Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 18, 2023
When to play?

No Man’s Sky is reporting their “most successful month in the past few years”. Apart from their Echoes update, this is probably also boosted by the release of Starfield. Watching some Starfield gameplay videos on base building and planetary exploration followed by some No Man’s Sky videos of similar gameplay, it is hard not to come away with the impression that No Man’s Sky is both prettier and a lot deeper in these areas. Now No Man’s Sky obviously was in a horrible state when it came out in 2016, and I was able to get it for 60% off on Steam in 2017. Played it a bit then, liked it, haven’t touched it since then and have forgotten all about it. I barely recognize the 2023 gameplay, as the game continued to evolve and change. So for people for who Starfield was a disappointment, No Man’s Sky might be a reasonable alternative, especially if you still got a copy in your Steam library which you got at a steep discount. But thats poses the question when a game is best to play.

Video game technology advances. Maybe not as fast anymore as it used to, but playing a game that is over 10 years old and didn’t get some major engine overhaul since then is likely to feel outdated. I’m not saying that Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 weren’t great games, but you can’t play them followed by 3 without noticing the technological gap. And that is if the old game is still available: With live service games and MMOs there is a significant risk that instead of getting better over time, they get worse due to lack of other players, or downright get the servers shut down for not being profitable anymore. Another aspect is social media: Some 10-year old games still have a strong following, e.g. Rimworld. But others have completely disappeared from the public conscience, and you can’t find a Twitch streamer still covering them, and if you talk about the game on your social media there is no echo. My Steam library has 70% unplayed games, and that is actually not an unusual number; lots of people buy Steam games, decide for various reasons to wait before playing, and then never get around to it. And not every game actually gets good developer support over the years, some games get released half-finished and never get more than a few hotfixes.

The cult of the now has advantages when it comes to playing new games that are relevant to others, and thus it is easier to find some conversation about them on social media. But even highly praised games like Baldur’s Gate 3 have bugs and missing content in Act III, and will probably be a better experience once the definitive edition is released. I played Pathfinder: Kingmaker for 180 hours, then bought Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous and stopped playing after 37 hours. A combination of too much of the same sort of gameplay in series, and the newly released game being buggy, killed it for me. Wrath of the Righteous is now at patch 2.1.5, and presumably a lot better. But of course I wasted money by buying it on release. And 2023 is a year filled with great RPGs, which doesn’t help dealing with a backlog. A game like Starfield I want to play soon, when I come back from my holidays, because with subscription services like Gamepass I never know how long a game will be included in the subscription, games are leaving Gamepass every month. But I would also be interested in finally trying out Cyberpunk 2077, with the new 2.0 update.

Lacking a crystal ball, I don’t have a good answer for any given new game whether it would be better to play now, or wait at least a year or two until the game is actually in a finished state, and can probably be bought a lot cheaper. Usually I decide based on emotions, my current interest, but that isn’t always a good guide.

Where I can, I decide based on the company's reputation and history. If they have a history of releasing games which are a buggy mess, I don't have any interest until the fixes are in. If they have a history of solid releases, I can feel comfortable purchasing them as soon as I feel like I want to play them.

For companies with no real history, I based it off of those doing in-depth plays on YouTube as they are likely to have run into the bugs I would.
For me, I typically wait until all the Expansions/DLC have been released and buy the complete edition at a 50% or greater discount. This also has the benefit of many issues being patched by then. This works well for me for single-player games. But I acknowledge for multiplayer games, by that time the crowd to play with may have moved on, and it may be more difficult to find others to play with. Being behind the social media crowd doesn't bother me.

It makes me wonder though, if everyone did the same as I do, how would it affect the game industry? For example, what if no one bought Cyberpunk 2077, Starfield, or Elden Ring on release and waited for the expansions and patches?
I prefer getting a complete game with all expansions for $20 or less than new game with bugs to yet to be ironed out for $60 . . . and with no expansions included. If you aren't a 20 something that has a deep seated need to be able to be part of the conversation around any hot new game that comes out, there is very little reason to buy games on day 1 (much less pre-order them).

This is doubly true now that graphically fidelity is approaching an asymptote. You can probably see that most clearly on consoles. Horizon Forbidden West is absolutely astounding to behold on a PS5, but it's not in an entirely different class from say any random high end PS4 game from four or five years ago. If you grew up with Atari they are all pretty flabbergasting. Does Starfield look light years better than older competitors? Not really to my eyes.

I can tell no one commenting here is a 20-something or a teen. My teen in the house plays pretty much any game I get on day one. he played and finished Resident evil 4 Remake the day it released, and I have yet to touch it (I sat on RE2 and RE 3 Remakes for two years before playing them over a couple weekends). He is already loading Starfield and by the time I am ready to think about it he will already have formulated some bizarre gameplay approach I can't even conceive with my old brain. This means that yes, I will buy a day one game because I know that even though I may take a couple years to get around to it (I finally finished Outriders this year for example), someone in my household will plough through that game in record time and be done with it. Even my wife, who is incredibly selective, will pick a game that is new and play it, often for hundreds of hours, without issue.

In fact, there is only one time I can recall buying and playing a game on the same day of release and as a result quite enjoyed it because no one had time to tell me I was having badwrongfun, and it was on the notorious Aliens: Colonial Marines. I polished that off in one weekend and had a fun time, never noticed more than one significant bug. It helped that I had seen no press, good or bad, before it came out, too. To this day that experience made me realize that the media narrative online is just that: a narrative. Sometimes that Narrative is accurate (heck, maybe most of the time) but the complaints about some games are often exaggerated for clicks.

Anyway....the point is that most gamers are a lot younger or less immersed in media narratives and won't let a few bugs get in the way of their play experience, and if the bugs are really bad we'll know pretty quick (Cough Saint's Row cough). Even No Man's Sky was playable on Day One....I was there....but because of what it looked like back then I haven't bothered to try since, and that's purely on my own sense of disappointment.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool