How Not To Be An Asshole About A Video Game

So, as it turns out, No Man’s Sky was not the Second Coming. To a reviewer, this is no big surprise. To players, however, it seems to have been, to the point where death threats have been sent to the feller who reported that the game was being delayed for two months, to the developers when they confirmed it, to the developers when the game came out and it didn’t meet some really heavy expectations, to, oddly, anyone who criticises the game.

Thing is, it’s relatively easy not to be a death threat spewing asshole because a game disappointed you. Here’s a few handy tips, from most obvious to least.

This Doesn’t Apply To Everybody Reading This

This, like the thing below, shouldn’t have to be said. But there’s often that worried little voice “But what if he’s talking about meeeee?”

Okay, here’s your checklist. You don’t fill this criteria, it’s not about you. Good on you:

  • You bought a game without trying to find out if it’s for you.
  • You got angry about this, possibly enough to send death threats to somebody, definitely enough to rant about it somewhere.
  • You even possibly thought that would make the game better.
  • (Side possibility: You bought the game and are angrily shouting at everyone who thinks it’s not for them.)

Death Threats Are A Crime. A Video Game Is Not Worth Committing A Crime.

This really shouldn’t have to be said. But, somehow, it does. Again. And again. And again. And again. If you’re getting angry… About a video game… Enough to send people death threats… Then some serious anger management is needed. This is true even if other things about this NMS debacle weren’t also true. It also doesn’t magically make the game better. Often, what it ends up doing is needlessly harming or pissing someone off, you end up on a blocklist (And, occasionally, a watchlist), and you then don’t get to give feedback on it anymore because you’ve proven that you can’t criticise effectively or usefully. All you’ve shown is that you get angry about things.

What Was Actually Promised?

This is a very important one, folks, and too many people out there forget this one. No Man’s Sky promised exploration (Yup), Procgen planets and creatures and languages (Yup), resource gathering (Yup), and flying through space between planets (Yup.) It did not promise a romance plot. It didn’t promise a massive variety of guns. It didn’t promise 4X elements.

If you expect things that were never promised, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for heartbreak, and have nobody to blame but yourself. If you believed the rumour mill over official sources, you have nobody to blame but yourself. If you didn’t even look at said official sources before putting down your money, you really have no-one to blame but yourself.

Another thing that often happens is someone says a thing, and it’s misconstrued to be another thing, or expectations are built on only a few words. “Spiritual Successor” is a good one, because that’s actually pretty damn ambiguous. What it actually means is “We were inspired by this thing to make another thing that takes elements from that thing.” It doesn’t mean “We are remaking the thing” or “We are making a thing that’s exactly like the thing”, because, very often, the thing it’s a “Spiritual Successor” to had design elements that maybe wouldn’t work so well in the modern day, or are patented, or don’t fit with the other things that the developer is doing in their game.

I Paid Money For This, You Know?

Yes, you did. Of your own free will. I’ve yet to hear of a case where someone was actually forced to buy a game, especially not by the developers. If you didn’t research before buying a thing, then it’s not the thing-maker’s fault you bought the wrong thing. An example using everyday stuff: The words “May contain nuts” are there for a reason. Because there are people out there who can die if they eat nuts. It is not the maker’s fault that their thing contains nuts if it says, right there, “May contain nuts.” It is also not their fault if you wanted nuts, and it did not say it had them.

This ties into, for obvious reasons, doing your research. You bought a game without knowing what it is? There’s no nice way to say it, you’re an idiot. There’s YouTube Let’s Players who leap on the game from release, there’s lots of reviews that get published, there’s all those trailers they put out and articles and things, and the developers aren’t even going to know that you waited for a day or two while seeing if the game was what you wanted to pay money for.

“But I don’t want SPOILERS!” is, at least, a semi-valid concern. I say semi-valid because while there is no foolproof way of avoiding spoilers for a game, there are ways to mitigate that risk. I’ve known Let’s Players spoil the ending of a game… At the beginning. But most of them, funnily enough, don’t, especially if they’ve come in blind. Gameplay trailers and streams from the developers are often kept as spoiler free as possible. There’s two possibilities, right there, for seeing what the first hour or so of a game is like. And if it’s not for you, it’s not for you… Leading us nicely to…

Guess What? People Are Different

This one is low on the list, not because it’s not obvious (Look at my photo, then look at you. Odds are pretty high we don’t look all that much alike, even superficially), but because it’s a sort of side case. People sometimes get it into their heads that if other people don’t like a thing that they like, or, HORROR, like a thing they don’t, they are automatically the Spawn of Satan. Sometimes, the people who like the thing or don’t like the thing haven’t done their research.

