True Story–Most People Don’t Finish Games

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Image Source: Gaming.Wikia.com

Recently, I’ve talked about games growing in scale.  Games are getting longer and longer, and games are becoming a “service” rather than a “product.”  Game publishers feel that this is the way to combat ballooning development costs/budgets and maximize profits, but right not, games are mostly a cinematic, narrative-driven genre.  Games, for the most, tell stories.  There are exceptions (a notable one is one of the most popular games currently out there–Minecraft), but for the most part games tell stories.  But there is a problem with this model.

Most people don’t FINISH the games that they buy.

Think that is an exaggeration?  I’ve recently put a lot of time with Mass Effect Andromeda and looking at the Trophy data (Trophies/Achievements) on their respect platforms.  As most games are narrative based, most games include data on the percentage (%) of people getting the trophies/achievements for the various story milestones and the data is more than surprising–it is almost shocking.  As someone who tries diligently to finish (see the ending credits roll) for the games that I buy, I’m always surprised by the low completion of the story modes in games.

Except for the earliest trophies in the game, which are usually anywhere in the 90-80 percentile, as you get deeper and deeper into the game, the percentages fall, sometimes precipitously.  For instance, ME:A has a trophy for completing what appears to be the middle of the game (Madera, the 4th major planet–the 3rd that you can put an outpost on).  The world before has a trophy completion rate in the 70 percentile range.  The trophy for Kadera is in the 30 percentile range.  This is a drop of 50%.  That means half of the people who bought the game stopped playing (for whatever reason) before the midway point.

Now here’s the problem, go to a Trophy Ranking site like PlaystationTrophies.org (or the X-Box equivalent) and you’ll find similar stats (maybe not as dramatic), but nearly every game that has a narrative, there is a decrease in the percentage of players earning trophies/achievements as the narrative progresses.

As games like Overwatch, Destiny 2, and now Anthem, embrace this game as “service” model, new narrative modes, or new ways of delivering narrative are going to have to devised in order to keep players attention and keep them invested in the game delivery platform.

Mass Effect Andromeda: The Little Shuttle that Could

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Image Source: Forbes

So, Mass Effect Andromeda (ME:A) has gotten its hooks in me again.  After a month long hiatus, I’ve pretty much binged the game over the weekend to the exclusion of all else.  The game is pretty much my kind of Sci-Fi, space ships, combat, and an intriguing storyline that traverses multiple star systems in the Andromeda Galaxy.   It is also a rather large game, with one major story arc and many, many side quests.  Each of the “major” worlds that you discover has a mission or two that involves the main quest and then a ridiculous amount of the side quests to fill out that world.  And even when you’re done, more side quests tend to populate on that world, so while you can “finish” the world, it is not uncommon to spend quite a bit of time on each world.

Now, while I appreciate long games, I’m starting to feel that many games are simply padding their runtime with useless side quests and other story elements just to 1) artificially inflate their length (gamers these days supposedly value a longer game rather than a shorter game) and 2) to make sure that you play only their game for long periods of time (hence you don’t trade the game back in thereby decreasing the “used game” market).  “Games as a ‘Service'” is an idea that is slowly gaining hold in the gaming community with more and more publishers trying to extend the life of their games to accomplish the two goals and the idea of paid DLC.  My concern is that this is coming at the expense of storytelling.

For instance, there was a mission that I just completed on ME:A that had me chasing a woman with a highly contagious disease and I needed to try to stop her before she reached a populated center.  However, in her delusion she had stolen a shuttle and left the station.  Yet, in a shuttle, she was able to traverse several different solar systems (quite far away from the space station) and was able to crash land the shuttle on a populated world.  Her little shuttle served the plot rather than the story.  There was no way, based on the fiction that the game had set up, that the shuttle she was in should have been able to fly as far as it did and cover as many systems that it did.  I could tell this was done for game extension and nothing else.  Even the ending of the mission was also off–I won’t spoil it–but the resolution did not match what the exposition was set up as when the mission was first presented to me.

This is a problem that I see continuing to happen as games get bigger.  Instead of stories that make sense, we will get stories that exist to simply fill out the story and make the world bigger and the game longer.  Instead of tightly crafted games, many games will become more diluted and and will have to rely on more and more visual aspects and less story aspects.  I wonder what impact this will have on gaming in the future as more and more games focus on length and breadth rather than story?

E3 and me: Beyond Good and Evil 2

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Image Source: rayman-fanpage.de

Bethesda’s E3 Conference this year left me disappointed; I have a wide range of gaming interests and nothing that Bethesda showed interested me or was something that I wanted to play, so it was up to Ubisoft to intrigue me and they did.

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Image Source: Kotaku

Beyond Good and Evil 2 (BG&E 2)

So this one came as a bit of a surprise.  The original game, Beyond Good and Evil, has become sort of a cult hit since it’s release in 2003.  Usually, I can say that I’ve played the game and have been awaiting the news of this long wanted/long awaited sequel, but in this case, I can’t.  I actually missed this one — how I don’t really remember.  I checked and according to IGN, it received a demo in the Official US Playstation Magazine (Vol. 78) and that was primarily how I checked out new games and decided if they warranted a purchase.

However, even though only a trailer was shown, the trailer for BG&E 2 is a very intriguing Sci-Fi trailer.  It looks very inventive and the universe seems to be a mash-up of the movie The 5th Element and the Mass Effect series.  Again, while no gameplay was shown, the creator of the series, Michel Ancel appeared on-stage (with another team lead on the project) and they talked a bit about the game’s development and what it would be like playing the game.  It seems, from their description, that it will be a lot like/play a lot like Mass Effect Andromeda, where a “multi-ethnic crew” will come together to explore new worlds while looking for a specific object.  According to the developers you will go to and discover new fantastical worlds during your search.

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Image Source: Trusted Reviews

This sounds truly epic to me and I hope that they are able to pull off.  This is what I’m trying to do in my own Sci-Fi stories and this is what I like to read/play from stories from others.  I’m cautiously optimistic about this particular game.  And if you’ll notice, they even put a spaceship in the promotional image above, and as I’ve said before, put a dragon or a spaceship on your cover, and you’ll pique my curiosity/interest level by 100%!

In case you’re curious, I’m including a link to the BG&E2 trailer.  However, this one has a personal warning from me about language.  They drop the “F-bomb” early and often in the trailer, and while I’m not usually okay with that (I generally take the “language” tone of Captain America from Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in my everyday life), I still feel that the trailer is so well done and so evocative towards the vision that I’d like to see more of in stories (my own and others) that I’m willing to overlook it and feature it on my blog.

So, personal warning out of the way, here’s Beyond Good and Evil 2’s trailer.  Hope you enjoy; I know I did.