Bethesda Softworks Can Suck It

Allow me to begin this article by telling you a little bit about myself. I’m in every sense of the word a hardcore gamer. I practically grew up on games, and my oldest memory is of me playing SMB3 on my NES. Some of my favourite game companies are Apogee, Bitmap Brothers, Blizzard, Gas Powered Games, id Software, Valve, and even Ensemble Studios.

And then there’s Bethesda Softworks.

I used to like Bethesda, it being the developer of Morrowind and all. Over the past few years however, Bethesda progress upwards as a “pretty good” game company came to a grinding halt, and its progress is now somewhere between stagnant and half past dead. Still, there’s a growing sense that someone at that company forgot to take Ritalin the morning they announced that isometric games are dead and that PC gaming is dying.

To confirm their position on the manner, Bethesda has:

  • Completely reimagined Fallout to look like a Post-Nuclear version of Oblivion, much to every gamer’s chagrin
  • Pissed off the majority of their fan base with ignorance, arrogance and misunderstanding of the Fallout franchise
  • Signed shoddy deals with game journalists (what journalists?) to limit the flow of information with regards to Fallout 3
  • Compounded their mistakes with lies towards the fan base about how the game isn’t anything close to being “Oblivion with guns”, despite the fact that several of those “journalists” confirmed that the game does indeed feel that way.
  • Had a guy who has no idea what he’s talking about represent the company

Having said that, since Blizzard has absolutely no idea what they are doing releasing a 3D Isometric PC game, let’s see how they dug themselves into a hole:

  • For the past few weeks Blizzard has had a front page splash of mysterious clues hinting towards their next game
  • Each consecutive clue came closer to revealing the mystery, building an exponential amount of hype
  • On June 28th in Paris, France at the WWI, Blizzard announced the development of Diablo III and revealed their new website, complete with two trailers, screenshots, and game lore, and have since been updating the website with more information
  • Fans around the world got hyped about up the upcoming game, and communities were formed. The number of Diablo 2 players on Battle.net substantially increased

At the moment, Blizzard is in a PR hellhole. Vivendi stocks are plummeting because of the recent announcement of Diablo III, and several of its key designers were leaving in droves.

Or so Bethesda probably wishes.

Now excuse me while I go spend more money on horse armour and 15 minute quests. Also, there will be cake.

How To Make A Proper Sequel: Part 2

I’ve received a lot of feedback regarding a post I made on my Destructoid blog, more positive than negative so I decided to continue that line of thought and further compare Diablo 3 and Fallout 3.

I started my post by stating that everything that I’d seen on June 28 got me interested in Diablo 3. Everything that I’ve seen since then has only gotten me even more interested.

Specifically, Leonard Boyarsky’s involvement as Lead World Designer. His title means that he’s the guy in charge of making sure the storyline holds up, in charge of all the details and tales that, as I mentioned in my previous post, kept running backstage while chaos erupted in the forefront in the previous games.

While you were mass clicking some miniboss, somewhere in the gameworld an NPC kept waiting for you to come back, ready to present you with your next quest. This NPC had a name, a personality, a backstory, a personal agenda.

But you barely got to know any of it.

Gamespy’s latest interview with Boyarsky has given me great faith in Diablo 3, in this exact topic. While the designer isn’t planning to fill the time between quests with massive ammounts of text as the fabled Planescape: Torment (a game every player owes it to himself to play, even if only for five minutes), he expressed a clear desire to present the various gameworld character’s wishes, desires and story as you go on your way slaying beasts here and there.

Even the player’s character will have a backstory and goals, depending on his class. Boyarsky states his wish to do away with the archetypal characters used in the previous games in order to bring the player closer to the gameworld. They’ll be considered heroic, no doubt, but they’ll have a purpose in the world besides doing quests mindlessly for others.

The map of Diablo 3. Hope we get to fully explore it.

All of this is really awesome. All of this rings right to me, and certainly to others as well. It’s good that the Lead World Designer’s wishes won’t really change the way the game is presented. You’ll still kill mindlessly, you’ll still mash your mouse buttons, but at least there’ll be some juice for those of us who delight in story and lore.

