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ESPN has posted an article entitled, Why Can't Sports Video Games Get it Right?

Quote:
"The beer is cold. The bite-size crab cakes are delicious. Maria Sharapova -- the genuine article, not her digital doppelganger -- looks lovely in her pink-striped cardigan. I'm sitting in the air-conditioned ballroom of a Four Seasons hotel, being feted with drinks and hors d'oeuvres, checking out an early version of 2K Sports' new tennis video game, Top Spin 3. I'm being paid for this. And Sharapova just walked in, which means I'm also being paid to smile and nod, and pretend to take notes as the leggy heir to Anna Kournikova's tennis-hottie legacy smiles, nods and pretends to be an Xbox aficionado, even though she later shows far greater enthusiasm for my wife's shoes. (Remember: Sharapova gets paid to be here, too.)"

Member Comments
# 1 thornie @ 07/17/08 10:31 AM
Great article.
 
# 2 slickdtc @ 07/17/08 11:00 AM
Hah, that was a pretty good article. I figured it would be more about arcadey BS, but this guy got some serious questions down. And the sidebars with the developer or project manager quotes was an eye opener.

The developers don't trust the gamers, which is why we get the same Madden every year.

Just once I'd like to see a company release a game that is actually simulation style. Despite what everyone thinks (that they wouldn't get any interest because the casual gamers wouldn't understand it), I think it would do well. As long as it had some name recognition (either 2k Sports or EA Sports would have to make it). Unfortunately, it's never going to happen. They're going to stick with what works... well, at least with what sells.
 
# 3 ManiacMatt1782 @ 07/17/08 11:43 AM
i agreed with almost everything suprisingly.
 
# 4 xxzone @ 07/17/08 11:48 AM
Lack of competition on some fronts doesn't help matters at all either!
 
# 5 KG @ 07/17/08 11:50 AM
Coming from a mainstream media source like ESPN you would not expect such a well put together article criticizing sports developers. He touched on most of the points that us hardcore sim guys harp on within these forums daily (minus the individual game critiques/flaws)

My favorite points from the article:

"Dropback Passing"
"For years, football games have featured nonexistent pass pockets, brain-dead pursuit and godlike quarterbacks more evasive and cannon-armed than vintage Randall Cunningham."

NCAA especially, I can live with NFL QBs because they are the cream of the crop, but some random QB from Utah St, cmon now.

"Player and Team Personality"
"Also, why does every football game ultimately differentiate good players from bad simply by making the better players faster?"

Nowhere is this more apparent than in FIFA.

"Artificial Non-Intelligence"
Getting better but not quite there.

I love this quote from a developer:
"People want the real game, but they're really not ready for the real game."

Um, I do.
 
# 6 bhurst99 @ 07/17/08 12:25 PM
"Player and Team Personality"
"Also, why does every football game ultimately differentiate good players from bad simply by making the better players faster?"

Great point. Great article.
 
# 7 DrJones @ 07/17/08 03:30 PM
It is a good article. And some of the issues brought up are valid and should be addressed. But many of them would require a vast increase in budget or a 2-year cycle, neither of which are likely to happen.
 
# 8 DrJones @ 07/17/08 03:39 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by slickdtc
The developers don't trust the gamers, which is why we get the same Madden every year.

Just once I'd like to see a company release a game that is actually simulation style. Despite what everyone thinks (that they wouldn't get any interest because the casual gamers wouldn't understand it), I think it would do well. As long as it had some name recognition (either 2k Sports or EA Sports would have to make it). Unfortunately, it's never going to happen. They're going to stick with what works... well, at least with what sells.
Many devs (ie, the people who make the games) would love this, but we would need corporate support to take chances, and it's almost never there. Most users think that designers have carte blanche, but sadly, it ain't so. Every feature and improvement has to be "justified" to execs and committees and bean counters, who are often not sports fans and have little interest in catering to hardcore fans "because they'll bitch and whine, but they'll buy the game anyway". Which is mostly true. Another thing you have to keep in mind -- the need to get a game done on time is more important than anything else. You miss your ship date, the company's stock falls, cheques don't get signed, and jobs are often lost, even if the game is fantastic.
 
