Open Letter to People Who Make Games

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It's really annoying to preorder a game these days only to find it's broken. It's part of the reason I don't preorder unless I know I want the game no matter what. You can offer all you want as bonuses (ok, if you get to the point where you offer enough bonus stuff, especially nonDLC stuff, that MIGHT be different, but only if I was feeling really good about the game in question), but if I keep having to question "Will it play on the first day, or will it need a patch that I'd be better off waiting for?" I'm not going to jump at preorder opportunities.

Also, Russ, great point with the Atari crash. Sure E.T. is often blamed for it, but looking back, a lot of those games were broken. Is this what we're headed towards? A shinier, better looking market where a huge expected game crashes due to glitches and the market gets crippled.

Look, I absolutely love games and have grown up with them. I've suffered through some horrible glitches in otherwise great games, some of which are never fixed since there was no other way than to rerelease it. I don't mind getting a few glitches ironed out here and there, but broken games are just unacceptable. I'm paying $60 for a new game here. Look, you guys are complaining about piracy, yet your day one consumers, your loyal customers who have supported you are the ones you're screwing over here. And even then, for people like up until recently me who don't connect online for a variety of reasons will forever have a game that is unfinished.

The ability to patch a game should be at most a gift rather than something to be depended on. I am paying for an experience when I buy, and I often go out of my way to buy new just to support you guys. Don't betray me by skimping on debugging.

Remember, there are a lot of things gamers these days don't notice, but you can bet that they'll notice the absence of them instantly. Debugging/polishing/play testing/whatever you want to call it is one of those things.

magicmonkeybars:
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.

They do it because no one is going to buy from them again if their games have massive bugs and they don't fix it. Technically, yes, you do just pay for the code. But let's put down our law books and be realistic here.

Obviously if they did have to sell a working fool proof game they'd never publish anything.

And no one is asking for a perfect, bug-free game. Straw-manning the point doesn't change the fact that these games are buggier than average.

Ok, first, I really dislike this article. The sentimentality has no place and just makes it look like you don't have a strong enough point. "I really like you guys, so you just have to trust me when I say you're screwing up." The fact is, Fallout:NV had some awful bugs and this is making a mountain out of a molehill. This isn't an industry-wide epidemic, its one poorly put together game. The real reason you don't name the other gamers specifically? To avoid let people discuss it, because most people would find Civ 5, or Fable 3, or Reach or any of the other titles mentioned here to be completely playable.

Covering a weak argument with sentimentality and false modesty? Yellow journalism and bad form.

Second - Fallout: NV was awful but Obsidian, as Shamus Young points out a little below your article on the main page, has an awful reputation as being hacks. None of their games has ever been released in working order. They aren't A-list, they might not even be B-list. They certainly aren't "respected for quality". You just twisted facts to make an article out of nothing.

Well, I keep several of my friends informed on what games to buy, and I have been telling all of them they are best off to wait for GOTY or Platinum editions, which typically include all the bug fixes. So I know for a fact that I have hindered sales of new games, and I will continue to recommend the same, as many of my friends are not online, so are not able to get patches for their games on the 360.

Had no problems with Fallout:NV
Although I did get it 3 days after the USA and there was a patch, shock horror!!

Honestly? You really should have saw the problems coming.

Fallout NV? Made by Obsidian, published by Bethesda, on Bethesda's version of the Gamebryo engine. Of course it's going to be buggy.

Civilization V? Name me a Civ game that wasn't buggy and/or unfinished at launch.

Fable 3? Remind me, weren't there bugs of the game-breaking variety in Fable 2 at launch?

Launch-then-patch is a regular feature of PC gaming and due to increasing online connectivity it's now becoming regular on consoles. Honestly? I think you're grossly overstating things here. Bugginess has no relation to game quality (see the STALKER series). Hell, you'll probably find a majority would prefer New Vegas over the (pretty much bug-free) new Medal of Honor game. Ultimately, it's a problem which is relatively insignificant, except for the people with no internet connection (who wouldn't be able to play Civ V anyway. Viva la Steamworks).

