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Please make it stop, or not

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?

Andy: Well here we are. We’ve written 79 of these Game On or Game Over articles and this is the first time I have to admit I am a hypocrite. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the past talking about the hype machine that is the video game industry. We’ve talked about how we can’t really trust trailers, and how some games are released looking very little like those awesome cinematic trailers that get gamers excited. You and I have agreed that we don’t pay much attention to the hype machine anymore.

Well, I have to admit I have fallen off that particular wagon. It wasn’t my intention to get caught up in the wave of hype. I tired really hard not to, but damn it man, last week I saw a game trailer that is easily in the top three of the best trailers I have ever seen. The trailer I’m talking about is for Deus Ex Mankind Divided. Several years ago I was at GameStop looking for something to play and came across Deus Ex Human Revolution. I had no idea what it was about, but I liked the cover so I got it. The next couple of weeks were consumed by a very good, and highly underrated game. I could never understand why my friends had never played it. It was fairly cheap, had a lot of content and was fun. What more can we ask for in a game?

I had heard rumours there may be another one in the works, but had no idea the magnitude of that trailer. It’ s one of the few that tells a story. It’s almost like a three minute prologue to the game. There is already a character I hate, one I feel sorry for and one I am rooting for. I have a very good idea of what the story will be about, and it’s one that makes a lot of sense. All this from a three minute snippet. I’m sorry my friend, but no matter how hard I try not to care about this trailer, or the game, it’s not going to happen. I am very much looking forward to that game whenever it comes out.

Everyone that knows me knows the second Fallout 4 is announced I will geek out badly, but what about you? Are there any games that could potentially be announced where you would toss aside our rules for hating the hype train and start throwing your money at the screen and circling the day on your calendar?

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Nicholas: Immediately what comes to mind are any sequels to franchises or games that played a big part of my childhood. For example, there’s been talk about Rare making a new game for the Xbox One, and immediately I’m hoping for something along the lines of a Banjo-Threeie or Perfect Dark sequel. I loved the games on the N64 and I loved playing them all again when they were remastered and re-released for the Xbox 360 Arcade. To experience more of that goodness that I loved so much as a younger gamer, oh yeah, I’d geek out pretty hard too. The other thing that comes to mind would be a true (and I mean proper) sequel to Need For Speed Underground 2. I’m not talking night-time racing, I’m not talking just a few modifications, I’m talking about tuner-focused, midnight racing with customisation options from my neon to my roof scoop and everything in-between.

There’s often a time where I feel I’m getting disinterested in gaming. Not to the point where I’d stop playing, but where I stop caring about the next release or where a delay means nothing more than just a different date – no inconvenience, no groaning, nothing. Then there’s a release date announced, box art announced or just a title revealed, and I get that excitement back again. For me, that came recently when Codemasters revealed both a release date and the cover art for F1 2015. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high but already I’m excited for mid-2015 to give it a crack. It’s been too long between F1 titles and I’m really keen to get into it again. It won’t be my most highly-anticipated games and I probably won’t play it for more than 10 hours, but I still want to have it now. Do you get that same feeling ever? One for a game you’re not super-excited for, but for some reason you just really want to have it immediately?

Andy: Oh definitely. For me it’s often the sense of playing something new, and different, from what I am playing – or have recently played. I may not be in love with the game, but if it’s something new I’ll probably want to play it. Add to that, it only takes one friend to really want to play it and ask me to game with them and I usually go get it. That’s how it was with me and the Halo Master Chief Collection. Halo has never really been a game I was overly interested in, but because of peer pressure I own it.

I know on more than one occasion I have let my friends’ enthusiasm over an upcoming game cloud my impressions of it. I think that’s the way of gaming though, and something that is more powerful than any marketing campaign a publisher can dream up. A great example for me personally is Shadows of Mordor. Several of my friends raved about how good it was. So, I saw it on sale and got it even though I wasn’t overly interested in it… and I still haven’t even opened it and I bought it some five months ago. I’m a collector, I know this, and I still can’t help myself. I like stuff, the more stuff the better. Games happen to be one of those things I like to collect, even if I play them six months after I get them.

