Why I’m Waiting On Fallout 76

I’ve never played a single Fallout game before, but when I heard about Fallout 76 I was excited. I watched all kinds of YouTube videos about lore referencing Fallout, as well as all the latest news on Fallout 76. Since I’m a fan of survival games like ARK and Conan, it felt like it would be a good entry into the Fallout franchise for me. Unfortunately, several factors has my first Fallout experience on hold.

The first problem I noticed was the price. The standard $59.99 price tag for a triple A game seemed way too expensive. Survival games just don’t go for that price, even the big ones like ARK. It felt right away like I was paying a premium for the Fallout or Bethesda brand. As someone who doesn’t play Bethesda games beyond DOOM, this ‘brand tax’ didn’t sit well with me.

Luckily I managed to get a key from someone to check out the beta. Not having an open beta really threw up some red flags for me. My game performance wasn’t great. While the graphics looked amazing, I had stuttering at regular intervals. Even if I turned the graphics all the way down, it still stuttered. I could still play through the game, but it wasn’t something I’d expected as a bug at this point in development.

The gameplay itself seemed a little off to me. As a Fallout newbie, I’m not sure if this is something to get used to, or if it’s just not my style. Scavenging versus gathering is a big adjustment. Also, all the reading you have to do seems like a huge backwards step in game development. SWTOR really spoiled me on voiceovers, and I expected a lot more than walls of green text for a $60 game from a developer lauded by everyone for their great stories. I’m also a big fan of the building in survival games, and the building seemed a lot more limited than even the most basic indie survival game.

I eventually did pick up Fallout 76 on Black Friday at a pretty hefty 30% discount. I’m really intrigued by the Fallout setting, and taking place in West Virginia just seems really appealing. I’ve watched press debacle after press debacle unfold, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t regret buying it. I guess I’m hoping for a No Man’s Sky type miracle. I’m optimistic that Bethesda will follow through on this title. I’ll be waiting for several patches to hit before I dive in myself. I’d rather have a smooth experience after what I’ve witnessed so far. While the game reviews are sharply negative, the people I’ve heard from that own it have nothing bug good things to say about it. Since these are not only people I know pretty well, but they’re also the ones I’m going to be playing with, so I’ll gladly give the game a shot. Eventually.

Keeping Multiplayer Games Alive

The Fatal Flaw in Some Multiplayer Games

Being the fan of multiplayer games that I am, I am frequently let down by some games. Not because they aren’t fun, or have something wrong with them mechanics-wise. It’s because the game population is so small or nonexistent. One example was Of Kings and Men, a third-person melee battlefield. Great game concept, the models and animations were nice, gameplay seemed solid – but nobody was playing. This isn’t just an indie game problem either. Big companies suffer from this problem as well. Not 4 months after For Honor launched, and it took forever to get into a queue. Also I was way outclassed by everyone in the game (I scored 5 points…compared to 200-400). Matchmaking is a huge problem for games with big populations, and exponentially more difficult for smaller game populations.

Narrowing Down The Problem

So what’s a company/developer to do? Getting your game in front of players nowadays is complex. Do you use Twitter or Facebook to advertise? Do devs give out keys to YouTubers, Twitch broadcasters, or just do giveaways directly to the players? What about Google or Facebook ads? Keep in mind this all costs money, and is very time consuming. Not to mention you have to get through a sea of spam to actually catch someone’s eye. Some Twitter users I see are following hundreds or thousands of other Twitter users. The term ‘following’ should be used loosely here, nobody keeps up with all of that unless it’s their full time job. So yes, standing out is difficult among the throngs of every other game trying to do the same.

Solutions

Lately I’ve found a few games that are hugely impacted by playing with friends. I don’t mean random PuGs through the matchmaking system, I mean people that you know and interact with regularly. Helldivers and Rocket League are two that come to mind off top. I won’t play either without ‘friends’, and I’ve seen several people insist on the same. Finding more and more of these types of games lately, the question I start to ask the most is “Why don’t the sell these games in four packs?” A few games on steam are sold in four packs, and I’m not sure why more aren’t. For games so heavily dependent on their multiplayer community (IE both games above), having more players is paramount. Offering a nice discount for purchasing more than one copy seems like a no brainer. We get discounts for bulk purchases in everyday life. I get that it’s not cheap to make a game, but I’m willing to bet it’s even more expensive to make a failed game.

