The game consumption cycle

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Here’s another cycle for ya. No, wait, it’s a spiral. And, oh dear, it’s going downward…

Consume → resources exhausted → create new demand → rince → repeat → … → extinction


Games that are complex enough to have their own narrative elements emerge on their own are games with lasting power. That and where the game mechanics are fulfillingly gamey.

Minecraft. Civilization. Etc.

They’re few and far between. They’re risky.


[start]Dark Souls>Dark Souls 2>Bloodborne>Dark Souls 3>[return to start]

You mean people don’t wait for the Steam sale? (I’m still waiting for GTAV @ < $20.)


I got it at $30, it was worth that.

I’ve largely avoided the whole pre-order thing. Never made much sense to me even back in the day when it was a simple put five bucks down and don’t worry about stock shortage at retail thing. Never much of that in PC land, at least where I am. The only thing I’ve ever pre-ordered was the Witcher 3. Turned out well, but I only did it because I figured it was a good way to support CDProject. I like that company, and respect the way they’ve been doing things, so however the game turned out I was happy to give them an early sale.

But the thing I’ve been burned more by recently is buying games early in their release. Often after reviews have come out. I picked up Diablo 3 a day or two after it came out without waiting for news on how it was. I hated it. So I started waiting a week or so on most things to see how the reviews shook out. Most recently with Fallout 4 I waited till I read plenty of reviews, heard from friends who picked it up early etc. Then pulled the trigger on the game and DLC season pass. And I’ve been incredibly disappointed. Bored to death with the game and can’t bring myself to even touch the DLC. Both these example are games from series I loved, and from developers I (at least at one point) enjoy. Both got pretty glowing, excited coverage just before or immediately after their release. And that seems to happen more often than not these days. The first couple weeks of coverage on any new release seems to be becoming entirely useless. An extended bit of the hype cycle, with flaws or realistic takes on the product only coming out after its all settled down.

I think I’m pretty much done buying things in their first month. Fallout 4 plus the pass was expensive, and I just don’t like it much.


I made it to PAX East for the first time this year, and just found it so difficult to get excited about anything, knowing that many of the products on display probably wouldn’t get released, and even if they did, they would be buggy and/or incomplete and generally get completely trashed in the reviews.

With such a massive backlog, it’s likewise difficult to even justify buying something on a Steam sale. Best to wait for the $5 Humble Bundle.

This is also how my RTS game rounds usually go, as it happens.

Also, I very rarely buy new games anymore. I don’t have time to play them, plus I don’t want to deal with the hype and the need for new hardware and so on. I’m rapidly turning into a relatively young crotchety old man. I do buy old stuff on GOG, and I did fund the Torment: Tides of Numenera kickstarter. Anything to get the Torment team back together.

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I’m with ya on that. I had gotten into the habit of pre-ordering Bungie’s games since they tested the hell out of their Halo games before launch, and so I never had trouble with buggy releases from them. But since Fallout 3 was my first Fallout game, and since I bought it a month or two after release, I didn’t have much trouble with it. And I had bought Oblivion months and months after release. So I didn’t realize Bethesda had a bit of a reputation for releasing buggy games and letting the pre-ordering faithful spend $60 for the privilege of being beta testers. I found that out with both Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas, the latter of which was so unforgivably broken on release that I’m kinda surprised there wasn’t bloodshed. Corrupted save files cost me hours of work, and yeah, even if it’s fun, it’s still work if you have to reinvest that time all over again to reach the same state of progress. Once the game-breaking bugs were fixed (which took something like six weeks), then the game became my all-time favorite. But holy shit, was I mad.

So I learned my lesson. Kinda. I don’t pre-order anything anymore, but I was so looking forward to Fallout 4 that I did end up buying it late on release day, after reading several dozen impressions by non-professional gamers, along with the reviews. And I could tell it was going to be disappointing, but at least I could tell it would be semi-enjoyable disappointment, rather than a complete waste of money.

So I’m plodding my way through F4, with about 72 hours invested. I’m fairly close to meeting the Mechanist, I think, and I’m kinda looking forward to Far Harbor, I guess, but I’m not dying to stay up late and play it every night like I was with the last 2 Fallouts.

But last week when I heard about the new Destiny DLC coming up, and that the coveted Gjallarhorn rocket launcher (which I never did get in year-one Destiny) is freshly spiffed-up and offered as a bonus for pre-ordering the DLC, I laughed out loud. Sure, I guess I’d like a fancy rocket launcher, especially one I’ve heard so many glowing comments about. But they could offer me solid-gold armor with a flaming codpiece and I still wouldn’t pre-order anything, especially for Destiny.

