Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brink And You'll Miss It

What's this? Two posts in two days? What the hell is going on?

It's actually something I meant to post a few weeks ago when it first happened but forgot until now.

I submitted a question for G4's online show Feedback, where they talk about various videogaming issues in a roundtable once a week for roughly an hour a pop, and they actually featured the question I asked.

Here is the skinny, and you can fast-forward to 32:30 if you want to go directly to the gaming goodness that is Gaff's question:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

This post over at Kotaku made me start thinking about how much Valve has supported Team Fortress 2 since its release back in 2007 as part of the Orange Box (though it's now available for purchase individually).

Additionally, this also answers the question as to why I have yet to complete (or in some cases, even play) such quality games as Trine, BioShock 2, Darksiders, Red Faction Guerrilla, Braid, Uncharted 2, Dragon Age: Origins and The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition that I have sitting around here.

In a little under three years Valve has pushed out well over 100 updates for TF2, some minor, some major, all for the low, low price of $0 and 0 cents. The major updates include new weapons for every class (bar the Engineer, whose update is due shortly), new maps and new game modes. While other developers and publishers coughactivisioncough will gladly charge you an arm and three legs for a couple of new maps, Valve are content to push out major game updates for free, or rather for the price that you have already paid for the game.

Can you think of any other game developer doing this? Can you think of two? I'm not including MMOs here as the subscription fee you will pay for most decent MMOs is the price of the ongoing content and its development, so that does not count. In this day and age of nickel-and-dime DLC, Valve's approach is refreshingly altruistic. Make no mistake though, they are not doing this because of how much they love you, they are doing it because it makes good business sense. As one of the last truly dedicated PC developers what Valve does has a knock-on effect with others. Indeed, I'm sure the Cerberus Network spawned by BioWare and EA for Mass Effect 2, which has pushed several high-quality updates out for that game gratis was at least partially inspired by Valve's approach. Of course they have also pushed out some paid-for DLC for that game, but the free stuff has been the vast majority of the extra content released thus far.

This is not new news. People don't like being nickel-and-dimed for anything, including games. I've racked up well over a thousand hours of TF2 since release and I can only hope that no other game will grab me by the balls quite as much as this one did, because that thousand hours (41 days!) could have been much better spent doing something more productive, like painting my house, developing cold fusion or working on that screenplay of mine that will be a sleeper hit any day now. Valve can only be applauded for what they have done and how they have done it with regards to TF2. It only makes me wonder that, following the Engineer update, what is the plan? Will we possibly see the announcement for Team Fortress 3, or will further updates be rolled out for TF2 giving it even further opportunity to ruin my personal life?

Valve are winning customers for life through their approach, and it shows. They have a history of releasing games "when they are done" (TF2's development took 10 years) and will not charge you a thing to keep that game fully updated with new map packs and modes. Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 have both had the same approach, with a major update rolled out for L4D2 just a month or so ago, again for free. Should every developer give their stuff away for nothing? No, but it's nice when they do. It gives us a sense of value for our purchase, in the knowledge that the game is being kept fresh and new by the inclusion of new content and the elimination of game glitches and bugs. Not every developer has the financial resources that Valve do which allows them to do things like this, but then again their success has largely been their own story. From their debut title Half-Life in 1997 which arguably reinvigorated the FPS genre, to the objective-based zombie shooters Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 in 2008 and 2009, Valve regularly raise the bar when it comes to PC FPS titles.

I can only wonder at what they will have for us next, and, more importantly, when I can get into the beta.