Morning Caffeinated! -- Spec Ops 'cancer,' Dawnguard flap, and Zynga'd

Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for August 30, 2012. Topics include: Spec Ops has inoperable 'cancer'; PS3 users are mad about Hearthfire; more desertions hit Zynga. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

Another morning, Shack, and only one more day until Friday. I'll start the day off with a hearty congratulations to the folks at Uber for getting Planetary Annihilation Kickstarted, and they are closing in on a cool million dollars. I hope they make their stretch goals because the funding stream has slowed a bit from the initial run of pledges, but the good news is they still have 15 days left. If you want to know why I'm excited, look no further than the massive interview we did on the project earlier this week. And off we go, hitting on a subject that has always frustrated me: forced multiplayer. Why is it some publishers see multiplayer as an absolute necessity in games? I admit that I am not part of the multiplayer demographic. I have never been afraid to state publicly that I suck at player vs.player and will never be comfortable in a game that continually shows me just how much I'm lacking in dexterity and quick reflexes. But I do acknowledge that, done right as in Battlefield 3 or the Halo series, multiplayer brings friends together for some intense action and some enjoyable and memorable experiences. But, in the case of Spec Ops: The Line, I find myself wondering if some publishers say a game must have multiplayer without fully researching if the concept is a viable option for the game they are envisioning. When you have a lead designer lamenting his game's multiplayer is a "cancerous growth" forced to be added by the publisher as an afterthought, I can only ask "why?" Great games can stand on their own without multiplayer, even first-person shooters. It isn't something you can shoehorn in, throw it on a server and see who sticks with it. Games like Halo are the exception, not the rule. I challenge developers and publishers to do their homework and find out what modes would work well with the game they are making and not just use multiplayer as a catch-phrase to stick in a game description. The only way you can build the next great PvP success is to know your audience, examine what works and why, and learn from your competition. Until that becomes an accepted practice, we will continue to have shoddy efforts that detract from the true nature of the experience and perpetuate a myth that multiplayer is necessary for a successful product.
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Zynga continues to hemorrhage executive talent, now losing Chief Creative Officer Mike Verdu, who will be starting his own venture. Add in the losses of COO John Schappert and Cityville GM Alan Patmore, as well as a few other mid-range execs, and the news for Zynga just continues to get worse. Lawsuits are already coming against the company over it's IPO, and EA wants a its pound of flesh over infringement issues. Morale at the company has to be dropping faster than the company's stock price.
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Xbox 360 users 2, PS3 users 0

Bethesda opened itself up for some justified criticism when it announced Hearthfire DLC for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Xbox 360 before the Dawnguard DLC was even available to PS3 users. The company explained that multiple products are in the pipeline from the team and that Hearthfire did not cause the delay of Dawnguard on the PS3. While I applaud a constant stream of new content for such high-profile games as Skyrim, I find it a bit odd that Bethesda would move forward with Hearthfire before satisfying all its previous DLC obligations first. I guess I can understand that Bethesda must keep to a production schedule, but I can certainly empathize with PS3 users for feeling like a red-headed step-child. It wasn't long ago that Sony gave PS3 users a backhand by not initially approving multiplayer weekends in Mass Effect 3.
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Random bits & Quick hits: BioWare is not developing Mass Effect 3 for the Wii U, at least not alone any way. Developer Straight Right has announced it is doing the port of the game, with BioWare's assistance ... As OnLive continues to struggle, Square Enix has jumped into the cloud with CoreOnline service. I still think Cloud Strife is their best cloud offering, however ... Guild Wars 2 continues to get a good early response, especially from our Ozzie. Be sure to read his twice-weekly diary on the game. Flashback: My little rant on multiplayer and the reminder of my limitations brought back the one good experience I had with a multiplayer FPS. Duke Nukem 3D was the first game I actually connected up with some friends for a home LAN party before I knew how bad I really was. While Quake and Unreal were also options, I couldn't resist the allure of the Duke and his "come get some." What was you first MP game? Play well, gang, and see you tomorrow. Keef
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 30, 2012 5:30 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Morning Caffeinated! -- Spec Ops 'cancer,' Dawnguard flap, and Zynga'd.

