AAA needs to adopt ‘Conscious Capitalism’

 Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Microtransactions in a single player game... ffs
Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Microtransactions in a single player game… ffs

Everyone’s talking about loot crates and gambling mechanics sneaking into games. Even $60 full-price games. It’s a bit too obvious to make that the topic of this month’s blog, so let me just say this: Loot boxes are terrible in all their forms. Even cosmetic. Even free. Even in Free To Play.

That’s my personal opinion on the flashy flashy “dangling your keys over the dog’s head” (as I think of it) ‘mechanic’. At their best, loot crates break immersion and treat the player like they’re an idiot. At their worst, they teach children how to gamble and can lead families into some serious debt very quickly.

So, as someone trying to be an ethical human being, as a player, and as a game designer, I think loot crates should just die. They should have no place in games.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Conscious Capitalism

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book that resonated with me on so many levels.

It’s called “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business” and it’s written by John Mackey (the CEO of Wholefoods) and Raj Sisodia.

It speaks to how taking a more holistic view of your business’ activities, and its long term sustainability can demonstrably be a better way of doing business.

The book is filled with case studies on how profit-driven CEOs ran once-successful companies into the ground by striving solely to create shareholder value, and not caring about the other stakeholders (meaning anyone who has any interest in the business, including customers, employees, the government, and even the environment) of the business.

Reading it, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with how EA, Activision, and Warner Bros. have been milking their once loyal and enthusiastic customers to the point of maximum frustration and past ethical boundaries. They’re burning bridges with former fans in the hopes of maximising returns this fiscal year, and to the smug satisfaction of many, we’ve just seen EA’s share price take a $3 billion (yes, with a ‘b’) drop in value as a direct result.

I have a Commerce degree. I’ve studied economics. I understand capitalism (you know, basically), and I believe in the free market and (for the most part) lack of government intervention, at least in normal trade. But I’ve also been hugely affected personally by the Global Recession since the day I graduated college and continuing even until the present day. This has given me very socialist sympathies. It’s also soured me (and so many others) on ‘capitalism’, yet this book argues, quite correctly, that what we think of as capitalism is more often perverse ‘crony capitalism’ that is ultimately unsustainable as it exploits parties to the business (including the environment) and poisons the environment that it operates in. It’s not what capitalism means at its core, and it’s not how it has to be.

 Milton Friedman. Winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economics.
Milton Friedman. Winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for Economics.

In the 1970’s, economist Milton Friedman argued that a firm’s sole responsibility was basically to maximise profits for shareholders. This doctrine has since been taken as gospel by the corporate world at large and has been hugely damaging to the environment and the stability of poorer nations from which we get so many of our resources (see last month’s blog on Venezuela, though I don’t get very political in it).

Another book that I haven’t yet read, but intend to, is Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. I heard him speak on a podcast and (as well as some other startling confirmations) he mentioned how, before Friedman, corporations were presumed to have a responsibility to their local communities. That responsibility was (apparently, though I haven’t looked it up) even mentioned in the original Declaration of Independence.

Wait, isn’t this a games blog? Get to the point!

Okay! So clearly EA and other AAA publishers, judging by their actions of the last few months and years, still subscribe to the Friedman school of business ethics, and they’re losing their supporters in droves. Even those that stick around and pay are hardly becoming ardent fans of the companies.

Then take a company like CD Projekt Red, creators of The Witcher series, who, to date, have seemed perfectly happy to offer outstanding value to their customers and who truly invest in the intangible ‘Goodwill’ line of the Balance Sheet (yes, it’s a thing on the balance sheet, but how do you really calculate it? (rhetorical question)).

Their core $60 experience in The Witcher 3 was over 70 hours of gameplay with no microtransactions. Then along came two expansion packs (pay once, play forever model) of 10-20 hours each! Not a microtransaction or loot crate in sight!

They clearly care about customer satisfaction to a degree that the other major games publishers can’t claim. This gives them so many intangible benefits, including customer loyalty, more predictable sales numbers, and free marketing via positive word of mouth. 

Note: CD Projekt aren’t a perfect example because they’re known to have some internal problems with crunch time, and employee welfare is a core part of the Conscious Capitalism approach. Still, they’re still probably the best example.