That’s on them. You see somebody who hasn’t done their research, point them to one of the many articles by reviewers and critics who’ve been pointing out for the last god-knows that if you buy a thing without research or critical thought, you’ve made a boo-boo (Not necessarily the thought of critics, just thinking critically yourself.) It doesn’t even have to be mine.

However, the core thing here is that people like different things. Good example: I severely dislike HOPAs. I disagree with at least one fellow critic that they write women better. I find their lack of thought about things like colour blindness, or placing puzzles in a manner that makes even the vaguest amount of sense to be repellent. And I have played and reviewed enough of them that I feel this opinion is a considered one.

Funnily enough, though, they still sell well. They still get praised in certain circles. They still get played. And this is because they’re not, the majority of the time, targeted toward me, or folks like me. Many of the people I’ve talked to who play HOPAs and enjoy them give not the slightest fuck about the story beats, or the placement of the puzzles, or the colour blindness thing, and the best of them actually work quite well in a language teaching context.

Okay, people don’t like the game you bought. It’s not going to kill the developer, or crash the games industry that they don’t like the thing you bought. Just like it’s not going to make the game you liked magically vanish because somebody else didn’t.

Now that we’ve got this over with, some nice, easy ways to properly give feedback about a game.

Giving Good Feedback

Write from a place of calm. If you’re writing angry, you’re writing when you’re not thinking clearly. And, funnily enough, people have a tendency to listen more if you are polite about things than if you’re ranting and raving.

When talking about a feature, try and make sure you understand the feature first. If you don’t, that, in and of itself, is potentially valuable feedback. But if you do not understand the feature, that’s going to affect how useful your feedback is, usually negatively.

Be clear. “This isn’t like X other game” is not useful feedback. Especially since, surprise surprise, this isn’t X other game. One useful criticism I heard for No Man’s Sky is that the resource management and collection aspects interfere with the exploration aspect of the game, in that it limits where you are likely to go, and how far you are likely to go. That’s a conflict. An example of a piece of criticism that isn’t useful is “It doesn’t have a rocket launcher.” That’s not useful because hey, guess what: This isn’t that sort of game.

If you would like to see a new feature, do not dictate, suggest. And don’t be all too surprised or disappointed if said suggestion is not taken. A good example of this would be multiplayer in NMS. Yes, it seems simple to you. But as anyone who has even dabbled with netcode could tell you, it isn’t. You’re very possibly thinking in terms of how “simple” the data is that needs to be transmitted. What you’re very possibly forgetting is that those supposedly small numbers (Which aren’t as small as you think they are if you don’t want fun things happening like other players appearing inside animals that are on your end and not theirs) add up. And have to be processed. As close to realtime as possible. Things you may think are simple to add, or beneficial, may not actually be in context, or with a greater understanding of how the game is coded. And, most importantly, you are not the developer or the publisher. It’s important to remember that when giving feedback.

Most of all, remember what is fact, and what is opinion. Fact: No Man’s Sky crashes on start up for me, and it gives this error message. Okay, that, along with diagnostic information, may help the developer work out why it’s crashing at start up, and perhaps be able to reduce the amount of crashes on start up (Providing they can reproduce that.) Opinion: This game sucks, go fuck yourself. That’s not even a useful opinion, because there’s no information the developer can work with, nothing that invites discussion, just… Noise. Opinion: This game sucks because it doesn’t have loads of guns. More useful, because it’s at least giving a reason, but where did you get the impression it was a shootmans game, as opposed to an exploration game?

Okay, let’s try a useful opinion: I feel that the limited inventory slots of the early game hampers the pacing of my experience, because I end up wasting a lot of time on inventory management rather than, for example, crafting or exploring or learning alien languages. That’s still not going to guarantee any changes, but it gives a reason for dissatisfaction, it’s not insulting, and it shows the developer where part of their audience is getting their enjoyment. It’s not going to fix any bugs. It’s still an opinion. But it’s a lot more productive than that first opinion.

