Premature release

I have become increasingly pessimistic and picky in my old age (I’m 27) when it comes to games on PC. Many of newer games tend to suffer from what the PC Master Race has long complained about; God-awful UI clearly not designed for PC, graphic problems ranging from poor FPS to just plain worse graphics, glitches and bugs, DLC on release and an ever growing amount of expansions. I rarely buy games on release, and the few I have bought have generally been massive mistakes. Pre-ordering… Cartman said it best.

Cartman likes Steam sales and GotY editions.

The UI for many games really hurt the experience. I recently played through Morrowind, which after a few graphic updates was really enjoyable, suffered from a very dated UI, yet when I played Skyrim… Skyrim was, honest to Emperor, worse. It was released 9 years after Morrowind. Until I downloaded SkyUI, I was considering giving up because of the clunky controls. I had a look at the patch notes of a more recent game, Witcher III, and realised the patch was basically saying “we done goofed on the mouse UI” However, the worst offender has to be Fable 1: Anniversary edition for Steam. It didn’t have mouse support in the menu.

Some games are essentially PC exclusives, like the Total War series. I haven’t bought a Total War title since Empire due to their awful releases, buggy gameplay, and the AI being short a few sandwiches, a basket, sunny weather, and ants of a picnic. From what I gather, Rome II is still buggy as Hell. When it comes to Elder Scrolls games, I always wait for the Game of the Year edition. Skyrim was unplayable and required command prompting to even finish on release, and while Oblivion was boring, at least it worked. Civilization V, while awesome now, was nigh-unplayable on release. The game I usually put the most hours into every year, Football Manager, I never buy until after January, and always on sale, due to the game being particularly error-prone until the 1.3 patch is released. That XCOM 2 has been announced as a PC exclusive, while probably made from a financial point of view, seems to me a good design decision as well, which will hopefully result in a good UI (the reboot’s greatest strength was maybe the UI boost), less issues to contend with, without impacting sales too much.

How do you do?

MMORPGs are even worse. Too mention a few, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online… The developers made a nice single player for the first few hours and then said “you’re on your own.” WoW was pretty raw when it got released, but it did get patched pretty damn fast.

Many of the aforementioned games are pretty much tailored to the PC market, so you can’t really blame the console mud farmers.

Though I think the most recent winner of the “premature release” prize has got to be Civilization: Beyond Earth. I have played Civilization games since Civilization 2, and I crossed all my appendages hoping for a new version of Alpha Centauri. What I got was a reskin of Civilization V, to the extent the developers didn’t even bother to change the diplomacy dialogue. Civilization: Beyond Earth warranting a full game price is pretty outrageous.

This criticism isn’t reserved for newer games either. Vampire; The Masquerade: Bloodlines, released 11 years ago, while one of the best RPGs you’ll ever play, is still a buggy game. They have a partial excuse in that they went bankrupt before they could patch the game entirely, mind.

Another problem I shall touch upon is DLC and expansions. I remember the day when I was so happy I got my paws on the Conquerors expansion for Age of Empires 2. That game had a few patches and one expansion (well, until recently!). I compare that to Crusader Kings 2. While it’s a fantastic game and I own most of the DLC and expansions, I sometimes feel I’ve been cheated on this. Sure, I buy most of the stuff on Steam sale, but if you wanted the entire game (that is, with all DLC and expansions), you’d be looking at well over 100£. That is a pretty steep price. While I understand this pays for more expansions and DLC, I can’t but help think the exorbitant cost of being able to start at an earlier date with the Muslim factions seems very expensive. This has led to general fatigue of playing some Paradox titles (not Victoria 2 mind, 2 expansions and some unit DLC is the right amount!), as I feel I’m missing out on a significant part of the game if I don’t buy all the DLC.

Things quickly got interesting for Sverre of Norway. 

Another grievance I have is DLC on release. It’s a cheap cash grab; while I get the idea, and that obviously people pay for it, it does stop people from buying the game immediately, especially more economically-minded gamers who’d rather wait for a Steam sale.

I don’t doubt that unfinished games was a problem before, but I feel (and being a scientist, I loathe saying this, but I don’t have statistics to back this) games are being released less finished than they were, possibly due to the knowledge that they can patch their games after release due to the internet. Another problem is that games are, from a coding perspective, much more difficult to the complexity, which compounds bugs, and also makes AI pretty difficult to get right.

All in all, I don’t see any reason to pre-order or buy a game on release. I will keep waiting a year or two until I buy until the developers give me reason not to.

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2 thoughts on “Premature release

  1. Pre-ordering games is a terrible thing and people really need to stop pre-ordering. I refuse to buy any games in alpha-stage, I swear some games never come out of alph-stage. I understand the developers need help funding but surely Kickstarter.com is a better way for funding. Its just an excuse for devs to publish and profit off of unfinished horrible hacker infested games. We need a petition to stop this madness!

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    1. I agree! I generally don’t buy until a year after launch, due to DLC, bug fixing, and general cost having gone down 🙂

      A consumer revolt would be good, but unlikely to happen! The closest thing is GamerGate, but that’s (depending on who you ask) about journalism and reviewing in gaming, which definitely needs improving. Especially AAA get too good reviews, and I’m leaning towards bribery and corruption as an explanation.

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