Gaming is at an interesting place right now. We seem to have hit a technological plateau where gameplay innovation is beginning to become less common and graphical fidelity advances are beginning look become less noticeable. There are three games that come to mind when I was thinking about this editorial, two are 8th generation games, and one is a 7th generation. Destiny, Titanfall, and The Master Chief Collection are games that garnered massive amounts of praise despite being relatively poor in execution. The biggest crime that these games commit is the unfulfilled promise of a future. It’s the promise that a game will get better in time, and that is not how any AAA game should be sold.
I understand that gaming has had to evolve with other rising technologies. When broadband internet became mainstream, consoles had to adapt to accommodate an online multiplayer system. With the mainstream implementation of high speed internet, companies can now send patch updates and even extra content straight to the console. Want an expansion? You can buy it digitally and have it readily available next time you boot up the game. This is a huge advance in comparison to just a few years ago when in order to apply an expansion, you needed to install a new disc onto the computer.
These new advances have, for better and worse, changed gaming. Now you can release a game that is riddled with glitches and clunky controls. You can release a game that isn’t even finished, but later say that future patches and expansions will make the game better. This is the problem with gaming these days, and the three games I mentioned are just the beginning. You can’t market a game just on the promise of a future.
Why is marketing a game with the promise of a future a bad thing? After all, you want a game like The Master Chief Collection, Destiny, or Titanfall to have a lasting impression. The problem is not wanting to keep the game going with new content; it is using the prospect of “things will get better eventually” that leaves a sour taste in gamers’ mouths. I find it interesting when people complain about how lame Early Access on Steam is. For those of you that do not know. Steam’s Early Access program allows developers to release a game onto Steam in it’s early development stages. Them gamers can buy the game and play it right then and there. The catch is that the game will most likely be barebones and lacking in content because what you are playing is a game in Alpha or Beta stage.
People seem to hate the idea of paying for an incomplete game with the promise of a full release, yet when a new game is released from a AAA Publisher that is riddled with glitches and instability (ACIII, AC:U, Every Bethesda Game Ever) or when a game is severely lacking in unique original content (Destiny and Titanfall) people seem to forget all of that and just chalk it up to “release day/week/month blues”. Releasing a game that simply doesn’t work, regardless of what developer/publisher has made is unacceptable. I understand that there are only so many problems someone can find and fix during development, but the amount of instability when you look at Master Chief Collection or Assassin’s Creed Unity you begin to wonder if developers even tried to make sure their game worked.
The same goes for Destiny. This is a game that has less than 20 hours of story content. The the “end-game” is useless grinding and disgusting mission repetition simply for gear that doesn’t even change your appearance. You can try to rationalize it all you want, but at least when you play a game like WoW, you can see the badass armor sets people worked for. In Destiny, all the armor for every class looks incredibly similar. Titanfall launched at the right time for the Xbox One, however the limited map choice and small loadout customization severely hindered the lasting playability a game like Call of Duty or Halo has.
When it comes to a game like Destiny, everyone’s argument is “it is a MMO you are supposed to grind for gear.” This is true, but when I play games like Firefall or Neverwinter, there is one defining characteristic that Destiny severely lacks: level design. Destiny’s small maps make the game feel so much smaller because it takes no more than five minutes to explore the entire map (slight exaggeration but you get the point). The next line I always see is that “this game will get better with expansions and patch updates”. This is also the same defense nearly every gamer will use to justify their purchase. I hear it with Assassin’s Creed, MCC, Titanfall, ESO, Skyrim etc. But how are games like Master Chief Collection skating by in the eyes of gamers when the multiplayer hardly works, or the massive glitches in any new Bethesda game; yet when you mention Early Access on Steam people jump on the bandwagon of hate for paying for an incomplete game with the hopes of getting a full game in the future? The answer is easy: loyalty.
Publisher/Developer loyalty plays a massive role into what people think of a new game. Gamers are willing to overlook massive faults in a game’s final product if they are loyal to the game franchise or company. I won’t go too deep into this because this article is already getting rather long, but I will say that Dragon Age: Inquisition is nowhere near the masterpiece nearly every outlet is claiming it is. Objectivity is so hard to come by in terms of gamers and games journalists alike.
So how can we stop this spiral of incomplete game releases? You can start being objective, you can get rid of the mentality that a game doesn’t work just because it is “release week”. To be honest with you guys, this is why the prospect of an Early Access program is so great for PC gaming. Game development takes longer, but if you play the game off and on and report your problems, odds are the game will have fewer issues when it does release.
Saying a game will get better with expansions and patch updates when the core game is already terrible is like saying your 1972 Pinto Hatchback is the best car ever after you added a bunch of visual modifications like new rims, a spoiler and a different paint job. News flash, you would still have a car that is widely known for spontaneous combustion.