Bethesda seems to be playing all their cards right as of late.
First you had the incredibly annoying “teaser” campaign for Rage 2, after Walmart Canada shat out a few leaks by accident, yet they didn’t anticipate the double bill that Bethesda had set up. Cut to a few weeks later, and boom! Fallout: 76, a new Fallout spin-off announced a week before E3, and suddenly all the eyes are on them. Admirable, even if it does undermine the point of E3.
Say what you will about how cringeworthy half of the E3 conferences have been over the past 15 years, it’s still the biggest gaming event on the calender, and no amount of cynicism can change that. The majority speaks louder than the leader, and most people are there just to see some goddamn games get announced and played, and maybe get excited about it.
That’s all fine and dandy, I participate in the same amount of excitement, and have seen myself jumping all over the walls for some of the games announced and released in recent times. However, that’s a clouded reaction, a twitch decision that later brings regret, as the next few paragraphs will attempt to tell you. I’m here to provide two things for you: A story of Bethesda’s incompetence, and a warning to mute your reactions sometimes.
Before that however, a little pre-facing; Fallout 3 is my second favourite game of all time, and while the RPG nerds will crawl out of the corner to laugh at that statement, note that the word “favourite” has been put there. I’m well aware that New Vegas is the best of all the new-generation Fallout titles, and it’s my second favourite game ever due to the sentimental nature of it.
I remember seeing the adverts for Fallout 3, with Bob Crosby’s “Dear Hearts and Gentle People” playing gleefully over ultra-violence and gunfights. 12-year old me wanted that game, and Gamestation were selling the bastard thing for 20 POUNDS at launch! You couldn’t even imagine how much I begged my dad to get the game for me at Christmas, and that’s exactly what I got, along with the strategy guide.
Over the next two years or so, I was hooked, there wasn’t a day where I wouldn’t play it for over two hours, and jumping to 2018 now, I believe I have a playtime of 3000-3500 hours on it. It’s something that took over me and was always fun to play, with boredom never taking over. The random encounters, and the vistas I had entranced me, and I was absorbed fully.
Nevertheless, age has kind of beaten it down, and I’m sure that if it were any other Fallout title, they would’ve held the same spot. While I love Fallout 1 & 2, they’re both being played on a computer with Windows Vista, and while New Vegas is more competent in writing and mechanics, it just isn’t the same to me. It’s still a 10/10 though. Despite all that however, Bethesda were still the number one company for me, and I stood there, ready to purchase whatever game had their name behind it -from Skyrim to Rage, Wolfenstein to Wet, it was bought.
Shit, this was supposed to be about E3 wasn’t it? My apologies, let’s cut back to that, roughly to the time when Fallout 4 got announced, and me and my friends practically shit ourselves into space with the amount of hype we generated. Along the way though, some worrying things began to emerge, like “Crafting elements”, and “Voiced protagonists”. Over time, that excitement eroded and not because we were seeing gameplay overhauls, but because this wasn’t going to be the Fallout we fell in love with. This wasn’t going to be the methodical Fallout 1 or 2, and it wasn’t going to be the combat-driven forces of 3 and New Vegas.
What it was going to be however, was fucking awful.
I won’t say that Fallout 4 is the most disappointing game of all time, because Perfect Dark Zero exists, but the amount of half-hearted care put into the mechanics make it something truly miserable. Half of the characters are nonces, the gunplay (despite being helmed by the same team behind Destiny’s combat) was still stiff and jerky, barely any of the new areas were unique, and the building was pointless. You could still have an endless journey throughout the wasteland without all these stupid additions, but still, the damage was done, and my cynicism was at an all-time high.
