Madden NFL - title

I think I've finally decided to take a stab at some long-form video analysis and critique on Youtube. My first go at this came in the form of a nearly-hour-long breakdown of my frustrations with the Madden NFL video game series (broken up into 2 parts). For the benefit of my readers, I'm also transcribing the video onto this blog post. Though reading this post will certainly convey all the same points that I make in the video, I still highly recommend watching the video, as the video footage included will do a better job than screenshots of demonstrating the problems I report. The entire video is embedded below.

Watch the full video on Youtube.

EA's ethos of releasing a new Madden entry every single year has become a tremendous detriment to the game as a whole. Modern games have become very large, very complicated, and very expensive to create, and every game series that has relied on an annual release cycle has, in my opinion, suffered for it. Even companies like Ubisoft have recognized this, which is why the company has decided to end the cycle of annual Assassin's Creed releases, opting instead for a major release every two or three years, with some large-scale DLC and expansions to fill out the intervening period. Despite re-using the same game engines, the huge cost of creating a new game every year stretches the company's resources further than they can go. Though I still didn't think that Assassin's Creed: Origins was particularly great, the game still clearly benefited from the extra design and development time that the year's hiatus provided, and the general internet consensus is that the game is very good.

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was released only a year after Origins, and it looks like a terrible, derivative, waste of time fueled by a grindy micro-transaction economy pulled straight out of a mobile free-to-play game, except with a $60 upfront price tag. We'll have to wait and see if Ubisoft follows through on its promise to "spend more time making fewer, better games", or if it goes back to milking its franchises with slapped-together annual releases.

EA's Madden game is in an even worse boat than Assassin's Creed was in. Not only is Madden an annual release, but it's internal resources are being stretched out between multiple, completely divergent game modes! EA has to chose how much resources to devote to each of these modes, and that commitment comes at the expense of the other modes. In addition to having to make general gameplay improvements every year, the team is also tasked with coming up with new features and improvements for Franchise mode, Ultimate Team, and now Longshot. They're basically developing three different games, and trying to squeeze them all into a single annual release cycle.


Madden's resources are divided between three divergent game modes every year!

Worse yet, one of these game modes clearly makes a lot more money than the others...

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Red Dead Redemption II

It appears that 2k is pulling a thoroughly dickish move with regard to the release of the highly-anticipated Red Dead Redemption II. They are not distributing it to small, independent game stores until a week after release. The game is scheduled to release on October 26 (4 days from now, as of the time of this writing), but mom & pop game shops likely won't receive it until at least November 7! The game will be available for digital download on the scheduled release date of October 26, and it will even be available at large corporate retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Game Stop. But if you have a favorite little indie game shop, you'll have to wait more than a week to play this game-of-the-year candidate.

What is 2K's reason for this move? Well, from what I've read, the reason is not entirely clear. 2K is citing production delays and supply issues for the discs. Even people who pre-ordered the game from the affected shops will not be receiving their copies on time, which completely negates the purpose of a pre-order, and highlights just how absurd the process is. In an age of digital distribution, pre-orders are practically moot. But even when a game is sold physically (and sells a crap ton of pre-orders), it still might not be available to you! So why bother pre-ordering?

To be honest though, I don't care what 2K's reasons are. If this genuinely is an issue with production of the discs, then 2K should have either:

  1. Reduced the number of units delivered to all retailers, regardless of size, or
  2. delay the release of the game (including online sales) a week.

A minor delay into early November would not be that much of a hit on the game's sales. It not like they'd be missing the revered holiday launch window.

At the very least, they should have provided any and all pre-order copies to the stores that sold pre-orders.

The cynic in me can't help but suspect that this is some deliberate move by 2K to harm independent game retailers. Perhaps they want even more control over the release process of their games, and independent retailers are much harder to control than massive corporate entities. Or maybe they calculated that any losses from those independent stores would be offset (either partially or in full) by online sales in which the publisher does not have to split money with the retailer.

In any case, we're living in an age when independent shops are struggling to survive against the monopolies of corporate retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, and against the online retail juggernauts like Amazon (and the online storefronts of companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy). Withholding highly-anticipated product from such shops (while still delivering it to their corporate competitors) is outright cruel and unforgivable. That is true whether the withholding is being done maliciously or not.

All those stores that sold pre-orders, promoted the game with posters and cardboard cut-outs, and merch sales -- probably all at the expense of the store owner! -- are completely screwed. Loyal customers will hopefully wait and buy the game a week later, but most customers will probably cancel their pre-orders and take their money elsewhere. I implore you to wait till November 7 and buy the game from a small, local, independent game store! Show 2K that this behavior is unacceptable business practice! Or just don't buy the game at all...

As for me: unless 2K back-tracks and does, in fact, deliver the game to independent retailers, I will not be buying a new, retail copy of Red Dead Redemption II! Instead, I will wait a week or two and see if I can get it used off of eBay (or a local independent retailer). I will stand in solidarity with independent retailers and their customers. As such, any review that I write for it will necessarily be late -- even by my standards... And even if it turns out to be the best game that I've ever played, I will not be trading it in for a new copy of the game, or recommending it to any friends, as is my usual practice.

2K, you just lost a sale.

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Internet service providers have a reputation for being some of the worst, most un-ethically-run companies in the country. I hadn't imagined that a company could be worse than Cox Communications. As a child, pretty much every time my dad had to call them for any problems, they refused to take any responsibility for their poor service, and always blamed the issues on his hardware or on his computer having viruses -- which was only sometimes true. Basically, they would blame his hardware as an excuse to upsell him new hardware that would also only barely work.

When I moved into my own place, I wasn't happy with having to purchase Cox as my internet and television provider. But to their credit, they gave me an affordable price, and the service was pretty reliable. At least, up until a few years ago.

CenturyLink van
Don't do it! It's a trap!

My internet started failing intermittently. It would go out almost every night for minutes or hours at a time. Sometimes resetting the router and/or modem would fix the problem, but only temporarily. I had multiple technicians come out to the house to troubleshoot the problems. They would aknowledge the problem, but would be unable to find the cause. To my surprise, they even told me that it was almost certainly not a problem with my local network set-up. I had thought for sure that they would blame my hardware or network in an attempt to upsell me more hardware. They even ran a new line from the street out to my house. I had my own, dedicated DSL line going into my house! That would be pretty sweet, if it would work. Cox even reimbursed my bill for the disruptions.

Sadly, none of Cox's efforts worked. My internet still failed consistently. My girlfriend was dependent on our internet to do online classes related to her job, and so this was inexcusable.

CenturyLink

Like a predatory evangelist waiting to swoop in and take advantage of a tragedy to sell a grieving person on the "comfort" of Jesus, an opportunistic CenturyLink salesman showed up at our door. He was claiming that CenturyLink had just laid fiber optic lines in our neighborhood and was offering a sweet deal to switch. I had been thinking about switching to CenturyLink, if only to be able to have a reliable service again.

My frustrations with CenturyLink, and my feelings of having been scammed started as soon as the service was set up in my home. The service that was installed was not the service that I thought I had signed up for.

When the sales rep had come to my door, he had specifically asked me what services I was receiving from Cox. I told him that I was getting HDDVR, a second cable receiver, and high-speed broadband internet for about $150 per month (a price that had been locked-in for life). The sales rep told me that I could get all of that for $75 per month. I should have recognized that this was too good to be true, but I made the mistake of signing on the dotted line. When the technician came to install the hardware the following week, I realized that the sales rep had flat-out lied to me. I had fallen victim to a bait-and-switch scam, which is apparently CenturyLink's modus operandi...

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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