Recently Kotaku put out an article complaining about Bethesda’s policy on review copies. You can read the whole thing here, but allow me to summarize the main talking points for you. Essentially Kotaku is unhappy with Bethesda because their general policy on review copies is that they don’t distribute them in advance of release date. And when they do release them in advance, as with the recently released Prey, it’s with such a negligible amount of time before launch that they might as well not have released them in advance at all. The author goes on to say that this is a bad decision on the part of Bethesda for a number of reasons. Some of the more important reasons are that A) Such a policy forces reviewers to rush out reviews too quickly to get a proper feel for them, often leading to lower scores due to an inability to adequately experience the game. B) The low scores hurt developers because supposedly some publishers, while it was never actually stated that Bethesda was one of these publishers, give bonuses based on Metacritic scores that hit a minimum of 85 or higher. The article states that Prey was resting at 80 at the time of publishing. C) Metacritic is a bad system that causes problems and somehow this is not only Bethesda’s fault but the responsibility to go against their own policies/beliefs is a must in the wake of the current system. That basically sums it up.
I really didn’t like this article. As a long time game reviewer, I don’t actually disagree with the author’s general opinion that it is quite inconvenient that Bethesda doesn’t give out their review copies in advance. But the bulk of his points, general philosophy, and reasons for judging Bethesda negatively are mostly preposterous and overlooking the bigger issues at hand which stem from a flawed reviewing industry, not a flawed development/publishing industry. That’s not to say that the development/publishing industry isn’t flawed, because it for damn sure is, but in the case of this article, for once the publisher can’t rightfully be blamed. For the purposes of discussion I’ll keep the conversation focused on Prey as the article did.
The first point that needs to be addressed is that Prey had a pre-release demo. It wasn’t on PC so that’s a fair point of contention but at least a demo was released a week in advance of the game, giving a large percentage of potential buyers the ability to try the game in advance and giving basically 100% of potential buyers a chance to at least see the game in action in advance of the launch date via services like Twitch and YouTube. I myself posted a lengthy playthrough of the demo a week prior to the game’s launch. Whenever a demo is released, reviews cease to seriously matter. Maybe not to developers but to consumers they’re nearly irrelevant unless you don’t personally have access to the demo. Demos have become a rare thing. Most AAA titles don’t get them anymore sadly, and for a really unethical reason too. But when a game, like Prey, gets a demo the reviews are at best just to read for kicks. Why do I need anyone to tell me whether or not to buy a game when I can play the game myself and make an informed buying decision?
Remember that the only true purpose of reviews is to help uninformed or on the fence consumers that have not played the game in question make a buying decision. They aren’t for people who have already played a game to read and either troll if they disagree with it or jerk off to it if they agree with it. People who have already purchased or played the game aren’t the target audience and honestly have no business commenting on a review unless it’s genuinely to answer a question from someone who actually is considering buying the game or to debate a legitimate point of contention with the review because they feel it misrepresents the game and/or misleads readers into making a bad buying decision. Otherwise reviews aren’t for people who have already played a game. That means that in the case of Prey very few PS4 and XB1 owners had/have any real need to look at reviews of the game. If you’re interested, you play the demo, which is long enough to get a fair understanding of it, and make your own informed purchasing decision. I played the demo, was unimpressed, and did not buy the game. I’ve yet to read a single review all the way through for Prey, because I have no legitimate reason to, since I already tried the game.
To address the author’s point about having to rush out reviews when given a short or no lead time to launch with a review copy. This is not the publisher’s fault. There is no law that says your review has to go out first. This is a personal issue with your business/industry that is made inconvenient by Bethesda’s policy. But so what? Bethesda, or really any publisher/developer, doesn’t actually owe review firms anything. Review firms owe Bethesda for providing them games to review, whether free or not, so they can continue to have a business. Really the race to be first published shows inherent flaws in the review industry more than anything else. A traffic based compensation system does nothing good for anyone because it leads to click bait writing, rushed content, and a general lack of quality in today’s journalistic system where marketing and social media do more than quality content ever will. Not to mention, such complaints show a lack of brand loyalty from your reader base. Or at the very least a fear of such a thing. If you run a quality firm then you should be able to retain your readership. If you can retain your readership then it doesn’t really matter if your review comes out first or not. But if you don’t run a quality firm then it would make sense to be unhappy about Bethesda’s decision about review copies because you’re always vying for the click bait audience to stay afloat. Yet that still isn’t Bethesda’s problem because it’s not their responsibility to keep review firms happy. In fact they would probably prefer if they all ceased to exist and just worked directly with private content creators.
The author’s second point about review scores and how they affect Metacritic numbers which can translate to bonuses is based on a lot of speculation. In the article it’s stated that his information on the subject is all anecdotal and he provides no specific sources for these claims. It’s also kind of weird to assume Bethesda knows nothing about how Metacritic works and how their review copy policy affects their scores. If anything this is an intentional measure to keep developers loyal to Bethesda by artificially controlling the numbers. Is that a bit scummy? Sure. Is it in any way an actual problem for the people at Kotaku, IGN, or any other review firm? Probably not really. I mean it’s not like those firms artificially control access to content or opportunities in the gaming journalism industry right?
I will say though that if it is in fact true that the minimum score for developers to get a bonus is 85 on Metacritic then that’s another example of a totally unbalanced and unrealistic expectation of success. An 80 is a good score. For some it’s a great score. Personally I hate the number system for reviews. As a reviewer who genuinely tries my best to be fair and honest with every single review, whether AAA or indie, I find picking the number to be the most difficult, most stressful, least useful part of writing a review and judging a game/movie. First off, it gives people an excuse not to actually read the review. Many people just look at the number and don’t take the time to try to understand where that number comes from or if it’s even legitimate. We’ve all read at least one review where the number said one thing but the review said something completely different. It’s also extremely difficult to be completely fair about choosing that number. I have a system, as I’m sure most experienced reviewers do, and I believe in my system. I’ve crafted it over the course of writing more than 100 game reviews. Yet even today I still struggle with making sure I’ve actually picked the right number for a game. Other than supporting Metacritic, there’s little gained from the number in terms of actually helping the consumer. It also hurts developers more often than helps them in a world where standards are so high that an 80 is supposedly considered a weak score.
While I may agree with the general idea behind the Kotaku article, my point still stands. The article is not motivated by a genuine desire to help consumers or developers. It’s selfishly motivated to help review sites continue to take advantage of a system that is unfair to begin with often at the expense of developers and consumers alike. I may not completely agree with Bethesda’s choice to not distribute review copies in advance, but I 100% support their conscience decision not to support these review sites that have become so arrogant that they believe they can dictate the way publishers do business. That is the right of the consumers who actually pay for their games. Not those who get their software for free regardless of the situation. Before you ask, yes I am aware that Kotaku is blacklisted by Bethesda. But the article is not written with a focus on Kotaku. It’s written for review sites in general and as such should be discussed in that way.