To give some idea of how many times I’ve tried to say this in one form or another, here’s some further reading on the site:

When Is It Okay To Harass About Framerate? (HINT: NEVER)
On Fandom, Early Access, and Backseat Developers
On Games Journalism: We Are *All* Only Human

2015: “Dark Cloud Risin'”, 2016: “Don’t Give Up”

So, 2015. What a year, eh? Let’s go over the fuckups, the foibles, and some of the nice points, shall we? Because it does highlight some things that need to change.

The Year Of Shoddy Releases

2015 has seen an increase in big budget releases that can best be described as “Rushed”, “Shoddy”, and, in some cases, “Laughable.” Arkham Knight’s release was, let’s face it, a trainwreck, and even after release, it was… Disappointing, to say the least. It says a lot that I had an entire article ready to say why I wasn’t going to review Arkham Knight even if it was properly fixed when WB said it would be, and… Well, that didn’t really prove necessary, because the sexist writing, shitty foreshadowing (I won’t say who the Knight is, but it’s really easy to guess), increased grind for the sake of padding (Hi, Inexplicably Jigsaw-Like Riddler!) and bugs (some of which, by all reports, persist to this day, much like Arkham Origins). Asssassin’s Creed: Unity has become almost memeworthy with how badly it ran on release, HoMM VII had its fair share of problems, Netcode problems abounded in games like Driveclub and CoD: Advanced Whatever The Hell The Word Machine Came Up With Today, and, overall, it’s been more notable when a AAA game has been relatively free of flaws (Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within… Note I said relatively.)

Of course, if it was just the bugs, I’d be okay. But unlike many of us, who have rightfully consigned Battlefield: Hardline to the deepest parts of the Styx, I remember how, on release, the game’s design disincentivised nonlethal play, and made a bunch of castings that could, in any sane universe, be called something like “Ever So Slightly Racist.” The Current Big Three (For they do seem to flux over the years) of EA, Ubisoft, and Warner Brothers… Are not doing so well. I highly suspect, although I cannot confirm, that refund requests have been the highest in recent memory as a result of these many and varied fuckups.

It wouldn’t entirely be fair to say it’s all them, though. I’ve seen the graphical glitches of Sunset, and the inconsistent writing. I’ve seen Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures not only not improve, but actually get worse. 17 flowers and 12 gems over three screens, Mystery of A Lost Planet? Some of which are extremely pixel hunty, or right next to the sodding UI? Or perhaps Contract With The Devil, whose conflict between writing and aesthetic, and lack of colorblindness support, led to a five minute long rant on twitter? Budget does not excuse poor puzzle design. It doesn’t excuse a lack of such a basic accessibility feature as colorblindness support (Although it helps not to pick two extremely similar colours for your “Make all the colours not touch each other” puzzle.) It definitely doesn’t excuse the fact that of the HOPAs I’ve seen this year, I can count on one hand the ones where somebody isn’t damselled, and, much like Princess Peach in Mario 1, disappears for the majority of the game, leaving the player not a single fuck to give. And, of course, there’s the actual shovelware. I’m not going to name names, but there’s been an absolute slew of… Well, tat. It’s by no means limited to AAAs and AAs, although that’s where it’s most visible.

You can stop pretending everything is fine, games industry. It’s really not, it’s just that up till relatively recently, there hasn’t been as much scrutiny. Speaking of scrutiny…

Rise (And Fall… And Rise… And Fall) Of The Internet Shitlords

If games existed in a vacuum, some strange, objective reality where only the games themselves were there, judging each other, this probably wouldn’t have been a topic. But no, human beings, overall, have also somehow managed to become shittier. Except, once again, it wasn’t so much the fact that humans actually have gotten shittier, more that it’s gotten, like the games industry, to the point where it’s obvious. You’d think I was referring to Hashtag Fucking Gooble Grump (Pretty much every person involved with the games industry knows what I’m referring to, although I know most folks outside that circle neither know nor give two shits unless it affects them directly), but no… 2015 seemed to be the year where abusers and assholes, atheismugs and fanatics of various stripes have crawled out of the woodwork. Or rather, once again, people are finally noticing that this shittiness exists.

The DWP Disability Living Allowance Suicide Statistics. A veritable cornucopia of ill-justified police shootings. The continuance of “The War on Terror”, despite the fact it’s pretty much established we’re making more people terrorists by doing so. I could go on, and on, and on, and on about the shittiness, the broken-ness… But let’s talk celebrity for a second. Let’s talk Star Citizen. Let’s talk Early Access.