    Ramblings and musings of occasional significance to the Shacknews audience. This is the morning edition for August 30, 2012. Topics include: Spec Ops has inoperable 'cancer'; PS3 users are mad about Hearthfire; more desertions hit Zynga. Wake up, scrubs, it's the Morning Caffeinated!

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      August 30, 2012 6:29 AM

      Geez.... completely missed that interview with Cory Davis. I like his comments though, you can definitely feel the tacked-on nature of mulitplayer in so many games. It seems like we're moving past the era where you can create a successful, large budget single player game. At least in the shooter space.

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      August 30, 2012 6:46 AM

      I wonder how much longer Zynga will be around

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        August 30, 2012 8:04 AM

        They'll be around for awhile but not influential to the greater market.

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          August 30, 2012 9:27 AM

          They really need to get their house in order

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      August 30, 2012 7:27 AM

      How exactly does Bethesda have DLC "obligations". They could have easily said "No PS3 DLC" and saved themselves a lot of trouble, espcially since Skyrim is more or less borked on PS3 anyway. I mean it would be a heartless and horrible thing to do, but releasing the game in the state they did on PS3 was as terrible in my opinion.

      Anyway the word obligations doesn't really explain the situation correctly IMO.

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        August 30, 2012 8:06 AM

        Maybe, but I think once a promise is made, it becomes an obligation, no? PC and PS3 were supposed to come after. Granted they didn't announce a date, but they made it clear that PS3 was coming. So I feel they are obligated to produce or explain why they didn't.

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      August 30, 2012 7:50 AM

      Maybe one of the shacknews community managers can convince a "suit" to do an AMA regarding the research and decision making involved in backing and managing a project like Spec Ops. Some questions I would have include:

      - How are financial predictions for a game generated? What variables/data are included?
      - Is there a uniform model, or standard expected from each category of game? For example, is multiplayer actually considered part of a FPS "blueprint"? What deviations are acceptable and which are not?
      - What is the typical background of the executives who evaluate and greenlight developer pitches to publishers?
      - How has a Hollywood model influenced or permeated the gaming publishing industry?
      - If a developer pitches a new IP or a new type of game that does not fit an established blueprint, what would it take to convince a publisher to back the project?

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      August 30, 2012 8:20 AM

      I agree wholeheartedly about the tacking on of multiplayer in games where it just isn't necessary. It's rare that a company get's it right, such as Assassin's Creed. I thought it was such a silly idea to add MP to that game, but wow, I love it so much.

      My first multiplayer game was either Warcraft II on AOL or this paintball FPS game on AOL called SplatterBall.

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        August 30, 2012 4:31 PM

        It's rare when it works, but if a company does the right research and gets some good modes going, it can work ...

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      August 30, 2012 8:21 AM

      First MP game? TW2002 bitches.

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      August 30, 2012 9:28 AM

      At this point, I have to assume there's some pretty clear data that suggests even having bad multiplayer adds a significant amount to game sales. The idea being that people won't rent your game and burn through the single player and/or buy it and trade it in to Gamestop a week later. I suppose even if the multiplayer is average or bad, getting people to hold onto your game for a month instead of a week before they trade it in is thought of as helpful. I know there's a guy who's a big multiplayer gamer and posts a lot on Weekend Confirmed threads who talks about this. He simply won't buy a game unless it has multiplayer.

      The first prominent developer I heard speak about this issue was Ken Levine years ago. He said something along the lines of, "The games industry has wasted a ridiculous amount of development time on multiplayer." Then this exact thing happens with Bioshock Infinite, I'm going to guess because 2K demanded it.

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        August 30, 2012 9:42 AM

        But that's the point: Where is the point of diminishing returns? You spend X thousands of dollars to get bad MP into a game only to break even because few people play it. And it seems like a crappy MP experience totally detracts from an otherwise great single-player game.

        Personally, I think it is just bad logic, but I'll admit I don;t have access to their research data.

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          August 30, 2012 9:46 AM

          I think that if a publisher is tasked with evaluating a project that is going to cost them several millions of dollars, that they are acutely aware of where the point of diminishing returns is for something like that.

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            August 30, 2012 9:50 AM

            True, but a poor experience doesn't always add up in measurable dollars and cents.

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