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Old 11-24-2014, 07:00 AM   #1
Li-Ion
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The Rise of the Ubigame

From the best of 2014 thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pedro
I like that there's a genre descriptor for these games now, where you have to do a long shopping list of utterly meaningless tasks, with more and more busywork appearing on the map as you progress through the game. What's that, a timed race mission? A fight-off-several-waves-of-enemies mission? Collect several collections worth of collectibles? Nice. I'd rather do my shopping.
The problem is that Ubisoft has been so successful with this formula, that other companies start copying the approach wholesale. You've mentioned Shadows over Mordor. The first time I saw the trailer I thought it's just an Assassins Creed reskin, but turns out instead of being a mod it's its own game with all the bells and whistles. I'm currently suffering through Dragon Age: Bluescreen, I mean Inquisition. Haven't had so many technical issues with a AA+ release since Metro 2033. The first two hours were just crashes without end, until I switched to window fullscreen which stopped most of the crashing. But it still crashes to desktop without warning occasionally. Or is stuck at the loading screen. Or the dialog wheel refuses to work until I alt-tab out and back into the game.

But apart from the technical issues, it's the same Ubigame as most other Ubigames now are. Meaningless busywork and "Quests" that are repetitive and boring, with little player agency. In previous Bioware games there was at least always the illusion players would have a meaningful impact on the game world with their decisions (even if it's just the choice between 3 colours at the star child). Here it's just a script that you are running, not an agent, but an actor. The different races and sexes to choose from are just windowdressing, the story plays out the same regardless if you happen to be a dwarf warrior, draenari mage, elven archer or a boring old human. We are told that there is an issue with racism of humans against elves etc. but it's not coming across in the game world.

It's the same design that I noticed in Assassins Creeds. I have played a couple AC's but I couldn't really tell you which and since I already sold the copies I can't even check. Assassins Creed tells us about the fight of Assassins versus Templars, the fight of individual freedom versus stability and conformity. Hence we as Assassin and actor of change have to conform to the precisely set out rules of the game, otherwise we get desynchronized from the game world and have to try again, until the desired outcome is achieved (desired by the 200+ game designers who were planning these boring quests in surely tedious committees). I always found it funny how what AC says it's about is so disjointed from its game mechanics.

And now this infects other developers and games, that are trying to appeal to a wider audience. The same dull fetchquests of collecting x amount of y for generic npc z in village #345. Skyrim is for me also an Ubigame. And Skyrim has it's dirty claws deep in the latest Dragon Age. The basic premise is the same as in Oblivion with the closing of the rift in Inquisition. They even call the evil antagonist the Elder One. I do wonder if I have to get the Scrolls of the Elder One at some point to save the world. If the scrolls are somewhere near a shiny apple-shaped object we reach full circle.

I haven't played the recent Far Cry's since they looked to me like the FPS version of AC. I've had a look at Watch Dogs but it seems just the modern day Assassins Creed that some people apparently asked for.

Sorry if this is a bit ranty today, but I'm not impressed with Biowares latest and greatest and don't understand why it gets such glowing reviews all across the board. Looks like the Ubigame has won.
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Old 11-26-2014, 07:05 AM   #2
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Re: The Rise of the Ubigame

Wow. I haven't read any of the Dragon Age reviews so I had no idea this is the direction Bioware have gone in. That's just incredibly awful.

I guess this all ties in with the thinking on games this last few years around f2p, gamification and stuff like that - build enough compulsion loops into your game and you are golden and have a huge hit.



But it has gone far beyond the basic, Kill monsters -> Win Gold -> Buy Stuff. Now, instead of one set of collectibles, for example, you have several sets. Far Cry 3 had 3 sets of the usual collectibles - relics, memory cards and letters of the lost. You have different minor mission groups, eg timed missions, assassination missions, collect x of y missions etc, that are just gamey diversions. I'm sure these were always in games to some extent but they seem particularly meaningless now - busywork basically.

The big question is, why are gamers embracing this? We're all aware of the OCD gaming archetype and know people like this - who have to collect every item etc. But I assumed that this was a small percentage of gamers. Why has everyone collectively embraced all this rubbish gameplay (which is in effect, just a hook to keep you playing the game)? It doesn't seem to fit in with the 'gamers are getting older' narrative either - if people have 1 hour to play a game every couple of days, why would they want to spend it doing timed missions or unlocking radio towers or whatever it is?

But obviously the financial success of these games has convinced everyone, even Bioware now. I'm no fan of Dragon Age, but I've enjoyed many of their previous games (even though I was aware they conformed to the famous Bioware template) like Mass Effect and KOTOR. I guess there will be an oversaturation at some point and the whole thing will move on again.

I was amused to see in the latest AC game reviewed on this site, the reviewer said that the map was not visible underneath all the side mission & activity icons.

