Experienced Points: Visual Downgrades and the Puddle Outrage

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 17, 2018

Filed under: Column 104 comments

My column this week uses the recent Spider-Man puddle controversy as an excuse to talk about visual downgrades and pre-release hype.

In the column I talk about how the nature of E3 drives publishers to engage in aggressive over-promising as they compete for eyeballs. Of course, I think the real way to break free of that trap is to stop chasing stupid photorealism. The publishers have witnessed the success of Fortnite, Minecraft, Cuphead, everything that Blizzard ever made, and everything that Nintendo ever made. They’ve seen proof that you can make billions of dollars while at the same time making your game more visually distinct and also spending less on graphicsThis is not to say that adopting a non-photorealistic art style will automatically make the game cheaper to make. It depends on the game and the art style..

The big offender here is Ubisoft, who are enamored of their realistic-looking worlds that run on crazy funtime cartoon logic, and who constantly over-promise visuals at industry events.


Link (YouTube)

I realize that EA is usually seen as the big bad these days. And that’s probably fair. But there’s something about Ubisoft that personally rubs me the wrong way. I know Ubi is pretty good about funding low-budget titles, their workplaces are reportedly pretty healthy, and they only control a handful of AAA titles. You could make the case that they’re the good guys compared to the likes of EA. But for whatever reason, I grit my teeth whenever I see the Ubi logo. Between their horrendous DRM, obnoxious Uplay, their same-y collect-a-thon games, their cringe-y staged multiplayer demos at E3, and their brazenly fictional graphical promises, these guys seem to be running their company in a way designed to maximize my annoyance.

 

Footnotes:

[1] This is not to say that adopting a non-photorealistic art style will automatically make the game cheaper to make. It depends on the game and the art style.



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104 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Visual Downgrades and the Puddle Outrage

  1. guy says:

    I think part of it, though not all of it, is that because they don’t optimize the code up front they don’t know what their final performance on the target specs will actually be and what adjustments they might need to make to what they’ve got to hit the performance targets. So they run their known-to-be-unoptimized code on an overpowered server to get what they want the final game to look like, then make downgrades if the optimization doesn’t come through.

    That said, I also think they’re at least semi-deliberately overestimating how much optimization they’ll be able to pull off.

    1. JakeyKakey says:

      Yeah, but you don’t typically overhaul all the graphics from scratch, you just scale down your sliders.

      I feel like if this really was the case, there should be loads and loads of cases of PC AAA games being brought back to their typical E3 demo glory using obscure mods and hidden game settings found by some madman enthusiast on YouTube who owns a $10,000 gamedev workstation. You know, standard /r/pcmasterrace kind of stuff.

      Instead, I can recall exactly one instance of that happening in basically all of gaming history and it involved somone finding a way to make the water textures in the original WatchDogs a little less shite.

      1. guy says:

        As I understand it, if they decide a lighting system isn’t working they might just pull the shader that implements that step from the pipeline entirely and cut the textures or maps that provide the necessary data to use it and instead use the simpler textures they created for users who switched that setting off.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          How bad is this company at estimating game performance, that they have to drop entire chunks of the rendering pipeline, rather than scaling down the number of polys, accuracy of lighting calculations, etc? They’ve been making games for a decade, and have people who are supposed to know roughly what they can squeeze out of their current engines / platforms, and the upcoming engines / platforms.

          1. guy says:

            They might decide that scaling down the accuracy of e.g. dynamic shadows enough to hit the performance goals ends up looking worse than just cutting it. When they’re making a new lighting system or lighting step there’s a ton of uncertainty about how much they can optimize it, so until relatively late in the process it won’t be clear if they’ll be able to optimize it enough.

            That said, by release year they should have a good sense of whether it’s likely they’ll manage it, so putting in something for E3 they end up cutting is at best willful ignorance.

          2. Blake says:

            It’s pretty hard to be psychic when it comes to that wort of thing.
            With new shaders going in, new geometry going in, new textures going in all the time, each trying to push the graphical fidelity, while at the same time the graphics programmers are trying to optimise everything to keep all the new stuff in, it’s not an easy task especially a whole year out from release.

            If it’s getting near submission time and it’s still not hitting frame rate targets, removing stages from the rendering pipeline can be one of the cheapest and safest options. Getting all the artists to remake their work with 10% less poly’s is a huge task, where disabling one of the shader features might be half a days work for the graphics programmer.

            I’ve not known a graphics programmer who hasn’t implemented a feature for the art director, spent a while optimising it, and had to remove it again later in the project because it was better to cut that then something else. It’s just how it goes sometimes.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              There are well-documented algorithms for reducing polygon count (and maximize the output fidelity), if you need to build it yourself. There are however, buttons in existing 3D modelling programs, to reduce polygon count, without requiring artist work. This is not a “huge task”.

              1. guy says:

                They’ll do that too, but usually they’ve done their visual design assuming they’ll have a certain poly count when the graphics dials are turned up to maximum, so their fancy shadow algorithm is tuned to look good on their top quality models. Odds are it’ll run on lower poly models but the shadows will look bad, so they can reasonably decide they’d rather pull the algorithm and use their fallback system they’ve already got for when people set graphics to “medium”

              2. e says:

                Polygon count does not matter as much as you think it does. I’ll say that again: for the purposes of discussing optimisation, polygon count does not matter. Companies like Ubisoft already have world class state of the art tools that will happily crunch down and bring up models for them. It doesn’t matter because polygons are not expensive. Graphics cards are made to render lots and lots and lots of polygons. They are not the problem we are dealing with, because they do not matter.

                What matters is shader complexity. You can have expensive polygons. You can have cheap polygons. You can have things that aren’t rendered in polygons at all but must be computed for every pixel on the screen. This is where the real performance costs come in, because every shader is a tiny program, and that tiny program needs to run for every pixel the graphics systems think it applies to, and the performance of a shader is based strictly on how well it’s written. (And how the compiler treats it.)

                If you can’t have smooth, creamy volumetric light rays, but have to choose between blocky watery light rays or no light rays at all, it’s probably the easier option to go with the latter.

      2. Nessus says:

        I have a commend I’ve been trying to post here, but for some reason the system thinks it’s spam and always deletes it. There were no links or anything, so I have no idea what’s going on, only that I can’t post?

        I’ve attached it as a reply to this reply post (which of course, the system has deleted again) so any mods or whatever can have a look if there’s a log.

        1. Nessus says:

          GODDAMMIT THIS ISN’T SPAM
          *EDIT* Okay FINALLY that worked. Dunno why either way.

          I feel like non-marketing induced late-dev downgrades shouldn’t happen, because it indicates that the devs never did the R&D to know if what they were wanting to do was even remotely possible on the target hardware before they started integrating it.