Another solution is to change the standard press key giveaway strategy. As I see it happen now, a game launches and press keys go flying out to all the biggest content creators. Occasionally the smaller guys manage to snag a few trickle-down keys as well. The big creators play it for a day, and then they’re done. Maybe a few days if the devs are lucky. After that, it’s just a forgotten memory. The creators showcasing it longer are actually the smaller creators. It’s all a game of numbers, large crowds for a few days or much smaller crowds over a longer period of time. If developers spaced out their timeline for giving out keys, probably to the smaller creators, it could keep their game ‘fresh’. Holding regular giveaways directly to players to coincide with handing out creator keys would probably be helpful as well.

Perfect Example

Just before writing this article I went to try and find a particular game being streamed called Fortified! from Clapfoot games. It came out just last year, and has mostly positive reviews. Nobody’s streaming the game though! Not many are playing the game either according to Steam charts. If I want to check out the game, it’s all year-old footage from YouTube, which may or may not be representative of the game in its current state. So I risk spending $14.99 in hopes that I like the game, and that people I game with like it enough to risk $14.99 themselves. The safer route is to spend that money on something I can watch more recent gameplay of. Which option do you think players are going choose?

Risk versus Reward

Game developers, especially indie developers, take risks themselves bringing a game public, but players take risks on buying games with little to no information on. While some player risk is mitigated by Steam’s 2-hour refund window, getting a full groups-worth of friends to buy in to a game together is almost impossible. I have 290+ Steam friends, 500+ Twitch followers, 390+ Twitter followers, 100+ on Facebook, plus hundreds of readers per day on this website, and I still can’t make it happen unless the game is free. F2P is great, but for the most part they still manage to have their fatal flaws (terrible community, pay to win, etc). The bottom line is, game developers need to come up with a way to make multiplayer games more accessible to paying customers. That might mean offering better pricing on multi packs, keeping fresh content out there for prospective customers, or something else entirely.

7 Changes To Improve Ghost Recon Wildlands

CONSTRUCTION ZONE AHEAD

Refining Ubisoft’s Masterpiece

I like this game. No, I LOVE this game. I think it offers a top tier experience from the moment you log in. Still though, and it pains me to say it, there are a few mechanics from another Ubisoft game, The Division, that should have been included. There are also a few things that I’ve come across that just seem kinda odd or out of place in a game like this. From combat mechanics to AI behavior, I’ve put together my punchlist to turn this into the greatest shooter of all time.

Cover

I thought this was a great mechanic in The Division, so where did it go? I’m assuming it was left out due to implementation viability as opposed to time constraints. Although with the ‘Cross’ ability popping up all over the place, I feel like a similar implementation could be done for surfaces to take cover. Cutting corners is a little awkward. Not bad, but a cover system would just make the whole experience a lot smoother.

Make Vehicles Great Again

I love the APC. Only because it looks cool though. The most heavily armored vehicle in the game, and yet it feels like driving a cardboard box. Bullets rip through it like a wet paper bag. I feel like this vehicle should have some pretty unique physics. I want to ram another car, and not take (much) damage. It’s an ARMORED PERSONELL CARRIER. I have no complaints about the gun, that thing is like shooting off a carpet bomb. I understand that you don’t want something to be too invulnerable, but a little better bullet and crash protection would improve the experience. It already drives like a tank, make it feel a little more like one.

Stay In The Car

When you’re in a gunfight, it’s great when you have fire superiority. Cruising into an enemy outpost in a vehicle with your AI squad manning the mounted heavy machine gun is a great way to maintain said superiority. A great way to lose it is to get out of the vehicle, because no matter how much of a slaughter is going in at the time, the glorious chaos you are causing stops. Suddenly. Wish you had some covering fire to make a dash for cover nearby? Yeah, me too. There needs to be a command or mechanic that leaves someone on the gun.