Last week, it was reported that BioWare Montreal is being downsized. This is the team responsible for producing and maintaining Mass Effect: Andromeda. The downsizing not only means that the onsite team will be shrinking but also that the game, as in maintenance/updating, story DLC, and sequel, will be put on the backburner for an undisclosed amount of time. Multiplayer maintenance and updating will still be handled by the remaining team.
First, let me make sure you understand what “downsized” means here. According to the sources reporting, this does not mean staff members of BioWare Montreal were fired. All of the ones who have been taken off of Mass Effect: Andromeda appear to have been transferred to other studios under BioWare or other extensions of EA. The bulk of which seem to have been transferred to EA Motive, also located in Montreal.
I have to applaud EA for this move. Usually when projects like this are broken up, people in the development industry are not treated this well. I have read countless stories about entire teams being fired with no notice. Projects like Scalebound get scrapped out of the blue and everyone involved gets left out to dry. And even when people do get to keep their jobs, they often have to transfer to other studios a world away. That’s not just true for the gaming industry. I have a friend right now who’s being forced to choose between moving overseas or losing his job with less than a week to make the decision. In this economy, labor getting screwed over is common place. EA not only letting these people keep their jobs, but stay in the same city is a truly commendable move in a time where companies often don’t care about the wellbeing of their employees past what the law requires. So for the first time in years, if not ever, I have to say kudos to you good guy EA. You’ve earned that.
As far as Mass Effect: Andromeda being put on ice for a while, I’m totally fine with that. In fact, I’m in support of it. I just recently finished Mass Effect: Andromeda with a 96% completion. It took me 94 hours. I still plan on putting a bit more time into the multiplayer. It was/is a good game and I very much enjoyed it. That being said, it’s a buggy mess with tons of glitches. I enjoyed the plot but I felt that it was a bit smaller than I would have liked. The fact that the game takes place in a new galaxy and only one new race was introduced really irritated me. Even the villain race is just the new race after having gone through massive genetic mutations. You only get six party members. The plot wraps up pretty well while still leaving room to grow, but overall I expected better considering what was delivered in Mass Effect 2 & 3. It’s because of this that I think a real break is needed.
I don’t want paid plot DLC like in Mass Effect 3. I don’t want a rushed out, badly written Mass Effect: Andromeda 2 like every Assassin’s Creed since Revelations (2011). They can continue to expand the multiplayer, but I really want the Mass Effect: Andromeda campaign to be considered closed. What I want is a top shelf Mass Effect: Andromeda 2.
History has shown us that no good can come from annual releases. Excellence isn’t bred from creating never ending games that keep piling on more and more paid DLC. Good games take time, preparation, and patience. Here’s what needs to happen and why I believe Mass Effect: Andromeda riding the pine for a while is not only a good decision but the right one.
The first thing that needs to happen is that BioWare, and by extension EA, needs to accept that Mass Effect: Andromeda 1 is finished. They don’t need to try to add anything more to that game. It’s a full sized adventure. It has a conclusive story. It already takes a good number of hours to complete even without ever trying the multiplayer. All they should do with that game from here on out is work on patching the glitches, improving the graphics issues, and continue to support the multiplayer. Everyone, including the consumers, needs to move forward based on the thought process that the next Mass Effect plot based experience is going to be Mass Effect: Andromeda 2. No DLC. No additional difficulty modes. No frivolous crap. Any unanswered questions like the whereabouts of the Quarian Arc should be left to be answered in the next full game.
The second thing that needs to happen is everyone involved in production and the next game in the franchise needs to just leave it alone. Step away. Don’t worry about it. Don’t think about. Work on other IPs. Get Dylan completed. Get Star Wars: Battlefront II completed. Don’t make any announcements about Mass Effect: Andromeda 2. Don’t promise any release dates or windows. Just let it take a rest. Don’t try to force it out. Every writer is told that the worst thing to do when having just finished a piece of writing is to look at it again right away. Don’t do it. Your head isn’t clear yet. You haven’t mulled it over. You won’t be able to look at is unbiasedly. The whole team needs to just go off and work on other things. And hopefully not together.
After a fair amount of time, by which I mean literally a year or more, has gone by then someone can reopen the Mass Effect: Andromeda file. This does not mean start developing. This does not mean put a team together or back together. It simply means that certain key individuals should start to look back at the game in order to begin thinking about the sequel. Look at the flaws apparent in the first game and think about how they can be prevented in the next one. Think about the general direction of the plot. See if people are still actively playing the multiplayer. After much discussion, they can start to make a general plan. Really just ideas about the direction they’d like to take.
Finally they can start to set down some real plans and expectations. Set some goals and create a soft timeline. Again, no actual development has taken place at this point and we’re nearly at the end of year two since the dissolution of the team. Still no announcements to the public. I hate when games are promised too far in advance. It forces a deadline that most likely won’t be met and an expectation in the public which will then lead to negative reactions when not delivered on. I would rather they never announced games until they had already gone gold so there can be no debate about whether or not the game will be released and when. Again I point to Scalebound.
Now, in the third year since the game was iced, start building that team and make sure communication is honest and open. Ensure that everyone understands the desired direction for the game and is on board with it. It’s not about getting the best people when making a game. It’s about getting the right people that together can make the best game. And in the case of Mass Effect, the goal should be to make the best game. BioWare should not be settling for good enough. The Witcher 3 should be dethroned with this franchise. Mass Effect Andromeda didn’t even come close. That’s the bar they should be shooting for.
Then it’s as simple as making the game as they’ve done so many times in the past. Don’t rush. Continue not to make promises to the public. Don’t get bogged down by dates. Make the best game possible and take the time it needs to create and test that product. By the end of this process the market will be not only ready, but begging for the next Mass Effect game. Then when the game is actually ready, make the announcement, deliver The Witcher 3 level quality or better, and reclaim the throne.
People didn’t lose their jobs (supposedly). The franchise hasn’t been cancelled. This is just a much needed break. BioWare should use this opportunity to take the right steps to craft the best damn Mass Effect game ever made. Ideally the best damn game ever made period. I am fine with Mass Effect: Andromeda being put on hiatus because if handled correctly, this is a great opportunity for the next game in the series to come back stronger than ever thought possible. Here’s hoping they do it right this time.
I don’t consider myself a proper trophy/achievement hunter. I make it a point of getting at least one platinum a year just for appearances. But really I hate trophy hunting and very rarely find a game that I genuinely want to collect the trophies for. Recently, in the midst of playing Ratchet and Clank (2016) and Mass Effect: Andromeda, I started to realize exactly what it is I hate about modern trophies so much.
For this year’s platinum I decided to do the latest installment of the Ratchet and Clank series. I have platinumed every one since the PS3 released (the start of trophies) and will continue to do so. I thought it was a good choice for 2017’s platinum and decided to get it out of the way early so I wouldn’t have to think about it again until 2018. My platinum for 2016, The Division, was super annoying and down to the wire. I finished it in December. Ratchet and Clank is never terribly difficult to platinum, but it took me three playthroughs to get it in this one. That should never have happened. The reason it took so long was because of one common, but badly executed, trophy.
