Unpopular Opinion – I Enjoyed SimCity

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When SimCity 4 was released in 2003, many considered it to be the high point of the SimCity franchise. People were thrilled when 2013’s SimCity was announced, and eagerly awaited the series’ return.

Of course, everything didn’t exactly go as planned. SimCity‘s launch was, to be blunt, a clusterfuck. The game’s behavior, AI, and stability would all come under fire weeks after launch. It soon became clear that SimCity wasn’t exactly the glorious return many people wanted.

That being said, I couldn’t care less.

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I never went into the game expecting a follow-up to SimCity 4. Instead, my friends and I had a plan: focus on creating small communities with various specializations. Since we weren’t really able to get everything connected, I branched off into planning a region that would absorb weeks of my life. The small mining town would set the foundation to help build an educational community next to the river, all feeding into the grid-oriented, skyscraper-laden city.

There was a certain joy about being worry free concerning those sprawling, massive cities. Sure, there’s pleasure that can be gained from, say, recreating gigantic regions that seemingly never end, but sometimes you want something a little different. I wanted SimCity.

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SimCity forced me to use my limited space in the most effective way possible. I had to determine how often I’d need to send out my public resources. Which city needed outside health care? Was it worth designating a region as a gigantic trash dump? How vital would public transportation be throughout the region? These are questions I constantly found myself asking, ones I absolutely loved attempting to answer.

Of course, there’s absolutely no defending the game’s technical issues. For me, SimCity is will always be a great idea floating on top of an steaming pile of… well, you know. Still, that didn’t stop my personal enjoyment of the game, though, to the tune of approximately 200 hours within a month.

I do find myself going back every now and then and seeing how things are. There are plenty of hints of what could have been, but that’s not what I focus on. Instead, I sit, peruse my cities, and think “well, at least I have fun playing.”

Critical Warcraft – Throw Away Those Nostalgic Lenses

world of warcraft oldI’ve seen a lot of people talk about how Warlords of Draenor, the newest expansion back for World of Warcraft, is bringing the game back to its “glory days.” When people say this, they’re generally talking about the age of the vanilla game and its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. It’s a period that a lot of players look back on and go “Yeah, I miss that. I wish Blizzard would return the game to that type of state.”

I say “No.” Blizzard should absolutely fucking never return the game to that type of state.

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Unpopular Opinion – World of Warcraft Should Never Go Free To Play

UnpopularOpinion-WorldofWarcraft-HeaderMost MMOs on the market seem to fall into the same pattern: the game is announced, the beta test is announced, the game launches, and it’s forgotten until the free-to-play transition.

Prior to the (according to critics, anyway) successful launch of Warlords of Draenor, many wondered when World of Warcraft would join the free-to-play ranks. “Juggernauts” such as Star Wars: The Old RepublicAge of ConanTeraDefiance, and others have transitioned to the free-to-play model. Maybe none of these MMOs ever came close to claiming the throne resided by Blizzard’s behemoth, but it’s still a trend that’s hard to ignore. When (not if) Elder Scrolls Online goes free-to-play, the reaction will be a mixture of lack of surprise and wondering where everything went wrong.

One Last Look at World of Warcraft: CataclysmThe same turn of events were widely expected after the Mists of Pandaria expansion for World of Warcraft was released. Subscriber rates were down, alternatives were found (I miss you, Final Fantasy XIV) and other games on the market were too good to pass up. Why would I, someone who hadn’t played World of Warcraft regularly in quite some time, ever considering paying to play again?

Warlords of Draenor, that’s why.

It’s as if Blizzard saw a shrinking subscription rate and used it as motivation.

Unpopular Opinion - World of Warcraft Shouldn't Go Free To Play

Image source: R/WoW

The plateau effect, where a game reaches the highest playerbase possible before embarking on a never-ending downward trend, is a real thing. Save for a short burst following the release of Mists of Pandaria, WoW‘s subscriber rate had been falling since Wrath of the Lich King. That quick uptick for after Mists of Pandaria‘s launch was soon followed by a sharp decline, moving from ten million subs to eight million subs in the span of half a year. Six million is still nothing to scoff at, but it was cause for concern. Had Blizzard ran out of ideas? Were they too busy focusing on new projects such as Overwatch? Was their time at the top really at an end? Was the best way to bring back the playerbase a free-to-play model?

No. As it turns out, the best way to bring back old players is to improve the quality of the game while playing to their feelings of nostalgia.

Warlords-of-DraenorYou don’t need to flash a big sign saying “hey, you can play this game without paying us every month anymore.” There’s no need to offer bonus incentives that allow you to replay content over and over again. You just need to make a good game. That’s what Blizzard has done with Warlords of Draenor. It’s a damn good game and I seriously hope they can keep it up. If they do, expect that subscriber rate to continue to hover around ten million.

If that’s not the case, then hey, even at six million subscribers, times $15 or so a month, and that’s…

Let me do some math here…

$90,000,000 in revenue from the subscription rate. In other words, approximately ninety million reasons to not go free-to-play.

Hopefully, they’ll keep putting out quality content for their subscribers.

