Gaming has evolved an unfathomable amount in my life-time alone. I remember getting my first console – a Super Nintendo bundle – which came with Super Mario All Stars and Mario Kart. When I unboxed it I was beyond ecstatic. I no longer had to rely on visits to my grandparents to play their Nintendo, I had my very own Super Nintendo.
I spent countless hours across the different Mario Bros. games, doing everything from running behind the white wall in Super Mario Bros. 3 for the whistle, to battling Birdo over and over again throughout Super Mario Bros. 2. Games were different then. There was no lingering possibility of updates as what was released is what you got, and more often than not the game just worked.
Comparing the state of gaming now to what gaming was 20 years ago is a futile and pointless task. The evolution that’s occurred is almost beyond comprehension. Not only have games become evolving stories, designed to move the player into an alternate reality, but they also often provide choice and moral complexity that simply wasn’t available in the past.
The internet becoming a household necessity has had a huge effect on the video-game industry. It allows for downloadable content, patches and online play – it means that if something doesn’t work the way it should in a game, it can be fixed. If players have finished a vanilla game, it means the ability for fresh content to be added. Modern gaming revolves around the internet, and it’s just not something that’s easily compared to the Nintendo era.
With the evolution of gaming however, problems have surfaced. The amount of people it takes to develop a Triple-A title has increased hugely. Super Mario Bros. 3, for example, took two years to complete with a team just over 10 people, while The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim took Bethesda four years with a development team of more than 100 people – leaving the two barely comparable.
The introduction of patching games isn’t something entirely new, but more and more, purchasing a game upon release and placing it in your disc drive, you’ll be greeted with a Day One patch, usually consisting of several hot bug fixes. Developers are releasing arguably unfinished games in an attempt to meet deadlines, and patching them later (if at all). Should we as consumers be forgiving, taking into account that both the work involved and the cost to make a game is substantially higher than it previously was? Grand Theft Auto V, for instance, cost a rumoured $266 million. Should that matter?
Personally, I find nothing more disappointing than picking up a game on the day of release, suffering through the drive home, only to then have a ‘4.3GB Update Required’ greet me at the door. It’s already frustrating enough waiting for a game to install, but to have to wait for a patch to be downloaded and installed as well borders on insulting – especially if that title is fundamentally broken even after the day one patch (see Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Batman: Arkham Knight or Skyrim on PlayStation 3).
While I understand the work and money that goes into the creation of a game, it’s not beyond reasonable to expect a finished product when I hand over my $60 on the day of release. Patches are essential now, you have hundreds of thousands of people playing the game in their own way, errors will be encountered, but that’s what Alpha and Beta testing is for, to ensure you have a game ready to ship.
The fundamental issue with many modern titles is that they’re simply incomplete upon release. Gaming is moving to a point where a product isn’t finished before the game is shipped and developers are relying on hot fixes once the title is live to get everything in order. This leaves those without an internet connection, or a poor connection, battling to play a fully-functioning title.
I’m a big believer in patch updates – I think they’re essential to keep a good game good, for seasoned players and newcomers alike; but when those patches become a necessity to make the game functional, something isn’t right.
We live in a modern era and gaming is constantly changing – the introduction of virtual reality reflects that. Who knows where gaming will be tomorrow? All I want is to be able to install a game to my console, or download it to Steam and play. I don’t think it’s a huge ask – but if what developers are releasing these days is anything to go by, maybe it is.
What are your thoughts on the release of unfinished games? Is it something that gets under your skin the way it does mine, or are you a little more forgiving? If so, why? I’d love to discuss this further, so if you agree, disagree or have an opinion on the matter, let me know in the comment section below!