I understand the thinking behind episodic games. Like Chris says in the video: It’s like a mini-series or a season of a TV show. It makes a lot of sense to release games like this. It especially makes sense for low or mid-budget titles that don’t have a lot of marketing money. If you release the whole thing at once, the game will come and go in a few weeks. No matter how good it is, once it’s over, it’s over. But if you release it in episodes then the conversation keeps going. The game can stay fresh and relevant for months.
Even better, the team is able to make adjustments based on community feedback without needing to do slow and expensive Valve-style playtesting. If the writer puts in the funny throwaway character Maurice into episode one and the internet turns him into a meme, the devs can react to that. Maybe give Maurice some additional screentime in the later episodes. Or if players really hate him, then pull him from future episodes. Or tone him down.
I certainly can’t judge. Nearly everything I do here is or was part of a series. The Diecast. Spoiler Warning. Good Robot. DM of the Rings. Every programming series. Every let’s play. If I put up 10k words all in one day, it’s too much. Some people will hit the back button because they don’t have that kind of time and were just looking for something to read over their coffee break. Even among those that do read it, there will likely be some skimming. And there’s no way we could do the whole 10k novella justice in the comments. Lots of stuff will be glossed over. And then I don’t have any content for the next 9 days, because I’m writing the next 10k epic.
But if I do 1,000 words a day for ten days, nearly everyone will read it. There will be less skimming. Each point will get more attention in the comments. And I’ll have content for ten days. This is a better way to portion out content, assuming the material allows for it. And I think most of us would rather have something easy to digest every day than a massive reading assignment every fortnight.
But while I understand the thinking behind episodic content from an artistic and business sense, it really runs counter to my gaming habits. And I think a big part of it is that often episodic games don’t feel like “episodes” in the TV sense. They tend to end on annoying cliffhangers. The devs are so worried we’re not going to play the next installment that they deny us a satisfying resolution to this installment.
I think a big part of this is that I’ve had some bitter experiences with episodic content that have put me off the whole idea. Yeah, everyone talks about the stupid cliffhanger at the end of Half-Life 2 Episode 2. But that was hardly the first. Eight years ago I said of Dreamfall:
I'm sure fans of the game will be quick to point out that this is the second act in a three-act play. Great. The first installment came out in 1999. Adventure games and budgets being what they are, there is no guarantee that the next game will even be made. And even if it is, I don't really care to wait for it. In another seven years I'll be 42, my oldest daughter will be getting ready to turn 16, and I will only have a vague memory of what happened in this game. Unlike a book or a movie, I probably won't be able to go back and play this installment, either. Will I need to surf around, hunting for some Windows XP emulator? I had some trouble getting the game to run right on today's equipment. I can only imagine the challenge of getting it to run on some machine built in 2013, just so I can go back and familiarize myself with all of the various characters and plotlines.
I care about the story now because I've been playing it. I won't care about it then. Seven years is a long time.
I was right. It’s been eight years, and I don’t remember anything about the events of Dreamfall except that I was annoyed and mildly pissed off when it ended. Dreamfall Chapters is out, and I don’t have the slightest desire to play it. I mean, I don’t even have a guarantee it will be properly resolved this time. Maybe I’ll trudge through a few more hours of game to meet a bunch of new characters so I can watch them all die just before the closing credits. If I wanted to put up with that kind of bullshit I’d go watch Game of Thrones.
The point is: There’s nothing wrong with episodic games, but I dislike them anyway.
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Top 64 Videogames
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There's a new graphics API in town. What does that mean, and why do we need it?
Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot
Since we're rebooting everything, MASH will probably come up eventually. Here are some casting suggestions.
The Best of 2016
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2016.