Fronzel:

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.

Would you really buy civ 5 alpha for $20 ?
Why would they even offer it as an option when you're willing to buy less for more ?

Casimir_Effect:

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.

In many ways it was the PC that made the consoles what they are today, the same format of releasing broken unfinished games to be patched up post release as far as possible.
But I agree, we are all in this together

RvLeshrac:

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."

What you demand means nothing if you'll buy what doesn't live up to those demands, like I said they don't need to release a working game as far as the law is concerned.

Stevepinto3:

magicmonkeybars:
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.

They do it because no one is going to buy from them again if their games have massive bugs and they don't fix it. Technically, yes, you do just pay for the code. But let's put down our law books and be realistic here.

Obviously if they did have to sell a working fool proof game they'd never publish anything.

And no one is asking for a perfect, bug-free game. Straw-manning the point doesn't change the fact that these games are buggier than average.

People will buy Madden 2012 even if Madden 2011 didn't work and was never patched inot functioning.

"Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man"

Crunchy English:
Ok, first, I really dislike this article. The sentimentality has no place and just makes it look like you don't have a strong enough point. "I really like you guys, so you just have to trust me when I say you're screwing up." The fact is, Fallout:NV had some awful bugs and this is making a mountain out of a molehill. This isn't an industry-wide epidemic, its one poorly put together game. The real reason you don't name the other gamers specifically? To avoid let people discuss it, because most people would find Civ 5, or Fable 3, or Reach or any of the other titles mentioned here to be completely playable.

Covering a weak argument with sentimentality and false modesty? Yellow journalism and bad form.

Second - Fallout: NV was awful but Obsidian, as Shamus Young points out a little below your article on the main page, has an awful reputation as being hacks. None of their games has ever been released in working order. They aren't A-list, they might not even be B-list. They certainly aren't "respected for quality". You just twisted facts to make an article out of nothing.

How about MW2, then? Or any MMO at launch, especially including WoW?

These games don't simply have some minor compatibility issues, they have game-breaking crashes and exploits that ruin the experience.

magicmonkeybars:

Fronzel:

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.

Would you really buy civ 5 alpha for $20 ?
Why would they even offer it as an option when you're willing to buy less for more ?

The problem with your Minecraft argument is thus: without Notch allowing buying the alpha version, there would probably be no Minecraft. Some Indie developers cannot rely on money raised by previous games, and selling the alpha version allows you to get a constant stream of revenue and feedback to improve your game. It's in increasingly common plan for indie developers: Overgrowth by (Humble Indie Bundle) Wolfire Games and Natural Selection 2 by Unknown Worlds both sold alpha access. Not to mention Telltale's "buy the season of games we haven't finished making yet" business practice.

And I bet a hell of a lot of people would pay $20 for access to the alphas of Civ V, especially if it included the finished version (like all of the above examples mentioned on this post).

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!

No, Minecraft is a terrible example of that - everybody knows that Minecraft is in the earlier phases of its' development. On the other hand, games like Civilization 5 and Fallout: NV are, at least ostensibly, finished. How can you blame the consumer for spending money on a product that should be working, particularly when the product is being published by a reputable studio? When a publisher releases a game, the consumer should not have to sit and ponder "Hmm... sure, they're releasing the game, but does it actually function?" - that's complete bullshit.

How can an industry possibly sustain itself if there is to exist this perpetual distrust between the creator and the buyer? I see your point about game journalists letting the consumers know which products are faulty and which aren't, but this shouldn't be an issue in the first place. I understand doing research on a product before you buy it, but that research should be for the sake of determining the quality of the product, not whether or not it works. It is a game designer's responsibility (well, actually, it's part of their fucking job description) to ensure that the finished product is playable.

