Opinion and News Roundup

I’ve got several things I’ve been sort of loosely following and keeping tabs on. I could probably write an entire post about each one, but that would be a slog and some of it is already old news and/or unsurprising news.

Starbreeze

This one is a moving target. It originally got my attention when they filed for reconstruction and their former CEO, well, “resigned.” I actually couldn’t remember why I knew the studio name till I looked it up and saw Payday 2, which is the only title of theirs I’ve played, though I recognize many others.

This was done due to a “shortage of liquidity.” Certainly not a good sign.

As of now authorities in Sweden have raided their headquarters and someone has been arrested, just two days after the other news dropped. I’m curious to see how this develops, but my guess is someone inside the company probably had a suspiciously timed stock transaction.

Since the Payday developer Overkill is a direct subsidiary of Starbreeze I have pretty much assumed that Payday 3 is unlikely to happen. In fact, my expectations for continuing support of Payday 2 are pretty much zero as well.

Bless Online

Bless is still continuing to struggle for relevance. I’m not surprised that there was a consolidation announcement a week ago that goes live in a couple of weeks. Population is fairly low and, at least on Steam, in a steady decline.

It’s a shame, this is a game that I really want to like. I log in once every month or so and poke around, but it doesn’t take long to remember why it isn’t popular. It’s poorly optimized, the controls are weird, the localization is likewise strange, skill binding has a strange interface and is poorly explained, etc.

I think they could have been overcome, if some had been addressed maybe a month ago, but I suspect the damage is done.

Epic Games Store

Epic, the creator of the Unreal Engine and Fortnite are opening their own digital distribution platform. You know, I was just complaining about this the other day. Their main feature is their 12/88 revenue split vs the standard 30/70. This is actually a huge move and one that I welcome. They stand a decent chance of luring new and current developers with this type of program, provided it’s cost effective for them to operate.

Like Steam or GoG it’s an open platform and non publisher-specific, which is good. That’s the area we need actual competition in. Unfortunately it’s yet another launcher to keep around.

I look forward to poking around once they get it up and running.

Fallout 76

So, Bethesda is walking back their crazy nylon bag shenanigans and giving everyone the chance to submit a ticket in the next two months to receive a replacement canvas bag. I realize it’s all damage control at this point, but I think this is a good move on their part.

On the other hand, they left a bunch of changes out of their patch notes after promising better communication, so the dumpster fire continues to burn unabated.

If it goes on sale again this month I’ll at least entertain the idea of trying it myself so I can form my own opinion.

Bethesda and Fallout 76

Let me start by saying that I don’t own and haven’t played Fallout 76. I also don’t have any intention of doing so in the immediate future. I’m sure that’s going to color my opinion a little bit.

I do, however, consider myself a very casual Fallout fan. I’ve played all of them except Tactics and Fallout 4, I think. I tend to refer to them as “Elder Scrolls with guns” because it’s the playstyle that I like. The IP itself is… okay. I think the 3D games have lost the qualities that made the isometric version unique while remaining interesting enough to be enjoyable.

What I don’t know is what on earth is going on over at Bethesda. I actually had a post a while back about some of the statements being made about them using the Creation Engine for Elder Scrolls 6. I was, for the most part, defending that. A position I still hold, if maybe not as strongly. I think the engine itself is probably not the problem but more of a symptom.

Fallout 76 though just seems to be one misstep after another. I guess they got sick of Blizzard having all the fun and decided to get their piece of the PR pie too. Some of it isn’t all that surprising. A new Bethesda game full of irritating and game-breaking bugs? Huh, who’d have thunk it? When I bought my copy of Morrowind it wouldn’t even run until they released a patch. I used to think maybe it’s due to the open world and highly mod-able nature of their games, but y’know, maybe their QA is just bad.

I’m also put off by the move away from Steam. Yeah, everyone is doing it because it’s inconvenient to have a percentage of all sales go to Valve. Y’know what though, I like Steam and I like having a centralized platform for my games, warts and all. I’m still fairly resentful towards EA for making Origin a thing, and have refused to buy a copy Mass Effect 3 for PC due to it being an Origin exclusive. I more shortcuts for individual launchers I collect on my desktop the more attractive the Steam one looks.

It also helps that Steam made refunds a thing, albeit reluctantly. Bethesda on the other hand seems to be offering refunds only in places where they’re legally required to and this is naturally upsetting people. Rightfully so, in my opinion. Refusing refunds isn’t a very consumer-friendly way to do business. It’s complicated, and there are certainly cases where goods shouldn’t be eligible for refunds. I think in a “games as a service” type of model, where the develop/publisher retains the ability to revoke access, even digital goods should be refundable.

The second big thing Bethesda has working against them is this business with the collectors edition bag. Basically the bag featured in the image of the power armor edition is not the same materials and quality as the bag actually received. [reddit image] Someone allegedly contacted the support center for Bethesda merchandise and was told:

“The bag shown in the media was a prototype and was too expensive to make. We aren’t planning on doing anything about it.”

When this was brought to Bethesda’s attention on reddit, they said:

“The Bethesda Store’s Support member is a temporary contract employee and not directly employed by Bethesda or Bethesda Game Studios. We apologize to the customer who took the time to reach out. The support response was incorrect and not in accordance with our conduct policy. Unfortunately, due to unavailability of materials, we had to switch to a nylon carrying case in the Fallout 76: Power Armor Edition. We hope this doesn’t prevent anyone from enjoying what we feel is one of our best collector’s editions.”

All in all it was a bad move on their part. If this was the case it should have been communicated ahead of time so people could possible adjust or cancel their orders, especially since they’re not really up to doing a refund. They did end up giving all the power armor edition owners an additional $5 in cash currency, but that doesn’t look like it’s being received well.

In the long run, I’ll probably still pick the game up, eventually. Had I known is was steeply discounted last week I might even have found a way to buy it then, but that just another talking point for people upset with them now. I’ve done enough reading to know that while buggy and unpolished, not everyone is having this poor of an experience. A fair number of people are playing and enjoying the game, and I’m sure I would too.

It does raise some long term concerns about Bethesda as a developer though. To the extent that if Starfield or Elder Scrolls 6 exist only on their own launcher, maybe I won’t bother. Certainly not at release. I haven’t bought a Bethesda game within a year of release before or since Morrowind. I really want to be cautiously optimistic about their upcoming titles, but right now I’m feeling more cautious and less optimistic. Time to sit back and see how it all unfolds.

Y’all take care, especially you vault dweller types.