“Death By Disco” is a trophy you get for using a specific weapon, the Groovitron, on every type of enemy in the game. This trophy has become standard for all Ratchet and Clank installments and technically it’s stupid and troublesome, but I have no real beef with it. What I do take issue with is how the trophy is managed. You are required to use the Groovitron weapon on every enemy in the game, including bosses, and this isn’t too difficult a task. What is difficult is trying to figure out which enemies you have yet to hit with said weapon. Especially when you’ve already completed your first playthrough. This is because they don’t take any measures to tell you which enemies you have or haven’t already hit with the Groovitron. Meaning I had to play through the full game a third time, making sure to waste time hitting every enemy with it, having no idea how many I was still missing.
I got all the way back to the boss of the game, for the third time, and still didn’t have the trophy. Used it on the boss and then got the trophy and finally the platinum. Here’s the problem with this. I don’t know why I got the trophy when I did and not before. I know I used the Groovitron on that boss in my previous playthroughs. In fact I’m pretty sure I could find footage of it on my older Twitch streams if they haven’t been removed yet. But there are a number of factors I can’t account for. Maybe I used it on that boss before but then died so it didn’t save that I had used it on him. Maybe you had to do it all in one playthrough and I had missed one along the way in my second playthrough and then was forced to replay the whole thing again. Maybe I used it on the boss previously but during a point in the fight where it didn’t count because the boss was in a transition period. These are all very possible theories. None of which I should have to be wondering about right now. This trophy is a prime example of a really bad trend in the way many if not most trophies are handled today.
There is no transparency in the progress of so many of these types of trophies. Insomniac Games could easily have provided a progress list in one of the menus or even the gallery area you unlock after beating your first playthrough. Each level could have a list of enemies that haven’t been hit with it in the world selection screen. There is any number of ways that this trophy could have been presented in a way that was helpful without making the achievement of the trophy any different. But instead they just leave you to fend for yourself and trust that the game isn’t screwing you over, which in my case I can’t honestly believe is the case because of the conflicting evidence I’ve already mentioned.
Lots of games have this same problem today. I’m currently playing Mass Effect: Andromeda and while I have more than 80% of the game completed in my save file, I only have 75% of the trophies. Some of the remaining ones are easy or plot based and I just haven’t done them yet. But many of the trophies in this game are really annoying and they’re number based. My least favorite example, which thankfully I’ve already completed, is “Fireworks.” This is achieved by performing 100 power combos. While I find this trophy annoying, I have no problem with it at face value. Bioware took the time to create a system where you can combine powers to create special reactions in enemies. Of course they want you to use it. Honestly it’s not really my play style. I’m a pretty committed long range sniper, so I rarely use powers. I played all three of the original Mass Effect games as a hard solider class, literally learning no biotics except the shared power ones from your squad mates and I basically only used the passive shields and maybe charge occasionally just for kicks.
One of the best parts about the franchise is that you can literally play the games however you want. There are five classes of weapons, several powers, and a ton of power combinations. You can fight however works best for you. Yet I still have no problem with the fact that Bioware decided to force me to get up closer to the action so I could make use of biotics and create power combos. 100 is a lot, but it’s not an illegal amount. The only problem is you have no way of knowing how many you’ve done. Nowhere does the game tell you how many power combos you’ve made. This is pretty inconvenient when you have to do 100 of them. That’s not something you’ll accomplish in one session. So it would really help to have some sort of counter located in a menu. But at least with power combos you could manually count them if you really wanted to. The same cannot be said for the “Fastball” trophy. This requires you to throw an enemy with a power called “throw” into another enemy 25 times. First of all, that’s actually a lot harder than it sounds. I honestly can’t say if I’ve truly done it even once, which is the even bigger problem. This difficult trophy with no indicator also has no counter. So not only do I never know if I’ve even accomplished the task, I have no way of knowing how many more times I need to do it. What is the reason for this? It’s unnecessarily troublesome even though it’s a problem easily fixed.
Back in the day, there were no trophies. There was only the game percentage. You did everything in the game and you got 100% completion. They still have that. Mass Effect: Andromeda has that. But it in no way reflects your acquisition of trophies. In the old days, most things had a visible counter. Banjo Kazooie was the worst game ever for collectibles because all the music notes reappeared every time you returned to a previous level. But at least you knew how many you had missed. The game told you exactly how many you collected every time you entered a level and it told you how many you had yet to collect for the first time. Is that asking too much from modern developers? I’m not saying get rid of dumb collectible trophies. I’m not saying get rid of annoying number based trophies like “win x number of matches online.” All I’m saying is that games should at least give the player the courtesy of letting them know how close they are to actually getting those annoying trophies. That doesn’t seem like a ridiculous request in 2017.
Some people might be thinking things like counters take away from the challenge. Those same people probably don’t like life bars in games. To them I would say, I’m not demanding the game forcibly show you your trophy progress if you don’t want to see it. That should be my choice as the player to decide if I want to know my progress of just organically get the trophy. Let’s be honest, these trophies aren’t going anywhere. They’re only becoming more prevalent as more games go open world. Collectathons and actionthons are an easy way to pad the playtime of any game. (Glances at Assassin’s Creed) No one, myself included, should be surprised by the proliferation of these trophies or expect them to disappear. But I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect the games to at least let you know if you’re actually making progress towards completing them or not. There’s even collectible tasks in Mass Effect Andromeda that don’t tell how many things you need to collect to complete it. Who thought that was ok? Of the 56 trophies in Mass Effect: Andromeda, 16 of them are bullshit task/collectible trophies with no counter. Not counting the 19 story based trophies, that’s 43% of the trophies in the game. Almost half the entire achievement experience is doing annoying repetitive bullshit or collecting things, without any means of knowing how close you are. That’s a problem.
If developers want to be lazy and pad their games with crappy challenges, that’s one thing. You don’t technically have to do them. But if people do want to take the time to fully complete the experience they should at least be able to know how close they are when they want to.
This week I published an article defending DICE‘s choice to feature a female Stormtrooper as the main character in the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2. I have literally never defended DICE before and I have nothing but disdain for Star Wars Battlefront, but I cannot stand badly made arguments and that’s exactly what all the sexist bullshit since the trailer dropped is. I published this article on Gaming Rebellion but here’s the introduction:
Recently the Star Wars Battlefront 2 trailer was released and the most surprising news of all was not only does this game actually have a single player campaign, but apparently it stars a female Stormtrooper. If you haven’t watched it, I’ve embedded it here so you can now. It’s certainly worth the two minutes. Did people complain about the fact that the trailer kind of ignores the chronology of Star Wars? No, not really. Did people complain that the game campaign appears to place you as a member of the Empire instead of the Rebellion? Not from any comments I’ve seen as of yet. Did people complain about the fact that the game makes it seem like the Imperial troops were genuinely unhappy about the end of their tyrannical dictatorship? Not in the slightest. Did people complain that the campaign appears to star a female protagonist? This is the internet. Of course they did.
You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.