“Games Cost More To Make”

AAA likes to argue that games cost more to create now, so they have to charge more somehow, but I don’t buy this at all – not as the only option. Undeniably, the games become less enjoyable when compromised by loot crates and microtransactions. The experience is soured, at least according to a huge subset of gamers. When disenfranchised gamers stop buying the games at all, they cease to be customers, and that’s a huge additional cost to doing business.

The best approach is to grow the market, not to exploit the current one to the maximum possible level.

Many would say that loot crates are the business model of the future so get used to them! I say ‘why’? As a gamer, I hate them, and know that many others do too. As an entrepreneur I know that there are countless alternatives and ways to innovate. The “games cost more” excuse only keeps getting used because some gamers have started to believe it.

 Battlefront 2 (well, it's '4' really) undeniably looks amazing, but it didn't have to cost as much as it did to make. Who'd have missed one less level, or one less character? Budgets are variable.
Battlefront 2 (well, it’s ‘4’ really) undeniably looks amazing, but it didn’t have to cost as much as it did to make. Who’d have missed one less level, or one less character? Budgets are variable.

Games have budgets. Conscious Capitalism argues that you budget for all stakeholders, including, very importantly, the final customers. If they don’t want loot crates, you can plan not to give them to them. Rule them out completely! After that, your budget adjusts. Now just don’t make a game that exceeds that budget and projected profit levels. It’s actually quite simple business. You can sell to more final consumers if more of them would be happy to buy your product.

Many, such as myself, just won’t touch a game with loot crates. But I bought Wolfenstein 2 and the XCOM 2 expansion happily. Firaxis have fostered so much intangible goodwill from me over the years that they’re the only company I’ll pre-order from. At this point I won’t even buy Battlefront 2 if it went 90% off.

In Conclusion

Hey, I think this is my shortest blog ever! I’ve been trying to cut them down. I’d better get back on point, quick!…

My conclusion? Don’t support business practices you don’t like, and don’t presume that the example set by EA, Activision, Warner Brothers, and others, is the only way forward. Vote with your wallet as a consumer.

As a game developer, use your conscience and innovative spirit to think outside the box. Trust in goodwill as a long term pillar of your business strategy.

And yeah, consider buying the book ‘Conscious Capitalism’. I’ve no affiliation with it whatsoever, I just really enjoyed it. My apologies to the writers (yeah, like they’re reading this blog..) if I misrepresented any of its ideologies in my paraphrasing.

Until next time…


Bonus Content!

I saw this a few days later and had to add it 🙂

Star Wars: Battlefront (Beta). How is it?

It’s been some week for games news and I’d no shortage of choices for what to write about today. Far Cry Primal was annoucned, Star Citzen revealed a lot of news at Citizen Con last night, (including the fact that Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Andy Serkis and many others are acting for the single player story) and the Star Wars Battlefront Beta is in full swing. I decided to write on Battlefront in case it convinces anyone to give it a go tonight. It ends sometime tomorrow but it’s worth a look. 

The game launches on November 17th in North America, and a few days after that in different regions. That’s just over a month away and means that this “Beta” is not really a beta in the usual sense of the word. The game is 99.9% complete. This is more of a demo of a few modes while they stress test servers for a smoother launch. They’re not (particularly, even though they have a survey) asking for gameplay suggestions. Any major features are now set in stone. This means that anything people see and don’t like in the Beta is probably still going to be there in the €60 release. Warts and all.

First, a brief history of Battlefront (3) and what led to this newest iteration.

  • In 2002, Dice and EA (the same pair responsible for this game) released Battlefield 1942, and have continued that very popular series ever since, with Battlefield Hardline being the most recent release.
  • In 2004, Lucasarts, as they have always been wont to do, hopped on the latest game craze with a Star Wars version of Battlefield called Star Wars Battlefront (1). This was well received and Battlefront 2 came out in 2005, but there’s been no new entries since.
  • Now, in 2015, Dice and EA, the makers of BattleFIELD are releasing the newest BattleFRONT game, with the same name as the original. Just to be confusing.

