Welcome back to Level Grinding, RPGamer's monthly news industry editorial column. For those readers new to this column, each month we cynically dissect the video game news stories I find most interesting and try to expand on their implications and industry relevance. It's July in Atlantic Canada, and hot as all hell. I've never felt so sticky and gross.
It's not all bad news for this so-and-so though. I have a little announcement to share with you ladies and gents:
Sorry (but not too sorry) for the plug of our YouTube channel, but YES — Kelsey and I are now happily engaged. Hence the delay on July's column. It's been pretty sweet so far, save for the fact that everyone is asking us when "the date" is. Anyway, enough chitter chatter about my personal life. There are some cool videos that I've been meaning to share:
Are you excited about the fan-made Mother 4 yet? You should be. It's almost ready, free, available for PC, Mac & Linux, and was made with love.
This is one of my favourite series on YouTube right now. I've shared "It's a Dog and Game" before, but the "Led by Pixels" series is a bit different (in a good way).
Thanks for recently asking your fans over Facebook how they feel about a Resident Evil 2 Remake. It's good to know that the brand identity is valued to the point where Capcom is asking longtime supporters to weigh-in on what direction to take in developing an HD edition of such an important game. After all, many of us have grown up with the series and Resident Evil 2 is widely considered by gamers as one of the greatest releases in the lengthy franchise.
Naturally, Capcom is not the first to suggest a remake or re-mastering of Resident Evil 2. A few fan remakes, including the highly anticipated Resident Evil 2: Reborn HD, have appeared in the wild and while I can say that they have my passing interest I would certainly prefer that the company with all the original assets be at the helm of this kind of project. That's just me though.
I can only vouch for what I'd like to see in an official RE2 re-release. Newly rendered environments and a heavy focus on atmospheric lighting is obvious, but the harder decision I'm sure you're scratching your heads over is whether to ditch or maintain the classic RE2 perspective — that is, using tank controls in a pre-rendered environment with a fixed overhead camera perspective. To that point, I doubt Resident Evil purists are going to appreciate what I'm about to suggest.
Lose the old school, or maybe include a near substitute as an optional playstyle. I'm sure the fixed, overhead perspective was used for a reason at the time of the original release, but the original release was seventeen years ago. Things have changes, especially in relation to 3D playstyles. The reason why I think Resident Evil 2: Reborn HD decided to use RE4's perspective is that the over-the-shoulder tank controls offer better immersion and, well, control in a horror or action video game. Division 1 should take that into consideration and not just churn out the same game with better graphics and audio quality. Otherwise, new players who have never had exposure to the awesomeness of RE2 might get turned off and not give the game the time of day it deserves.
That is essentially what I think is necessary for an RE2 remake. Oh, and a working leaderboard system that can't be super broken by the gamers themselves. That would be nice.
If there's any one thing that the internet does well, it is harassing people due to their relative success. Scott Cawthon, the creator of the popular Five Nights at Freddy's franchise, learned this the hard way by releasing several fairly simple video games that went on to sell quite well. Sure, there are plenty of fans who are hooked on the story and gameplay (if not the scares), but there are plenty of people who think that these games are released too often and are of too poor quality. That's all opinion and I have no real interest in debating opinion, but I wanted to highlight what he chose to do in response to his critics: he wrote an honest post in a venue where a majority of his fans would see it.
The following note can be seen on the Five Nights at Freddy's 4 Steam forum:
Hi guys. First of all, I wanted to thank the community in general for the huge outpouring of support through emails and in the forums. I know a lot of you are concerned about me or think that I'm stressed out. It's true that I'm stressed a little; but it's ok because the result was good. I've worked very hard this year, almost non-stop, to produce good games for this series. Even though there may be some debate as to how "good" the games are, I did my best to provide some good scares and a good story. All I can do is judge from the Steam reviews that I've been mostly successful; so I'm very happy about that.
It's true that there has been a lot of hate toward me lately; on the forums, on youtube, etc. And I'll be honest, it's difficult. It's difficult when people seem to dislike you only because you've found success with something. I think some people have this idea that I spend my days swimming in gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, cranking out games with no effort, then laughing all the way to the bank. The reality is quite different, and I think that people who hate on me for being successful are misguided.
Did you know that last year I was working at Dollar General? I worked as a cashier. I had three bosses who were all still in high school. Before that I worked at Target in the backroom freezer, unloading frozen foods. I haven't had a successful life; and now that God has blessed me with some success, I'm doing my best to be responsible with that success. I don't party on weekends, I don't get drunk or sip martinis. I spend my evenings playing Megaman 3, buster only, with my kids. And I try to good with what's been given to me.
