“We will just patch it in,” they say. Last year was not what some would call a good year for video games. The year brought critically acclaimed titles like the high-profile “Dragon Age Inquisition” and the independently-made Kickstarter “Shovel Knight.” However, last year was also a year of sloppy first impressions in the console game market.
The year 2014 was plagued with buggy launches and day-one patches. “Assassin’s Creed Unity” came under fire and mockery from players and multiple websites for its less than stellar launch. Complaints ranged from humorous glitches such as characters’ faces suddenly imploding, to the players literally falling through the world. The complaints got bad enough that the publisher, Ubisoft, had to apologize for the disastrous launch and give gamers a season pass for downloadable content.
The incident with “Assassin’s Creed Unity” was just one of many faulty launches this past year. “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” failed to get the online multiplayer aspect running, which was unusual because the online multiplayer is so popular with past Halo games. “Popular Mechanics Magazine” even named it one of the “Top 15 Events in the Past Decade of Gaming” back on Dec. 24, 2009. Thus, many people were less than thrilled when the Collection’s multiplayer failed to work properly on launch. Wired.com writer Bo Moore published the article “Microsoft Can’t Fix Its Halo: Master Chief Collection Fail,” on Dec. 24, 2014, highlighting problems such as failed matchmaking sessions and server issues.
The long-running puzzle game “Tetris” also suffered from glitches and bugs during the launch of its most recent version, “Tetris Ultimate.” The game has seen multiple iterations over the course of the last 34 years, including calculator versions, with almost no performance problems. Yet the most recent iteration could not maintain the same consistency.
All of these incidents demonstrate what seems to be an unfortunate growing trend in the video game industry, particularly with major publishers. Console games of this generation are possibly the most reliant on Internet connectivity, to the extent that most major releases can be bought and even pre-ordered in an online store.
Progressively, more games in this generation have incorporated online components into their designs. Even in single player games like the action RPG series “Dark Souls” have online features such as giving players the ability to leave hints for other players.
This constant presence of an online element also means that many games can slowly update their content without getting anywhere near the actual physical copies. As long as the player is connected to the Internet, they can receive updates at any time.
Unfortunately, publishers and developers seem to be relying on this particular fact as a crutch. Before video games gained access to the Internet, developers had to ensure that their games were polished before copies got shipped, due to there being no easy way for them to correct any potential mistakes.
However, because games can now be fixed directly post-release through the use of online patches, there is no longer as much of a priority on fixing the most gameplay-crippling bugs before release.
While this means that games otherwise seen as broken can be fixed over the course of a few months, gamers who expected to play new releases immediately will be left disappointed. Last year, a reoccurring piece of online advice in response to these frequently messy releases was not to buy the game on the day of its release.
Despite being advised not to, many gamers still buy games at launch, and publishers will be making money off of unfinished games. Consequently, they will see no need to change their practices. The real problem is that the games’ next generation possibly will suffer from the same faulty launches.
Gamers in the future will have to look hard before they purchase.
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