I’ve played all games in question, and the new Battlefront stands apart from all those others. Sure it’s a large multiplayer shooter set in large levels with vehicular combat, but it very much has its own take on things, so anyone fearing that it was just going to be a Star Wars skin on Battlefield can set those particular fears to rest.

How Is It Different?


The biggest departure from any of those games is that vehicles are now not lying empty on the map waiting for a driver. You find power-ups on the map for all sorts of things, including vehicles. The spawn points are semi-random. When you get one you can activate it to spawn a vehicle at the edge of the map and you hop right into it. You can’t exit the vehicle and are basically in it until you die (which won’t likely be too long).

This is a bold new take on a core mechanic of the Battle-x games. It has pros and cons. On the plus side, the vehicles can’t be damaged or stolen by the enemy team before they’re in use. This is a huge benefit to gameplay. It would annoy me to see Stormtroopers owning the sky by flying all the TIE fighters AND Rebel X-Wings on the map. This keeps the balance better, which is a huge plus.

On the downside, if you actually want to play primarily as a pilot or tank driver, the new Battlefront does not have you covered. There’s no practice mode (at least in the Beta) and you can never deliberately get a vehicle if you want one. In my first ten games I probably only flew two ships and drove one AT-ST, and my familiarity and skill with them were nil, so I couldn’t even enjoy them before being destroyed. You have to play hours of the game (mostly as infantry) if you want to start getting good in vehicles.


 You are very dead!
You are very dead!

Battlefront 2 (and I think #1) did have the hero feature, but we haven’t seen it in the Battlefield series. In it, you would gain control of an overpowered hero or villain like a Jedi or Sith if you reached a certain kill streak or points goal. You then had a limited amount of time to control a hero character. The heroes given depended on the map and would fit the theme for that time setting in Star Wars history, so Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were never on the same map, but Luke and Vader were, or Anakin and Jango Fett were.

I’m not sure how careful Dice are being with that attention to detail. It’s a minor issue but fans have complained that on the Hoth level in the Beta, we see Luke from Return of the Jedi (so, a full Jedi with green lightsabre) fighting Vader, instead of a younger Luke in pilot or snow gear.

You also now get heroes the same way as vehicles, and they’re even more rare. I’ve played 7 hours and been a hero character twice, for about twenty seconds each time, and I still have no idea how to use their powers to good effect. Also, when they’re defeated, they just kneel down looking sad for a few seconds, then completely disappear in an instant. This is a very poor animation, as are many others on the heroes, and it seems that the game would be stronger without them at this point.

Iron Sights

It was reported earlier that there was no aim-down-sights feature to the game. There is now. Possibly it was added due to the unpopularity of that announcement. All guns seem to have the same sight (a low-zoom scope, with the sniper rifle’s zoom also being very low). Crouching also gives no aim or stability bonus, as it does in Battlefield. Jumping or running while shooting doesn’t seem to hurt the aim that much either, so this game is quite dumbed down (/made more accessible) in that regard.

No Single Player

The Battlefield games have mostly had story campaigns, or at least single player campaign modes. The two Battlefront games also had some single player options. The new game just seems to have a Survival mode which is a wave fighting mode that you can play solo or in co-op against AI bots. This is big negative for me. You can keep playing multiplayer matches forever if you like, but I like a game, particularly a €60 one, to also give me something to enjoy on my own with some narrative or strategy. I would have loved to see the Galactic Conquest mode from Battlefront 2 in here. Instead I’m basically looking at paying €60 to kill and die in equal measure for as much time as I like. It’s not always what I’m after, and I have plenty of other multiplayer shooters to go to if that’s what I want.

There is one other single-co-op mode but it’s not in the Beta.

Spectacle & Polish

The Walker Assault level of the Beta, set during the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, is one of the best levels/experiences I’ve ever come across in a game. Dice have absolutely nailed the sounds and visuals! The clunking walkers, the punchy lasers, the snow crunching, the graphical fidelity, and then the level design itself all serve to craft one of the most immersive Star Wars experiences anyone has ever had. If you’re still reading and the Beta is still on, please just load up the game and run around the battle for a few minutes. This has to be experienced! I don’t know if I’d pay €60 for it, but for free, go for it! 

The other two levels also look beautiful and all have interesting starship battles happening overhead as part of the scenery. The lengths they’ve gone to with immersion here are spectacular.

