Rent FirstI bought a bunch of crappy games last year.
MLB2K6, for some reason, is always the first game I think of in the "Steaming Piles of 2006" category. I've said it before, but it was $60 for an alpha.
I was pissed off about it, too, but I'm a sports gamer. We're shills. We're tools. We will buy almost ANYTHING, and we buy it year after year after year. Plus we have the memory of head trauma victims--we can't seem to remember anything for longer than about six months. I've seen a ton of posts on sports forums talking about how "great" MLB2K7 could be, even after MLB2K6 was an absolute disgrace.
My outrage meter on this issue wasn't pegged until I saw an interview last fall with Ben Brinkman, who was lead gameplay designer for the MVP series until he went to Kush (who developed MLB2K6).
Now MVP was a nice game, but EA never finished it. It was one in a long series of sports games from EA in that category, even though it was probably EA's best sports game two years ago. So I was curious about what Brinkman had to say.
Well, among other things, he said this:
"First year, drill down to the core and get the core baseball game going," Brinkman said. "Year two, add some cool features, maybe some tersely modes, maybe redesign franchise. The third year, just wrap it up into a nice bow and nail it.
I have no idea what "tersely" modes are, although I'm sure that's IGN's genius at work.
So basically this game is on a three-year development cycle. Well, I'll tell you what: maybe I'll buy it in year three. For year one and two, I'll just rent. If I get to ten hours of play and it's still holding up, I'll buy it.
Until then, though, my money stays in my pocket.
Now Brinkman says many of the "right things" in the interview, which is an interesting read. But he also hopelessly contradicts himself. Look at this one excerpt:
We've gotten back down to bare basics. We're not adding a ton of bells and whistles this year, we're going to take what we have and add some cool stuff to it.
I like that. Later in the interview, though, he said this:
Gameplay, if you play the two side by side, it should be a dramatically different experience. We've added thousands of new animations. All new pitching, all new hitting, all new throwing, all new catching, all new tagging.
...All the stadiums redone, all the player models redone, faces redone. We've got accessories coming out our ass, no pun intended.
So they're not adding bells and whistles, but they're adding THOUSANDS of new animations, and they're redoing all the stadiums and player models.
I have no confidence that's going to get finished. Should I?
Here's the real problem with sports games today: we can't return them. A huge percentage of total sales for the vast majority of sports games (and most games in general) will happen in the first week of their release. In other words, marketing is selling the game, not the game itself.
If we could return bad games, there would be quality control. But we can't, and there isn't. And no matter how bad a game is one year, there's always enough marketing and PR for the next edition to make it look like the shiniest new toy ever.
So because of this game in particular, and the problem with sports games in general, here's my Gaming Resolution for 2007: rent first. Rent, or play a demo, or anything that lets me check out the general quality of the game.
That doesn't mean I'll play fewer games this year, but it does mean I'll spend less money on boat anchors that should never have been released.
Which is a good thing.