Friday, August 12, 2016

Dante's Two For One - State of OverWatch & No Man's Sky

Today friends I'm going to talk about two overly hyped video games, and what it is I think about each one. These two games include "OverWatch", and the recently released "No Man's Sky". Before I get into either discussion though I think it's important to talk about hype, and what it can do to a game's reputation. Hype, in general can be a good thing if, and only if a game lives up to said standards. Hype, as it were is a state of excitement over what could be. If what could be isn't factual, or reasonable then the hype will most definitely fail upon delivery. In the gaming industry studios, PR, and publishers sometimes use hype as a tool to secure day one sales or pre-order sales without merit or warrant. While using hype to promote a game can be a good business practice if utilized properly it can also come back to bite the content creator in the arse if they know what they are selling will fall short of the hype that has been built up before launch. Hype, more often than not is a dangerous thing for any content creator to rely on regardless of circumstances, and more often than not does not bode well for said hype feeders who do not truthfully disclose what their game or product is really about. Thus is the case with games like "No Man's Sky". In the end it's all about the use, or abuse of hype in the PR sector of the gaming industry. Much like it is with any entertainment industry branch.

In the case of "OverWatch" the hype for it came from a few different sources, but mainly from the supporting community. The gaming community in particular backed the game before it was even released, because in their minds Blizzard (the developer) could do no wrong. Blizzard's name has become synonymous with some of the most addictive video game franchises out there, and has yet to really fail on their delivery of new intellectual properties. Among their many success stories are Diablo, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft. Games which most any gamer will have heard of or will have played in their lifetime. When it comes to OverWatch though there are key elements within the game that keep the game from meeting that hype train, boarding it, and taking it for a long ride.

In OverWatch I personally feel the only thing keeping it afloat is the flashy character presentation, and the overall graphical design. It fails almost completely on the competitive side of things though, and in doing so  negates it's whole purpose of even being a playable experience. Ever since the launch of OverWatch Blizzard has been trying desperately to appease the fans' demands. They're constantly nerfing, and buffing characters, but in doing so are never achieving a fair balance. I understand as an OverWatch player that it's all about team synergy, and that without a proper team pairing your team is more likely to fail, but to have characters with vastly unbalanced health it makes the in-game goals more difficult to achieve. I also know that class difference is a huge part of the game's implied team synergy, but why health is even factored in to the point that it cripples some while empowering others is beyond comprehension. I feel as a veteran gamer that relying solely on classes could keep the team synergy intact without weakening certain characters to the point they die too frequently, or buffing them to the point that they can rack up numerous kills before they are taken down by an opposing player/s.

Another thing plaguing OverWatch's hype success is Blizzard's failed attempt at community moderation. Instead of monitoring players stats, and online actions on their own they rely completely on the players to report any cheaters who are abusing the game online. The problem therein is that a majority of players are "take it up the arse pacifists". They do not see the point in going out of their way to report cheaters. Thus nothing gets fixed. In fact the method in which cheaters can be reported is a whole other issue in itself due to the lack of an easily accessible in-game reporting options/system. Instead of having the reporting options readily available in-game the player has to get online on their PC/MAC in order to send Blizzard an email. An email with a generic reply basically saying you'll never know if Blizzard even took action.

This brings me to an even more worrisome point in the OverWatch hype discussion. When a hyped online only experience such as OverWatch becomes so saturated with cheating, and online player abuse that it runs dedicated players off it ultimatley ruins any hype that the game may have gained, or sustained. No one in their right mind wants to play competitive OverWatch in a non-tournament environment where cheaters are always winning. I think the deepest part of said problem lies once again with the fact that reporting offenders is a tedious task on the players' side of things. A tedious task that most cheated players aren't willing to go out of their way to deal with. Thus the online portion of OverWatch continues to suffer hype depletion on the competitive level. The only logical way around all of this would be for Blizzard to make team synergy less about health, and more about character class abilities. That, and add an in-game/on-console reporting option for gamers to use in cases where cheating is suspected. Why they haven't done either yet is beyond me.

Now for some "No Man's Sky" ...

As a gamer who went into "No Man's Sky" without having ever viewed or read leaks about content or spoilers I have found the game to be nothing short of amazing. Though it is simple in some ways, and repetitive in others the journey of discovery within is like none other I've ever experienced. The isolated atmosphere, the tools with which you traverse the galaxy, and the discoveries you make along the way more than make up for any misunderstanding I may have had. I understand that some of the early trailers were misleading, and that the game isn't exactly what everyone expected, but it was not far from meeting the hype that was thrust upon it by gamers. I do think that Hello Games should have been more clear as to what the game was, and that they should not have kept the game so enigmatic though. As I said earlier hype can be a dangerous tool when used to mislead gamers to think one way or another for potential sales, or success. In saying that I think Hello Games did overstep those bounds quite a bit with their early teasing.

Despite the hype exceeding what the game actually was I find that I am thoroughly addicted to "No Man's Sky". I play it three hours at a time, and do so at least two times a day. I've found in my in-game journeys some breathtakingly surreal moments, some beautiful scenery, and some very life-like creatures that make the isolation of planetary exploration all the more enjoyable. The fact that I can spend as much time as I wish on any given planet only serves to build upon that earned excitement. If you like science fiction, and like exploration on a grand scale I think you'll also gain something from looking beyond the hype to see what "No Man's Sky" is really about.

In closing I will state again the obvious (what should be obvious). Hype, in the wrong context is a dangerous thing from a business perspective. Unless you as a company can produce a product that can live up to the hype don't feed the beast that it is. Gamers will catch on, and will call you out for your use of hype, especially when said hype fails to deliver.

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