Frostbite Engine

There’s none of Dice’s trademark ‘levolution’ going on here, at least not in the Beta. The levels are pretty rigidly set up. And AT-ST in the Survival mode blew through a few boulders near me and I was actually surprised. It looked great, but the fact that I was surprised by environmental destruction happening in a Dice game shows that there’s not much of it going on here. Don’t expect falling skyscrapers or crumbling buildings. There may be more environmental destruction in other levels, but I thought they’d have shown it off a bit more in the beta if it was much of a feature.

No Server Browser

The game doesn’t let you choose where to play. You can form a party with friends, but you can’t choose your server, and this will probably annoy PC players in particular. However, I have to mention that from my desktop, I can launch the Beta, find a full Walker Assault server, and be on the ground shooting in literally under 1 minute. If the full game can accomplish close to those times, I don’t care about not having a server browser, and players would be far more likely to hop in for a few quick rounds. Loading times were some of the biggest obstacles to me returning to the Battlefield games after a few weeks.

More ‘Rule of Fun’

They’ve tried to make more of a game for everyone here. Opinions will vary on whether this is good or bad but I actually found myself enjoying the game more for the presence of certain unrealistic features, and I’d normally be a fan of realism.
For instance, there’s no friendly fire. Unrealistic? Sure. But it removes the ability for the inevitable assholes on your team to grief you too much. They also can’t steal your vehicles. I found myself less frustrated playing this than I have playing Battlefield games, which is a huge plus for me, even if the tactical considerations are lessened. A shooter with 40 people is not where I’ll go to get my tactical fix anyway, so for fun, this was a good move in my books.

They also put all your abilities on ‘star cards’ that you equip. You don’t automatically get grenades, but you can chose them as 1 of 3 possible power-ups. In here are also jetpacks, a one-round sniper rifle, other grenades, or a personal shield. You don’t carry grenade ammo, but instead they are on a simple cool-down before you can use another one. Your health also recharges fully moments after a firefight. This basically means that if you don’t die in a fight, you’ll have full health and ammo very shortly afterwards. This allows the game to keep flowing at a decent pace, I think. I’m in favour of it.

No Classes

All the other games had a character class that you choose from with your primary abilities. In the new Battlefront you’re basically all the assault character, but you can choose a variation on your primary weapon, and then choose 3 star cards to give yourself some level of customisation. This also serves to keep more people in the battle though and not hiding on the edges fulfilling repair or sniper roles. This does make for a better battle experience, even if it alienates some players who have a favourite class. There’s no medics or engineers here, and while they are mines, they are only available as random pick-ups on the map. You can’t plan for them.

No Revives, Quick Respawn

If you die, you die. There’s no bleed-out time, defibrillators or medic classes. You do respawn very quickly though, without a 30 second timer. Again, this keeps the game flowing, removes frustration and also stops the game getting stuck in situations where medics keep reviving somebody from around a corner. You can also spawn on your partner (you get only one, no squads) to get into the action sooner.
The levels are also well laid out and it never takes too long to find the action again.

No Map or Spotting

While you have a local radar to show objectives, team mates, and enemies who have fired recently, there is no larger level map. The Hoth map, and presumably others, are good at filtering you towards your goal, but early on I was confused as to where in the world I was at a given time. The ‘spot’ feature of recent Battlefield games is also not present. This is a simpler action game, and less of a strategic one.

Anyone familiar with Battle-x games will probably have realised that, while the core mechanic of shoot-the-enemy is still there, this game is quite different from its compatriots. For me, it’s pleasantly different, but not all will agree.

The Beta Itself

There are 3 modes you can play in the Beta.

Walker Assault

This is the 40-person Hoth level, and very addictive. The rounds are quick enough, the spectacle is amazing, and I kept going back for more, despite saying several times that “this” would be the last round. If this is representative of the game at large, I think this game might really have some legs. However, it’s very same-y. Apart from maybe missing out on playing a hero or vehicle, you’ve seen 95% of the gameplay after playing a couple of rounds on each side. There won’t be much variety and there’s not a lot of room for improvisation. It did keep me coming back, though, so what does that say?.. It’s addictive, anyway.

