T’other day, Bungie did a big stream thing of the new content coming in April to Destiny.
Before you all slink away in disgust that this is one of those ‘reviews’ of what amounted to about 10 minutes of very stage-managed gameplay interspersed with awkward conversations with devs to fill the time, fear not – this isn’t an article about Destiny. Well OK: it sort of is in one capacity, but let me explain.
So this new Destiny content is out in April. That’s a whopping 17 months after the original release date, and it’s by no means the last content coming. And the way Destiny plays, it’s basically engineered to create months of replay by design.
Yet as soon as the news was out, many forums were full of people complaining that it wasn't enough, that it was too little too late and people had moved on, that they’d mislaid their PS4 in the meantime and now had to use a biscuit tin painted black as a console and why wasn’t this Bicco-2000X compatible and so on.
And the complainees have a point…to a point.
Sure, Destiny has been dry as a sandpaper toastie for months now and if they want people to keep playing there should have been more of a planned drip feed of stuff and more info guffed out from the studio about what/where/when.
But part of me is wondering – do they REALLY want more, or do they just think they do? And I’m wondering that in particular because until recently I’d probably have been one of them.
Don’t get me wrong – I like value for money as much as the next tightwad, and I played the arse off Destiny. But now I’ve stopped playing (mainly thanks to The Division), I’ve realised that a lot of what up until recently I used to think I enjoyed was actually more habit than genuine fun.
I suspect I’d have realised this a lot sooner had I been grabbed by Fallout 4, a game I’d been looking forward to for ages having been a huge fan of Fallout 3. However, that failed to grasp my gaming teats because it was too much like it’s predecessor for me and it felt like going over old ground.
And a lot of that was because F3 was massive and I’d played that for ages – finally stopping mid-way through the third vast expansion because I’d just been doing it so long I wanted a change.
The failure of Fallout to re-grab me, and my recent snapping out of my Destiny coma, has made me realise I’m not sure I do want huge, near-endless games anymore.
And yes, I’m aware of the irony of it being another ongoing game that’s brought me to this point...
At least The Division seems a bit more aware of this, and looks like it’s designed to be more play a bit, go off and play something else, come back for new stuff rather than leaving a constant small trail of crumbs meaning you need to play constantly to feel fulfilled).
Humans are real big idiots, and we tend to fall into ruts we don’t see we’re in until something comes along and bumps us out again. I admit I was in one games-wise, but now I’m out I’m perhaps more wary of falling back into another.
It wasn’t that long ago that you’d play a game and in a few days you’d be done and dusted – the only genre that was really the exception was the RPG. Before that, back in the 8-bit days if you saw ‘longevity’ in a review it was often just a more polite way of saying you’d be facing frankly insane levels of difficulty and no save points.
The only way many games could be made to last more than 10 minutes was to make them frustratingly hard to complete – I remember having to effectively learn all 5 worlds of speccy platformer Head over Heels by heart, and finally getting to the ending felt like a staggering achievement. But at the same time I knew that end was there and that the goalpoasts wouldn’t shift again.
Games nowadays of course are much larger so doing them in 1 sitting is practically impossible, but of late this increase in girth and offering of expansion after expansion seems to be happening to an almost absurd scale, and to more and more titles.
I’m not saying we should get back to the days where a game was 8 screens and then you were done and dusted.
But I’m convinced I’m starting to see a diminishing of returns where great ideas are stretched out so thin they’re just not that great anymore. Supermassive games like Witcher 3, Just Cause and Fallout 4 may have lots to do, but whittle away the setting and really a lot of the missions are essentially chores to keep you busy.
The antithesis to this is stuff like the frankly awesome Superhot – a short but ultra-sweet burst of concentrated gaming goodness. But lo and behold, have a look on forums and gaming sites and even here on Digi 2000 and you’ll see many people saying it just seems too short and isn’t value for money. Obviously, what something is worth is a subjective thing, but not every restaurant needs to be an all you can eat buffet.
They say all good things come to an end, after all – so if something doesn’t ever get to an ‘end’, or just sputters out like a firework the dog has done a wee on, perhaps it’s not actually that good?
Where am I going with this? I dunno, really, other than to say I think the pendulum may have swung a bit too far, and hopefully we might soon see a bit of a retraction in game size in favour of more exciting and less dilute experiences.
The tipping point may well be the imminent arrival of No Man’s Sky – a game so mind-warpingly vast that it’s impossible for any human to see everything it has to offer in 100 lifetimes, let alone the paltry 80-odd years most of us manage to shamble along for. It’s probably the ultimate in value for money and might well be a fantastic game.
But after my recent experiences, I’m not sure now that I don’t also see it as being potentially the biggest rut of all.
Mr Biffo is away.