That seems like a natural segue to my next question. I currently have three games in my Xbox One collection that I’ve bought that still have the plastic wrap on them. About a year and a half ago I made a pledge to myself in front of my mirror with a very stern look on my face that with the release of the Xbox One I would only get games I’d play right away. I pledged to limit myself to two or three active games at a time. Partly due to money, and partly due to the time it takes to play one. Here we are with the new consoles not even two years old and I already have games stacking up. Most of my gaming friends are split on this issue. Some have a backlog while others can’t understand why you’d have a backlog. Which of those camps do you fall into? If you are like me, what do you think is the reason we buy games and take so long to open them?

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Nicholas: We’ve touched on this in the past, and like you, I too made a decision that with the launch of the current consoles that I would limit the amount of games in my pile of shame. So far I’m glad to say that I’m going quite well on keeping to this. I didn’t get around to finishing a few racing titles (mostly because I found it a little repetitive and boring) but otherwise I’m been completing the campaigns of most of my games before buying another. I’ve even started doing the same with my Wii U and as of writing this, just completed Super Mario 3D World this morning. It feels good after a generation of rarely finishing games that I’m back to completing what I’ve bought. No doubt I’ll add to my list of unfinished games with Project CARS and F1 2015 when they’re released, but all the non-racers I buy I aim to complete them before moving on.

Speaking of finishing games, it makes me think of all the collectibles that come with it. Now I won’t touch on our views of collectibles (we’ve done that so many times in the past), but more so, when it comes to completing a game, do you need to find all those knacks and trinkets before you’ve considered it ‘finished’? With the latest two Nintendo games I’ve finished I’ve perhaps collected 50% of all the items there are in each level, but I’m happy with defeating the final boss and moving on to the next title. Are you the same, or do you need that 100% figure in your game stats for it to be truly ‘finished’?

Andy: For me personally, that isn’t a cut and dry answer. It’s more of an “it depends” type answer. A lot of it depends on how much I like the game, and what I am trying to get out of it. For instance I’ve been playing Zombie Army Trilogy since it was released with a couple of friends. I really, really like that game. It’s not the best looking title I’ve played, doesn’t have the best writing for a game, and it’s not the most technically sound title either. Yet, there is something about it that I absolutely love. I’ve beaten the game twice with different people, collected all the collectibles and will play it even after I get the 100% completion. There have been other games on the Xbox One where I was content by beating the story and not going back and doing anything extra. That doesn’t necessarily mean I hate the game, rather that in my one play through I got as much out of the game as I wanted.

That brings me to a completely unrelated question though. We’ve talked before about developers doing everything they can to keep their game in the disc tray, and to keep us playing it. From collectible, to achievements, to rewards for logging in every day etc. There’s no shortage of tricks that they use to ensure that we keep playing their game. I understand the desire of a developer to make the only game we’ll ever want to play, but the reality is gamers have more choices now more than ever. I would rather play a game for 10-15 hours and love every minute of it, than I would playing a game for 40 hours or more and feel like I’m only going through the motions.

We know developers aren’t afraid of making sequels to games. Heck, just go to EB Games or GameStop and look at how many titles end with a number or are part of a series. It seems to me a lot of games are afraid of there being an end to them. They go out of their way to add collectibles, new game plus modes, and an assortment of other things to make us keep playing even after the end level. I remember when the term “sandbox game” was first tossed about. Now it seems like almost every game is a sandbox so that we keep playing instead of there being a finite ending. What do you think the reason is that developers are trying to extend the life of a game? Is a game ending really that bad of a thing?

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Nicholas: There’s a balance that I think a lot of developers are trying to hit. If a developer is able to create a truly amazing sandbox game then there’s a good chance players will keep coming back to it. Let’s use GTA V as an example. It was released almost two years ago, and with each release of the game on a new platform, gamers keep coming back and enjoying GTA Online. In this respect, Rockstar are able to develop new content for their title and continue earning more revenue through games and DLC sales.

On the flip-side, the reason we have sequels is because each developer knows that most gamers won’t stick with a single game forever. Putting aside your few and far between examples of WoW and DOTA 2, when it comes to console titles, as great as a game might be, people are always looking for the next big experience. Yes, DLC plays into this (pun intended), but there’s a reason why gamers keep jumping from one COD or Battlefield game to the next. I think a good developer is trying to reach this sweet spot between these two examples. They want to have an open world game that gives them the greatest chance of milking DLC options and keeping gamers playing, all until they are able to release the next instalment and start the cycle again. Realistically, as great as GTA Online is, it’s not going to be the ultimate game forever, so Rockstar will surely be planning GTA VI to continue the cycle again.