          If you have some new rendering trick you want to integrate into your game, the VERY FIRST THING you should do is mock up a proof-of-concept to run on target hardware machines. If you can’t successfully build a benchmark test that’ll run on the target hardware at +>50% overage relative to the the use you plan to have in the game (i.e. if you expect to apply it to 10,000 polys in a scene in the game, target the benchmark to run at 15,000 or 20,000), don’t fucking waste everyone’s time and money. You’ll either end up ripping it back out at the last minute (which means you wasted your time and your backer’s money, which could’ve been better spent elsewhere), or you’ll leave it in in a framerate-killing jank form (say goodbye to your Metacritic bonus, possibly your studio, if you’re owned by one of the big publishers).

          So, here’s an “extreme” idea that’s probably completely crazy:

          Design your games on workstations that match the target hardware. No $10,000 specialty rigs: just the best street-level gaming rigs you can get at the start of the project (so by the time you release, that hardware will be mid to upper-mid range, depending on how many years it takes).

          That way you have a “reality check” built into the dev process itself. You can’t even make stuff that’d need to be downgraded, and if you want to push the technology with some clever new graphics trick, you have to get that working to real-world standard before you can even try to integrate it into your game.

          “Oh, but I can’t run my thousand-layer physics-based texture painting software on consumer grade hardware”.
          That’s exactly the problem: you’re just diagnosing it backward. Anything you can’t run on a street-level gaming machine is overkill for developing things that have to run on street level gaming machines. Leave the supercomputers to the Hollywood guys who don’t have to worry about end user specs.

          “Oh, but before optimization, the game won’t run on regular hardware, even if it will run perfectly afterward.”
          Again: that’s the whole point of the built-in limits, you’re just looking at it backward. Your ability to develop the game on consumer hardware would be the self-regulating limit that keeps you from building things that’ll need indeterminate (in both scope and fucking plausibility) amounts of optimization to begin with.

          “Oh, but out dev hardware needs to be super consistent and reliable and predictable”
          I know what you think you mean, but what you’re actually saying is your work will be built assuming a rarefied “perfect” environment by default, and will therefore be fragile under real-world conditions. Your work will be broken by literally any problem you didn’t explicitly and consciously anticipate.

          1. guy says:

            It’s not that devs do obviously impossible things that only work on super high-end machines period, it’s that they make things that run at 20FPS on the target hardware and then try to make them run at 30 FPS and that doesn’t always work out. They’ll use higher-end machines for playtesting and seeing things in action while they’re working on getting it to hit the performance goals.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              That assumes that somebody else will eventually be able to squeeze extra performance out of whatever system is currently slow. If the playtesting is late-stage enough that they’re using real art assets instead of dummies / grey boxes, the game systems / engine / rendering pipeline needs to be ready to start handling the real assets.

              1. guy says:

                Most of these companies apparently have everything go down to the wire so the graphics coders are still working on the pipeline even as it goes into public beta. Bad for quality, but they’ve got external schedule constraints and they’d rather do that than either miss the Christmas window or cut three months of graphics programming time.

                Other companies make different calls, but they’re not the ones who have this kind of downgrade happen.

                1. Nessus says:

                  This (and your other reply above) is exactly what I’m talking about though.

                  You’re basically saying “but they can’t do that because they wouldn’t be able to use their normal workflow”, That’s exactly the point: to force a tear-down and rethink of their workflow, and prevent the resulting new workflow from drifting back into something detached from the target hardware.

                  1. guy says:

                    If they developed for the target hardware first, the resulting graphics would be worse. Because they would need to get something that can run on the target hardware at 30FPS prior to optimization, rather than producing something that runs on the target hardware at 30FPS after optimization. No, they cannot know that something which runs at 20FPS prior to optimization will run at 30FPS after optimization, that is the entire reason this is happening to begin with.

                    If they froze the pipeline well in advance of release, the resulting graphics would have worse performance because they would lose months of optimization time. If they made the development cycles longer, that might well work out for the best but their investors require that they do not.

                    1. Nessus says:

                      Not buying it, on account of indie devs managing it all the time.

                      I’ve dabbled in it myself: I can and have made tinkering environments for fun on my own machine that looked more or less as good as a current console game. Making a full game requires a lot more work volume-wise (I wouldn’t want to even contemplate it solo), but it that work can definitely be done of on consumer hardware.

                      I may not be an expert or a “pro”, but from what I’ve seen done and have done myself, the problem is planning, not hardware. It’s just the game dev version of the same thing that happens with big-budget movies: when you have enough resource overage at your disposal, throwing more resources at a problem starts to seem easier and faster than planning.

                      The last sentence in your post is (half) the core truth. Dev cycles have been unrealistically shortened in the name of hitting launch dates determined when the project was greenlit, and without input from the people who have to do the work. Planning doesn’t necessarily lengthen the project (it increases pre-production time, but decreases production time), but when even the stuff made the “normal” way regularly comes out unfinished even with massive extended crunch, it’s pretty clear the schedules demanded by publishers are already drastically below the actual work time needed for X amount of product.

  2. Asdasd says:

    The Ubigame inspires contempt in me too. But I have a lot of residual goodwill in the tank from Beyond Good and Evil and Sands of Time, and the Rayman reboots were charming and playable if a touch over-hyped. Oh, and Mario vs Rabbids was an almost perfectly executed game on both the mechanical and aesthetic level.

    So while they created and perpetuated a trend in gaming that vastly overstayed its welcome, I can’t really bring myself to see them as a true villain in the soap opera of gaming.

  3. Distec says:

    If Ubisoft were just the things you described in your final paragraph here, they’d earn little more than the eyerolls I afford EA, Bethesda, and other “big dumb” publishers.

    And yet despite them being seemingly “better” than some of their contemporaries (at least in some ways), they definitely irritate me more than their peers. And I think I’ve come to realize it’s because of their pretension. It seems that every time I see PR from them about their next upcoming open-world collectathon, they’re always trying to convince me that what they’re doing is “art”, with Real Messages™ that are giving something to the world. That these self-important proceedings are often delivered with thick French accents probably doesn’t help, unfortunately :). They’re as money-hungry as any of their competitors, but there’s a veneer of pomposity that’s unique to Ubi. They’re high off their own asses.

    I mean, just take this quote from their CEO recently:

    “You know what is missing in this industry? A soul. Video games are about gaming, and gaming is not about entertainment, it’s about learning. When you learn, you have fun. But when we are just entertainment we are losing something,” he explained.

    “I question the team about what real benefits the player will take away from the game for their real life. Right now, we don’t do enough in this area. This is what excites me, how to make something that lets you have the most fun while also having something beneficial for your life.”

