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Shapes of Video Games: How Community Affect Games in a Whole

As a topic for my course, I decided to take a look at the way that the gaming community and the gamers can often influence the success of each game and they different possible stages that each game may go through

Above: Garry's Mod

When people think about what mades video games big, it is most likely that they often think about the game’s quality content and the people behind creating them. Not much people consider the people that follow the games themselves as before it was not very common to consider people being able to give efficient feedback to the developers about how much they enjoyed their games. Back during the time of home consoles and early PC games, games essentially have one chance to make a big first impression to many players, often determining if the game will gain notoriety or fall flat on expectations. This was because the concept to updates games was not prevalent back in the day aside from popular arcade games getting upgrade kits to update their game. Most home console games and early pc games had to rely on re-releases and possible expansions to get proper fixes and changes. The way that games become more prominent from the community is usually limited as oppose to what we have now a days. Before the access to the internet, gamers would often have to rely on word to words or even access to magazines or TV shows to get a feel of what game are big. This also resulted in a lot of rumors spreading and most often or not gamers have to be the judge themselves whenever they see a game that they want to play.  Now video games usually can accumulate large amount of people that enjoy the game, the biggest difference between the game is the time of which they were released and the accessibility of resource, time and feedback. As video game continues to adapt and evolve, so has the gamers adapted and evolved to the point that gamers themselves have even began to be more important to the developers and publishers to ensure that the video game become a huge success.

When talking about the community of a game, it is important to consider what they do that makes them a prominent degree to a game’s success. For them, the community represents how much the game means to them and to other people that they would interact with and to anyone else that have become interested in the game. To players, games are like gateway for them to escape into the world that the developers have created for them to explore. To Developers, the gamers are the people that want to share their imaginations with and let them see things in their own vision. A lot of game have over inspired people to begin to create their own thing even to the point of creating their own vision of the games they played. Often times, these fan made creations can even have the same effect as the games that inspired others. Such cases like fan made modifications or mods in which they often being a new path for video games like the Defender of the Ancients (DOTA) for Warcraft 3 or Garry’s Mod for Half Life 2. Others even are become potential franchises for creators that with the help of publishers and developers can become main titles like with Valve and their support with the Team Fortress and Counter Strike games.

Defenders of the Ancient (Warcraft 3 Mod) and the games after it

When looking at how community have an influence on the game’s future we have to look at the different stages of video games. These stages can be categorized in 5 different stages; the Pre-Stage; before release, the Early Stage; release time, Mid Stage; six months or a year later, Late Stage; years later and the end game; beyond that. The Early Stage, where the game revealed to the public, is when the community starts. Depending on the game, the type of game that is unveiled to the community can often bring different type of reactions, as the game can be either a brand new IP, a sequel or a spin off. Games like Overwatch (IP), Fallout 4(Sequel) and Portal (Spin off) are often the most well-known games to have garner a huge amount of hype by games when they were announced.  However, this is also, where sometimes the anticipation can backfire on a lot of developers and publishers. Spin offs are usually the suspect of such backlash with recent games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force having the most backlash by fans even to the point that they created a petition to have the game canceled.

The result of community backlash

At the final stage of the game’s development cycle, the game receives the gold status, meaning that the game will be available to be distributed to the public to play. This is where the Early stage begins. At this stage, the game also have another succeed or failure chance as the game have to be able to pass the three status, sales, review and interest. During this stage , the community also begins to grow, as gamers now have access to the game and be able to explore the content that are available. While the community is still early on making a massive impression with the game, they can still affect the success of the game and will most likely to make anything they find both major and minor in the game to stand out. These can often be very popular or become the most nuisance things during the time of release depending on the quality and the number of times these things tend to be shared around. Like it or not, these often become the major reason that people picked up interest towards getting the games themselves just to experience the game. Things like the “Arrow to the knee” from Skyrim and the Portal Cake are prominent around this point.