Star Citizen is, no bones about it, a dangerously ambitious game. It’s a risky investment, but it’s quite clearly making progress. Am I saying it’s going to succeed? Honestly, I have no fucking idea. I am not a game designer. But due to the level of investment people have put into the game’s development, and due to the fact that the transparency in the devblogs and broadcasts and the like show what a fustercluck the development of a big game is (And make no mistake, it’s not uncommon for big teams to get fusterclucky by their very nature), there’s a largely invisible Sonic Vs Mario type PR holy war, between the “Development is so slow, it has to be a scam!” crowd and the “This game is going to be the last word in video games, STFU!” crowd.

Naturally, prominent faces have arisen everywhere for all of these issues. None of them will be named. Few of them deserve to be named, because quite a few of them are the same as the extremists that have made 2015 such a depressing shithole for every other poor sod out there. Funnily enough, a litmus test of whether they’re worth listening to is the proportion and volume of such seemingly normal words and phrases as “Censorship”, “Free Speech”, and “But do you have PROOF?”

Net result: An internet ad world filled with misery and stupidity, with the usual cultural and fiscal inertia making governments and companies slow to react.

There’s A Light… Over At The Frankenstein Place…

Of course, there have been some awesome things happening. Undertale was pretty cool, subverting RPG tropes somewhat (Mainly in the story, and that not attacking is the way to the best ending.) More games are including women and PoC protagonists, diversifying. LGBT games are on the rise, further expanding the area that games can reach (Such as Read Only Memories, one of the few games I can think of this year that bothered to ask for your pronouns), and people are getting that game design is a holistic thing, at least in part because game making is, itself, becoming more accessible. People are starting to make moves on internet harassment, and shitlordery. Sites are beginning to realise what a pain in the arse ‘pretty numbers’ are becoming, and actual discussions of games industry ethics, employment practices, how the recession is affecting things (Make no mistake, we are still in a recession, and many EU countries are handling it… Er… In a similar way to the way they handled it last time (To no effect)), and accessibility issues.

There is light. But it needs to grow. So all the folks who are actually trying to make progress, to make games more accessible and interesting and talk about things that need talking about? Keep it up!

The folks who seem to think “Because it ‘worked’ before, it’s still working now, why won’t everybody realise this, shut up, and live in our perfect world?” Guess what. It didn’t really work before. It’s not actually working now, not even giving the appearance of working properly.

But let’s imagine, for a moment, this glorious future we could build. Games would actually be… GASP… Be more accessible than they are without being “dumbed down”! They could be cheaper, because they’re more tightly focused! And, because they’re reaching more people, and because less people are asking for refunds, and because they’re cheaper, more people would buy games, and talk about games. And in this bright future, they wouldn’t have to fear being dogpiled, or devalued because they’re the “wrong” shape or skin tone, or not following outdated binary gender preconceptions. And because they’re not afraid, the games could talk about more things too! And the people making games wouldn’t have to fear kneejerk reactions from their fans! Edutainment would be a proper thing again, but this time, with games that aren’t afraid to tackle subjects from different viewpoints! Oh, how glorious it would be, to have games that explore sexuality over the centuries, how it’s shifted and changed from culture to culture, from decade to decade. Or games about utopias! It’s a common (mis-)conception that a utopia, by its nature, is boring to write.

But think about this for a second… If it weren’t for the ending of Antichamber, the entire game would have been positivity, and encouraging you to beat its obstacles in a friendly manner, and telling you “Hey, at your own pace, my friend, it’s all good here!” Isn’t that… A utopia, of sorts? It’s certainly not a standard one, but hey, what’s standard in games? One of the first art games was about an alien bee-thing that did different things to flowers depending on where you touched them, and it had a score counter. The first “multi-media experience” was a C64 spinning-“plates”-and-dodging-things game narrated by Jon Pertwee, and with music by Ian Dury. Games could experiment. We could… Talk about them. With more people. And at least some of them, preferably a lot of them, would have interesting things to say that were cohesively designed, so even the “fun” games… We could learn from. And maybe… In discussing things… We’d find new ideas. Ideas like a good form of government, or using games to test the feasibility of colonising a new world… Games that weren’t just games, but humanity reaching out, with their collective minds, and saying:

Hey… Those stars aren’t actually that far away. And now that we’ve had a proper look at things? This world ain’t so bad after all, now that we’ve looked after ourselves properly. Let’s have a nice… Relaxing… Stretch… And enjoy everything

In a truly ideal world, I would be out of a job, because we’d all be talking, comfortable and self aware and unafraid to explore other spaces. But I’m 100% okay with that, because my golden handshake would be… Participating in that world. And, okay, this is the 80s child in me, but it also has to have personal jetpacks of some description. If only to throw a jaunty two finger salute at Tomorrow’s World. See! We got them! Eventually!

