The process of taking an idea and turning that into an actual working interactive experience is an immense undertaking. Years of man hours go into conceptualizing, executing, producing, and marketing a finished product. All of this in hopes of releasing the next big triple A title, and turning a profit. Sacrifices must be made to meet technical limitations, budget constraints, and release deadlines. Making a video game in this day and age has become easier through utilization of superior technology, but is also leaps and bounds harder due to lofty corporate and consumer expectations.
In the recent gaming world there seem to be quite a few examples of releases that flat out do not work at launch. Some exhibit issues more severe than others, but all in some way have managed to disappoint at least a part of their intended audience. Some launch with bugs that destroy single player campaign progres, others with multiplayer that is unplayable in any capacity. Many launch with physics glitches that are absolutely laughable, to a point that some websites cash in on weekly highlight videos dedicated to them!
All of these examples can be boiled down to a lack of time for testing and polishing the final builds. There is a silver lining to this dark cloud however. Most everyone with a current gen console has that device connected to the internet. This feature allows developers to fix or patch their games after release. Patching isn’t a perfect system, but it is a tool that can salvage a game’s reputation. Of course for those few who are not online or do not have sufficient download speeds, a broken game remains broken forever.
Many developers are now utilizing public betas to aid them in finding bugs and potential problems. These early, playable builds essentially turn the gaming public into testers by the thousands. Beta programs help weed out some of the early bugs, and allow for collection of vital online capacity statistics. There are increasingly more tools available to the game makers. The resource that seems to be shortest however is time.
No matter how many play tests are done, or dollars are spent, time will always be at a premium. Deadlines must be made to keep projects profitable and, in the end, this is the largest culprit in the release of a game that has problems. Some studios refrain from announcing release dates in order to ship a polished final product whenever it may be ready. Others however face strict deadlines and loathe delaying a product past it’s scheduled date. Part of the blame for this falls on the gamer. We hear a game delay announcement and we may get angry or lose interest altogether. This forces companies to err on the side of release, then patch, as opposed to delay and fix.
Non-working or incomplete games aren’t anything new to the last few generations by any means. Everyone had their trick to get their NES cartridges to work, and if you bought a game that had a fatal flaw, there was no patching system. Technology has come a long way since then, but it cannot be used as a crutch either. A broken game is simply a broken game and we as gamer’s should not settle for the current status quo of release then patch. Demand more from the large corporations. Vote with your dollars. Support small indie developers who are creating art with a fraction of the resources. Certainly pick up that next grand triple A release, but do your research and be vigilant.