I mean, I still remember reading Diablo I’s tall manual before playing, checking out the tales of the sorcerers and the warriors and the rogues. Then I played the game and got stuck in the same cathedral for who knows how long, not finding out more about these several factions, not really learning more than what the manual had told me of Diablo’s world.

I’m glad THAT will change.

This is how a sequel should be made. Expand and advance the game’s universe and find new ways of presenting it to the player, without breaking the way the previous games worked.

I’ll say Blizzard has an advantage when confronted with Bethesda in this issue. The Diablo series has more fans than Fallout, but since the lore was never one of the most important parts of the game, not many of them will counter Blizzard’s changes to the lore, if they exist.

In the Fallout series, the story, the gameworld, is extremely important. In fact, several players keep stating that Bethesda is doing a good job because they’re trying to maintain the storyline, the dialog and the humour of what came before. Trying doesn’t mean succeeding.

The few tidbits and developer’s journals that Bethesda has released have all let on that they aren’t handling the material very well. The fans have all recognized several flaws, for instance, their decision to relocate a prominent faction from the series to a new area, when such a faction had little desire in expanding or relocating. Basically, it’s the same mistake Fallout Tactics had.

I’ll give them two things they got right, though: they chose an unused vault number, 101, and the teaser trailer itself felt true to the series. There was the wrecked city, the art deco statues, the old 50’s song (they even used the same band, The Inkspots). It was too bad that by the end of the trailer everybody knew that the game would be a first person shooter / rpg. It had been rendered in the game engine.

The irony in all this is that Leonard Boyarsky was one of Fallout’s original developers, leaving Interplay after Fallout 2 to form Troika with Tim Cain and Jason D. Anderson. Now, after Troika failed due to several factors, we find him on the opposite end of the spectrum, behind what is commonly reffered as an Action Roleplaying Game, in fact, THE Action RPG, Diablo, where stats determine only your proficiency in combat, where the focus is how you kill, and not who you chose to help or who you chose to destroy.

It’s great to see one of the three do so well in the business after the tragic event of Troika’s downfall, even behind a game that seemingly has nothing do to with what he had worked on before. It’s also good that he’s interested in adapting his way of work in favour of the game, keeping with the same tone, instead of pushing for changes to the gameplay previously established.

Maybe to you, the Fallout series and the Diablo series couldn’t be more distinct. But in light of all this, a comparison between the next games in these series is not only justified, but necessary.

Gamers and developers will learn a lot from what these two companies are doing right now.

Bethsoft’s Ashley Cheng Disappointed in Diablo 3

Bethesda Softworks’ Ashley Cheng, the Producer of Fallout 3 stated his disappointment of Diablo 3’s announcement on his blog in a post entitled “When the ship runs out of ocean.” These are his exact comments, after the jump:

Diablo III announced. Nice. It looks pretty amazing, especially the gameplay video. Loved the destructible environments.

I must say I am disappointed that Blizzard has stayed on the conservative side in terms of design with their updates to Diablo and Starcraft. Diablo will be interesting since World of Warcraft has a lot of Diablo-like qualities. I have no doubt, however, that they will be incredibly fun, addictive and polished games. Blizzard is the top of the class when it comes to game development – nobody does it better.

In fact, World of Warcraft is currently banned from any computer I own due to its highly addictive qualities. Its easily one of my favorite RPGs.

I know they are working on another Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game. I hope its World of Starcraft.

It’s certainly a nice attempt to backpedal on his negative comments about the game by citing World of Warcraft’s addictive nature, but one can only surmise that his reference to the Diablo 3’s so-called “conservative” design is due to its lack of a first person perspective, as is often touted as a ‘feature’ of the upcoming Fallout 3; a ‘feature’ that nobody even asked for.

Bethesda calls Fallout’s design outdated, while converting Fallout 3 to the same basic design they’ve been using since Arena in 1994.

Update: Ashley has shared similar thoughts on his Twitter account posted last year, when Starcraft 2 was announced:

starcraft 2 looks great, wish blizzard deviated more, try ground control/battlezone first person gameplay. more thoughts on blog later.

It certainly sounds like he wants Starcraft 2 to be played from a first person perspective. One must ask: Why reinvent the wheel?