Cut to about six months later, with all eyes on Bethesda once more, and everyone is vying for their attention to try and find out what they might reveal at their second ever E3 conference. GamesRadar managed to get a hold of local bore Pete Hines, the man infamous for stating that dialogue in video games is boring, and the question of whether older Elder Scrolls titles would get the same treatment Skyrim did. He had this to say:-
“To take Morrowind and then to completely rebuild it? It was an Xbox game. To completely rebuild it have it be relevant for today? That’s a pretty massive team doing a massive amount of work … You go back and look at it. Do you remember the dialogue system in Morrowind? Do you remember what it was like talking to someone and scrolling through this long list of questions. You put that out for someone that just finished Skyrim and they’re going to be like ‘What in the hell…?”
-Pete Hines, Harbinger of Rot and Filth… Also, he’s the VP of Bethesda.
Mhmm. That’s right. Forget about world-building and providing a dense world to explore because the game asks for it. Forget about being absorbed into the world that developers have provided, because Pete Hines thinks “listuning iz hurd! x(“. When you read this, you can kind of grasp an image of what Bethesda see their potential customers as; ADHD-riddled children who can’t actually read. Remember, this isn’t a case of it not selling well, this is because Pete Hines thinks Morrowind is inaccessible today.
While it’s completely fair to say that the more obvious answer is “Skyrim is a much more bankable title for Todd Howard and co. to rake millions of dollars from”, it’s still disheartening to read something like that. However, with that talk of “making money” in mind, you begin to grasp a bigger picture of what AAA publishers think about their consumers, and that the best answer to it is to provide the lowest common denominator.
The point of this Op-Ed isn’t entirely based around cursing Bethesda, because my support group already kicked me out for using the Pete Hines voodoo doll during sessions. The point is that with this evidence, it’s a fair assumption to think that publishers don’t think too highly of you. You should be realizing that corporations like EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft and Sony want you to buy first, and complain later.
They caught me in the trap… well, kind of, I’ve never actually purchased Fallout 4 with my own money (Thank you Justin, and also Destiny), and never will. At the end of the day, whatever gets announced that hasn’t already been fucking leaked, and whatever you’re surprised by, please just remember to keep that wallet locked up, and wait for evidence.
With surprises come excitement, with excitement comes the possibilities, with the possibilities come delusions, and with the delusions come the rash decisions. Publishers love to hook the people that don’t think about the purchases, and yeah, this might sound like The Obvious News At 10 O’Clock, but with the gaming industry in a tailspin of deceit, it’s something to keep in mind.
Nostalgia’s quite obviously the biggest bait they have. They’ll come onto the stage, fake smiles and crocodile tears, the strings directing to point at the screen and watch as your favourite franchise’s logo pops onto the widescreen. What’s it about, what does it involve? Who cares, they simply believe that you want to add another title to your collection, and thus the cycle begins, and when you get that poorly-functioning, bare-bones new title in your hands, it’s too late. Your pride has already gone, and you look like a jackass to the friends that you frothed at the mouth to about the “game that’ll change everything, I promise!!!”.
If there’s one seemingly invincible foe throughout all this, it’s Nintendo. Not that they haven’t made mistakes in the past, as I’m still trying to get the Reggie voodoo doll made because of Federation Force, but they’re on a goddamn roll recently. You’ve got the Switch bringing you banger after banger after banger, you had them managing to make the world pay 60 bucks or so for cardboard; everything’s coming up Milhouse for them, and that’s fair enough. Just know that gods make mistakes too.
Bullshots, false advertising and cringy conferences aside, just know that nothing in this world is perfect, besides my skill at making cups of tea. If by some crazy miracle that the game you saw at this year’s E3 conference is everything that you hoped for, then that’s great! More power to you, find a group and collectively circle jerk over the game’s greatness! Just recognize the flaws that are present and admit that sometimes, developers and publishers make mistakes, and pray they don’t mess up again.
I suppose it doesn’t matter this year though, since everyone is deciding to announce their games ahead of E3. Fuck surprising whoever doesn’t keep a constant eye on the internet at this point, just announce whatever, whenever, because the leakers can’t leak what you already leaked! Christ. What happened to giving a shit about your product’s power, eh?
I don’t know, but it’s safe to say that Microsoft haven’t since 2013.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.