Five Trends In Online Gaming That Need To Die

The games industry is a rather awesome place, and there are some incredibly creative, intelligent, and fascinating individuals involved in it. That translates, of course, to some downright excellent games; the sort of digital experiences that the players remember for years to come. Unfortunately, nothing?s entirely perfect. Sure, there?s a lot to love about gaming?but there?s also a lot to hate.

Not every developer seems to have the best interests of the end user at heart, and not every publisher understands their demographic. There?s always going to be someone who?s going to attempt to take advantage of the industry and the people in it. As a result, a few rather unfortunate trends have surfaced over the years- trends that, if the industry truly wants to move forward, need to die out.

[heading]Social Skinner Boxes:[/heading]

It?s possible to create an entertaining, creative, unique, and engrossing social game. Unfortunately, too many developers don?t bother with it, and instead just go the way of conditioning players to behave in a particular fashion. They get them addicted through a system of punishment and reward. Farmville is one of the most considerable examples of this. It?s a game that isn?t fun by any stretch: it?s simply addictive. A fellow named Ian Bogost satirized this some time ago with a title termed Cow Clicker.

Unfortunately, this system of design all too often seems to make its way into MMOs, in the grinding, leveling, and farming mechanics. Games should be about entertainment and enjoyment, and not about simply getting people addicted.

[heading]Invasive DRM:[/heading]

I?m sure the majority of you have heard about this one before. The idea behind DRM ? to product the hard work of developers from falling prey to software pirates ? is an honorable one. Unfortunately, 99.9% of the time, the way it?s put into practice far more often treats legitimate customers as criminals, directly interfering with their gameplay experience. The most recent example is Blizzard?s blunder with Diablo III, a game which, for some baffling reason, requires a constant Internet connection to be playable. Steam is about the only example of DRM which actually works.

At the end of the day, many receive better service from software pirates than they do from the publishers and developers themselves. It?s downright disgraceful, and needs to change. Businesses should start practicing better customer relations: people are less willing to pirate games from a developer they actually like.

[heading]World of Warcraft Clones:[/heading]

When someone comes up with a successful idea, others want to jump on the gravy train in order to imitate it. It?s always been the case in the business world. Unfortunately, this sort of thing doesn?tw ork so well with video games ? we?ve been seeing way too many MMOs that simply copy World of Warcraft?s game design and play-style verbatim. Rather than design their own, new system, developers go with what seems safe, with what?s currently popular. Unfortunately, this rarely works. Instead, we end up with an army of ?clone? games flooding the market, none of which have the same magic as the original.

[heading]Nickel and Dime DLC: [/heading]

Downloadable content should be fresh. It should be original. Players should get value for the money they pay. Instead, we?re all too often seeing a trend of cheap, pointless, poorly done DLC designed purely to make a quick buck. Perhaps it?s a map pack released on day one that was already on the disc when it was released, and players are required to pay in order to unlock it. Maybe it?s a real money purchase that gives you a chance of unlocking the content you actually want. Or maybe it?s just a poorly designed, ill-conceived cash grab. Either way, downloadable content should meaningfully expand a player?s experience. It shouldn?t just give them the opportunity to play something that?s already on the disc, or put armor on their horse.

[heading]The ?Release now, patch later? mentality:[/heading]

Another issue that?s cropped up lately with new methods of distribution is a mentality among many publishers that, even if a title is riddled with hundreds of glitches and bugs on release, they can simply patch it up later and be in the clear. It truly seems as though testers are getting lax in their duties, secure in the knowledge that, even if there are issues, they can be fixed post-release. This sort of thing isn?t being perpetrated by small, independent studios without the resources to test adequately. Remember Dragon Age 2, and the game-breaking glitch with Isabella? What about Skyrim?

While it?s certainly true that, with how complex games are becoming, it?s harder and harder to adequately test them, one can?t help but wonder if many studios couldn?t spend a bit more time on their titles.

Are there any other irritating trends you?ve noticed in the industry at large? Give me a shout in the comments.

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