    Even though I have some hefty disagreements with parts of this sentiment, I don’t have some principled problem with it on paper. But coming from Ubi?! Dear Lord, can you stop trying so hard?

    1. Shamus says:

      Those quotes are AMAZING.

      “You know what is missing in this industry? A soul.” says the guy who published The Division.

      “I question the team about what real benefits the player will take away” says the guy who gave us Uplay.

      Just amazing. Like Michael Bay complaining that movies are overblown and lacking in an emotional core. Like George Lucas complaining that too many properties are focused on toy merchandising.

      That’s so beautifully hypocritical and stupid that I need to believe it’s deliberate. I want to believe this is some industry-wide piss-take / performance art.

      1. Redrock says:

        I don’t think that’s entirely fair. That stuff about “learning” is also coming from the guy who gave us Assassin’s Creed Origins Discovery Tour and bankrolled Beyong Good and Evil 2. And Valiant Hearts. And Anno. I dunno. Ubi sure screws up a lot, but I often think there’s some actual goodwill there too. And I think that in recent years they’ve been far more responsive to feedback than before. Again, there are still a lot of problems and questionable decisions. But my impression is that they’re trying. At least a little bit. Occasionally.

        1. ccesarano says:

          I give them some credit as well, as I do think they sincerely want to try and make narrative and art important in their games. It’s one of the reasons they try to do unusual settings or genres when they can.

          The problem is, this notion of games as art completely clashes with their efforts to make games into raw product, shoving it all into a similar formula. At least, with their big budget games. Oh, Assassin’s Creed is getting old? Let’s turn it into an RPG instead, imitating the likes of BioWare and The Witcher. Let’s make sure a new Just Dance game is released every year because they sell gangbusters. Let’s figure out how to put microtransactions in Division 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

          At the end of the day you can at least trust Ubisoft to create some cool stuff, but they otherwise come across as being insincere or completely oblivious of themselves.

          1. Redrock says:

            Well, the whole “games as art” thing is tricky. I mean, if modern movies are art, than so is every game ever, up to and including PUBG. But that’s a complex debate. But the quotes presented here aren’t talking about art, but rather about learning and taking something away from the experience, and I think that here Ubi can claim more success than most publishers. For all its faults, the settings of Assassin’s Creed are a monumental achievement in and of themselves.

            1. Droid says:

              I legit knew my way around Florence on my first visit because of AssCreed II. The big market/mall area is the only exception, and that one probably also only because it’s so much more crowded than the rest of the city.

              1. Redrock says:

                Same! The relative distances are all messed up, of course, but everything is in place relative to everything else.

      2. RCN says:

        Actually there’s ample proof that Michael Bay DOES care. Or, more accurately, that he cares in such an aggressively nihilistic way that he seems to not care.

        People have even said that bay is a nihilistic marxist. One who believes that Capitalism has led humanity to the depths of depravity and that he tries to feed us the ugliest and most dissonant stories possible, to see if we’ll ever put our foot down and say no. But we never do. We eat that up with a smile.

        The proof comes from interviews with him where he basically admits to be a nihilist and the fact that other of his movies do in fact show that he knows how to make a story and achieve pathos, but in transformers he is aggressively not giving us any of that, but the most diametrically opposed thing to pathos as possible (also supporting this theory is the fact that Bay hates the franchise from way before working on it).

        1. Redrock says:

          Eh, I dunno about Bay’s personal philosophy, but he did make The Rock and Pain & Gain, so I can never be too mad at him.

      3. Agammamon says:

        Oh man, you think that’s great you should see what those lines are in response to.

        Basically, adding female protags to their games.

        This publisher went from not too long ago saying ‘adding a female model is *too expensive* to do’ to ‘adding a female model *makes the world a better place*’. Not ‘we’re catering to an expanded market segment’. Not “we’ve noticed that there are a lot of female gamers and that gamers in general ‘self-insert’ themselves into these characters and this is an easy way to increase the customers enjoyment of our product”.

        I’m cool with more CC options – I’ve never believed creating, rigging, and texturing the player’s avatar was that large a percentage of the budget – its the attitude they get when they start doing what they said they couldn’t possibly do, and all really because tons of their competition had already just gone ahead and started doing it.

        1. Redrock says:

          Well, that’s just straight-up not true. The first quote is part of the response to the question “What most excites you about interactive entertainment right now?”. The second one is to the question “Do you think interactive entertainment needs to move away from the primary verb being ‘kill?'”. What’s more, nowhere leading up to those question is the subject of female protagonists even mentioned or hinted at.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Ah you just don’t understand. Assassin’s Creed is no mere game; it is an interactive, holistic, extensively researched historical simulation. In playing it, one experiences a heartfelt artistic statement by our team that teaches you about life – not only to collect all the doodads, but to love the microtransaction as well.
      And this one even surpasses the last, which was perfect! It will transcend the concept of ‘game’ and be even better than sliced bread and the return of Jesus combined!
      Preorders now available!

      So…that kind of thing?
      Personally I don’t see it as all that different from the usual PR bullshit pulled by say, EA or Konami; just your usual corporate nonsense. But to each their own.

      1. Distec says:

        They all do it some extent. It’s sort of baseline.

        I just think Ubisoft embraces with a particular verve.

  4. Redrock says:

    I personally don’t care about graphics, and because graphics don’t impact my purchase decisions, I don’t really care about downgrades, either. It’s hard for me to understand why people are bothered by them. “Don’t preorder” should still be the default rule, downgrades or not. And if you don’t preorder, who cares if the game looks worse at launch than it looked in a trailer a couple of years prior? It’s not like you lost money because of that terrible, terrible deception.

    To be honest, it’s hard for me to see “downgrade outrage” as a positive thing, and the puddle controversy in particular. It just supports the popular sentiment that many gamers are spoiles and entitled and gives publishers an excuse to not listen to complaints, even when people start complaining about something that actually matters, like the bullshit that was Battlefront 2. I’d really wish the gaming community was a bit more choosy about its complaints. The current uproar about AC:Odyssey’s microtransactions comes to mind. All the people calling them predatory and terrible and whatever are actually undermining whatever feeble rapport has been building between the community and the industry. It’s basically the perfect example of a “the boy who cried wolf” situation.

    1. guy says:

      Because people care about graphics and preorder games sometimes, and to those people it’s false advertising.

      1. Redrock says:

        Well, like I said, nobody should pre-order. Or buy at launch. There’s no reason to, ever.

        1. guy says:

          There’s preorder bonuses, for a start. Then there’s wanting to have the game on launch day, particularly for multiplayer games where the population starts high and then tails off.