OMG... Games have bugs and glitches!

Check the sales numbers, then tell me if these games are hurting the industry.

Russ actually buys these games? They don't give them to him for free? Now that would be a good
story.

Edit: So in the review of Fallout NV when he said " Truth be told, I enjoyed New Vegas a lot more than Fallout 3, but I can't give it a full score on the basis of the bugs alone. " is what he now means is " these games were unplayable." and " games that don't work", is odd.

Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

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!

We have a winner.

Back in the long ago, while PC Gamer was still readable, reviewers went through the games and looked at the tech behind the game, the way it played, what the developers went for - and the review then evaluated just how well the developers met their goals. The rating could reflect a lot of different things - if the game was fun but unpolished, that would be explained. And only games that really did have both high production value and succeeded at doing something well would get high ratings.

Developers and reviewers (who were gamers) would be invested in those reviews, because everyone wanted the games to be the best they could be. So if a game was a good piece of work, but went unfinished for various reasons - that was highlighted in the review, and scores were adjusted. And even if the review was harsh, the developers would appreciate it to some degree, because it would make sure that publishers saw the value of a complete quality production.

What we have now, though, is different. Reviews don't talk tech any more, they certainly don't go for story and narrative build-up, they don't explain game-mechanics, etc. Instead, they are the reviewer's opinions and instant feelings as they pick up the title. So the initial buzz on the game is typically just put down in writing and pushed.

Take Alpha Protocol, for example. The only ones who really took an interesting look at that game was 1up - and they had their review as a discussion between two guys: one who liked the game a lot, in spite of the faults, and another who focused on the allegedly broken mechanics. That review actually explained both of those views. The first focused on the story-telling and how it was strung together. The other narrowly looked at the few ways the fighting mechanics didn't always look stellar.

In the rest of the reviews, you would read something about how much the reviewer adored or hated the way the game played. And then ending up in rating the game in degrees of failure for unknown reasons.

Other titles, titles that are more profiled, get the similar treatment. And you never really know why the games are any good when you read the reviews.

That is the problem. Those reviews, and the "initial reactions" like that is something publishers use as a tool to market the game. And we all know that - no need to pretend otherwise.

Of course, some do. My favourite example of that was one of the reviewers at shacknews, honestly suggesting that since he wasn't selling anything important (like war, etc.) then it didn't matter if he was misled at some expo, and led into writing an unnaturally fawning review - because even if it was, the fawning praise reflected his opinion at the time. That really was his argument.

Now - how difficult is it really to avoid that? That's the question reviewers should ask themselves.

I mean, seriously, be honest: why is it so hard to criticise a game coming from a major production? We're talking about two things: lack of knowledge about the tech and the process of making the game. And on the other, pressure from advertisers. We would like to have favourable reviews, because they are likely to generate hits and positive feedback.

But earlier, in the long, long ago, reviewers solved that by either not giving a damn - or else at least noting the bad together with the good. Then focusing on the good parts, if nothing else. It's not that hard.

Now this may seem like a bad thing, but in an ideal world with developers and publishers as mindful as Russ describes, the same would go for our gaming press.
Reviewers need to severely cut down on the ratings and suggest to "pass" on games that are bug-ridden. Usually review sites (even those that really try hard to assess content objectively) might mention problems, but don't truly penalize this in their bottom line, be it a score or a buy/rent/pass suggestion.

I understand that reviewers usually tend to get special preview builds and that those might still contain flaws that are "supposed" to be fixed in the final version. Still it is hard to shake the feeling that there is still too much dependency on publishers and advertisements to accept that as a valid argument. This is even more ridiculous seeing a favorable review on any site while there is a huge advertisement or even "exclusive" behind the scenes documentaries right next to it.

Although it is meant as a comedy, Yahtzee is one of the very few who is actually able to call out such things while being able to get away with it when assessing a specific title. But still there are usually quite a few points where you are left with the typical "haha, this is funny stuff, but the man got a point there" feeling.

