Look, this isn’t an easy thing for me to talk about. There’s a simple reason for that – my name is Chris, and I’m an internet gaming addict <Hai, Chris!>.
I’d say 90% of my gaming is online, so the idea that the internet has somehow ruined the experience is somewhat absurd coming from me – rest assured, I’m aware of the irony.
Still, I’ve been thinking, as I’m prone to do on rare occasions, and I can’t help but shake this feeling that gaming used to be better before cellphones and modems. Here’s why.
Games had to be perfect
I thought I’d kick things off with the easy sell. No one is exactly thrilled about the advent of day one patches, but there’s more to it than that.
This isn’t just about pushing games out early with the idea that a day one patch can fix the bugs – if the game was perfect post-patch, I wouldn’t have a problem at all. Although, a sombre shoutout to my homies in the sticks rocking 3G dongles – you poor, poor bastards.
My problem is that developers (or publishers, perhaps) tend to drastically overestimate what they’re capable of fixing with that initial patch. Games ‘go gold’ with more bugs than a 2-dollar hooker, and the first patch generally addresses some, but not all of these problems.
This is an issue which I feel maximum absurdity in 2014, where we saw a number of titles that were varying degrees of broken for months after release. If you ever had the displeasure of trying to play one of those games without the patch, it was not unlike having a tiny person punch you repeatedly in the nuts.
Before the internet, that just wasn’t possible. Games had to be rigorously tested to isolate any and all bugs possible before release – a game that was bugged would simply stay bugged, and that wasn’t an option.
Not to say that games were perfect – bugs were still a thing – but they damn sure weren’t broken.
No DLC, no microtransactions
When I was originally trying to figure out what I was going to be angry about this week, DLC came to mind.
I used to have a pretty high opinion of DLC, but recently that’s been shifting. It seems great in theory – developers can find a way of continuing to support a game and provide more content, while fans have more of their favourite game to play.
In practice, it doesn’t really work out that way. In practice, it seems that the game makers now have a way of selling you half a game first, and then the other half in easily digestible instalments.
If I buy a burger, I don’t want to pay extra for the bun. If I wanted my cake without icing, I would have a bought a f**king muffin. Alright, I’m fresh out of food metaphors, promise.
Get it, “fresh out”? Oh man, I’m a peach.
Okay, I get it. I’m pushing it.
P.S. Microtransactions suck too. I’m looking at you, Unity.
Emphasis on campaigns
Do you remember how amazing single-player campaigns used to be? Think Diablo 2, think the original Starcraft, think of the Warcraft series, of Doom.
They were long, they were well-planned and even more well-executed, they were engrossing and, later, filled with kickass cinematics.
Now we get crappy-looking cutscenes featuring Kevin Spacey as a wood carving and six-hour single-player experiences that feel tacked on, like an afterthought. Even Blizzard hasn’t been coming through – the Starcraft 2 series has had very mediocre campaigns, and Diablo 3’s plot was like a bad fanfiction. I remember playing it and feeling like I was in a screenplay M. Night Shyamalan wrote in kindergarten.
To be honest, some time ago I thought I was most likely done with campaigns (barring anything made by Valve), I figured I would be spending most of my time playing multiplayer.
For the most part, that’s been the case. Even today, I spend most of my gaming hours on stuff like League of Legends, Titanfall and Counter-strike. Campaigns today are generally lame (unless you play RPGs, which isn’t really my thing) and I find myself losing interest very quickly.
That changed for me last year. Last year I decided to give Wolfenstein: The New Order a go, and suffered the most severe case of a blown mind doctors had seen in decades.
It was amazing, and honestly I think one of the most underappreciated games of last year. When it was first announced, I lamented the lack of multiplayer on this very website – I too, you see, had been drinking the Kool-Aid.
It didn’t need it. It was a polished, focused single-player experience, and I loved every minute of it, more than I love caffeine and Crème Soda. Spoiler: I love those things a lot. If they ever make a caffeinated Crème Soda I may just shoot myself in the face, as the rest of my life would be nothing but downhill from that moment.
I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that without having to cater to the internet multiplayer crowd, MachineGames was able to invest all their time and resources into crafting one of the best games I’ve played in the last ten years.
No easy way out
Games used to be hard – stupid hard. I’ve complained before about how games these days are too easy, although I’ve also admitted that I’m the gaming equivalent of an old-man now and don’t like to try too hard.
Due to my weak self-discipline and general laziness, if I get stuck at any point in a game for more than five minutes, I’ll likely throw in the towel and turn to an internet walkthrough. I do this in spite of knowing that it is in some way spoiling my experience.
Back yonder, most people didn’t have access to online guides, and optimal strategies, skill tree setups and where the blue key is are things that had to be figured out for oneself. Of course, figuring that out for yourself brought a sense of pride, while looking it up in a walkthrough just brings with it a sense of stupidity.
It’s like knowing the secret to a magic trick – once you find out, you feel like an idiot for not seeing it before.