Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Nicholas: As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed last night I noticed that there was an article by the team behind Need For Speed about upcoming changes to their game. The changes were introducing manual transmission, unlocking the framerate and wheel support. It made me think that the developers have really put in work to improve the game since launch, however it then made me think, “shouldn’t these changes have been made prior to the game post launch?”
To kick things off this week I wanted to get your ideas on the situation above – Ghost Games released a game three months ago and they’re continuing to support and update it – but should all these changes have been made during its development and prior to its launch? Is this a good thing, or a way for developers to rush a title and then seem like they’re doing a great job by implementing changes that should have been made long ago?
Andy: It seems like you are asking two really different questions here. Being that I know your love of Need for Speed and how you have experienced varying degrees of disappointment and frustration at the last couple iterations, I think I know what you are asking. You know I love the NFS franchise as well, but even though you and I are the same in loving the series we both bring something different to the table in terms of expectations and needs. For instance, you reference two things above in wheel support and manual transmission – and to be perfectly honest those are two things I don’t care about at all. I’ll never use either one of them so to me they aren’t adding anything to the game for me. As far as unlocking framerate, again not something I’m really concerned. Even with that said, I think it’s awesome that Ghost Games is still working to improve the game and adding new features to it.
I’m not comfortable saying that Ghost Games rushed NFS though. In fact, they even went so far as to completely skip an entire year to make the best game they could and really get back to what most fans expect from a NFS game. It seems too often now-a-days that developers make a game, get it on the market, make DLC for it and then abandon it. The fixes that they put in are usually only to address things that gamers are really complaining about. They already have their money, so no need to put extra work into the game. If there are features they can add, well just tack them onto the next title and call it an improvement.
So to answer the other part of your question “shouldn’t these changes have been made before the game was released?” Well, not necessarily. I think with every game there are just some features or ideas that are left on the cutting room floor. Either because they didn’t have enough time or resources to refine them, they weren’t working properly or they were just left off because it was determined that they didn’t make the game better. There are probably a hundred more reasons why features are left out that I can’t think of. What about an obvious one, in that maybe it was just a feature they actually planned on adding down the road exactly like they are doing right now?
In today’s day and age when there seems to be so many games that do as little as they can, should we not take a second look at this and be more thankful that they seem to be invested in adding things to the game, supporting it and most importantly not looking for ways to squeeze more and more money out of gamers?
Nicholas: I agree, and I think your question is extremely valid. I understand that my opening statement was a fairly critical one, however it was more so to play the devil’s advocate. The fact that we’re seeing a developer support their title with (in my opinion) significant changes speaks volumes of what Ghost Games are trying to do, and when I think about it, the only other developers that do the same thing is CD Projekt Red with The Witcher 3 and Gamefreak with Pokémon (and constantly releasing legendries). I’m with you in saying that none of the changes that Ghost are bringing to Need For Speed will make a difference to how I play, but I recognise that there are other gamers out there who want to use a wheel and who want to use manual transmission, so it’s good that they’re catering to those requests.
Your question though makes me wonder though. These kind of post-launch support isn’t something that we’ve typically seen for most titles, and my question to you is – should we? When I think about most game releases, they either release with or without issues (which sounds self-explanatory). For most games they’re launched without issue and what we can expect is either paid DLC or nothing and we eventually look forward to the next instalment. For those with issues however, we wait for the fix, sometimes demand (and receive) compensation and on-top of that we might or might not receive extra DLC too. With games like Need For Speed, The Witcher 3 and Pokémon though, do you think we’re starting to see a new precedent? We’ve asked this question before, but do you think this is yet another example of the industry becoming less money-hungry?
Andy: Let me get to the first part of that question right away. Should we see this kind of post-launch support? Absolutely. I mean, I understand that the developers have already put a lot of time and effort into a game by the time it gets to the end user – but at the same time when I buy a game I and giving up a good chunk of change (more so for you Australians), I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have some support for the games I buy. Now, I want to be clear that by ‘support’ I don’t mean paid DLC, micro-transactions, online passes or any other way a developer can get more money from me. I love the type of post-launch support CD Projekt Red had with Witcher 3. It was a steady stream of small little nuggets and I took them all as a thank you from the developer for supporting them. By doing that, CD Projekt Red made me want to support them even more. So it was great. Like we’ve both said, even if the post-launch support isn’t always things I would use, it’s still nice to see because there has to be someone that appreciates it and find it useful.
Your last question is a little more involved though isn’t it? You’ve listed three good examples of what could be a trend, and I would even add Dice with Battlefield 4 to the mix. I mean two years after launch and they recently released more maps. Sure the Premium and Class Shortcut things are a little much, but kudos for still making content two years later. I can’t think of another game that has released content that far after launch. Let’s not get side-tracked though. You listed three developers, I listed one more. That’s great – if we want to see a trend there we can. Until we start to look at all the other games/developers out there that are doing the exact opposite.
Look at all the DLC/micro-transactions for Evolve, for Rainbow Six: Siege, for Call of Duty and Batman: Arkham Knight. I could name more games too, but you get the idea. I was one of the people who played the Homefront: The Revolution beta last weekend and could see several instances where there is going to be micro-transactions for the game. So, while I am usually the more optimistic one between us – I have to say no I don’t think we can really look at those as a trend towards the positive, rather I think they are merely exceptions to the rule. I feel weird being pessimistic about that, maybe it’s because I have been a gamer so long and have seen the gradual increase in the ways developers try to take more and more of my money that I have become jaded. I can’t believe I am going to say this, but am I being too pessimistic here? Do you think we are at the beginning of a new trend to where developers/publishers are stepping back (even just a little bit) from caring so much about profits that they are starting to care about the gamers as well?
