the player has learned enough. Autocombos as an element try to alleviate the execution barrier in fighting games, and while they do work as a first step helper, it should always be optional and the game should make an effort to encourage the player to abandon it rather than give them a safe tool they can roll with all the time. Its not a rare mindset to use the tool that’s the easiest and safest because it just works. Repeat it again and again until desired result is gained. The incentive of more damage with better combos doesn’t really sound appealing to general player if such tool exists.

Give a controller to a complete newcomer to fighting games and tell them what the buttons do, and then do things. They’ll be in complete awe what’s going on. There has been much discussion on mechanic complexity, but less so about inputs. Sure, methods of inputs is a big topic, pad vs stick and so on, but less so if there are too many single inputs. What I mean by this that, for example, Street Fighter has six buttons. Three for punches, three for kicks. King of Fighters has four, two punches and two kicks. Tekken has four, one for each limb. Melty Blood runs four as well, but with three attacks and a special. Virtua Fighter has three; punch, kick, guard. Which one of these would you say would make a newcomer most confident? Then consider which of these franchises has seen most revenue. Number of inputs is related to complex execution. More ways to input stuff, the more motor skills are required. Add the mechanics to this, and it becomes easy to see why some would argue lessening complexity is the way to go. Nothing keeps you from using all the buttons on the controller, but at the same time nothing says you should. All that said, the core fighting game design with the system starts with how many buttons there are. It might look intimidating to a complete novice who has never played a game, but this is something no game can really deal with. A player must start somewhere to work over the complex controllers, but a well designed game wins the player over with good design.

Not even kidding. Back when I was studying psychology and used games to run experiments, few of them were so completely bewildered by a SNES controller they might as well have used this

However, this design is hard to implement into a fighting game. The reason for this is that fighting games are pure one-screen games. There are no stages that the developer could design around for the player to intuitively learn controls and mechanics, like they can with Super Mario Bros. There are no attract modes anymore to show how the game flows. All you really can do is hit the Training mode and hope for the best. With the Internet, this shouldn’t be the case anymore. People learned how to play Street Fighter II by being there in the arcades, playing games with others and tradings tips and tricks. That wholesome interaction may be gone now, but online play could help. Have people play few matches against the CPU to measure how good they are and then throw them into online matches with equally ranked opponents. This doesn’t seem to be happening though. Often what seems to happen is that you just keep losing to people online and have to learn about things before you can match others.

The thing is that this happens with everything. You don’t get good at reading before you learn the alphabets and how language works. You don’t learn to drive right away. You don’t learn to draw a straight line until you’ve done it thousands of times. Playing soccer takes ages to get good. Building and painting model kits takes years to learn. Even something like Pokémon Go demands you to drag your ass out there to spin those stops and join the raids for the best Legendaries out there. This is not an issue of getting good at a game, though it does bloody sound like it. The issue is of genre. Fighting games, despite being one of the most readily accessible genre out there, is all about having that crazy shit happen on screen, but as always it should be the crazy shit the player is doing, not the game. Games are about user action, and the less user action there is, the less play a game has. While this post largely equates play with mechanics, the two are inseparable aspects. Fighting games are interesting in that everything is laid out right away in terms of mechanics and they’re easy to do. Making use of them, that’s something that can only come from repeated play. Call it a detriment of the genre or whatever else, but you can only really prepare for a match in a fighting game is to play the game. With RPGs you can get your noggin jogging and consider things in terms of elemental weaknesses and the like. While you can use this in fighting games with rock-paper-scissors elements, timing them right still takes some experience. With a game like Final Fantasy, the issue of getting good at the game is in understanding the mechanics, not really being able to execute them with some motor skill fidelity. Lowering the mechanics skill ceiling might sound attractive, yet it will lead with into more experienced players dominating over newcomers that much more. While Darkstalkers 3 is technically and mechanically very demanding game, it is an example of a game where you medium skill players are very rare. You’ll either be in less skilled floor, or someone who has spend years with the game and have broken through the ceiling. There really is no middle ground, and that probably will be the end result if a fighting game series decides to downgrade its play mechanics.

Holding on to your current consumer base is easier than making a new one. While as a creator it may seem dreadful to tweak an existing formula again and again, that is partially expected from a sequel. Street Fighter does break this mentality, but only if you go by number-by-number rather than iteration-by-iteration. Consumers expect a new numbered Street Fighter to mix things to some extend outside its core basics, but this is not the case with Guilty Gear. XX and Xrd set the expectation that while system tweaks and additions are to be expected, no major or drastic approach would be done in of themselves. The brand expectation for Guilty Gear is what it is, a high-speed fighting game with expansive and complex mechanics that support offensive play the most. Things like Burst, Instant Kills, Gatling Combos, Dust Attacks and the sheer way the games have played have become more or less as part of the core expectations because ArcSys has never given the series a significant system change after GGX. New Guilty Gear will most likely aim to cater with these ideas, but it as a game will have brand confusion. There have been different Guilty Gear experiences before, as Ishiwatari put it, with all the spin-off titles. It would serve the franchise better if the core fighting game line would continue as per standard, catering to both Red Ocean and shallow Blue Ocean customers, all the while the franchise would see a new spin-off that would give it a completely new spin. There is more room for Guilty Gear titles that do something different with the same core basics. From business perspective, you’d keep the interest of your current consumers with a new sub-title to the series all the while still catering to them with the core series, but also attracting newcomers with something they could get into.

Guilty Gear 2 is still a thing, and it changed the genre. ArcSys could do more things like this

It still bogs down to the content, not mechanics’ complexity. You have to have something to nab to consumer in with presentation, you have to have good play to keep the player interested and entertained so he is willing to spend more time, and what he spends his time on is content. When the player consumes a game’s content, he naturally learns the ropes. However, if the content is lacking doesn’t keep interest high. This is why Street Fighter V is a weird case study, as it discarded the idea of iteration in favour of constant content updates. Content for a fighting game would be characters and the various modes, though the main mean would always be the fighting itself. Xrd‘s movie story mode is an excellent example of utterly trash content for a game, whereas previous entries’ multiple paths storymode based on matches and player decisions in those matches is a great example. It keeps the player more engaged, and it gives him motivation to keep playing in order to see all the characters’ story paths. For 25 characters that would mean 50 different endings to unlock. Good online keeps all players along the ride too for some time, but there needs to be content. Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite failed at presentation the very moment trailers hit the scene. The mechanics were great and gameplay had autocombos too, but there was no content people were looking for. On the opposite, Marvel VS Capcom 3 had more complex controls than its predecessor, Tatsunoko Vs Capcom, but obviously had more content that interested general audiences more outside Japan. It should not surprise that it saw more play by all and higher sales.

