Since the hype over COD Modern Warfare II (2022) started, many of our PCP Members have carried on some often heated discussions about how games have changed over the years—sometimes for the worst. Of course, COD always pulls a little bit of ire. I don’t think you can satisfy the COD crowd anymore. Battlefield 2042—a potential wrecking ball of a title—deflated like a sad little balloon immediately after launch. Red Dead Redemption 2 was probably the best title to release in recent years, yet Rockstar seemingly abandoned it like yesterday’s trash. I could go on and on.
Personally, I have strong opinions about stock markets and publicly traded companies essentially ruining businesses for their customers to appease stockholders, gaming industry included, but I won’t go too far down that path. Instead, I want to share a little bit of our gaming clan’s conversation with you.
I recently took to the streets (and by streets, I mean our Porkchop Platoon Forums) to ask our members’ opinions on AAA games. I gave some primer questions that included:
- Are big budget games delivering what you expect?
- Have societal issues bled into the games being created?
- Did you expect games to be where they are 5 years ago?
- Where are games headed in the next 5 years?
- Did the console wars kill AAA game access?
- Have indie games overtaken or made a big dent in the AAA landscape?
- Is gaming too divided? Too money hungry? Too something else?
- Are you still having fun gaming?
Below is what our members thought. As a reference point, I am including a Wikipedia entry on the definition of what “AAA” means in the gaming industry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AAA_(video_game_industry)
I think the “state” of AAA gaming is that it is slowly becoming a misnomer. The title “AAA” implies not only budget but also technical quality. I firmly believe that creative tools like Unreal Engine is giving small, sometimes singular developers access to graphical and constructive power that used to only exist in a walled garden populated by “AAA” developers.
It used to be that if you wanted a good looking tree or bush or rock, you’d have to have teams of artists creating them, then a different team to apply them to the 3D objects. Now, someone can download the free Unreal Engine client, download Epics free texture and object packs, and create something almost indistinguishable from a AAA title with only a few hours of following YouTube tutorials. I know this because I’ve worked in the industry before, and it’s become so easy to make an asset and drop it into a 3D space.
Of course, there are still things you can do to set yourself apart from others. Custom flora and fauna, unique structures and the like, but the barrier to entry to a very good looking game, one that has the graphical fidelity we would consider “AAA”, has never been lower, and will only continue to drop.
I disagree somewhat with the categorization of a AAA game solely based on the graphical aspect. What makes AAA games so exclusive is by far the budget and development lead time. These studios have the $$$ to hire developers, voice actors, writers and creative folks that supposedly have ideas to revolutionize gaming. Studios choose to spend their money differently.
Activision studios develop the engine that allows them to flexibility to build the same CoD game style year over year. There has been very little innovation there, mainly due to the community knowing what they like.
A studio like Dice on the other hand, innovates for the sake of innovating. They might have a winning formula in one game, but they still take their changes, which most times leads to big mistakes and delays.
Which leads me to the current state if AAA games. It’s not great. All the big studios need to answer to their stakeholders, so they are not permitted the time to develop a true full game. This leads to resentment from the community for delivering an “incomplete” or “buggy” game. Studios should also stop trying to race hardware innovations. Stick to one standard for a few years until they plateau, then set a new standard. Consoles and PCs will continue to expand, but you really don’t need to try to keep up at the detriment of your reputation.
My opinion on the state of AAA games: LOL
Are big budget games delivering what you expect? It depends. Mostly no because delivery comes in stages and not at release, so I don’t think they “deliver” what I expect or buy. There are exceptions like RDR2 and Witcher 3.
Have societal issues bled into the games being created? Without question societal issues bleed into the games. This is inevitable because game creation is an art form. Music, Art, Drama, etc. exist across a spectrum of social and commercial viability. With all categories of “art,” I prefer those pieces that include the social aspect in an organic way that furthers the art itself rather than those that push an agenda that spoils the art. In music, a good example is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” Great tune, cool, subtle groove, with a less-than-popular social message for its time. Still, a great tune. As a classical music guy, look up the riots caused by Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” In the art of video game design, I’ll site RDR2. There is a running theme of the poor treatment of Native Americans and the “evils” of American Industrialization, but they are so well woven into the story that it isn’t a problem (a few moments could have been avoided). Quite the contrary, it motivates the player to reflect on some ideas one way or another. Games based so deeply on character decision like Witcher allow the player to accept or deny the built in societal themes based on those choices, AND to replay those experiences with different decisions.
Did you expect games to be where they are 5 years ago? I didn’t expect to be where I am 5 years ago! I did not give a thought to where games would be, nor do I intend to. I do think the hype train was running too fast. We are not all strapped in to floating VR chairs with electrodes attached to our skin so we can feel every aspect of a game.
Did the console wars kill AAA game access? Maybe?
Have indie games overtaken or made a big dent in the AAA landscape? No, but I’m old. I want them to make a bigger dent, but they don’t have access to the eye candy graphic capabilities as the AAA ones. I accept there might be younger players, or older ones with younger kids, who love them. I recall having a blast with my son playing “Castle Crashers.” Unfortunately, I think Indies are hampered by being largely platform locked or graphics weak.
