I recently bought a present for a relative, from a fairly obscure website. It was clear that the companies heart was not in the whole website thing, and I suspect it was designed a decade ago. Lets put it this way. It used frames…
It was pretty clear that the nature of what they sell made it a poor mix for modern internet geek. However, they realised they needed a website and this was it. There was an online catalog, of sorts, but many of the links were broken. Worst of all, they had no prices next to items, just price codes. You had to go to a seperate page to lookup the price of an item. Plus (and here it gets laughable) there was no shopping basket. If you wanted to buy stuff, you would have to write down the codes somewhere, and then manually enter them in a form on the order page. And there was no running total, or way to calculate the cost. You had to add up the cost yourself, and submit your credit card details in a (secure) form. Lucky dip as to whether the final cost was as you suspected. No mention of shipping costs or tax, thats a happy surprise on your bank statement too. Did I mention no confirmation email or notice of shipping?
The world has moved on. Websites like amazon exist. If you sell online, you are competing with amazon. I don’t care if you don’t have the budget, the customer likely doesn’t care either.
The same is true in games. I just added the campaign map ability to zoom in. I thought it was needed. But thats not enough. Obviously if you can zoom, you can scroll, but how? using the arrow keys? yup, what about WSAD? yup, how about moving the mouse to do edgescrolling? yup. how about click and drag panning? yup, how about varying scroll-speed based on zoom level to maintain a smooth feel? Every new triple-A game will add new features and expectations, and they trickle down to everyone. I feel like my games look cheap without smooth multi-threaded animating loading screens. I wish my games showed up in the windows game explorer like the big ones do… there are extra things being added all the time that people expect. Look at the Civ IV map versus Civ I, or the new total wars versus the first one.
Ultimately, you have to keep up, even if that means scaling back your expectations. A small, contained, polished game is better than a big sprawling but amateurish mess. I make this mistake myself. GSB is likely too ambitious a game for positech and I know it. I can barely keep up. The level of polish and features for the initial release of the game was too low. It’s way better now (37 updates later), but there is still room for improvement.
Everyone knows the bar keeps getting higher. But the worse news is, it’s tough luck. You still need to at least be reaching for that bar.