Video games are stupidly large entertainment industry now, but the true and tested way to expand to the Blue Ocean market still applies; disrupt the market with a new quality product that hits the current paradigm. A revamped Guilty Gear might be this product for sure, but only if it truly is able to pull off everything right. In other words, it would need to be the same kind of title as Street Fighter II was to previous fighting games. Its branding alone drags it down. It would serve ArcSys better if they’d launch a new, high-caliber series with the same energy, with the same effort and the same enthusiasm. They are playing with a marketing grenade in their hands at the moment. ArcSys could pull it off, but chances are consumer expectations are against them harder than Ishiwatari thinks.

Another Epic PR disaster

When the Epic Game Store came around the first time, I considered it an addition to the whole economy of digital games stores. There’s always more room to challenge Valve, GOG and the rest as long as the service is right, the price it tight and products stand out. The last bit Epic has been working on overtime, but not the way most consumers would want. Its not that Epic has put studios to work for unique games, but they’ve been doshing dough around like no other, picking up games off from developers from Patreon, Kickstarted products and such. Kickstarted products is the sore point, as many were promised either physical PC release or a Steam key, but with Epic bringing its bang to the table, these promises turn empty and they’re given Epic codes instead. While Kickstarter is not a store and changes are always going to happen, keeping tight on your delivered products. When things are like this, you need some good PR management skills to handle the situation. Ok, let’s be realistic; you need someone with excellent PR skill and background to manage the consumers and dampen all the possible damage. You never go in head first yourself, because you don’t have the skills or knowhow. You’d be an idiot to assume that consumers of any sort are a kind bunch. Outside already promised products e.g. via Kickstarter changing their form and direction, in principle there’s nothing wrong in Epic’s way of making exclusives. Personal opinion doesn’t exactly matter, when the majority has made their negative view on the platform rather vocal.

Consider why each and every successful corporation, company or individual businessman has a front while everything happens behind the curtains. That is to keep the consumer at an arm’s length away to keep some details behind the curtain while having proper discourse with the customer.

You probably already know ins and outs how Ben and his wife Rebecca have been working on a game titled Ooblets and how it became a timed-exclusive for Epic Store. I didn’t know about them two days ago, and apparently not many others had either. Still, Ben doesn’t mention his last name or sign with full title, so I’m going to call him just Ben, uncharacteristically. Sorry Benjamin, don’t mean to mix you with this Ben. After Ben announced the situation, he and his wife got some heavy backlash, which should have been completely expected considering how negative reception Epic has. Of course, being Ben he went on to Medium and wrote a long response. Archived version for your pleasure. We’re mostly going to concentrate on this, but you can jump on their Discord if you want to read how easily Ben is willing to take a shot at people for whatever reason. OneAngryGamer has some of them archived, just like his article is.

It really is largely trite to read through, as anyone who have followed any standard events regarding production of games from the start within the indie scene should know, especially the title has been Kickstarted. Most interaction with fans is positive, until you fuck up somehow. When you fuck up, that brings in the rest of your silent backers and other potential customers in like a lightning rod. Ben describes how their style has been jolly and non-serious all this time, which is the first error most of these independent creators do, because that means nobody can never really trust their info without analysing through the bullshit you’re spouting. Having a joke here or there to break the ice is great, but being tongue-in-cheek as your standard style of interaction is about as welcome as a rash on your ass. Sure its colourful and gives you attention, but in the end you want that clear and fresh feeling instead.

The Internet is nothing new when it comes to mad people. It is a misconception that the Internet brought us some sort of new era of hate messages or the like. No, hate mail has always existed. Before direct messaging and emails, people used letters published in news papers or sent directly to the provider, or simply calling by phone. The Internet just has democratised who and how they are able to voice their opinion. Ben listing some examples of people going over the board does show that there are people either genuinely mad, or that there are just people wanting to pitch in for good time’s sake. Neither really is constructive, but emotions tend to take over people very easily.

Ben makes clear that he doesn’t consider anyone a customer. He or his wife hasn’t sold anything to anyone, so there isn’t a provider-consumer relationship. He’d be wrong. The relationship that exists between the two and their audience is potential consumer base, which has effectively become their fanbase that they were nurturing. In the face of law this is the case, he can argue that. However, considering he team has a Patreon that is directly about funding the game. Still, they don’t offer any of the game there, just some merch when they begin to produce it. Maybe.

However, when you have a fanbase and interact with and constantly update them on your progress, you have a group of people you have cultivated as your main consumer base. There is a certain silent agreement between you and this group of people about a transaction and this has been going on for three years. If Ben thought for a moment that there wasn’t meta-transaction on an emotional level going on, he has been sorely mistaken. He can call people entitled all he wants or whatnot, but do remember that when you are promising a product to fans, and have given your word (despite this not being a binding contract), you’ve already made emotional connections and managed to tie the future consumer of your future product to your brand. That tongue-in-cheek nature nature of messages and updates is an element that backfires twice as worse in situation like these, as that tone is often seen as facetious and deceptive. At best it’ll be regarded as condescending, though often that’s the underlying tone. There has been implied promises going on for three years. Morally speaking, Ben and his wife do owe to these people. Furthermore, they owe their very current monetary situation and success to their fans and especially to their patrons.

Ben admits he has a PR disaster in his hands. Yet he blames this on a portion of gaming community rather than acknowledging  his own fuck-up. His business sense overrode the work he had done with his PR, where Epic’s offer for a timed-exclusive seemed a better option over long-term positive feedback. Even my sorry ass has heard enough tales of consumers and fans getting riled up over developers and publishers being swayed by Epic’s bucks. Any and all devs at this very moment should ask themselves Is my fame more worth than the money I’m currently offered? Hell, I’ll even argue that if a dev now would make a bold announcement that they have rejected Epic’s offer for exclusivity in favour if fans’ and consumers’ preference in a proper way, they’d be hailed, in words of an Australian, as fucking heroes.

If you screw your PR like this and make widely unpopular move all the while taking a good shit on people who could have been customers, then still proceed to take numerous dumps on people, belittling people, don’t go cry over a massive backlash. While regrettable, it is also the harsh truth of business and maintaining your image. Ben’s and Rebecca’s first ride on the PR train and it getting off the tracks was, ultimately, their own doing. A reaction always requires something to start it going. Just to make sure, I didn’t say they deserve getting the worst of the rap that’s raining on them, but they are the source of this reaction, which could have been mostly avoided. Not the way Ben and his folks were maintaining their interactions though.

This whole deal shows basic lack of consumer research and expectations evaluation. Both PC and console consumers have been vocal about Epic’s misgivings and even more about how the developers and publishers seem to have lost all contact with the people who buy their stuff. I shouldn’t underline the bottom line with this repetition, but as a provider, albeit as one who has not yet delivered one product, everything hangs on the people who are willing give you money. Now, with their decision to handle things like this, not practicing good sense and proper manners when interacting with audience and not clowning around, they’ll probably see less success and a very tarnished reputation. That’ll take some polishing to fix.

