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Striking The Balance

I can’t imagine the pressure of being a game developer. Trying to do the impossible of “pleasing all of the people, all of the time” seems like a fools errand to me. They must have to constantly try to strike the balance between so many factors it’s almost painful to think about. Here a just a few that came to mind.

Humor. Lots of games are meant to be take as funny. On the one hand these types of games should obviously make us laugh, however on the flip side you don’t want them to be full of sophomoric humor that even children grow tired of. Pretty much every genre of game out there needs a tiny bit of humor in it, with the possible exception being survival horror games. Hell even Tiger Woods has funny stuff in it. I can remember playing with a friend and we were doing so horrible that the crowd starting booing us in a rather over the top hilarious fashion.

Sequels. It must be so hard to create a new game in order to bring in more players with out alienating the ones that got you the money in the first place. Most notably (and topically) Halo: Reach. Now granted I haven’t finished Reach, but what I know of it so far is enough to make me wonder. An example would be dual wielding. Fans of the Combat Evolved were clamoring to do just that, so Bungie gave them dual wielding in Halo 2 and in Halo 3. However, it was taken out in ODST and Reach. I am sure that people with a logical head on their shoulders can see that it was due to balancing, but some players were, and are, probably pretty pissed about that.

Balancing itself is a hard one to tackle. As a developer you have to make sure that your game is fun as well as fair to all players. This is especially true in a multi-player centered game. If one weapon presents with an exploit, it is up to the developer to patch in a fix. This will no doubt cause friction in the online community. Players that either didn’t use it, or had the exploit used against them will be thankful to have it fixed. However those that found and used the exploit will no doubt be pissed that their favorite toy is now “nerfed” in some way. Look at the controversy over the “cheat” in Star Craft 2. Getting a 7% increase in your economy over a game sounds like nothing, but if you are on the losing side of that, it’s huge. Glitch or not, it should be patched because it can make a difference in the out come of a match.

Exclusivity’s. One of the strangest cases of a developer splitting the the player base would have to be the new NBA Jam game. If you want the “full experience” you have to get it for the Wii. If it were that simple, I would have no problem with it, however it is not. Players clamoring for some NBA Jam action on other platforms can also get it on PS3 as well as Xbox 360… with the purchase of NBA Elite 11. That’s pretty lame, but not the worst of it. The copy that comes with the $60 retail release of Elite 11 is a stripped down version. It doesn’t feature the wackyness of the Remix Tour and it’s insane, and probably totally fun, boss battles. Now granted with the PS3 and 360 versions you get roster updates as well as online play, but still, it’s not a whole game. This doesn’t even take into account that it may possibly be a downloadable game from PSN or LIVE at some point, and you don’t HAVE to spend the extra cash to get a game you may or may not even want to play. Sure it’s to get people to purchase a game FIRST so that you can be that guy with the extra content before everyone else. Even considering that, it’s still a different game than the original.

This is why I have the utmost respect for game developers out there now. With layoffs looming everyday, it seems as though no company is untouchable. Trying to stake your claim to digital dollars and property must be terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Keeping up with trends or trying to blaze a trail of your own, these are the decisions that must keep developers up at night. My hat is off to the ones that buck the trend and go about things at their own pace and in their own way. Glad it’s not my job.

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