I know a number of the ideas put forth in this post are controversial in today’s world of constantly evolving games. I also know that many trolls will chalk the whole thing up to me just crying about things being too hard and that’s fine. What would the internet be without haters? But the general idea is one that I believe resonates with all gamers, both casual and hardcore. Players should be given the ability to enjoy games the way they want to enjoy them regardless of how others feel, as long as those others aren’t seriously affected by it.
One thing I really don’t like about game management/development today is unnecessary patches. There was a time when all patches were a good thing because they always made games better for everyone. But now that’s often not the case. More often than not, patches are now used to simply change games, often for the worse, in order to accomplish some odd goal that we as consumers may not have even wanted.
Good patches are the ones that fix broken issues in a game like when the boss’ life bar isn’t depleting properly or the game freezes up when you walk through a certain door. These are patches that need to be implemented in order to make the game work. I will even say that good patches are those that make games more manageable when a majority of players see something as being inherently flawed. Like if the amount of currency dropped by enemies is just too low for the prices in the stores and a patch is used to increase the drop amounts. That’s a good patch and for the few devs that actually take the time to make such helpful concessions to your customers, I thank you.
What we tend to be seeing in recent months/years is bad patches. Patches that are not needed for the game to operate smoothly, but are added to make changes because developers just don’t like the way people are playing their games. If you have the time to make patches that aren’t even needed, chances are there’s something you could be working on to make the game actually better. And who the hell are you to tell us, the people who paid $60+ for your game, how we’re supposed to play it? I’m not talking about hacking or “illegal” stuff. I’m talking about in game occurrences whether intentional or accidental. We see this a lot with PVP shooters like COD. Every so often devs force players to take on “balance changes.”
While I do agree that all players should be forced to play with the same balance patches, I don’t agree that devs should just be changing the way games play without provocation from a majority of players. Not only is it a waste of time, but it’s also often quite unfair. “Balance changes” never affect everyone. They almost always end up nerfing a specific class or gun, basically destroying the experience for only a specific group of players. If you never use the (insert name of gun here) and the developer lowers the (insert any stat about same gun here) you’re not going to care. In fact, you may even celebrate because you now know there’s a group of players out there that may possibly have to alter their entire play style. That’s certainly not fair to those players, and more often than not, it wasn’t a necessary change to begin with. It’s even worse when it’s a specific class. Unless all classes are gimped in an even way, a large number of players are screwed because it would probably require them to completely change their play style. Although perhaps not in all cases.
The justification with PVP patches is that the game was not fair and now it has been made more fair for all players involved. While the argument appears to be sound, the word fair is entirely subjective in this situation. What the hell does fair mean in a game where everyone has different stats, armor, perks, and gameplay styles? If say, players who used a specific class or weapon won 100% of the time or even 80% of the time, you might have a legitimate argument. But anything under 50% is not evidence of a lack of balance. Although at least with PVP the arguments can pretend to be valid whether or not they are right in practice. The same cannot be said for campaign based patches in similar situations.
I am a firm believer in the concept of players being able to play the way they want to play as long as it’s within reason. I’ve written in the past about how my sister used to play Ocarina of Time only so she could ride Epona. For me that was wrong because she wasn’t really playing the game (read about it here). But a number of readers disagreed on the grounds that the right way to play a game is the way that makes you happy, and I do believe that in most cases that is the correct mindset.
I believe that it’s important for developers to realize that not all gamers are the same and that not all of them play games for the same reasons, even when playing the same games. For me, no developer gets this concept better than From Software, and ironically the franchise that I believe best expresses this is the Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II). I have not yet played Dark Souls III so I will not include it at this time. The gaming community describes these as some of the hardest games you will ever play and champions them for how much pain they put you through. But if you look closely you can clearly see that the developers did not create the game with the intent of forcing that experience onto players. While yes, the games can be quite challenging, there are also a number of included workarounds to get even the worst player through the many challenges the franchise has to offer.
Summoning is the first and best example. All the bosses in all the games are manageable alone. In fact, there are many players who make it a point of beating the games not only alone but with no armor and only short range weapons, and they get it done. So the game is nowhere near impossible. Yet the developers still made it so that you can summon multiple other players to help you beat bosses, as well as whole areas. Another helpful development decision is the inclusion of an unlimited amount of experience. If you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can eventually become strong enough to dominate anything in the game. So once again the game is not even close to impossible.
Finally, and most relevant to the point of this post, there are in game hacks in the Souls series. I’m not talking about actually hacking the game/console in order to change the way it works to make it easier for you. I’m talking about small oversights in development, whether intentional or otherwise, that allow players to defeat challenges (specifically bosses) in a much easier way. Sometimes this means sniping a boss from outside the arena with arrows and other times it means tricking it into falling off the side. There are tons of bosses in the series and many of them have little tricks to cheese through them easily. They’re all over the internet and I have no problem admitting that I used several of them when I was playing those games. And chances are I’ll do the same thing at some point in Bloodborne, which I’m currently playing and eventually DSIII. I think what’s most important about these is not the fact that they’re there, but the fact that From Software doesn’t make it a point to patch them out which they most certainly could. Those games are constantly being patched for balance changes yet the developers leave the hacks alone. On some level I like to think that they were built into the games intentionally so that every player, regardless of skill level, experience, or interest could complete the games. And that’s the kind of behavior I’d like to see come from all devs.
