Monday, October 27, 2014

Destiny's identity crisis, and the way forward

This game continues to suffer from an identity crisis. The saying goes, "If you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one."

As someone who enjoyed the game even with the "level 20-29 grind limbo", I have concerns about the longevity of the game. My concern is that Destiny's popularity and high level of gamer engagement has only lasted this long because of the game drought we are in. I think this continued struggle for identity is going to cause long term problems and here's why...

Players looking for a good PVP experience will almost certainly never be satisfied. Why? Because PVP in general, across all titles, is incredibly repetitive (this isn't Destiny's fault). And even with special events like the Iron Banner, if we are honest, the PVP experience in Destiny leaves much to be desired for (lots of lag comp, delay, very little depth, typical game modes, etc.) And you really can't reverse or undo the terrible experience so many of us had with OP shotguns and the misleading nature of the first Iron Banner. So all your die hard PVP fans will eventually jump ship when better big name PVP titles start to drop. Especially games whose identity is more firmly planted in PVP. They tend to offer more and have deeper layers of creativity and incentivized reasons to play, level up, etc. 

Players looking for a good PVE RPG shooter experience have already moved on because there is little reason to play once you get to level 28-29. Continue grinding for materials? Waste 3 hours on the Vault of glass only to get no vault armor? No thanks. Many of us have gone to Borderlands The Pre-Sequel and many more will move in droves when bigger next-gen RPG titles like Dragon Age and others start to launch.

The reason games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Borderlands have been so successful and have high DLC saturation rates is because they have a clear identity. So expectations are set and largely met, resulting in a loyal and recurring audience. Destiny has tried to straddle the chasm between the experience of a solid co-op open world RPG and the experience of a fun fast paced competitive shooter. In the end, both aspects of the game are diluted, repetitive, and boring. Again, as I said on the outset, if you aim to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

My recommendation is this. Since the nature of PVP games are so quickly ran through and cast aside (see Titanfall and each Call of Duty title for examples), I would strongly suggest focusing all efforts on content. Content content content. Content is king. Competitive shooters are going to re-saturate the market soon, and there is going to be very little to make Destiny stand out, other than the litany of problems and complaints. Leave PVP as it is and continue to add bounties, but if you really want people to play your game for ten years, you need to leave the PVP on the shelf and refocus your identity. Not because PVP is a dying genre, but because it doesn't line up with the identity that Destiny promoted itself to have and it doesn't have the longevity you're hoping to get out of it. Go back and watch all your teaser trailers and announcements and you'll see why so much of your audience is unsatisfied and angry.

See Borderlands as an example of an RPG shooter that has ridiculous hours logged from their audience, and launches DLC for almost 2 years after the game drops. They wouldn't keep doing it that way if it wasn't working. Then look at Call of Duty. A new title every year with DLC crammed out faster and faster each time (and constant marketing to get you to purchase DLC before the game is even out). If Call of Duty has to launch a new full game every year to stay on top as the biggest PVP shooter, and they even had two different companies so this was even possible from a development standpoint, you're going to find yourself running up a mountain on a treadmill. You will never keep up.

Reestablish and fix the identity, and set yourself up to have a loyal and recurring audience. Anyone in business will tell you that loyal and recurring business is far better.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Are Bill Nye and Ken Ham both right?

First, I think there are much better debates to watch if you're curious about the issue of atheism vs the existence of God (Daniel Lane Craig vs Sam HarrisChristopher Hitchens vs Doug Wilson).  Basically just watch any debate that Hitchens or Daniel Lane Craig have had and you’ll be better squared up on the main issues.  I think that discussion is more foundational before considering the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

Nobody Really Knows What Happened

Yes, I know, how wonderfully agnostic and unhelpful.  But let me elaborate.

In the 1960’s Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected strange radiation with their instruments at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey (Bill Nye outlined this story in the debate).  What they discovered was cosmic background radiation which lead to the undeniable conclusion that the universe had a precise and explosive beginning.  This discovery has been championed by both sides of the debate as proof for their position.  Now, since we weren’t there we can only make predictions about how it happened.  Maybe God sped up time?  Maybe he didn’t, and it took a long time, because a day is like a 1,000 years to him.  More on how we should read Genesis below.

