Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
30 January 2006
Episodic gaming revolution? Pshaw!
Don MacAskill, who apparently worked on the original SiN, writing about the new episodic SiN, makes a lot of claims about episodic gaming that are interesting, exciting, and wrong. He starts off at a full gallop with this one:
Everyone wants episodic games.
No, they don't. Certainly, I'm not convinced. If you asked a dozen people what "episodic games" are, you'd get a dozen different answers, and there isn't any guarantee that SiN has any of them.
Developers want it because they get to make better games (by listening to their fans suggestions every 6 months and incorporating it directly into the next chapter) and do it more cheaply (6 months of game development vs years. Do the math). Gamers want it because their favorite games will be more frequent, higher quality, and more innovative since developers can now take some risks with different & new gameplay.
Where exactly is this "episodic equals better" link? A game that's developed on a shorter schedule will not automatically be higher quality or take more risks. Given that games are already buggy, a shorter testing schedule seems unlikely to improve quality, especially if it's based on never-before-tried gameplay.

From what I can tell, there is no reason to think that a shorter development schedule is going to make anyone a better game developer. For all we know, it will be an excuse to pump out crap games faster. Isn't that the lesson of prime time television programming?

You might argue that The Sopranos on cable, not Fear Factor on network television, is the better analogy and you'd have a point. But then it's not what the majority of people want anymore, it's a premium service. Paying $20 for a much shorter game isn't in the realm of mass-market appeal. Check back when you're talking $10 or less.

Somehow this episodic gaming is supposed to appeal to the masses like broadcast television and have the quality of the premium channel exclusives. Sounds like a job for the underpants gnomes.

Beyond making Ritual and Valve more hats of money, SiN will also revolutionize the game market:
Luckily, Ritual's putting their money where their mouth is and self-funding this little experiment. If they succeed, the market will shift and we'll all get what we want.
Rarely does one game result in total market upheaval. Sure, occasionally we get DooM or Civilization or Pokémon and everyone scrambles to jump on the rocket-powered bandwagon, but such conveyances are never well-labeled ahead of time.

Look, maybe just maybe this new SiN will set the world afire, but odds are against it. Moreover, as I read through this piece, it hit me more like a gushy, overoptimistic preview, complete with buzzwords (Action-Based Outcomes!!1!) and sales pitch at the end:
Oh, yeah, and before I forget: All SiN Episodes buyers will get all of SiN 1 as a free bonus. So when you pre-order SiN Episodes, you'll immediately get to play SiN 1. Pretty great, if you ask me.
Might as well have said "Operators are standing by to take your call..."

Someone remind me after SiN launches to see whether it measured up to this hype.
--Matt Matthews at 17:27
Comment [ 1 ]

Comments on this post:

Civ clones?

There are a few but certainly not even the same ballpark as the FPS craze which still hasn't died down. Ditto for Pokemon.

By Anonymous zachary, at 30 January, 2006 23:05  

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