When it comes to the future of videogames, there is an epic tug-of-war between corporate interests and consumer enjoyment. As this latest debacle shows, the battle is far from over. The suits’ demands for complete control are shot down on a regular basis, such as any attempt to keep a tight grip on game prices by eliminating physical copies (PSPGo, anybody?), or the ongoing aggressive takeover of your living room by demanding you stay online (the Xbox One in stores today is a different beast to the one first unveiled by Microsoft at their disastrous press event). The latest Hitman game, for example, snuck in some pretty comprehensive demands for online connectivity; and the inevitable backlash has begun.
The Hitman save system is something of a clusterfudge. Incredibly, any saves made while connected to the internet won’t work if you try playing offline. That’s right; Hitman saves aren’t entirely compatible with Hitman. Has the industry learned nothing from the public’s savage attack on Microsoft for the aforementioned Xbone insanity? Apparently not; because Hitman’s problems go even deeper than its completely illogical save system.
There are numerous complaints that if you lose connection (be that via your internet dropping or the Square Enix servers failing) mid-mission, you’ll be unceremoniously booted to the main menu. The latest Eurogamer report on the situation rather limply ends by referring to this car crash of game design as “just something to keep in mind while playing”. The comments on this article are very revealing, with almost every one critical of the situation gaining unanimously positive votes. There are also multiple complaints in there of reporting failing to explore the true depth of the problem, with huge chunks of content either not working properly or completely unavailable when trying to play without an internet connection. An IO Interactive spokesperson farted out the following to Eurogamer:
When we announced Hitman, we explained to fans and to gamers everywhere how we are creating a live game […] This is a constantly evolving, living world of assassination, that will grow alongside the community with frequent content updates in between the launch of each location. This live content includes new contracts, escalation contracts, elusive targets, and even additional challenges. It is possible to enjoy the locations offline, but in order to ensure player-progress of the live content is correct and up to date, the save states for online and offline are kept separate.
While that might sound like IO flat-out refusing to fix any of the problems, they’ll be left with little choice if the pressure doesn’t let up. They’ve painted themselves into a corner with their drip-feed method of releasing bits of the game at a time. Who knows how many people who invested only in the “Intro Pack” are know thinking thrice about putting up more cash for it? And what about all the people previously on the fence about buying, who have now been pushed over to the “no way” side? Demanding that your players stay online is a fantastic way of harvesting a gargantuan amount of data on a daily basis (and if it acts like DRM, what a happy accident), but a less fantastic way of keeping your customers happy.