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PC Games (Games)

Valve Reevaluates Episodic Gaming 142

Posted by Zonk
from the loose-definition-of-working dept.
Dr. Eggman writes "CVG has a recent article on Valve's future plans for episodic gaming. After the third episode of Half-Life 2 is out, Valve plans to sit down with the community and figure out what is working and what's not. Gabe Newell also wants to spend time with Telltale Games and Blizzard, both developers of episodic and episodic-like game content. It it worth it to try to release content on an episodic basis? 'We just want to sit down with three examples in front of us and talk it over with gamers to find out what they would like us to do next.'"
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Valve Reevaluates Episodic Gaming

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  • by Trevelyan (535381) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:27AM (#20766269)

    All I can say that the Orange Box promotion is a slap in the face for those of us that already have Half-Life 2 and Episode 1.

    I see no sign of a Episode 2+Portal+Team Fortress (ie no HL2+E1) promotion (and pre-order discount), and who wants to pay for the same content twice?

    I maybe wrong, but if so, then Steam has done a poor job of advertising any alternative promotions. Especially considering it already knows what games I own.

  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:30AM (#20766299) Homepage
    As long as there's a full no-Steam way to get/use it, frequently updated (or just less than the TF to sequel) content is fine.
  • by PJ1216 (1063738) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:53AM (#20766547)
    In my opinion, fewer original games are coming out. Episodic content for great games is fine. Half-Life is an example of this. However, I think thats an exception in an ongoing trend in video games. I think fewer and fewer games are coming out that are even worthwhile purchasing as opposed to renting. There just aren't that many games that are coming out that are newsworthy. Bio-shock and Halo 3 are some examples of games worth buying. PS3 hasn't had any yet in my opinion (and if they don't real soon, they might as well go the way of sega). Even Wii doesn't have that many (It's doing so well just because of the gameplay, but when it comes down to it, it just has a bunch of games that are fun, but not that many that are as engrossing as Bio-shock or to name a classic, Final Fantasy VII.)

    It just seems like gaming has gone the same route as movies. Yea, some sequels are decent, but a majority of the ones that come out are never as great as the original. Then on top of that, there are fewer and fewer movies being made that are worth seeing more than once. yea, they're entertaining the first time, but no replay value.

    Unfortunately, I think we've hit a downward slope in terms of games as an art.

    I think they need to get to more original content. yea, some people might be upset because some of these continuing stories are really great, but I can't see anyone ever keeping that up. Eventually they'll start making bad ones because only so much can happen in a storyline that is exciting. Writers eventually run out of ideas. Then the franchise is ruined and everybody will complain. Its better leaving on a high note, then dragging it out until no one wants it.

    Hopefully I got my point across. Kind of tired and I may have rambled a bit. =P
  • by dyslexicbunny (940925) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @08:17AM (#20767377)
    That's pretty much the same problem I've had with the episodic gaming. They promised new content every 6 months, which was nice since I got to play new parts to the franchise every 6 months instead of every two years. I always considered the perk being that I never really forgot about the series and kept wanting to play.

    Like you, I always saw episodic content in the sense of we release episodes on release A. Keep working on release B and integrate it for a major release (like HL3). I think Valve lost focus on what they needed to do to keep episodes releasing on schedule. Perhaps someone kept saying that major changes were almost done or adding them would make this XX% better. I suppose it could be construed as mismanagement since I think you have to reign that sort of thinking it if it's causing problems.

    But since I'm not in charge of one of the most successful franchises, I'm not really in a position to do anything but give my opinion and think it's good. Perhaps if I were their shoes, I'd know something different.
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @08:18AM (#20767393) Homepage Journal
    I much prefer the way Telltale did their episodic series to Valve's. If I recall, the second Sam and Max episode came out a little late, but all the rest were either on time or early. A month between episodes was the perfect length - my excitement from the last episode hadn't cooled by the time the next one came out. Having the option to buy all episodes in advance for a greatly reduced price was a much better idea than Orange box, which would have been a great deal 3 years ago. Telltale even made a gorgeous retail DVD box available to season subscribers for merely the cost of shipping, and it was packed with tons of content not included in the digital downloads. Very timely, classy, and professional.

    I love Half Life and I really love Episode One. I hate how long it was in development and would rather have played it a year sooner with no HDR. The again, Valve's releases are near-immaculate and the developer commentary hints at how much painstaking care they put into their games, so I've learned not to wish too hard that they rush their releases. Still, it's been YEARS since the last episode and if for some reason Episode Two never came out I'd hardly miss it at this point.
  • by happyemoticon (543015) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @09:32AM (#20768427) Homepage

    I am really skeptical of any engine improvements for one big reason: HDR/Bloom slows my computer down to a crawl. Yeah, it looks awesome, but I can't justify spending the money to get a system that handle that level of graphical glitz.

