2014 was a hit-and-miss year for the gaming industry, and while it was filled with plenty of memorable moments, a lot of the time were ones that we want to forget.
Also See: Looking Forward to 2015: 10 Predictions for Gaming in 2015
But we can only look forward from here, and as we head into 2015 it’s time to analyse the past 365 days and point out the issues in the gaming industry that we hope don’t reappear in the New Year.
Here are the current problems with the gaming industry that we hope will be fixed in 2015:
What We Hope the Gaming Industry Fixes in 2015
Launch day online problems
The early batch of
Halo: The Master Chief Collection reviews pointed to the game being a fantastic compilation of the Halo series, but then it launched and... well... Halo: The Master Chief Collection's launch day was an unequivocal nightmare for both gamers and developer 343 Industries. Its matchmaking was completely broken, players were kicked out of lobbies at random and its problems were so all-consuming that they even leaked into its campaign modes, causing issues for even solo players. This was not the only game that suffered plentiful online issues upon launch, though: DriveClub was rendered practically unplayable due to a whole host of server issues, and World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor saw Blizzard yet again struggling with demand as those looking to jump in were forced to wait in infinite queues to access servers.
As 2014 comes to a close, we're begging that developers and publishers in 2015 ready themselves and their servers and learn how to cope with excessive demand.
The Master Chief Collection, DriveClub and Warlords of Draenor were three of the biggest releases of the year, and for them to be rendered unplayable on their respective launch days is unacceptable.
Steam's lack of quality control
When I first heard about asinine serial-killer simulator
Hatred being pulled from Steam, my biggest takeaway from the whole controversial scenario was that Valve probably should have implemented some form of quality control over their digital distribution platform sooner. Of course, Hatred is now back up on Steam Greenlight after Gabe Newell issued an apology and stated that the service is "for the creators," but what if said creators are really awful at their jobs, and are solely using it to swipe money from out of the pockets of unwitting gamers?
Unfortunately, Valve continues to remain completely absent from the whole process, allowing utter hogwash such as
Air Control (pictured) and Recovery: Search and Rescue Simulation to be thrown onto Steam with wild abandon.
Though its core concept is a welcome one (allowing independent creators to publish their titles without having to go through a middle man), Steam Greenlight continues to suffer from Valve refusing to exhibit any form of quality control over it or the rest of Steam. We can't see Valve changing their approach to Steam in the near future, but at the very least they could get rid of Greenlight (as they have reportedly been planning) and replace it with something that doesn't allow amateur devs to con unsuspecting consumers.
Kickstarter and the problem with gambling
Kickstarter and other similar crowdfunding sites such as IndieGogo rose to prominence in 2013 and their popularity has endured through 2014, but they still remain incredibly risky ways of soliciting the development of video games.
Crowdfunding sites essentially puts the consumer in the position of a shareholder, only they receive no financial gain from their investment. They simply give money to a project they deem interesting, and then hope that said project will live up to expectations.
A prime example of the perils of Kickstarter was popular YouTube channel Yogscast's spin-off game
Yogsventures, which pulled in a significant amount of cash from backers before it was announced that the game had been cancelled. Why? Because its developers were too inexperienced to make it.
According to statements released by Yogscast, the product made by developer Nerd Kingdom wasn't up to scratch and failed to meet the lofty expectations they had set for it on their Kickstarter page, with the money afforded to them by backers seemingly being thrown up the wall - a detailed statement revealing where backers' money had gone revealed that one artist was paid $35,000 for two weeks work, despite said artist never actually producing any art for the game.
Kickstarter can be a great place to get projects off the ground that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day, but it's also a system that is too easily abused. Unfortunately, it seems likely that this will always be the case with crowdfunding sites, though in 2015 I hope that creators who use it to gain funding are more transparent about their background to ensure that backers have more confidence in the projects they are supporting, and more pertinently, backers are much more careful about where they put their money to ensure another
Yogsventures doesn't happen.
Releasing unfinished games
This year saw an inexcusable amount of games launching with issues right out of the gate, making pre-orders a riskier proposition than ever before.
