A verticle Slice is a tech demo of a game, a working level, a portion of the finished product that lets you show proof of concept. It can be a boon or a curse.
There has been much said about the recent release of Anthem, the online looter shooter by Ubisoft. While the game is fun and it adds a new dimension to the genre and fills in a gap, it lacks much of what the game promised two years before its launch at E3 2017. The main complaint I’ve seen people raise about this game is how it follows the recent problem of over promising and under delivering.
We’ve seen this recently with Watchdogs 2, Spiderman on PS4, and Assassins Creed.
Assassin’s Creed Unity was heavily criticized when it launched that it had far less NPCs and environmental effects than the game was shown to have at the E3’s prior to its launch. This caused a lot of people to be upset, a large portion of the gaming community were chanting the “don’t preorder!” mantra. From their viewpoint game makers were bait and switching their players.
Adding to this problem the game Watchdogs came out a yearish earlier and it had committed the same crime. It showed off a fantastic demo on E3 and then later when it released it was a ghost of the game we were promised. As gamers we were livid and the “Don’t Preorder” movement began to gain momentum.
The most recent example of people losing their minds over a game changing details before release was PS4’s Spiderman game. The changes ended up making it look fundamentally different from the demonstration we saw at E3. It was such a big deal it got its own name, “Puddlegate.” The removal of a puddle, which did not fundamentally change anything about the game, created a storm of rage and hate from the gamer community. Once again, we thought we had been tricked, a bait and switch. While this final example was not actually a bait and switch, or a situation where we were over promised and under delivered, it added kindling to the fire that was gamer rage.
Anthem changed itself in so many ways before its launch. It had NPC’s moving around talking to each other in the city, quest givers walking up to you to offer you a quest that is not even in the final launch of the game. The city had so much detail removed, flags sway in the wind less, entire sections of cloth décor and doodads were cut from the game. Physics was toned down. Then to make it worse they showed off massive walking fortress robots in the trailers, they were walking around in the game world in both the city and outside in the actual combat areas. The walking fortress robots were scrapped for the most part, they are stationary and the only one you see in the jungle is already broken down and effectively part of the landscape.
The worst part is they removed the ability to swap weapons on the fly while playing the game, which is a fundamental part of a Looter Shooter. No one wants to sit through several load screens of varying length just to be able to try out the new item that dropped. That is something we have been able to do since Diablo 1 in 1996. To remove this feature from a game after it was already shown off in an E3 video is baffling.
The main reason that the gamers are upset is simple, we were over promised and under delivered. That is a huge problem in psychology and it will cause trust to be broken.
If game makers used their “Vertical Slice” game levels to build games more realistically from a development standpoint they wouldn’t have to dumb or tone down their game once they got closer to release and reality sets in with their multi-platform triple A graphicly intensive game.
Gamers would still be loyal to game companies that deserve their loyalty rather than looking at each creator suspiciously as if they’ve been abused in their previous game maker to game player relationship.
As game makers we need to set more realistic goals and build the games more realistically from the ground up having an end in mind from the very beginning.
That being said, Stadia will change a lot of the reasons that game makers scale back their game, having access to incredible computing power will enable us as game makers to create the games we always wanted to without having to scale back our dreams.
Thanks for reading, Keep it real!