News Article

Reaction: Criterion's Setting an Example to All Vita Developers

Posted by Sammy Barker

Doing it properly

Criterion’s enthusiasm is infectious. “We’re going to make the best racing game on Vita this year,” an excitable Alex Ward told IGN last week. And judging from the reaction to Need for Speed: Most Wanted's first showing, it’s going to take some beating.

Unlike the vast majority of other developers, the Guildford-based studio has opted to build the open-world racer in-house. “It would’ve been really easy to do Vita out of house,” he said in the same IGN interview. “But when I saw the specs for the Vita, I knew we had to do it.”

And what an impact that uplifting attitude has made on the game. Need for Speed: Most Wanted may be an identical port of the PS3 title, but what it’s achieving on Vita hardware is nothing short of staggering. Factor in cross-save compatibility, and it makes for an undeniably compelling proposition.

Contrast that enthusiasm to the savage critical reception received by Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and it raises an interesting question about Vita development itself: why aren’t more studios following Criterion’s lead?

Publishers may argue that the platform’s limited install base may not warrant significant investment, but it’s hard to imagine EA is spending much more money on bringing Need for Speed: Most Wanted to Vita than Activision is on building Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified from scratch. Indeed, developer Nihilistic Software’s fees probably far outweigh the finances being injected into Criterion Software to handle the ambitious port.

There’s no doubt that tailored content is infinitely preferable to more of the same, but if Activision didn’t want to splash the cash on developing Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified properly then it should have examined other means. A direct port of the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 with various cross-platform mechanics would have been much more enticing than the half-hearted effort it seems we’re going to get.

Spewing venom at developer Nihilistic Software is a fruitless exercise – we very much doubt that the Californian outfit intends to make lacklustre products. The studio’s questionable resume is probably more a consequence of limited resources than a genuine lack of talent. After all, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified will be the developer’s second first-person shooter in the span of six months. By contrast, Treyarch has had two years to put together Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

But that statistic highlights the precise problem with Vita development in the first place. Why bother releasing a game if it appears that you’re going to treat it with such little care? Would it really have cost Activision that much money to port the Call of Duty engine to Vita and build the game properly?

Criterion’s showing other developers how it should be done. Need for Speed: Most Wanted on Vita is unlikely to set the sales charts alight, but it still looks certain to provide a valuable alternative option to early adopters of Sony’s latest handheld. Unless there’s a dramatic last minute turn around, it’s unlikely that Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified will do the same. And that’s a real shame.

Are you going to purchase Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified? What do you think about the current state of Vita development? Let us know in the comments section below.

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User Comments (13)



Sanquine said:

This is making me kinda sad. As a early adopter and a owner of 2 vita's .i hate that developers do not want to spend on money on developing a good vita game. The potential is there > Tear away , Uncharted golden abyss , Little big planet Vita , Soul sacrafice , killzone mercenary All look great and you see that developers do their utmost best to deliver us a superb experience. I hate developers like nihilistic software.. I expected that resistance BS would be something like Resistance fall of men , but i was wrong:( The game was average and the multiplayer was good ( not awesome) but i expected something like Resistance fall of men ..



shinobi88 said:

I have so much to talk about this subject that I wish PS Push would let me write my own article on it. Gamescom COMPLETELY changed the Vita. Let me 'splain.

When Vita was 1st on the market, there were NO major developers working on it. Uncharted wasn't being developed by Naughty Dog, Resistance wasn't being developed by Insomniac (who also said they wouldn't work on ANY Vita games), Killzone wasn't being developed by Guerrila, and LBP wasn't being developed by Media Molecule. It looked like weak spin-off city.

And you can see the mixed results that come from having second-tier developers working on games. Uncharted LOOKED like a PS3 Uncharted, but it didn't play like a PS3 Uncharted. It was missing some epic set pieces and a thrilling story. Resistance wasn't especially good and Call of Duty (by the same Resistance devs) was so unimpressive graphically that Sony was embarassed to show it at E3.

But around comes Gamescom, and oh, how the tides have turned. Guerilla Games absorbed the company making Killzone Vita, so now Guerilla is in charge of developing the game, and it looks AMAZING. Media Molecule is developing a BRAND NEW IP for Vita, plus TWO quality second-tier companies are combining to make LBP Vita look authentic. Insomniac, who SWORE they wouldn't mess with Vita, are now developing Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, which is coming to Vita.

