Friday, 15 July 2016 00:00

Releasing a Raptor Requires Rigorous Refinement

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Once upon a long, long time ago in the ancient era of 1993; there was a majestic creature to grace the big screen.

Audiences around the world, drawn into a movie premise of dinosaurs, were terrified by the hunting packs of Deinonychus Velociraptors. From the mere glance of a single fossilized talon to the bone-chilling call heard in the darkened jungles in Jurrasic Park, velociraptors have been idolized as the coolest dinosaur to have ever existed, and it's true. I mean look at them they're so freaking awesome the way they run and can jump and rip into bigger dinosaurs why would you not play as one?!


In any case, Chris Park from Archen Games took it upon himself to realize everyone's dreams of playing as one of the most widely known predators and created In Case of Emergency, Release Raptor. Set for release on July 5th, it was pushed back to the 8th then once more pushed to the 11th until finally set on release again on the 21st. At least these setbacks weren't months away while not knowing what's going on (looking at you, Mighty No 9), but it still begged the question, “What was happening?”

It turns out Chris was watching people play the game to learn what was needed to improve the game. In a recent and extremely detailed update Chris said, “Part of the reason we keep having delays is that we're listening to feedback from existing testers and YouTubers doing previews, and things that they say -- or sometimes don't say, but rather just a nonverbal reaction they have -- tend to be instructive.”

Many would take this at face value and say it's expected to see how a developer learns what the audience is craving from the game; testing the waters before jumping head-first to make sure the water isn't actually only a few feet deep. Once again, going back to Mighty No 9 as an example, we see a growing divide between what the audience wants the game to be and what developer thinks the audience wants.

Another example would be the sheer arrogance of Blizzard's J. Allen Brack when he answered a fan's question about the possibility of legacy servers for World of Warcraft. During Blizzcon 2013, one person came up and asked, “Have you ever thought about adding servers for previous expansions as they were?” The reason for this question would be that the newer expansions for WoW drastically changed many core elements of gameplay, some even going as far as saying it's a completely different game now. The answer, however, stunned many fans of the older expansions: “No. And by the way, you don't want to do that either. You think you do, but you don't.”

The fact that J. Allen Brack so casually wrote off that thousands of players stick to using private servers like Nostalrius because they were not satisfied with the direction World of Warcraft was going struck the hearts of many older fans. When Nostalrius was shut down by Blizzard, a petition began going around asking for it to be brought back. It reached upward of 250,000 signatures and eventually the people behind Nostalrius were invited to a meeting with Blizzard's employees to discuss the issues behind making legacy servers.

It's hard to find examples of people healing the growing division between developers and the gaming communities, but it's not impossible.

Over the recent years, this divide looked like it was only going to grow more unstable, yet when we have people like Chris Park halting everything he thought he wanted the game to be and rethink what it could be it's easy to see how simple it is to cross over to the other side.

Returning to Release Raptor, we can see that significant changes are being added. Chris found many people thought the levels and robotic enemies were generic, there wasn't much of a stealth field added to them, it felt like a brawler when your only objective was “kill X robots,” but the major part that this author wanted to keep in focus was the feeling of the raptor. So all of this is being addressed, and when more concerns that need to be addressed pop up, he and the small team he has at Arcen Games will definitely work on fixing it for the final release.

Chris puts it well when he says, “Consistent repeated delays sends a bad message that I'm quite aware of and regret, but at the same time it's important that people see enough of the game that they form the right opinions about it. By 'right opinion' I mean that, if they see an early simplistic build and conclude 'it's a brawler' when the actual gameplay is a lot deeper, that's a problem.  If they see the actual gameplay and then think that's still not deep enough or whatever other problem, that's their right and not something I'm going to call 'wrong,' whether I agree with it or not.  But if I hand them an unripe strawberry, and they say strawberries are terrible, then that's on me.”

In the end, Chris Park demonstrates how a developer can reach out and find what can be improved in the game he makes while keeping true to what he originally envisioned. Personally, I would love to see where the result of this sort of cooperative development between game developers and people playing the game could lead.

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Steven Stites

Steven Stites is your typical 23 year old loser who plays video games. Sometimes he thinks he can shed some insight into them and writes it up; after it's cleaned up and readable to people with sanity intact, of course.