Another one of my favourite games bites the dust. This is a prime example of how to alienate your community if I ever heard one.

Over the last four years, I’ve played over 500 hours of Escape from Tarkov. From the very beginning, I had a love/hate relationship with the game. I love it because it is probably the most realistic version of modern warfare that can be experienced in video game form today. Right now, nothing comes as close to firing a real gun as Tarkov does. But I hate the game too, not because it is designed to be very hard and at times incredibly frustrating to play, but because of the — for me — unrealistic expectations it makes on players' time commitments. That’s the reason why I stopped playing it about a year ago. I had plans to write about this problem I have with the game here on the blog, but never found the time to do it. But I might as well do it now, because something has come up recently that means I will probably never return to Escape from Tarkov ever again.

Tarkov is a game designed for players who play it at least two to three hours a day. That sounds nuts, but it is. It’s basically a game designed for full-time streamers. You can play it if you have less time than that, but you’ll be fighting a steep uphill battle against players who are better equipped than you every step of the way. You’d think this head start by players with more time on their hands would get alleviated somewhat by the fact that Tarkov wipes accounts about twice a year, meaning everybody will have to start from scratch. But that simply isn’t the case. Players who can put in more time will quickly outpace you with better gear, better weapons and better ammunition. And since Tarkov tends to wipe during the Christmas holiday and during summer vacation time, players who have an actual social life are always being punished. This has happened to me consistently over the last few years. By the time I get to join a new wipe, the no-life nerds will have had almost two weeks of non-stop play without sleep and I am once again left behind in the dust, trying to survive with shitty starter gear while the nerds already have all the good shit.

If you think I’m just whining, have a look at the amount of quests in the game and how involved they are. Getting an item called a Kappa container is considered by many to be the ultimate goal to reach during a wipe. This is estimated to take a good player 450 - 500 raids. With an average raid taking about 30 minutes, that means 250 hours of playtime. That’s over ten straight days of playing the game — every wipe! And you wouldn’t even have completed all the possible quests at that point… This is not a game designed for someone who has a life and a job, let alone a family. If it’s too much for me, someone who routinely plays games as part of my work, you’re probably targeting your game at the wrong audience. I feel this is a big reason why Escape from Tarkov will never hit mainstream appeal. Getting fed up with this constant Sisyphean feeling of always being behind on everything was what eventually made me stop playing the game. I realised it wasn’t good for my state of mind. And since I feel strongly that video games should be relaxing and an escape from the stresses of the world around us instead of becoming part of them, I decided to quit.

Unheard-of Greed

I had assumed I would be back to the game at some point, just because I do enjoy it a lot, despite all of its shortcomings. But that has become pretty unlikely. This is because Battlestate Games, the Russian development company behind the game, has recently shit the bed and fucked over its community to an hitherto unimaginable extend. You see, back in the day, I (and many other people) bought an optional $150 edition of the game to support its development. I do this sometimes to support projects I enjoy a lot. I previously funded Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter to the tune of £250, for example. Like the Elite developers, Battlestate Games promised me, and everyone else who bought the Edge of Darkness edition, that with this purchase all future DLCs and expansions of the game would be included. But two weeks ago they came out with a new $250 version of the game called the Unheard Edition that includes stuff that the game’s community has wanted for a long time but which Edge of Darkness owners wouldn’t get access to. If I wanted to enjoy these features, I would have to shell out another $150 to upgrade. And by that I mean upgrade to something that I was originally promised with my first $150 purchase!

The community was absolutely outraged by this. And for good reason. It doesn’t matter in the slightest that Battlestate Games has since recanted on almost all of this. The trust has been broken and it will take years for me to forgive them. If that is even possible. For me, it isn’t even about the money so much. I am simply extremely disappointed at how blatantly they tried to fuck me over. Did they think we wouldn’t notice? What the fuck. If the choice is for you to go bankrupt or pull a fast one like this on the people who believed in you and supported you in the past, then have a fucking backbone and go bankrupt. Jesus.

Suffice it to say I’m probably never going back to that game. They certainly won’t see another cent out of me. The last few years have been really disappointing when it comes to game studios that I had previously thought to be the last bastions of integrity in the industry. Frontier fucked up my beloved Elite with stupid gameplay decisions and pure neglect, Paradox has been limping from shitty release to shitty release, Bethesda is on a slow slide to mediocrity and Pillars of Eternity, another one of my absolute favourite games of the last decade, isn’t getting a second sequel because Obsidian Entertainment is focusing on an action-RPG take that I don’t have much faith in at all. And now this. Fuck it, I’ll spent more time on retro stuff. And on coding my own games.