The only thing was that the Imperials nearly always win. It’s extremely difficult for the Rebels to destroy the 2 walkers in time. They have to hold an uplink station a fair while to start a Y-Wing strike. If they can do that, the Y-Wings only make the AT-AT “vulnerable”, and only for about 10-15 seconds. This window is your only chance to chip away at their (considerable) health. Snowspeeders (often the only way in a Star Wars game to take down an AT-AT, by tying up the legs) can for some reason only attempt the tow-cable manoeuvre during this vulnerable time. This is both non-canon, and extremely unbalanced in its current form. In my 7 hours of play, I only once saw the Rebels win, and I never saw a Snowspeeder successfully kill a Walker, though this may change as players become more used to the game and if the walkers’ health is adjusted by the developers. The walkers I saw die all died to blaster fire and grenades.

Drop Zone

I didn’t like this mode at all. Sixteen players fight with no vehicles in a volcanic, rocky map, over control of drop pods. It’s basically King of the Hill but each hill gets captured very quickly and then a new pod gets dropped. If you died at the pod, even with the instant respawn, I still never had time to run back and attempt to take it a second time before the timer was up. Also, on this map, the Empire team is at a clear disadvantage as their white armour makes them stick out like a sore thumb, while the rebels are harder to spot. The map is also very small with not much going on compared to Walker assault. I kept getting placed on teams that were outnumbered (like 8 vs 5 or 6) and there was no auto-balance. This inevitably meant that we lost every match 5-0 and it was no fun. Even if I was on the winning team, though, I wouldn’t think much of it.

The troubling thing is that if this is their 2nd-best multiplayer mode, then I don’t hold out much hope for the overall quality of the full game’s levels. Surely they’d only have put their better modes in the Beta?

Survival (Single or Co-op)

 Those TIE Fighters in the shot aren't actually part of the level. They stay way off in the background as part of a looping battle animation. They don't get this close.
Those TIE Fighters in the shot aren’t actually part of the level. They stay way off in the background as part of a looping battle animation. They don’t get this close.

In the Beta, my friends weren’t online and you can only play co-op with friends, it appeared, so I had to play solo in ‘normal’ difficulty (only difficulty in the Beta). The Beta was limited to 6 waves, each increasing in difficulty. The final game will have ten I think. Even so, I didn’t die once, and to have another player making those waves even easier would be no fun at all, I think. The AI bots animate well but they die very quickly, don’t often stick together, and provide very little challenge unless you’re swarmed. Even the AT-STs aren’t that hard to beat as you can easily escape them with your jet pack, recharge your health and powerful attacks, and then come back around the canyon behind them to take off another chunk of their health. 

The Full Game’s Other Modes


 Screenshot from the Beta multiplayer menu
Screenshot from the Beta multiplayer menu

There would appear to be seven multiplayer modes available in the full game. I said that I don’t think much of Drop Zone, but that Walker Assault is great! I believe Hoth isn’t the only level for this mode, because there’s also an Endor one in the trailer. I’m not sure if there are any more beyond that. Presumably with EA’s (almost) entire marketing push being focussed on Walker Assault, the other modes aren’t up to the same standards.

  • Supremacy: I believe this is like Conquest from many games. Your mileage may vary.
  • Blast: Don’t know.
  • Cargo: Don’t know.
  • Droid Run: I don’t know what this is but presumably is some sort of glorified escort mission. Hooray… no, wait.
  • Fighter Squadron. We’ve had a trailer for this. This seems to be the only mode that will satisfy those who were looking for some good Star Wars spaceship warfare, and even then it’s not in space (admittedly, planet surfaces are more interesting to look at than endless stars), and it’s not like the Space Levels of Battlefront 2, which featured ship-to-ship boarding, flagships, and smaller escort ships to be destroyed. Without playing this mode, I can’t guess how much fun it will or won’t be, but it is at least different. See the trailer below.

Single player (slash, co-op) only has 3 offerings; the aforementioned Survival, a Training Mode, and Battles. Training obviously won’t have much longevity in it, but I don’t know what Battles are. 

In Summary

The Battlefront Beta is definitely worth playing. The Walker Assault mode is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a game, despite countless Star Wars games of the past having taken a shot at it.