Providers aren’t your friend. They’re in the field to get paid. Directly interacting with them won’t change this, no matter what sort of relationship and emotional connection you have with them.

Heads in the clouds

Cloud gaming making some waves again, with Sony and Microsoft announcing collaboration with each other to explore solutions with their own streaming solutions. At least according to official statement from Microsoft. Despite being rivals within gaming market. We should always remind ourselves that out of the Big Three, only Nintendo deals exclusively with games. Both Microsoft and Sony have their fingers spread elsewhere, with Sony having movie and music studios, Microsoft with Windows and whatnot and so on. While Sony does rely heavily on the profits their gaming department is making (to the point of relying most of their profits coming from there seeing everything else has been going downhill for them), Microsoft doesn’t as much. I’m not even sure if Microsoft is still making any profit on their Xbox brand and products, considering neither the original box or the 360 saw any real profit throughout their lifespans. It’s like a prestige project for them, they gotta have their fingers in the biggest industry out there. The more competition, the better though. This does mean that neither Amazon or Google can partner with Sony for similar venture, but perhaps this was more or less a calculated move on both of their parts.

It does make sense that the two would collaborate to support each other in cloud and streaming venture though. Sony already has an infrastructure for streaming gaming content with their PlayStation Now while Microsoft has the whole Azure cloud centre set up. The MS Azure contains lots of features, from computing  virtual machines and high density hosting of websites, to general and scalable data management all the way to media streaming and global content delivery. Safest bet would be that both MS and Sony are intending to share their know-how of content streaming, but it is doubtful if the two will actually share any content. Perhaps Sony’s music and films will be seen on Microsoft’s services, but don’t count on the games. However, I can’t help but guess if multiplatform games between the two could be specifically designed and developed for their combined streaming efforts. That’s a bit out there, as the collaboration is to find new solutions rather than build a common service the two would use. This is, like Satya Nadella said, about bringing MS Azure to further power Sony’s streaming services, and that’s completely different part of market from games at its core.

This does seem like Enemy-of-enemy like situation. Google’s Stadia is touted to be the next big hitter on the game market. It’s not unexpected for the two giants pull something that would weaken Stadia’s standing. This, despite Stadia already having boatloads of obstacles already, ranging from control latency to the quality of the streaming itself (end-user Internet connection still matters, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere surrounded by dense forests) to the very content itself probably being less than unique. Let’s not kid ourselves, cloud gaming is not for everyone despite what Google’s PR department wants you to think. Not everyone has the money or infrastructure to have a proper connection for cloud gaming. Anecdotes be damned, but there are lots of people living around here who have to rely on wireless Internet for everything, especially up North, because the population is so spread apart that putting data cables into the ground would not be worth it. Early 2000’s modem speeds are not unexpected, they’re a standard. If early reports on Stadia are to be believed, there’s some serious lag and latency on standard Internet connections. It’s not going to play well with someone who doesn’t put a whole lot money into their Internet connection, or just can’t. If we’re going to be completely open about this, only a fraction of the world can handle cloud gaming. 10.7 teraflop computing power and 4K resolutions for Stadia? A pipe dream at best.

Steaming interactive content like video and computer games is not easy. Music and video, that’s comparatively easy, just send that data to the consumer and you’re pretty much done. Gaming requires two-way communication at all times, and on top of that the service has to keep tabs on what’s going on at both ends within the game. No matter how robust the data centres are, no matter what sort of AI solutions are implemented, it all comes down to the whole thing about latency between the data centre and the end-user. Perhaps the best solution would be split the difference in a similar manner how mobile games have partial data on the phone whole syncing with the server side all the time. That, of course, would be pretty much against the whole core idea of cloud gaming, where the end-user would just hold an input device and a screen.

Cloud gaming has been tried for about a decade now. It’s still ways off, but it’s very understandable from the corporations’ perspective why they’d like it to become mainstream and successful. For one, it would remove one of the biggest hurdles from the consumer side; getting the hardware. You could just use your existing computer or smartypants phone to run things and you’re set. Maybe have a controller, but you can get those for twenty bucks. No need to pay several hundreds for a separate device just to run separate media software. Cloud gaming would be the next step in digital-only distribution, which would also offer better protection from piracy. Control is the major aspect of cloud gaming, where the end-user would have effectively none. You would have no saying in what games you have access to. One of the well marketed modern myths about streaming services is that everything is available 24/7, when in reality everything is determined by licenses. Star Trek vanished from Netflix for a time being, because the license ended, for example. This happens all the time. I’m sure there’s some list of lost media listing somewhere about digital-only films and shows that were lost due to publishing rights and licenses expiring. Lots of games having vanished from both Steam and GOG because of this, and if there are no physical copies floating around, pirating is your only option. For something like the Deadpool game, you can only get second-hand or newold stock, as the developer’s and publisher’s license expired few years back.

Will cloud gaming be the future? Probably at some point, but the infrastructure is way off still for it to become any sort of standard. It is, in the end, another take on the decentralised gaming Nintendo has going on with the Switch, moving away from the home media centre that the smartphones brought to us. Cloud gaming will take take firmer hold once they beat systems with local storage in value and performance. For now, enjoy the screen in your pocket.

Ever increasing competition

The video game market is in a point where we are getting more games released every month. More games are being released year by year. More and more people want to get into the industry and realise their dream game, but end up working on a some mobile cashcow title instead. I haven’t managed to keep up with what games are being released at what point and by whom, or who has been developing them for some time. To be completely straight, all the little insignificant titles that get the indie label fall between the rather large gaps. It takes money and position to have your game advertised out there, especially in the extremely fierce Red Ocean market. In market, where expansion is less a concern than making the next big thing. Very few game or platform shakes the market nowadays, and despite the Switch being relatively successful console as a hybrid console, there hasn’t been anything like the Wii. The market has of course changed, and replicating the NES-Wii type phenomena has become increasingly more challenging if not for the changes in the macro-economics but also in within the industry and market as well. Expansion is an issue, as there will be a plateu as some point, where the Red Ocean can’t maintain itself any further. Well, not exactly. The Video game Crash of 1983 happened due to lack of sales. The modern electronic game consumer isn’t like that. We have people who would keep buying games even after their quality had dropped through the floor and was digging itself through the basement floors. Lifelong fandom has become such a driving force that companies are solely banking on that to make success of some of their games despite willingly releasing them in less than half-finished state. It’ll sell, the brand has a good reputation and a strong fanbase. It’ll sell, unless you overtly attack your consumers and tell them not to buy it if your political views are different.

