As part of our ongoing Theme Week for January of 2016, we are looking back at some of the good and bad things about 2015. Now we look at some of the gradual changes, the trends, that came into a bit more prominence in 2015. What is currently happening in gaming that we need to pay attention to because it may be something bad, and what should we maybe highlight a bit more because it is something good. Here’s what some of our writers thought.
Rise of the “meh” Game by Wyatt Hnatiw
2015 was a solid year for video games. It wasn’t revolutionary like 2007, or a mess of controversy and crap like 2014.
2015 had some great games release. Bloodborne was an excellent entry for the SoulsBorne franchise, which tread some really unique ground for story and may be the best Lovecraft inspired game of all time. The Witcher 3 came out of Poland like a hurricane and showed American developers how good a story driven RPG can be. Undertale was a unique gaming experience that united the gaming world in almost unanimous praise.
These bright points just make the rest of 2015 look more like what it was, and that is a big bland pile of unflavored paste. The big, spectacular, lets build an entire kiosk and hire 10 models for E3 games were just … okay. Call of Duty Black Ops III, Mario Party 10, Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Sims 4, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, The Order 1886, Evolve, Star Wars: Battlefront even Fallout 4 were all just alright.
Okay, not terrible, not bad but definitely not great. They pushed no envelopes, broke no boundaries, and blew no minds. Gamers have been arguing for years that AAA releases are just the same thing over and over again but in 2015 it feels like we hit a saturation point. Maybe it’s the great, unique experiences that came out this year making the vanilla fare that filled November just look egregious by comparison.
Splatoon was a brand new IP that turned shooting gameplay on its head with a unique approach to online multiplayer. Pillars of Eternity and Cities Skylines were bold revitalizations of dying and stagnated genres. Metal Gear Solid V was a broken mess from a story perspective but was maybe the best stealth action game ever. The Witcher 3 was just simply head and shoulders above any other RPG, and it’s hard to overstate how dramatic an effect Undertale, the little game that could, had on the industry.
It’s a disappointment because after the massive leaps the industry has taken in the last decade or so, it just feels like AAA publishers are satisfied. Satisfied that with annual entries like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed they’ll make billions or satisfied that they made an acceptable game rather than an extraordinary, satisfied that the Internet isn’t yelling at them any more, right Ubisoft?
I hope I’m wrong and that AAA gaming had a off year, but maybe this is just the year that I took my rose-tinted glasses off. I was just disappointed with how much filler there was this year.
Impress me in 2016 games industry, my body is ready.
Valve and PC Ports by Alex Santa Maria
Valve’s hands off approach to its Steam business has been a talking point for years now, but it feels like it came to a head in 2015. Even if you disqualify the Christmas issue that caused users to lose their personal information, you had a year of poor decisions and a lack of progress on many of the issues that have plagued Steam for far too long. We’ve seen Greenlight go from a joke of a service to an opened floodgate, letting anyone and everyone publish on the premiere PC gaming storefront. This has led to everything from games being published without working executables to game storefronts being vandalized by disenfranchised developers to user revolts against remasters and broken game launches using arcane preloading systems. Valve lost a lot of trust in 2015, and considering that they consider Gabe Newell Simulator a perfectly fine use of their image, I don’t see things getting much better any time soon.
Of course, there is always a bright side to things, and Steam’s open gate has also attracted quite a few new developers and publishers to work on the PC platform for the first time. Japan has finally seen the light of a new marketplace, and games such as Dragon’s Dogma, Sonic Lost World, and Final Fantasy have been preserved on the eternally backwards compatible PC format. Even Sony and Microsoft have been more lenient, letting some of their smaller published titles appear on the Steam storefront. No one could have guessed last year that Helldivers or a new expansion to Age of Empires II would be released, but here we are. We can only hope that this trend continues and some of the missing games from the 360/PS3 era can be brought forward and improved by the PC’s higher fidelity. If we see another year go by without Vanquish or Shadows of the Damned showing up in 60 FPS, I may just start to lose hope.