The beta has some graphical glitches that may or may not be cleaned up by launch, but which aren’t deal breakers either.

The game is definitely its own monster. Managing to find a gameplay spot that stands apart from both Battlefield and the original Battlefront games gives this new release some validity. The graphical and audio quality push this even further. But the gameplay is now 90% focussed around close-range infantry combat, with vehicles and heroes only presented as rare bonuses to shake up your experience, rather than being legitimate roles.

The game is obviously timed to maximise sales by releasing only a few weeks before Christmas and the release of Episode 7 in cinemas. I do think that it will do well for all of these reasons, but does it deserve to?

From what I’ve seen of the Beta, the game only has one noteworthy mode, which I think has only two levels (Hoth and Endor). I’ve had my fill of Hoth in less than 7 hours of play, and Endor will probably not even keep me interested that long, having already experienced the mode broadly.

While there are six other multiplayer modes, and two single/co-op modes, none of them have been well advertised so I’m presuming that they’re not particularly worth mentioning. I feel like I’ve seen the best that the game has to offer already for free. And that much wasn’t worth €60 to me, personally. 

I’ll definitely be waiting for reviews, and then probably sales, if I’m ever going to pick up this game. Still, though, it has its merits and I definitely think it’s worth a look. If you can get on the Beta tonight or if EA offer “Free Time” to play like they do with some other games, take advantage!

Until next time..

X-Wing’s spiritual successor is on Kickstarter?

STARFIGHTER INC. by Impeller Studios, is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign, with over $150,000 raised of its $250,000 target with 13 days to go. It’s billed as the spiritual successor to Lucasarts’ X-Wing PC games from the 1990s. David Wessman, a designer on each of the 4 X-Wing games is lead designer of a quite meritorious team who want to bring back the flare of the series.

The nineties were a great time for Lucasarts and for Star Wars. See my previous blog on the May 4th Star Wars game sales. You’ll see that most of my top recommended games were from the last millennium. Rebellion, Dark Forces series, Rogue Squadron and the X-Wing series made me proud to be a sci-fi fan and a gamer. The Star Wars novels were expanding the universe in (sometimes) interesting new directions. Lucasarts were even doing well with their non-Star Wars games like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. Everyone was eagerly looking forward to the new prequels (Episode 1 didn’t come out until 1999 and until then it was generally a very positive time). So it’s safe to say that the nostalgia-factor is strong with this one, and Impeller Studios are banking on that nostalgia to make their Kickstarter campaign a success.

My first ever game with my first ever PC was X-Wing, which came on 5 floppy discs. I believe it was 1994, I was 7, and I played the shit out of it! One of my favourite ever games is still X-Wing Alliance, which was sadly the last entry in the series, all the way back in 1999. The fact that the series stopped there has always been a huge regret for me and other gamers. Admittedly it was a good high-note to end on, but still. I’ve always wanted another one, and nothing has satisfied. 

Things are definitely changing for Star Wars since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in 2012, but I’m still not fully convinced that this will be good for Star Wars, or that it’ll produce the games we’ve all been craving. The entire Expanded Universe (books fiction) was the baby thrown out with the bathwater, the promising 1313 was cancelled, and so far we’ve seen 3 trailers for the new EA Battlefront game without 1 second of gameplay footage. I’m not passing judgement yet, just withholding it. I’ve been hurt before! At least the deal can’t turn out worse for Star Wars. Disney will either breathe new life into the horse, or just take over the flogging, but they can’t kill it again (1313 excluded).

What would sell me, personally, is if the movies are good and we get a new X-Wing (or Empire at War or Republic Commando) game. The free-to-play multiplayer-only Attack Squadrons was (thankfully) cancelled in Beta stage with the developers saying it was “so we can focus on other game experiences” (article here). There was hope that the other experiences mentioned might be an X-wing game, but one year later, and with Wessman working on Starfighter Inc. the chances of that are looking slimmer.

With Star Citizen’s success spurring on a rebirth for the space-sim genre, maybe we will still see an official Star Wars space game again, but for now it looks like X-Wing fans shouldn’t hold their breath. So, should they pin their hopes on Starfighter Inc?

