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Dear Game Developers: You're Late

I am beginning to dread my days off as, between this week and the last, I've had pretty much no game I am interested in playing.  The problem is largely that I have mentally pigeonholed myself into a position where there is no viable choice.
Start with, "Why I'm Only Playing Minecraft Lately," a May 2014 blog entry where I outline the basic reasons why I don't play a lot of games:
  • I have already seen what atmospheric action adventures can do.
  • I find multiplayer arena shooters to be trite dogpiles dominated by obnoxious teens with better reflexes than me.
  • I like MOBAs, but learning a roster of potentially hundreds of units is a pain in the ass, and too many avid players get way too upset if you are not as good as they are.  (Collectable card games are sort of another kind of MOBA.)
  • I like strategy games, but I find the overall investment of time does not match the enjoyment I tend to get out of them.  (Speaking of which, Invisible Inc. is looking absolutely fab, but it is still a bun in the oven.)
This makes up the greater bulk of the kinds of games you are likely to see on the PC these days, except for MMORPGs, which are incredible endeavors I tried to get back into as of WildStar's release.  That lasted a fair amount of time, but I was burnt out of theme park MMORPGs long before I tried to play WildStar, and this inevitably reinforced an inability to commit to a character ruined that game for me like it did all the others.
ArcheAge looks solid, I've already paid enough to have bought the game three times over, but it's not technically released for another month (I would estimate) and so I don't want to play it right now for fear I will burn out before release.

So, what will I play and why aren't I playing it?

I had already isolated back in April 2014 that the kind of game I'd like to play was going to be a roleplaying game that completely eschews quests in favor of dynamic events that make sense.  I ended up describing it as "Minecraft with Civilization on top."

When I think about my recent dalliances with MMORPGs, this is essentially another way to go in that direction, and ArcheAge primarily excites by having a serviceable facsimile of that Civilization-level purpose in its upper-tier PvP and player-driven economy... but it's still far from either Minecraft's mutability or Civilization's sense of greater purpose.  Endeavors such as CivCraft do no better because they are the same thing: players pretending that Civilization layer is there when it is not.

Sitting where I am now, at the end of those preceding paragraphs, it's pretty clear that this is where PC gaming is going.  It is converging, quite firmly, into this palpable idea of something we were toying with back when we were all nerds were playing Dungeons and Dragons on pencil and paper.   Escapism in the form of a simulated virtual environment with unlimited potential for involving the individual in a meaningful narrative...

...but what I have a hard time fathoming is why it has been so slow in coming.  Even now, I look at a number of endeavors that would seem be trying to do this, but are foundering under a lack of realization of what they are really making:
  • Survival FPS like Rust, largely grasping after a certain something to be found in DayZ without realizing that this mod was largely a failure in concept even if it was a success in popularity because a mixture of realism and consequence-free murder really only suits a demented mindset.  EVE Online is similarly without any real context to see a several-thousand-dollar starship exploded.
  • Minecraft-alikes such as Planet Explorers and Terraria that reinvent the wheel that Notch has already established, but nothing else.  Yes, it's fun to dig in the dirt for awhile.  Then you are left wondering why am I digging in the dirt?  Notch does not provide a solution to this question, and neither do his imitators.  The Civilization level of greater significance to digging in the dirt is still missing.  The developers of Starbound are sitting on a million dollars and apparently have no idea why they need to get here.
  • Looking forward, we can see endeavors such as Star Citizen and EverQuest Next knowing they need to get somewhere around here, but being good and cross-eyed about what to do about it.  Gee, maybe we need to make a space simulator and have people walk around stations.  Gee, maybe we need to make Minecraft again.  Uh, now what?
Alright.  Fine, I get it.  I've tried to do it myself, after all.  Making Games Is HARD.  I am essentially bitching at you for being unable to balance twenty plates on straws sticking out of your navel.   As long as I'm not willing to at least take another shot at it in GameMaker, Unity, or whatever, I'm in no position to critique, right?
Almost right: the trouble is that your audience is feeling the burn.
  • I look over at Yogscast's videos right now, and what do I see?  I see that they're trying to justify their time spent in Minecraft by defining a goal of, "LETS BUILD A GIANT SPACE LASER."  It's a goal that basically screams, "We know this game is sorely lacking in a goal, so we're flipping it the bird as we invent one."  (I've actually looked into what goes into modding Minecraft, and I honestly can't see much point to messing with this JAVA-crippled monstrosity, it just makes Mojang richer while denying us the computational firepower we need to realize the real goal.)
  • I also see that they're running several series on Trouble In Terrorist Town, which is basically just a silly party game.   It really speaks volumes that game streamers feel the best they can do is to take up half their broadcasting space with this.
  • Pick a YouTube gamer channel and you will see much of the same scraping of the bottom of the barrel.   You wanna know why Five Nights At Freddy's is garnering so much popularity, that's because it represents the pinnacle of something novel in gaming right now.
All this fucking around being done by game developers is well past its prime.  We don't have time for these near misses anymore.  We need to make this damn top-level escapism simulator and get it over with.  Firaxis could probably do it they really knew we had the necessity - X-COM and Civilization are over halfway there, after all.  Honestly, even if I could make an ugly little prototype, if I weren't such a lump.  All this procrastination is making us both look bad.


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