Sunday, January 22, 2012

That Other XCOM

When XCOM: Enemy Unknown (made by Firaxis Games) was announced via the latest issue of Game Informer magazine, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief as the gaming world realised that they would no longer have to worry about 2K Marin's FPS reboot of the series. Instead of complaining about how 2K Marin's title wasn't true to the franchise or how the only similarities it shared were its name and some enemies, gamers the world over could instead focus their attention on the newly announced strategy title and forget about the other one. The only problem is, they didn’t forget or move on and instead continue to take every opportunity they can get to dismiss 2K Marin's title and rub it into the ground.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would be well aware of how much this bothers me. I’ve lost count how many times I have vented my frustrations over the attitudes people have towards 2K Marin's game, simply because it is an issue that continues to come up. In some respects, I could understand it back when only the FPS was known about -- I respect the opinions of those loyal to the franchise, even if I disagree with their thoughts on the new game -- but now, when there are two XCOM titles on the way, I think it is frankly bullshit.

My problem isn't that people aren't interested in 2K Marin's game -- either because it isn't a strategy game or because it doesn't appeal to them (everyone is entitled to their own opinion) -- but, rather, that everyone appears to be so willing to dismiss the title and not give it a chance. Practically ever since it was announced people have despised the FPS reboot, lamenting the different direction it is taking and expressing concern over what it may or may not mean for the series overall. This bothers me not because I disagree with these people, but because they are making their decision on a game that hasn't come out yet (and won't for some time) and which hasn't had the opportunity to prove itself. We still know so little about what 2K Marin are doing with the title and it remains unclear just how faithful (or not) it will be to the franchise as a whole, despite claims to the contrary, so I think it is simply unfair to be talking about the game in this way. For all we know the game could be fantastic, something that could almost be assured given that 2K Marin made BioShock 2 which was, in a lot of ways, better than the original classic. I'm not saying that their version of XCOM will or won't be a great game, but the fact that we don't know yet means that we shouldn't be passing judgement, which is my primary issue here.

And, ignoring the actual game, the strategy title recently revealed or the franchise as a whole for a moment, what about 2K Marin themselves? How do they feel about having to hear about all of this negativity and arrogance (let's be honest here) with regards to their title, something they are no doubt putting a lot of work into and something they would probably view as a labour of love? Furthermore, how do they feel knowing that a game they have been working years on has now been so easily dismissed while XCOM: Enemy Unknown is lavished with praise and interest? That's my main qualm with this entire issue: the way in which these attitudes are affecting development, and the way it may or may not be impacting the team. Whether I agree with the approach or not, it is fair enough to be uninterested in a game and to ignore it in favour of other ones, but when you are sitting there insulting one because another is appeasing your own personal interests, then I have a problem. A serious problem. 2K Marin's morale is probably terrible right now because of all of the crap, most of it unnecessary, their game is receiving at the moment; by not thinking about what they are saying and not considering the consequences, the people dismissing 2K Marin’s interpretation of the franchise are giving the game a reputation it doesn't deserve, and treating the people behind it -- talented people who have families to consider and lives to maintain -- like crap. That isn't right, no matter how you feel about a product or a franchise, or how loyal you happen to be. It is also a direct example of how people can be biased and ignorant, and it also represents the sense of entitlement and privilege some players have -- whether they realise it or not -- when it comes to certain elements of their gaming passion and/or interest. People need to stop being so selfish and dismissive, grow up, and give videogames that are in development a chance. If the final product happens to be a bad game or it has serious flaws, then absolutely go ahead and criticise it so that both 2K Marin and the industry as a whole can learn from it, but until then stop judging something you know nothing about and stop whining when something doesn’t satisfy your every need. 

Unfortunately, I feel like the attitudes will only continue right up until both XCOM titles in development are released. Everyone is happy about the fact that 2K Marin’s title was delayed until 2013 and that Firaxis’ version will be out soon. When people like the creator of the original game, Julian Gollop, are pleased with the upcoming strategy title and believes the FPS one is a “great shame”, the problem is only exacerbated even more because it is the kind of thing that can be used as justification for dismissing 2K Marin’s efforts. And, when you consider the fact that the enthusiast press itself already refers to 2K Marin’s title as ‘That Other XCOM’ (as demonstrated by Game Informer immediately after they revealed Firaxis’ game), you realise that the FPS reboot’s fate has already been decided: no one cares about it anymore, those who did are probably more interested in the strategy game, and as a result 2K Marin (or more accurately, Take Two Interactive) may as well just cancel their title and make something else.

But I seriously hope they don’t because I care about it and I am definitely interested to see where it goes. My sole opinion doesn’t matter, of course, but I still hope the game does see release and that it and 2K Marin’s efforts are given the proper consideration that they deserve.


Gaming in Public said...

I totally agree we shouldn't really bash a developer until we have a product. It's kinda like judging a book by its cover except it's the cover you read online.

I think company's should be able to take classic games into new boundaries. Look at Mario if gamers cried everytime they made mario into a racing or party game then we would never have Mario Kart or Party. Things fail but I think we should let go of what we loved about a series in order to let in appeal to a new generation. Now you'll probably bring up Duke Nukem Forever but I think mistakes are bound to happen.

In all we don't know till we actually have a product.

Retroblique said...

Unfortunately there's always been a small but demonstratively vocal element within video game circles that has an overblown sense of ownership and entitlement when it comes to their favorite franchises. If it wasn't X-COM vs XCOM it would be something else.

Still, history has consistently shown that those who protest the loudest are usually the first to do an about face. Witness the number of people who purchased Left 4 Dead 2 on the day of its release, despite paradoxically being members of the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott group on Steam. Courage and conviction obviously didn't go hand-in-hand for those people.

Over the years I've learned to take the opinions of these people with a pinch of salt and move on to more enlightened corners of the interwebs. XCOM will be released, it'll get good reviews, people will buy it and hardcore X-COM owners will still complain. Such is the way of things.

Steven O'Dell said...

Gaming In Public -- It's simply a case of people, in this instance strong fans of the original game, being scared of change. Another example we could use was the perception the original Metroid Prime had before release: people absolutely despised the idea of a first person Metroid, yet now it is (rightfully) regarded as one of the best games of all time. If XCOM (the FPS) is a decent game, which I have every reason to believe it will be given who is behind it, then I have no doubt in my mind that the people complaining now will love it. But the point is, they are complaining now and those complaints are destroying the reputation of a game (and perhaps even the team) unnecessarily, and that really irks me.

And I don't need to bring up Duke Nukem Forever because we all know the true reasons as to why that was an absolute disaster.

Retroblique (Mark) -- Yeah, it'd be Forza vs Gran Turismo or Battlefield vs Call Of Duty.

And I know opinions and sentiments will change when the game actually releases, it just bothers me that unlike most games, the consensus (if you will) on 2K Marin's XCOM has already been decided despite the fact that we are nowhere near the game's actual launch. Even the latest Syndicate, the other game causing controversy among the most diehard franchise fans, still has some positive hype and interest surrounding it. 2K Marin's title doesn't, and as I said when the gaming media behaves in this way as well it just really rubs me the wrong way.

As I'm sure my Twitter followers will continue to realise as the months continue...