          1. Redrock says:

            But no game is at its best on launch. Not one. Even if there’re no bugs pr issues or server woes, every game gets improved after launch. It makes no sense to preorder.

            1. guy says:

              Unless you want the game on the date that it launches. Like, for instance, if it’s released around Christmas and you want it as a Christmas gift. Or you want to play multiplayer when the servers are filled with new players who also just bought the game on launch date.

              1. Redrock says:

                Chances are, on launch day servers will be overloaded. And you don’t have to preorder to get the game on launch day. Hell, you can read and watch reviews and still preorder a few days before launch, the way most embargoes work. But, again whether you preorder or not, buying a game on launch day is screwing yourself over. It means consciously getting an inferior experience. It’s okay if that’s what you want, but there’s no reason to complain in that case.

                1. guy says:

                  Everyone knows that games get patched and improved after release, but for a great many people their baseline expectation is that they can pre-order the game, install it on launch day, fire it up, and do a complete playthrough of the single-player campaign without installing any patches or encountering show-stopping bugs. Because we remember the days, not more than like a decade ago, where you could do that. It’s the companies who set launch dates; they could release three months later and have the day 1 patch changes in for the initial release if they’re absolutely required rather than shipping something that isn’t finished.

                  The fact that we know we can’t rely on E3 footage to tell us what the game will really be like and if it’s worth preordering doesn’t mean we aren’t mad it’s unreliable. Preordering being a bad idea is due to bad behavior by the companies, not an inherent law of the universe.

                  1. Redrock says:

                    It’s kinda a circular argument we’re having here. I get the sentiment behind your position, I really do. But for me, making a purchase decision about a product years before its release based on a single piece of advertising (and that’s what a trailer is, advertising) is extremely unwise and unnecessary. Any product. Assuming the thing you want to buy would stay the same after years of development is bonkers. It’s akin to jumping in front of a speeding car. You can complain that the driver should stop and them running you over is bad behavior, and you would be right, morally and legally. But you’d also be the idiot in this situation.

                    1. guy says:

                      People usually pre-order closer to release, like six months in advance, when it’s going into beta and there’s lengthy in-engine trailers.

                    2. Redrock says:

                      But whyyyy? Why not preorder 3 days before release? There’s no difference for the buyer, none. I don’t get it. Not one bit. If you’re so hell bent on preordering, playing on the first game, fine, okay. You can preorder one day before release. When there’re reviews and video footage from independent youtubers. Well, except when it’s Bethesda. So why, why, why would you preorder six months in advance?

                    3. guy says:

                      So I don’t have to remember to go pre-order stuff the day before release. I have other things to do with my time.

                      I mean, these days I’ve largely stopped preordering because of these problems, but I miss being able to buy something months in advance and have it show up on launch day.

                    4. Stuart Worthington says:

                      Just to add another element that hasn’t come up yet: some people preorder months in advance because they’re looking for a particular collector’s edition of the game, and those kinds of editions are usually only available for preorder for a limited time.

          2. Agammamon says:

            Maybe its a console thing.

            But would think that the consoles can get the game to you, downloaded and 1st day patch installed, in less than 24 hours (PC certainly can) and I don’t think the player population is going to precipitously drop in the first 48 hours of release – unless the game’s total shite.

            It would be important, I suppose, in games where the longer you’ve been playing MP the more PvP power you unlock and so have an advantage over newbies. But those sorts of games will just sell you that PvP power nowadays anyway and lock the F2P players behind grindwalls so massive you couldn’t get an advantage in 24 hours of solid play anyway.

            1. guy says:

              People have various personal logistical issues such that if they don’t pre-order they won’t be able to get the game right away, and definitely they won’t get pre-order bonuses if they don’t pre-order. And a lot of people do actually enjoy being part of the first wave of players and go around writing the wiki entries the later players will read, or just be able to start their playthroughs at the same time as their friends.

              Also, waiting several days and going to look at reviews and figure out which of them are accurate and how many people are running into the critical bugs is just kinda annoying and time-consuming and it would be nice if we didn’t have to do that.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          The reason to buy at launch is that you’d like to play the thing at launch. Especially for like… a sports game or the annual Call of Duty. You know pretty much exactly what you’re going to get, the game isn’t going to shock you. If that’s what you want, why NOT buy it on launch day? You seem to have forgotten that careful consumer behavior applies to things you aren’t really sure about yet, not basic stuff. I don’t shop around for milk at the grocery store, I just buy milk. I don’t need to review watch and avoid pre-orders if what I really want is the newest in a series that has 15 entries.

          1. Redrock says:

            Under no circumstances should a 60 dollar video game ever be considered “basic stuff” when it comes to consumer behavior. Unless the person in question is rich enough to just throw money around, at which point the whole discussion becomes moot.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              That entirely depends on your income level. If a $60 game is an expense you have to budget for, fair enough. If it’s something you can just by on a whim, that doesn’t make you rich. By no means is that fabulous riches.

              1. Marr says:

                Globally speaking it kind of is.

              2. Redrock says:

                It’s a big enough sum in most parts of the world to separate it from the “basic” stuff you describe, something you can grab from the shelf without thinking too hard.

                1. guy says:

                  For my family, $60 isn’t a big investment but it’s enough we don’t want to just throw away $60. So I’ll take a look around before buying something but it’s not worth spending an hour on. I’ll buy a game off its advertising if I’ve had good experiences with the company, and if I distrust their ads I’m likely to just give it a pass outright.

      2. Thomas says:

        I don’t have that much sympathy for someone who pre-ordered and is upset the game isn’t quite as expected.

        Just the uncertainty of game development means a game can change a ton in the last 3 months – look at how much can change in a Day 1 patch. If you don’t recognize the risk, don’t preorder. There’s no real reason to pre-order anyway.

        1. guy says:

          When people pre-order they’re doing so on the expectation that things in the ad campaign will be in the final game, that they were finished features that will not be cut during the last three months. That’s what gameplay footage trailers at the E3 prior to release are billed as being; if the final game doesn’t look like that on max settings then the E3 footage was presented under false pretenses. They don’t generally have the “VISUALS ARE NOT FINAL” disclaimer watermark that comes on stuff that’s expected to change.

          Sure, consumers shouldn’t trust untrustworthy advertisements, but that doesn’t mean advertisements should be untrustworthy.

          1. Redrock says:

            And Big Macs never look as good as the picture. Still waiting for the class-action lawsuit.

            1. The Nick says:

              There’s a difference between putting your best foot forward (“Most Big Macs are good, some are bad because every product is sometimes bad, but advertisements use the best! That’s advertising!”) and blatantly false advertising (“The game we’re selling you tomorrow has 1,000,000 Graphix in it!”) and then, when you buy it, either pre-order or even after it become available in a store, you realize it only has 30,000 graphix in it and also opening the package voids the warranty according to a sticker they put on the box.

