Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nonstop action Action ACTION !

And yet again i find an example of the downward slide of any online computer game after its release towards oversimplified brainless hack'n'slash. That these attempts to give the mindless masses what they want instead of scaring them away by requiring some mental ability are more likely to kill a game than propel it to rampant success never seems to phase developers. Lemmings off a cliff, i swear...

Team Fortress 2 has a new map. There's nothing wrong with the basic setup. The devil's in the details. The map's layout is convoluted: a series of very short tunnels surrounding a central arena with limited visibility due to various objects. The net effect is to reward players for constantly running around and attacking the first thing they see. There is no defense, no planned attacks. Nobody bothers playing engineers because there are no places secure enough in which to build. Nobody players a sniper because all the targets are always darting behind blocking terrain. Nobody plays spies because there are no engineers and snipers to victimize. In short, the map is a gutted version off the game rewarding only twitch-reflexes and removing the possibility to outmaneuver or plan ahead of one's enemies.

This sounds vaguely familiar. Ah, yes, it was what killed Insects Infestation in the cradle. It's what split Natural Selection's playerbase before that. It's the equivalent of infinite-resources maps for RTS games like Starcraft and the godawful "Big Game Hunters" craze that filled the game list. In MMOs you can see it in the dumbing-down of PvP to arena fights. WoW went from world-spanning conflict to 5v5 fights in order to give its customers less to think about. Darkfall gave up on improving monster AI for PvE and made PvP a potion-chugging contest to let its customers stack the odds in their favor by brainlessly farming easy monsters for potion ingredients.

Again and again developers insist on dumbing down their products to appeal to the brainless majority, but this will never get them a stable audience. The mass market for any entertainment industry is proverbially fickle. Since they don't actually have any idea of quality and are only drawn in by advertising, they will just as easily be drawn away. It is in reality impossible to market to apes who don't understand what they're buying. A very few products will be lucky enough to ride a wave of success, feeding off their own popularity without actually providing any quality, as WoW has for years, but the vast majority of examples will die trying to make it big while alienating their core of initial customers. I wonder how many Dragon Age: Origins fans will be buying the third installment in the series after the reputation the second one got for dumbing everything down to dullness.

The consumer society dogma of appealing to the widest audience at any cost does not hold true, but still the capitalist mentality fixates on the promise of climbing to the top of the pyramid and nothing else will be supported by investors.

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