Life, The Universe, And Gaming: New IP Is The Ultimate Tease
To begin this week’s exercise in gaming subterfuge, I’m going to do something that will break hearts. I’m going to make a statement that I can barely bring myself to make, purely for the sake of getting a point across and I hate myself right now for having to do so…
I hope that Half-Life 3 never sees the light of day.
To quote Douglas Adams for a moment, “Don’t panic.”
I will explain my madness in a bit. I promise. For now let’s talk about new IP. For those who don’t know what IP stands for, it means intellectual property. IP doesn’t relate specifically to gaming, however it has become an accepted way of identifying a series of games, even if it’s a once-off, from developers that make multiple series of games. Or not. The point is that when a new series pops up, we call it a new IP.
Recent examples of new IP include Dragon’s Dogma, a very admirable attempt at an open-world RPG from Capcom; Dishonored, the latest creation from Arkane Studios who are still trying to show the world that they know how to do first person role-playing action; and Spec Ops: The Line, which I haven’t played but I’ve been told has one of the greatest stories ever to be found in a game.
When we play new IP, and it’s a good experience, our minds are opened up to entirely new worlds and our imaginations run free with possibility, especially when we’re promised more to come, in a series. The once-offs obviously fall away here, but as an example, what would you expect of a Dishonored sequel, to those of you who’ve played the game? What about, let’s say, a sequel to the excellent Alan Wake? A proper one, not some Arcade game. It’s a fascinating thought, isn’t it? Exciting, picturing what could be in some upcoming game.
Word on the street is that the next Rocksteady Batman game will be a prequel of sorts, and fans have gone wild with anticipation. Anyone who watched the E3 presentations earlier this year would have been exposed, for the first time, to Watch Dogs, which absolutely blew our minds and opened up the debate on whether or not the next generation of consoles would arrive next year to commemorate its launch. We saw BEYOND: Lost Souls and The Last Of Us, which showed nothing particularly new but because they were inherently new IP and from developers we’ve enjoyed games from, fans were excited.
But it seems to me as if new IP is just a tease. An extremely effective tease, mind you, but a tease nonetheless. Like that female who led you on for many years, stealing a kiss and telling you she has feelings for you, goading you into believing there might be something there for you but for all your efforts to please her, nothing ever happened because she only ever wanted to be a tease, and derived pleasure in doing so… What? Inevitably, especially when we allow our imaginations to run wild, new IP will lead us to disappointment in the future. Now this isn’t always the case, sure, but there seems to be compelling evidence that sometimes we need to stop being so easily teased.
In the last year or so, we’ve seen threequel after threequel as the season of new IP that began in early 2007 and ended in mid 2008, reached conclusion. We saw games such as Mass Effect 3, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Max Payne 3, Diablo 3 and most recently, Assassin’s Creed III. That’s not all of them, but it’s the relevant ones for this column. If you see where I’m going with this, well played.
In a Zero Punctuation review a while ago, Yahtzee compared gaming threequels to a night of sex (I mean, what else does he compare things to?) where he explained that the first time it’s a little awkward and reserved and it’s over before either of you know it, with the second time being when you’re both in your prime and able to really go at it, whereas the third time you’re both tired, sticky and just want to get it over with so you can fall asleep already. That is both an excellent and very visceral way of putting it. No pun intended.
It seems to me that none of the threequels that released in the past year or so really achieved the heights they were aiming for. You could argue Uncharted 3’s case, maybe, but I remember much complaint even from that. Now again, I know there was also Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3 and soon there will be Far Cry 3, but the former two also received a fair amount of criticism upon release. Their only real staying power was their multiplayer offerings and you all know it to be true. Search your feelings.
Why is this? Why didn’t a single threequel reach the staggeringly blinding heights it aimed for? My opinion is that we just let our imaginations run free when presented with new worlds and new ideas in the first games for these series and in the lead-up to these threequels, we simply expected too much and rightly so, our hopes were dashed. I speak in general, not specifically of myself.
On that note, I think it’s time I picked a bone with a very specific review that released last week. Remember, while the views expressed in this column are my own, I do respect the opinions of other writers on the site. But fuck if I still can’t figure out why Assassin’s Creed III is such a disappointment to some. I’ve heard person after person tell me that they are loving the game, granted a few of those did express dismay at the glitches and the ending, but that’s it. In all, most of the people I’ve spoken to agreed that Assassin’s Creed III is a great game. I’m inclined to agree with them. I’ve played over thirty hours of the game now, and I’m in sequence 9, I’ve collected pretty much everything and all that remains of me are naval and story missions, and I’m done. 100% Sync. And I’m loving every minute.