The biggest thing to me, was that Need for Speed Most Wanted is proving that you can port a full, open-world PS3 game to Vita without cutting corners. What that means is that the sky is the limit for getting console-quality games on Vita. To top it all off, Sony instituted cross-buy, meaning free Vita games for any PS3 owner. If Sony can get 3rd party devs, like Criterion, to buy into the cross-buy program, there is NO reason that a PS3 owner wouldn't get a Vita. Free freakin games! And someone like myself, who doesn't own a PS3, well...I get to play current gen console games on a handheld. Doesn't get any cooler

Not that a second-tier company can't make a quality original game when given the proper resources. AC III: Liberation is looking like Vita GOTY. They're using the same technique as the Uncharted devs, stealing the game engine from their console big brothers. So technically, these games, though they feature original stories and scenarios, could loosely be considered PS3 ports. Hmmm, maybe "add-on content" would be a better word



Squiggle55 said:

This is good news. It makes me sad when developers abruptly say, "we aren't going to develop for that system" or "we don't develop for that" even though the system is brand new. I know it's all about resources and money, but Insomniac says that and it ruined Resistance. Then Activision outsources Call of Duty to the lowest bidder or something. At least now Insomniac worked with someone to get an identical version of their next game on the Vita with cross-play, and then there's this story about Criterion, and Guerrilla Games with Killzone. So it's not all bad news anymore.

I'm not mad at Nihilistic about Call of Duty by any means. Surely they're doing their best. I'm mad at Activision and quality publishers and developers outsourcing beloved franchises to developers with less resources or talent. It's just frustrating for fans to have to watch a company like Activision make such a cold business decision like this. But it is what it is. If we want quality from companies like Activision there has to be more sales of the hardware.



shinobi88 said:

This was said in a pre-gamescom Pushsquare article: "Never has a third-party title been so important to a platform’s prospects, and it’s paramount that the first-person spin-off (Call of Duty Vita) makes a positive initial impression." ...guess Vita is screwed

Oh, and Sonic Racing Transformed will easily be the best racing game on Vita. No doubts Need for Speed will be 2nd tho



ShogunRok said:

This is the kind of thing Vita needs, developers willing to go the extra mile and put a damn good game on the system. Of course, the problem at the minute is that it's a risk for a developer to do so. With the Vita's poor sales they can't guarantee their games sales will cover their development cost... clearly Activision don't think the Vita is going anywhere either, otherwise CoD wouldn't look like it does.



moomoo said:

I don't know about you guys, but COD: Declassified looks to use the same annimations and crappy gunsounds present in Resistance: BS. Activision doesn't seem to be throwing much money at all towards Nihilistic. Thus, the way Activision is doing things is sound, at least in that it's impossible that they won't make money on it.

Just for the record, there's nothing wrong with having PS3 games on the go, but if all 3rd parties do is put ports of PS3 games on the system, it essentially strips the Vita of any identity. That doesn't seem like a very good thing to me. People buy hardware for unique experiences, not for stuff you can experience on something else.



Sanquine said:

@moomoo Fast cash grab! Delete the chimera screams when they die. Give them some new skins with human faces , copy paste the maps from black ops and voila there is Declassified



stealth said:

they arent even making a new vita game so how can this be the example?

its the example of WHAT NOT TO DO



get2sammyb said:

@stealth Because, as I stated in the article, if publishers are uncertain about the platform, I'd rather take a high quality port (that suits the platform) rather than a lazy spin-off.



shinobi88 said:

If you head over to Metacritic, and look at the top 100 games from any system you choose, you'll find that 85% of the games come after the system has been on the market for a year. Simple equation that with each new game a dev develops for a system, they improve their graphics engine and find ways to squeeze more space out of the disk for a larger experience. This should hold true for the Vita, starting in January 2013...supposing it survives that long.

GOOD NEWS EVERYONE: I stay in contact with an up and coming dev who I have good confidence in by the name of Hugo Smits, lead programmer for Goodbye Galaxy Games. He specializes in retro-styled games. Formerly, he has developed games only for Nintendo DSiWare, games like Flipper 1 & 2 & Ace Mathitician, all of which received good, if not overly spectacular reviews. He just informed me that he is far along in development on an old-school 1st person shooter for PS Mobile! He's been planning this FPS for years, as it's always been his dream game, and his most recent plans were to release it on 3DSWare. Guess Sony found ways to convince him to come to our side of the force



shinobi88 said:

Also, I'm in the process of trying to convince Jools Watsham to join PS Mobile. For those that don't know, Jools is head of Renegade Kid. And when it comes to downloadable games, he is soon to be a LEGEND. He has only developed two games for 3DSWare, Mutant Mudds and Bomb Monkey, but they've been met with RAVE reviews. He doesn't mess around when he makes a game, I'm talking Mega Man 2 quality soundtrack on Mutant Mudds. He's got a lot of stuff in development, like Mutant Mudds 2, which would be very close to the top, if not THE top downloadable game I'm looking forward to. I asked him if he'd get involved with PS Mobile on Twitter and he responded "Maybe. I don't know much about it. Sounds cool tho. Do you work for Sony? " You'd be wise to also show support for Jools on his blog or Twitter



BlueProxy said:

Agree with what your saying. At the same time, a big problem is that on the flip side, great games push hardware sales. That means that devs and companies have to make some upfront investment to help the situation too. Spend money to make it.

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