On Games Journalism: We Are *All* Only Human. (Reprint)

This was originally posted on my personal blog in February of this year. There are only light re-edits.

For anyone keeping up with gaming news, Peter Molyneux recently got it in the pants over Godus. Bigtime. While some things needed to be said to the British GameDev Wunderkind, others didn’t, and it made me think of something we tend to forget: Everyone in the Games Biz, from the devs to the journos, to the players, are only human. And we tend to forget this. All of us.

The Devs

Warren Spector, from Martian Dreams.

Richard Garriott. Warren Spector. Graeme Devine. John Romero. These, and many more, are names to conjure with in the games industry. But we, both players and games press, tend to overlook the oddities and failings of these folk. Go look at Martian Dreams and Savage Worlds. You’ll find a literal self insert of Warren Spector in both. In fact, Wikipedia has a selection of his self-inserts on the page about him.

They’re good folks, but they’re not rockstars. They have their failings. Tabula Rasa was a flop. Thief: Deadly Shadows definitely had flaws. Even the series I’m currently Let’s Playing, Wipeout, Made Mistakes.

But we have a tendency to ignore this, and when we do discover folks have their human qualities, not necessarily good ones? We tend not to react too well. An extreme case in point: Phil Fish. Phil Fish is another dev who’s been raked over the coals, for the crime of… Being abrasive and temperamental. And because he is a public figure, a celebrity… The reaction is disproportionate.

But let’s look at the other two sides here.

The Journos

As someone who used to review, I’m just as guilty as every other game journo out there for being attracted by something that just… Doesn’t… Work. In my particular case, a prime example would be Nuclear Dawn.

If you can instinctively make sense of this, congratulations, you could be a Nuclear Dawn Commander!

What, you haven’t heard of it? But it rewards good team-based play, actually talking to other players, and… Oh, yeah, it didn’t do very well because it wasn’t accessible to the average player. See, the average player, for various reasons, just wants to god-damn play. They want to shoot mans, not stand in a corridor waiting for an enemy push they’re not sure will come. They definitely don’t want some asshole telling them what to do (Especially if said asshole turns out to be incompetent), and they don’t want to spend time guarding said asshole from the enemy, even if that’s a vital element of the game.

So what ended up happening was that whoever co-ordinated and/or had a decent team leader would steamroll the pubbies. Again. And Again. And Again. And lo, it Wasn’t Fun. So the servers were nigh ghost towns, and the game didn’t do nearly as well as its interesting gameplay could have gotten.

On the other end of things, for me, was Blur, by Bizarre Creations. Blur had problems. The track design meant that a reasonably skilled player could DNF (Did Not Finish) all the other racers on many tracks, people were having connection issues out the wazoo, and a third to half the vehicles were basically reskins. But the first part and the third in our equation, Players and Devs, came into play here…

Blur: The Big Boys Mario Kart. Oh ho. Ho ho ho ho ho.

…You see, Bizarre Creations also made Project Gotham Racing, which was, in many folks’ minds, a Good Series. So when a review score was lower than expected, they came out to complain. I didn’t get a whole lot of complaints (A whole ten, I think… I’m not a celebrity writer, never was), but, on the strength of those, my editor at the time claimed that I had been “experiencing day-one issues”.

Three months later, I issued a re-review (Something many game journos will tell you is a bad idea… And they would generally be right), and nobody appeared to care one way or another (A pattern that has held for all of the rare occasions a re-review has been issued by me). Bizarre, you see, had started copy-pasting responses to bug reports, claiming it was being looked at, while already talking about a sequel, and working on another game (Bloodstone, which also Had Problems).

They folded a few months after my re-review (A sad occasion, regardless.) Now, here comes the weird part. The players came out again, but they didn’t yell at me (Who scored the game relatively poorly). No, I opened up the letters page of PC Gamer, to find someone blaming them for the demise of Blur. This was pretty irrational, as PC Gamer had been a lot nicer than I had, and didn’t even mention many of the issues seen with the game.