I’ve been writing game reviews since 2014. I’ve done no less than two a month and usually four a month for the bulk of that time. I could take the time to count all of the reviews I’ve written, but suffice it to say that it’s well over 100, which isn’t godlike but is quite respectable, in my opinion. For the better part of the last two years I’ve been writing reviews on an almost weekly basis for a site called Brash Games (BG). To date, I’ve published more than 70 reviews for that site. Sadly today that comes to an end.
In case you are unaware, there has recently been a lot of controversy with the site. Now personally I do not feel a need to voice an opinion on the issue for or against the site. The controversy had nothing to do with me and for once the internet only attacked the site and site owner, not only choosing to leave us many writers alone, but actually going out of their way to defend us. I’ve even had people go out of their way to offer me help with preserving my work. A rare moment of true good for the internet. I have heard multiple versions of the story and afterwards opted to continue writing for the site for the time being. That is until most recently when the site suddenly shut down without any sort of warning. I don’t know when exactly this happened because I found out via a random tweet from a fellow gamer/writer that I follow. This was shocking news to me. The site was shut down and the domain name was for sell. What was even more shocking was that the owner of the site had opted to block all archive sites from saving any of the links. This meant that the more than 70 reviews I had written for BG could no longer be seen anywhere. This was when I finally decided that it was time for a change.
I take my reviewing very seriously. Anyone whose read any of my reviews, whether for AAA or tiny indie, knows that I’m very thorough. I hand write literal pages of notes before typing down a single word. I look at the most minute details of a game including the trophy list and menu scrolling sound effects. For me, the purpose of a review is not to narcissistically tell people whether or not I personally enjoyed a game. It’s to advise people about how the experience of a game will be so they can confidently make an informed purchasing, or not purchasing, decision. The way I grade my reviews is not based on the number of comments or hits I get, but rather by the number of people who read my review and felt that they had the information needed to decide about buying a game with no remorse regardless of their ultimate decision. I have put in literally hundreds of hours reviewing games for that website. So the prospect of all those reviews suddenly vanishing was not ok with me. Now I’m no fool so I have saved Word documents of every review I’ve ever written, even from before BG. But that doesn’t change the fact that my portfolio is cheapened by having all my reviews on my personal blog instead of on an actual website. Not to mention the time it will ultimately take to add all those reviews to my blog, and that’s not even taking into account screenshots. I only began writing reviews for sites like BG because of the “exposure.” Erasing all my links negates that entire purpose. Writing for BG even got my stuff on Metacritic.
If I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I greatly enjoyed my time writing for BG. It’s the best site I’ve ever written reviews for. That’s not to say that it’s the best site around for every reviewer. That’s more a reflection of how many sites I’ve written for that have given me bad experiences. What I really liked about reviewing for BG was that it was very efficient, straight forward, and required me to only talk to one person. There was no annoying group feeds, no multiple team members to go through, and no weird hierarchy for review copy distribution. One person sent me a list of available review copies on a weekly basis. I gave him my top three choices. He sent me the top available choice based on a first come first served basis and I wrote my reviews. I posted them directly to the backend of the site and he took care of publishing them in a timely fashion, finalizing the screenshots, and the oh so annoying SEO work. It was the perfect system for a very busy and very closed off writer like myself.
The quality of review copies was quite good as well. Before I started writing for BG, all I ever got to review was either games I paid for out of pocket or unknown PC indies that no one really cared about. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with indie games in general, but as a reviewer with a lot of experience, you do get to a point where you want to review higher caliber games without having to drop your own cash so a site you don’t make any money writing for can get the glory. At BG I was given games for any platform I wanted. Vita, PS3, PS4, Wii U, and while I don’t have these platforms the option to review XB1, 3DS, and even Switch games at the end was available as well. There were even VR titles available to review. And not just crappy unknown indies. My dream was always to be a game reviewer that got legitimate AAA review copies of titles that people actually cared about. At BG I got to live that dream minus the monetary compensation. I was provided games like Attack on Titan, Berserk and the Band of Hawk, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIII. That made me feel valued as a reviewer and proud of myself for having reached that level in the reviewer totem pole. All that is to say that I don’t really have any complaints about my time at Brash Games and I don’t for a second regret having written for the site for all this time.
I am sad to see my time reviewing for BG end, but things have gotten a bit too out of hand for me. The site shut down for starters which was already an automatic deal breaker. But then randomly the site went back up. The problem for me is that for both of these occurrences I was given no warning. There was no email or any sort of notice given. One day I’ve got more than 70 reviews published and the next day poof. Gone with no archived links. Then a couple days later the site is back up again and again no notice. I can’t deal with that level of insecurity. I work too hard and my time is too valuable for me to continue writing content while wondering how much longer said content will exist. So even though the site is for now back up again, I’ve opted to leave. One of the controversies lodged against the site is that writers who leave lose their name credits for the content they’ve written. The site owner did not make a public statement about any of the accusations lodged against him, but did take the time to email the writers at the site about it with an explanation for all the accusations I was aware of. Out of respect for him, I won’t publish his responses, but I will say that assuming the site remains live, I am confident that my reviews will remain published with my name on them. If for whatever reason that ceases to be the case, I have the original Word documents and screenshots for every single review with link and my author name shown to prove it. You can be sure that I will not forgo credit for my hard work and you will see every one of my past reviews published on this blog if need be.
If I’m honest though, this is a much needed sabbatical from reviewing. I was already thinking about taking an indefinite leave of absence from writing game reviews to pursue other projects. Specifically I would like to write a novel that I have been planning for a long time, but couldn’t find the time for when having to do a review, YouTube video, Twitch stream, and blog post on a weekly basis. Currently I am only taking a break from reviewing, but we’ll see if I expand that to other forms of content I currently produce regularly.
What all this means for you is that for the time being there won’t be many reviews from me on here. I still plan on gaming frequently and when a game worth reviewing ends up coming my way, whether I paid for it or not, I’ll be sure to review it right here. But in general there will be a higher frequency of opinion/discussion posts than what has been normal since this particular blog page started. I hope that this isn’t too much of an inconvenience for my readers and if you do really want to see something reviewed feel free to send a copy my way and I’d be happy to take the time to give it the full DJMMT thorough review treatment. I also plan on trying to shorten the length of my blog posts a bit since I’ll be doing much more editorial than I have been in the past. This is not the end of my reviewing career though. I will return in full force in the future. I’ve actually already been contacted to review for other sites, but I plan on taking this vacation and writing for myself without the pressure of deadlines for the first time in a long time.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you understand where I’m coming from. Lastly, thank you to Brash Games, which, archive issues aside, I don’t have any seriously negative feelings about because it was a very enjoyable and productive nearly two years of reviewing games.
It seems all anyone can talk about right now is Mass Effect: Andromeda. And rightly so because that game is awesome. I’ve spent the better part of the last three weeks just trying to find time to play it. But what I find most interesting is how much discussion around this game is focused on the romance options.
