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Developers, stop releasing buggy games

Submitted by on Tuesday, 16 February 201010 Comments

It seems to be the case that the more powerful consoles are becoming, the rarer it is that we can just pick up and play a game. Instead, our time is being spent downloading and installing patches to rectify bugs which should have been resolved prior to release.

It begs the question: has the ability to release downloadable updates led to developers becoming more complacent than in previous generations regarding the bugs in their games?

One of the most recent high profile examples of a game with its fair share of issues is Bayonetta. The PS3 version of the game was handled by SEGA rather than lead developers Platinum Games, and it’s received notoriety for having questionable frame rates and terrible loading times. The graphical issues may still remain, but SEGA have managed to resolve much of the loading times through a patch which allows the game to be pre-installed onto the hard drive. It’s likely SEGA were pressured to have the game ready for a simultaneous release alongside the Xbox 360 version whether it was ready or not.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 may have been the most successful game of 2009, but it’s clear its phenomenal success is not down to it being a stable and reliable game. Upon release it was apparent there were issues with its trophies; Infinity Ward was quick to rectify this problem through a patch but unwittingly the update managed to stop players from connecting to the network, meaning another update was necessary. When you’ve been psyched up about a game for months, the last thing you want to do is spend time downloading and installing another patch.

Things didn’t exactly improve after release with yet more problems coming to light; the most talked about was the javelin glitch which basically allowed players to cheat by turning their characters into suicide bombers to take out all surrounding enemies. Soon we will be receiving update version 1.08 and it’s only been a few months since it was released.

If you've ever been on the receiving end of the javelin glitch, you'd be upset too.

Neither was the biggest title of 2008 Grand Theft Auto IV without problems:  Rockstar had to release a patch to sort our random hangs on the multiplayer. GTA IV has never been especially celebrated for its multiplayer, but I can’t help but wonder how many people were put off trying it because of the bugs present during the early days.

It seems even demos aren’t safe territory if SEGA having to pull the recent AvP demo is anything to go by. Gamers are currently being asked to download and install the demo for a second time because the first one was essentially broken.

I know it sounds like I’m looking to the past with rose-tinted spectacles, but I don’t believe games used to be this buggy. Sure, we could all state some excellent examples of glitchy games from the past, but surely one sign of progress should be increased stability and reliability – and clearly we aren’t getting this. At least with PSOne and PS2 titles developers knew they had only one chance to make it right because it would forever be out of their hands once it hit the public.

Developers don’t have these expectations with this generation. They know they can release a game that’s a bit rough around the edges because they can work on problems after release through updates. Most of the bugs we come across tend to get resolved quickly, so surely it’s best to put a bit more effort into testing the product so the game is perfect upon release?

Fallout 3 is one of the glitchiest games of this generation.

I do feel like my life is being wasted watching a progress bar slowing moving over a black screen. Many gamers have little free time to enjoy their chosen pastime, and when you only have an hour to dip into your favourite game the last thing you need is to wait for an update to resolve a problem which you’d be entitled to think shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

I do sympathise with developers because they are working under extremely tight deadlines. Publishers want to make sure games are released during periods which will see the public most likely to buy them, whether they contain bugs or not. This is understandable; it is a high risk industry after all and these glitches are unlikely to affect sales in most cases. If it was up to developers it’s unlikely they’d ever get their games released because few would ever be completely satisfied that it was perfect.

There needs to be a realisation that short-term thinking can be damaging for their product.  Sure, customers may buy a glitchy game none the wiser this time – but they may think twice about the sequel. You only get one chance at a first impression – and sure, you may be able to fix some issues at a later date, but there is a chance the game will be forever defined by them. The PS3 version of Bayonetta is a good example; its bugs were enough to generate significant negative publicity and many critics have marked the PS3 version down as a result. Bayonetta may have significantly improved since release, but in the day and age of Metacritic, a few dropped points can make a significant difference to how a game will be remembered.

So, developers of the world: we know you are under tight deadlines, and we appreciate that there is a lot pressure resting on your shoulders. But please, we aren’t asking for much – just not to have to spend an eternity downloading and installing patches.

We welcome your comments, including your favourite examples of buggy games from the past and present, below…