Delays

If you’d rather skip to the part specifically concerning delayed games, it begins in the third paragraph. These are my uncut thoughts regarding recent (and bygone) video game delays, and I do enjoy a bit of a spiel. 

Unlike concise disquisition and casual small-talk, the concept of just waiting had come – with almost unnatural proficiency – naturally to me. Indeed, I was the only child I’ve ever known to get excited by the prospect of Doctors’ waiting rooms, and perfectly entertained of a Sunday morning by sitting on the bottom step of my house, suspended in the close surveillance of spiders, cars, occasional street animals – and the very occasional human being. I was a regular traffic-staring cat, resigned to windowsills and garden patios to cast extraordinarily emphatic stares to whomever might be passing at the given moment. The postman was positively overjoyed to shunt our share of bills through our letterbox each morning, only to find the child from Insidious staring bemusedly up at him – unmoving – through the warped textures of front door glass. Not.

My talents for just waiting have dwindled spectacularly since that time. Perhaps it’s the incomprehensible business of contemporary life, or the rapidity at which technology seems to be developing, or my new-found antsiness when presented with time to kill. Waiting just ain’t as fun as it used to be – and it’s only in recent years that I’ve begun to feel the inextricable bite of the delayed game.

Just how unpredictable official launches have transpired to be in recent years (Assassin’s Creed Unity springs irrevocably to mind), I can understand why delays are becoming more of a regularity. Most recently, Uncharted 4′s delay from original 2015 release to May 2016 arguably ensured Naughty Dog gave fans the ending the marvellous Uncharted series deserved. And in my opinion, it ended on a note that encompassed both the Uncharted series and the history of Naughty Dog as a company in a way that balanced fun, humour, nostalgia and authenticity with impressive and evident dedication.

Uncharted 4 Drake and Elena

I suppose when considering a game like Uncharted 4, however, that there’s always going to be something to judge it against. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot to Uncharted 4 that felt fresh (not the least of which was the fluid grappling-hook feature), but when it comes to delays surrounding anticipated new IP’s, I think the stakes raise significantly. That’s why No Man’s Sky leaves me a little apprehensive; a title that’s seen so much excitement over its two years in the public eye that I fear many fans’ expectations could well be misinterpreting what No Man’s Sky – as an explorative, sandbox-adventure game – really is.

(In an interview with Eurogamer, Hello Games developer Sean Murray shares some info on the innumerable japes to be had in the August-assigned No Man’s Sky. You can find it here.)

I’m excited too – I’d even say hyped myself – but apprehensive, and there’s an incredible amount of pressure right now on Hello Games to create something that lives up to the hype. It’s commendable in itself. The nine-year-mystery that is The Last Guardian appears to be in a similar predicament, and with only really enough information about the game to tease, the game’s official launch feels rocky right now (ahead of next week’s E3, that is).

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Just a little longer till I can seek out the domain of the turtle-penguins and be accepted as one of their own. 

So for anyone who enjoys a ramble (I’ll assume that’s indeed you if you’ve read thus far) and is finding it difficult to manage their hype for the delayed, the detained and the dawdling, I want to hark back to one of the most protracted delays seen in video gaming, and how it was worth every moment of postman-deterring traffic-staring.

Valve’s Team Fortress 2 was delayed for almost ten years, and is often considered amongst the likes of Duke Nukem Forever as one of the lengthiest development processes in video gaming. It’s quite spectacular, given that Team Fortress began its life as a Quake mod.
Development for Team Fortress 2 commenced in 1998 after making a switch from Valve’s Quake engine to GoldSrc, with Robin Walker and John Cook at the helm of the game’s development. The duo set to work on a modern, realistic and complex war game, which would comprise numerous innovations like command hierarchies, commanding lookouts, communication networks and even parachute drops over enemy territory. It was – no doubt – impressive for its time, and by the time Team Fortress 2: Brotherhood of Arms (a name that was ultimately cancelled) was showcased during 1999’s E3, Valve’s use of Parametric animation and multi-resolution technology struck as innovative, and incredibly promising.

By 2000, however, the Team Fortress 2 buzz had petered out somewhat, with news surrounding the game’s development becoming more and more threadbare as time ticked on. The delay was likely lengthened by the fact that Valve was simultaneously working on Half Life 2, and, save for a few comments made by Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi and exec Gabe Newell that the game was still happening, all was quiet on the Team Fortress­-front until 2007.