It’s important to remember that people play games for all sorts of reasons with a myriad of different goals. I played the Souls series to prove that I could at least get through them and I had a ton of help but I didn’t feel any less accomplished when I finished them because my goal was simply to get to the end. Some people play for the story/lore of a game. Some play to challenge themselves to complete the hardest tasks. Some simply just want to feel like they’re actually accomplishing something and are happy just to be moving forward. What all these players have in common is that they want to play the same game and enjoy playing it. The only difference is what they enjoy about it. But would it be fair to say that any of them are playing it incorrectly? I say no. The guy who cheeses their way through the game is no more or less correct in his play style than the super legit naked dagger wielder who he summons to help him defeat the bosses.
It’s with that thinking that I feel the need to protest when developers choose to unnecessarily remove “glitches” from games. Just as with patches, there are good glitches and bad glitches. Destiny is a good example of a game riddled with both. There are many bad glitches in the game such as when you sometimes can’t damage anyone in PVP even when you’re on target. This doesn’t happen often but it has happened to me multiple times. But there are/were good glitches in the game such as being able to knock Atheon off the platform at the end of the Vault of Glass raid. Here’s where readers will start to take sides.
As with the Souls series, there are many different types of players in Destiny. Some play to challenge themselves against all odds and unbalanced programming. These are the guys who do solo raids. Some play exclusively for PVP and everything they do even outside of PVP is in order to improve their character and thus their PVP performance. Some players just want to collect and max all the gear. And finally there are players like me, when I was playing it, who just want to reach max level and stop playing until the level cap is raised. Again no single type of player is right nor is any one wrong, but the things about the game we enjoy and want to do differ.
I believe that all players have the right to choose to play the way they want to play. As with the Souls example, if you want to cheese a boss by spamming him with arrows from afar, that’s your choice and no one should judge you for it. Nor should anyone take that right away from you. And if you don’t want to cheese the bosses and want to fight them head on that too is your right as a gamer. So who are developers to tell us how to play games when they were the ones who built the games that have the hacks they do? The truth is some people just hate doing the raids in Destiny. I am/was one of those people. If I had my way, doing the raids would not be mandatory to reach max level and to get the gear that comes with it. But they are mandatory because you need special gear that is not guaranteed to drop as well as special materials which can only be acquired in raids. Now, if I play the game to reach max level and I absolutely do not enjoy doing the raids, then shouldn’t it be considered bad development for me and players like me to be forced to have to do an event we hate doing over and over again? To this day I still haven’t gotten the Atheon’s Epilogue which, when I was playing Destiny, was the only item I was playing the raid to get.
Not only do I not enjoy doing the raids, but it also takes copious amounts of time to defeat the final bosses without hacks. So basically I was being forced to waste time I don’t have doing things I don’t like to do for items I’m not even guaranteed to get. I don’t care who you are, on paper, you have to admit that if a game was described like that to you, you’d consider it a bad game. And often I couldn’t even get through the raids because the group of players I was with just couldn’t beat the boss. Atheon and Crota really are/were that hard at the time of their release.
Now I could complain that Bungie should just lower the difficulty, but I’m not going to because that would take away from the experience of the players who actually play the game for the challenge. My complaint is with the fact that Bungie has made it a point to patch away all the glitches that allow players who aren’t doing the raid for the “fun” of it from simply meeting their goals. Those hacks weren’t hurting anybody. In fact, they were making literally thousands if not millions of players very happy because they could get the stuff they wanted without having to be the best or have the best five friends online at the same time.
I say Bungie and developers of games with similar situations should leave such glitches in because it’s helping to accomplish what they should have set out to do when they first started making the game: create enjoyment and satisfaction for the players. More people have gotten angry about the hacks being patched out of Destiny than those who were happy to see them removed. The reason is because leaving them in affected a lot less people negatively than taking them out. Removing them was nothing less than bad management on the part of developers because they should never intentionally make decisions that go against what the consumers want. Unless of course it will cause them to actually lose profits, which leaving the glitches in doesn’t do in the particular situations described. In fact, fixing them costs more money because it requires labor and sometimes even downed server time.
I am not calling for developers to go out of their way to add in methods to make their games easier for players. I am merely calling for developers to allow players to play their games the way they want if multiple options are available. They did pay $60 for them after all. Shouldn’t we as consumers in a capitalist society have the right to do what we want with what we pay for? All players have a right as consumers to play the way they want to play with the things they paid for.
As I said in the beginning of this post, many readers will focus on the specific examples I used and make this whole post about whining about things being too hard and that’s fine if that’s how you choose to read it. But if you read deeper and focus on the fact that this is actually a post about consumer rights and game management, I think most will agree that developers should not be going out of their way to stifle the experiences gamers choose to have for no justifiable reason other than “it’s not supposed to be that easy.” I await your comments.