One of the things that I actually like about Escapist is the fact that we as consumers are able to finance the site via the publishers club. Even if that channel is primarily meant as an alternative revenue stream to provide higher quality services, it is something that sort of supports the professional independence. That's not the only reason for me to pay here, but it actually was one of the considerations I did when asking myself if it is worth to spend the money, even if it is just such a small amount.

I won't say that it is the fault of the media that companies get away with faulty products, but there are an awful lot of sites that don't really stop them from doing so. Just ask yourself, when was the last time that you saw a crushing review in text and rating of a supposed AAA title, because it had bugs upon release?

While I do understand that, in the end, it is the buy/rent decision of customers that will judge the future of a studio or publisher, the press could already work towards that in their reviews.

To cut things short, I am more than willing to show my opinion with my wallet as a customer and even would go the extra mile to support independent, critical reviews financially. As of now, I see that critics only focus on content and rarely on the technical aspects when it comes to voice an opinion. Naming the problems mid-text doesn't seem to be enough if that does not also affect the bottom line to a bigger degree. If a game is literally unplayable, it doesn't deserve anything more than the lower quarter of the score scale and a strong recommendation not to spend any money on it. I would even go as far and not factor any "patch announcement" in until said patch is actually available.

All of this may sound a bit harsh, but this article raises some valid points that won't be fixed by simply calling them out. This is in fact not a criticism on the Escapist reviews/articles, but merely my personal opinion about major game reviews in general.

Maybe all the other factors which were most likely not named here and possibly simply overlooked by me are also valid points not to bring down the wrath of the reviewer upon a faulty product, but I think that it is a valid suggestion to pay more attention to this rating metric in the future.

(Just to make sure, if I say reviewer, I might more correctly mean a games journalist. That might sound as if it is the same, but to me, a journalist always tries to maintain a more objective point of view while a reviewer usually simply voices his/her opinion)

Casimir_Effect:

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.

As guilty as the developers and publishes are (and the OP article makes it pretty clear that they're guilty), I have to agree that the majority of the fault lies with the consumer.

Do you think there's ANY chance that developers and publishers would continue to act this way if the consumer body punished them for the insults? Of course not! (well... there would be some... but they'd be bankrupt soon, and no longer a problem).

But no... consumers just buy whatever is put in front of them, repeatedly believing the obviously false promises from publishers that have repeatedly been caught lying about their games! The fault is with the CONSUMER!

Even when people have sworn to boycott a game (the dedi-servers fiasco comes to mind) the game turns out to be the biggest selling sequel ever! And why all the sequels?? Because the consumer is crazy enough to keep buying the same product at increasingly inflated prices, over and over again!

I almost have to wonder whether there isn't some sort of betting pool going among the big publishers, to see who can produce the biggest piece of garbage and charge the most for it and get away with it.

I no longer buy ANY game on release day. I don't buy any game until several months later when I've seen how it pans out, seen how the gameplay (beyond the first couple days play that has been polished to look good) goes, and seen community reactions. And it's saved me a bunch of money that I've gone and spent on good books instead. More money for good writers, less for bad developers and publishers. Seems fair to me.

Too bad more people won't follow that principle, and will continue to lap up whatever scraps are thrown in their direction, while thanking the developers/publishers for the privilege.

My initial guess would be Elemental: War of Magic, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fable 3. All are pretty big releases (though Obsidian doesn't quite have the same reputation for quality since this has happened to pretty much all their games). Civ 5 probably replaces Elemental, though, after looking through the thread.

Fallout: New Vegas is a real shame, considering Obsidian one of the few companies that I follow because they tend to have novel ideas that I quite like. But not finishing their games plagues them, much as that plagued every one of Troika's otherwise excellent games and eventually killed them. It's happened often enough that it starts seeming like less of the publisher's fault for not giving enough time and more of Obsidian's for not budgeting their time wisely. Shamus Young does have a good point.

