And while I don’t think production realities excuse a shitty game, they sure do explain it.
Christian Nutt provides one of the best-reading reviews of recent time from a damn LiveJournal account. The game in question is Final Fantasy XIII, but it could really be any AAA game that came out to middling reviews from lack of direction – either production-wise, creatively or both. You don’t have to be familiar with FFXIII‘s gameplay despite Nutt’s excruciating detail.
It sounds like the game removes “meaningful decisions” en masse (to use the Meier definition) and what is there is deceptively shallow:
There’s an ominous awareness of someone in control, just out of your field of view… And there is a severe and obvious flaw with this: gamers don’t all enjoy games the way the developers intend them to. Gamers don’t all enjoy games in the order developers intend them to. And gamers do not all enjoy games at the speed which developers intend them to. This is the first game in the series which does not allow for this, and that is a severe flaw. […] It’s about making sure everybody gets it. Really, really gets it.
This is a trend in games as we strive to be more “accessible”. We have to be there behind the curtain, pulling strings, being a puppetmaster, knowing that players need be level 5 HERE so that they have access to the golden boomerang that can kill the velociraptor. If a player isn’t level 5 THERE then they may wander around aimlessly and give up. If we are going to be more inclusive, we simply cannot have that.
So we are stuck in this gray area between choice with consequence and minimal negative consequence. It’s a tough chasm to span and I don’t think people understand the pressure coming from both sides.
But regardless, the dude gets it. Click the link.