As many did before it, the survival genre has taken the MMO world by storm. We've seen an abundance of new titles join the genre this year, most hot on the heels of the incredibly popular DayZ mod from ARMA II, but they all seem to share a certain lack of quality and polish.
Don't confuse my disappointment in the genre as distain towards the
individual games as I recall many positive experiences in the likes of DayZ,
Nether and even The War Z but all too often I find myself losing interest after
a shockingly short period.
Of all the games to join the survival MMO genre over the few years, DayZ is really the only game to have any reasoning behind a lack of finish. Being a mod developed on an already notoriously poor engine, it was expected to have problems. However, it appears the community haven't been so forgiving with the recent Standalone release, despite many warnings on the Steam page and the big, fat Alpha state splattered across every page imaginable. This has left many players with a sour taste, that same taste I discover after just a few short days in the latest survival MMO game.
I've played everything from The Dead Linger and 7 Days To Die, to DayZ and Nether, and despite the strengths these games display, they all show the same weaknesses. Lack of quality and finish.
Many will defend the games in question as none of them have officially entered their actual release. Some are advertised as open beta, others are still in alpha or private testing, and of course you have to forgive a little as the games endure early teething problems but that's not a valid excuse when companies are charging players access.
The typical MMO gamer is not a qualified quality assurance individual. Most
players sign up for alpha or beta to get early access to games they're excited
about, not to spend grueling hours attempting to repeat crashes and bugs. There
are a few shining individuals that go above and beyond when it goes to shaping
the future of the games that play but that is far from the norm in today's MMO
Developers will tell players they want to use the communities feedback to create the game they want to play and although this is true to an extent, the bottom line is receiving the payment and funding as early as possible.
DayZ Standalone is the perfect example of this theory. At EuroGamer 2012 Dean "Rocket Hall, the creator of the original DayZ, stated during the developer conference that they had no choice but to release before Christmas. It was over a year after that players finally got hold of DayZ and for a rather surprising price tag.
So what does all this have to do with the lack of quality in the survival genre? Put yourself in the shoes of a developer, or investor, in an upcoming title. The game is released under early access via Steam or other popular platforms, how much does the performance of that release influence the development process?
If the pre-release access sells extremely well, the developers have already
made pocket and the investors are happy.
Although there are obvious benefits to releasing more features and attracting more players, gamers are all too familiar with the cash cow approach to gaming today - developers upping sticks once they've made enough and all but leaving something to die quietly.
On the other hand, if the game fails to sell well there's a good chance developers and investors decide to cut their losses and move away from large-scale development, opting for a smaller, slower and obviously cheaper approach.
The typical development process of a AAA game usually means it launches
with a large portion of features, mostly polished and complete - with the
obvious launch day woes aside.
At this point the developers have no choice but to make the return needed to make the game a success. This could mean changing financial model, introducing substantial amounts of content or launching special events. Either way, developers have already put the work in by the time copies hit the shelves so they must find a way of making ends meet.
This same process doesn't apply to games offering early access or alpha
This isn't exclusive to the survival MMO, but they do appear to be boarding the alpha wagon at every opportunity.
I won't deny that DayZ, Nether, 7 Days to Die, The War Z, and many other survival games boast some extraordinary features and there's no denying the unique experiences involved with player interaction, but none of these can be considered the WoW or Guild Wars 2 of the survival genre.
None of them have launched complete. None of them boast a massive amount of features, hell - none of them are even officially released with the exception of the rather sketchy War Z. What do you think? Even if you enjoy the likes of DayZ and Nether can you understand how many gamers would be disappointed with the lack of polish? Leave your thoughts below.
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