# 9 slickdtc @ 07/17/08 04:54 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJones
Many devs (ie, the people who make the games) would love this, but we would need corporate support to take chances, and it's almost never there. Most users think that designers have carte blanche, but sadly, it ain't so. Every feature and improvement has to be "justified" to execs and committees and bean counters, who are often not sports fans and have little interest in catering to hardcore fans "because they'll bitch and whine, but they'll buy the game anyway". Which is mostly true. Another thing you have to keep in mind -- the need to get a game done on time is more important than anything else. You miss your ship date, the company's stock falls, cheques don't get signed, and jobs are often lost, even if the game is fantastic.
Good insider insight.

It looks like another case of it being a business first and foremost. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Then again, it's the consumers who buy the games. The consumers need to make a statement and not buy the same recycled games with an extra useless feature (that is usually gone within 3 years). Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to create such a movement.
 
# 10 tril @ 07/18/08 02:37 AM
Thats what the sliders in sports games are for.
personally I can live with a few minor problems that exist in a game, because most sliders can mask the problem a bit.

I personally believe that the biggest make or break aspects of a sports game is the end of game AI, which was mentioned in the article.

In addition most games have a certain shelf life before they get stacked away. Most gamers have moved on to the next sports title even before problems become major annoyances.

Personally I didnt think the 2k sports compared to its main rival had that many issues. Maybe if I stuck with one version of a game for more than 1-2 years I would notice this.

Overall I have been about 95% satisfied with the sports titles that I have purchased. If I want the actual thing I turn on th TV, or get out on a field or basketball court and actually play.
 
# 11 HechticSooner @ 07/18/08 02:21 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by slickdtc
Good insider insight.

It looks like another case of it being a business first and foremost. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Then again, it's the consumers who buy the games. The consumers need to make a statement and not buy the same recycled games with an extra useless feature (that is usually gone within 3 years). Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to create such a movement.

This is the truest statement I have heard in years. That we should stop buying them, and once the bean counters saw that sales drop they would say "shi* how do we fix that." Of course we could still pick up the game used later down the cycle or something but the company wouldn't see the original money. Or even get a general boycot of say opening week. That would be enough to make the statement but we would still breakdown a buy it cause we want a new sports game.

Ultimately it comes down to the simple fact that there must be pressure on the game companies to start making things better for the "sim gamers" out there. Or at least proof that there is a market for it to allow some upstart companies to give it a shot.
 
# 12 Sabredj @ 07/19/08 04:30 PM
What great insights.... It's a shame to think that ultimately its about taking less risks, to assure greater profits, than it is to make the best game possible. You have to think that some features are held back just so they can add it in future years and make the new game a "must" buy. It's crazy that features we've see before aren't included in current gen titles. It's so frustrating not having formation subs in NCAA '09, for example. That feature alone would've added so much to a pretty good game, and shaved a few minutes off it too.
 
# 13 DrJones @ 07/19/08 07:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sabredj
You have to think that some features are held back just so they can add it in future years and make the new game a "must" buy.
I can't speak for all games and dev teams, but in my experience this simply isn't true. I've never heard of a feature being deliberately held back. There certainly have been occasions when certain features/fixes have been cut because we figured we didn't have the time to implement them properly, but never just so we could have a "back of the box" feature for next year. Turnover rates in this industry are high -- who knows if there is going to be a "next year"? The vast majority of devs try to make the best game possible every time out, but it's often a difficult balance between making your bosses happy, making the consumers happy, and making time for life outside of work.
 
# 14 slickdtc @ 07/20/08 12:39 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJones
I can't speak for all games and dev teams, but in my experience this simply isn't true. I've never heard of a feature being deliberately held back. There certainly have been occasions when certain features/fixes have been cut because we figured we didn't have the time to implement them properly, but never just so we could have a "back of the box" feature for next year. Turnover rates in this industry are high -- who knows if there is going to be a "next year"? The vast majority of devs try to make the best game possible every time out, but it's often a difficult balance between making your bosses happy, making the consumers happy, and making time for life outside of work.
But at bigger companies like EA, where they know that they'll sell a game like Madden every year, do you think them holding back a feature doesn't happen? For smaller companies, I see what you're saying, but I think it's possible with a giant that will sell no matter what.

