The Order 1886: Quality Over Quantity?

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Earlier this week we saw controversy arise surrounding The Order: 1886, a PlayStation 4 exclusive made by the California-based developer Ready At Dawn. For those who missed it, the game was scrutinized after it was discovered that it had a run-time of about five to seven hours, meaning you were paying 12 dollars per hour for the game at worst. In a response, the developer then argued that there should be room for games of different length in our industry, to which most people replied: “and different price-points”.

Here is the thing: The Order: 1886 is a beautiful game and it’s quite obvious that a lot of money was spent on polishing it to a shine. It’s probably one of the better-looking games that will release this year and if it ran at 60 frames per second, it would definitely be an impressive demonstration of how much power the PlayStation 4 packs. This outcry we hear now, however, proves that gamers are not magpies and want more from a game than shiny visuals and sideburns that are almost life-like, yet so few games seem to offer that nowadays. The technology and money that goes into game development today is enormous compared to a few generations ago and yet the games seem to become smaller and smaller.

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According to an article on Kotaku, up until about 2001, the average budget of a major video game was about 3 million, while nowadays it hovers around 50 million, almost 17 times as much. One early exception, however, was Shenmue, which clocked in at 47 million all the way back in 1999 and while the game certainly looked good, that money wasn’t just spend on making things look pretty: it was used to make the game enormous and legendarily complex, resulting in its critical acclaim upon launch and an Excellence Prize for Interactive Art award at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2000. Even today, gamers still flock to games that offer similar levels of freedom and discovery, such as the hugely popular The Elder Scrolls and Grand Theft Auto franchises, in which they can amass thousands of hours of game-time and still have an experience that is pleasing to look at.

This may seem like I am arguing for quantity over quality, but I believe that if the bloated funds we are stuffing into graphics was redirected to other fields, that would in turn create a whole different kind of quality that is more likely to age well. Of all the elements that go into game-design, the level of detail in the visuals is the safest to cut corners on; remove depth from the gameplay and the experience becomes flat, cut out bits of story and you get plot-holes, and trying to save on the art-design will make the world you are creating less intriguing. Personally I’ll happily have a game that looks less sharp and refined if it means I get to fight monsters as big as those in Capcom’s Monster Hunter series, have a world as beautifully designed as that of The Last Door, or witness a story as emotional as that of Claire.

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The obsession AAA studios have with highly-polished cinematic experiences has long been fuel for the thriving indie scene that continues deliver us unique experiences and intriguing stories. Some of these games are long and some of these are short, exactly what Ready At Dawn argued they were going for, but most short ones only cost around 10 dollars, which is a lot more sensible. I am not saying everyone should ditch mainstream gaming and hang out with the hip indie crowd, all I want is for AAA developers to actually start producing games that reflect the technology and budget that has gone into them in ways other than with the visuals.

Since the now-current generation has started, the only game that made me excited and think “that seems so new” was Shadow of Mordor with its revolutionary nemesis system that made enemies a lot more organic. Games are a unique medium and with the tools and money available today, I’d almost go so far as to say that the sky is the limit, so why are we all staying on the ground, worrying about how many polygons makes up some dude’s face?

               
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COMMENTS

  • Brodequin

    If I say “My game is 600p and 24fps”, people will nuke me. But if I put 2 black bars on it and say the magic word “cinematic experience” people
    will defend me like it’s a life or death situation…

  • Andy

    Why are people so upset about the length of the game just now? It’s not like this is the first time developers haven’t been selling you short and half assed games. They’ve been doing this for a while and it’s funny that all the Sony fans over hype evey single game the comes out for their system.

    And devs now days are so focused on graphics these days. They would rather make a game that is all style and no substance and full of quick time events.

    • E.D. Vazquez

      I think the reason people are upset right now is twofold:
      1. The leaked play-through BEFORE the official release.
      2. $60 for a single-player only game that lasts for 5-10 hours with questionable replayablity isn’t exactly a great thing for an “exclusive”

      I think the outcry would be far less had there been multiplayer modes, I mean, this game is supposed to be a Gears of War knockoff and one of the staples of that series was the varied game modes. This is one of the rare moments that a tacked on multiplayer might have actually benefited a game.

      I was watching this game but after hearing of it’s length and lack of co-op/multiplayer I’ll wait till it’s on a flash sale for less than $10.

      • Andy

        I don’t think the leak had anything to do with anything. I think if people blind bought and spend $60 on it and played and beat it in one day they would still be really upset about the length.

    • BB YX

      So you like The Order 1989? It’s official. You’re the most disgusting pig out there,

  • Drumma716

    So if I make a game that has amazing gameplay and has 100+ hours of it and tons of replayablity but graphics are shit and the story is non existent, everyone will like my game and I can charge more than $60? (because its over 100 hours) that’s some dumb logic. It just seems like people want to complain about anything and everything that comes up about a AAA game nowadays

    • Brodequin

      I do complain only if i have an interactive movie-like game with stupid black bars instead of fully playable full screen game. Or if this is another Call of Duty (puke) 😀

      • Drumma716

        People keep throwing around the buzzwords “Interactive Movie” when they are just trying to exaggerate something they don’t like in the game. Back when MGS4 came out I called it an interactive movie and people still loved it. But back on topic my point is not that shorter games can be great, its that just because a game is shorter than say skyrim doesnt mean $60 is too much to ask for

        • Brodequin

          I never played MGS4 and i don’t like Skyrim. Many great games are short and this is ok. I’ve absolutely no problem with it’s lenght, i simply wan’t to play game not watch it 🙂

          • Drumma716

            That makes sense. it all comes down to peoples preference. I personally like these “cinematic” games

          • Casper Bronmans

            Hello there, thanks for clarifying your point. If you find The Order 1886 worth your money, then I have no objections there, my point was never to criticize the game beyond the industry trends it has become a part of. For that kind of content, I would sooner recommend our review.