I never had much trouble with New Vegas, plenty of bugs and twitchiness. But very few crashes and nothing truly game breaking. I get the feeling a lot of the problems there were down to Bethesda’s shit show tools and engine being used by a 3rd party developer that wasn’t familiar with them on a short time line. Which is sadly par for the course with Obsidian, they always seem to get shafted some how. But 4 has been the most stable Bethesda release I’ve ever played. I expected some level of blandness, pretty much all their Elder Scrolls games since Morrowind have had that. And Fallout 3 was much less compelling than New Vegas. But Fallout 4 is far and away one of the most vapid games I’ve ever played. I hammered away at it one hour at a time for months before I finished the main story. There’s some interesting stuff here and there, but it just felt like I was slogging through a bunch of meaningless set dressing looking for the game. And I don’t appear to have ever found it.

And I just saw the DLC announcements. While there does appear to be a story based DLC in there. Almost all of it is more additions to the building/crafting system. I didn’t buy this shit to get jankier, blander mine craft. What I was missing in the game wasn’t 12 more kinds of buildings to slap together with an interface that still makes no sense.

It just seems like every time Bethesda releases something its a little more dead inside, and they can only address that by piling more half baked mechanics on top. Its especially stark standing next to Witcher 3, which just has a crazy level of depth.


Compared to how rich the factions were in New Vegas, the factions in F4 remind me of the blandness and inconsequentiality of the factions in Skyrim. Really, anytime I met a halfway-interesting character in Skyrim, they were completely on the fence about choosing between the Empire and the Stormcloaks, so choosing a side really just meant picking a style of armor, and knowing that some quests were open to you and some weren’t for this playthrough… but other than that it didn’t make a damn bit of difference. Same with F4. There’s stuff you can do if you commit to the BoS, and stuff you can do if you commit to the Institute, but neither feels like a right or wrong choice. In New Vegas, your choices had a big impact on the entire population of the game long before the end, and that was exhilarating.

I get the impression there’s supposed to be some deep ethical meaning behind the creation of the synths and their treatment by the Institute, the Railroad, and everyone else, but I found it all so difficult to care about. I still have no idea why the synths were created, what purpose they were meant to serve, and why this is the most important issue facing the Commonwealth. The whole game is a huge wasted effort. And yeah, the crafting is the most tedious, labor- and resource-intensive wankery I’ve ever run into in a video game.

I guess I should try The Witcher 3. @funruly also thinks highly of it. I haven’t played the first two, but I crave a deep, immersive story.


For me, gaming buddies, communities, and clans have been the key to finding good games, finding steals on sale (thanks gaben!), and avoiding crap. I feel like I haven’t gotten really burned with a stinker of a purchase in a while.

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At the moment im stuck with go get more aluminium to build another generator so maybe you have enough power to go to the institute, and actually continue the game.

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That’s sort of the thing with Bethesda they seem to think implying or aping something significant is the same as actually saying or doing something significant. It’s superficial gloss over their ambitious mechanics. Which would be fine off those mechanics worked an were fun. But they increasingly feel unfinished. It compounds with the thin writing, characters and lack of depth in the setting to make everything curiously weightless. But you expect s point, because most things have one. So you feel like your missing something.

To keep harping on the witches, because you should definitely give it a shot, everything has a little plot to it. Every character has seeming motivations, and shut their up to. Everything has little references. Seemingly minor quests spiral out into long, deep, story lines. Tiny little occurances feed massive callbacks much later. All of it goes towards making even the perfunctory stuff seem weighty. Just comparing something simple like exploration.

In fallout you head to a blip on a map, get inside the blip, move from loot box to loot box. Read a few words or stumple on an object that gives you a brief explanation of what this place is. And move on.

The witcher you might find a similar empty little spot. But you’re not just looking for the loot. You look at the ground outside, the walls of the cave, the ceiling. Maybe there are some scratches, marks, foot prints. You follow them. You might find a skeleton or body just like in fallout. But it doesn’t just finish up cause you found the thing. The scratches on the wall and the body tell you there’s something dangerous to watch for while you continue digging into the cave. You’ve been given good gameplay info in a really subtle way. But it doesn’t necessarily end there because these little tiny interactions are often connected to other things. Maybe you kill the beast, head to the nearest town. You’ll overhear people talking about it. No-one runs up and hands you a reward, no box pops up from the UK. Or you don’t kill it, so maybe you get offered a larger contract quest to hunt it down by the bodies loved ones. And all this stuff is nested, the larger quests contain all sorts of these little asides from top to bottom, all spinning off and from other stories of varying complexity.

I don’t want to oversell it but it really does give the impression of events and communities going on on their own, and your just moving through it, responding to it. Fallout on the other hand everything seems to be curiously focused on you. Nothing happens that you don’t drive. Nothing’s going on until your there to see it.

