To be fair it was very one-sided, I don’t actually despise everything in Bethesda games (they being my current whipping-post), but my hatred cast at them is particularly virulent mostly because of some of the things that they pull of astonishingly well… then bury in a pile of meaningless crap.
I get it, tho - I get that there’s not really meant to be a ton of high-striking content. The objective of most RPGs is to putter along at a constant strike-rate of just above monotony and trigger and re-trigger little payoffs of serotonin in a steady rhythm and then build to the occasional crescendo - it’s been studied to a science and I don’t mind that I’m being gamed like a labrat when I’m playing certain games, not at all. Blizzard aren’t millionaires for nuthin’. Speaking of Blizzard, they know precisely that you don’t care about the story in Diablo. You know why? Because it literally doesn’t matter. Yep, the combat system isn’t deep, either… except that it is, just in a different way. Diablo hits you with a bunch of toys and teaches you quickly how to use them… then just at the right moment shows you that you’re out of your depth… yet you get the feeling that you know how you’re out of your depth because you couldn’t do something in time, or you didn’t survive long enough, or you ran out of something etc. They know how to keep you hooked by telegraphing what you’ll be into next. That’s fine for Diablo, and terrible for how they use it in pay to play/win stuff, but I don’t have to worry about that because I have a brain and a reign on my wallet.
I also appreciate that people play different games for different reasons and require different things from them, all good - I just needed to throw a tanty was all. What broke me in ESO was trying to find a stupid crafting table in a city that wasn’t where it was supposed to be, having to Google it, and finding out that Woodworking was added late in the game so all the woodwoorking benches are in odd places because the assets were created late and the map assets couldn’t be updated and for some reason can’t/won’t be.
How to improve?
As a loaded question, it depends I guess on the individual and if you want things to improve. If you ask me how to improve, the clear ringing bell is to do less. Every important interactive experience I’ve had in the last almost ten years has been reductive.
I am sick to death of content.
I am sick of more content. I am sick of promises of more content, and I am sick of being delivered more content. I do not want more square meters of rendered landscape. I do not want more hours of gameplay. I do not want more variety of objects. I do not want more endings. I do not want more possibilities. I do not want more variety… per se because you have to be careful with that statement - because that one, variety is interesting.
Because by promising more, the industry ultimately ends up delivering less and yea, I sound like one of those guys and I fucking just don’t care.
How to improve?
Focus on one thing.
Focus on a small aspect of design, gameplay, atmosphere and experience and make them bloody good. Actually stand for something for once. Every time your creative/dev team is tempted by adding or doing something more, write it down and then LOCK IT IN A BOX LABELLED WHEN THE REST OF THE GAME IS FUCKING DONE and don’t dare look into that box again UNTIL IT’S ALL DONE. For FUCK’S SAKE. Well, I guess what that really means is have a fantastic project manager but in lieu of that, SAVE IT FOR THE NEXT PROJECT. I would rather play ten unique games about ten different, interesting things than one game about fifty, indistinct pieces of rubbish.
Have discipline. You cannot fit everything in, so either know what to cut or get good at knowing what you’re on about to the degree that you focus and stop adding crap to it. Is this feature/thing/addition critical to the core experience? No? Then fuck it off, it’s a waste of dev time and resource.
Why am I still talking about this? I was reading about it on game dev sites literally fifteen years ago as a teenager.
The best projects show discipline, they show cohesive teamwork where creatives and business people respect one another and respect the work and almost all of these are small to small-medium works. I haven’t researched it in a long while, but I sincerely hope these are being produced without marriages ending, without kids not seeing their parents until late at night if at all, without people being unpaid for their work and overtime and without people burning out of the industry they’re passionate about and ending up as UX architects for banks after four and a half years.