Episode 535 - The Vibes? Atrocious

Another round of layoffs has hit tech and gaming companies, the largest being Microsoft firing 10,000 employees this week. We discuss the cycles of yearly cuts in both games and tech and the underlying systems and practices that fuel the seemingly unending churn of labor being undervalued and peoples lives being upended. After the break, Rob’s disappointed to find that life on the high seas is a bit too monotonous in Sailing Era, we briefly tip our hats to the end of Stadia, and answer the question on everybody’s mind: does good steampunk exist?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://shows.acast.com/vicegamingsnewpodcast/episodes/episode-535-the-vibes-atrocious

Still stunned by how Microsoft has handled this Halo situation. I haven’t seen a marquee franchise so brutally left in the lurch since Konami decided to dump MGSV out clearly unfinished.

I’m not even a Halo guy, I used to play it in college a lot and wasn’t very good, but man, something that big and that important just ground into dust… stunning.

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Totally. Rob’s take on how they’ve treated it is as anything but a marquee was spot on. It ought to be the - pun somewhat intended - halo game for the Xbox, the kind of high budget, high polish production Sony regularly puts out where you go, “okay, even if that’s not for me, it’s clearly something made to a high level of quality and speaks well of the platform”.

(I also wish MGSV was finished)

taps the sign MGSV’s value as a text left disfigured by the same forces it was critiquing outstrips its value as the best stealth-action game ever made. For it to be complete would make it a lesser work than it is now.

(This is also why Metal Gear Survive is good.)

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I’m curious what the behind the scenes was like, but I do feel like that Microsoft HAS tried to treat Halo like a marquee. If it were purely a cash cow, they would fart out a new game every year with the knobs ever so slightly tweaked * cough cough COD * but they don’t. The entire Xbox one generation had what, a single original Halo game? Two if you count a pity port of Infinite?

I feel like post bungie (and arguably during bungie as they were clearly laying the foundation for Destiny) no one really knows what to do with Halo. Halo 3 came out two months before COD4 completely changed the shooter landscape and I don’t think they’ve ever really recovered. After that Halo became for Halo people instead of being the single biggest console FPS on the market. Senior year of high school into early college? Everyone who had a console played Halo. I wanted an Xbox just to play Halo. We would drag four Xboxes and three extra TVs to my friend’s house and wire that place up in a way that would make a fire safety inspector pass out so we could all play and make his parents absolutely hate us. After COD4 came out, the only people I knew of that group that still played Halo were the people who could tell you who the arbiter was and why he was important.

What do you even do to capture that moment again? If Halo succeeded on massive level because it became the casual shooter of choice, and casual shooters have moved past the Halo style of game, your options are limited. Live off of your diminishing returns, hope everyone decides they like that style of shooter again, or completely reinvent the wheel and hope to create another paradigm shift in the shooter. Halo has felt like they’re basically making minor tweaks and really hoping option number two plays out.

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I don’t think you’re wrong about any of that, but my counter would be I think Microsoft would ship a Halo game way more often if they could. But between never sticking the landing and so feeling pressure to reinvent it between every game (Halo 5 trying to go all in on four player co-op and faster traversal stuff, then Infinite walking all that back and trying to be a spiritual remake of CE) and their inability to ship just about any games - not limited to Halo sequels - it ends up in a weird space where they’re simultaneously rare releases and yet have little of the polish you’d expect of a marquee.

To be clear I’m not suggesting I want to see an annual release like a CoD or Assassin’s Creed, but Microsoft is so massive it’s baffling their only regular release is Forza. It’s totally wild that they’ve let Infinite’s multiplayer stagnate for an entire year, barely got Forge and campaign co-op out the door, and gutted 343! You’d think they’d have been throwing money and people at the problem if they wanted to right the ship on a marquee they valued.

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Just would like to point out that just because some places are not letting people go does not mean they aren’t finding ways to get people to leave. I have definitely worked at places where it was clear that management realized it was better to make working there so demoralizing by cutting bonuses, eliminating raises/promotions, reworking of benefits, etc that people would leave voluntarily so that they didn’t have to pay any severance or unemployment. As an example what has Ubisoft leadership actually done to correct their toxic work environment or are they ignoring it because it’s helping to reduce overall operation costs by getting people to leave?

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