Nicholas: I can completely understand where you’re coming from by saying that for every company that does good there are many others who are doing worse, but I think we need to take the good when we can in these instances. If we’re starting to see this kind of support behind AAA titles and major development studios I’d like to think that it’s the beginning of hopefully something bigger. It’s definitely going to take some time, but for a company like Electronic Arts, which was being considered as ‘the worst company in the US’ just a few years ago to this, it’s saying something. At the same time though, gamers need to be sure that they support those companies that give back like this and don’t just tolerate when other companies do the opposite. It’s as much on developers to provide this support as it is on gamers to be vocal in saying that we won’t let the flip-side continue.
As we continue on I’d like to ask you – is there any game or games that you would have liked this post-launch support to have taken place? Is there a game that you purchased that you didn’t mind (or alternatively, weren’t entirely fond of) where a few post-launch changes would have made it (even) better? If so, what would those changes have been?
Andy: Hmm, that’s an interesting question – and one I’ve never really thought of before to be perfectly honest. I guess I am one of those gamers that when a game is not to my liking I discard it and very rarely do I ever go back to it. Partly because of my initial experience being clouding my judgment, but also because once I put it aside there are two, three or sometimes four more games to take its place. That’s one of the Catch-22s in the world of video games, first impressions mean a lot in the eyes of a gamer. If a developer misses on that first impression, it’s hard to regain the interest of a player because there are just so many other options out there to play.
There is one game I can think of that received massive updates post-launch that from what I heard improved it dramatically, and that that’s Assassin’s Creed Unity. My personal experience of the game at launch it was simply unplayable. I tried three or four times and found so many issues that it killed all interest I had in it. The post-launch updates were really to fix the multitude of problems so maybe it doesn’t really qualify for what we are talking about. While I have played plenty of games that have obviously had varying degrees of post launch support and updates I really can’t think of any that immediately come to mind as being significantly improved. Sure new features were added, new modes, weapons, maps, levels etc. But the core experience never really changed all that much.
Now, that’s not saying the core game “needs” to change mind you. Sometimes adding simple features – like a manual transmission – are enough to entice new gamers into the fold or draw back some of those that had already played it. Personally, what I care more about is that the developer is supporting the game. A developer that is willing to stand behind their vision of what the game should be, but also a developer to take into account the needs/wants of the gaming community. The support doesn’t have to be huge, but being willing to listen and say “Hey, we heard you. We can certainly add that, here it is.” Even if it’s something I won’t use, it’s still nice to see.
In that regard I think I see a trend developing there. Developers seem like they are more willing to listen to feedback, make a couple changes, and add a few little things to the their games. It doesn’t seem like developers are so stuck on their vision that they don’t care what the gamers say. So while I can’t go so far as to say they are less money-hungry I will say they are more willing to listen. I think that’s a good compromise. What do you think though, is that a better way too look at things than saying they are less money-hungry? More importantly, should gamers be satisfied with that?
Nicholas: I definitely think so. As I alluded to above, it’s going to take some time before we see a significant change in trends from developers, so if there are some that are making the initiative then we should celebrate it. We need to walk before we can run, but if these bigger companies are making the change then hopefully more will follow suit. I also think, and it’s hypocritical given how I started this article, that we need to be more positive than sceptical when developers do something that bucks the trend. Saying that they are “less money hungry” is sort of a backhanded compliment, so to suggest that they are more willing to listen to gamers and are actually making it a positive rather than less of a negative is good too. The community is ridiculously negative at the best of time, perhaps that’s something we need to look at fixing from our side?
As we approach the end of this week’s article this whole topic has made me think of one final question. In the case of Need For Speed or even Witcher 3, more post-launch support should theoretically mean we will wait longer for a sequel or new game, because the developers should be focusing on what they already have, rather than dropping it and working on something else. So, to close out this week I wanted to ask you this – does this kind of post-launch support mean we’re less likely to see regular (or at least at the same regularity) sequels being made, or do you think it’ll do the opposite and actually boost development, since we’re going to want to support these companies more?
Andy: At first glance I see how that would make logical sense, but I don’t think practically it makes sense. Because the kind of post-launch support we are talking about is non-revenue generating type of stuff. I just can’t see any developer wanting to focus solely on pro bono type stuff for an extended period of time. Rather what I think will happen, is a small team is put in charge of the post-launch support while the bigger team focuses on the next project.
When I really think about it I’m not sure I would want that to happen either. I’m usually not someone who plays a game off and on for months. I’m the type of gamer that when I enjoy a game I play the crap out of it until I do everything I want to do, finish the game and possibly get all the achievements. Then I look for something else. So while free updates that add things are nice, I don’t see them getting me to play a game I was done with for any significant amount of time. That’s the fine line with those updates though isn’t it? They have to be released in a fairly timely fashion so that the work and effort into making them reaches the most gamers possible. Witcher 3 is a perfect example of how to kick out that type of content. It was a steady drip of content until the larger paid DLC was ready to go.
You mentioned it before, and I think it bears repeating. When a company like CD Project actively supports a game as much as they have, it makes me really pay attention to their next game(s) because I know as a gamer they will be supported. We’ve said it time and time again – you even said it in this very article – that the gaming community can be ridiculously negative. The question is why. Why do we have to complain or be offended by everything, all the time? Short answer is, we don’t. Instead of bashing developers or their decisions why not vote with your time and money. Support those developers who go out of their way to support their game, and their industry. If a developer doesn’t support their game to the level that I think they should, then my only recourse is to not buy/play their games. In the meantime I’ll continue to play the games I enjoy and make sure those developers know I appreciate their efforts in actively supporting their games. The beauty of gaming is, we will always have a choice in what to play, and what not to play.
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