The Corporate Conundrum

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The big fat cats, the head-honchos, the money machine. Call them what you want, a big company is a big company and it has one goal: to get your money! The fanboys can rant and rave all they like about the treatment they receive from their chosen masters they cry allegiance to, but the fact of the matter is that these companies don’t care about them. They’re happy you bought their product, but should you have a problem with it, you will be handed over to the ‘Russian Roulette of Customer Care’ people who will decide what kind of treatment you will receive based on your luck-chart, or your monthly horoscope, or which way their pet fish was facing at the time you phoned. However they decide, it seems that all of us that have had issues with a console have come away with a different experience from the last guy in line. Sometimes this is good news, I personally had a fantastic experience with Sony’s customer care whereby my original PS3 that had become victim to dampness from my old flat, was replaced (out of guarantee) with another, original machine within a fortnight (lucky me). However, there have been countless others online that I have read about having a less than satisfactory encounter. The bottom line is this: You win some, you lose some.

The resonating truth within that last sentiment can be a painful truth for some of us that feel we’ve been treated badly, but the real bitter pill to swallow is one that we all have sneaked down our throats on a regular basis. I’m talking about quality control -the games themselves. Games such as Transformers that have a massive pool of history and content to draw from receive a paltry amount of attention and care from the development team, or so it seems. Let’s just pretend for a moment that you dear reader, as a gamer, have been asked to help produce a game. Now with this in mind, would you not want to make one of the best games ever? Would you pour all your capabilities into the creation of this game? Wouldn’t you want the world to say “It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played”? The admiration and respect of producing something almost timeless is without doubt something we’d all like, no?

Okay, so you’re all geared up for world domination with your new game design brief, and you have your eager team salivating to get on, and this is where games take a turn for ‘Ugly Town’, because the guys in charge have decided that you now only have six months to make it! Tight time limits on anything is a bad idea. Can you imagine if the restaurant business was run on the same basis as the games industry?

Waiter: “Hey Chef, we have a room full of people who want their burgers right now!”

Chef: “But zie burgerz, zey are not cooked yet!”

Waiter: “Who cares!, just give them raw burgers!”

Room Full of People: “We’re not swallowing this junk, bring it back when it’s ready!”

This is what we should be saying, but instead we’re just chomping down on all the half-baked garbage we’re fed on a monthly basis. With this metaphor in mind, try to imagine how the creative team on any game feel when they’re ordered to push their efforts out the door unrefined and unfinished. Just imagine what Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls would have been like if it were only given a ten month development time. How sparse and empty would it feel, all those little details that just wouldn’t be there to further immerse us within its world. It would be half its size, with only a handful of missions. There would be no in-game books to expand its lore, and just imagine the glitches!

Troll

This is down to “them”, the publishing guys, the executives at the top with the money, who look upon our hobby as a bunch of numbers and targets to reach. Those who really don’t care what we receive for our hard earned cash, just so long as we’re willing to part with it. This uh, “swap” is made a little easier if we’ve been paying attention to their hype-machine they’ve set up for us to drool over. It is here where we manage to convince ourselves that from what we’ve seen, we think we want. What happens when we get it home though? You’ve heard about the game for months, you’ve read the promising previews, and mulled it over already in your head about what can be done in the game and what you’re looking forward to doing once you get it. Instead what you get is a bare-bones clone. Another generic, re-shaped chicken dipper of a game, like a thousand before it. You feel cheated, depressed even, that this thing you were looking forward to so much, seems to have had as much attention lavished upon it as a starved dog. And you feel the same, that as a consumer, this is how you have been treated, you’ve been fed scraps. And who do you blame? The developers, that’s who. The guys that made it, the ones who’ve sat in interviews and said how excited they were to be involved in such a project. The guys that let that exuberance rub off on you after hearing them talk about it all. The men with all the talent, the creators.

It makes sense to aim your arrows at them, after all, are they not the ones who made the promises? Was it not the members of the creative team who told you what to expect? Yes, yes it was. But they are not to blame. Let’s think about that chef and his nagging waiter again. Who’s fault is it that the people would receive undercooked food? The chef is only working within the limits he has been set, and likewise, the waiter is only pushing for what he sees as demand. The blame lies within the management. The guy at the top who professes to the masses that “We are the best! We will give you what you want at a hundred miles an hour! Faster, better, smoother, and more more more!” He shouts it from the rooftops, that his company can deliver, while rarely thinking of those who have been hired to produce his promises.

No, don’t get angry at the ones who have been drafted in to make these games, get angry at those who are hungry for your credit. Those who would quite happily stifle the artists and engineers, the researchers and designers, to get a hold of your money faster. The ideas are there to make these underachieving games really great games, but the drive for your cash is what fuels the executives to cut corners and feed us half-cooked burgers of games. The games that leave a bad taste in your mouth, they weren’t designed that way! There’s not a bunch of coders and designers smirking in the corner, laughing about your disappointment. They’re probably just as embarrassed and frustrated as you are about the whole thing. Remember Blacksite Area 51? No? Probably a good thing because that game’s development process was a joke. The development team were forced to share tech, sometimes meaning it took up to eight months just to get one thing working! The PS3 version had been “Orange-Boxed” in that it had been patched and polished in only four days so it could meet corporate deadlines. How did it sell? Not very well thankfully. I say ‘thankfully’ because I want the executives to take the hint, if you shovel us rubbish too often we will spit it out!

3 PigzRemember this; there is one sure-fire way to buy yourself a stinker. If it’s a marketing tie-in product (I’m looking at you Crazy Frog) and it only took a year or less to make, chances are it’s a pile of dried cat-business. Always read reviews, make informed decisions and above all, don’t buy on impulse! It may very well be a ‘nice shiny box’ but when you get home you won’t be looking at the box! So the next time you end up disappointed at a game that’s been hailed as the second coming, but turns out to be horse-poo; and you begin to wonder what went on in the minds of the people who were responsible for making it; have a little think about the corporate man in his big, shiny, swively chair and what could be his motives for allowing this to happen.

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Written by R.Furie

Ross has been playing games since he can remember and has had games machines around him all his life. He's what we now refer to as "Old Skool" because he grew up playing games with a hand carved wooden joystick on a TV forged from rope and stone. Nourished on a diet of Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Joust, Gauntlet, Bomber Jack and other various wholesome arcades he has grown to become a versatile and open minded gamer. Favouring the style of open-world games he's sure VR can't be far away, and looks forward to attaching himself to a colostomy bag and slipping into a deep VR coma so he need never have to deal with real life again.

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