This is why I said the existence of God debate must happen first.  If you grant for a moment that God might exist, and has the power to create all things, then isn’t it possible that the expansion and explosion of the universe happened at a rate incalculable by science because it was done supernaturally?  And that animal life and plant life look to be from a single source because God shaped and molded all things as he went, leaving traces of what looks like species transforming into other species?  Scientists have no instruments or methods for studying and measuring the supernatural, so maybe both sides are closer to the truth of how it all happened then either wants to admit.  Even Creationists must grant that the biblical narrative simply doesn’t say in any detail how it all happened, just that it did.  I know many will say, “Yes, but it says how long it took, 6 days!”  Alright, well…

Young Earth Creationists Should Keep an Open Mind

Oh brother, now I sound like a Universalist!  R.C. Sproul made a good point in a video about the age of the universe.  He basically said, “We saw we had wrong interpretations that the sun rotated around the earth because of scientific discovery.”  What if, now hang with me here… What if part of our understanding of the first two chapters of Genesis is flawed?  I encourage everyone to read, “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John H. Walton.  He makes a compelling case that our understanding of the creation account is not informed by ancient cosmology and the context of the original audience.  I've not read anything, save Walton's book, that considers language and context of the time.  Walton slowly walks through much of the ancient literature surrounding the time of the writing of Genesis, and I think he makes a compelling case that the Israelites would have understood “create” much differently than we do, which should inform our interpretation.

What I am Not Saying

To be clear, I am not saying that Christians should waffle and waver on Biblical authority, the existence of God, or the claims of/about Jesus simply because scientists say otherwise.  What I am saying is that perhaps we’ve been ardently defending a literal 6 day creation and a young earth when we don’t have to.  Sure, Ken Ham and others will say, “Then you’ve got the problem of death before the fall.”  But again, what if part of our understanding of Genesis 1-2 is flawed?  Where does it say no animals died prior to the fall?  It says man will surely die in the day he eats the fruit (then Adam doesn’t die in the day he eats the fruit), and later says that the tree of life would have granted them eternal life (Gen 3:22).  So which is it?  Adam was going to live forever and sinned, bringing physical death into the world?  Or sin broke covenant and revoked access to the tree of life and by default brought death into the world?  What if the death was spiritual in nature and the curses were the result of being separated from God and his tree of life?  Paul can still say “By one man…” because Adam brought this on us, separated us from God, and Christ has to restore that broken order.  So, there is certainly multiple ways to read/interpret this, and if large amounts of data show us death happening long before man shows up, then maybe we need to stop burning modern Galileos and adjust our interpretation.

Bill Nye’s Two Points to Consider

The two points Bill Nye made that I found the most interesting were about age of the earth, not evolution.

First, he points to trees that are older than the flood.  How would this be possible?  Many typically reply to age of the earth questions by saying, “Adam was created with age and so was the earth.”  Okay, but what about after the flood?  That’s a precise point in the historical biblical narrative, and we have trees that somehow survived and are older than the flood?  So even if the trees were created with age, how did they survive the flood? (Another discussion: global vs local flood)  This leads to his other point, which is a solid counter to the “created with age” response.

Second, he points to the many fossils found in various layers of the earth that represent different ages of the earth.  If God created the earth with age, which is why mountains and layers in the Grand Canyon look really old… Why would there be dead animals inside them?  This poses the same problem Ken Ham laid at the feet of theistic evolutionists: death before the fall.  If you make the claim that the earth was simply created with age, then the fossils and their locations mean that death happened during creation or God simply created the mountains and rock layers with fake fossils.

I think it is far more likely that part of our understanding of Genesis 1-2 is flawed, and that the basic big picture teachings from it are true and easily verified in our existence today.  Man is told to subdue the earth and fill it.  Humans have clearly and undeniably done that in a very short amount of time.  Sin put enmity between man and God, and man and man.  This is clearly seen in the disgust and hate people express for God, even though they claim he doesn’t exist, and the constant turmoil, fighting, and war amongst men.  The foundational claims made in Genesis 1-2 lead us directly to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is far more important than the age of the earth.  Man is the prominent species almost everywhere on earth, pining, fighting, and searching for identity.  It can’t be found in a fossil record or a sea bed nor can it be found in the precise age of the earth; it can only be found in the one who conquered death.