The whole human resource question with this as well. Blizzard recently laid off a lot of its staff despite making a record breaking year, but these two are not necessarily related. A company making large profit probably already knows how much of that profit will be lost on the long run, if the people at higher levels are able to do their job right. Profits don’t just end up as cold cash in someone’s pocket. Capcom, for example, has their fingers in so many things from internal Research and Development to encouraging local businesses and industries in Japanese cities that might, for example, require more tourism. Not all companies do this, of course, and companies like Konami has other venues of revenue outside of video games to the point of gaming probably being one of the lesser ones. A single human tragedy is more or less lost to the sea of people working in the industry, and not to put a much fine point to this, the people don’t really matter. Sure, none of these companies would be successful without the people working hard for their goods, but just as well they wouldn’t be working if there weren’t people buying these goods. There are people trying to enter the workforce all the time, and ultimately nobody is irreplaceable. Even goods can be changed for an equivalent at a whim, and despite entertainment being relatively unique in this sense, especially in gaming where game systems can be extremely unique for one series alone (e.g. Mega Man Battle Network), this happens all the time. Sometimes the superfluous elements are enough, like how yours truly could change between fantasy RPGs on a whim just because they’re so goddamn boring most of the time, systems be damned.

How many times we do really think about the people working in any industry in the end? I doubt anyone has thought the hundreds of people who worked on the car you drive. The people who made the nuts and bolts, the people who coated those nuts and bolts, the people who made the windshield, the people who designed the windshield, the people who milled the steel for the chassis, the people who cut the steel and bent the steel in its shape so it can be put together with thousands of components. A single car is not a work of one man, but the end result is the work of one company, the one whose logo is on it. We don’t care about these ‘little people’ who work on everything we use daily for hours on end. The only face that matters, in the end, is who is selling it to us and for how much. With Internet, even that is gone to a large extent. How many of us really think about the feelings or ongoings of the store clerk we buy our groceries from? Not much I’d bet, unless you’re a frequent customers and get to know them, at which point you’re close. You begin to care, because on the surface you know these people.

The nature of competition determines a lot of things. It requires effort and skill to make a product that would beat most other products on the market. However, this doesn’t mean your product has to be the best. Best is often extremely costly, extremely premium. A product that hits the best middle spot and is regarded as good enough, but “better” than its competitors often gets golden trophy. Or in case of Monster Hunter, the total lack of any real competition means you’re competing with yourself and with the idea of the brand. It’s not exactly something that drives the quality through competition. After all, the amount of people and money going in and out is limited, and if the industry doesn’t want to expand, it will stagnate and break.

More and more games are coming out, and more and more games effectively being lost to the sheer numbers. Some games on mobile phone App stores have single digit downloads, and I dare argue some indie titles on multiple platforms have the same fate. Large games cost more and more to produce, and to make sure they make their money back, they get ever more expensive marketing campaign. All the media outlets understandably want their share of this, be it via clicks or some other way. Corruption in the game media isn’t anything new, it’s laughably transparent and at times driven by politics. At this point companies might a well begin do direct marketing and news coverage themselves. A digital version of Nintendo Power, if you will. However, as long as the industry keeps getting bigger and bigger, the competition and everything that it entails will get sharper and more gruesome. There has been no more than three consoles on the market for almost two decades now, despite at one point around five was the standard. Even the three we have now might become two, and for a competition that’s too low a number. However, the consumer culture keeps changing, and the industry has to keep up. If television has become streaming services and alternative media, where will video games ultimately go? Maybe hybridisation is the route to take or something else. VR it an’t for now.

Remakes and remixes

The one question that was thrown at me few weeks back was whether or not Resident Evil 2 warranted a remake. Ultimately, it did not. The original Resident Evil 2 is one of those timeless classics that still play well to this day, even though the PlayStation era 3D graphics are rather outdated. The game itself is still solid, but that goes for all games that are solid for their era; they’re solid for the future as well. However, not all games can stand the test of time, or even their timely competitors, but some games just tend to have a possibility of being great and for whatever reasons just didn’t measure up. Be it budgetary, lack of experience, skill or whatever, there are numerous fan favourite games that are more or less terrible, yet we love ’em. Chances are that those games would never get a remake.

The argument goes as follows; games that have good design and yet were terribly made should get remade because they would benefit from it. Effectively, realising the original concept properly. While that’s a nice sentiment, the business side of things doesn’t really support the notion. Why remake a game that didn’t make sales, has a very little or not following or has some sort of infamy around it when you could tap something better? Resident Evil 2 remake cost a lot of money to make and advertise. It’s part of Capcom’s current big three titles, Monster Hunter World and Devil May Cry 5 that are effectively the titles the Big C is banking on as seen in their last year’s annual report I have a post about. It’s no coincidence that all these three titles are part of their respective franchises. After all, creating a new IP has its own risks that your company probably doesn’t want to undertake when you’ve just put millions into some restructuring and R&D in order to make a new engine all the while demanding high-end graphics that pushes the visuals as much as possible. Square-Enix follows the same line of thinking with Final Fantasy VII‘s remake, even though they’re taking their sweet time to actually finishing it. However, there’s also one snag that applies to both RE2 remake and FFVII remake; they’re effectively completely new games.

Let’s question if remaking a game by completely changing it from ground up like these two did is actually remaking anything. The remake of original Resident Evil will be used as the point of comparison, a golden example of a remake. What makes it different from the two aforementioned remakes is that it still uses the same systems and designs from the original game, just improved in every way. You can still see where the roots are and side-by-side comparison is completely possible. For RE2 and FFVII, that’s largely impossible due to their nature of completely remodeling and changing the groundwork of the games’ designs. RE2 remake is effectively nothing like the original game and are separate products altogether, whereas with RE‘s remake uses the same base work. FFVII doesn’t even belong to the same genre as the original, opting to go for full-out action. It’s almost like Square Enix is wanting to move away from the time tested Wizardry+Ultima model they’ve made their bed with all the variations we’ve seen in most of the mainline Final Fantasy titles.

Remake is a nice word, because its semantics it usually is associated with in the game industry offers a lot of leeway. Sometimes upgraded ports are marketed as remakes, because it’s easy and has a nice ring to it. The positive association a remake tends to have nowadays would imply that it’s a whole new upgrade to push things further. An example of this would be the HD remakes of few last generations we’ve had, which offer nothing more than higher resolution graphics, sometimes wide screen support and nothing else. Questioning whether or not this is a proper remake or just an upgraded port shouldn’t be an issue. Reading the marketing slang shouldn’t be hard.