Keeping with GTA Online but taking this article for another twist, I wanted to ask you – is there any game that you’ve been playing, whether recent or some time ago, that you wouldn’t mind getting the open world online experience that Rockstar have created with GTA V? Is there any game, which if it had an open world and perhaps a couple of additional features, that you could see yourself playing for years if the developer properly supported it? Here’s an extra challenge – if your answer is Fallout, can you think of another?

Andy: I think I’m going to surprise you with my answer here. As much as I love Fallout, I know I talk about it all the time, I don’t think I’d want to play Fallout 4 for a year or more. Even if it had a co-op mode, even if it had several expansions I still want there to be a finite ending to it. A moment where you sit back and say “Wow, that was a hell of a game.” Then move onto whatever is next in my ‘to play’ pile. Maybe it’s the old school gamer in me, I just like to see the credits roll and know I finished something. With games that feature huge MP elements, think CoD and Battlefield, playing every day really isn’t about playing and doing something new. It’s more about connecting with friends, because you essentially do the same thing over and over again. Same maps, same guns, same perks, etc. Nothing changes.

I agree there is a balance between the two, and in all honesty I don’t think anyone has really found it yet. Having gamers do the same thing over and over… and over again (classic shooters), has lost its appeal to me. Where I used to play CoD every night for several hours with the same group of friends, I now look towards other different experiences. Say, play a shooter one night, then the next play a racing game and the night after that play a game like Neverwinter Online. Sure some games will capture our interest more, but it no longer feels like I ‘have’ to play a certain game or fall behind.

Take Destiny as an example. Bungie claims to have a 10 year plan for the game, but I haven’t even played it since November because I grew bored with it. I sure as hell won’t be playing that game in ten years no matter how much content they add to it. That’s the rub for games though. No matter how much DLC they add to it, no matter how many new missions/quests they add, at the end of the day it’s still the same game. Gamers are a fickle bunch and are like the tide – they come and they go. Now more so than ever, we are a population based on fads and the newest things. I’d rather have a developer make a great game, with a  shelf life of six months (including DLC) then try to artificially draw out the length of the game and try to bribe me into keep playing it.

To wrap things up this week what is your personal preference? Would you rather have an action packed game that leaves you amazed when the credits roll, or would you rather have a game that you know you can turn on for months and months and play? Better yet, both seem to have their place engrained in gaming circles, is it more a case of there not being one right answer or perfect solution? After all, one of the greatest things about being a gamer is all the choices we have available to us right?

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Nicholas: Like you, I too look forward to the ending of a good game. What distinguishes a great game from a good one though is where you dread the ending as much as you are looking forward to it. I think Mass Effect was a good example of this. As much as I wanted to see how the story ended I didn’t want the game to end, and I think it’s those that distinguish games from most. When a game drags on too long, or when you’re over it well before it’s finished, it shows that the story or quality just isn’t there. As OK as the latest CoD game is, it certainly falls into that category.

The right answer is of course to suggest that there is no ‘correct’ way to make a game, and one which appeals to gamers (whether all or some) has done its job, but for me, I think I much prefer those that have a set shelf life, where you can play it for some time, enjoy it and then either look forward to a sequel or look back and the fun you just had. For this reason MMO games on PC just never appeal to me, and I’ve never quite understood how gamers can play the same game over and over again with no real goal or objective other than to win. Where each battle ends up with the same little cutscene and then it’s time to repeat the process all over again.

Gamers are a lot like these articles. I’d like to hope that there are people out there who enjoy reading them, but surely they wouldn’t want to read the same article and the same topic forever. Having that variety and being able to enjoy an article or game, appreciate it and then move on to the next is the way to go. Now if only we could implement a DLC model for Game On or Game Over. Hmm…

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.

 



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About the author

Nicholas Simonovski

Events and Racing Editor at Stevivor.com. Proud RX8 owner, Strange Music fan and Joe Rogan follower. Living life one cheat meal at a time.

About the author

Andy Gray

From the frozen land of Minnesota, I was the weird kid that begged my parents for an Intellivision instead of an Atari. My love for gaming has only grown since. When I’m not gaming I enjoy ice hockey and training dogs. I’m still trying to get my Elkhound to add to my Gamerscore though, one day this will happen.