I had hoped that with a working engine already out that Obsidian could focus solely on the gameplay and story content, leaving only the frequent crashes that always creep into Bethesda games. But that apparently wasn't the case.

I agree in full. You pay for a product to work, to be complete, and so on. Not to wait for a patch or anything else. Patches should be if you unknowingly made an "oops" in the game. They should not be a cop-out to release a game on time.

Bethesda is high quality? After Morrowind they've been shit to me.

Obsidian has always been hit and miss with lots of people.

Lionhead never quite gets where they want to go.

Sadly companies are in it for the money, like they do. And they pull a fast one and hand us shit.

This is why I have not bought any new releases and will not until I know I will not have any massive issues when I get it on my platform of choice.

Go consumer rights. :D

Delusibeta:

magicmonkeybars:

Fronzel:

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.

Would you really buy civ 5 alpha for $20 ?
Why would they even offer it as an option when you're willing to buy less for more ?

The problem with your Minecraft argument is thus: without Notch allowing buying the alpha version, there would probably be no Minecraft. Some Indie developers cannot rely on money raised by previous games, and selling the alpha version allows you to get a constant stream of revenue and feedback to improve your game. It's in increasingly common plan for indie developers: Overgrowth by (Humble Indie Bundle) Wolfire Games and Natural Selection 2 by Unknown Worlds both sold alpha access. Not to mention Telltale's "buy the season of games we haven't finished making yet" business practice.

And I bet a hell of a lot of people would pay $20 for access to the alphas of Civ V, especially if it included the finished version (like all of the above examples mentioned on this post).

If the whole industry was build on the principle of releasing an alpha version to cut cost or finance the development process than we wouldn't be here talking about it.
Episodic releasing isn't the same as pre purchasing an alpha version.
I doubt Civ 5 alpha would sell as virally as minecraft if it was Civilization 1 alpha.
With Civilization you buy the name first rather than the game.
The problem isn't really the indies though, they are still very much at the mercy of the consumer.

SonicKoala:

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!

No, Minecraft is a terrible example of that - everybody knows that Minecraft is in the earlier phases of its' development. On the other hand, games like Civilization 5 and Fallout: NV are, at least ostensibly, finished. How can you blame the consumer for spending money on a product that should be working, particularly when the product is being published by a reputable studio? When a publisher releases a game, the consumer should not have to sit and ponder "Hmm... sure, they're releasing the game, but does it actually function?" - that's complete bullshit.

How can an industry possibly sustain itself if there is to exist this perpetual distrust between the creator and the buyer? I see your point about game journalists letting the consumers know which products are faulty and which aren't, but this shouldn't be an issue in the first place. I understand doing research on a product before you buy it, but that research should be for the sake of determining the quality of the product, not whether or not it works. It is a game designer's responsibility (well, actually, it's part of their fucking job description) to ensure that the finished product is playable.

Like I've mentioned before, the games you buy don't legally have to function, that isn't what you're buying, that's just what you think/expect to buy.

How can an industry survive in a climate of hostility and distrust between customer and supplier ?
Just look at the drugs trade, no one trusts each other but they all make millions.
Addiction is a terrible thing but also very profitable.
And as long as you'll buy a box that says "Halo" on it without thinking developers and publishers won't care if the contents of the box works or not.

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.

I think it's arguable that he's referring as much to the craftsmanship of the games in question, as he is to the gameplay experience. Although the former will undoubtable have a real effect on the latter, a smooth game with fewer bugs isn't as likely to crash, kill player's saves or just straight up die. A game that is too buggy stops being a game and starts being an exercise in frustration.

dnadns:
*snip*

The issue with reviewing games based on their *technical* merits is one of fairness. How do you know that the machine the reviewer was running the game on didn't have some issue which caused the game to fail? Even a well-made game can still have problems if the hardware isn't up to snuff or the drivers are terrible.