One of the Portal Cake Reference (I wouldn't want to annoy people with the arrow knee joke)

After some months or a year after release, the game and the community following it have reached mid stage of the cycle, where the true judgment of the game lies. This is around the point where people often decide whether the game they have played have either been something that is worth continuing to play or if it turns out to be something that fall short of expectations. This shows that the game’s community grown to the point that they can identify the many strength and weakness of the game while also showing how much the gamers have either adapted them. The community, at this point, also show their true colors to others as well.  Most often or not this is also the stage of which gamers will often tell their mid or late game experience without having to worry about spoiling the game to others as they would expect some gamers to have also beaten the game as well. Depending on how much the developers allowed gamers to use tools and assets, this is often we would see community content and modifications begins to show off how well the community can create assets for the games. There are even times that a community made modification that can really impress the developers themselves.  XCOM: LONG WAR is one such example where the mod creators were able to change and add modifications to the original game to make it alot more difficult than the base game itself. It was so impressive that Firaxis, the developers of the game, not only endorsed the mod and have created a sequel with similar features as the mod. The creators of LONG WAR were even asked by the Firaxis developers to also help promote XCOM 2’s modding support by developing small mod packs for the game before eventually a LONG WAR 2 a year after launch.   Another key point of this stage is that game community’s population growth often determines the popularity of the game, even to the point of saving certain games. A personal example for me at this stage was with the Ace Attorney series on the Nintendo DS. While the series was well known in Japan when the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was released in 2001 on the Game Boy Advance, the series actually gain notoriety for being re-released on the Nintendo DS in 2005 to 2006 (Depending if you were in NA/JP or EU). It was at this point that the series would have gain more recognition in the the North American and European countries and alot of people, including myself, were introduced to the series thanks to an internet flash and video parody Phoenix Wrong.

 There are often times that recent games can have new features or game changes thanks to the developers during the game’s mid-stages. However, it is still up to the community to determine the verdict of these additional features and changes. Such example of game changing features were Team Fortress 2’s introduction of hats and the paid mod system in Steam Workshop. Team fortress 2, a team based fps from 2007, was already well known though the internet for its cartoonish style, and bizarre cast of characters. For many gamers, the game was a fun team multiplayer  game and the developer’s major updates, containing patches and additional content, since 2008 were greatly welcomes by the community for keeping the game fresh. Around May 21st 2009, the Sniper Vs Spy update launched and introduced players to Hats cosmetics. As additional cosmetic hats were added in each update and the eventual addition of a trading system and in game store were added in, the game would then receive the reputation of being “Hat Fortress”. In the Team Fortress 2 community, a hat have become an icon of the game to many gamers. Hats can determine the type and play style of each players depending on what they’re wearing and the quality off said hats. Hats have also became a source of economics for the game as Team Fortress 2 has become one of the many driving points of Steam’s Community market and economy. However they may be used, the introduction of hats did also drawn the line of which eventually lead to the dividing of players on whether or not the game have become too silly as of the current state.

During its release to the community in 2012, the Steam Workshop had both Team Fortress 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as the leading games to demonstrate the possibility of sharing content on the steam platform. While Steam Workshop was not the first allow distributing modifications and content of games to other gamers, it is one the most well-known thanks to the simple designed to share content and for developers to allow modding implementations to share between each users. As of April 3, 2017, the highest item shared in a game is Garry’s Mod with a count of 1,035,291 items distributed between players whether they be addons, mods, models, maps, entities or even saved files and duplication. However, our primary focus is on the infamous paid mods system which was introduced in April 23 of 2015 where modders would be allowed to charge users money for the use of mods in Skyrim . This sparked a large controversial backlash as some gamers felt that mods should be accessible to everyone and not just to those that paid money. Other controversies begin to pop up with this situations including concerns of mod thief, the cost of the mods, the content difference between free mod and paid mods and the percentage of the payment split in which the modders would receive only 25% of the cut while Valve would receive 75%. Due to the backlash, the feature was removed on April 27, 2015, four days after it was revealed.