              I’m willing to accept that advertising crafts a story or presents the best parts of a product.

              I’m willing to accept that somebody saying, “I think this burger is THE BEST BURGER IN EXISTENCE!” may only be presenting their own opinion and it might be exaggerated.

              Blatantly lying about your product is going too far (and also a crime).

              1. Thomas says:

                I mean, aren’t Big Macs straight false advertising? They pile all the fillings to one side so that it looks like there’s more and it’s bigger than it really is.

                They’re not making 50 and picking the best. They’re applying a process to create them that would never occur in real life. I guess maybe the difference here is that no-one actually cares if there sesame seeds are hand glued, and the actual amount of filling is the same even if it’s been photographed in a way where the picture makes it look like there’s much more than there really is.

                But then – larger reflective puddles aren’t really the core game experience either. There was a big fuss when Killzone 2 came out looking much worse than the trailer, and that felt legitimate because it was different enough that the core gameplay was different.

                It’s worth pointing out that judges have weighed in on this, and they didn’t think touching up trailers was much different from touching up a Big Mac. The Killzone: Shadowfall trailer lawsuit filing was dismissed with prejudice against the plaintiff.
                https://www.polygon.com/2015/5/5/8555459/killzone-shadow-fall-resolution-lawsuit-dismissed-sony
                I wish I could find more commentary about why it was dismissed.

                Likewise the Advertising Standards Authority didn’t uphold the complaints against the No Man’s Sky trailers.
                https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-11-30-advertising-standards-rules-no-mans-sky-steam-page-did-not-mislead-consumers
                In particular “In its ruling, the ASA said it believed No Man’s Sky’s interface and aiming system had undergone “cosmetic changes” since the footage for the videos was recorded, but it did not consider these elements would affect a consumer’s decision to buy the game “as they were superficial and incidental components in relation to the core gameplay mechanics and features”.”

                “”Although animals in the trailer were shown moving large trees [this is a reference to a large animal smashing through trees as seen in the 2014 gameplay trailer, above], which was not observed in the footage or during gameplay, we considered that this was a fleeting and incidental scene, unlikely in itself to influence materially a consumer’s decision to purchase the game, and that it was not misleading.””

                They actually investigated the issue quite thoroughly – including trying to replicate some the AI behaviour in-game themselves, although I’m not clear how familiar they were with games. But they seem to have decided that most of these details aren’t important enough in the context of a purchasing decision for a whole game. They also seemed to decide that if a really really good PC could run the game at that level of graphics, that’s within the bounds of reason.

                1. guy says:

                  Firstly those decisions indicate that the courts think it is possible for a game trailer to be sufficently deceptive to be illegal, or they would’ve granted Sony’s attempt to dismiss sooner. So those just show that it’s legal to have a certain degree of inaccuracy, not unlimited free reign.

                  Secondly people can still be mad about deceptive advertising that does not constitute fraud for legal purposes and do things like post angry comments and tell people not to buy the game because the advertisements were inaccurate.

                  1. Redrock says:

                    All advertising is deceptive by nature. Always. I mean, I get your point, I really do. But people have to think for themselves and show some responsible consumer behavior. There’s so much info available about games prior to release. New, more accurate trailers, reviews, video reviews, anything you want, really. It’s really not that hard to make an informed decision.

                    1. guy says:

                      New, more accurate trailers

                      New trailers are not necessarily more accurate.

                    2. guy says:

                      Actually I guess that’s the key misunderstanding here; while I’m disappointed when something looks worse than the first promo trailer I don’t expect those to be set in stone and I only spend money based on them for kickstarters. And with kickstarters while I’d like to always get what I spent money on, I know it’s a pitch to investors (me) and sometimes it just doesn’t work out and that can’t be helped.

                      What upsets me, though more abstractly because I’m personally not interested in graphics and this rarely happens to core game mechanics so I’m just annoyed on principle, is when it’s the final trailer that doesn’t match the game as run on the recommended system specs. They should have the game pretty well set by then. Sure, maybe it’s marginal and they’re close to getting it working but it ends up falling through, but if that keeps happening I start to wonder if they’re intentionally overpromising.

                      Also, I don’t really find pre-release reviews a great source of information; I don’t know what the embargo terms are or if the company has quietly made it known they expect a high starting metacritic score and reviewers had better make that happen or if they’ve left crippling DRM out of review copies. Those aren’t standard practice by any means but I have heard of them in relation to some of the bigger disappointments (AC Unity had something embargo-related, can’t remember the details) so they’re not guaranteed to be independent. Even discounting that, between time constraints and different tastes reviewers can’t tell me if I’ll like a game.

    2. modus0 says:

      How about a car analogy?

      Say a car manufacturer advertises their vehicle as being able to do 0-60 in .5 seconds, gets 120 MPG, and massages your sphincter while you drive. But when you buy that car, it does 0-60 in 5 seconds, gets 20 MPG, and the seat is like concrete, with the “massage” being bad shocks.

      Would you shrug and go “Oh well, I’d complain but I don’t want to sound entitled and I didn’t care about those features anyway”, or would you demand your money back, and tell your friends and social media that the manufacturer lied about the features of the car?

      1. Redrock says:

        That’s not the same. A better comparison would be if the manufacturer shows off a concept car and then a few years later when that concept goes into production it’s a bit different that the original presentation. To buy the production model without looking at reviews or taking a test drive, going just by the original concept presentation would be extremely unwise.

        1. Richard says:

          No, that’s nothing of the sort!
          Concept cars do not go into production. That’s why they’re called “concept” cars.

          The gaming equivalent of a concept car is a tech demo. It’s never described as being a product that you can buy.

          Valve, nVidia and others have produced some really quite astounding tech demos over the years.
          They’re really cool and show off some pretty awesome techniques.

          But they have never, ever described these as trailers for a specific game that you can buy in a few months.
          – “A New Dawn” in 2012 wasn’t described as an upcoming game.

          What’s happening in these faked “gameplay” videos is a car manufacturer presenting a car that does 0-60 in 0.5sec etc etc, and claiming that this is a vehicle you’ll be able to drive away in a few months, so why not go to the dealer and pre-order it now?

          If any car manufacturer did that, they’d be crucified if the car that turned up on the dealer forecourt was the wrong shade of puce, let alone if the 0-60 figure was 10 seconds and the dashboard weren’t made of the solid unobtanium in the car they’d shown in the advert.

          A concept car is a tech demo. They’re not products, they’re “Hey, look at this cool thing! Remember our brand please?”