Then again, this line of thinking may be completely wrong. Should we consider remakes as something that takes the core essence of a product, like RE2‘s concept of surviving inside a zombie infested city and completely remodeling its game play and concepts, as proper remake instead? After all RE‘s remake can be called exactly that as well, but seeing that is effectively the original game with prettier graphics and updated stuff, shouldn’t that be more or less a remix instead? Sure, all the assets have been recreated from the ground up for the game and so on, but ultimately it is more or less a remix recreation of the original Resident Evil. Compared to remixes like this, a remake should push the game’s concepts to further extents and stand as its own standalone title. This would fit the idea of remaking FFVII as an action game as well, despite the whole genre change it has going on for it. Our golden example of a remake doesn’t really stand against how RE2 was remade. It would be possible to remake the first Resident Evil and change everything about it without losing the core concept of a resident filled with evil. Then again, Resident Evil itself is a sort of remake of Famicom’s Sweet Home, genre changes and all to go with it.

As said, marketing’s have their hand in this quite a lot. Using a dictionary or the like to determine the true meaning of a remake is largely useless, when it’s a nice term you can drop around to whatever re-release it fits even remotely. After all, marketing department have their hands full already trying to push whatever latest editions they have at their hands now. It’s like how Super Robot Wars titles tend to be affected largely by what Bandai-Namco wants to promote currently or if some series has an anniversary, in which case they can push few more units by having it include in a game. Let’s not forget that sometimes games that are completely new are sometimes dropped into the remake category just because it uses its franchise in some ways. The recent contest oriented Pac-man games at one point were marketed as remake of the original Pac-Man game, despite this being not the case to any real extent. That’s like saying Mega Man 2 is a remake of Mega Man just with new stages, music, bosses and weapons. That would apply to any kind of sequel, though there’s an argument there how Hideo Kojima remade the original Metal Gear three times around.

The original question remains; Did RE2 warrant a remake? Apparently the sales data showcased that it did. In a perfect world, there would be no need for remakes. In a less perfect world, the money to make remakes like this would go for games that mechanically would require one. The one we got is still driven by sales and demand, and by the fact that Capcom recognizes the position Resident Evil 2 has in the franchise, among the fans and as an overall game. No other title in the series warrants anything similar. RE4 is still modern enough to run as it is, and perhaps that’s the best justification for remakes nowadays; to modernise games that have a ready audience. You don’t see remakes that don’t already have an audience, or games that the devs themselves don’t dare to touch. There’s a goddamn good reason Nintendo doesn’t do remakes like most other companies.

Perhaps its generational. Most of the faces we know from the industry tend to tell that they don’t really want to work on sequels or keep a series going once they’ve finished it in their own minds. Sakurai was pretty much done with Smash Bros with Melee, yet here we are. Kojima meant Metal Gear to end with pretty much every major entry in the series. Shigsy didn’t touch 2D Mario in almost twenty years due to how much work they are compared to the 3D games. However, with new blood coming into these companies, it might become more viable to remake old titles that still have a place and possibility to strike true. The same applies to the consumer side, perhaps even mores so than towards the devs. The generation that grew up with the 360 and PS3 would have a hard time going back to earlier consoles, some have even remarked how not even the Third Generation of consoles look like, and I quote a younger friend, real games. Updating PlayStation era games to modern visual (and game play) standards would open new avenues without really losing anything due to the build-in fandom. On one hand, you serve the fans with an arguably better version of the game and attract customer who missed the original, or didn’t or couldn’t touch it because it was on PlayStation, PSN not withstanding. As much as even the industry likes to think otherwise, very few games are timeless in the proper meaning of the term. They may take the test of time within the context of the era, but putting them face to face with their modern counterparts, they lose in almost every area of design. Direct comparison without taking context and capabilities of each of the era would be rather unfair, but for a timeless classic that should not be a problem. After all, if Super Mario Bros. 3 can stand toe to toe with modern 2D action games in terms of designs and gameplay, the rest of timeless classics should be capable of this. For the early 3D games, that’s not exactly the case, just like how first games can’t really stack up against most other modern 2D games of similar nature.

REmake2‘s success probably makes Capcom wonder what other titles they have they could give a similar treatment. With their interest to resurrect some of their sleeping IPs thanks to Mega Man 11, IP which saw a raise in sold units from 32 million units to 34 million since June 2018, it’s not entirely impossible that Capcom would wake one or two of their classic series with a remake. Chances are that they’ll be testing the waters with some releases and bundles before green lighting anything, but you never know. Then again, they should finally remake the original Street Fighter.

Valve shouldn’t be barking at the wrong tree

Valve isn’t exactly used to competition when it comes to digital platforms. Most games that are on GOG can be found on Steam in some form, so the competition for exclusive content isn’t exactly that high. However, Epic Games store has been making some waves recently by having a deal with Ubisoft to be the seller for their Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, and now nabbed Metro Exodus. Sure, people who already pre-ordered them via Steam will get ’em from there, but Valve’s slightly salty about the whole business, claiming that this is unfair towards customers who are using Steam.

This, of course, is rather bullshit.

Valve does have their priorities just as any other company does, but thus far this is the first time a large company like this is commenting on losing an exclusivity with a title. Hell, they’re not even having that, seeing the game did have a long pre-sales period. Nothing prevents the consumer to jump into Epic Games store and throw their money at the title there. That’s something Valve doesn’t want, as it distorts their own economy. Valve might be used to the idea that they are the ranking king on the PC, a platforms that gets all the big name titles while the rest straggle along to deal with their own in-house titles. Almost any and all big titles that are being released outside of consoles is released on Steam, like Monster Hunter World or the Yakuza series. (Then again, why would the glorious PC master race stoop down and play dirty ports of console games?) This makes Steam such a massive platform, and a platform it is despite some arguing that it is simply a store. No store would have a need to be analogous to digital version of physical DRM that are video game consoles, but Steam is exactly that. Both DL Site and GOG are more stores than Steam, especially considering you are forced to use their software for their service at their terms to play someone else’s games.

This is business, and Valve recognises that when few notable titles move to away from their platform in favour of another, it can lead further titles to move away from them and that could lead them losing their competitive edge. Unfair to Steam customers my ass. Valve knows why their platform is so popular, so much used and that’s because all the titles they effectively have exclusivity on. Steam as a platforms isn’t particularly great in overall terms, their customer service sucks, they take 30% cut on all sales initially, Valve decides what titles go to sale and when, and they don’t stick to their own rulings when it comes to controlling why titles are banned from their store. Just like any platform of their kind, the reason why they’re used so much is due to exclusive games. Now, there’s a slight threat to their sales by losing titles. Valve’s not losing any sleep when the shoe is in the other foot.

