Bugs are going to happen in any videogame, no matter what engine runs it, which company creates it, and which devs are chosen to produce it. While we like to think that bugs make up the biggest flaws of any poorly-received game, they’re everywhere, even in the most popular titles. We don’t really like our enemies gyrating into the dirt, or our couriers showing up without clothes, but we tolerate them. The older the game gets, the more we’re likely to look back on those annoying bugs and laugh.
Blizzard’s release of their long-awaited sixth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was met with a seemingly higher level of post-release hardships than usual. With two-to-eight hour queue times, constant lag, and server kicks, some players weren’t able to experience the content until weeks after its release.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity players experienced a number of graphical and model errors, some of which were game-breaking or greatly hindered progression. Players also found the game had a chance of crashing upon logging in, an issue that, at the time, could only be fixed by wiping their friends lists. Even Dragon Age: Inquisition has its fair share of hiccups, the most obvious one being a scripting bug that shuts off most party banter and prevents music being played in the various zones. 2014 was a rough year for gaming in general, but the last couple of releases were almost discouragingly sloppy.
We’ll throw around justifications and explanations until we’re blue in the face, but the most glaring, common accusation from players to devs is laziness. It’s an easy, believable answer, and it definitely serves its purpose in getting people angry and prompting many a boring circlejerk on Reddit. It’s also the rallying cry of anyone who hasn’t fully taken into account exactly what’s involved in game design and bug detection.
In an interview with Wired.com, former Gears of War design director Cliff Blezinski explained, “In 2015 and beyond, the expectations for a traditional AAA game’s feature set in an established franchise are so immensely high that when you couple that with the added graphical fidelity you’re looking at an increased budget, increased risk, and the potential for more bugs and problems. You can put 10,000 of the best [quality assurance] folks on your game for years before the game ships and I can guarantee they’re not going to find every problem or issue; you’re going to ship with some. The key is to get rid of the major game breakers, but even now, we’re seeing some of those problems on ship.”
The hard truth is that no game is ever going to come out completely flawless. Rushed deadlines and overfocus on other aspects of the game might even take the place of the necessary bug zapping spree, especially with AAA titles. Personally, I’m willing to tack ‘next-gen quality requirements’ on the list of reasons for an increased number of bugs. Technology moves fast, and gaming has to move alongside it, if not faster. Finding and eliminating every single bug across every console prior to release, while taking into account the tight schedule, is all but impossible. There’s no single answer for the problem – at this point, ending the issue is far more important than concentrating on the ‘why’.
While there’s ultimately a shit ton of reasons why AAA game quality has decreased over the years, those reasons aren’t going to hold water for very long if quality control doesn’t step it up, and soon. A year full of games that were either not well received at all or given a ‘meh’ response at best isn’t good for future releases, especially if two of those companies had to recompensate their players for the shoddy quality. It doesn’t look good for those developers, and it certainly puts the industry itself in a pretty bad light.