            Also, I read that the dev was actually upset that people looked at the game as a game and not a movie, so Mr. Brodequin is not completely wrong in using the “interactive movie” term.

          • Brodequin

            Cutscenes and QTE’s in games are fine from time to time. But when you play only occasionally it is “interactive movie” not a game. In my opinion of course 🙂

  • Henrikm

    Dont know why people argue about game lenght.

    ICO was hailed as one of the best games ever once released and that one was not very long ethier.

    • Casper Bronmans

      My point is not really “Short games are bad”, but rather: “games that make heavy sacrifices for the sake of visual flair are bad”. ICO is short, but from what I recall it was also brilliantly directed and quite moving. It redirected money and effort to other fields than graphics and is therefore more fondly remembered.

      • Henrikm

        That is ofcourse true what you say,thought the issue was the lenght of the game only.

        But yeah its sad when company think graphic sells.
        Iam not a graphic whore myself and if I went looking for visuals only I would have missed out some fine games out there.

        I do realise that some people are put off by certain graphics as an example I know some people would never play Silent Hill 1 for the outdated graphic but I know if one see past the visuals there is some cool story and atmosphere in there.

        While other sells their titles as you say just on visual and no depth..

    • luigiix

      ICO was 99% gameplay though.

  • franky mcdonald

    Speed runners never complain how long a game is.
    The Will Smith Principle, the largest grossing movies all have cutting edge special effects, so avoid doing anything low budget.(one and done, who re-watched Transformers lately, nobody.)
    The Law of Gaming,(Cream Rises) Symphony of the Night, low sales, stayed 2D when everyone was 3D, one of the greatest games. other games that buck the trend. Journey, Silent Hill, Deadly Premonition ect….. (high replay ability)
    Somehow gamer’s have told the industry Will Smith floats the boat.
    I blame the 11-18 crowd that doesn’t know anybetter, and has tons of disposable income. The older kids too for not educating the youth of gaming. (sorry for repeating alot of what was said in the article, all i had was speed runners.)

  • oooole

    Shenmue 3 🙁

    Yu Suzuki, the innovator of “cinematic experiences” in videogames alongside with Kojima still knew you cannot replace gameplay with cutscenes/QTEs. Those elements are there to enhance the gameplay, not the other way around.

  • Anubis

    The story behind The Order’s development could be very interesting. Ready at Dawn used to be a developer of portable games, and not even Vita or 3DS games, but that old PSP. They made a great jump from PSP to PS4. They did port their God of War PSP games to PS3, but never made an original PS3 game. I imagine they had lots of trouble developing their new engine and all that. I’ve worked on companies that had trouble growing up after big investments. Everyone has a hard time adapting to a new, big team structure. And being a software developer, I know it’s definitely easier to mess something up when you’re trying to finish bigger projects, than doing them right.

    Considering all that, The Order may very well be a great acomplishment for Ready at Dawn. Marketing did its job, apparently. They hyped a lot of people, seeing how so many people are dissapointed right now (and who can blame them?), but the developers themselves are probably feeling happy to see how they’ve finally finished the game, even if it’s flawed as hell.

    I hope Sony can see all that, and keep them working on whatever’s next. Now that they’ve cleared that technology hurdle, it should be easier for them to focus on gameplay, maybe bring some experts in, etc.

    Here’s hoping for a truly amazing The Order 2.

  • luigiix

    WTF is The Last Door and Claire?
    Anyway, personally i like a middle-ground between good gameplay and good looks. I don’t need fancy stuff as long as there is consistency in quality.
    I don’t care if the game is short, if the story isn’t original or even if the graphics are cheap. I only want a interesting world i can explore, i want atmosphere, daring art-direction and music.
    In fact i don’t like long games that depend on padding and artificial, repetitive gameplay, just like Elder Scrolls or GTA.
    Take Persona for example, i love those games for the art-style and story, but i find the gameplay ridiculously boring.
    On the other haned, games like Demon’s Souls, that may not be the prettiest nor the most polished but the world is unique and intriguing.

  • J’lon Madison

    When people try to argue that the Order: 1886 is a quality over quantity tile, it really makes me scratch my head. I don’t really care about game length, I care about the experience and whether or not I’ll want to come back to it.

    Therefore, I can only see the Order as a quality over quantity example if the gameplay, the replayability, story, characters, and overall experience are spectacular, or at the very least, exceptional.

    From what I’ve seen, and from what I’ve heard from the community, the only noteworthy thing about the game are the mind-blowing graphics. I’m sorry, but graphics alone do not make a game. We have a word for games like that. Tech Demo.

    Thank you for writing this article, the amount of truth presented in just the last two paragraphs is enough for me to give you a complementary golf clap.

    That was me golf clapping.

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