Exclusivity is of course a thing this blog endorses. The argument that it is against consumer interests because the consumer can’t choose whatever platform they like to consume entertainment is, at its core, petty. At its extreme, you would only have one platform to play games one, and that would always end up being the PC. Not even via Steam, just the raw, undiluted PC. (Might actually be the best possible endpoint in many ways.) Nothing should be keeping you from picking up the title and platform if you really want to play a certain game. It often comes down to argument of money too, where the argument claims that with a title on multiple platforms would end up raking in more money. This has more merit to it, as it is a pure business argument. Hayes Madsen on Twinfinity has a post how Square Enix must hate money because they’re not releasing Kingdom Hearts titles on the Switch and Xbox One. As it always is, there are deals behind the door that is to benefit one platform.

Incidentally, this blog both supports and is against in Valve’s position as mentioned above. Not in that losing the titles from Steam is against customer interests, but the underlying reasons. Exclusive content should push competition for value and quality. The Classic Era of console gaming saw Sega and Nintendo competing for numerous titles with each other, most notably so-called mascot wars where Mario and Sonic were neck to neck to beat each other in similar games. The situation would be similar of Battlefield and Call of Duty were exclusive for PS4 and Xbox One; similar titles but with significant differences at their core. In current state of console gaming with titles existing across the board almost everywhere, there is no need for another company to make somewhat similar product in their own way and image in order to compete. When you have one title everywhere, it fills the niche and competition struggles. Have more similar titles on one console, and its a red ocean of competition, companies fighting over the same scraps of consumers. Thus, exclusivity helps the situation to some extent, raising that one platform a bit higher on the sale what it can offer and thus draw in more customers, which most likely will put more money in consuming further titles on the same platform. If the company has concentrated their titles to exist solely on this platform, they’ll most likely also rack loyal customers that will buy most of their other product. When it comes to console exclusive, the fact that a game can be optimised to for that hardware is also important, though arguably not as important as it used to be, outside the Switch. As for Kingdom Hearts, you can bet there’s a deal that benefits both corporations. Who knows, perhaps its not even about the money, but some romantic reasons why a title should only exist on one platforms because that’s where it truly belongs to due to history and success.  The extreme end of this would be that each console and platform would have totally and widely different libraries. (Which would too be the best possible endpoint for other reasons.)

Nintendo of course is always a different beast in this. They are both console and game manufacturer. They design their own devices and games to play on them. Exclusivity is their bread and butter, their model of service and business. Theirs is a unique console each time one is released due to this very nature. It is something the competition should go for, aim to have just as many exclusive titles with the same level of quality to compete. Instead, more often than not, there’s a divide where two consoles share majority of their libraries while Nintendo kinda just stands there doing its own thing. At least currently, things weren’t like that in the Classic Era. Valve is effectively in a Nintendo-ish position when it comes to the PC ecosystem, but it has no real competition outside GOG. Perhaps what we need is more titles moving away from Valve’s juggernaut for everywhere else like Epic Games store just to spread about a little more and encourage some healthy competition, something Valve’s not really used to.

As an end note, Epic Games store is one of the few stores that I’ve seen to have a clearly marked section for Fan art policy.

On the Golden Age of Gaming

This blog has touched a lot on the cultural and historical phenomena regarding video games and their design throughout the years. For some these have been posts of interest, while others seem to regard the late 1990’s as the pinnacle of video games, despite the same has already been said about the mid-2000’s and early 2010’s. Arguments fly about and you, my dear reader, probably have a take on the subject that might support one but not the other. Maybe you even consider the late 1980’s the pinnacle of electronic games, but that’s how it is. We all deep down know that the Golden Age of video games was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when computer, video and arcade games begun taking their modern shape.

The Golden Age of Arcades is established to be around the years 1978 and 1979, based on the release years of Space Invaders and Asteroids, which works just fine for them. The overall Golden Age of Games can be expanded from the the mid-1970’s to the 1983’s video game crash, as this was the period of rapid expansion consumer bases, genres, technology and popular cultural phenomena. This is contrasting the electronic gaming history to that of comic books’, where the Golden Age of Comic books, where most, if not all, classical archetypes and heroes were created, and the medium became a significant power in publishing.

The reason this contrast is made is due to the cultural phenomena usually work. These periods are of making the media into something that is able to stand on its own, establishing itself through various creators and enjoyed wide public attention, which naturally leads into impacting the culture in major ways. The very reason you still hear certain kind of sound effects in films and television when it comes to video games being depicted is because those bleeps and bloops are culturally associated with gaming as established by the Golden of Electronic Games. Be it the sound Atari games or the PC speakers made, certain sound is still associated with gaming by being handed down by the surrounding pop-culture. This era would fit the first two Console generations just fine, and majority of the early PC gaming as well, when people were turning their Dungeons and Dragons sessions into text adventures for their universities mainframes.

As a side note, you can pin point certain era of Famicom just by listening to the sound effects, as vast majority, if not all, developers used the same effects library in the early years.

But that side note throws a wrench into the whole Age discussion, as we must remember that all events weren’t global at that point in time. The 1983 crash had little to no effect outside the United States, as Europe was tightly grasping local micros at the time, and it wouldn’t be until the very late 1980’s and early 1990’s when console gaming had its breakthrough in Europe. This and IBM standard effectively killed multiple computer platforms, and Windows 95 cleaned the slate. Now we effectively have only three standards, four if we count Android, instead of each manufacturer having their own. The story’s completely different in Japan for many reasons, as Japanese computer history is a different beast altogether from its European and American cousins. If you’ve ever wondered why European developed games for the third and fourth generations felt so different and bit off, it’s because they were developed under a cultural paradigm that favoured platforms like the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga 1000. These games look and play in a particular fashion, something we might get to few years down the line.

How can we say that this specific era is this or that when it only touches certain parts of the globe? The answer is; because of history.

We can’t say what era we are living in currently. World War I was originally named as The Great War, the war to end all wars, but then Germany decided to slap Poland around a bit. As such, we have to look at what sort of massive expansion gaming overall had during that time in the US and Japan with arcades and how little they impacted Europe at the same time. It wouldn’t take but few years until European arcades would see the same titles, but the impact rarely was in the same ballpark. Culturally speaking, Europe didn’t produce much content that would impact the global gaming sub-culture, but if you lived during that in France and UK, you probably remember few regional names that pop into your head right away. Now, how many of those are as well remembered in the cultural background as Pac-Man and Space Invaders?

To follow the Ages of Comic Books, we naturally are lead into the Silver Age of Electronic Games that encompasses the fourth and fifth generations. The reason again is comparative to comics, where old heroes were rekindled into new forms. Best example of this would be Mario, where we go from single-screen titles like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. into fully-scrolling Super Mario Bros., re-imagining the games’ world as Mushroom Kingdom with kidnapped princesses and turtle kings.