I saw a very interesting question on Twitter in reference to Mass Effect: Andromeda, but really it was more about Bioware games in general. This person asked the question “Do you prefer romance content in a BioWare game to be specific representation (e.g. gay) or available to any char?” This is a profound question. In one sentence it brings up various issues like sexuality, consumer rights, creative control, and social responsibility. Now I don’t actually believe there is a correct answer to this question. By nature this is a subjective question, starting out with the words “do you prefer”. I don’t even really have an interest in answering this question with this post, but rather to bring up some talking points that I think are important when discussing questions like this one.
The first thing that I think needs to be said is that everything is not for you. By you I don’t mean any specific group in particular. You can be Black, White, homosexual, heterosexual, transgender, Muslim, Christian, or any other such identifier that creates political and/or social divisions between people today. I can say with 100% certainty that there is at least one piece of entertainment that you are not the target audience for. Target audience is important and it’s important as consumers to recognize the role it plays in our lives. Video games, movies, television shows, novels, and basically any other form of mass entertainment today costs a lot of money to create and distribute. And regardless of what you want to think, companies and investors get involved in these projects to make money.
Whether right or wrong, most businesses today target a specific audience when creating a product, even when not entertainment, because it’s considered to be the most effective way to predict and garner an acceptable amount of sales. You can’t please everyone is a statement that’s never been truer than it is today and the fact is that companies not only know that but they take that advice very seriously. Developers target a specific population when creating a video game. Every decision they make is considered through the lens of how it will sit with that target audience. That’s not to say that people that don’t fall within that target audience can’t experience and even enjoy those games. It’s merely to state that the developers can’t and aren’t trying to please everyone. Nor should they, because statistically speaking trying to please everyone leads to lackluster games and lower total sales.
The point of the target audience issue is not to say that you don’t have a right to your own opinion if you don’t fall into the target audience. It’s simply to provide a context for how smart businesses conduct business. The fact is that the opinions of people who don’t fall into the target audience just don’t matter as much if at all as those who do. And the only way to change that is to show numerically that your group’s opinion has an actual effect on the developer’s business that outweighs or at least matches that of the target audience. I think the sexism in games discussion is a great example of this. Many people, both men and women, often complain about sexism in games. Whether it’s the objectification argument or the weak female characters argument, or whatever other issue, it’s very apparent that games today and for basically the entire history of video games with humanoid characters in them have swayed more towards the supposed interests of men than women. Is this fair? Absolutely not. Is this based on profit focused business decisions? Absolutely. We can see that while not as quickly as many people would like, this trend is changing. Today there are more games geared towards a female audience. Today there are more games that star a female protagonist. Some people may see these as good things. Some people may see these as bad things. And some people don’t care either way. But what’s important is that these changes have nothing to do with gender politics, fairness, or ethics. They have to do with profits. The percentage of female gamers and men who don’t mind playing female centered games, that actually spend money on games, is growing. That qualifier about spending money is really important. In fact it’s the most important part of the sentence.
Take someone like my girlfriend for example. She has played a number of games, but has not paid for a single one of them, other than as gifts for me. That means that for all intents and purposes, her opinion about the state of women in video games is next to worthless to the industry because even if games were in no way sexist or biased against women there is no data to show that such changes would increase the amount of dollars someone like my girlfriend would spend on video games. It’s only in recent times that people who want less sexist games and actually will have a noticeable effect on the market are organizing and voicing an opinion. That’s the only reason these changes are starting to take place.
Many people continually argue that games treat homosexuals unfairly. That may be true, but it has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with the fact that the intended target audience for most games where sexuality plays a factor is heterosexual. But I guarantee you that if tomorrow someone could promise beyond a reasonable doubt that they had an idea for a game starring a gay male that would garner 100% of the world’s homosexual population to purchase a copy that EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and every other AAA developer would be lining up to bid on it. Even just a guarantee of 100% of the currently gaming homosexual population would be enough to get that game made. This isn’t an issue of ethics or equality. It’s an issue of business and regardless of how you feel about that, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s the way things work. The best way women can change sexism in games is to avidly purchase games that aren’t sexist and encourage other women to do it as well and then to post about their purchase and why they made that purchase on both social media and official game forums. That change is not going to occur as a result of obnoxious documentaries, feminist blogs, and Twitter battles. It will occur when the market shows itself to be more profitable when not being sexist with evidence directly linking the profits to not being sexist. I’m of course using “sexist” as a stand in word for “making female gamers happy”. I’ve yet to see anyone present an idea for a plot based game that would evenly satisfy players of both genders, be written realistically and well, while also making the gender of the character actually matter to the plot and player. But I digress.
So when looking at Mass Effect: Andromeda or any other game, remember that just because you don’t like something doesn’t necessarily matter because you may not even be the target audience. I’m speaking as a Black male and I know games are rarely made for me. I wish developers would come out and say their target audience for a specific game outright, but that would never happen because people take things too personally. Making such an admission would cannibalize their sales just because of how petty people are. I wish we lived in a world where people could be told they aren’t part of the target audience, buy the game anyway, and attempt to objectively critique it from the point of view of the target audience, but if anything our society is only getting farther away from such a high level of reviewing and purchasing maturity.
The second thing that needs to be said about Mass Effect: Andromeda¸ and Mass Effect as a franchise, is that it’s not a dating simulator. Many games today have romance or at least sex in them, but very few AAA games are made with romance/sex as the focus of the game. If you like romance/sex in games then you should just be thankful that Mass Effect has it at all, because it doesn’t need to. The games are not about finding love or physical love. They’re about being a human tasked with saving humanity. Romance options aren’t a mandatory part of the game and they have little bearing on the actual story other than how they affect your personal decisions. You can play through the entire franchise without pursuing a single romance and it will not affect your main plot experience in any noticeable way. And if you’re taking you role as Spectre or Pathfinder seriously, like the games intended, then you aren’t letting romance options cloud your judgement. I played Mass Effect one as the default white male, heterosexual Commander Shepard. Though I had more of an interest and general liking for Ashley Williams compared to Kaiden, I chose to sacrifice her. It was a hard choice. But I did it because I believed that Kaiden, because he was a biotic not because he was a man, was more useful to my mission than Williams was. That’s the point of the games. Making hard decisions that a true leader would make in those situations for the good of the mission and by extension humanity. If you’re not making your decisions based on what you believe the best leader would do then either you’re playing the game incorrectly or you’re playing the wrong game. While yes I do believe that everyone has a right to play a game the way they want to and should be able to enjoy that game, I still believe that when a developer makes a game they have an intended use and that playing completely outside of that use and judging the game outside of that use is wrong.
