One day I’m going to learn programming well enough to create an Augmented Reality app that floats red flags in front of articles and marketing. You’d just be reading along and bam!, Minesweeper flags in your face. It’s the best thing I can think of to help pump the brakes on hype and cue someone in to a ‘wait a dern second here’ moment. Maybe I could have done my small part to better the world before the release of No Man’s Sky had I pushed beyond Visual Basic courses in college. I honestly can’t believe this many people bought into the hype. It’s confounding. There were red flags everywhere that just screamed AMAZING TECH DEMO THAT WILL BE SOLD FOR $60! Ambitious claims were little bombs we should’ve planted flags around to save our wallets from exploding.
So, being the garbage fire of the moment, we’ll stick with No Man’s Sky. Red flag – the entire freakin premise. Let’s just think about this for a second. Open world games have been praised for their freedom while at the same time being criticized for a lack of things to do. So, at the very best, what could we have possibly expected from this game? An Elder Scrolls game can net you a couple hundred hours of gameplay if you’re REALLY into it and you’re on PC. That’s potentially padded by user mods, like running for your life from hundreds of cheese wheels down a mountain, but more gameplay nonetheless. There’s been talk/marketing about No Man’s Sky requiring somewhere around 5 billion years to fully play through. If gameplay becomes stretched too thin in one of our most praised open world series, how could this game have possibly hoped to be deep and engaging? It didn’t, and it never intended to be. It was always about randomization on a gigantic scale. That’s it.
We’re happy! Right guys?! Right?! KEEP DRINKING I NEED TO COPE!
Let’s try another game. Final Fantasy XIII, or as it was originally announced, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Agito XIII. Red flag – three games announced at the same time in a connected universe. What ended up coming of this? Final Fantasy XIII was milked more than a Brazzers compilation, Final Fantasy Agito XIII became Final Fantasy Type-0, and Final Fantasy Versus XIII still doesn’t exist yet. Oh sure, they say it became Final Fantasy XV, but I swear this is the video game industry’s version of the sasquatch. I’ll believe it when I catch one with my bare hands. The only reason I can think of that they decided to do this is because Square-Enix got real insecure about how big Final Fantasy 7’s dick is. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Dick envy. Yoichi Wada was quoted in 2012 as saying there would be no remake of Final Fantasy 7 until the company had topped that game. Red flag – announcing a Final Fantasy 7 Remake before all of the games Square announced in 2006 have been released. Based on his quote, that indicates one of two things. They either actually believe that they have topped Final Fantasy 7, or they’re still stuck in a company mid-life crisis and have realized that it’s the only way for them to have an international hit. I’m guessing the latter, and that has me skeptical of the future quality of the project.
Pictured above – every Final Fantasy fan since 2006.
Red flag – new technology. Power users in the tech buy into the first iteration of some new device knowing the following iteration of that tech will most likely end up being what they meant to do the first time. The new order of the day is virtual reality! Chances are good that the closest most of us have been to VR is intensely leaning into every turn in a Forza race. To be fair, VR on PC has had a better than normal launch because several already released games patched in VR support. Project Cars was awesome, but Project Cars in VR is amazing. It’s shit your pants fast with the whole car shaking on a straightaway at 200+ mph. But, that being said, it’s still akin to a new console launch. The first year of games is typically an exploration of the systems capabilities typically leading to some bland experiences. It’s necessary for the company, but not so great for the consumer. PS VR has me more worried than the other options simply because it’s on the PlayStation 4. At least on the PC we’ll have the option of buying new hardware to improve our performance as time goes on. On PS4, well, you’d better hope companies get reeeeeeally good at optimizing games. I’ve actually been able to try PS VR. The space dogfighting demo was intense fun and had me rolling my head around like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to find enemy fighters, but it was difficult not to be distracted by severe aliasing. It’s a pre-release demo so I’m not going to base my purchase solely on that experience, but I’ll definitely keep it in my back pocket.
Red flag – Peter Molyneux. Anything he ever does or will do, just, red flag.
It’s like a metaphor for his entire career.
I see red flags everywhere. Probably not enough considering my Steam collection is upwards of 300 games, but enough to have saved myself hundreds of dollars in potentially poor experiences. If your $60 is as important to you as it is to me there are several things you can do to help make sure that your money is going towards a quality product:
- Do not, under any circumstances, pre-order anything. Ever. The most goodwill a company should ever be able to earn from a fan is that we might prefer to look at their games before other similar titles. We should never throw down cash based on a good experience with a prior title. It’s dumb and very likely to get you burned. Gearbox Software made Borderlands 2. They also made Aliens: Colonial Marines.
- Watch gameplay on Twitch or YouTube from independent sources. This is probably the best way to get a legitimate idea of what a game is like outside of playing it yourself. No edits, no hype, no bias, no BS, just someone playing the game for fun.
- Try out family sharing with a friend if you’re on Steam. This feature allows you to try the game out without needing to purchase it. You can’t play a game in their library while they’re playing something though, so make sure to get your time in before they hop on. A buddy of mine just bought Assetto Corsa and all three Dream Packs because he was able to spend several hours simming on his G27 with my copy. Try to refrain from beating entire games, though. If it’s good enough to hold your interest that long they deserve your money.
- Read/view reviews from everywhere. This website, IGN, GameSpot, Destructoid, YouTube, everywhere. Pay close attention to who wrote the article. Don’t pay attention to the number the game scored. THE NUMBER IS NOT IMPORTANT. The number is just there to fuel a Metacritic score that allows executives to fuck employees out of their bonuses. What is important is finding editors that enjoy the same kinds of games you do and tend to think about them in the same way. You might find several at one website, but it’s more likely you’ll find a smattering across the web.
- Don’t trust game companies, no matter how good their products have been. Remember when Squaresoft was King Midas and everything they made in the 90’s was pure gold? Then Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within tanked and they haven’t quite recovered since the Enix merger.
Any time you see “This game is the ‘Insert Name Here’ killer!” Or “Never been done before!”, just take a second to think what does and doesn’t add up. Pre-order bonuses are never really that great, and often times end up being available shortly after release anyways. The situation is so bad Valve had to go so far as plastering a warning on the No Man’s Sky store page informing customers that the standard Steam refund policy indeed did apply without exception. That’s just absurd. It’s not quite Note 7’s exploding in your face absurd, but it’s pretty close to the gaming equivalent.
I’m going to go register for some programming courses. In the meantime, let Steve Harvey be your guide.
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