GOOD RIDDANCE! I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t be happier to see 2014 go. It was a horrible year for the gaming industry with disastrous mishaps from both major studios and independent groups alike. I was actually tempted to go all-out and make a 20+ article for all of the horrid things that happened last year. In the interest of this rant not stretching into 2016, I’ve grouped together some of the worst trends of the year. Let’s get this over with.
I have made it abundantly clear that I am not exactly looking forward to the self-proclaimed “genocide simulator” called Hatred. I think it looks like a dreadfully boring game that relies entirely on shock appeal to carry it. I’m clearly not the only one unimpressed with it as several games journalists, including members of Polygon, have spoken out against it. At least one Valve employee was so disgusted with it to go so far as to pull down its Greenlight page in an attempt to keep it off of Steam. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have backfired and given Hatred the Streisand Effect. The more people have tried to bury this game, the more attention it ends up receiving and that is the entire reason that the game is dealing with such an uncomfortable subject in the first place.
It was a shame when Bayonetta 2 was announced as a Wii U exclusive and owners of Playstation, Xbox, and PC were left out, but that was because Nintendo was the only company interested in publishing the fairly niche title. Bayonetta 2 was either going to be a Wii U exclusive or it wasn’t going to exist at all. The same can’t be said for Rise of the Tomb Raider (pictured right) and Street Fighter V (pictured left), which were announced to be releasing with console exclusivity. Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch on Xbox One consoles with the Playstation 4, PC, and Xbox 360 versions arriving much later. Street Fighter V will only be releasing on Playstation 4 and PC with no plans of there ever being an Xbox One port. These aren’t lesser-known, experimental IPs that publishers take a risk with releasing like Bayonetta. These are the next major entries in two of the biggest franchises in gaming history that are guaranteed to sell millions based on their names alone. That just goes to show what a sad state this industry is in when that is still not enough and companies have to resort to these kinds of exclusivity deals in order to get even their biggest titles into production.
I love the whole idea of crowdfunding and what it has to offer to the gaming industry. Games that wouldn’t have been possible under major publishers can now be made a reality. Last year, it was an easy pick for my best moments list. Unfortunately, the same year that gave us Shovel Knight and Wasteland 2 also gave us the most compelling arguments against crowdfunding. Remember Double Fine’s Broken Age? Despite raising well over $3 million through Kickstarter to develop the game, only half of the game has actually been released with no sign of the second half even a full year later. No matter how good Broken Age may turn out in the end, the way Tim Schafer has been handling development has shaken the faith of many people in crowdfunding ventures. As if making people skeptical of crowdfunding wasn’t enough, Double Fine also set the bar low for early access titles when they abandoned development of Spacebase DF-9 after releasing version 1.0 with many previously promised features not implemented. Early access has since become a dirty word in the industry with many, much shadier developers using it as an excuse to charge money for incomplete, unpolished projects that they may or may not ever complete.
However, I will give Double Fine this much: at least something actually came out of the Broken Age Kickstarter. The same cannot be said for Yogventures (pictured above), a sandbox adventure game inspired by the highly popular Yogscast podcast. Despite garnering more than twice of its Kickstarter goal, the project was abandoned completely by developer Winterkewl Games during early beta development. For all of the potential that crowdfunding and early access have to offer, it’s hard not to feel bitter after seeing some of the most trusted projects take the money and run.
I find it painfully ironic that Hatred was the one game that Valve actively tried to stop from getting onto their Steam service given the abundance of dreck that already pollutes their storefront. Guise of the Wolf, Desert Gunner, Air Control, Gearcrank Arena, Uprising44: The Silent Shadows, Grass Simulator. These are only a handful of the atrocities that have gotten away with a release on Steam this year despite being flat-out defective products. Steam’s quality control has been in question since the massive controversy of The War Z back in 2012, but the landslide of garbage that swept across the storefront throughout the year has shifted its reputation from being the savior of PC gaming to a dirty flea market that anyone can set up shop at if they look even remotely reputable at a single glance.