That's a very interesting point about the AC games being about nonconformity but really being the opposite

So what do we have right now that fits this template:

Elder Scrolls games
Far Cry games (post Far Cry 2)
AC games
Watch Dogs
Shadows of Mordor
Batman games? (I don't know, I haven't played them)
Shadow of Mordor
Dragon Age Inquisition

All the big hitters, basically.
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Old 12-02-2014, 01:22 PM   #3
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Re: The Rise of the Ubigame

Yes, that's why I put out there that the Ubigame has "won". Now the Crew comes along, which is the Ubigame, just with cars. With pointless missions, unlocks and radio towers to uncover the map. The towers are something that not every game I consider a ubigame necessarily has, but they are essentially just waypoints to funnel players through the open world. The main "storyline" in Elder Scrolls games serves the same purpose, but if you have any sense you quickly learn to ignore all that nonsense and start exploring the world on your own. Until you think you've seen enough, which in my case happened after almost exactly 20 hours.

Some years ago I was really on board with the whole "open world" idea. I think that's what kept me playing World of Warcraft for a while, which also fits the description. Last time I logged in was because I got a free week with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion (I stopped after that free week again) and it already had the same mechanics: a bewildering array of different currencies that allow buying new stuff to get the currency quicker. And of course with each new major update or expansion the cutting edge of raiding gear becomes obsolete. Otherwise hamsters, I mean players would perhaps stop running in their wheels. However WoW had a couple of things going for it, a sense of discovery and even anarchy in the first year or so (before open world PvP was deemed inappropriate and everyone was funneled into battlezones). Players always looked for ways to break the system. For example the corrupted blood chaos.

These days open world is becoming more of a warning sign for me. It stands for big areas filled with pointless busywork, bewildering array of currencies that all serve the same thing: make the pointless busywork slightly easier. Most fun I had this year were not with open world games, it were little gems like the Banner Saga (despite all it's flaws), Shadowrun Returns Dragonfall and Dark Souls 2 is (thanks to the DLC) clawing it's way back into my dark, usually unforgiving heart. Or racing sims like Assetto Corsa and GT6 (sim-lite), that sacrifice any kind of open worldlyness for physics simulations, consistent high framerates (60fps ftw), hence: gameplay.

Ubigames seem to reach a big market though, much larger than many of the games I like to play for example. As long as they sell they will keep repeating the formula with only slight deviations.
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Old 12-03-2014, 05:39 AM   #4
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Re: The Rise of the Ubigame

That corrupted blood chaos video is pretty funny. So was WoW like DayZ in the early days, with people murdering each other all over the place?

I agree about the open world thing. It used to be a big selling point for me but now that everything has taken the worst aspects of RPGs and MMOs, I'm looking for a more focused experience too. I would probably jump on board with a new Fallout game, but not much else.

That said, I've been big into walking simulators recently. Maybe because there is nothing to do in them? Blessed relief.

I guess the fact we are talking about this shows that the genre is on the verge of jumping the shark. Good news!
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Old 12-03-2014, 06:16 AM   #5
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Re: The Rise of the Ubigame

Early days of WoW were hilarious. PvP servers were madness anyway, since you could be chased down and ganked by some lvl 60 character of the other faction virtually anywhere in the game. And players would try to especially do this in areas deemed "safe", like capital cities. But even on 'safe' PvE servers people would try to find elaborate ways to kill others. The best PvP I've ever seen in any sort of MMO was around Tarrens' Mill in the old world of warcraft, where waves of players of all kinds of levels would just go back and forth for hours.

After a while Blizzard managed to fix all the unintentional measures to kill other players and introduced battlegrounds and arenas for 'civilized' player versus player combat. Sadly, combat gets boring once there are strict rules enforced. And once gear became the dominant factor. This is how PvP in the old days looked like:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rbihmDFue8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmegGF5v0Is

But after that raid gear skewed the balance. I remember one occasion where a lvl 60 rogue caught my lvl 60 mage out of position. Sadly for him, he had standard gear while my character was donned in the finest epic gear that raiding could get you at that point (that was still before the first expansion). In the old days I'd have been in serious trouble. In this case he hardly managed to hit me even though I was stunned. Once the stun wore off I was just standing there for a while, doing nothing. He was spinning around, trying to do any sort of damage to me but failed miserably. Then I went ahead and brutally murdered him in just a few seconds due to the enormous burst damage mages back then were capable of. That was the moment where I started to lose interest in WoW, seeing how there was no level playing field and if you win is only determined by the time you spend raiding dungeons to get better gear to be better at raiding. It also made me feel like my recent victories in PvP meant nothing anymore, what is victory worth if your opponent doesn't pose a threat just because of what gear they wear?

Talking of walking simulators, I played the Assassins Creeds pretty much as walking simulators, and I might pick up Unity at some point next year IF it got fixed and IF I have a PS4. Just for some virtual tourism. But as a game I'm not interested in it at all.
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