I’ve written about my sister and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before. She loved riding Epona, but did literally nothing else in the game. When she asked me to make a file just for her it was one of the proudest moments of my youth. But once the game started and she realized she couldn’t ride the horse from the beginning she immediately put the controller down and lost all interest. My dreams of being the proud brother of a gamer girl were crushed. Would it be right for my sister to say Ocarina is a bad game because she couldn’t fulfill her goal of riding the horse indefinitely? Of course not. The fault is hers for going to a serious adventure game looking for Barbie Horse Adventures: Wild Horse Rescue (2003). The same rules apply to Mass Effect: Andromeda. If you went into that game hoping for the best dating simulator that let you fulfill whatever your alien romance fantasies are and couldn’t, that doesn’t give you the right to call Mass Effect: Andromeda a bad game. Because it’s not sold as an alien romance simulator. That’s not to say that Mass Effect: Andromeda is a perfect game outside of romance/sex options because it’s most certainly not. More than 50 hours in, let me tell you it has a ton of issues. But the fact that I can’t have the imaginary love life I was hoping for doesn’t give me or anyone else the right to trash the game because that’s an inappropriate focus of judgement for this particular game/franchise.
The intention of the developers is my next and last qualifying point. I believe in creative control and artistic license. I’ve written about this issue many times before. As a writer, with collegiate training in fiction writing, I take creative control/freedom very seriously. There’s nothing I hate more than when people who don’t write say something should have been written differently for subjective reasons. There are technical reasons that fictional writing can be considered bad. These can be debated, but I’m all for people critiquing technically bad writing. But when it comes to the subjective interpretation of characters, I get really angry when people argue that something was done badly just because it’s not the way they perceive or experience a type of person in their own life.
Good writers write what they know. Sadly, today many writers in many forms of entertainment are being forced to write things they don’t know. I’ve written several pages of blog posts about the representation of minorities in video games and how it’s for the most part been done pretty badly in AAA games. But I don’t blame the writers. I blame the studios. Because I know that the entire system is built on prejudice. I have no problem with the fact that some White guy in Montreal can’t seem to write a Black character that’s not offensive and built on stereotypes. It’s very possible that the writer has little to no personal experience with Black people outside of film and television. Being from LA and having spent five years of my life in Philadelpha, I can also say that it’s very possible that this same White writer actually does know a number of Black people who are literally walking stereotypes. I have no problem admitting that I personally love fried chicken, am an excellent dancer, and have an extremely nappy and all natural afro. If a White guy only knew me in a specific setting, such as a bar, there’s an excellent chance that if he tried to write a character based on me that it would be considered very stereotypical. And that’s not his fault. A White guy from and currently living in Montreal is not the correct person to be writing a Black character of either gender from Detroit. What needs to happen is the studios need to hire Black writers to write their Black characters well. And the same goes for Latinos, Asians, women, homosexuals, and so on. I do not believe that game writers today set out to write offensive or stereotypical characters. I believe studios are too cheap to hire additional writers and too prejudiced to hire the correct ones when they try to create more diverse characters in their games.
Qualifications aside, I still don’t agree with the idea of telling a writer that the way they wrote a character or interaction is wrong in a work of fiction. I’ve already said good writers write from personal experiences. That moment that you might think is completely ridiculous may very well have happened to that writer in their personal life. And you telling them that their life is unrealistic is not only untrue, but it’s unfair to make such a claim. It’s also beside the point though because writers have a right to tell the story they want to tell. That’s what fiction writers are hired and paid to do. They aren’t telling your story. Again, if you aren’t the target audience, they might not even be telling a story for you. They’re telling the story they wanted to tell. And if you don’t like the way that story is told then by all means go to college, study writing, write your own stories, figure out how to get distribution, and tell the stories you want to tell. It’s really difficult and it’s really insulting when people talk down to the craft of writing and those who are paid to do it professionally.
Now that we’ve covered some of the more important qualifiers of this discussion, let’s get down to the actual business at hand: sex in Mass Effect: Andromeda and by extension all of Mass Effect.
I’m a heterosexual male and I’m not happy with the way sex/romance works in Mass Effect: Andromeda. I still stand by my previous points that it’s very possible that my opinion as a Black male is irrelevant to the studio and that the game isn’t about sex in the first place, but I also believe that as an American born citizen the First Amendment gives me the right to voice my opinion on the subject. If you too are an American citizen or are also a citizen that comes from a country that grants people the right to voice their opinions freely then you are free to read, consider, ignore, refute, agree with, or attack my opinions on this subject and I hope you do so in the comments section. I will not be Twitter battling about this post, just so you know. Meet me here, where the article is published, and I’d be happy to thoroughly discuss the points argued here and any other ones you’d like to bring up in detail. Please know in advance that any attempt to get me to debate this post on Twitter will end with me telling you to “leave a comment on the blog” with a screenshot of this paragraph.
First thing I’m unhappy with about sex in Andromeda is that it’s still too human-centric. Regardless of your character’s gender and/or sexuality, you can get with humans and Asari and be granted some form of actual sex scene, but the same is not true for any other race in the game. The one Turian option just gets to roll around for a second fully clothed and in armor. First off, why can’t Turians ever get out of that armor? No this is not an admission of some weird personal interest in Turians. It’s a statement about how I hate the narcissism that humans continue to show even when creating fictional scenarios. But what’s even worse is how unfair this four race romance limit is. Krogans need love too. In four games you still can’t romance a Krogan. And in this one there’s actually a decent abundance of female ones. The Angara are the new race on the block and they’re right up there with Asari on the hotness scale. But there’s only one female that can be romanced in the entire galaxy and she’s in the most inconvenient place, can’t be fully romanced till the end of the game, and even if you do pull it off you don’t actually get a sex scene. There’s only one male option as well, but at least he lives on the ship. Specieism! All sentient races that can fight alongside you should also be able to be romanced. And every sentient race in the galaxy should be up for grabs at an equal level of let’s call it “exposure”. That doesn’t even address races like Batarians, Volus, and Vorcha if you’re into that sort of thing, which you have every right to be in a video game.
My second issue is why is it so damn hard to play the field in these games? My record for any one playthrough of any Bioware game from any franchise is two romances. That is not realistic. If you’re a space traveler wandering literally an entire galaxy, you should be able to get it done more often than that. What would Captain Kirk say? You should be able to have a different partner in every life supporting solar system if you want to. I really like that they finally made it so that you can get with people outside of your ship mates. But there’s so few options available. And everyone seems to be aware of your romance business. Am I to believe that all females across the galaxy talk this closely? That’s the real stereotype in this game. Not all women are gossips and not all of them demand monogamy. Looking at you Cora. I’m speaking as a person who did a heterosexual male playthrough, but I’m sure there are people who played as other types of characters with other interest who felt similar levels of irritation with this vastly underwhelming space nookie limit.
My third issue is why is there that one casual sex character in Bioware games? They like to pick one female character to be the “whore” character rather than just creating a plethora of characters, some of which might be into the idea of a one night stand. In Dragon Age II it’s Isabela. In Andromeda it’s Peebee. And along with that, why don’t you get a proper sex scene when you go the casual route with Peebee? Don’t short change my experience for not committing. That’s not even how it works in real life much of the time.