While Famicom was released in 1983 in Japan, the starting point of the Silver Age must be set to 1985 with the American release. This is also a turning point in Japanese software development, where the quality of the titles began to ramp up. New competitors would establish themselves on the console market across the world, some spinning themselves off from the arcades like Sega (who already had a presence in Japan with their 1984 SG-1000) and Hudson hitting the market with NEC backing them up with the original PC-Engine in 1987. Atari still tried with the 7800, but couldn’t find a niche against the juggernaut that was the NES.

Despite all the above, what if I argued that the Golden Age would be from late 1970’s and up until the release of PlayStation in 1994? Despite the Crash of ’83, the third and fourth generations saw further expansion and cultural impact. The Super Mario Bros. and Sonic cartoons, comics, food stuff, everything that went into making electronic gaming into a global force didn’t happen just on few years. Modern electronic games are still a young medium, despite some having lived with them throughout their lives, they’re still younger than television, cinema, theater or literature. Maybe in a hundred years or so people will have enough perspective to view the changes in the game culture properly. Currently we are too close to these events with heavy bias to go by properly, and so much of it extremely well recorded. It would be extremely easy to dissect history into extremely small blocks, because we can do so. Those in the know would understand and acknowledge all those minute changes that had a ripple effect down the line.

Instead, maybe we should call the era from mid-1970’s to mid-1990’s the Classic Age of Gaming, where expansion was largely constant, new companies and hardware would pop up and die during the contest all the while others would grow strong and established. From there, we are now living through the Modern Age of Gaming, where we have seen the cross-pollination taking hold over the industry and the establishment of the Big Three with no real competition offered in the console market. Further mixing of genres and new impacting titles have been introduced, like Halo and Devil May Cry.

Even this might be somewhat arbitrary, but as mentioned, we’re too close in time to take back and see events as they are. How culture and industries move in the grander scale is hard if not almost impossible to surmise at they are going on, and perhaps the first mistake a young medium as comparing itself too much to other media and let those dictate too much what it should be.

Tournament without sportsmanship

While coughing blood and phlegm, I missed EVO completely. Nothing unusual about that, the EVO tournament doesn’t interest yours truly. However, EVO is of interest in regards of this blog and how its seen, and this year had a peculiar event with Super Smash Bros. tournament that as a case study shows two things; video games are not a sport, and not even the participants truly see it as a sport.

The event of course is the already infamous grand finals for Super Smash Bros for Console X. At 15:00 minute mark, both players simply stop playing the game for nearly two minutes. Thus far you can argue that there was competitive play for the top spot, but at that point everything becomes a joke.

This is not sportsmanship behaviour, this is what you’d see in show wrestling. That’s what eSports is, and thus it is far from being worth entering to Olympics in any fashion.

Some have argued that the two players can dictate whatever method of playing they wish, that is their choice as top finalist. This is not true, as every sports has to have strict rules the participants have to adhere to and will be promptly punished if these rules are broken; the finalist do not get to choose who they play. No other seriously competitive field, from pool to golf, from karate to card games, from F-1 to Nascar, everyone participating are required to make their best effort to win according to laid rules and there is no room to wiggle about.

Despite the two players here were warned of stalling, they did not gain any sort of penalty outside booing. Instead, both of them should have been disqualified not just on base of stalling, but also for interrupting a match for an interview, breaking sportsmanship and unfair competition.

Why unfair competition? Many athletes are friends, but yet they don’t go easy on each other out of respect towards each other and towards the sport. These two yahoos are friends who didn’t go their extra mile for maximum effort in competition and instead chose for showmanship. Whether or not you want to call this collusion is up to you.

Of course, we also have take notice that making the competitors sit next to each other rather than apart allows this sort of interactions between the competitors. EVO should have embraced the arcade approach years back and have the players fight opposing each other, or at least with good few meters apart. Does this remove a psych element from the game? Yes, and it should, as then the players’ actual skill in the game can be concentrated more than on any theatrics. Having these two jokers separated from each other would’ve alleviated some of their antics, but somehow the two buffoons would’ve made a joke out of it anyway.

The competitors’ age does not matter, be it teenagers like with these two Smash Bros. players or forty something who has played Street Fighter their whole life. People of their age can and are competing in real sports with the right mindset and compete with others like them for the top spot.

This isn’t the first time EVO has seen these “moments” where players show off some reason. Some years back, two E. Honda players in Street Fighter IV allowed the first round of their match to time out in order to have a one-round match in order to see which one of them was better. The same should have applied in this case as with this year’s Smash Bros.; no competition means getting the boot. You can argue stalling or running away is a legit tactic that can be applied, but that has to be in proper context. Just standing and waiting for whatever reason in a battling competition should get you the boot. After all, fighting game tournaments mirror the real world martial arts competitions in spirit, and simply fucking around goes directly against that spirit.

Then again, as a profession (used here extremely loosely) being a top Street Fighter player or whatnot doesn’t bring in much in terms of finances. It’s not secret that the tournament winners often share their price money with other top players in order to keep them from living on the streets. It is an extremely stressful field and losing sponsorship is extremely easy.

Does this encompass all players and games played competitively? Of course not, yet EVO as a whole is a great example of how competitive video gaming is just a play akin to show wrestling, as mentioned. EVO needs to get back to its Battle by the Bay roots and have one rule above all; find out who is the best in a given game. This alone sets certain principle rules and required mindset. We can make jokes about Smash Bros. and their rule sets all day long, but this is universal; a fighting game tournament only exists to find out who is the best. Any actions to detriment this should be treated with extreme prejudice and cut down like a tumor.

Video games are not sports. They’re anything but sports. They certainly require large amount of skill and dedication to get good at, yet there are constantly examples how juvenile the medium is across the board. Video and computer games are a young industry, and this shows itself hard with competitive situations like EVO. There is an extreme lack maturity and class. Unlike Olympics and other real sports events, EVO has quite honestly zero respect outside its own bubble. Furthermore, this year the TV licenses were far less important and we saw no outfit censorship, because last year’s viewership was less than expected.

Video games might be the most popular form of entertainment, but sure hell ain’t the most respected. The only way you can get respect for you wannabe sports and hobby is to act like your age, stop screaming bloody hell every time you see boobies and take competitive shit seriously, no matter what sort of party game gets mixed with serious fighting titles.

Consumer control over titles coming to Steam?

In hindsight, this was to come. Developer named Love in Space has stated that Valve has halted their title’s submission in order to overhaul Steam to give more control to the consumer on what they see. This isn’t the standard Family friendly control centre Steam currently has, but something more robust.

This seems to indicate two things. First, Valve is taking their hands off as they’ve mentioned previously and accept pretty much anything legal on Steam. This would mean the end developers have to indicate elements in their software whilst submitting to Valve. This would tie directly into the second element, which is the user driven control.