I guess the reason I'm telling you all of this is to make sure you know that I'm human. I have a lot of flaws, and I've made a lot of mistakes. My games aren't perfect, and they never will be. But something more important that I want to convey to all of you, is that you should never listen to people who criticize success simply because it's success. Being good at something is something to strive for, not something to demonize. Criticisms of my games are fine, and a lot of times the criticism is valid. But there are a lot of people out there who will hate anything that becomes popular, just because it's popular, and hate anyone who becomes successful, just because they are successful. "Haters gonna hate." — as they say, but I want you to know that focusing on someone else's failure or success is the wrong way to live. People who make videos bashing other people are like people who run into a public square and scream into a pillow. They'll get attention, but they won't change anything. If you strive to be like them, then you'll spend your life screaming into a pillow as well, and your life won't mean anything.
The best emails I get are from people who have chosen to pursue game development because of the games that I've made, or people who have decided to do computer science, or learn programming. Who will be the next game designer? Who will make the next game for Markiplier to play? Make sure that it's you! People who hate success will never be successful. Focus on your success, and your story. People always ask me what college I recommend, or what programs I recommend. My answer is to just go forward, practice. Just GET to college, study hard, be awesome at what you do. Make sure that you are next year's big success story. Don't fall into the pit of people who have given up on making something of themselves, and make sure you make EVERYTHING out of yourself.
I'm getting too old for this. And when I retire someday, I'm going to want to sit down at a computer and play YOUR games, read YOUR stories, and watch YOUR videos. Don't fall in with the people who have already given up on themselves. You are tomorrow's next big thing.
What a sweetheart. Does anyone else want to find this guy and give him a big old hug? Take note, developers — this is how you make friends and win people over.
Long before Tomonobu Itagaki was a punchline, he was a revered designer. The former leader of Team Ninja had a penchant for using PR rhetoric, demanding player skill, and featuring scantily clad ladies in pretty much anything he touched. Sure, he had a penchant for saying fairly controversial things. But his degree of skill in crafting fast-paced and technical action and fighting games made up for his less savory characteristics. I mean the man was responsible for both Dead or Alive and the modern Ninja Gaiden games; tool or not, Itagaki can make a game. So, when he split from Tecmo in 2008, along with several members of Team Ninja, it was a pretty big deal at the time. The world seemed excited to see what he would produce next. Sadly, game development is an unpredictable process.
After forming Valhalla Games, he began work on Devil's Third — an action title that would feature several Itagaki hallmarks (off-the-wall humor, sexy women, aggressive music, etc.), while also incorporating a new camera system that swaps between first-person shooter, third-person shooter, and third-person hack-and-slash viewpoints. This fairly novel concept is the cherry filling inside of what is purported to be a pretty hallow and disgusting chocolate. Some are going so far as to call it a slap in the face of Wii U owners.
Devil's Third is currently being dragged through the mud by pretty much anyone who gets to play the game pre-release. Supposedly, Itagaki's latest effort doesn't even look like a last gen title, is subject to choppy framerate, and plays significantly worse than his previous efforts. Moreover the experience is a menagerie of poor mechanical decisions, weird visual and audio themes, and an incomprehensible story. It may very well be the year's biggest disappointment. And I can't wait.
I hope Devil's Third is as ridiculous and technically atrocious as everyone is suggesting, because it has all the makings of a "so bad, it's good" video game. Devil's Third was subject to a troubled development cycle, moved from PS3 and Xbox 360 to the Wii U, switched engines three times, lost a publisher, and is essentially one man's grandiose vision of what will (though probably won't) elevate an entire genre. So, why will it be great?
To understand why Devil's Third will be worthwhile to buy and play repeatedly you have to be the kind of person who can see the good in the bad — or at least the funny in the bad. Have you played Big Rigs, Deadly Premonition, Rogue Warrior, California Games 2, Earth Defense Force, or Two Worlds? The one thing they all share is that they were created with the intention of being good games, but were so mired in technical hardships and poor decisions that each became a comedy of errors. Almost in the same way that cinematic catastrophes like Troll 2, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and The Room failed so hard they became instant classics.
I don't expect this game to be a top-tier action title. Heck, I'd wager it won't even be considered mid-tier. If anything, it'll have janky controls, plenty of performance issues, and environments that are about as bland as a recently shuttered mini-mall. If that's the case, I won't play it like a serious game. I'll play it surrounded by friends, with a beer in my hand, while laughing my ass off.