          1. guy says:

            Also, companies demoing something that’s unfinished can just put in a watermark saying “Not final gameplay footage” like how phone ads say “Screen images simulated.” And Paradox has taken to reminding people visuals and numbers are subject to change in all their streams of in-development stuff.

          2. Redrock says:

            Ah, but concepts do go into production. Chevy Volt, Skoda Kodiaq, New Beetle, you name it. Although you’re right, it’s still not a 100 percent accurate comparison either. The thing is, a car’s speed is a, shall we say, mechanical feature. Like the number of towns or playable protagonists or skills or the presence of web-swinging mechanics. Graphics are a cosmetic thing. And cosmetic changes are almost always fine when it comes to changes from very early advertising. Hell, a lot of ads come with the disclaimer that “product might look different in real life” or some such bullshit. And, most of all, you wouldn’t buy a car without looking and figuring it out.

  5. ccesarano says:

    Personally, I’m dreading the next stage of consoles and their emphasis on 4K. Aside from all the reasons we know about sudden jumps in graphical fidelity (you’d think we would have learned from last generation…), I just want us to reach a point where we can have games that regularly run at 60fps. Everyone’s emphasis is always on resolution and all that, and I just want the game to run smoothly.

    At least I can count on Nintendo for good aesthetics that allow for good performance.

    On another note, nothing will be as bad to me as Aliens: Colonial Marines. Story is that Randy Pitchford told all the studios he was outsourcing the game to not to worry about the specs, just make it look good and play well. I imagine there are a lot of other factors that led to its massive downgrade, but one of the reasons was the inability to get what they made working on the consoles of the time. Pitchford was more concerned with making the game demo well and convincing SEGA that their money was being used well, all the while he was really invested in Borderlands 2.

    And to this day he thinks he did nothing wrong, nothing deceitful, and thinks the game is fine and dandy and not a bad game at all.

    Which is pretty much why I’ll never invest in a Gearbox product ever again.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      It’s so weird, because during that Nintendo doldrums period of the late Wii/entire WiiU cycle, when the Big N wasn’t making anything that caught fire among gamers, all the big hits that didn’t engage in the photorealistic graphics arms race were birthed on the PC: WoW, Minecraft, the early Telltale stuff, the whole early 2010s artsy-indie boom, etc. It’s as if while all the #PCMasterRace guys were migrating to consoles, the PC users left were like “I can still develop/play fun games on my school computer even though the graphics card is 4 years old!”

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’m still using my old laptop. I think I’m almost at 5 years now. As long as it doesn’t break for a little longer, maybe the price of graphics cards will come down again…

  6. Hal says:

    My only complaint here is how many click-throughs I had to make to actually see the puddle pictures in question.

  7. I find the puddle controversy amusing, as I saw one video on youtube (by Digital Foundry) that covered the visual comparison.

    Yet nobody seemed to point out that at one point Spiderman is siotting/hanging on te side of a skrysraper, and the building next to it has large geometric downgrades (not talking shaders here but actual objects have been simplified/removed).
    I highly doubt that “the sun moved” is a plausible explanation for that.

    It clearly was a different building asset they’ve used.

    I kinda wish game companies would release scalability trailers.
    I.e. Imagine a Red Dead Redemption 2 showing side by side at times and toggling at other times footage from Xbox, PS4 and PC (similar to how Digital Foundry does it sometimes).
    And also toggle and show Low, Medium, High. On minimum and recommended hardware.

    This would give gamers a frame of reference (literally, barring video compression artifacts but that can be fixed by releasing lossless PNG still captures of key points).

    That way if somebody playing at “Low” complains that the shadows suck can simply be told that the scalability trailer showed that it looked exactly the same.

  8. Christopher says:

    The puddle controversy is a real nonissue(the hot controversy right afterwards was that the NYC cops aren’t portrayed as complete dirtbags, but that also died out within the week, like these things always do). But I definitely have a problem with these downgrades. Sometimes it’s not that hard of a shift, you know. Some of those downgrades I can live with fine. But you take a look at the videos comparing the trailers of No Man’s Sky or Dark Souls 2 to the released game and tell me that’s not just sad. Neither game’s issues are limited to their looks but it sure didn’t help. It’s not even an issue of it being prerendered, stuff shown off as “gameplay” just looks worlds away from what’s in the final game. It’s just misleading marketing, whether they’re actively trying to lie or not(if we’re pretending to be mindreaders here, I bet they’re not trying to lie, I just think they’re forced to make something to show years before they see if the full game can manage that kinda level of graphics and still perform well).

    1. guy says:

      The downgrades I see in the linked video have the look of them cutting one of the stages of the lighting process. I expect that’s because they’d been planning on including it if they could get it to work at 30/60 FPS on the recommended hardware; the problem isn’t that they do that sort of thing but that by this point they’ve repeatedly taken stuff to E3 that they’ve had to cut and by now they should know what might end up on the chopping block and thus shouldn’t go in in-game footage trailers.

      1. Fizban says:

        The guy playing DS2 for the comparison also seems to have their brightness up near max, quite common even though the games usually tell you to set it much lower- DS2 is definitely more washed out, but jacking up the brightness also doesn’t help. As I skimmed a bit, I noticed one of the lines about “more detail,” and you can definitely see more detail in the textures and fiddly bits in the final version- the trailer version that looks more like DS1 is so dark you. . . can’t see much detail.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the original intent was more shadowy and they cut the lighting pass like you say, but I also don’t think zomg shadows is a great direction in the first place, and it’s even possible they might have realized this? DS2 is far less about oppressive loneliness and more about exploring the grand ruins of man, which is hard to do when you can’t see them.

        1. guy says:

          It’s not just the brightness; everything looks a bit flatter. Artistic reasons might’ve influenced their priorities, but I think performance controlled the decision to cut it rather than making the shadows less intense.

    2. Nick Powell says:

      The DS2 one clearly got downgraded but it still seems like a lot of the difference comes from the really excessive tonemapping they’re using on the E3 demo

  9. Bubble181 says:

    Question: you’ve been sort of vocally critical of Ubisoft collect-a-thon open world games lately.
    Yet you praise the Arkham games and Spider-man.
    Now, I have never played an AC game, and I liked the Arkham games…but to me they sure were open world collect-a-thons with repetitive gameplay and lots of QuickTime events.
    What’s the difference? And I don’t mean this in a passive-aggressive voice, I really do mean: what do you think it’s the difference that makes you like one better than the other?

    1. Christopher says:

      I’m not gonna speak for Shamus, but as someone who has played all three there’s a pretty big difference of degrees of open world busywork between all of them. The Arkham games might have gone Riddler Trophy mad after the first game and there’s a lot of busywork in Spidey, but it’s just nothing compared to what Ubisoft puts out in its open world game after open world game, year after year.