    You bring up an important point, though: do engine improvements make a game better? No more than special effects improve a movie's plot. In fact, if I had a dime for every time showing off some CGI bullshit actually made a movie's cinematography worse, I'd have about ten bucks thanks to the Star Wars prequel trilogy alone. I'd say that graphical glamor should never be so grandiose that it slows down a game's user interface (if it has one as such), and that, in many cases, cartoonish graphics and fewer frills actually make a game more playable, and thus a better game. Other elements of a "blockbuster" game, such as extensive plot development and cutscenage, are also anti-game in the sense that they distract you from the actual point of the game which is to, uh, play the game. I was playing FFX for the first time earlier this week, and I just couldn't stand it. You take away all the atrocious yammering and soulful gazes, and all you're left with is too little of a fairly banal game.

    Of course, the caveat to this is that, in many cases, engine improvements can contribute to sales, and a game can't really sell itself on its gaming merits. And, as Ken Levine pointed out on that talk show he was on recently, politics can lead to business decisions being made for purely b2b-related reasons, and I'm sure it only gets worse when you're a titan of a company like Valve. This isn't too hard for me to imagine:

    Valve Exec: ... Yeah, so we're not too hot on the whole "Bloom" thing. I mean, it's cool and all, but implementing it properly presents a challenge, and it adds another variable for the level designers and artists to think about, and it's just going to slow down production.
    Nvidia Rep: Oh? Really? Gee, that's really disappointing...
    Valve Exec: What do you mean?
    Nvidia Rep: Oh, I don't know. I mean, you know, if all of the game companies in the world stopped pushing technology, we'd basically be out of business.
    Valve Exec: We're not talking about bloom never, just not for this quick episodic release business plan we're having. When we come out with our next major title, it's definitely got bloom.
    Nvidia Rep: Yeah, and when's that gonna be? 2010 or 2011 if we take into account your last hit. Look, you're one of the big developers. One of the only big developers. Who's going to do it if you don't? Bethesda? Shit, come on. And we do a lot of nice things for you in terms of features and API support. I mean, I guess we might just have to stop doing those if you're not going to play ball. Valve Exec: Okay, hang on. *picks up phone* Yeah, hey, you know, I'd really like you to try to get that bloom stuff into Episode 2. What? Yeah, I know it'll delay it, that's fine. But we're just talking a few months, right?

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @10:16AM (#20768993)
    I imagine that Telltale is also a smaller outfit and coming up with jokes and storylines aside, the S&M engine is easier to bolt things onto and script for. Scene-based adventure games are doubtlessly easier to develop on a technical level, since there are far fewer places for the player to sneak under the world or exploit AI.

    That said, something like S&M, or the CSI games that Telltale puts out too, are [i]perfect[/i] for episodic gaming. Shooters have gone so far beyond the days of Wolf3D and Doom, that developing in chunks like that is counterproductive at best. Blizzard's quasi-episodic updates (or Cryptic's "Issue #" updates for City of Foozles) are a similarly unfair comparison: Valve's entire staff could probably fit comfortably in one of Blizzard's meeting rooms. They have sheer manpower to throw at testing, modular components like AI and pathing, or discrete chunks of map, or quest writing, that Valve or a dedicated modding team doesn't.

    Valve's stuck in the same tight spot that killed Sin: Episodes' developer. A graphically attractive, well-balanced shooter takes a lot more man-hours to develop than the shooters of yesteryear did. Short chapters with cliffhanger endings only work well if you've got the next chapter lined up for release before the audience gets bored. WoW has a ton of content to begin with, and S&M episodes come out just often enough to make the player base excited. Waiting a year or more for a few hours of same-game play and middling exposition is not something that enthuses the average player. Waiting a year or more for a full-blown expansion or sequel, is another matter entirely.

  • by SpryGuy (206254) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @03:36PM (#20773955)
    We were promised at the time EP1 came out (and was purchased) that a separate, individual EP2 would come out in 6-9 months for the same cost (under $20).

    So yes, it is an insult. We were lied to. They failed to keep their promises. And if we had known that our choice would be limited to just this "orange box" back then, I woudln't have bothered buying EP1 at the time.

    They're out to screw their loyal customers, pure and simple. There's no other explaination for it. Why the hell did they cancel the "black box"? And why MUST TF2 (which I have zero interest in) be bundled with EP2??

    We have been cheated, we have been lied to, and we are being screwed.

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340

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