People, especially game critics, forget that the point of playing video games is to have a good time. It's easy to play a high quality game and really enjoy it, but there's something special about playing a video game so amazingly terrible that you can't look away. I hope Itagaki's latest effort is exactly that bad, even though I also hope his next outing is better.
Gearbox Software president and CEO Randy Pitchford recently used his Develop Conference keynote to paint Gearbox is a certain light while simultaneously casting out gaming detractors and critics as sadists who thrive on anger, and have a "less sophisticated mind."
As reported by The Guardian, Mr. Pitchford took his allotted time to muse about game haters with all the self-awareness of a crying five year old who was stung after kicking a hornet's nest. "If you're making entertainment on a grand scale, if you're reaching millions, there will be tens of thousands of people who absolutely hate us, and some percentage of those will take it upon themselves to let us know how they feel." Adding, "I read it in this way: we moved those people, we touched them — even the person who hates it so much you've affected them. That's why we fight, we're creating emotion and experience — and some people thrive on that type of feeling, some people are sadists."
Not one to stop while he's on a roll, Mr. Pitchford then made allusions to sandcastle appreciators and sandcastle destroyers. "There is always the person who's got to stand on the sandcastle, they must crush it. That's their way of relating to that." He jabbed, "It's typically a less sophisticated mind. There's a dark part of us all that likes the idea of crushing a sandcastle, but most of us will respect it and let it be." While I appreciate your poetic interpretation of the hate you've experienced, Mr. Pitchford, it appears to be ignorant to the possibility of your own provocation. As though facing any criticism for the quality of your studio's work is akin to cracking a mean joke about a disabled person.
Gearbox in a business, and as much emotion and depth as its developers might weave into some products it doesn't mean all or any of the studio's output is beyond the realm of criticism or even hatred. Even if I were to concede that video games are art, even artists have critics and to be fair that wouldn't be a one-to-one comparison either. You see, as a business, Gearbox Software has a degree of accountability to its publisher, consumers, and whatever franchise it chooses to leach off of. And that last part is a sticking point considering Mr. Pitchford's recent history.
Does anyone remember Aliens: Colonial Marines? Oh, who am I kidding; of course you do. Who could forget one of the most disappointing FPS titles of recent history? I bet Mr. Pitchford can't, as it may very well be the biggest fiasco of his career — one which he still appears incapable of acknowledging.
While at E3 2012, Mr. Pitchford took the time to discuss many of the amazing features of the (sadly) official sequel to Aliens — including the "next generation lighting," which never actually appeared in the game. He claimed that Colonial Marines was Gearbox's dream project, and then allowed several other studios to develop it instead while acting in a "supervisory role" (something I still doubt SEGA was aware of at the time). Gearbox had falsely labeled a vertical slice of the game as "actual in-game footage," and Mr. Pitchford recently stated that the console footage used in promotional trailers was actually that of the PC version. Wait, did I not mention that the "vertical slice demo" wasn't actually a vertical slice of gameplay pulled from the game in development? It appears to have been a cluster of gameplay footage that was made for the express purpose of advertising the game for E3. According to the timelines we've been privy to, the game itself wasn't even in active development at the time. Yet, Mr. Pitchford claimed that facing legal repercussions for lying to the public about the game's quality was akin to "mafia-style extortion tactics."
Let me level with you, Randy. People may dislike or even hate your games or studio for no good reason, and maybe they even harass you over it. I'm sorry you and your team have to deal with that. Honestly, I am. Still though, to suggest that Gearbox is just a group of selfless creators who have been subject to unprovoked scorn from less sophisticated sadists is either willfully ignorant or intellectually dishonest. You know — the kind of dishonesty that you had displayed while doing PR for a game that your team wasn't actively creating at the time. You, Randy, lied to people and you, Randy, got called on it. That's what happened. Now, unsurprisingly, your company's reputation has suffered and most gamers are less inclined to trust you or think that you are acting with their best interest in mind. Wake up to this reality, apologize for being shady, and do better in the future.
At this point, I'd like to thank my Editor-in-Chief, Michael Cunningham, for his continual support, our beloved readers for taking the time to indulge my abrasive opinions, and of course all of the commenters in RPGamer's forums for engaging in the conversation. I'll now ask that you do the same.
If I could ask you readers some questions this week, they would be:
What do you want to see in an Resident Evil 2?
How do you feel about the success of Five Nights at Freddy's?
Are there any bad games that you love?
What are your thoughts on Randy Pitchford's reputation?
I'll see you next month. In the meantime, stay tuned to RPGamer for all of the latest RPG news, reviews, previews, and interviews.