Funny news; sad news; Black Ops blues
November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
Most of this week I’ve been playing Black Ops, or “BLOPs”, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First off, the funny news:
This, reported from VG247:
“Crytek: ‘You don’t make a 90 plus rated game with a 30 rated bush in the game'”.
‘Let’s say you’re making a 90 plus rated game. Everything you do, every aspect that goes into the game, every person working on it, has to be 90 plus rated, or you don’t get to 90 plus rated.
‘You don’t make a 90 plus rated game with a 30 rated bush in the game. Everything has to reach this quality bar. Every person working on it has to put that kind of effort into it, otherwise you have to do some things that are at 94/95 to pull the average up to 90. This threshold is so difficult to attain. That’s a really difficult task for any developer to accomplish.’
Of course, this is all true. A game that is otherwise excellent can be marked down below the 9/10 mark for having some significant flaw – such as a poor multiplayer mode, for example. A lot of the time a game will hit the 7/10 or 8/10 mark, but it’s rare that they’ll get or go above 9/10. Usually, anything 9/10 or over is “game of the year” (GOTY) material.
I find this funny because it’s true, but also sad. Some publishers and development houses have become obsessed with their metacritic ratings, thinking a 90+ guarantees them blockbuster sales. Again, this very likely has some truth to it, but it must be a tremendous strain on studios to know that if they don’t hit 90 they’ve failed. To believe that one bad review can drag all their hard work into the gutter– that’s pretty harsh.
Second story, a lot less funny and more depressing, is that Activision is looking to find a buyer for Bizarre Creations, and if that doesn’t happen they, Bizarre, will likely face closure (via Gamasutra):
The statement from Activision comes as rumors hit the web that 200 workers were let go from the Liverpool, England-based studio.
But the rep told Gamasutra that all Bizarre staff thus far have only received a 90-day notice that some type of restructuring or closure could take place, in accordance with UK labor laws.
It’s possible that parent Activision could sell off Bizarre as a whole, shut it down, reduce the headcount or sell off its assets, among numerous other possibilities. Activision has yet to make public any firm decision.
Activision also states within the article that:
“Although we made a substantial investment in creating a new IP, Blur, it did not find a commercial audience.”
Very quickly after, tweets were flying about, denouncing Activision as money-grabbing whores, or something to that effect. Really, though, when you look at their recent output, Bizarre hasn’t made any truly great games – with the exception being Geometry Wars, which was a bit of a commercial fluke. Their third-person shooters, including the recent James Bond game, have been crap. Arguably, the only area in which the studio has seen success is in the racing genre, but they lost the right to continue making the Project Gotham series, as that IP belongs to Microsoft Game Studios. And Blur, their supposed return to form, didn’t sell. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances to that. Red Dead Redemption virtually creamed any and all opposition when it appeared on game shelves, seemingly out of nowhere. The fact is, though, Activision is a publisher whose modus operandi is to produce blockbuster-sized games and create mega franchises. High levels of investment; high risk; high reward. And in that equation, failure isn’t an option. While it isn’t particularly charitable, it’s completely in line with how the company is run nowadays. So, can anyone really act surprised over this?
And now… on to Black Ops.
I am dissapoint.
While the multiplayer is still as addictive as ever, the single player is pretty mediocre, sometimes bad. A lot of this, I think, comes down to a lack of playtesting. At significant points in the game the AI scripting just isn’t good enough and seems to rely way, way too much on the player having taken a certain path or done a certain thing. What’s worse is that it feels even more linear, more contrived, more unfair and less interactive than before. The smoke and mirrors aren’t nearly effective enough this time around, and so, frequently, you are walking into set pieces and having to think in terms of “gaming” the system – working out exactly what it wants you to do so you can progress. It’s a total immersion killer. Because everything’s so tightly scripted, so patently wired to a trigger, nothing is unexpected. Treyarch has overplayed their hand in how many tricks they can throw at the user, and the result is an experience that feels formulaic, predictable and cold.
Multiplayer? Yeah, there’s nothing else out there like it. There are plenty of new maps and game modes. They’re decent without being anything special. Nazi Zombies is also back, which is either a good or bad thing depending on you feel about the original mode in World at War. Apart from the levels, it’s an identical experience – in that it’s still as poorly balanced and dull as the original. I’ve always thought of it as a completely redundant game mode. I haven’t changed my mind.
The final thing I’ll touch on is the implementation of CoD Points in multiplayer. While you do get new weapons as a result of levelling up, almost everything else needs to be bought with these points. I think that having these two systems running alongside each other functions okay, works, but also comes over a little convoluted. It does allow more freedom in what you unlock, but it’s also overwhelming – even to someone who’s played MW2 it’s overwhelming. The interesting thing here, though, is that this is very clearly Activision attempting to monetise the CoD franchise further, and my gut is telling me that you’ll be able to buy additional points, which will be sold as DLC, at a later date.