Go the Way of the Dodo : Single Player

Andromeda has been my favorite game this year. I love long, single player rpgs in expansive universes where my decisions impact the gameplay.  While I understand some of the arguments against Andromeda and the ambitions it tried to live up to – as a standalone product it probably would have been better received. Either way – it is sadly mothballed, we will never learned what happened to the Quarians (or any species in that universe) and a huge chunk of alternate gaming realities (the Mass Effect universe) is now, quintessentially, extinct.

And now the Star Wars RPG project is also as EA shuts it down.

Electronic Arts announced yesterday that it is refocusing the Star Wars project that had been in development at Visceral Games, an unannounced action-adventure title with a linear story campaign. EA Vancouver is taking over with a new direction, assisted by other EA studios, while EA is shuttering Visceral Games entirely and looking to shift the studio’s developers elsewhere inside the company.

It’s a sad day for single player game fans who have had a slew of Star Wars titles to enjoy in this manner. Heck, the original Knights of the Old Republic is what put Bioware on the map to begin with.  Of course, I am not really surprised.

Patrick Söderlund described the industry as “evolving faster and more dramatically than ever before,” and pointed to market trends as part of EA’s reasoning.

That is executive speak for we can’t sell loot boxes in single player games“.  

This breaks my heart. We are abandoning narrative for repetitive. Choice for chance. Immersion for twitch streaming capability. Destiny 2, Battlefront 2, Anthem, Overwatch… Its all about the crates. It’s far easier to create repeatable content than meaningful content and more profitable to heavily monetize a small world than to abandon a large piece of one when you move past the narrative. I do get that.

I am just hoping that this is just the new trend, and there will be future market demands for expansive RPGs – hoping Dragon Age, Red Dead Redemption 2 or some other game can hit it out of the park and get other studios back interested in the single player narrative. My worst fear is that they will somehow add a loot crate mechanic to those games. I was very much looking forward to exploring the Star Wars Universe through a personal story lens, as it remains one of my favorite worlds to fantasize about being a part of since childhood.  Very disappointed but not entirely surprised.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. This feels to me like the worst ideas from mobile gaming are creeping onto console and PC now. It could become ridiculous beyond even loot crates. What if you get a popup “Uh-oh, looks like you’re about to die in this boss fight. Pay USD 1.00 to refill health?” In the slew of mobile games, quite a bunch use mechanics like that, and of course it influences game design. You design games that set up the player for failure.

    If we get an Age of Loot Boxes, normal gameplay could be designed so it’s unfairly tough and only buying loot crates gets you the right gear to play at a normal difficulty level.

    The unfortunate part is that big licenses like Star Wars can only be held by huge companies, and some of them are morally bankrupt (well, mostly EA is morally bankrupt). Smaller companies that might be less likely to pull these tricks won’t have a chance of getting the license. So I share your fear in all this.

    To people disillusioned by such shenanigans: Nintendo has been remarkably solid in this regard. They don’t even have achievements (yet) so the onlinification of offline games isn’t really a thing. And the DLC they offer is usually not required for any games, but adds significant things if you do buy it. Nintendo offers the closest thing to my childhood experience now.

    You buy something and it might cost a bit more than what you get in a Steam sale, but you get a full and independent package. 200+ hours of gameplay in Zelda, hundreds of hours of Mario Kart with no DLC required and no loot crates, no pay to win and a free multiplayer service.

    Nintendo has other strange quirks, like the problems they have with streamers, but they have never sold out to this weird “cash is all that matters” mentality that’s sweeping AAA developers at the moment. And they could have easily DLC’d and P2W’d the crap out of titles like Pokémon and turned them into a cash printing machine.

    I’m ranting and this is going nowhere, but I am with you in being deeply sceptical of such moves and can only recommend the usual vote with your wallet defense.

  2. I doubt the loot boxes will last long. They’ll be outlawed as gambling soon enough. The video game players are a large enough demographics to cater to in elections. And whoever bans lootboxes gets the votes of gamers.

    1. If the industry was smart they would self-regulate and set rules before that happens. They won’t be as happy once politicians start getting involved. Nothing wrong with transparency.

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