How do you implement it? is the  question.The best, quickest way would probably be to use the pre-existing tags Steam already uses for its titles, but whether or not these would be fitting is an open question. Sometimes, how a tag works for a title is rather obscure, referring to some element that’s not a major part in the title. Then you have the occasional tag that has nothing to do with the title. There would be a need for a far more stricter set of rules in order have a properly functioning control device. While possible that they’ll just use these tags, it’s also probable that something completely new will be used, as the aforementioned developer mentions that there is going to be completely new features that their title requires before Valve accepts it for Steam.

Was there a reason for a system like this? As Steam functions as a sales platform as much as it is a digital console, there is a need to split adult-only material from the more kid-friendly content. The split is similar how kids’ magazines are in one section in store, while all the rest are moved on the side or above the their stand. Another example would be how family movies and adult movies had different sections on a VHS rental store. Wasn’t the Family View already like this? Apparently not, as it seems to only limit what games are shown in the Library section rather in Store.

Seeing how the Internet really likes to rile people up and enjoy the outrage culture for better or worse, these last few years (or rather, last decade or so) has seen movements to accuse games, game developers and consumers for pretty much anything from sexism and racism to political agendas and lack of them. Valve has seen a lot of shit flung at them concerning their new policy, to the point of Kotaku labeling Valve irresponsible for allowing free market to decide on products.

This new feature that is being worked on is a solution that allows the user to censor their own Store page. This all fine and dandy, as this means people should be able to see what they want, ignoring the rest of the marketplace they might deem less of worth or somehow damaging for them or their family. As long as system does not force limitation to anyone else, or even suggest that certain content might be considered inappropriate, it should be passable.

However, it would seem this is a solution coming along way down, as Sekai Project mentioned some of their titles need to be re-submitted, and that they need to fill-in additional information for already passed software once the system has been implemented. Considering Valve has stopped accepting some titles like this for the time being, I’d guess they’re in a bit of a hurry with the system before publishers like Sekai find new avenues to move into. Valve wanting to put accepting software on hold for the time being until they’ve finished the system may be understandable, but it’s not the best approach concerning the publishers and developers who have their titles in this limbo state.

You will hear that this won’t solve any problems. Games that sites like Kotaku considers problematic won’t go away and will be developed and published. However, this is as good as any mediating solution, as the upcoming feature should allow these people can ignore their hated titles as much as they wish.

Open the Valves, full Steam ahead

Sometimes, Valve manages to surprise the cynic in me. Just as I mentioned that they should open the doors for free market, it seems that’s exactly what Valve did. Of course, it was received with both positive and negative press, with negative pretty much calling out Valve for allowing games that could have offensive content. Kotaku, for example, takes their usual stance all about wanting to keep games with gross content, as they put it, out of Steam. Furthermore, Kotaku’s beef with Valve being a reactionary corporation when it comes to controversies is old song by this point. Most corporations may go their way to appease sections of the consumers, but in this day and age where practically everything can cause an uproar and everything is offensive to someone in some myriad way, corporations can’t exactly be but reactionary.

This whole deal is interesting and dumbfounding, to say the least. For number of years, gaming snobs have wanted the electronic games industry to grow and mature. No medium is free of the growing pains of vast, endless multiple points of views and political leanings. For a rough comparison, banned games equate to banned books. This is especially important if we are to take games as an art, as simply banning or removing art because the subject is something you dislike or disagree with infringes the free expression of the artist.

Of course, the opposition of Valve’s new policies take the business view on things whenever it pleases them. Steam having games with content other developers don’t like shouldn’t matter to them. If their product is superior, they should be at ease of mind. The free market will tell what’s more demanded. Of course, it could always turn out that doing politically or otherwise controversial topically charged games might not sell well in overall terms. If the developer and/or publisher wishes to move their games off the platform because Valve has allowed games with offensive content in their mind, they can always move away to GOG.

After all, censorship and limited freedom of speech is something that can be easily expanded to serve only one master.

This is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Brands, such as Steam, should not partake in politics of any sorts. Valve’s stance of keeping trolling titles (how in the fuck would you even define that properly in hard-down legal form) and illegal content off their service is enough. The market will handle the rest. Simply because content exist for consumption does not mean one has to go their way and consume it.

Is it immoral to allow content that might be considered offensive on Steam, politically or otherwise? The question is No, considering Steam already has games with content that does offense someone. Valve’s Weik Johnson has the right stance; they’re not the one to decide what developers make. If we are to promote equal treatment of all, it is required to mean equal treatment in all terms, including games that have offensive content of any kind. It is up to you as the consumer to decide whether or not it is consumed, not by a committee, a busybody soccer mom or another developer.

Another criticism Valve has got is that this means they do not stand up to values, or more accurately, the values of the critics have set up. Just as morals, values are up to each person. Cultural values and morals set up by the society are ultimately what matter the most, not the ones sections of the Internet want to be upheld. In effect, it is equally morally reprehensible to allow one offensive content but not the other. Valve’s ultimate morals lay in what makes the most profit, and free market is the best way to make a buck.

Whether or not Valve is finished with underestimating their consumers with this is an open question. It can be expected them to flip flop on the matter in the future, especially when take into notion how vague their new stance is. What is illegal changes country by country, and there is always the remote possibility they’ll simplify things and use all of them. Somewhat unlikely, seeing Valve has always tried to stick with the US legislation and have a history of arguing against foreign laws to an extent. What is acceptable varies wildly, especially in places like China.

Secondly, trolling, as mentioned above, doesn’t exactly hold water. It is extremely subjective and sounds like a scapegoat wording that they can enact on a title whenever they find it applicable. Titles like Hatred may get hated out of the platform due to its content, as it was removed from Steam Greenlight. It took Gabe to get it back. The title’s developer certainly did use trolling as part of the marketing campaign, yet the title is nothing short of fully fledged isometric shooter.

For better or worse, Valve’s announcement on the subject does touch upon this. To quote the post; we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. While this could be viewed as slightly concerning, this sort of extension of corporation’s own decision making is expected. This allows Valve to cover their asses whenever its applicable while supporting the freedom of game development and publishing, as weird as it sounds, considering anyone could do that outside Steam on PC already.

In the end, all of Valve’s announcement ends up being PR speech. It’s not exactly virtue signaling either as much as itch.io’s Leaf’s tweet on the matter. How things will go down in practice will probably be a very different story, though only time will tell. Claiming that Valve has dropped any responsibility or the like is childish bitching, as the responsibility has always been with the developers and publishers, and even then to the extent of the law.

The consumers within the market will make their voice heard on the matter, and that is ultimately what matters, despite what different sociopolitical factions like to think. Let capitalism function as intended.

Then there’s the point that none of that matter jack shit if the gameplay is not up to the level. That is what matters the most after all.