Ubisoft completely tarnished any good will generated by the excellent
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag upon the release of its current-gen console only game Assassin's Creed Unity, which launched with a myriad of problems including a frequently stuttering framerate and a selection of ludicrous bugs and glitches.
Assassin's Creed Unity was just the cherry on top of a year punctuated by games with launch-day problems, though, as the likes of LittleBigPlanet 3, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, DriveClub and Warlords of Draenor (I'll get to the latter three later) all left gamers wishing that they'd held off on their pre-orders and bought the games when they were finally functional.
YouTube DMCA claims
YouTube and Twitch are now huge parts of the gaming landscape, with many forging incredibly lucrative careers simply out of creating video reviews of games, uploading playthroughs and discussing the latest news in the industry. However, many are having to do this whilst frequently being challenged by YouTube's poor copyright system, which allows users to issue copyright strikes as they see fit, putting channels at risk regardless of whether or not the content that is being flagged actually breaches copyright laws.
This was an ongoing problem throughout 2013 and it continues to be a big issue in 2014, with developers and publishers also jumping on the bandwagon and issuing copyright strikes to YouTubers who upload videos criticising their output, thus leading to allegations of censorship. Considering gaming is a big part of what makes YouTube so popular, it would be wise of the video-sharing site to take better care of its content creators, rather than helping them to be thrown under the bus at every step.
Mobile gaming and pay-to-win
This year saw the release of the most heinous example of a "pay-to-win" game yet, in the form of the mobile
Dungeon Keeper remake.
Pay-to-win is a term applied to free-to-play games that dramatically stunt a player's progress unless they cough up real-life dough, and it's becoming increasingly prominent in mobile gaming.
Dungeon Keeper was the straw that broke the camel's back in this department, with mobile gamers left up in arms over publisher EA's absurdly unsubtle money-grabbing tactics.
Such is the prevalence of pay-to-win games that
South Park devoted a whole episode to parodying the business practise in the form of 'Freemium Isn't Free,' ripping apart developers and publishers who partake in the production of such games. While I have no problems with free-to-play games when they're done right, so very often are they simply a way to lure cash out of the consumer. I hope this stops in 2015.
A lack of prevention against DDoS attacks/hackers
Hacking group Lizard Squad made it very, very clear that they were aiming to take down both PSN and Xbox Live on Christmas Day. And guess what - they did.
Having the online services of your consoles brought to a standstill on Christmas Day (and a couple of days afterwards) is a sure-fire way to generate bad publicity, and considering that the DDoS (Distribution Denial of Service) attack launched by Lizard Squad crippled both Sony and Microsoft, it's inevitable that someone will attempt to do the same next Christmas, such is the nature of the internet.
I feel bad for all new console owners who found themselves unable to experience the latest systems to their fullest potential over the Holiday period, and though it wasn't exactly Sony or Microsoft's fault that such a situation occurred, I hope that they put more effort into protecting their online networks come December 25th, 2015.
The inherent problem with Early Access
The major problem with Early Access is that there's not an easy way to solve the prominent issues with the system. It's a way for PC developers to fund their game whilst building it, therefore offering gamers something to play as it is being developed. However, so often do these games stay in Early Access, never seeing the light of day as a full release while they still rake in the full asking price for the finished title. It's a system that hinges upon promises made between developers and consumers, and these promises are often broken.
Perhaps the best way to solve the problem of Early Access would be to give players the option to pay a percentage of the full game's asking price, and then to pay the rest when the game is actually finished. This means that the developer would still get money to produce the game, though they wouldn't feel the need to just cut their losses, settle for their Early Access paycheck and give up on development.
One example of this being the case with Early Access this year was
The Stomping Land, a game which garnered a large amount of attention on Kickstarter (go figure) before releasing on Early Access for $25. After its developers went completely silent following its release, it was then pulled from the store in September.
Early Access has its good point, but they're often outweighed by the negatives. At the moment it stands as another example of how little creative control Valve has over Steam, something which needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.