While I’m not personally affected by it because of the way I choose to play romance in games, I definitely don’t agree with the fact that the options for homosexual playthroughs are even more limited than the straight ones. But to be fair I would argue that the human narcissism problem needs to be brought up here again. For me I make it a point not to romance humans unless it’s after having already romanced all the aliens I can. If I know I can trade the human for an alien later then I’ll go for it. No this isn’t a gender thing. It’s a species thing. My favorite part about Mass Effect is being able to meet and interact with different and sometimes new races. I think that’s the real point of the games. It’s about being a human and realizing that in the grand scheme of things you’re just not that important unless you’re part of something bigger such as the Nexus or the Citadel. I think choosing to only fraternize with other humans takes away from the experience of flying to new planets and meeting new races. So for me, whether gay or straight, I find human romance options extremely boring. But it’s important to realize that sexuality in the gay or straight discourse is a strictly human system. And one of the things I really like about Mass Effect is that it goes out of its way to drive that point home.
Are Asari lesbians? No not really. How can a race of all females technically be queer? So technically if you’re a female character and you romance an Asari it’s not really being a lesbian. But if that is the case then you would have to argue that being a male character and romancing an Asari isn’t really being straight either. But then at that point could you not technically apply that to all alien races and say that any romance with any non-human when your character is a human is not technically gay or straight? The dictionary definition of both hetero- and homo-sexual only applies to humans having sex with humans or more specifically a member of a species only having sex with another member of the same species. We don’t apply the term homosexual to men who have sex with male sheep. We just call it bestiality and move on. Now if sheep were fully sentient and able to express themselves to us maybe we wouldn’t just call it bestiality but for now those social issues don’t really exist. So then at that point romancing Jaal, Peebee, Avela, Vetra, and Keri aren’t technically gay or straight options. Meaning that there is only one option for heterosexual male characters: Cora, two options for homosexual male characters: Gil and Reyes, two options for heterosexual female characters: Liam and Reyes, one option for homosexual female characters: Suvi, and actually three options for either male or female bisexual characters.
From a purely scientific standpoint, the game is actually not biased for or against hetero- or homo-sexual males like everyone claims. Instead it is biased against people who choose to play under very human-centric rules of sexuality. The problem more comes down to the fact that people, being limited to human ways of thinking and feeling about things, are projecting human gender types and social norms onto alien characters and equating those options as falling within the gay or straight discourse. I would argue that goes against what Bioware wanted/wants to do with romance in these games altogether. All that being said, Turians, Krogans, Salarians, and Angarans all have males and females so if you do choose to apply human sexuality to these non-human romance options then yes the game is biased towards heterosexual males and homosexual females with five options a piece. But I would argue the real bias here is in the presentation.
Bioware has been quoted as describing the romance sequences in Andromeda as “softcore space porn”. That’s only half true because it only happens in the case of romancing humans and Asari and only in heterosexual or lesbian scenarios. The rest of the races and sexualities are given the bad television treatment. A lead up, screen goes black, a fade in after the fact, and a lead out. Disappointing. If I might steal a quote from the great Chris Rock, “Don’t take my clothes off and not f@$k me.” Not giving everyone all the sex options they want is one thing. But not giving everyone the same quality of sexual experience depending on their sexual interests is just plain offensive. It’s just blatantly showing favoritism.
I do realize that this is a much more in depth game than something like Fable so you can’t just romance everyone in the game because it would either lower the quality of the experience or cost too much money to produce. But I feel like in general there could be a lot more romance options for any type of sexuality you choose to play as and a much more level presentation of those romance options.
This was a fun post. My girlfriend thinks I’m weird for having written it. I’m curious to know your thoughts on the subject of sex in Mass Effect and video games in general. Leave me a comment. Feel free to include screenshots. 😉
I’m a Dark Souls fan. I own all the games in the franchise including Demon’s Souls. So of course I purchased Bloodborne. There was never an option to not purchase that game. Same genre. Same developer. Of course I bought it. Now I didn’t buy it at release because I didn’t have time to play it then. I purchased it new as a physical copy for $20. Of course before I actually opened the game but after the return date passed, they put it on sale on PSN with all the DLC included for the same price in a flash sale. I was disappointed but not at all angry. I honestly have no interest in the DLC. I’ve purchased the vanilla version of every game in the franchise and I’ve never purchased any of the DLC. I just want to beat the final boss, see one of the endings and move on with my life. That’s actually how I play most games and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s my money and my time. I purchased the game new, thus supported the developer. I purchased the physical copy of the game, thus supporting physical businesses and not allowing SONY to believe that it’s acceptable to charge the same price for a digital copy of a game as a physical, because it’s not. I just wanted the base game and that’s what I purchased. Honestly Bloodborne is an amazing game. I won’t say it’s better than Dark Souls but I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. It’s just too bad I’ll probably never get to finish it because technology and bad coding practices screwed me over.
One of the biggest selling points of PlayStation Plus has always been “the cloud”. You are promised the ability to save your files online and then the ability to access them anywhere in the world. I never really liked the cloud. I keep saves of games I’ve beaten on there but I never really used it for anything important before Bloodborne. I’m an American with an American PSN account, but I don’t live in the United States. Now the first problem that new technologies have created for me is of course region locks. This most disagreeable, fascist, and just plain terrible practice has cost me so much money that I shouldn’t have had to spend. Every time I want to buy a physical copy of a game I have to import it from the US. That means that whatever you pay for a game, I have to pay plus the cost of shipping overseas. The reason for this is quite stupid. They always sell these new consoles/games today as being region free but that’s a half truth. The DLC is still region locked even if the discs aren’t. That means that because I have an American account, if I purchase an Asian copy of a game I will never be able to use the DLC on my main account because you can’t change account regions or have multiple regions tied to a single account. Now usually this doesn’t actually end up mattering because most games today get an English translation sold here in Asia and rarely do I buy DLC. But I still don’t tend to buy games here in Asia and instead import them because now every game ends up having some form of DLC one way or another and because of the region locks on DLC I’m required to have an American copy or run two separate accounts which I just won’t do because it’s a multiplayer nightmare to try to get all your friends worldwide to add and keep track of two different accounts for the same person. Especially when meeting randoms online. Also trophies.
Region locked DLC is the reason I don’t own Nioh yet. I want a physical copy and I got all the alpha and beta free DLC. But the only way I can access that DLC is buy having an American copy. Yes I could purchase a digital version of the game, but I don’t like digital copies. Nor will I over pay for my games. When it comes to release day games, which I rarely buy, it’s no problem to go digital because the price will be the same. Of course assuming I don’t want the special edition physical swag. Looking at you Horizon: Zero Dawn. But when I don’t care about getting a game on release it really comes down to price. 100% of the time the physical price of games is lower than the digital price after the initial release window. And if you have an Amazon prime account the physical price is lower at release as well. In less than six months Nioh will have dropped to $30 for a physical copy. Other than in a possible flash sale, which may never come, the PSN store price will still be at $59.99. I will not pay $60 for a game I can get for $30 as a physical copy. Now of course I have to take shipping overseas into account, but all that means is that I have to wait till a bunch of games I want are all on sale at the same time so I can bulk ship them and try to recoup/justify the cost of shipping overseas. That’s the reason I end up buying so many games on Black Friday. It justifies the cost of shipping. Now if SONY would just choose to sell digital games at fair market value, I wouldn’t have this problem outside of special edition physical swag scenarios. But they just won’t price software fairly. So here we are. But I have digressed quite a bit so let’s get back to Bloodborne.
