5 Great Games Destined for Mediocrity before Updates

Some games were born great. These games were made great after an update.

Some games are born great. Some games are born half baked. A huge number of games are born good, or above average and stay that way. Some games… mature through a process of love and dedication.

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There are a certain group of magical games that become great because someone loves them enough to help them actualize. Ste covered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Game Design and that for many people is the blueprint for a good game. One of the things you will find about this Good to Great series is that these titles fit (mostly) in that realm of gameplay. These are games that had a nugget of awesome, but just needed a bit of polishing by someone who loved them so we could see it.

Morrowind

Morrowind, though often revered by grizzled veterans of the Elder Scrolls series was not without serious flaws. Morrowind launched with no way to track active quests. The game had game breaking bugs and for many the game just ceased to be interesting 3/4 of the way through.

With the Tribunal and Bloodmoon expansions, bug fixes and mods the legs of Morrowind have become insanely long. Through a winding path of updates much of the game has been improved. Tribunal, though the story may have been linear and isolated from the larger world of Morrowind, introduced a journal system which allowed you to set status of quests separately. This alone was huge. Bloodmoon reintroduced werewolves which have become a perennial favorite in the series.

Beyond the expansions, the Addon scene adds high rez textures and a cornucopia of additions to make Morrowind a tailored, fun experience.

Mediocrity to Great Game Score: 8/10 – A fan favorite only got better with a few key additions, and its longevity has been expanded too.

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance

Supreme Commander is a solid game. Vast quantities of military units are flung into the maw of conflict as fast you can build them. This is not the Blizzard RTS style that slowly moved to hero units, this is old school RTS where each unit is a cog in the wheel of a machine of annihilation. However, you don’t realize just how much better Supreme Commander could have been until you play Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance.

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance brought in engine improvements, improved graphics, improved UI, better pathfinding, the Seraphim and a certain “something” that is hard to place your finger on which just made the game feel right. It was just the tweak the game needed to propel it into specialness.

Mediocrity to Great Game Score: 9/10 – It is hard to explain, but the expansion was near perfect while the base game was just good.

Civilization 5

Civilization 5 released to generally good reviews, but for diehards of the game some of the changes had just gone to far. The single unit per tile limitation rubbed many people the wrong way and the lack of certain victory types, such as cultural, really made it feel like the soul of the game had changed.

Civilization 5: Brave New World reintroduced cultural victories, majorly amped up trading and upgraded diplomacy. In many ways Civilization 5 is the game we wished it was at launch. The end game is vastly improved and the variety of win conditions is expanded into far more interesting non-military avenues.

Mediocrity to Great Game Score: 9/10 – The game is now complete. It is time to replay Civilization V.

Sim City 4

Sim City 4 launched with the ability to create massive, sprawling, multi-region cities capable of blowing the mind of even ardent fans of the series. Sim City 4 was complicated, obtuse at times… but loads of fun. The tough part was that at the highest level of play–the game became unpredictable and lacked visibility into the underlying reasons (primarily traffic) of why your city was going to hell in a handbasket.

Maxis released some fine upgrades such as the Lot Editor (LE) which allowed for reworking existing assets, and eventually the truly useful Building Architect Tool (BAT) so that players could create their own content. They also introduced new Landmarks and the Terrain Generator if you wanted to create a city modeled after the real world. However, the real shine was applied to Sim City 4 with third party content.

There are untold volumes of riches in the Sim City 4 third party content space. You can find all types of city decoration, city types, time periods, regional flare, etc. The Network Addon Mod (NAM) is also essentially a requirement if you want to fill the map, which is often a goal of Sim City players at some point in their gameplay.

Mediocrity to Great Game Score: 10/10 – Sim City 4 is the poster child of how third party content can be the fountain of youth for a video game.

Minecraft

You can’t go ten feet when discussing a game that has gotten better over time without bringing up Minecraft. In early Alpha, Minecraft had the seeds of greatness and many people saw those seeds–but it was not yet the powerhouse we know today. The 2009 era alpha lacked a lot of what was needed. When Minecraft entered Beta in December of 2010, it really took off. More devs, more blocks, more content and lots of interaction with the players has led to a gem of game that is unique and amazingly addictive.

However, Minecraft cannot be discussed without acknowledging mods. Mod support has never been built in, or made as easy and transparent as some would like, but it has been helped by groups such as Bukkit and others. The end result is an eco system of add ons and additions to the core game that allow players of all types to use Minecraft more as a base engine than as a complete game. The reality is that once you start modding, Minecraft becomes an entirely new game.

Mediocrity to Great Game Score: 10/10Minecraft is a sandbox and a meta sandbox. It has both a game and space to make other games. That is a rare feat.

Wrapping it Up

A lot of games are improved by their updates, expansions and third party content. The games I listed above reached a whole new level of quality with a bit of extra attention. Do you have a good to great game in mind?


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Author
Stephen Johnston
Stephen is the founder of GameSkinny.com and GuildLaunch.com. A life-long gamer who enjoys RTSs, MMOs, RPGs, City Builders, 4x games and FPSs on easy mode. He also enjoys introducing his children to the wonderful world of gaming.