Suppressing Fire

WOW do I miss this mechanic from The Division. No matter how many rounds I am putting downrange, it provides no deterrent to firing back. I’m really surprised this didn’t make it into the game. It’s a bit frustrating to have 100 round magazines, and no benefit other than not having to reload as often. Suppression is exactly what these weapons are designed for for. It really seems silly to catch a group out in the open, and they don’t even feel the slightest need to run for cover. Meanwhile as soon as you show up at a base, the lieutenant heads for the hills.

The Cover Up

Dead bodies lying around are literally a problem. You take a shot, drop the badguy, only to have his corpse discovered by other badguys. There should be some way to grab a downed body, and drag it somewhere less conspicuous. Especially since you can already grab live badguys, and drag them around like a ragdoll. Seems like it would be even easier to do with a dead one, no? Not that I’m much of a sneaky-sneak, but for those that are this would be a nice option.

Animation Cancellation

I’ve died SO many times because of the long animations. Something as simple as getting out of a car feels like a 15 minute slideshow when you’re getting shot at. Healing a downed squad mate, tagging supplies, and a myriad of other actions are oddly uninterruptible. If I’m doing something, and all of a sudden someone starts shooting at me, I would probably stop and head for the nearest solid cover. Not in Wildlands though, when you commit to picking up that skill point, you’re also committing to taking as many shots to the back as a Sicario’s SMG can put out in a second. Hint: it’s like 10+. I just want a way to quit an animation. ESC comes to mind as a suggestion.

Optimus Prime

What game would not be better with Transformers? And what Transformer would be better than Optimus Prime? Ok, Dinobots, you got me there. Still, the Autobot leader is a solid choice, and a great addition to any game. No, this isn’t serious, I just saw this and couldn’t resist. Actually I just changed my mind. I would love to have playable Transformers in this game. I’m not much for sneaking around in bases anyway.

How I Learned Anyone Can Review Games Gud

Why Steam Reviews Aren’t Always Useful

I have a good little story for this. One of my Twitch viewers told me about a game called Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. It sounded interesting to me, and when I saw it on sale I decided to check it out. WOAH! Bad reviews on Steam though! Well, given that 12 year olds, and adults that act like 12 year olds, have access to the internet, I rarely take ANYTHING at face value. I decided to check out the negative reviews, and find out what it was people hated about Eternal Crusade.

  1. Kickstarter promises broken this.
  2. Devs are complete idiots that.
  3. This game sucks.

There were few actual gameplay critiques. While any of 1 and 2 may be accurate, none of that reflects the current status of the game. Regardless of memes everywhere, ‘because reasons’ isn’t an argument, much less a valid argument. While broken promises and incompetent devs are a concern worth knowing about, if the actual game is good isn’t that more important? Better yet, if the actual game itself is good, are 1 and 2 even possible? These are the great questions of our time.

Challenging The Status Quo

So what’s a gamer to do now that they have evidence that a Steam has been tainted with emotional and subjective reviews of a game? If only there was a way to see what the game was like in its current state, without shelling out all that money? Thank you Twitch. I bounced over to Twitch, and found a few people streaming Eternal Crusade. I watched this more than I have watched any other game on Twitch or YouTube. They weren’t even playing the faction I was interested in (Space Marines), but I was having fun. I asked all the streamers kinda the same questions: how they liked the game, was it worth the money, and so on. They all said the same thing. ‘Game is fun, worth the sale price.’

Now the stakes go up a notch. Emotional reviewers on Steam say no, fun-loving streamers actually playing the game say yes. Yeah, took about a half a second for me to decide too. I was actually ready to buy the game when I won a giveaway in one of the streams I was watching. So I installed the game, spun it up, and WOW! It was lots of fun, and 87 hours later, it’s still fun. While it looks like #1 above is true to some extent, #2 and #3 were definitely wrong. The game is solid, and I recommended it in my review.

Not An Isolated Incident

I’ve come across several games that have gotten wildly skewed reviews. ARK: Survival Evolved went through a similar phase when it launched DLC during Early Access. (Yes, lol, DLC during early access, but…) Everyone slammed it because it offered DLC during Early Access, not because the DLC didn’t work, or wasn’t worth it. Which is silly, because ARK was in Early Release status FOR YEARS. Meanwhile, it was more complete and successful in Early Release, than many other titles at full release. Early Release is just a buzz word. A trendy term. If you don’t know that by now, then you’re in good hands because I’ve known it ever since I first laid hands on ARK. Another good game I recommend too, by the by.