It was a head-shaking experience. But it leads us nicely to the third part of our little equation.

The Players

The Bush-Wookie in his natural habitat.

In a very real sense, the players are a more diverse group than either the developers or gaming press. But what you see isn’t that diverse at all, because what most folks see of a playerbase are comments, forum posts, and meeting them in actual play… And the bad tends to stick out like a sore thumb.

The Mass Effect 3 Ending. Starbound’s “Caveman Tier” play. Fucking Bush-Wookies. The list of things players complain about, not always making sense, is immense. Let’s take the Bush-Wookies as an example.

Bush-Wookie is a nickname for the Recon class’s sniper builds in the Battlefield series, especially Bad Company 2, because their camouflage… Well, it makes them look like Wookies from Star Wars. Also because it helps them hide in bushes. Duh.

The problem is, a good sniper, in pretty much any multiplayer game, can lock down entire areas of the map. And it’s a massive pain in the arse to dig them out. Never is this more prevalent than in the Heavy Metal map of Bad Company 2.

Heavy Metal, aka OH FUCK LEAVE THE SERVER.
 
The map doesn’t show it very well, but the middle capture point here is flanked by two hills, and there’s an AA gun in the village, just off to one side of the point itself. Snipers/engineers in those hills can fire as far away as either of the other capture points, and getting them out often requires air support, which… Oh. Oh. Again, we find that the fun of the game is instantly ruined for the average player if they’re up against a co-ordinated team. And, in the case of BC2, it doesn’t even have to be voice co-ordinated, because the classes make it fairly obvious where you should go. The snipers will graduate to the hills, because there’s a lot of cover and disguise up there. The engineers will graduate to the hills, because it’s relatively safe from the AA guns, and allows them to kill the vehicles they’re meant to. Meanwhile, the medics will assist the assaults, who will die in droves as they either try to take the next point along (Which will have everything coming their way), try to take B (Which will be protected by a force that can efficiently deny you entry if they’re even halfway competent), or try to get rid of those bloody snipers and engineers (Who will come back to said hills again and again, because it’s the best position for them)
In this map, among others, snipers are a massive force multiplier. It doesn’t help that playing a sniper as realistically as possible (Moving after shots, not revealing themselves as best they can, staying outside the range of the other classes) means that the sniper has a reputation as a player out to ruin other people’s fun.
It’s not an entirely unfair point either, because some of them genuinely are. Which is annoying, because there’s no easy solution. Battlefield 3 went with making Recon easier to spot at range, and more likely to get into short range firefights, but this makes playing a sniper a different experience, and, to some, not as fun.
Wait, that’s not the right image… DAMN YOU, GOOGLE SEARCH, YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME WHAT TO LOOK FOR!!!
Part of this problem though, is that players go in with expectations, and when those expectations aren’t met, they’re unhappy, whether because it wasn’t properly explained what sort of game it is, or because the mechanic was genuinely badly designed… Often, it’s because they just don’t get it. Good example of that: The Portal Gun. The Portal Gun doesn’t make portals on anything but white walls (Covered in moon-dust, apparently), and both games try to show you this. But, because they don’t explicitly tell you, and remind you, you get folks who completely fail to understand how it works.
Those people aren’t necessarily stupid. The game isn’t necessarily bad. But the players’ expectations coming into the game may be unrealistic, or the game might not communicating to the level of the average player.
Even this commentary on expectations is going to be subject to problems. I’ve seen these points examined before, and you know what I hear when they’re discussed?
Entitled. No Moron Left Behind Policy. I Shouldn’t Need A Tutorial, Or To Read The Manual.
Yeah, okay, players can be entitled (Oh, dear lord, they can be entitled!) It only takes a quick look at comments on negative reviews to see that (“How DARE you give X a 6/10! It’s CLEARLY PERFECT!”). But many of these are knee-jerk reactions, whether on the part of devs, or players, or journos, and there’s no easy fix for any of it.
No, really. We could say “Devs, please try to be more human”, but that won’t work without players shifting their worldview, and journos not instantly squeeing the moment Big Name is mentioned, and a lot of other things, too. We could say “Journos, please think more critically”, but that would require devs and players alike agreeing what that means… And many have seen how well that’s been going so far… We could say “Players, please try to read tutorials more/shift expectations”, but that’s massive generalisations about a very diverse group, and it can’t help but offend at least some of them.
We could say a lot of things, but a lot of it has to do with one basic principle, which I fully understand is hard for people (myself included). Be More Aware. For example, be aware that once a game has a flaw baked into it, it’s often going to be very hard, even if you genuinely are a rockstar group of super-developers, to change it and/or get it out. Be aware that sometimes, you’re not going to like the writing in a game, but that’s no reason to scream bloody murder (Sometimes quite literally). Be aware that not all games are for you, specifically, unless you truly want to learn how to play them. There’s a lot of “Be Aware”, and while all those examples were for players, there’s a lot of others for the journos and the devs too.
Funnily enough, this blog post isn’t about fixing the problem. It’s about Being Aware That It’s There.