    2. guy says:

      Can’t speak for Shamus, but to me the Spider-man mechanics made the collection process less tedious. However, I also had a moment where I sighed and said “Really. Ubisoft-style district towers. Again.” I like Spider-man for the parts that aren’t the AC collection mechanics.

    3. Hal says:

      I haven’t played through too much of Spider-Man yet, but the collection stuff doesn’t seem like a chore because running around as Spider-Man is really enjoyable. The high mobility really makes it aesthetically pleasing to swing around town, and covering large distances doesn’t actually take too much time because of it, either.

  10. Decius says:

    Watching that video without sound, it was often hard for me to tell which half of the screen was supposed to have been downgraded.

    Where I did see a difference, lots of times it was clearly a gameplay-affecting change based on the need for systems below the maximum to be able to run the executable. If the minimum-spec machine can’t handle the elephants, you have to cut the elephants; everyone needs to see the exact same animation on the hostage, or at the very least have the exact same hitbox and have the animation exactly match the hitbox. Everyone needs to be able to load the entire area, and sometimes that means the area has to be smaller.

    1. guy says:

      Yeah, that happens all over, but avoiding the “Graphical Downgrade” issue is why a lot of developers are cagey about releasing footage until close to launch so they don’t advertise things they’ll end up having to cut.

  11. Picador says:

    The Youtube still above shows the “high-quality” image on the left. The cop has only one leg and is somehow standing off-centre on it. Seriously: look closely. I’m not sure that counts as high-quality graphics.

  12. Darren says:

    I also do not care for Ubisoft’s games, by and large, so I guess I’m not keyed into their hype cycles; that video was new to me, and wow, it’s egregious.

  13. Darker says:

    I suppose you meant to write “Experienced Points” in the title.

  14. You wanna be careful when linking to an article on Forbes like that–Forbes online is a platform for individuals writing their own columns. Forbes is not a monolith with a single editorial policy.

    It’d be much more accurate in your article to say “David Thier” says X instead of “Forbes says x”

    1. etheric42 says:

      After reading the Escapist article I came back here to say the same thing, so I’ll just thumbs up you here.

      When it is a Forbes contributor, it is less a “Forbes says” than even an editorial Newsweek is a “Newsweek says”.

  15. Blake says:

    One of the weird things about puddlegate, was that people were complaining that a new trailer looked worse than the original one.
    It wasn’t that the game released without an up-to-date accurate trailer, it was that the new trailer showing the final look wasn’t what people were looking at a year prior.
    That doesn’t seem like deceit to me, it seems like an early estimate followed by an accurate one for people to actually base their decisions on. I don’t really know what else they could have done other than slap a VISUALS NOT FINAL over the early trailer which really seems like it should be assumed with something so far from the end of development.

    1. guy says:

      Having entirely missed this I had assumed they were comparing gameplay footage to trailers like with previous controversies such as Watch_Dogs. Trailer-to-trailer changes are of no concern.

  16. Smejki says:

    Shamus, I think you missed got one thing wrong and missed one critical point.
    The thing you got wrong: It isn’t really as simple as you put it – that you first make a near-full game with everything crucial in place and the you keep optimizing the code until you reach stable 30 FPS, et voilá, ship it. That could theoretically work with some shooter or racing game where levels are fully defined rather quickly. But remember that just like coders graphics artist are really good at creating well-functioning (that is “pretty” in their case) unoptimized mess (that is “too complex” in their case) first. And they are also the ones typically pushing for best visual because none of them want to make a game that is unnecessarily uglier than what they can create. So no, you don’t typically get to see “game looking a little rough around the edges a year before launch” which over time get “better visuals and a higher framerate” because almost nobody is going to show you early pre-alphas (ok, Andromeda did) where levels are full of graphical placeholders (grey boxes actually). That really isn’t how the stuff usually works. What is there to gain from a graphics artist who creates a low-res low-poly asset which he has to then redo into something better if more computation resources are available? And then once again? And then again? Artist usually make hi-poly hi-res stuff and then create less complex derivations as the tech allows. That is much faster and also more compatible with wider graphical setting available to the user.

    The point you missed is that open-world games – the most frequent offenders, imho – are a different beast to wrestle in this regard. Open-world games are inevitably presented using a small chunk of the final game so it’s really easy to run wild with it at E3 2 years before release. But as the team fills the world with more stuff (more features, more mission/quest control, more intelligent entities, more background simulation, more animations, more varied vegetation, more graphical assets per sq yard as artists try to make the thing as pretty as possible, more sounds, more cutscenes, more concurrencies in all parts of the game) the system gets clogged and framerate goes down while memory demands skyrocket.

    This is exactly what happened to us on Kingdom Come: Deliverance. When we released the alpha it was just a small piece of dense forest and one village with 20 NPCs, wearing 30 pieces of clothes, using about 30% of final animations, in an environment with a 40% of final vegetation assets. Many crucial game systems were missing (crime system for example). It ran at about 60 FPS eating up 5GB RAM without requiring any LODing on NPC behavior or animations.

    When we released the second alpha, it was expanded by another bigger village and an army camp. Forested areas grew by 500%. Number of NPCs quadrupled, number of used animations went up by 50%, there we 3 times as many clothes and weapons, and the vegetation asset DB was almost 100% final. No LODing outside graphics, everything persistent. The framerate dropped to 30 and you needed some 9 GB of RAM.

    Beta added a castle, with another village, and a huge forest. And about 40vs40 battle in graphically complex environment took place at one point. Although this build already featured several optimizations, the framerate barely kept above 20 and it could easily drop to single digits in the battle. RAM and VRAM requirements went another bit up to some crazy levels of course. And that was still only about 20% of the final level with all the most complex, unique and thus most demanding places not included (like a monastery, 2 cities with 100+ NPCs or another 2 battles). So thenm you have to make it 5 times bigger… and then you have to make it run on consoles with resources so limited they could barely run the initial alpha.

    The whole process eventually turns into a multisided tug-of-war of optimization mainly between code, script and art departments. While you keep optimizing the code, you also rewrite a lot of scripts to meet the new technical requirements for saving memory while still supporting persistent world. Graphic artists are optimizing the scenes (simplifying lighting, lowering unique asset density, turning off some fancy effects) as well as the assets (simplifying animation rigs, lowering texture resolution, lowering geometry complexity etc.). All of that means the game changes immensely and some of the results easily fit under downgrade category. I don’t think it’s a sin. I think it’s inevitable. What I hate although, and Ubisoft is really bad at that, is using videos and screenshots from the fancy old builds or even intentionally limited custom builds for marketing purposes up until release or even featuring them on the fucking store page after release.

