A Little Bit Of Polish Goes A Long Way

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The power of polish: How a concise, perfectly executed game with limited scope score well with critics and the average gamer.

Uncharted 4 has finally released and it is now lauded with many positive reviews (except for that one review on Metacritic) from critics and everyday gamers alike. Just look at the accolades poster they made for all the warm reception they are having.

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And they deserve it. While I have yet to touch the game (and trying hard to avoid spoilers) just from a few footage that was released as promotional material for both single player and multiplayer stuff, it is perfect. Not many critical flaws in gameplay were pointed out.

But then again, if you’ve played some of the previous games, you can see what essentially is a formulaic third-person action-adventure shooter with some platforming, set pieces and small  diversions here and there. It isn’t groundbreaking as say, Gears of War, that redefine how a cover system should work and the active reload system that added some dynamics to reloading a gun.

However, just look at the graphics and sound design. Look at how elegant the control feels. If played as how the developers intended, it just feels good.

That is the power of polish.

What Is Polish In Terms Of Video Games?

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Polishing a car

Polish is often used to describe video games nowadays and it offers no definite meaning. How do you strictly define a certain game or game mechanics to be “polished”?

But everyone could agree that when everything just works as intended, and produces moments where you feel the developers are two steps ahead of you from breaking the game immersion, then you can say it is polished.

While polished in terms of game mechanics will mostly due to a robust system, a polished structure can be attributed to pacing. Linear games have an advantage in this, as the developers have full control of what the sequences will be and in what order.

 

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Climbing up on a tower in Assassin’s Creed had an epic momnet the first few times. Now it’s just a chore if you played a lot of Ubisoft (and other open-world) games.

 

Open world games currently have this problem, their games feel like checklists of things to do but none of the tasks feel meaningful or integrated well into the whole game. Look at Ubisoft’s vast open world games that offer a similar set of generic activities. There’s always a tower you need to traverse/find that will unlock a section of the world map. Even in a racing game like The Crew!

And more importantly enough, polish will certainly turn people’s heads and prompt them to buy a game, even if they are a casual fan. Customers have a certain expectation on how a game, especially a current gen game have to look and feel. If it doesn’t look good enough and doesn’t offer something interesting to hook them on for long periods of time, then it isn’t worth buying.

How Overwatch Feels More Polished Than Battleborn

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Now that both games have run their open beta tests, can people distinguish these two games now?

For example, two hero FPS games that have been unfairly been compared (even by myself), Battleborn and Overwatch. Both plays differently yet we can clearly see the hype is more on Overwatch. After playing the open beta of both games, liking both of them, I can see why people gravitate to Blizzard’s new IP.

It’s fast, it’s easy to pick up. The shooting feels good. The gameplay loop encourages you to keep playing, even if you lost a few matches. There’s always a possible way for each hero to dominate if played correctly as the game is balanced with counter picks and mid-game hero-switching in mind. It doesn’t do a lot of things and most of them have been done before, but it feels… good. Basically, it feels polished.

Compared to Battleborn- and FPS-MOBA that borrows a lot of MOBA elements that can make the game feel a little clunky to the uninitiated. You have to make choices upon level-ups. Attacks don’t feel as powerful until you reach the later levels of your character. Combat feels slow because like MOBAs, it’s better to retreat than suffer a K.O. which will make enemies stronger as they level up with more experience. Too many mechanics upfront with gears and tower placements to even figure out synergies between characters. Unless you’re familiar with MOBAs in general, you’re going to be lost quickly.
Both are good games in my opinion, but you can see why more people love Overwatch. Also, the character designs of Overwatch are brilliant enough that fans are starting waifu wars. That’s a sign of success in my book.

Street Fighter V Wasn’t Polished, Sales Missed Target

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Street Fighter V is a great fighting game.. that could use a bit more polish. Competitive folks flock to it.. but casuals? Not so much.

Now that Capcom admits that the rushed Street Fighter V could have used a bit more polish for its initial release as it failed to reach its 2 million copy sold target (600,000 away), there’s a business incentive to keep certain games in the oven a bit longer.

While Street Fighter V is a solid fighting game that competitive players have gravitated to, resulting a huge influx of participants on this year’s EVO, the pinnacle of fighting game tournaments, it failed to capture and retain the casual crowd. There’s no arcade mode. The story mode currently is too barebones. Lots of missing features on launch. Is it limited in scope? Yes. But what is there isn’t what casual fans are looking for. They don’t want to get bodied hard by pro players online. They just want to fight with some AIs at their own pace with a decent difficulty, which was missing on launch.

Compared to Namco’s latest Pokken Tournament. A Wii U exclusive fighter that managed to outsold Street Fighter V in the US. A lot of features right off the bat, although Pokken also has a small roster like SFV. Additionally, Pokken has an in-game system to discourage rage-quitters whilst the biggest fighting game right now has only just patched one in in an update last month. So both casuals and hardcore fans had found something to love with that Pokemon fighting game.

Should Every Game Be “Polished”?

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The new Civilization VI screenshots may have garnered negative reactions to its art style- too simplistic like a mobile game- but can it ensure a healthy sales number by just focusing on getting the game mechanics fun and engaging? Who knows? Street Fighter V obviously failed.

With that in mind, if games are aiming to make it big in sales, a little bit of polish can woo in more people to just buy on the looks and feels alone. If you’re targeting a niche, say a 4X strategy game like Civilization and Stellaris, or an indie twin-stick shooter, make the gameplay strong and you will have the hardcore people your support, and that’s good enough. But a little bit of polish goes a long way to get more casual fans interested and throw money at a game.

 

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