Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Poor Dead Island

So Dead Island is a great game.  I love it, and if you head to any forum for the game to talk about it, you'll find that most people there also enjoy the game immensely.  So why does it seem to do so poorly?  Why do so many people dismiss it so easily, despite many not even having played it?  Well, I'll try and explain what I feel are some of the bigger problems that acted as a barrier between gamers who might have enjoyed the game, and the game.

Dead Island could be best described with the title of a 2004 Jim Carrey movie.  It was basically doomed to failure for a few main reasons.  The first issue was the trailer.  While very well made, and wonderfully dramatic, it didn't show any gameplay during a time when gamers were starting to revolt against trailers that used heavy cinematic footage with little to no gameplay; a common tactic with a lot of games that are trying to hide that the game itself isn't much to look at.  So after finally hearing about a trailer from this hyped "melee-focused" zombie game, a lot of people weren't okay with a trailer that didn't focus any of the melee-focused gameplay.  Later trailers did include gameplay, but by then a lot of people had lost their interest.

The second issue is simply deciding to release a zombie title during a glut of zombie games.  With the popularity of games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Resident Evil 5, nearly every developer decided to jump on the zombie bandwagon; be it through full-on zombie games, or several games that included the apparently-obligatory zombie-focused DLC; so gamers were starting to feel stuffed and bloated on their feast of zombie-killing madness.  Doesn't matter if the trailers looked good or not.  Doesn't matter that this game was trying something different (EVERY game "tries something different").  Just... enough zombies.  Plenty of people just didn't wanna care anymore.

The third big issue, and this at least can be blamed more directly on the developers of the game, was when they accidentally released the developer's build instead of the final build when the game came out.  For those who don't know, the quick explanation is that the developer's build of a game still has all the bugs and glitches that get ironed-out during the beta phase of the game.  They were quick to fix the issue, but the damage had already been done.  Once word got out that the wrong build of the game was released, a lot of people decided they didn't want to risk their money on the game.  In fact, many people specifically wait until after a game is released to see if the game has any major issues, a buying strategy that is often justified.

And granted, even with the final build of the game, it was still fairly glitchy.  It suffered from what can only be described as PC Illness.  With so many possible ways for a PC to be put together, not to mention different drivers and other non-related programs on the PC that can cause issues, it can be tricky to create a game for the PC without SOMEONE having some issue or another despite both his PC being just fine, and your game being just fine; something just won't get along between them.  Unfortunately, Dead Island was worse than most games with this problem.  When the game ran fine, it was great, but if you were one of the many unfortunate people who's PC just didn't agree with the game you just fed it, it could be a nightmare.  Game freezes, random quests not completing properly, items disappearing from your inventory, and many other possible glitches that could be tricky to figure out how to fix.

In the end, Dead Island became a game that you had to WANT to enjoy.  You had to be patient enough to be willing to deal with any glitches that might come your way; you had to enjoy zombie games enough that, even in the middle of a flood of zombie titles, you still wanted more; and you had to be tolerant of a trailer that doesn't show-off much gameplay.  With those three factors all added together, it's easy to see how Dead Island, despite being a great game, had a fairly narrow target demographic with which to work.

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