Shank Rants: The “AAA” Farce

https://youtu.be/237TBJ2WuPw

343 recently stated why there’s not splitscreen in Halo 5, a long standing staple to the Halo franchise. Indeed, it’s arguably the feature which got me interested in the series in the first place. Playing Halo co-op on Legendary difficulty with my friend as we battled Flood in The Library is forever burned into my memory.

Even more recently, I played splitscreen multiplayer with two of my friends in the Master Chief Collection. And I loved doing that.

So you’d think that for 343 to cut this long standing staple feature out of Halo 5 would upset me. In truth, yes, I am rather annoyed.

But that’s not the thing that angers me most. It’s the paltry justification, and more specifically, the carefully constructed naivety and falsely apologetic manner with which the justification is given.

This mannerism isn’t new to the AAA industry. Indeed, it’s used time and time again. It’s an attempt to pull the shade over our eyes to blind us from the truth.

Yet I’d like to think that today’s consumer is more resistant to this sleight of hand. And that AAA developers and publishers continue to think that their bullshit will be bought is genuinely insulting.

So, how does this relate to 343 and Halo 5?

Here is the justification 343 provided regarding the exclusion of splitscreen in Halo 5,

“The decision to remove split-screen support from Halo 5: Guardians was one of the most difficult ones we’ve ever had to make as a studio.”

It continues,

“To move Halo’s gameplay forward and deliver a true next-gen experience, tough choices had to be made. Our decision was driven by a desire for scale, fidelity and focus to ensure that we would deliver the best quality experience possible. With Halo 5 we are delivering massive scale environments, improved AI behavior, increased visual and gameplay fidelity… something that truly takes advantage of a new platform.”

Still following? Good. Now pay attention to this bit,

“Many of our ambitious goals for Halo 5 would be compromised in a split-screen setting and the time spent optimizing and addressing split-screen-specific issues would take focus from building other parts of the game. Game development is a balancing act of resources, time and technology, and in this case we made the tough decision to sacrifice something that’s been near and dear to us all.”

Reading between the lines, this translates to, “The Xbox One doesn’t have enough power. That’s why we cut splitscreen. If we made Halo 5 for PC this is a non-issue”

And, as you’d assume, this would make me very angry. However, as angry and annoyed I am with this sentiment, I believe this doesn’t get to the core issue in big “AAA” messaging.

No. The real issue, the one throws me into a rage every single time I see it used, is this.

These AAA developers and publishers know that we know the real reason why they cut back on features, yet they continue to hold up this farce.

And that’s what I find to be the core issue. There is nothing more insulting and downright subversively patronizing to continue to assume that your consumer, the ones with spending power, can’t see through your bullshit.

Yet, they continue to uphold this farce. Even though they know, they absolutely know, that consumers understand the true reasons why features are cut, these so-called “AAA” developers and publishers simply ignore it.

343 is attempting to ignore the fact that us consumers know the real reason why splitscreen was cut. The real reason splitscreen doesn’t exist in Halo 5 is because of the Xbox One’s pathetic hardware.

Yet how does 343 frame this? They retreat to an apologetic, almost naive tone in their messaging.

Examples of this practiced empathy? They use phrases like, “difficult decision” (it probably wasn’t), “tough choices” (again, it probably wasn’t), and “sacrifice something that’s been near and dear to us all” (it’s not a sacrifice because you never had the ability to include it in the first place).

And to add more insult to injury, just look how 343 patronizes the consumer by trying to explain the difficulty of game development, as if we didn’t already know this (and as if this is any more legitimate an excuse to justify the exclusion of feature).

They say things like, “To move Halo’s gameplay forward and deliver a true next-gen experience”. (First, it’s not a next gen experience, as Digital Foundry has analyzed the E3 2015 build of the game and found that it fails to live up to ancient industry standards by not even outputting 1080p nor 60fps.)

Perhaps most insulting is this: “Game development is a balancing act of resources, time and technology.”

It’s as if we consumer can’t possibly comprehend how arduous developing a AAA game in 2015 should be, and that by explaining this to us, 343 are displaying some great act of benevolence.

No.

This is the practiced sleight of hand the so-called “AAA” developers and publishers use to pretend that you, the consumer, don’t understand the real reason behind features like this are cut. And what’s worse, they know that you know the real reason. Yet they continue to pretend like you don’t. It’s just damn insulting.

And I’ll tell you right now, this behavior is not anything new.

Perhaps the poster child for this insulting and abhorrent behavior in recent years is Watch Dogs. After having been found out for their outright obvious downgrade, Ubisoft released the following statement:

“We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released, striving for the best possible quality. The PC version does indeed contain some old, unused render settings that were deactivated for a variety of reasons, including possible impacts on visual fidelity, stability, performance and overall gameplay quality.”

Reading this, one cannot help but feel insulted. Why? It’s blatantly obvious that Ubisoft knows that we know why the downgrade occurred. Yet, they ignored the real reason and continued to uphold this farce with this practiced empathy and, in this case, manufactured pride with the statement, “We test and optimize our games for each platform on which they’re released…”

No.

The “AAA” industry continues to insult its consumers. By patronizing and downright ignoring our intelligence, the “AAA” industry continues to show their arrogance.

We consumers are smarter than you think, 343. We understand the real reasons why you cut features. We aren’t beholden to your bullshit anymore. With tools like Steam refunds allowing us to employ our consumer right, you cannot peddle your hype-fueled products on us and expect to get away with it.

You want to pretend like we don’t know? Well, I have news for you. We do know. Your farce just won’t fly anymore.

It’s time you face reality. Just imagine if you were honest. What a concept to think that honesty breeds loyalty. But your pride, your downright arrogance keeps you prisoner, trapping you in the very farce you created.