  17. GoStu says:

    I’m still salty at Ubisoft from when I tried to purchase South Park: The Shattered But Whole. I’d enjoyed and the sequel went on sale on Steam, so I decided to pick it up. Someone was chasing a downmarket sale like me!

    Then after downloading from Steam, it had the gall to try and force me to install uPlay. Hard no. Refunded the game immediately. Made sure to leave comment as to exactly WHY I wanted refund, so that (in the ideal dream world) someone gets the message that uPlay cost them a sale.

    1. Redrock says:

      I must ask, why? What’s so bad about uPlay that you would rather not play the game you were interested in than install it? I know a lot of people say that but I never understood why.

      1. guy says:

        It’s historically been resource-hungry, buggy, and a pain to use, and if you have a game on Steam you’re going to be running it and Steam at the same time and Steam eats enough resources by itself already.

      2. GoStu says:

        It’s totally unnecessary bloatware that offers me nothing as a player.

        Like Guy down below said, it’s been resource-hungry in the past (and really, no matter how efficient they can get it to be it’s still bloatware as it has to consume some resources and offers nothing in return). Also, it’s another “service” I have to create a login for, either creating yet another damned username/password to remember OR recycling an old one into; meaning I have the choice between a nuisance or a minor security risk.

        What do I get out of it in return? Nothing. They can fuck off. I’m not having every publisher think they’re entitled to install their own company-branded malware on my PC above and beyond the actual product I want.

        EDIT: Take it from our gracious host himself. This is a bit of an older piece, but in my mind it’s still every bit as valid now as it was in the past. https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=20267

        1. guy says:

          The Steam resource tax is bad enough, but I accept paying it for Steam messaging, Steam Cloud, Friends List, screenshots, etc. I’m not inclined to pay it twice to have worse versions of those things.

        2. Redrock says:

          I get all that, but for me that’s not enough of a problem to refuse to play a game I’m interested in. Fiddling and PC gaming kinda go hand in hand. But my attitude may have to do with the fact that I rarely had a serious problem with uPlay or noticed a serious resource waste. And the uPlay bonuses are kinda nice. Like I said, I agree that extra publisher-specific bloatware is annoying. It’s just never annoying enough to make me refuse to play a game.

      3. Richard says:

        My experience of UPlay was similar to Shamus’, except slightly worse.

        I bought a new GPU that happened to come with three bundled games.

        The retailer emailed me some codes and links to the store pages.
        Two of the bundled games were sold via Steam or GoG (I don’t remember which). I logged into my Steam/GoG account, typed in the codes and started the downloads.

        I was playing those games less than an hour later.

        The last one was via uplay,

        It was more than two weeks later before I was finally able to start playing the uplay game, due to a whole series of ridiculous difficulties redeeming the code, downloading and starting uplay, and downloading/installing the actual game.

        Plus uplay updated itself every single time I wanted to play, usually nuking my login details in the process…

        1. AndrewCC says:

          It’s the RX 570/580 game bundle right?
          I got the same thing with a 580. It had Strange Brigade, Star Control Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
          Funny how you fail to mention that the first 2 games were either buggy as hell (Strange Brigade) or unoptimized trash (how the hell can Star Control run worse than Assassin’s Creed, when it looks worse than something like Homeworld 2 which is 10+ years old).
          And the reason you probably could not play AC straight away is because you had to wait for the game to actually release. Making it seem like it took two weeks of trying to run it is bull. Uplay is in no way worse than Steam, if it had come out first and been the “default” platform I wouldn’t hear a peep out of any of you.
          But I guess that Ubisoft are the real monsters for not wanting to pay Valve 30% cut for the privilege of being on the same platform as the school shooting game or a million janky buy-achievements-for-2$ or asset flip games.

          1. guy says:

            Well, see, I don’t actually care how the various companies involved in delivering me a game split my money. They don’t want to give Valve 30% of it? Okay, that’s their decision. My decision is that I have one of these platforms running regularly and that’s Steam and I have Origin installed to play ME and DA and otherwise stay switched off, and I once had Uplay briefly installed but I hated it and I’m not going to install it again. So if they don’t want to try for 70% of my money they can content themselves with 0% of my money.

            I mean I had been thinking about getting AC on a console but then I learned it had Shadow of War style microtransactions to accelerate XP gain so screw that.

            1. AndrewCC says:

              I won’t comment on your choice of gaming platform. I don’t like any of the DRM-type platforms and I stay away from all of them if I can. GOG is the best as far as I’m concerned.
              As to the microtransactions in AC, I feel that everyone who complains about them is, frankly, full of shit. Devs who make an open-world game that has enemy level fixed can balance the main quest in two ways:
              Either they assume that players will do 0 side-missions and set main story enemies as low as they can (only game critics who rush through the game to get out a review do this,in my experience); or they assume that players will do a reasonable amount of side missions while exploring and set main story enemies at a middling level.
              Average players will have no fun in main story in 1st case, but will find 2nd case to be tailored for them. They won’t ever feel the need to buy XP boosts. Main story rushers would like the 1st option, but will hit a xp wall in the 2nd case. The XP boosts are there for them, for a price.
              I’m of the minority that doesn’t like to leave zones unfinished, so I often outlevel the main quest anyway, even without XP boosts.
              I don’t feel like any of the microtransactions affect me in any way. And same is true of average player. They won’t ever need them (except if they wanna buy some cosmetic DLC or something). The weapons/armor you can buy are mostly just cosmetic, and working to keep them upgraded to your level (they start at lvl1) is more work than it’s worth for their, frankly average, power.

              TL;DR – There’s no pay-to-win DLC in Assassin’s Creed, and the XP boosts are just for the people who wanna do the main quest and nothing else so they can say they finished the game.

              1. guy says:

                Yeah, well, that’s how Shadow of War worked and I hated that. Sometimes I just want to advance the main quest because I’m interested in the main quest. I’ll rarely do no side content whatsoever but at any given point I might want to blaze straight through the main quest for quite a while. Maybe I’m aiming for something key that’s gated by the main quest, maybe I’m just enjoying the story and don’t want to break the flow. So that puts me in the camp of people who might need that boost to stay on the level curve, and I’m not going to buy that boost, so that boost being for sale tells me I’m likely to have an unsatisfying experience. So forget about that; I’ll play Spider Man some more instead.

  18. AndrewCC says:

    Shamus hating on Ubisoft has crossed into the kind of irrational hate you see from League of Legends vs DOTA2, or Marvel vs DC movie discusions. Sure they got their issues but Ubisoft is one of the most underrated developers in the biz today.

    What they acomplished with Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey is borderline miraculous in terms of open world crafting and they get criminally little love for it.

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I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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