We’ll Do it Live: Day One Patching

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Assassin’s Creed’s launch sparked outrage with the amount of bugs and glitches the game had at release. PC users would report falling through the game world, characters faces disappearing during dialogue and frame-rate dropping off systemically. Console users equally suffered with frame-rates often dropping below 20 frames a second regardless of what was happening on screen.

Ubisoft has since apologised for the state the game was released in, and effectively given every owner of the game a season pass. Those who had previously purchased a season pass being offered a free game from Ubisoft’s back catalogue. In the wake of this it’s easy to remember similar issues with games that are seemingly released to the public lightly tested or at least poorly tested. The rush to release games earlier, or to beat the competition to a particular market often is achieved at the cost of the consumer who are appeased by free content or all to readily prepared apologies for problems and bugs that in all honesty should of been foreseen and prepared for.

Turning swiftly then to the issue of ‘Day One’ patches and their dark presence in most games released in the last decade. I don’t believe that most people have much issue with downloading a patch just after they put in their brand new gaming purchase for the first time, however I would like to say that more people should be annoyed with practices clearly designed against their best interests. Tempted as I am, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that as far as publishers it comes to a calculation between what costs more: QA testing or apologising with free DLC and updates, I would however state that the drive to dominate the market has led to a trend where consumers are expected to download patches in order to play their game in a stable build, immediately after launch. In a world where early access games can avoid criticism simply by being in early access, it’s beyond frustrating to see AAA publishers emulating these practices.

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Personally, I much prefer a game being delayed so that I can have less concern in regards to bugs that might ruin the game experience. The game eventually released might well be awful, but at least it shows a degree of care for the finished state of the game in the eyes of the games developers and publishers. But this as well sheds light on the divide between those who are happy to wait in the hopes that the game will be better overall, and those who want the newest thing as soon as possible, regardless of the state it’s released in.

As with most things in the games industry, the simple fact that high-speed internet is common in most homes in the largest markets publishers are selling to, means that day one patches are here to stay. I am left with a bad taste in my mouth by the seemingly accepted fact that releasing a broken product is deemed to be acceptable simply due to the apparent ease of rolling out pre-made updates worked on to be ready for the retail release. But then I guess it is per the norm that bandwidth paid for by the consumer is used to fix games that were likewise bought by the same consumer, possibly bought from an online marketplace at the self-same price (if not more) than buying a physical copy in a store, negating any shipping and handling argument that might well be tossed back at that line of thinki- But I have said too much.

Of course some apparent exceptions to the rule exist, for example Bethesda has taken a lot of flak for consistently releasing buggy games. The difference in this example however is that open world games such as Skyrim and Fallout 3 were able to side-step a lot of serious criticism by the virtue of the bugs being less game-breaking and more hilariously fourth-wall breaking. Examples of this would be dragons flying backwards in Skyrim, or heads rotating 360 degrees while having a conversation in Fallout. In my opinion anyone who has not been launched in to the stratosphere by a giant’s club in Skyrim hasn’t really experienced the game. Even in this case it’s too far to simply ignore the negligence in releasing broken builds of games, we can dress up such bugs as funny diversions and indeed they are, but the trend to  ignore that games are released broken and charged at full price sets a foul precedent that has the potential to harm everyone in the gaming community.

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The most damaging effect with the rise of freelance gaming journalism and ‘YouTube personalities’ is that rushing a game in order to release before Christmas, or get your game out before the competition is that people are getting less and less likely to buy games at launch. Even not taking this fact into account, the market is very likely to saturate with similar games being released ahead of schedule or at least before they are truly ready for consumption. People are not going to purchase the same old broken games over and over forever, and there are not enough finely detailed statues, key-rings and metal disc-cases in the world to win their trust once again.

 


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