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Is Affluence the Cause of Crappy Games?

Feature Article by Erich Becker
February 26, 2000


Are developers becoming lazy just because their pocketbooks are being lined with more and more cash? Are publishers beginning to not care what crap they send out the door to make the holiday deadline? In all reality, it seems that the gaming world in general is coming down to one thing: money.

Sure, the companies have to make some revenue from the games that they produce/develop, but if this holiday season was any indication, many games were rushed out of the door months before they should have been released. More than a few are just taking old engines and technology and adding "revisions" to them. The most prominent example of this would have to be the Tomb "We’ve Done This Before" Raider series.Is the Wait Really Over?  Hmmm... The same engine has been in production with this series for four years. Not even id and the licensees of the Quake and Quake II engines have used it for that long (with Half-Life being one of a few exceptions). Look at Duke Nukem: Forever. Seeing that the Quake II engine was obsolete, the development team at 3D Realms switched over to the amazingly beautiful Unreal Engine, and gamers couldn’t be happier.

Buying an engine license from id (Quake engines), Monolith (LithTech engine) or Epic Mega-Games (Unreal engine) can save a lot of money and time. You don’t have to sit around for months and code everything yourself. In fact, I would rather see a whole lot of companies coming out and taking advantage of these great engines rather than programming their own, then cramming into the wee hours of the morning to get a game out before the holiday season. One striking example to the "Christmas Rush-ing of a Game Syndrome" would be Ultima IX: Ascension by Origin. Ascension is laced with so many bugs and such horrible performance even on the highest of the high-end systems that even with the Ultima name on the box, Origin expected to sell a lot of copies. I’m sure that they have already, but with a major patched released last month it was evident that the game was rushed out of the door.

Even though we here at ESCmag don’t cover console games, we can see this also evident in console games. Most notably you must look at Sony for the biggest disappointment. Gran Turismo 2 is just a joke when it comes to the point in which you can’t even finish the game because of a bug.

Christmas ‘99 was not the only season when we have seen the development infrastructure crumble. Look how many patches Half-Life has been through, or even Quake II.

So companies have learned from the mistakes of others. Blizzard Entertainment and Maxis have seen what others have gone through, and decided not to go down that road. Blizzard has delayed Diablo II till "First Quarter 2000" (I say March), and Maxis delayed The Sims from its original December date till Feb. 3 (just went gold, by the way). Seeing that their games would not make it out by the big day, both respectfully decided to hold off the release till it was "perfect."

This leads me into the next two companies who have to get off their lazy ass and so something. ION Storm and 3D Realms are two companies that I am losing patience for daily. We have still yet to see Daikatana or Duke Nukem: Forever. Screenshots are not what I want to see in a game. We did see a Daikatana tech demo a few months back, but we, as gamers, need more. Those games better be damn good when they are released or a lot of people are going to be mad.

To make my final point and re-illustrate what I am saying here only takes a few sentences. Companies have to know when to say, "No, its not done, we can’t release it," instead of releasing some of the crap we got last Christmas. Or repackaging some other crap we got two years ago. I would rather see a lower number of good games, than a flood of crappy ones.

Anyone out there agree with me? If you do, send me a line at erich@escmag.com.

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