Quote:
Originally Posted by HechticSooner
This is the truest statement I have heard in years. That we should stop buying them, and once the bean counters saw that sales drop they would say "shi* how do we fix that." Of course we could still pick up the game used later down the cycle or something but the company wouldn't see the original money. Or even get a general boycot of say opening week. That would be enough to make the statement but we would still breakdown a buy it cause we want a new sports game.

Ultimately it comes down to the simple fact that there must be pressure on the game companies to start making things better for the "sim gamers" out there. Or at least proof that there is a market for it to allow some upstart companies to give it a shot.
I just want to say that I'm still on the original XBOX and am playing a rotation of a few games; MVP 2005, NHL 2k7, Madden 2006, MVP NCAA 06, and NFL 2k5. I think all these games were the pinnacle of their respective sports on the last gen and I refuse to buy recycled garbage on the new systems. When the newer stuff finally starts to nail down the power of the 360 and PS3, then I'll make the jump. But it's not worth shelling out all the money for a game that's not as good as a game I already have just because it looks better. Right now, the 360 and PS3 games are behind or just on par with their last gen counterparts in what really matters; gameplay. We still see tons of terrible AI. It seems all the next gen consoles are good for is a graphical enhancement. Depressing...
 
# 15 DrJones @ 07/20/08 02:16 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by slickdtc
But at bigger companies like EA, where they know that they'll sell a game like Madden every year, do you think them holding back a feature doesn't happen?
I don't know about Madden, but I worked as a producer/designer at EA for 7 years on 10 titles (8 Triple Play/MVP, 2 NHL) and no feature was ever held back unless we lacked the time/manpower to do it properly. Were there a couple of times when we had to shelve a feature we would've liked because some EA bigwig prefer we do some other (more gimmicky) feature instead? Yeah, but there wasn't an awful lot we could do about it.

I know some on these boards would like to believe that dev teams at EA have these shady meetings where they'd smoke cigars and say, "You know what? We've done enough for this game! Let's sit on our butts for the next few months and put in Feature X next year," but it ain't so. Every game I've ever been on has been a mad scramble to get a decent product out the door on time. The easiest (and most enjoyable) game to work on was MVP 2005 followed by MVP 06. MVP 2003 and some of the Triple Play games were brutal death marches, made all the worse knowing that the product you were working on wasn't always very good.
 
# 16 spit_bubble @ 07/20/08 07:38 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrJones
...I know some on these boards would like to believe that dev teams at EA have these shady meetings...
Yes, that seems to be the common misconception... When in truth blame should fall on the publisher...



Actually you can't really blame them either, as they're just trying to balance the books... So you'd have to blame the banks with their high lending rates... But then, the banks are just borrowing from the feds...

Didn't anyone read Grapes of Wrath in high school???
 
# 17 Cabke @ 07/20/08 07:52 PM
Quote:
In 2K football, players move as if they're in the middle of a no-anesthesia colonoscopy
Best. Line. Ever.
 
# 18 Gagnon39 @ 07/23/08 10:31 PM
No complaints about baseball games. LOL. I've got a few.
 
# 19 Pappy Knuckles @ 07/24/08 02:01 AM
Quote:
Basketball Rebounding
When shots bounce off the virtual rim and land on the floor before players pick them up -- hello, NBA Live! -- it's probably time to rethink your rebounding code. Just a thought.
Lol I laughed out loud at that one. Good article, I agreed with a lot that he said.
 
# 20 CMH @ 07/25/08 08:40 PM
The sidebars with the developers was great.

To see developers express their own displeasure with the gaming market is eye-opening. These guys realize that their products don't emulate the real game but they also realize that people just don't want to play the real thing.

Yea, a lot of us here would but we've been through this a million times on OS. We represent a very small percentage of the gaming market. Very, very small.

As long as two people have sex and conceive irritating children, the video game market will never cater to the hardcore gamer. Never.
 

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