It has been a lifetime since I contributed to Tap, but Steerpike’s/Matt’s latest IGDA article called “The Facts of Life” got my blood boiling. It had little to do with what Steerpike said, but a whole lot to do with the philosophy so current in our marketplace. The article pointed out a series of glitches and faux pas in Obsidian’s latest, Alpha Protocol, while indicating that he was able to “overlook its many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many technical faults.” That is fair enough and I can respect him for that attitude. What I can’t respect is Obsidian Games for releasing such a game and charging full retail for it.
Steerpike used the following analogy: “Is it fair to blame a Ford Fiesta for not being a Corvette ZR-1?” And he is right, it is not fair to blame a Fiesta for not being a Corvette; on the other hand, the base list price for a Fiesta is $13,999. The new ZR-1 starts at $106,000. How many of us would pay the same amount for a Fiesta as we would for the Corvette? The fact is, virtually all games today, whether crap or not, seem to come in at the same price to the gamer. The gamer, like any customer, trusts the reputation of the developer…and he or she should. That said, once the trust has been violated, how many times should we be willing to pay out the fifty (or sixty!) bucks without being willing to punish the developer?
Unfortunately, most of us do not have Steerpike’s expertise in the gaming world. Few of us have the contacts or the knowledge to know going in that a game will have weaknesses…serious weaknesses. I applaud Steerpike for his totally honest evaluation and one thing is certain, I will save my fifty (or sixty!) bucks for a game more worthy. I have this nasty habit of refusing to support companies, regardless what they make, that violate my expectations. The fact is, there is a lot dung out there, and I would bet that in 95% of cases, the developer – or, more realistically, the publisher, which truly holds the reins – is well aware it is dung but release it anyway. I blame Obsidian for making a broken game, but I blame SEGA for not supporting the product until it had an acceptable level of quality.
It is sad that nations around the world are so mired in financial difficulties because it is leading to a huge quality disparity in virtually every product we buy. I can’t forgive Obsidian for having good writing but bad tech. A product’s technical aspects are crucial to its acceptance in the marketplace. Would you buy a second novel by a writer whose plot lines don’t tie together, but whose writing you admire? Would you buy a second Chrysler if the one you have has flaws that make you best friends with the dealer’s service department?
The problem we face is that we have too few truly critical sites like Tap. In the IGDA article, it was claimed that as customers we “buy what appeals” to us rather than research their purchases ahead of time. One thing is certain, if you know in advance you are going to get liquid, or semi-solid feces, and still buy the product, then you have no one to blame but yourself. The important thing is that if you know it in advance, you don’t mind it as much.
Me, I need that fifty (or sixty!) bucks too much to continue to support a developer that consistently applies the mushroom theory of management to its customers.
I agree that developers think gamers are sheep…in his article, Matt gave enough examples of that to convince me. Rise up guys! Our vocabulary is much bigger than Baah, Baah, Baah.