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And by then, boy had things changed. After secretly creating “probably three to four different games” associated with Team Fortress, Valve had agreed on a final design. In those seven years, Team Fortress 2 had gone from gritty modern warfare to Saturday-morning cartoon, and proffered a softer, stylised art style “grounded in the conventions of early 20th century commercial illustration”, with particular inspirations reportedly drawn from J.C Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell.

Looking back at the game, it’s difficult not to compare it to the fast-paced-punch of vibrant titles like Overwatch and Battleborn, because Team Fortress 2 seems to have so evidently influenced them.

Weapons were now less realistic than ridiculous; giving players access to a supercharged armory home to lasers, cannons, nukes and hulking-great missile launchers that often lent a sense of cohesion and diversity to the game’s multiplayer battles. Compared to the grit and mud of Resistance and Call of Duty, Team Fortress 2 was a breath of fresh air, with a clear and simplistic visual design that allowed combat to feel clean and straightforward, without seguing into banality.

Was it worth it? Was it ever. Team Fortress 2 opened to widespread appeal amidst audiences and a deluge of critical appraisal; all whilst snatching a name for itself over time as one of Steam’s most heavily-played multiplayer titles. It was even named amongst IGN’s Best of 2007 for Best Artistic Design, and swept a joint award with Half Life 2 as Game of the Year.  Despite its status as a 2007 game, Team Fortress 2 still looks and feels as fresh as it did upon release, and has seen itself reincarnated in more recently successful multiplayer shooters like Overwatch and Battleborn.

Team Fortress 2 Gameplay 2

If you’re finding yourself pining for No Man’s Sky, or losing hope over the ever-elusive The Last Guardian, perhaps it’s worth remembering that in some cases – certainly in the case of Team Fortress 2 – it’s well worth the wait.

Wait, what? What was that? Duke Nukem Forever? Well…it’s okay. We don’t need to think about that. Not now. Not ever.

Which games are you looking forward to ahead of E3? Do you think the delayed titles will live up to the hype? I’d love to hear your opinion down in the comments.

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Most Exciting Concept: No Man’s Sky

System: PS4, Windows
Developer: Hello Games
Release Date: June 2016

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Quite aside from the most anticipated independent game of 2016, No Man’s Sky might just be the most anticipated game of 2016 full stop. Since the game’s announcement in 2014, No Man’s Sky has experienced an insatiable rabidity from already die-hard fans; a vivacity that – the more the workings of the title are revealed – becomes more and more relateable.

The game isn’t exactly Hello Games’ first venture, but it’s certainly it’s riskiest. The player assumes the role of an astronaut, who sets out to gather information from dimensions in uncharted galaxy. Equipped with a jet pack, spacesuit and multi-tool, the player can traverse luxurious, oversaturated worlds to salvage upgradeable items, fight off mechanical sentinels and uncover artefacts that allude to the secrets of the universe.

In interviews, No Man’s Sky has been described as a game about mathematical problems, in addition to exploration. Co-founder of Hello, Sean Murray explains that No Man’s Sky‘s environments are “procedurally generated”, as opposed to “random”. As such, a player can visit a planet and leave again, only to find that the planet’s environment will be generated around them in exactly the same way upon their return.
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And there’s 18 quintillion of them. According to Hello Games, each one is unique.

“But it’s not stored on the disk” Murray proceeds. It’s all generated right as you explore, which remains one of the most interesting aspects of No Man’s Sky. It isn’t chaotic, it’s reliable, which could make No Man’s Sky one of the best, even most realistic space simulators of the present day, as well as a cracking adventure game.

The player’s alleged only limit is the capacity of their spacecraft; something that can be upgraded to reach the innermost sactums of deep space. The game also represents the potential for an entirely new utilisation of the online community. You can submit your experiences in the game to the ‘Atlas’ – a database accessible to other players. Whilst not a new concept in itself, 18 quintillion planets means that there’s a very good chance that the things you see across No Man’s Sky will have never been seen by anyone else before; the Atlas could become more useful as a survival hub in No Man’s Sky than in any other title.
No Mans Sky Green

But of course, the game has been subject to – sometimes – unreasonable hype. The expanse of No Man’s Sky is undeniable; unignorable, but lacking a directing narrative and objectives, is the game’s size a novelty that could soon give way to mundanity? After a time of salvaging, scanning and upgrading, a new environment isn’t likely to puncture the growing mundanity, and it’ll be interesting to see if – and how – the game develops with the player.

Links for your curious heart: