Open Letter to People Who Make Games

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Open Letter to People Who Make Games

Dear Game Makers: The biggest current threat to the industry is in your mirror.

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I find it very hypocritical for the industry to complain about piracy and the like when it can't even release a finished product. If the industry doesn't care about gamers, then why should gamers care about them?

if they dont like piracy in the first place, dont call em pirates, call em paedophiles, no one would ever pirate a game again knowning they'd be refered to as a paedo :p

I'm talking about companies like Bethesda, 2K and Microsoft. These are companies with reputations for quality.

I'm sorry, I stopped reading right there. These are companies that are known for putting out quality games. When people say quality games, they mean REALLY GOOD games, not BUG FREE games. If anything, these companies have reputations of putting out initially VERY BUGGY games. And yes, while this is an issue, don't point the finger at game developers. Point it at publishers, because they are the ones setting the release dates and pushing for faster releases without as much time for QA.

Okay, now the minimum question that is burning deep in the back of our minds: what three games were you specifically referring to? Telling us they were AAA titles and from reputable studio's is kind of like saying it was a fish from a lake. Plus, there's been a shitload of poor games out this year, so you're going to have to be very specific...

Amen, Mr. Pitts. The recent Fallout: New Vegas debacle is just the latest in a long line of broken-out-of-the-box games. I'm actually not interested in Fallout games personally, but the reports I've read are just unbelievable. The amount of flat out brokenness that is this game is unacceptable. Apparently this is par for the course when it comes to Bethesda. I may not play their games, but if they ever decided to make a game that really appealed to me, I'm going to have big red warning flags coming up going "Hey, this was made by those guys that ship broken games constantly!" and I'm probably not going to buy it. The era of online consoles with hard drives and broadband Internet connections has spoiled developers into thinking they can ship a broken game and then patch it later. This has to stop, period.

I, for one, am looking forward to 1982 mkII - if it comes. The internet tears will be oh so enjoyable as to make the misery it will no doubt cause hundreds to thousands of industry workers almost seem worth it.

good read. broken games are a shocker and you have to wonder about the beta testing part of game development... how are these epic bugs not seen? one big reason that games seam broken (pc) is hardware. with the ever growing sea of different hardware and driver configurations its no surprise. then there is code based errors. is this due to rushed deadlines? or some other issue.
the love has left the industry as of late due to the massive amount of revenue being generated. this has had the same effect as it has on all industries.. the quality suffers. the old line quality over quantity shifts and the end consumer is left with bad games.
i liked what the head of nintendo said, some thing like "we are not to worried about pirates, if you make a really good game it will sell" this is something devs need to think about...

oops rambling...

good read, keep it up escapist :D

I wish my world worked liked these guys think theirs does.
"Oh don't worry professor, that report will be fixed, patched, and re-submitted in about a months time, I hope you can wait that long to grade it."

If you ship a broken game you can damn well be sure I won't buy it unless it's months later when it's been patched, fixed, and costs 5$ on steam.
The same way that report will have been marked down to nothing from all the late fees.

Great article Russ!

I've had similar feelings about the industry for a while. One other concern I've had about Big Business in general is the amounts of money they are making is relatively immune to basic quality control. These are products that don't suffer from catastrophic failure (they don't spontaneously catch on fire and burn your house down) and as long as they can move a certain number of copies they've made their money back. This is doubly true of games that can be used as advertisements for other products. (The EA logos on Dr. Pepper bottles come to mind)

It's not just games either, the Movie industry has the same problem and any line of business where the barrier to entry is so high there is very little competition usually operate this way.

I have a feeling the whole damn system has to break before it changes, but it will be interesting to see if that's even possible. You'd need the failure of most of the major console manufacturers and quite possibly the failure of the biggest software publisher to have that perfect storm happen.

The only thing I could see is if there's a real game changer, a smaller company innovating something that can steal the market and at the same time not be co-opted by the existing industry.

The Gentleman:
Okay, now the minimum question that is burning deep in the back of our minds: what three games were you specifically referring to? Telling us they were AAA titles and from reputable studio's is kind of like saying it was a fish from a lake. Plus, there's been a shitload of poor games out this year, so you're going to have to be very specific...

If I had to hazard a guess: Fallout: NV, Civ V, and Halo: Reach Not sure about the last one though.

Russ Pitts:
Open Letter to People Who Make Games

Dear Game Makers: The biggest current threat to the industry is in your mirror.

Read Full Article

Thank you. I couldn't have said it better, so I'm glad you did.

-m

I'm thinking that perhaps releasing unfinished games is part of a strategy against piracy. Gamers always want the most recent, shiniest version of a game. One of the greatest advantages of owning a legitimate copy is the automatic update or otherwise seamless patching of a game. Pirates on the other hand are impeded from patching and usually will have to wait for weeks until a new crack is released, being stuck with all the old bugs for much longer than legitimate users.

I've been a lurker here for a good long time, a lot longer than my account will show, and I've always been hesitant to have a first post of mine just be on some random topic somewhere. I just wanted to say that this is one of the best written and heart-felt articles I've seen on here in awhile. I know a lot material has a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it, and that's fine, but it really is nice to see an honest and direct commentary to the game's companies.

Thank you Russ, for saying what most of us think and using your superior to leverage to maybe get them to listen to some small portion of it. A man can dream that they'll listen at least.

Nicely written. As always, good to read something that helps keep one's ego in check and hold back blaming anyone but yourself to see what you can actually do to aid yourself and the people you work with and for.

I'm thinking that perhaps releasing unfinished games is part of a strategy against piracy. Gamers always want the most recent, shiniest version of a game. One of the greatest advantages of owning a legitimate copy is the automatic update or otherwise seamless patching of a game. Pirates on the other hand are impeded from patching and usually will have to wait for weeks until a new crack is released, being stuck with all the old bugs for much longer than legitimate users.

If it is, then it's a very lousy one. You can be quite certain that a fair amount of pirates can be surprisingly patient if it means getting something for 'free'. Not to mention that new patches are cracked fairly quickly too, heck even DLC doesn't take that long to crack. So really, rather than 'hurting' people who don't even contribute to the industry with such tactics as DRM and such, it'd be far wiser for developers to instead focus on the part that *does* contribute, that *does* in the end purchase their games with...oh I don't know...making games that work upon launch for example?

This is exactly why Ubisoft's DRM for example was moronic. The pirates were patient enough to wait until the cracks eventually came through, whereas in the meantime the loyal customers who actually paid good money for the game potentially wound up with exactly what Russ Pitts describes in this article here - a game that did not work.

The reasoning for it may have sounded as a noble one - to combat the evil tides of piracy on the high seas of teh interwebz. But the result and effect was funnily enough very similar to what this article describes. A game that did not work when the servers hiccuped due to the authentication. Meh...sidetracked myself here with this line of thinking but...the gist is pretty much the same as the vibe I got from this article. Look to thine own yard before pointing out how much the neighbour's yard sucks.

Russ Pitts:
The point at which you have to turn in overtime to create a patch that will fix a playability issue in a game that's been released and sold to the public is the point at which you will have sold a defective product.

We all understand that statement, why don't they? I just don't understand why we put up with this, why we continue to buy defective products. It's got to be because that's our only option - waiting for a patch to be released is unfortunately nothing new to us. Abysmal quality is exactly why I don't buy newly-released games. I always wait for a sale when I can pay closer to what the game is actually worth (and hopefully the patch for the patch will be waiting for me to download).

uppitycracker:

I'm talking about companies like Bethesda, 2K and Microsoft. These are companies with reputations for quality.

I'm sorry, I stopped reading right there. These are companies that are known for putting out quality games. When people say quality games, they mean REALLY GOOD games, not BUG FREE games. If anything, these companies have reputations of putting out initially VERY BUGGY games. And yes, while this is an issue, don't point the finger at game developers. Point it at publishers, because they are the ones setting the release dates and pushing for faster releases without as much time for QA.

Too bad you stopped reading, it's a quite interesting read, and you might get what he's getting at better.

Anyway, I think he should mail it to those guys. Would he have?
I wonder.

Russ Pitts:
Open Letter to People Who Make Games

Dear Game Makers: The biggest current threat to the industry is in your mirror.

Read Full Article

This rant should also be mentioned.

Tiamat666:
I'm thinking that perhaps releasing unfinished games is part of a strategy against piracy. Gamers always want the most recent, shiniest version of a game. One of the greatest advantages of owning a legitimate copy is the automatic update or otherwise seamless patching of a game. Pirates on the other hand are impeded from patching and usually will have to wait for weeks until a new crack is released, being stuck with all the old bugs for much longer than legitimate users.

It takes roughly the time necessary to upload the new build for a cracked update to be distributed.

Saying that selling a broken game deters piracy is like saying the sale of a car with no wheels deters auto theft.

Hmm. I see Fallout:NV is clearly one of his examples, but what are the other two? Is CIV V really that buggy? And I've been playing Reach a fair amount and haven't seen any bugs thus far. Or are there other AAA's that have come from MS in the last few weeks?

uppitycracker:

I'm talking about companies like Bethesda, 2K and Microsoft. These are companies with reputations for quality.

I'm sorry, I stopped reading right there. These are companies that are known for putting out quality games. When people say quality games, they mean REALLY GOOD games, not BUG FREE games. If anything, these companies have reputations of putting out initially VERY BUGGY games. And yes, while this is an issue, don't point the finger at game developers. Point it at publishers, because they are the ones setting the release dates and pushing for faster releases without as much time for QA.

There's only so far you can take the "It's the publisher's fault" argument, and some companies (Bethesda in particular) have hit the end of it. No one is disputing these games being fun. When they work, they're great. BUT THEY DON'T WORK. Like Russ said, being sold something that doesn't do what it's supposed to do, then not being able to return it, is essentially fraud.

That may be your definition of a quality game, but personally I would never call a game that crashed and became unplayable as quality. The games in question are known to have serious bugs. Bugs that should have been spotted with even a small test. Deadlines or no, if a game is shipped with bugs that can affect a significant number of players, it's the developers fault, not the publishers.

On this note, can we also add games that require such high-performance machines that even computers that meet the supposed system requirements on the box can't run them functionally? I'm of course referring to Crysis here. My friend got this two years ago, and after getting a new machine that could probably sequence the entire human genome in the time it takes to microwave a potato, he still can't make it run even remotely well. Maybe next decade he'll finally get to play it?

Excellent article, Russ. Hopefully the people who need to hear this will be reading it and will take it seriously.

Raithnor:

The Gentleman:
Okay, now the minimum question that is burning deep in the back of our minds: what three games were you specifically referring to? Telling us they were AAA titles and from reputable studio's is kind of like saying it was a fish from a lake. Plus, there's been a shitload of poor games out this year, so you're going to have to be very specific...

If I had to hazard a guess: Fallout: NV, Civ V, and Halo: Reach Not sure about the last one though.

I was thinking Fable 3 for Microsoft myself. I've only read two reviews from sites I generally trust (I'm not interested in the game, I just felt like reading them because they were there) and both had at least a paragraph mentioning the bugs.

Bruce Edwards:
And I've been playing Reach a fair amount and haven't seen any bugs thus far. Or are there other AAA's that have come from MS in the last few weeks?

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/reviews/8249-Review-Fable-3
Note "Publisher: Microsoft" at the end.

New Vegas and Civ V are obvious (from the pictures in the article if nothing else; Civ V isn't really that buggy, although definitely unfinished). I'm guessing the last one is Fable 3 judging by the complaints about bugs in today's review.

I call bullshit Mr. Pitts.
If you're looking for someone to blame look no further than yourself.

Don't blame the people trying to make a dollar when they take advantage of an all to eager and spoiled fan base.

Minecraft is a perfect example of this, people are more than willing to buy a game that's still in the alpha phase of it's development.
The only difference between say Civilization 5 and minecraft is that 2K isn't willing to admit that they're selling a barely beta version of their game.

Who to blame is the consumer who pays for games and supports the diseased industry letting it continue on as it has.
Every copy of Madden 2011 people buy is a nail in the coffin of gaming industies creativity and honesty towards its customers.

I dare say it's your job as a gaming journalist to help the consumer make a educated purchase.
The industry is dying because everyone is interdependant on each other consumers on reviewers, reviewers on advertizing that publishers use to sell games to consumers.

The industry will only fix itself when people STOP BUYING THE GODDAMN CRAP THAT IS BEING PUBLISHED!

I can't help but wonder if this letter will reach the eyes of those it is most directed at. I have never felt more cheated from buying a game than I have this year, and Mr. Pitts words truly resonated with me.

Here's hoping.

My only guess as to one of the 3 games he was referring to was Fallout: New Vegas. While I haven't had any bug problems with it, I can understand the rage from that have experienced quite the opposite.

uppitycracker:

I'm talking about companies like Bethesda, 2K and Microsoft. These are companies with reputations for quality.

I'm sorry, I stopped reading right there. These are companies that are known for putting out quality games. When people say quality games, they mean REALLY GOOD games, not BUG FREE games. If anything, these companies have reputations of putting out initially VERY BUGGY games. And yes, while this is an issue, don't point the finger at game developers. Point it at publishers, because they are the ones setting the release dates and pushing for faster releases without as much time for QA.

Why stop reading? While publishers really push the release dates, there are steps that can be taken to push those dates back to better polish the games. It happens all the time. It's not always a clear cut "It's out now or never" decision. The publisher is not 100% at fault. It shouldn't matter what company he name-drops. Bethesda, Microsoft, whatever... if a game comes out and it breaks enough to be unplayable, then it's still someone's fault. No game is perfect, but in this case, like you said, these companies are known for making good games, which means their games should have these bugs worked out to a tee. It's like no one actually sat down and played the game at all. As gamers, we don't pay to be beta testers of a game. We pay for a FINISHED product.

Well said, Mr. Pitts. Well said.

I'm not sure why game developers release buggy games. You'd think they would pick up on it during the beta testing, and it doesn't seem like it'd be particularly rewarding to release a buggy game to your fanbase, and then make them wait after buying it so they can play it properly.

You couldn't get away with releasing buggy games in the days before consoles could connect to the net and download patches set up by the companies, so why are bug-riddled games strewn throughout the market these days? My guess - laziness, maybe. Harsh deadlines, perhaps. A lack of care, possibly. I don't know. But it has to stop, and no-one has said this better so far than you, Russ. Bravo. You tell 'em.

Latinidiot:

Anyway, I think he should mail it to those guys.

He should. It'd be interesting to see the response, at the very least.

Well said, mr Pitts. Or rather, well written.

I've been pondering this issue a lot myself, none the least why we as gamers put up with this? I don't buy many games on day one any longer, I rather wait and hear what other people say about it.

Story and gameplay are up for interpretation based on tastes, but bugs are bad all around.

Midnight0000:
My only guess as to one of the 3 games he was referring to was Fallout: New Vegas. While I haven't had any bug problems with it, I can understand the rage from that have experienced quite the opposite.

uppitycracker:

I'm talking about companies like Bethesda, 2K and Microsoft. These are companies with reputations for quality.

I'm sorry, I stopped reading right there. These are companies that are known for putting out quality games. When people say quality games, they mean REALLY GOOD games, not BUG FREE games. If anything, these companies have reputations of putting out initially VERY BUGGY games. And yes, while this is an issue, don't point the finger at game developers. Point it at publishers, because they are the ones setting the release dates and pushing for faster releases without as much time for QA.

Why stop reading? While publishers really push the release dates, there are steps that can be taken to push those dates back to better polish the games. It happens all the time. It's not always a clear cut "It's out now or never" decision. The publisher is not 100% at fault. It shouldn't matter what company he name-drops. Bethesda, Microsoft, whatever... if a game comes out and it breaks enough to be unplayable, then it's still someone's fault. No game is perfect, but in this case, like you said, these companies are known for making good games, which means their games should have these bugs worked out to a tee. It's like no one actually sat down and played the game at all. As gamers, we don't pay to be beta testers of a game. We pay for a FINISHED product.

What you buy is code not game, it doesn't have to work, they're not selling you a working product, they're selling a dvd with code on it, try reading that licensing argeement that people always ignore.
The developer isn't under ANY kind of obligation to "fix" the product they sell, that happens because the developers usually care about their audience/product not because of some legal obligation to sell a working game.
Obviously if they did have to sell a working fool proof game they'd never publish anything.

Tiamat666:
I'm thinking that perhaps releasing unfinished games is part of a strategy against piracy. Gamers always want the most recent, shiniest version of a game. One of the greatest advantages of owning a legitimate copy is the automatic update or otherwise seamless patching of a game. Pirates on the other hand are impeded from patching and usually will have to wait for weeks until a new crack is released, being stuck with all the old bugs for much longer than legitimate users.

But treating their clients like this just to mildly annoy some pirates is simply unacceptable. Fighting piracy is a lost cause, Assassins Creed 2 taught us that, but punishing everyone for the acts of few is TERRIBLE business strategy. Its like Walmart announcing they will be doing body cavity searches on all costumers in an effort to prevent shoplifting. Patches need to extend the life of a game, not make it work in the first place.

In the games industry, one rise is constant: Graphics go up.
With that in mind, keeping a similar income vs. team size vs. dev time equation (adjusting for inflation, of course), something must give.

For many games, it's the length. People don't make twenty-hour epics any more, because twenty hour epics just aren't feasible.
And when they do make these gigantic, open-ended games, something else has to go. In most cases, it's polish, and more particularly, bugtesting. Simply put, all game development is based on linear equations: You put more in, you get more out. The amount going in isn't increasing, so if you want to increase one of the outputs, you have to dial back on another one.

There are plenty of examples of this rule: Blizzard tends to put in time and budget in unlimited quantities, and the games that come out are just about as close to the optimal output as possible. Activision puts full budget into its Call of Duty games, but limits the time. The Call of Duty franchise copes by cutting game length.
2K, however, really doesn't have any excuse with Civ V. Firaxis makes hit games. They have plenty of budget, and plenty of time. They even have prior code that could have been used to fix some of the problems. (Multiplayer especially) They were lazy. That's the only conclusion I can draw.

Here, let's formulize it:
Input=Content Budget+Crew*Time
Output=graphics+content+sound+polish
Output<=Input

Thus:
Graphics+Content+Sound+Polish<=Content Budget+Crew*Time

That is all.

magicmonkeybars:
Minecraft is a perfect example of this, people are more than willing to buy a game that's still in the alpha phase of it's development.
The only difference between say Civilization 5 and minecraft is that 2K isn't willing to admit that they're selling a barely beta version of their game.

But the difference in honesty is important, not to mention that Mincraft is pretty cheap, and will continue to be so even after the upcoming price increase, and the fact that Minecraft is something new and interesting.

I agree with a lot of the points made on this letter, and understand that major companies have much less of an excuse to put out these incomplete and broken games, but the devs aren't always the ones to blame.
Changing designs, unreasonable clients, and most of all time and money constraints affect the outcome of a game greatly.
I worked for a small games company for about 8 months, and during that time I was met with a hail of unreasonable requests. As much as you try and make a game a labour of love, sometimes the people with the power just don't care. They'd rather try and recoup some money, rather than spend more to make it work. If they get complaints, they shove it back in front of you with the list of complaints, despite your earlier warnings.
Now my experience was only with a start up student company with less than ten people working for it. So I'm not going to sit here and defend Microsoft, 2K and Bethesda, they'll have their own reasons for shoving out the games unfinished, however unsatisfying those answers may be. I wish every game could run on Valve time, so that the games we played were complete experiences.
I'll be the first one to complain when a game breaks, or when a menu looks or functions awfully. As a programmer, it's easy to sit back and say 'well that would have been easy to solve, I'd have just done this'. Sometimes the new flashy feature just takes priority over the fact that the AI gets stuck against a wall on a certain level.
Everyone goes into the industry idealistic and fresh faced, but only the lucky few get a chance to make the games to the standard that they want, some problems are unavoidable.
Just a different perspective, I've barely dipped my toes in the true working world of the games industry, but I know some of the trials.

mjc0961:
Excellent article, Russ. Hopefully the people who need to hear this will be reading it and will take it seriously.

Raithnor:

The Gentleman:
Okay, now the minimum question that is burning deep in the back of our minds: what three games were you specifically referring to? Telling us they were AAA titles and from reputable studio's is kind of like saying it was a fish from a lake. Plus, there's been a shitload of poor games out this year, so you're going to have to be very specific...

If I had to hazard a guess: Fallout: NV, Civ V, and Halo: Reach Not sure about the last one though.

I was thinking Fable 3 for Microsoft myself. I've only read two reviews from sites I generally trust (I'm not interested in the game, I just felt like reading them because they were there) and both had at least a paragraph mentioning the bugs.

Bruce Edwards:
And I've been playing Reach a fair amount and haven't seen any bugs thus far. Or are there other AAA's that have come from MS in the last few weeks?

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/reviews/8249-Review-Fable-3
Note "Publisher: Microsoft" at the end.

Anyone else notice the article has screenshots of Civ and F3NV, but not the MS title? Any reason, there certainly seems to be enough room for a third screenshot?

Not that it means anything, but, hm.

magicmonkeybars:
I call bullshit Mr. Pitts.
If you're looking for someone to blame look no further than yourself.

Don't blame the people trying to make a dollar when they take advantage of an all to eager and spoiled fan base.

Minecraft is a perfect example of this, people are more than willing to buy a game that's still in the alpha phase of it's development.
The only difference between say Civilization 5 and minecraft is that 2K isn't willing to admit that they're selling a barely beta version of their game.

Who to blame is the consumer who pays for games and supports the diseased industry letting it continue on as it has.
Every copy of Madden 2011 people buy is a nail in the coffin of gaming industies creativity and honesty towards its customers.

I dare say it's your job as a gaming journalist to help the consumer make a educated purchase.
The industry is dying because everyone is interdependant on each other consumers on reviewers, reviewers on advertizing that publishers use to sell games to consumers.

The industry will only fix itself when people STOP BUYING THE GODDAMN CRAP THAT IS BEING PUBLISHED!

My thoughts exactly, or at least pretty much exactly. If people were more inquisitive before dropping money on a game, or were more demanding with the quality of the final product we would not be in this place.

Must admit a part of me finds it funny that bugs affect consoles in a major way now. I remember the time when they only hurt PC gamers and the lack of bugs was always held up as an example as to the superiority of console gaming. But now our Xboxs and Playstations have hard drives along with near permanent net connections with means installing and patching is once again the order of play. Unfortunately though, there are no modders for consoles so that nice third party unofficial game support which you get on PC does not exist.

Which may be a good thing in actual fact. I'm sure certain developers are happier to release their games unfinished solely because they expect some fans to plug the gaps for them. They still make loads of money as the game is heralded as great (when modded, a phrase which will always be attached to the game and few will realise its significance) ensuring a sequel. So at least developers are forced to make patches to fix game breakers for consoles, else there would be major protests going on.

I guess the main thing is we're all in it together now - console and pc and combo gamer alike. Now if only we would stop enabling the publishers through fanboyism and blind faith.

magicmonkeybars:
What you buy is code not game, it doesn't have to work, they're not selling you a working product, they're selling a dvd with code on it, try reading that licensing argeement that people always ignore.
The developer isn't under ANY kind of obligation to "fix" the product they sell, that happens because the developers usually care about their audience/product not because of some legal obligation to sell a working game.
Obviously if they did have to sell a working fool proof game they'd never publish anything.

No one demands an absolutely perfect, bug-free game.

What they demand is a game that is *playable*, from beginning to end. That means "No bugs which prevent you from ever entering an area of the game," and "No bugs which completely halt progression of the primary campaign."

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