For this Poll Question I have used the style of a courtroom. Just like other poll questions you should read the whole post before voting. Today I will be taking the position of Prosecutor.
Valve stands before you accused of forsaking Half-Life 3 as a full-length game in favour of episodes. This court will hear arguments from the prosecution. You, the reader, are the jury. Please use the poll option in the sidebar to register your verdict. Let the process begin.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today I am going to clearly demonstrate why this serious charge against the defendant is not only true but also bad for the games industry and also bad for gamers.
I will start by getting straight to the point.
The concept of Episodic Gaming is flawed!
Let us quickly look at the supposed benefits:
- Faster Release times
- Ability to respond to players’ criticisms
- Lower Price for the consumer
- Lower start-up costs for the developer
I’ll counter those points one-by-one.
Faster Release Times
I think this is a red-herring because development time has been increasing ever since games were released. I’ve yet to see an episodic game released faster than expected! Are faster release times better? Doesn’t a person gain more from waiting a little longer? Perhaps this world is too interested in a quick buck and instant pleasure.
Ability to respond to players’ criticisms
That’s not a benefit of Episodic gaming, that is one of the main benefits of systems like Steam. A developer can simply update the game quickly and easily. In the past a patch would have had to have been released. Now it is just an update. In reality there is nothing stopping a developer listening to feedback and making changes via patches. Is the time and effort taken to create a patch any different from an update? I fail to see how.
This does raise the point that shouldn’t the player be allowed to choose what changes are made? Maybe they like the game as it is (Assuming they have already played the part in question). These updates are removing players’ choice and should be made optional.
Lower Price for the consumer
I paid $20 for Half-Life 2 Episode 1, now that was approximately four hours long, how long was Half-Life? 12 hours, maybe more. If episodes 1, 2 and 3 are supposed to equal a normal full game then that works out at $60 a game! Console games cost that much but not many, if any, PC games. I feel that I am going to be paying more for my episodic gaming. How is that a benefit to gamers?
Lower start-up costs for the developer
This point may be valid in theory. Having to release a much smaller game will certainly reduce costs. But let’s us look at the game market. Since the announcement and promotion of Episodic gaming, how many games have been released in episode form? One! SiN Emergence, which now seems to have been two episodes in one: The first and the last!
Until I see a number of successful games released in this way I will continue to believe that the whole thing is a modern version of The Emperor’s New Clothes!
Story Telling and Game Mechanics
Having dispelled a number of misconceptions allow me to move onto points that are of a less factual stance but more emotive.
I play SP games mainly because of the story element. I want something to become involved in and experience different emotions. When you split stories into small segments that immersion can be lost. For me the best stories are either very short stories that allow me to continue them in my imagination or huge operas that go into details. Dune and Foundation and Earth are two perfect examples from the book world.
By creating Episodes we are fragmenting (pun intended!) that story telling and immersion. The comparison has been made by FitzroyDoll of Amphibian Mods that episodic gaming is the equivalent of a magazine article. I believe it is a very good comparison, although the direct relationship with a TV episode is perhaps more relevant. A main story line with sub-plots running through the series, each episode ending in some Cliff-Hanger. But let us not forget that these episodes are weekly and that fits into most people’s routine. Also a week is not too long to have to wait for the next episode. With regards the episodes in Half-Life 2 we are waiting over a year!
Prosecution’s Closing Statement
I have clearly demonstrated that Valve is perpetuating a falsehood. Episodic gaming brings little or no benefit to the gamer and a clear statement should be made to them to cease this crime.
I therefore urge you to find the defendant GUILTY. Thank you.