It would be remiss for a tech-based site in this day and age to not have at least one article that looked back on the year past. On Reckoner, that job has fallen upon me. thus, our contribution arrives in the form of gaming.
As the human race celebrates another rousing job well done navigating the Earth’s orbit around the sun, we do so with alcohol, parties and a virtual overflowing bin containing “[insert topic name] of the year” posts. It’s a discussion we could have, it’s what the major gaming sites do (Polygon, Giant Bomb, Kotaku), but it would just be my opinion.
Plus, I didn’t play every game that came out in 2014. In fact, I didn’t play half of them! You’d just be angry that “Mr Twinkles Kitten Mansion 3” wasn’t my number 1 when Destiny is. Oops, I’ve told you my game of the year (GOTY): it’s Destiny. Now you can all hate on me and not read the rest of this article.
You’ve gotten to the next paragraph, so I’m assuming Destiny is your GOTY too! Either that, or, you’re not 8, don’t comment on YouTube videos and are genuinely interested. Hoorah! So, instead of going down the aforementioned path, I wanted to take a look back at some of the gaming going-ONs for 2014 and what the going-TOs may be because of it.
VR grew some balls
Chalk this one up to Facebook buying Oculus for a cool $2bn, along with Sony coming to the party via Project Morpheus. You’ll quickly see that VR is getting an almighty push down the road to general consumerism.
The tech is incredible — the experience of using one of these is fun, but the very real problem still exists of how to get to make them a true “Ma & Pa” consumer product. It’s a huge shift in how we’ve been viewing and interacting with content, and it’s one that -for the time being- is relegated to nerd culture.
Then again, so was “torrenting.” Now I’m pretty sure the 70 year old in the apartment next door does that now too.
We can see the process beginning now though. Samsung introduced their “at home” VR solution, the Samsung Gear VR (powered by Oculus), a light-weight, cordless VR headset. It makes use of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to power your experience.
So far, it’s been coveted as the most comfortable and accessible VR experience available, and an important step to mass market of what’s to come.
Google too has jumped on board in a much (much) lower entry-to-market product in Google Cardboard. In what could’ve easily been written off as a prank Cardboard is a rich, true, VR experience and shows off just how low the barrier to entry can be for this exciting next step in entertainment.
Microsoft too, has jumped onboard the VR train with their recently announced HoloLens. That means the only big name left in the game without a product seems to be Apple. You can be sure they have something buried beneath that Spaceship they’re building too.
Sadly, it seems that Sim City’s dismal failure in 2013 somehow encouraged developers to release more broken titles. In 2014 we saw big-name titles, one after the other, required zero-day patches or continual care to even remotely resemble a playable game.
DriveClub, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and arguably the biggest, and most shameful of all: Assassins Creed: Unity. All of these games have been plagued with problems and while some have come to rise above them, others, *cough DriveClub cough*, have seemingly just given up.
Why is it happening? Unrealistic annual releases of iterative titles, publisher pressure, market demand. There are more reasons than I care to count and appropriate in-depth analysis of them, but it’s a trend that needs to stop.
We’ve come to expect there will be issues in our games and that’s just not OK. You wouldn’t accept a washing machine that washed your clothes on every 3rd cycle, but somehow a downloadable firmware patch a week later that might fix a problem with your game is fine?
As a gamer, there’s little more than we can do but vote with our dollars. Campaigns driven by social media calling for refunds and reform have been met with some small success. Some games have had refunds issued with extreme caveats or downloadable content provided at no cost. At the end of the day, it does little to instill confidence in purchasing on launch day in the future.
In what sounds like an oxymoron, it’s actually been nice to see upcoming titles delayed. CD Projekt Red’s upcoming Witcher 3 has been delayed a further five months to ensure that a number of “small errors” were attended to. This is definitely a tactic Ubisoft & other publishers could learn from in the titles to come.
In a sub-title and now opening sentence that has too many hyphens than I care for, a continued trend is the up-rezing and up-polygoning of previous-generation console titles.
It’s an unfortunate by-product of any new generation, and a way for developers and publishers to make bank on hits of old, but 2014 was also the year we expected big things to come of these new gaming workhorses.
I can’t really complain about this though. I bought “The Last of Us: Remastered” so really? I’m just an enabler. I did manage to show some restraint when it came to GTA V, but then again, that could’ve been because I couldn’t buy it from Target more than anything else (idiots).
I have to be a little bit careful about this one. While it was all going on and the likes of Adam Baldwin (best known as “that guy from Firefly”) was busy tweeting their thumbs away, I honestly couldn’t make sense of it all. Had it not been for a “Pointless” episode I recently listened to where Nilay Patel from The Verge and host Kevin Pereira discussed the wild extremes of the “movement”? I’d still be none the wiser.
What began as a lengthy public outpouring of allegations and vitriol from a scorned ex-boyfriend, quickly spiraled out of control to become a series of personal attacks against women. In some cases, these women were forced to move from their homes for fear of personal harm.
Simultaneously, a separate series of attacks began against gaming journalists and sites for alleged pay-for-coverage tactics used to promote gaming titles. This too, spawned from the same originating post, which highlighted a relationship between the writer’s now ex-girlfriend and a gaming journalist.
Today “GamerGate” is largely a horrid nightmare of the past, ”[It] has since swelled into an unwieldy movement with no apparent leaders, mission statement, or aims…” states England’s Telegraph. In its wake, the gaming community is left scarred. Already a media scapegoat, gamers definitely did not need the further compounded bad press GamerGate provided.
What’s to come
2014 was, by popular opinion, not gaming’s shining year. That said, we were able to enjoy a variety of fantastic titles. Titanfall, Destiny, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Mario Kart 8, Hearthstone & more. All incredible experiences that were polished pieces of entertainment that I enjoyed immensely.
For 2015, the first quarter has more titles that I’m excited about than most of last year. Bloodborne, The Order: 1886 & Evolve all out before the end of March but to name a few.
I’m hopeful the next-gen consoles truly come into their own this year. With Xbox getting back to gaming in a big way, Sony continuing to power on with their current dominance and Nintendo to make a showing with their new title updates, it’s shaping up to be a very good year for gamers indeed.
For me, I’m probably hitting it a little late, but PC gaming has triggered my interest more. With the Oculus being so close to a consumer release I want to be there with it, and graphically the PC has been doing what next-gen is just hitting now for the past few years.
What really seals the deal for me though, watching the Star Citizen presentation at PAX Australia this year.
* Mr Twinkles Kitten Mansion 3 is not a real game. Not to the best of my knowledge anyway.