Is gaming too divided? Too money hungry? Too something else? As an entity gaming is not too divided. Gaming companies exist to make money (as they should) by providing a product people want to buy. Specifically, regarding PCP? Yes, it is divisive and I’m part of that. They are certainly money hungry. I am in favor of companies being money hungry, why else become a company in the US. Make your money! But provide a good or service that warrants the consumer handing over the cash. My recent experience is that games exist only to produce cash for their companies rather than the win-win of providing an experience of value to the player. I equate this with gambling. Vegas will always make money, the odds are in their favor, always. However, the player has the CHANCE to win. MORE importantly, the players engage in an experience where they KNOW they have the CHANCE to win. So, even if/when they lose, they’ve had an experience worthy of the price because of the feeling of expectation they had as the cards were thrown in front of them. Even if they lose, they paid for a positive experience (before they crapped out). With incomplete games, glitches, patches, wipes, delays after pre-orders, etc. the gaming companies don’t even deliver on the anticipatory part of playing.
Are you still having fun gaming? Sometimes. Part of the lack of fun is personal and a loss of enjoyment in things I used to like (yeah, I know the psychological aspect of that statement and it sucks). I LOVE a good story. So RDR2, Witcher 3, the detail of AC, are fun for me. Grinding weapons and skins are OK, they simply satiate my OCD. Honestly, for me, playing any coordination game with active PCP players is the most fun I have. I dedicated a few years to Tanks, Elite Dangerous, etc. because of the PEOPLE I play with. THAT keeps me having fun.
From @ JaketheLate:
I definitely agree that AAA games aren’t just good graphics. That being said, the average player, when asked what sets AAA games apart, usually says it’s the visuals. Most people talk about that because that’s the easiest to recognize. Talk to a real fan of a genre, however, and they’ll get into the minutiae of it, like how aiming feels in an FPS, how they think a MOBA is well-balanced or not, if they like the leveling systems in their favorite RPG, etc.
Basically visuals aren’t the only thing, but usually are the first/most discussed thing about the AAA game space, next to money, which is also easily demonstrated through visual fidelity. A company can point at a screenshot and say, “see how pretty? It’s because we spent $200,000,000 on production.” It’s harder to call up an engine window and do the same thing.
From @ EastTNMuel:
No they are not and half the time they are half assed finished.
Yes!! Gamers don’t care and don’t want to see them in the games. We game to get away from hearing that crap.
Lots of remakes of old games we loved.
Yes and no. PS and Xbox are always going to have exclusive just for their consoles.
Not that I’m aware of. If they do, then they get bought out by the big companies which then ruin them.
Too many games coming out that aren’t worth buying which has everyone going in different directions. What happened to just one or two AAA games coming out every two years? This whole season crap is running the games. Just release the content and let the gamers play it when they can and finish it when they can.
Not like it used to be 10 years ago. Due to limited gaming time, I have I’m pretty much stuck on one game just to keep up so when I play with PCP pigs I’m not behind or nobody wants to include me because I don’t have the right gear/level.
I wanted to respond to a few questions.
Societal issues – Personally, I welcome them being included. If a game is set in present day or later and wants to include references to Black Lives Matter or the fact that there are more than two genders. Go for it. If they want to make political commentary. IMO it makes it more immersive.
Fun – This is hard. I love single player games. Skyrim, Fallout, Prey, RDR etc. It’s the multiplayer where I form a dis-attachment. I’ve played CoD since the original MW2. I simply don’t find any joy in it anymore aside from the occasional DMZ and clan night customs. No one really plays my main multi player game (Overwatch).
Next five years – As long as we get Elder Scrolls 6, I’ll be happy. Moreso if it’s co-op.
To sum it up in a few words:
- Are big budget games delivering what you expect? Yes and no. They’re beautiful games, but too often a partial (or broken) product at launch.
- Have societal issues bled into the games being created? Yes, for better or worse. It’s really a personal preference.
- Did you expect games to be where they are 5 years ago? Who knows?!
- Where are games headed in the next 5 years? Who knows?! But it isn’t Ready Player One-level stuff.
- Did the console wars kill AAA game access? It depends. Do you like the exclusive titles enough to lock on to a system? Where do my friends play?
- Have indie games overtaken or made a big dent in the AAA landscape? Yes and no. Maybe more competition is needed to level the field?
- Is gaming too divided? Too money hungry? Too something else? Who knows? Sometimes? Ultimately business is business, but deliver what the player wants first, stockholders second.
- Are you still having fun gaming? Yes and no. Again, where are my friends playing?
The bottom line is this—and it’s been said here before—community matters most—the players matter most—playing with your friends matters most of all. A solid community can rally around a shitty title made in a garage and make the absolute best of it, as long as it’s fun and it works. Conversely, the next $15,000,000 solid gold AAA can be trashed and forgotten when you don’t listen to your customers and refuse to learn.
And there you have it.
What do you think? I’d love to know!
Post your comments below and please share to your favorite social media site!
Special thanks to all of the PCP Members who participated in my little survey and allowed me to quote you! ~OMD
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