When Is It Okay To Harass Over Framerate? (HINT: NEVER)

Games today are tricky business, and it’s no lie to say customers are dissatisfied with corners cut in the process. Shoddy launch releases, DLC of dubious value (or worse, good DLC that might as well have been part of the game itself, because it was pre-sliced into “Game” and “DLC” for pre-order cash), and… Framerate locking, the practice of making a PC game have the same frame rate (which can affect physics, control responsiveness, and fluidity of animations) as the consoles because… Well, the reasons vary, but not very many of them are good. But one Steam curator has tried to point these games out as they come, TotalBiscuit’s The Framerate Police

There’s just two problems with this. Firstly, he hadn’t considered all the possibilities… And secondly, he hadn’t considered that there is a segment of gamers out there willing to harass and aggro over things at the drop of a hat.

Framerate Police came to my attention when the creators of Guild of Dungeoneering (A game I should be reviewing soon.) posted a tweet basically saying “Alright, you can stop sending death threats, I’ve mentioned that the game runs at 30 FPS!”

The ridiculousness of the situation almost immediately hit me, because Guild of Dungeoneering is a turn based game with some animations. Y’know, the kind of thing that doesn’t need 60 FPS and 1080i visuals. In fact, it looks quite charming on its own.

And yet, some idiots decided it was perfectly okay to send threats, harassment, all kinds of aggro their way, because… REASONS. It becomes even more idiotic when you look at some of the other games curated, and how the reviews actually work. Here’s some examples of both at the same time.

FPSLock

Okay, so what’s wrong with this picture? Well, let’s start with Heroes III HD. Yes, okay, it’s a modern “remaster”… But again, turn based, so no physics, no reaction times, no actual need for 60 fps. Pandemonium is even worse, because it’s from the fucking 90s. So, in fact, is Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. These games originally ran at 30 FPS, folks. ORIGINALLY. They were PS2 games, and ran at 30. F. P. S. So, in fact, did many of our original greats. Secondly, do you see any “PLEASE HARASS THESE PEOPLE”? No? No. All it is is a list of which games are 30 FPS, completely disregarding whether they were originally 30 FPS (or less!), and nothing more.

So let me make one thing very clear: Seeing as, at no point that I’m aware of, TB has asked any of you to do this, you’ve done it of your own volition. You have harassed because you genuinely think that a game in the Year of Our Lord 2015 cannot, under any circumstancesnot need 60 FPS on PC. Yes, when a modern game does it out of laziness, it’s shitty. Guess what? Still not a reason to harass. You harass over a game, and you are Being A Shithead. Lemme spell this out for you in a way you’ll understand:

THERE IS NO GOOD REASON FOR SENDING SOMEONE DEATH THREATS. THERE IS ESPECIALLY NO GOOD REASON IF THE GAME, LIKE THE MAJORITY OF GAMES ON THIS LIST (WHICH ARE FROM THE 90s, OR TURN BASED, OR PUZZLE GAMES) DOES NOT NEED 60 FUCKING FRAMES PER SECOND.

“But 60 FPS is objectively better in ever-” No. It is not. There will always be situations where you do not need 60 FPS. I agree that frame locking a game can be a pain in the ass. I agree it’s an alright idea to tell people which modern games are frame locked. I do, however, think this was done without thinking it through solidly. “Framerate Police”? Kinda implies the people frame-locking are always bad folks of some description, TB, old chap. And no context beyond genre? This, if anything, shows the importance of context. Of knowing, not just “Guh, 60 FPS gud…” , but when it’s good… And when it’s just a pointless frippery.