R8DM Blogs: In Search of the Perfect Gaming Experience - Part 1

Inspiration

It was supposed to be the pinnacle of my past 14 months of dedication to the series.  

Luckily, my roller coaster experience with Assassin’s Creed Unity had already let me down enough that I wasn’t expecting anything earth shattering.  But this...this was a new low point.  

I had just completed the prerequisites necessary to unlock the coveted Altair Outfit, which included playing the companion app for a solid 2  months to unlock in-game collectable artifacts.  You read that right...2 months.  However, when I collected the final artifact, nothing happened.  

No fanfare, No achievement, No on-screen notification, no nothing.  In a panic, I fast travelled back to my base where the other unlockable outfits were on display.  

I walked up to the Altair Outfit and was greeted with this message:  “To unlock, play the companion app”.  Gut punch

Ubisoft's carrot to play the mobile extension of Assassin's Creed: Unity

Ubisoft's carrot to play the mobile extension of Assassin's Creed: Unity

I suddenly found myself in this weird place between denial and anguish.

You see, in November 2013, I made the decision to play through the entire series of Assassin’s Creed games that had been released on the Xbox 360 in preparation to making the leap to the next generation console.  I had completed the original Assassin’s Creed years ago, but hadn’t played the rest of the series despite the game being a perfect fit for my interest in historical fiction.  I also have a completionist streak in me, so the plethora of collectables in the series tweaked an obsession to unlock all the single player achievements.  The timing was finally right, so I dove in with both feet.  

Fast forward to present day and here I was on the home stretch of completing that goal*; on the cusp of getting those "I did it" feelings:  A mix of pride, accomplishment and relief.  But that was taken away from me with yet another entry in the long list of technical issues that Ubisoft has been having with this game.

*I actually haven’t quite finished the entire series.  I haven’t made it through all of Black Flag yet, but I plowed through AC Rogue as soon as it was released and heard that it pulled the majority of its mechanics from that game, so I had skipped ahead to Unity in order to finally experience the true “next gen” version of the series.

Then, as if the punch to the gut that I received wasn’t enough, I found a Ubisoft Support response that was posted by one of the many AC Unity players in my same situation:

Hello [username omitted],

Thank you for the update.

Our Devs have confirmed all the outfits that can be unlocked through the companion app will be made available in-game by default in a future update.

Our Devs also assured us the release date for this patch will be very, very soon! So keep an eye out for new game updates.

Thank you very much for your patience on this matter.

Kind Regards,

Ubisoft Support

Sigh.  

All that time, for nothing.  The goal that I dedicated myself to for weeks upon weeks was going to end up being given away.  Like a street marketer handing out a flyer that most people crumple up and throw in the trash.  Thoughts about what I could have done with all the hours started to fill my head.  All that time...wasted.  

But was it?

EDIT: The patch that the Ubisoft Support email referenced was finally released on February 18, 2015, over 3 months after the game's initial release.

The Quest

Now that I’ve had a few days to cool off, I'm starting to see things more clearly.  I remembered that I originally took on “the challenge” of the companion app as a sort of research project.  I wanted to see what type of experience Ubisoft had packed into this app for the dedicated fans of the franchise.  And somewhere along the line I fell into my old completionist trap and decided it was something I needed to finish.  You can learn more about the companion app on Ubisoft’s blog, but seriously...don't waste your time.  In short, it’s disrespectful to gamers.  

Without diving into the details, there are many aspects of AC Unity that I absolutely love.  But, at the same time there are aspects that I absolutely hate.

I've played plenty of games that have fallen into the same love/hate category over the years, but you would think that by 2015, with all the advancements that have been made in the industry,that game developers would have figured out a way to decrease the "hate" side of the equation to a bare minimum.  But it's still there.  For one reason or another, the games that we play today are just as flawed as they were in the past.  Glitches are still rampant, campaigns end too soon or drag out forever, stories aren’t interesting, and playing through a game can sometimes feel like a 2nd job.  

That said, my experience with AC Unity has inspired me on a new quest.  From this moment forward, I’m dedicated to finding the perfect gaming experience.  One that is all love and no hate.  One that blends all the elements of an outstanding in-game experience, and pairs it with an equally interesting and integrated out-of-game experience.

Were it so simple

Were it so simple

I'll be sharing the results of my quest in periodic updates on Rated M Gaming Network, so I’m looking forward to your suggestions and feedback along the way.  But, before I start this quest, I need to define the set of criteria that I’ll be judging each game against and outline some of the limitations that I’m up against.

Criteria

  • Fun: First and foremost, I have to enjoy myself when I’m playing all aspects of the game.  That’s not to say I can’t get frustrated along the way, but if I don’t feel like my time was well spent overcoming a challenge, then it wasn’t fun.

  • Challenge: There’s a sweet spot somewhere between too hard and too easy that the perfect game must fit into.  As an experienced gamer, I’m going to play each game on the level above normal (if that’s an option) as that’s typically the level where challenges are accessible, without needing to master the gameplay.

  • Length: There’s been recent chatter about the length of today’s games affecting the overall experience, but good arguments can be found on either side of the fence.  For the purpose of this quest I’ll keep it simple; If I start to dread having to finish a game, then it’s too long.  If I’m left wanting more, it was too short.

  • Immersion: The universe of a game can manifest itself in a variety of ways with various levels of breadth and depth.  It’s not fair to compare the story of Mass Effect to Limbo.  But, I’d argue both do a fantastic job of immersing the player in the game.

Limitations

  1. Availability: The game must be available to me within my natural gaming platforms:  Xbox One, Steam, or Android.  I probably shouldn’t include Steam, given the dust that’s been piling up on my gaming PC for the last couple years, but there’s a chance that I can experience a PC exclusive with the improvements they’ve been making to cloud gaming.  

  2. Release Date: The game must be released from the beginning of the 8th generation console moving forward.  I have no doubt that there are plenty of games that are considered "perfect" during the time of their release.  In fact, I did a quick poll on the Rated M Gaming Network's Facebook page and a few games bubbled to the top: Halo CE, Skyrim, and Dragon Age Inquisition*.  But today’s standards have changed, so I’m limiting this to those such standards.

  3. Extension: The game must incorporate an extension of the game outside of the console experience.  An app, a website, a twitter feed...any non-marketing experience that attempts to keep the gamer in the universe while they're away from their console.  

  4. Supscriptions/DLC: The game has to "end" within the original game/companion purchase.  If I have to spend any more money to experience the perfection of a game than what's expected of me up front, it's not perfect.

*DA:I is eligable for consideration due to The Dragon’s Keep website and will be evaluated soon.   

All that said, this game doesn't have to fall in a specific genre.  I’ve played and enjoyed video games from every genre you can name, so all games will be considered for evaluation.  Even sports games.  

Embarkation

It’s most likely that this game isn’t among the games that were released in the past year.  It probably won’t release in the next 6 months.  It may not even be announced yet.  Hell, it could be on a concepting wall at some start up developer.  But I'm determined to find it.  And with your help, I'm confident I will.  

There’s a few contenders that have already been released that I’m planning on experiencing  in the next few months.  Far Cry 4 is in progress while Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition are in the queue.  The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight are on my early to do list for 2015. I'm also open to suggestions as this quest unfolds so don’t shy from sharing your thoughts as I want to keep an open dialog with you along the way.

As I make more progress, I’ll report back with my findings.  Until then, I’ll see you online.

Colin Perkins

Rated M Gaming Network

XBL: Broke Box