The story itself is intriguing and speaks of a different sort of character in the headstrong, angry Connor (and related persons) as opposed to Ezio (the man-whore) and Altair (the cunt), and I simply adore reading Animus entries and discovering the lore in the game, as well as conversations with Shaun Hastings, that stallion of a man. The gameplay feels smooth, refined and reactive and I often find myself in awe of what is presented to me, regardless of the fact that a random person just popped into view 10m ahead of me, that happened in previous games as well. The multiplayer now has a cooperative Wolfpack mode which is an absolute blast, with friends. The naval missions… I cannot emphasise enough how fun and addictive these are — and they’re some of the most beautiful missions you will ever find in a game, even the ones on foot — I’d even go so far as to wager Ubisoft could do an expansion with just this aspect of the game and I would buy it along with millions of others. I don’t care for some conclusion to the story of a character I’m indifferent towards, but I do care about being around during the time of the Freemasons, the Sons of Liberty and the dawn of a new era once more, which might be less relevant to us as South Africans but is still interesting as fuck to someone such as myself who loves history and world-altering events.
But no, because it didn’t provide enough answers, because it dilly-dallied about and didn’t get to the point and because it was in development for three years, it should have delivered more. Should have presented more. Should have answered more. Why? Pray tell. Why must the game sate our every desire?
I’ll tell you why, gamers. It’s because you allowed your imagination to run wild and free, and now Ubisoft have to take the wrap for that. Grow up, maybe?
The same could be said of a certain other game that released earlier this year. Do I even have to say its name, or do you all know by now that I’m referring to Mass Effect 3, a game which had me near tears in some parts because it was that emotionally engaging, had me laughing in other parts because it could do that as well, and was so packed full of gaming goodness that it is now — according to Raptr — my most played game on Xbox 360, thanks to that beautiful multiplayer mode which is continuously supported and updated. But no, let’s hate it because we didn’t like the original ending, it didn’t live up to what we expected of a game and didn’t provide enough closure for all our efforts.
Tell me, when did games stop being games? When did it all become such serious business, where we can spend some twenty to forty hours on a game and then utterly despise it? Imagine if games were about fun? If your immediate response is that we pay a lot for it, how does that change the argument of whether a game should be treated as a game or not? Games were always expensive. This isn’t something new. If anything, they’re cheaper now. More affordable because they didn’t go up in price along with inflation, but I digress on the Economics lesson. We were okay with shitty old games because what, we had no other choice? Well now we have choices and still, we bicker and moan about our experiences. I’m not saying don’t call out a bad game for being bad, nor am I championing bad games, but I’m saying that (not speaking of any particular review here, but of gaming in general) when you find a game underwhelming, fucking deal with it. Don’t go off telling the world about it, as if you’re some great saviour. What are you, gaming’s most righteous individual who must defend all gamers from the sins of publishers?
You allowed yourself to be teased, to be led on with false expectations and hope and those were dashed when you finally got what you thought you were owed, except it wasn’t at all what you wanted or expected. Like getting lucky with a really hot female until you discover she has a surprise under that skirt. You were led astray not because the publisher did so, but because you allowed yourself to be led astray. As Obi-Wan once said, “You have done that yourself!”
Now you might argue the case of BioWare where indeed the developers did make certain promises about the endings, that’s all well and good, but I’m going to ask this regarding Assassin’s Creed III, which some are calling the biggest disappointment this year: What did Ubisoft promise you? What did they tell you to expect that was such a great lie, that led you to such an extreme and negative viewpoint? Because I’ve been paying attention to the news, being in the media and all that, you know, and I don’t remember them making any wayward statements or promises. So what is it, then?
I personally think Assassin’s Creed III is one of the better games I’ve played this year, and I’ve played more than enough of it now to know that, regardless of how the ending might affect that experience. Perhaps I enjoyed the game because I was in no particular rush to finish it (and why would you be, it’s an Assassin’s Creed game, the stories were always just half the fun) or perhaps I just gave it a chance. I don’t know. What I do know is that I wouldn’t have had this much to say if not for the extremely polar and confusing statements I’ve seen, regarding the game. And now I don’t even have to mention those other threequels. To draw some relevance to arguing for the sake of argument, and for what it’s worth, I really hate Halo, but I keep that to myself except when asked about it. You know, because I know that there are others who enjoy it (those misguided simpletons — I jest), and who am I to tell them differently?
This is where I bring everything back in that storytelling arc of genius which was apparently non-existent in Assassin’s Creed III (Ubisoft if you’re hiring, email me) by explaining everything, including my original statement for this column. When we first played Assassin’s Creed, we were told that it would be a trilogy, that it would contain a story which we later discovered was centered not around our Crusades-based
cunt character but Desmond Miles, a character from the then-future year of 2012. We were never told that it would culminate in some epic conclusion, we just assumed it would. Assassin’s Creed III seems a disappointment because it didn’t give gamers what they want, not because it was itself a bad game. Glitches? Like the other games. Not many refinements? You’re blind. Too much like the other games? What the fuck kind of criticism…
This is why I sometimes think Valve are geniuses, or perhaps they know that they’ve put themselves in a very dark, dank corner with no way out, so they attempt other games to draw our attention away from the great prize we all clamour for. We have hopes, dreams, our imaginations are running rampant and we all want to see what Gordon Freeman does next. And it’s for this reason, for the sake of preserving this tease of a perfect image in which gamers are to blame, not developers, that I hope we never see Half-Life 3. (I feel dead inside…)