I don’t like soap operas – I find them a bit mind numbing and boring, but I imagine the feelings people who do like them get are similar to what I get witnessing (or reading up on) the kind of drama that can take place within the videogames industry. I’m not talking about the serious stuff – studio closures, corporate evil, poor games… those things shouldn’t really be laughed at (well, not straight away anyway). But everything else? That’s fair game.
Take Operation Flashpoint: Red River for example, a game whose review I’m currently just finishing up for publishing tomorrow. Codemasters (developer AND publisher in this instance) have kind of made a big thing about trying to distance themselves from the term ‘simulation’ going as far to allegedly ban that term during the development of the game (their words). I can take a few guesses as to why, and those guesses just make the whole thing seem rather amusing.
What you may not know is that the original Operation Flashpoint, called Cold War Crises, was actually developed by a company called Bohemia Interactive, and published by Codemasters. At some point, the two companies had a falling out. Bohemia went their own way and started creating the Armed Assault (ArmA) series, which I gather are generally considered as the ‘official’ descendants to the original game, whilst Codemasters started developing their own Operation Flashpoint games since they owned the rights to the name. Dragon Rising was the first, which was released back 2009 (despite some protest from Bohemia, who while not being able to stop them using the name, tried to stop them marketing it as the official sequel), and now in 2011 we have Red River.
Of course, this is made all the more amusing by the fact that Red River is definitely more simulation than not, although to be fair perhaps ‘realism’ is the correct buzzword. Regardless, it’s definitely not COD, nor Battlefield, so that really only leave ArmA as its closest competitor – something which they out-right denied when we interviewed them. I tell you, what soap could compete with this? I can’t really find out what exactly caused the two companies to fall out, but I read up on the overall situation when I was reviewing Dragon Rising. I actually want to try out the ArmA games as their hyper-realism intrigues me – ArmA II especially is supposed to be really good.
It reminds me another similar situation I came across, back in the ‘early’ days of my game writing. I had to review a PC title called Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge, which by the way was one of the worst games I’d ever played (to my shame, I still ended up giving it a 6 since I hadn’t really developed the balls to go lower than that at the time). The engine was shoddy for the times (not just in terms of being low-tech – there have been plenty of great low-tech games, you only need to look at Paradox), localisation was done poorly, it was confusing… I’d say it still gives me nightmares to this day, but that would just be hyperbole for dramatic effect.
Anyway, the history behind the games development goes somewhat to possibly explain it’s state. Originally, Hired Guns was actually going to be the next game in the Jagged Alliance turn based action/strategy series. I personally haven’t played any of the earlier games, but I got the feeling it was a bit of an iconic franchise, with many trade mark elements that made it very unique. The IP was held by Strategy First Interactive, and they’d contracted a company called Game Factory Interactive to create what at the time was going to be Jagged Alliance 3D – Essentially a 3D re-make of the second game.
As the years went on there were set-backs and miscommunications, with Strategy First trying to fulfil their grand future vision for the series, and GFI just trying to keep costs down. Eventually, Strategy First had had enough and so pulled the IP rights for the game, and so GFI were left with a half made product that lacked an IP. So, the game was finished, edits were made, and we were left with Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge. You can go here to read a more comprehensive account of what happened(scroll up to the bit about Jagged Alliance 3/3D), although with the caveat that it’s a Wikipedia article.
I tell you, this stuff is better than crack. Although, not better than a actually decent TV series…