However, the award for the absolute worst that Steam has seen in 2014 definitely has to go to The Slaughtering Grounds (pictured above). The game itself is pretty bad, but its the response of the developer, ImminentUprising, to the public backlash against their game that truly makes them the lowest of the low. Jim Sterling did a first impression video of the title, critiquing the plethora of glitches and horrible design decisions that he discovered within mere seconds of playing the game, and ImminentUprising responded by posting their own video that was simply Sterling’s gameplay with text overlays that personally insulted him for his criticisms. As if that weren’t petty enough, ImminentUprising then seemed to have learned some humility and held a contest on the Steam forums encouraging users to mock the game for a chance at a free copy. Instead, the contest was a trap and anyone who entered was issued a ban. That’s all only scratching the surface of the insanity that ImminentUprising undertook, all of which Sterling documented in this video (warning: foul language). With all of the reprehensible methods that some indie devs have used over the last few years, I’m going to have a hard time getting angry with major developers ever again. Although, it’s certainly not impossible because…
Don’t pretend that you didn’t see this coming from a mile away. 2014 was the year of disappointment for video games. There’s been speculation of an industry-wide crash for a while now and, if it is coming, it’s going to happen in 2015 and 2014 will be the reason why. Ubisoft alone could have taken a spot on this list for how bad the company has done this year. Watch_Dogs got them off to a bad start, having boldly promised to be the first game to truly deliver on a new era of visual fidelity, only to scale back shortly before release. Driving MMO The Crew also promised players far more than it could actually produce, claiming to have fully recreated the entire United States to serve as an open playground for virtual races, but scaled down to only the most recognizable locations in the country.
However, Ubisoft’s lowest point was undoubtedly Assassin’s Creed Unity (pictured above). The amount of bugs,errors, and crashes that litter the game have made it the biggest joke in the industry. To make things worse, many treasure chests in the game didn’t require keys to open, but rather a connection to the infamous Uplay service. Ubisoft’s output last year has had them take the place of EA as the most hated gaming company in the minds of many.
Speaking of which, the ever-controversial EA managed to have a relatively good year, but it wasn’t spotless. Dungeon Keeper Mobile may be the worst example of how bad free-to-play mobile games can be with little in the way of actual gameplay as every step of the way is locked behind paywalls. The fact that it uses a cherished franchise that hasn’t seen a proper title in more than a decade only makes it hurt more.
Then there’s Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, a game that almost received a spot on this list all its own until I remembered the Yogventure fiasco and had to make room for that. Last year, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes was on my list of the most anticipated games of 2014. Let’s just say that there isn’t going to be a Most Anticipated Games of 2015 list after the year we’ve had. Granted, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the gameplay, but said gameplay will only last you around two hours. Considering that Ground Zeroes is a standalone demo for the upcoming Phantom Pain, that would normally be understandable. Understanding went out the window once Konami decided to charge $30 for it and that was only after cutting the price from $40 due to controversy braking. Capcom has the done the same before with Dead Rising 2: Case Zero, but they at least had the decency to only charge $5 for it. Even with its current price of $20, Ground Zeroes is still asking too much for too little.
I’d also be remiss to leave Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric off this list. While the Sonic franchise hasn’t been what it used to be and many weren’t expecting much from this particular title, I don’t think anyone was expecting it to actually be even worse than the infamous Sonic ’06. Glitches will regularly slow you down, not that the repetitive gameplay will have you excited in progressing anyway. Not helping matters is that the characters are constantly spewing quips about their collective fetish for bounce pads. You could argue that the game was made for kids,but all I can say in response is that kids deserve so much better.
Let’s not forget The Elder Scrolls Online, although I would certainly wouldn’t blame you if you did. I completely forgot that the Elder Scrolls MMO even exists when I started writing this and it was only from looking at the year end lists of others that I was reminded of it. Granted, it’s not exactly hard to forget about an Elder Scrolls game that leaves out most of the fun that comes with playing an Elder Scrolls game. No player housing, pitiful amounts of loot to collect from even boss fights, and playing as a rogue is rendered impossible given how much other players will interrupt your attempts at stealth by charging head first into the same mission. Making things worse was the fact that paying extra for the $100 collector’s edition was made borderline mandatory as its the only way to play as the Imperial race, which is the only one that can serve in any of the three alliances, and it included an incredibly useful and otherwise expensive horse. Keep in mind that this is all on top of a monthly subscription fee (and just look how long that lasted).
Finally, we have the biggest disappointment of the year: Destiny. With Bungie moving on from its legendary Halo series, everyone was curious to see what huge project they’d release next. The result was a Borderlands clone with an unsatisfying story and some of the most brutal item grinding ever seen. As far as I can tell, people are only playing it at this point out of Stockholm Syndrome. Many games promised us the moon last year, and all they could deliver were stones.
Well, here’s hoping I can cheer myself up enough to put together a list of good things that came out of last year. Given that I already know what is going to be the most requested topic for the follow-up article on this subject, I have my doubts on that. All the same, feel free to share your own horror stories of 2014 and I may write a follow-up article based on your suggestions. See you all next time.