So all together in the witcher you get the sense that the way you play, the order you find things, character and dialogue choices will all have an effect. Not necessarily on outcome, good narrative often precludes that. But on how you experience it. You’ll see different things in different ways as you take particular actions. You’ve got agency, as does everyone around you. Fallout feels like your checking off preference boxes while you wait for fixed things to happen around you.


Somehow, gamers have become the shittiest consumers. Somewhere along the line as a group, we’ve lost all sense. There’s some speculation that HL3 is in development hell in part because people at Valve don’t want to get death threats and SWATing, there’s been a furor over the past year or so over women even touching games ever so gingerly, but they’ll gladly jump on the hamster-wheel of being suckers for slickly pre-rendered edited trailers and DLC wallet-mining.


Oof. Yeah, I had kinda blown off collecting random junk for a long time since I wasn’t really bothering with settlements or crafting. And then I got to a certain level (and again when I started the Automatron DLC) when I suddenly needed a whole shitload of aluminum and adhesive and circuit boards and all the more annoyingly hard-to-scrape-up resources just to get the story moving. Suddenly, a game which is supposed to be fun turned into a timesucking chore, just like that.

That’s exactly what I miss about New Vegas and, to a lesser extent, F3. Shit happened while you weren’t looking, most of the NPCs were going about their business, and sometimes named NPCs (merchant caravans and such) would run into misfortune halfway across the state while you weren’t looking. You felt like you were profoundly affecting the world around you, but that it wasn’t waiting around for you to do anything, and sometimes waiting too long had negative repercussions. As you say, F4 doesn’t seem to do anything at all without you except wander in a small endless circle, like Preston Fucking Garvey.


Same here. Interesting to hear some non-hype opinions of F4. I loved 1, 2, and 3 (although 3 was a massive change), and New Vegas was a lot of fun although I haven’t had time to play it all the way through yet. I got 4 for Christmas, but the performance was so bad I have to wait until I get a new PC to play it. I don’t really know why, mostly has the same look and feel as 3 and New Vegas, but it spends way too much time buffering/loading/stuttering. So I bought Fallout Tactics on GOG to play in the meantime. Along with several other old or indie games.

I never understood the pre-sale or release-day hype. In the old days, they’d rotate games off the shelves at the stores far too quickly due to limited shelf space, but now that we can buy online, they’ll be around for awhile. They’ll be cheaper, and have bugfix patches and often user-developed mods/extensions. Plus if they were built for last-generation hardware, they’ll run a lot better on cheaper hardware. Time is a value multiplier right up until the point where a game won’t run on modern systems (even with virtualization) because of some incompatibility…or the company’s servers go dark and the DRM shuts you out.

I don’t really get the same hype about other things either though, like seeing movies on opening night. I’d much rather wait until I can watch it in the comfort of my own home, whenever I want to, with bonus features like subtitles, pause, and rewind, than have to wait in line to pay a lot and watch it at a crowded uncomfortable theater. But some people enjoy that.

I memory serves the rotation schedule was more complicated than that. Where I’m at (and for pc) you had about 2 months with games on the “new release” wall at full price. After that they dropped $10-$15 and moved off to a secondary shelf crowded with a lot more games. After about 4 months they’d drop to $20-$40 dollars and end up in a crowded section with their edges facing out (rather than the box art). And after 6 months to a year they ended up on the discount bin at ever reducing prices. The number of copies reduced with each move down a pricing tier. But provided you had access to more than one game store things pretty seldom became unavailable. One store might be out of something, but you could wander over to the next one and they might have 5 copies. This even allowed you to comparison shop. I remember our local mall at one point had an EB, a Babbage’s, and a Game Stop. We’d work around them in a circle noting what they had and putting together a list of where we could get which games for the cheapest. Intending to maximize how many we could walk out with for $50, $80, or $100. I don’t remember that ever being the case with console games. Sure there was a discount bin. But for the major games the price seemed to be the price. Sometimes it might go on sale, or drop $10 bucks. But we would just run into the nearest Toys R Us, since we weren’t likely to find a better deal and they tended to stock everything.

I remember being really pissed around when I hit college. Because all of that ended. Suddenly 4 year old PC games were going for full price. If you could find them. As the game stores consolidated they removed or reduced their PC sections. And big box stores moved over to stocking the Warcraft Battle Chest and various budget game compilations. Even the indy shops I was familiar with swapped their PC sections for Pro Wrestling figures (?). I mostly ordered things through Amazon until Steam kicked off in a big way. The old “prices actually go down at some point” system didn’t seem to really come back until Steam started in with the big sales.

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