The reason me not living in the United States is important is because I recently went to visit my family in the US. While I was there I decided to play Bloodborne on my cousin’s PS4. This was the worst gaming mistake I’ve made this gen. My cousin has a digital copy of Bloodborne and told me that I could play while I was visiting. I did everything correctly so that I could reap the benefits of the promised new conveniences of new gen gaming technology. I saved my Bloodborne file on the cloud. Now I can’t actually tell you how many hours I had put into the game at this point because save files showing you that information seems to no longer be a default standard in game production. Some games will still tell you in game but many won’t. All I can tell you is that I was above level sixty and that I had defeated Shadow of Yharnam and was near the boss door for Rom the Vacuous Spider. I went to my cousin’s PS4 and logged into my account. I downloaded my save file from the cloud, which I’m allowed to do because I’m a PlayStation Plus subscriber. I played my Bloodborne save file on my account with my cousin’s digital copy of the game because you are able to play games owned by other accounts on the same console. By the end of my visit I had beaten Rom and gotten all the way to Yahar’gul Chapel. I saved my file back to the cloud. Here’s where I first started to notice things were fishy but I didn’t go with my gut for some reason and trusted a combination of SONY’s new saving system and what used to be considered common sense.
On the PS3 when you save anything to either the cloud or the console you can create multiple save files and copies of any one save file for any game. I used to do this all the time with RPGs. I would create multiple saves at various points and keep all of them. We have lost this luxury with the PS4. In order to save my file from my cousin’s PS4 I was forced to overwrite the file I already had saved in the cloud. I don’t know why this is now the case, but on the PS3 I could have kept both files simultaneously. I reluctantly accepted the overwrite because I had made so much progress during my trip. When I got home, I went to pull the save off my cloud storage and again I was forced to overwrite my console save instead of having both at the same time. I don’t know why I didn’t back up the original on a usb drive. I don’t know why I trusted SONY or any company for that matter to not screw me over because empirical evidence and statistics shows that they always will. But I agreed to the overwrite anyway believing that things would work the way they’re supposed to in a sensible gaming scenario. Boy was I wrong.
I was ready for my next Bloodborne session and had gotten a friend to agree to login in order to help me with the next area. I was met with a rude awakening. I could not load my save. Instead I was given a message saying that I couldn’t use my save until I downloaded the Old Hunter’s DLC. I didn’t know why at the time. I didn’t have the DLC and I had no interest in buying it. What I found out later was that my cousin had/has the DLC on his console and his PS4 laced my save file as a DLC version even though I hadn’t actually accessed any DLC content while I was playing on his console. Due to lazy coding on the part for From Software, the game would not load up without the DLC being present on the console once a trace of the DLC’s presence had added itself to my save. Not using the DLC was irrelevant to the situation. Essentially my save acquired a hidden virus that can’t be cured. And to top it all off, because of SONY’s decision to no longer allow multiple saves I didn’t even have my old save from before I went to visit my cousin.
More than 70 levels of gameplay trapped behind a pay wall that costs as much as I paid for the vanilla game. If you read my blog regularly then you know I don’t do paid DLC except in very rare and very specific situations. You also probably know that the only thing I’m less willing to compromise than my beliefs about how gaming should work is my price points. I paid $20 for Bloodborne because that’s the price I chose to pay long before I bought it. The DLC costs $20. There is no way that I will pay literally a 100% markup just to finish the base game I already paid for. And even if I did purchase the DLC, I honestly wouldn’t play it. I’m not interested in playing it. I just want to finish the base game as I have with all the Souls games (excluding DS3 which I own but haven’t played yet). It goes against just about everything I stand for to pay $20 for this DLC.
I’ve tried multiple fixes. I uninstalled and reinstalled the licenses multiple times. I disconnected my internet and tried to play offline. Nothing works. The one thing I tried that seemed to work was logging into my cousin’s account on my console and downloading the game and DLC. I believed this would solve the problem because I had played the game on my account on his console just a week prior. I’ve also played numerous games owned by other accounts than the currently logged in one on various PS4s. But when I tried to run the digital copy of Bloodborne from my cousin’s library on my account the content was locked. I’ve literally never seen that happen before. But what did work was when I put my physical copy in the console and ran it. It used the permissions from my copy to run the game and still made use of the DLC from my cousin’s account. Together I was able to play my save file. This was a grand day. I was extremely happy. I thought everything was back to normal. And I still had no plans to play the DLC even with access to it. I just wanted to finish the game. I played a bit and then inevitably had to stop because life is a thing. I went on to play other games both physical and digital over the days following. Then when I went back to play Bloodborne, once again with the same friend coming in to help me, the save wouldn’t load again. I cannot think of any reason why it just stopped working. But I didn’t lose faith. I deleted all the content from my console again and re-downloaded the game from my cousin’s account believing I would get the same results. This time it didn’t work and I can’t even begin to explain why.
This whole situation really hurts me. I’m a loyal gamer. I’ve never purchased a single used game for my PS4 or really any console except for one time when Gamestop conned me into purchasing a used copy of Mirror’s Edge on XBOX 360. I’ve never hacked any of the many consoles I’ve owned over the years or pirated a single game for any of them. I do my best to support the industry even though I often don’t agree with a lot of the decisions made by companies today. But there’s just no way that I can be ok with this outcome. I am not going to pay $20 to finish a game that I purchased new and have already put probably more than 50 hours into. I shouldn’t have to do that. I’m not gonna start over either because that’s no less of an unacceptable concession that I shouldn’t have to make. I haven’t done anything wrong. I purchased a game and I just want to finish that game. I feel that I’m not over-asking by making that request. I’ve tried to contact From Software (developer), Japan Studio (publisher), and SONY (console distributor) multiple times through multiple platforms, but all three companies have ignored me. From Software and Japan Studio don’t even have a means to contact them on their respective websites. They literally link you to SONY’s support page which is no more helpful. They don’t even take emails anymore, which is really odd in my opinion. I finally was able to get a response from @AskPlayStation on Twitter and all they told me was use the live chat. I had to work around the time change between USA and Asia to try to contact the live chat support. Then when I finally managed to do that they have the nerve to tell me the live chat is region locked. What the hell is that!? Why would you region lock customer support? While I’m logged in with a USA account no less. Then when I explained that the live chat wouldn’t work for me because of my location to @AskPlayStation they had the nerve to tell me to call them. Because I’m going to place an international call to a company that clearly doesn’t handle customer service well that will end up costing me more than the DLC. The whole situation stinks.
I don’t have some grand argument here or opinion on some important current event. This is just a plain despicable situation brought on by modern DRM practices and bad coding. From Software and Studio Japan are both companies that I have always respected up until now, but if I can’t finish this game with this save file for a total of less than five additional dollars (the largest concession/compromise I’d be willing to make) then I think I might just be done with both companies. That’s not something I want to do. But I believe in the rights of consumers and this is blatantly wrong.