This is my opportunity to be old and crotchety about the current state of video games.
First up: MOBAs. The name is meaningless (nearly every multiplayer game would qualify as a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and sounds stupid. The genre seems intent on copying the original Warcraft 3 mod, Defense of the Ancients, over and over again, right down to the one, and only one, map. You know something is wrong when Blizzard, a company intent on copying itself and others over and over again, has a forthcoming MOBA that may in fact be labeled as innovative, mostly for removing a lot of the archaic baggage of the original mod everyone else was too afraid to tinker with.
However, the worst part is that MOBAs are the new MMORPG which were the new FPS which were the new RTS. That is, they are freaking everywhere. Except they are even worse because MOBAs are cheap and have a large intersection with free-to-play another booming genre. I swear that Rock Paper Shotgun merely covers the announcement of each one so that its audience can shake their head in dismay.
It is particularly depressing because I really have no interest in the genre. All the weird unintuitive mechanics, level grinding each game, paucity of maps and awful community has nothing to interest me. In the end it looks a lot like playing an RTS but controlling only one unit or an MMORPG with a much less interesting character. Obviously I am alone as the genre is massively popular.
Worst of all is when promising developers jump on the bandwagon. Epic is making a MOBA. Dungeon Defenders was a promising game broken by later additions and yet the sequel is a MOBA. The thing is they are all barking up the wrong tree. Admittedly it is not as stupid as an MMO where the development costs are huge and the player base is sticky to existing games, but it’s really unlikely you are going to pull people from League of Legends or DotA2 with your new MOBA.
F2P – Gawd I hate F2P. Something about the entire system that turns me off. I actually prefer subscriptions like WoW where I have access to everything or just paying up front for the game. It’s all a sham and the philosophy behind it unnerves me and usually it shows up in some way inside the game to the detriment. All these recent card games for instance where F2P might as well read free-to-suck since you forking over money is the only reasonable way to acquire cards.
And these are just the legitimate F2P games. There are huge swathes of more disreputable games, mostly on mobile devices, that use a variety of psychological tricks to prey on people, particularly children. These might seem like a different class, but they are just more callous and aggressive about it than milder F2P games.
Early Release – Can we just go back to releasing games when they are approximately done? I don’t play Early Release games because I don’t want to inevitable play things multiple times as new versions are released and I don’t want my experience tainted by the myriad bugs and balance problems present in an unfinished product. Some of these games are in Early Release so long you wonder if they are ever coming out. I am curious if Early Release is overall detrimental for most games since their hype train must have fizzled out by the time they get a release. Take Firefall, where lackluster beta content has reduced the appeal on the eve of its launch. It also raises the specter of whether an Early Release game is actually DONE when it gets released, it really starts to feel arbitrary.
Kickstarter – I admit that I am really dubious about crowdfunding. It’s not clear to me that putting the risk of production onto consumers is an improvement in financial investment technology. One of the earliest examples of crowdfunding I recall was GMT games taking preorders for boardgames and only producing if it reached some threshold of orders. So we as consumers have some art and a blurb and are supposed to contribute money so that GMT games can produce a game with no risk? I call BS. Also, it’s well established that consumers don’t really know what they want. At one point there were no chunky tomato sauces and seemingly no outcry for them, but when chunky tomato sauces came out a significant portion of the population preferred them. Letting consumers decide what gets published is a great way to stifle innovation. It leads to the same kind of feedback loops that causes excessive focus group testing to lead to mediocrity and mundanity.
The other problem is how it is used. Far too often I see things that are going to be produced anyway and Kickstarter is a way to grab preorders and hype. In fact a lot of Kickstarter patrons view the entire thing as some kind of informal preorder website. I hate preorders as they divorce the quality of a product from its earnings. Video game reviews are pretty poor with obvious predilections towards AAA titles, but at least when you purchase a game after release you at least have some information. Instead there are people that preordered Aliens: Colonial Marine and rewarded a company for putting out a miserable piece of crap.