Above: The original Skyrim Workshop Paid Mod layout

The late stage is often where most games would no longer receive support from the developers and a decline in the community’s popularity. In these situation, most developers have already moved on towards either a brand new IP or a possible continuation title. Most players, at this point, have already moved on to newer titles while some would often keep track of any activity within the community. Another thing to consider about this stage is that with recent games, the modding community would reach their peak of experience. The modding community, depending the accessibility of the game’s resources, can often turn up with many interesting features that would attract attention. This allows modders to create new game mechanics and features that would add new innovation and creative ways to add replay values to the games. Best example of this is famous, or infamous to some players, Brutal Doom. Brutal Doom added a more modernized mechanic and animations to both the weapon, gameplay and the enemy deaths that it has recently became the new standard for DOOM. This is also arguable for being the inspiration towards the recent DOOM title released in 2016.

DOOM (1993) vs Brutal Doom.

The last stage of the game’s life cycle, the end game, is often something most people do not consider or suspect the games to ever reach. At this stage the game’s community have already moved on and the interest in this game is very little. With times, these games would often be difficult for any interested gamers to settle with as the mechanics and features at this point would often be outdated thanks to newer technology and mechanics in newer games. This was more prominent with games released before the existence of online services platforms like Steam existed as some games would become difficult to find and most often or not expensive to afford. Older games can also be difficult to manage of newer hardware because of the hardware that the games had to work around the time of release. Most often or not game that have been unable to gain enough sales or popularity with the gaming community may reach this stage early on and can sometimes gain reputations as a cult classic.

Despite the last stage named the end game, recent decisions in the game industry to make re-release of the games may bring up some argument on whether games do have end game stages. Recent re-releases can often prove to be best-case scenarios for some games with remakes like the Resident Evil remake for the GameCube and the upcoming Outcast Second Contact of the 1999 classic or remasters like the Metro Redux in 2014 and Darksiders series (Warmastered Edition for 1 and Deathinitive Edition for 2) in 2016. Sites, like GOG.com, are well renowned for re-release many old pc titles that are extremely difficult to acquire and for distributing their games without any DRM. However, there is also the worst-case scenario for certain games as well. Certain situations have shown that games best experienced online often suffer this fate with events like the Gamespy shutdown in 2014 after eighteen years of online service. Even worst are the online only games, which game publishers shutdown for either poor numbers, cost or any other reasons, as they are not only entirely depended on online system to function but also only playable when they were both alive and prominent with a large enough community. Oddly enough, there have not been much discussion about these types of games until Ross Scott, creator of Civil Protection, Freeman’s Mind and Ross’s Game Dungeon, bought this up in his 22nd episode, as he was discussion about Battle forge, a discontinued MMORTS released in 2009 by EA before shutting down in 2013 (Below). In this video, he points out that the idea of video games dying was his biggest complaints about the gaming industry as he feels games should be accessible to anyone at any time. This later prompts him to talk about in other episodes on other EA online only games that either seem close towards a similar fate or suffer the same fate around the time the episode uploaded. This later prompted Ross to begin a mailing campaign with viewers to mail physical letters to Electronic Arts’s Higher-ups to stop killing games and later creating a channel dedicated towards informing viewers of any games that were getting shutdown.

Topic on Online Game Shutdown at around 10 minute mark, but I want to let you watch this from the beginning to get a understanding of the topic

At the end of all this, whether or not a game either stops at the End Game stage or returns to the beginning as a remaster, the community are still the deciders towards the true success of the game. The community themselves have the power to decide on the lifespan of the game’s before launch and how much influence the game can make towards gamers and vice versa. Gamer will become the followers for the games and maybe become the creators of the future. Developers may bring new ways either for the community to adapt or oppose. Developers may even hand over their hard work towards the community to see if they can create something anew. Video games themselves can even have a chance of renewal for future audience or forgotten only remembered by few people. Overall, video games are dependent on the actions and responsibilities of the developers and publishers but also by the people that will follow it.  

 

 

 

 

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