Thursday, April 2, 2015

LEGO Hobbit and the Dangerous Trend in Games

Getting a LEGO game based off your franchise is almost a requisite for certain big titles. So it came as no surprise that with the success of LEGO: The Lord Of The Rings, LEGO: The Hobbit was bound to follow.

The game released at an unusual time, right after the second film, and with no subtitles indicating it was based only on specific films (like LEGO: Harry Potter - Years 1-4). I even purchased it with concern it would spoil the last film for me, which was still many months away. I figured I could easily just stop playing after the battle with Smaug, and save the rest of the game for after the movie came out. It was a good plan, in theory.

The gameplay itself is quite similar to every other LEGO game. You explore the world, build sets, collect extra characters and quests. There’s the similar aspects as well how in order to gain 100% you have to go back through the game and play with the new characters you have unlocked. It was fantastic to go back into levels like Rivendell and Dale and fully explore them in depth. The typical LEGO humor was there, and it used the rare act of giving the LEGO characters voices with movie dialogue. The voices did feel rather awkward since, much like the Sims, their lack of regular conversation is rather endearing.

Then came the infamous “I am fire. I am death.” line. I figured I’d save after this and then I can- wait...

Credits? The Credits are rolling? The game is over?
And that is where the game ends. So of course I went on a spree online to find out what had happened. That’s when I found a press release from April where it was stated that Battle of Five Armies would come as DLC. That struck me as a very odd decision, but I had figured if they wanted to strike while the Hobbit fandom was hot, then that probably was a good plan. So i set it aside and waited for the DLC...

And waited...

And waited...

I scoured the internet to discover nothing but other LEGO Hobbit fans like me begging for answers. All inquiring for a release date, or even just confirmation that it was coming, but WB stayed silent. Questions from fans who had already made the financial commitment to this game went purposely ignored. “The Battle of the Five Armies” film came out and still no word. Finally this March we got our answer in a statement to Gamespot:

“The game provides an excellent set-up for the concluding chapter of Peter Jackson’s film, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. There are no plans to develop DLC based on the final film of the trilogy.”

A year of avoiding fans, ignoring questions, and refusing to acknowledge their previous statements lead us to there’s no plans to even develop it. They had not even started on it and have decided to not pursue it at all. This is infuriating and a huge slap in the face to fans. No one wants to pay $50-$60 for 2/3 of a game. Imagine if you played Skyrim for credits to roll after you reached High Hrothgar. Or if when you played Borderlands the credits rolled after arriving in Opportunity. Or if when you played say... Assassin’s Creed Unity... and you know... there simply weren’t faces.

Jesus Christ, Why?

Ok, so that last one actually happened. The fact that this decision about LEGO Hobbit has happened, and that we are supposed to accept it, says something very dangerous about the gaming industry right now. It says that the social contract that we give them our money and we receive a complete game is no longer valid. Not just with LEGO and Assassin’s Creed, many games are rolling out not fully bug checked, with DLC that does come out for long after it’s initial release, or simply not at all. We as gamers are a lovable obsessed lot. We will buy games. Especially games from franchises we love. We have become that teacher that never actually reads the essays, and the gaming industry has become the student who turns in a paper that says ‘turd’ for five pages because they know we won’t read it.
We should not be expected to simply accept that LEGO Hobbit will never be complete and that many people were charged full price for a 2/3 game. We should not be expected to allow gaming companies to lose their ambition to please us and produce, quite frankly, crap. The gaming industry needs to be held accountable for their lackadaisical approach to producing games now, and they need to be brought back into the social contract that we will only pay for games that are complete and ready for consumption.

Ellie Collins is an author, cosplayer and podcaster.
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