Critical moves: the problematic roadmap model

There is a saying about the internet that I find rather accurate about the topic I am about to cover: “The Internet never forgets.” Indeed it a powerful phrase that tells us about the nature of putting yourself online; however, I personally feel that there should be another part to that phrase, “The Internet never forgets, but it’s easy to trick.” You may be wondering what exactly I mean, for how could people never forget but be easy to deceive? Frankly, I don’t have a straight answer to that — but we do have examples.

Roadmaps, then. After Early Access began to die down and be completely treated as a joke, developers and publishers alike were theorizing about a way to bring incomplete games to the market faster and less comprehensive than before. I didn’t mention this before, but even though the target of Early Access was toward the more indie side of the industry, it comes as no surprise that even some AAA games attempted this complete and utter nonsense themselves. “Street Fighter V” is a fantastic example. Very few player characters, no story mode, the game was filled with more black space than the mind of a brain damaged sunfish. Yet, the game was massively successful. It led to the now often used phrase, “Live Service,” a term meant to tell its players that there will be a plethora of content down the line but often leads to cosmetic nightmares and pay-to-win mechanics crowbarred in with little rhyme or reason. Soon, even that phrase became taboo in some circles.

Then, inevitably, came the next incarnation of early access, the Roadmap. The concept of the Roadmapped game is an advanced form of the Live Service model. While the parasitic maggot known as the Live Service gave no guarantee or promise as to what the game will offer later down the line, the Roadmapped game is often based around heavily structured update schedules throughout years of the game’s lifetime.

This model allowed people to be assured that there would be content in the game even after the initial purchase that they can enjoy. If that sounds familiar, take a moment to look at my first paragraph to know exactly what I mean. It was pretty much Early Access with a schedule and a Live Service, without the inevitable swarm of locusts that comes out of the mouths of anyone who dares utter those words on a stage.

This model allowed people to be assured that there would be content in the game even after the initial purchase that they can enjoy.

It became, dare I give anyone ideas, popular to say that your game has a roadmap of content just waiting to be made and developed for the game. However, there were two obvious problems with the system that anyone with eyes and a brain could see: why would people buy the game now if it’s going to be objectively better later, and all these promises that they are making on this schedule sound great — but that is only if they even happen. Honestly that was the problem with Roadmaps, because many of them forgot the lesson many should have learned when Early Access was popular. You only get one launch, one chance to make an impression, and many of these roadmapped games left either a negative impression or a neutral one.

One such game that followed this model is “Sea of Thieves,” a game that, at launch, was really pretty, but not much else. One thing that really bothered me when I played it for free during the trial period was the lack of variety in enemies that were made. Sure, you’re supposed to fight other players, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that at launch the game only had skeletons, sharks and one boss. I didn’t feel much from that myself; though that’s because I didn’t have to pay anything for the experience. However, if I had to pay $60 to have the pleasure of fighting skeletons for the ninth time in a damn row, I’d probably refund the game.

… games are just being released early with no rhyme or reason.

One insufferable side effect from people who buy roadmapped games is that, when you express your own dislike for the game, one phrase pops up all the time: “It’s better now!” Why is that a commendable thing to say about a game? Was it not good before? Did you have grievances from the previous iteration of the game, but were too busy being on your hands and knees to say anything? I’d hear that from my friends who still play the game, look up a video that has the cringe-worthy clickbait nonsense that I’ve grown accustomed to, and watch a guy fight a skeleton. I’d go back to them saying that I see pretty much no difference, and be told I’m a “hater” that doesn’t understand the game. So then I’d just ask them, “on land, do you still only fight skeletons and players?” — I’d always get silence after that.

The lesson to be learned here is that these games are just being released early with no rhyme or reason. One update that my friends were triumphing was the addition of fishing in a pirate game for god’s sake! Maybe one day “Sea of Thieves” will be a good game in my eyes, but why did they have to do a roadmap? What it essentially tells people who are on the fence about the game is that it’s not complete, but maybe one day it will be and that’s when you should buy it.

Another game that followed the Roadmapped model is the infamous “Anthem,” Bioware’s attempt to show us exactly how to kill a trend. If you’ve heard anything about “Anthem” you’ve probably heard the problems with the game, but if you haven’t, here’s but a fraction of issues people were having:

1.     Loading times were slower than tectonic plates.

2.     People were finding that removing gear could make you stronger in a looter shooter.

3.     AI would sometimes completely bug out and not attack anymore.

4.     And last, but obviously not least, the lack of desirable loot in a looter shooter.

The game was obviously mired in issues that people were up in arms about getting fixed. However, many were hopeful that the patches and content that they desired would come in the next part of the roadmap. You see, “Anthem” had a massive roadmap of highly anticipated content that Bioware practically foamed at the mouth gushing about, particularly how this game will be given content for years to come.

What actually happened was that, after the turmoil of the launch and following updates, the roadmap was completely scrapped — leaving all those who looked at it a nice blank screen to look forward to.

Anyways, let’s hope that games in the future don’t follow this model … Is what I would have said if it weren’t for this year’s E3, where nobody shut up about how their game will be supported for years. And should we just wait for it to be finished later? No! Preorder it now and receive the special bonus of the grimier side of the shoe you so desperately lick.

Edward Park is a second-year student majoring in English education. EP909756@wcupa.edu

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