 

Critically Warcraft – The Caverns of Time Feels Unfinished

CriticalWarCraft-CavernsofTime-headerWith World of Warcraft’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade, the Caverns of Time was introduced. This dungeon hub was designed to throw players into famous events throughout the franchise’s history — helping Thrall escape prison in Old Hillsbrad, having a first-hand account of Arthas purging the city of Stratholme from the plague, etc.

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Unpopular Opinion – Destiny Is The Best Game of 2014

UnpopularOpinion-Destiny-Header2014 was supposed to be a banner year for video games. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were both turning a year old. There were big budget blockbusters were set to appear  during the holiday season, most of them unhindered by previous-generation counterparts. This year was all about the big boys, with apologies to the Wii U, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The new generation was patiently awaiting its killer apps.

They arrived, but not as intended. [Read more…]

Unpopular Opinion: EA Access Is the Best

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I don’t know about you, but I really like paying Electronic Arts five bucks a month for unlimited access to their games.

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Critical Warcraft – The Problem with Accessibility

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Ever since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard has been messing around with a delicate balance inside World of Warcraft.

Both vanilla WoW and its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, were gigantic, featuring more content than you could ever hope to get through. However, some of this content was locked away, hidden behind walls of raid tiers, lengthy quest chains, and hundreds of hours of game time.

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Unpopular Opinion – We Don’t Need Final Fantasy VII HD

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Fans have been clamoring for an HD remake of Final Fantasy VII ever since an HD tech demo impressed gamers several years ago at E3. Those desires have been refueled by the re-release of the PC edition that’s heading to the PlayStation 4. Here’s the thing, though; we really don’t need it.

Would it be cool to revisit Midgar with modern visuals? Sure. Personally, I’d much rather see re-releases of Final Fantasy IV and VI with their original visual style, but I’m weird.

Do you know what else would be cool, though? Getting to play Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3 as soon as humanly possible.

It’s no secret that development times at Square Enix are, well, lengthy. Final Fantasy XV was originally announced as Final Fantasy XII Versus back in 2006. We’re coming up on nine years since that announcement with no release date in sight. Sure, we saw that impressive trailer at E3 in 2013. Yes, there was the Tokyo Game Show trailer/reality show bromance video from this year. And the biggest takeaway from both trailers is the fact that we won’t play in 2015. We’re not going to play an all-new Final Fantasy game until 2016… at the earliest.

And don’t even get me started on Kingdom Hearts III’s release date. That thing looks like it’s years away.

Unpopular Opinion - We Don't Need Final Fantasy VII HD

Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of upcoming Final Fantasy releases! There’s the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster coming next year for PlayStation 4. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is also coming next year. We’ve seen several Final Fantasy XIII-related spin-offs in the past two years, and the handheld/PC re-releases are practically never ending. Sufficed to say, we’re already suffering from an overdose of re-releases and remasters within the Final Fantasy franchise.

So why do we want more of it?

Yes, Final Fantasy VII is regarded by many as one of the greatest games of all time. Yes, it would be super cool to see updated visuals, but those would take a lot of time to develop. Why don’t we, you know, let Square make new games and new experiences to fall in love with.

If you really want to experience Final Fantasy VII again, it’s $11.99 on Steam and there’s a Holiday Sale coming up. There you go. You can relive the memories without taking away Square Enix’s attention from new games.

Thank You For Delaying The Witcher 3, CD Projekt RED

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If I had a nickel for every game that was released before its time, I’d probably be able to buy one of those games.

Phrases like “The features we promised will become available after launch via patch”, “We’ll be sure to fix those bugs”, and “We’re working around the clock to fix the issues that developed after release” have become all too common.

Thankfully, the folks at CD Projekt RED, the developer behind The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, aren’t interested in using any of these excuses. Yes, it really sucks that the game has been delayed another 12 weeks, but look at it this way: do you want a game that’s followed by twelve weeks of bug fixes or a game that takes an additional twelve weeks of development time?

I don’t know about you, but I prefer the latter.

Here’s an excerpt from Projekt RED’s website:

“We owe you an apology. We set the release date too hastily. It’s a hard lesson, one to take to heart for the future. We know what we want to do to make Wild Hunt one of the best RPGs you will ever play. And we continue to work hard to achieve just that. So, we apologize and ask for your trust.”

The words of Shigeru Miyamoto ring truer and truer each and every day: “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”

No matter how enjoyable games such as Assassin’s Creed UnityHalo: The Master Chief Collection, and Driveclub may be, the stigma of their poor launches may never be forgotten. It’s better to ensure said stigmas never occur to begin with. That’s something that appears to be going on with The Witcher 3.

For that, I thank you, CD Projekt RED.

The One-Sentence Reaction: Final Fantasy VII On PlayStation 4

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You all though it was coming. Square Enix took the stage during the PlayStation Experience this past weekend and a familiar logo appeared: Final Fantasy VII.

This was it. The HD remake you’ve all been waiting for. Here it comes…

…and it’s just the PC re-release ported onto the PlayStation 4. Cries of joy were quickly replaced with screams of frustration. Ever since Square teased an HD tech-demo during the PlayStation 3 reveal, there’s been one thing on the mind of gamers: an HD release of Final Fantasy VII. There’s just one problem with that, though. It’d take a lot of time and money to develop that.

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Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI are better if you ask me, anyway.