 The Impeller Studios team.
The Impeller Studios team.

My problem is that while the later X-Wing games DID have multiplayer, the games were single player story experiences, with dramatic and varied missions through which you lived out your space hero fantasies. You didn’t get killed by better players every 30 seconds and respawn. That shatters the hero fantasy. X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter was the exception in the story-driven franchise but even its expansion pack had story content. Starfighter Inc. is just planned as a multiplayer game. I hate that! To me, that’ll be fun for a couple of hours, but be nowhere near the X-Wing experience that I’ve been craving, and I imagine many fans will agree with me. Impeller are banking on the good will and nostalgia of X-Wing fans to give this project its legs, but for me, one of the world’s largest X-Wing fans, they’re not successfully speaking to that nostalgia. They’re making just another space deathmatch game. I care little that Wessman is working on it if he’s not delivering the kind of game I know him for. I love Far Cry (kinda) and Crysis (1, only) but the fact that Jack Mamais is on the team doesn’t matter much to me either because this game isn’t a First Person Shooter!

I want the game that X-Wing should be 16 years on from X-Wing Alliance. That game had over 50 single player missions, ships with gun positions (like the Millennium Falcon), hyperspace trips in-mission, re-arming on capital ships in-mission, and boarding enemy ships. Kinda. You docked and then sat in the turret for x amount of time while you heard your commandos board the station and do the interesting stuff over the radio.

Starfighter Inc. has… well, all that, but except the missions. Its main selling points are the things X-Wing Alliance had 16 years ago, but without an interesting narrative context to put them in. Multiplayer matches and levelling up your ship can be great, but they’re a very different type of game. Wessman describes the game as “World of Tanks meets Counter-Strike in space”. Both of those games are multiplayer team games where you level up your stats, but they’re clearly trying to appeal to the nostalgia of X-Wing fans to carry them through, with Wessman also saying “this game is the next X-Wing”.

 X-Wing Alliance was the first game to let you fly the Millennium Falcon and fight the entire Battle of Endor, including the run inside the second Death Star!
X-Wing Alliance was the first game to let you fly the Millennium Falcon and fight the entire Battle of Endor, including the run inside the second Death Star!

Now, there is a single-player campaign stretch-goal to mention, but it’s the $10,500,000 goal. Right now it’s looking questionable whether they’ll reach their first goal of $250,000 so I doubt very much that this game will be “the next X-Wing”. It’s also using Newtonian physics. Popular nowadays, for sure, and more realistic, but X-Wing didn’t have this. In those games you flew like you were in an atmosphere and would get into turning battles with other craft. That was how the game felt to play. Newtonian physics completely changes the tactics of a dogfighting game in space because you can always turn to face your enemy, even if it means you’re suddenly flying relatively backwards. So it’s questionable if even the dogfighting part in the multiplayer will feel reminiscent of X-Wing at all.

To my eyes, this game is promising to deliver basically what the Arena Commander part of Star Citizen is already delivering, only much later. From their video, Starfighter Inc. looks to be extremely early in development. What I want from a spiritual X-Wing successor is a solid, dramatic, narrative-driven single player (or co-op) campaign game with big ships, little ships, and incredible set pieces. The first episode of Squadron 42 (Star Citizen’s single-player side) is supposedly going to be out late this year and will supposedly have about 20 hours of gameplay. I expect delays, but still, it’s much more likely to deliver the spiritual successor to X-Wing (well, Wing Commander if we’re going to get technical there) that I’ve wanted for 16 years than Starfighter Inc. is.

So, sorry Impeller Studios. I want to want this game. I really want it to be X-Wing’s spiritual successor. I also fully understand the decision to model your game on the hyper-successful World of Tanks and Counter-Strike, but I don’t think I want this. I’ll support for a small amount. I’d love to see you eventually put out single-player content, but I don’t feel that this game is X-Wing’s spiritual successor. I wish you luck with it. I’ll be sure to play it if it does succeed, and I hope it does. I think it’ll be fun and more quality space shooters are a good thing in a world that’s been starved of them, but without a single player campaign as the primary focus, I think you’re missing the mark with what X-Wing fans wanted. For me, at least, you are.