So… this is in direct response to this article on Wired.com “every game should let you cross-save“
I’m sorry, but no, thanks. I believe, cross-saves can be detrimental to the game experience. Let me explain.
A big part of the fun of console games is the challenge of certain achievements. Playstation and XBOX even have Trophies and Achievements players can unlock for, say, beating the a shooter on hard difficulty or collecting a number of cars in a racing game.
The issue is, PC isn’t a closed platform like these consoles. On PC, these achievements aren’t “worth” much. What’s the point of an achievement where you need to have 50 cars in your garage if you can just open up your savegame in a text editor to add 49 cars?
On PC, it’s been like this for a long time. People can still have fun with these games, but I think the sense of achievement is gone. It just feels better if I’ve earned those 50 cars.
Now one could say that I can still earn these 50 cars on PC and I don’t have to cheat. But it’s not the same because if I compare myself to other players, it just doesn’t feel like much of an achievement, knowing that everyone else could have cheated. It feels like a waste of time. The sense of achievement and pride is gone.
Even though I originally bought No Man’s Sky on PC when it came out, it felt more like a tech demo to me. Later, when the game was released on XBOX, I played more than I did originally on PC. Of course, in the meantime, the game was updated with additional content, but there was something else. It felt like the achievements the game offered were the result of genuine exploration and player creativity to maximize progression efficiently. Until cross-progression became a thing and ruined it.
Now, No Man’s Sky players from PC and XBOX can play in the same Universe. This means I could just use a save editor on my PC version to give me essentially infinite resources and give them to my XBOX self.
Cross-progression in combination with the game’s mostly “offline” user-data has turned the game from a challenging exploration wonderland into a bland hacker hellscape, reduced to numbers in a spreadsheet. Even if I don’t directly participate in the cheating activities, I might encounter players who will and the achievements just don’t feel like achievements anymore.
I don’t have a problem with “offline” save data. Regarding game preservation, I prefer if as much of the progression as possible to be tied one the local player’s console or their account instead of a game server that will be taken offline after a few years.
But Microsoft and Sony have done a really good job in the past locking down their ecosystems to give users a great experience and shield them from cheaters and uncontrolled out-of-ecosystem behavior. It’s not perfect, but it’s far from the PC experience.
Sometimes I’ll even get a game for free on Steam but I won’t play it much. I’ll rather get the same game on console and play it there because it’s a more guided, guarded experience that gives me a sense of achievement and exploration.
PC gamers (and I do play games on PC sometimes) might now say that I am a victim of late stage capitalism, enjoying my golden cage.
Yes, I love it.
At least let me choose and make achievement lists separate.
I wish, Microsoft wouldn’t keep pushing for cross-progression like they do and I’m considering switching to PlayStation because of it (it’s also about general cheaters in multiplayer games that stem from the ability to cross-play.) Sony seems to be more guarded about “invasion” into the ecosystem, but they’ve also opened up in the last years. The remaining stronghold is Nintendo, guarding their ecosystem for the most part (without actual unlockable achievements, unfortunately).
I don’t have a problem with games being also available on PC (even Sony has recently released a bunch of their former PlayStation exclusive games on Steam). But the Playstation console ecosystem is walled off for the most part whereas XBOX is more and more pushing towards the idea of XBOX not being a console but an ecosystem that lives beyond the XBOX consoles.
This means that just a few of days after Starfield was released on XBOX and PC Game Pass, there were mods that not only allowed players to skip progression and level up faster, but also mods that enabled the unlocking of achievements regardless of the player using these mods or not.
I love Starfield. I love the exploration and tinkering with game mechanics. But the challenge is now gone. I’m not really striving for the Achievement to reach level 100 anymore, but I would if it was an XBOX exclusive achievement list. The fact that the PC achievement list is the same has ruined it for me. What’s the point of optimizing the way I build my galactic empire in multiple play-throughs if I could just install a bunch of mods instead? It just feels… different.
In a way, Microsoft, by opening up XBOX to hackers, is un-doing the original idea of Achievements they have invented when the XBOX 360 came out. It was the main reason I have played games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on console.
I played Oblivion at 480p (It ran faster and could sometimes hit 60fps if the 360 was set to SD instead of HD output because it actually reduced the size of the internal frame buffer instead of just downsampling) instead of the 1280×1024 or whatever my PC could do at the time. I even have the PC collector’s edition of Oblivion for PC, but ended up seeing it as some sort of a benchmark while XBOX360 one is the “true” version to me. To be fair, I also preferred the refined gamepad controls over the clunky PC menus that were designed for XBOX controllers but could only be used with keyboard/mouse on PC.
Yes, this means I also prefer “vanilla” games without mods. It doesn’t mean I don’t like modding (I used to mod games a lot). But it’s more of a “messing around” type thing. It’s like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Game designers need the ability to define a definitive way to give players the challenge that they envision. They need to give players a sense of achievement and a curated and protected console ecosystem allows that.
I wish microsoft would have done it like with their older first-party games like Doom Eternal (which was technically developed before the Bethesda acquisition.) There is one achievement list on XBOX that is “real” and one for cheaters on PC that might not mean much. In Doom Eternal, there is no cross-progression so beating the game on XBOX meant something while beating it on PC might mean that someone has just edited a text file or used a “trainer”. What’s the point?
So about Cyberpunk 2077 and this article by Boone Ashworth I mentioned above:
I have it in my XBOX shelf and now that 2.0 is out I’m looking forward to playing the heck out of this game, challenging myself and exploring Night City.
If CD Projekt Red would suddenly add cross-progression between XBOX and their very hackable gog.com version, I might lose interest. I might still play it and poke around in Night City, but I wouldn’t have the same motivation to really beat it.