The End Is Not Near

I am not completely trashing Steam reviews here. If I seem a little harsh, it’s because I feel like the people with 0.2 hours in a game, with reviews that consist of ‘awful game. refunded.’, are idiots. I personally use Steam reviews. I find them helpful most of the time. All I want you to take away from this is to actually read some of the reviews. If the game looks good to you, but the reviews are bad, find out why. Giving up and moving on because a group of anonymous people say you should? Use your head, have your own opinion. If you’re wrong, you’ve wasted 5 minutes. Maybe 20 if you watched a stream. If you’re right though, you’ve gained hours upon hours of fun with a hidden gem. One good game will make up for plenty of research on the wrong ones.

 

Are Early Adopters Punished? Or Patient Gamers Rewarded?

doom 2016 discount

Are Games Even Worth Full Price Anymore?

I mean, really? For example, DOOM had a great release, and was a well received AAA game. Still, it was 40% off during the Steam summer sale barely one month later. It was just $17.09 on Green Man Gaming for the 2016 Black Friday sale. Speaking of GMG, they quite frequently offer games at a HUGE discount for NEW titles, in excess of 20%. Online retailer Amazon commonly offers 20% off new titles for Prime members. So what is a game’s actual price nowadays then? I’m sure it’s some kind of marketing magic, but it’s beginning to look like a blatant cash grab by developers to me. I suppose the good news is that new games don’t actually cost $60 anymore?

Saving Bundles Of Money

Then there’s the bundle sites. Most notable is probably Humble Bundle, known for its portion of charitable donation. There are also other sites who focus on other aspects such as Indie games (BundleStars, IndieGala) and DRM Free (GoG). The idea is all pretty much the same. They bundle popular titles together for very reasonable, very low prices. While these sites are becoming more popular, you kind of have to stop and laugh a little. In the age of digital media, where we want our music one song at the time instead of bundled together, we don’t want our games one at a time, but instead bundled together. Go figure? I suppose a big reason they come bundled is to get exposure for Indie or smaller titles, and eek out a little more life for older ones. These are generally not factors gamers consider when buying these bundles though.

Fact: Drunken Platypuses Determine Discounts

So when does a game become worth $30? $20? Where is the dartboard that companies use to price items for their in-game store? I know there’s math, and science to a degree, behind all this pricing somewhere. As a consumer though, I start to wonder more and more if I’m being cheated somehow. I got DOOM through Amazon for $48. I thoroughly enjoyed the storymode. The map creation mode seemed fun, but very limited at the time. So did I buy the game too soon? I’ve only got 34 hours into it, would I have been better off waiting to buy it? We’re talking $12 to wait 5 weeks, and $31 to wait 25 weeks. With all these bundles, sales, and discounts, both $12 and $31 can go a long way. That’s an extra bundle, or new title.

drunken platypus monetization

Clear As Mud Pricing

Obviously game companies need money to fund new games, be them AAA developers or Indie developers. I just think that maybe the current system of video game pricing is still in the process of settling. While it’s not exactly a race to the bottom of the barrel, it’s definitely a race that benefits gamers. Amazing Indie titles like ARK also bring down prices by offering just as much content, if not more, than AAA games, and still MSRP priced substantially lower. Early Access muddies the water too, confusing the price of Free to Play games and up-and-coming AAA titles alike. It’s the American Wild West of video game monetization and pricing right now. There are bargains to be had on properties for gold prospecting, and there are snake oil salesmen on every corner.

Making Every Dollar Count

I’m not a wealthy person. $12 is a fair amount of money to me. I’ve started meticulously tracking how much money I spend on games, and how much time I spend in them. It’s deterred me from buying a game more than once, and later I was glad I had waited. Of course as time progresses, games will always be cheaper. They also get dated somehow, magically. Weird right? A game you’ve never played is somehow boring and uninteresting. Mostly I think it’s the graphics, though I’ve found I can tolerate older graphics more than most. Still, I guess I could sum up this article by asking one question:

When is the right time to buy a game?