Sunday, October 12, 2008

MarketingCraft 2: The Epic Failening

Ah, the Steven's Tubes are especially filled with impotent rage today. I wonder what could have...

Oh, apparently the new Star Craft's going to be released episodically.

Or it isn't.

Lots of rumors floating around but, from what I can tell:

  • There will eventually be 3 SC2 products for sale.
  • Each will feature a long, single-player campaign for but one of the races.
  • Each will include some updates and enhancements to gameplay, just as Brood War did to the original.
  • But no official word yet on how much these expansion boxes will cost

What worries me, what convinces me this is nothing more than a shameless money grab rather than the inevitable result of production bloat, is that I'm not sure about one single point: Can you play say, the Protoss, if you've purchased the Terran campaign? Do you get at least an introductory mission or two to familiarize new players with their mechanics and, then, can you hop online to BattleNet or whatever's going to replace it and brawl away with them? Or is the use of each race, even online, going to require the purchase of a separate box?

If yes, well, bullshit.

If no, well, then each box really is Brood Wars. Featuring an expanded campaign and some new features but not the real, core functionality of being able to play online multiplayer. Which, really, isn't so bad but that's sure not what the original announcements sounded like.

And, in that case, it really hinges on the price point. If the two boxes which follow the original release do is to fix critical imbalances, introduce some new units or, at least, abilities, along with bringing out some single-player content on the scale of what came with the original game well, that's pretty paper thin. But probably worth the usual $50 or so that's charged for an expansion. Because each box would, in fact, feature a good deal of content. That's, after all, exactly what Brood Wars did, the difference being that instead of a vestigial single-player campaign you'd get something that explored each of the races in more detail and, hopefully, better design. Expansions are just generally a rip-off anyway but they have to pay for development as standards and costs continue to rise (I'd argue they've risen too far and that most A-list games would be better off scaling back and focusing on making good games rather than cram the backs of the boxes with bullet points but that's neither here nor there.).

If all they're doing, though, is just patching the game, smoothing over some problems, or even just releasing Part 2 of the campaign as a stand-alone, well, that's not exactly worth it for me.

But, then, I'm the kind of player who's likely going to be heading straight for the multiplayer anyways. Where I'll get my decrepit ass handed to me by 12 years olds with caffeine buzzes and ungodly reflexes, no doubt, but it's the player on player action that I sign up for. The player on computer action is just so much window dressing. I mean, I played through the single player campaigns on the original and the expansion. Multiple times, actually, since every so often I get a touch of nostalgia and take an old game for a spin. Those missions were fun and well put together. But the single-player wasn't really the draw in those games.

And I'm really afraid by “expanded campaign” they really just mean more psuedo-RPGing like the kind featured in War Craft III. Ugh, just give me the poorly disguised tutorial and a few interesting scenarios and then let me get on with BNet, thanks. Lore's all well and good and the CG cutscenes are all very impressive, but I'm skipping through it all to get to the gameplay anways so you don't have to put too much bother into it.

What's interesting here, though, is how Actiblizzion is exposing the, shall we say, general players to what competitive players have long been dealing with. If you were a hardcore SC player then you had to get Brood Wars. Sure, they left the classic around and all, but if you wanted to stay on top of the game then you needed all those upgrades and fixes and everything else that they were charging, frankly, an outrageous sum for and, so, you needed to snap up that expansion. But if you wanted to stay on top of the game then you were so hooked that you would have paid twice that just to get the latest glorified patch. The more dedicated players have always been farmed for more money that way because, well, they'll keep paying to keep playing.

Now, it seems, if you want to keep going on the single-player side of things you'll have to keep paying, too. An interesting development that, I hope, doesn't become a trend. If only for the sake of my wallet.

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