Can you blame the game developer if their game doesn't run on a nVati x9207 with driver rev 1.182.6.27.5.901b385, but works fine with every other driver, or works fine with that driver on a slightly different card?

That's not to say that we can allow developers to get away with blaming the drivers for everything - it is indeed rare for the drivers to *honestly* be at fault without causing a BSOD - but you have to consider it.

RvLeshrac:

dnadns:
*snip*

The issue with reviewing games based on their *technical* merits is one of fairness. How do you know that the machine the reviewer was running the game on didn't have some issue which caused the game to fail? Even a well-made game can still have problems if the hardware isn't up to snuff or the drivers are terrible.

Can you blame the game developer if their game doesn't run on a nVati x9207 with driver rev 1.182.6.27.5.901b385, but works fine with every other driver, or works fine with that driver on a slightly different card?

That's not to say that we can allow developers to get away with blaming the drivers for everything - it is indeed rare for the drivers to *honestly* be at fault without causing a BSOD - but you have to consider it.

I totally agree that this is an issue, but any product I shipped to a reviewer (software, not gaming though) always was discussed before the release of the review to explain and possibly solve such issues. I don't see this to be impossible for games.
On consoles, however, this should be no issue at all. Even if some people don't really like the trend, but most reviews for games seem to be conducted on the console version nowadays.

magicmonkeybars:

Like I've mentioned before, the games you buy don't legally have to function, that isn't what you're buying, that's just what you think/expect to buy.

Actually, yes, legally, they *must* function as specified. That's an "implied warranty of merchantability."

New Vegas doesn't have to make you toast, but it does have to let you install and operate the game from beginning to end, barring the existence of conflicting hardware/software in your machine. If it doesn't do these things, the person who sold it to you *must* legally provide a refund.

If they *knowingly* sell a product that does not perform the functions it was designed to perform (and was sold as properly performing), they're guilty of fraud.

Kilo24:

I had hoped that with a working engine already out that Obsidian could focus solely on the gameplay and story content, leaving only the frequent crashes that always creep into Bethesda games. But that apparently wasn't the case.

I would hardly call Bethesda's version of Gambryo 'working'. :D

It hasn't worked since Morrowind, I don't know how we've let them get away with it.

RvLeshrac:

magicmonkeybars:

Like I've mentioned before, the games you buy don't legally have to function, that isn't what you're buying, that's just what you think/expect to buy.

Actually, yes, legally, they *must* function as specified. That's an "implied warranty of merchantability."

New Vegas doesn't have to make you toast, but it does have to let you install and operate the game from beginning to end, barring the existence of conflicting hardware/software in your machine. If it doesn't do these things, the person who sold it to you *must* legally provide a refund.

If they *knowingly* sell a product that does not perform the functions it was designed to perform (and was sold as properly performing), they're guilty of fraud.

"barring the existence of conflicting hardware/software in your machine." is the key to the issue.
As long as a developer/publisher can produce a working version you have no court case.
This is why there is more than one version of the xbox360/ps3/whatever other system.
As long as they have a ps360 that can run a retail version you have no legs to stand on.
Beyond that even if you return your game you'll only hurt the retailer you bought it from rather than the developer who made it.

Is there some way I can sign this too? And then email it to people?
This is an expensive hobby, and I love it too much to give it up. But, damn it, I still want to have a house.

Nifty:

Kilo24:

I had hoped that with a working engine already out that Obsidian could focus solely on the gameplay and story content, leaving only the frequent crashes that always creep into Bethesda games. But that apparently wasn't the case.

I would hardly call Bethesda's version of Gambryo 'working'. :D

It hasn't worked since Morrowind, I don't know how we've let them get away with it.

It only worked every once in a while for Morrowind, even.

They've gotten away with it because Morrowind and Oblivion were massive, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of interactive objects. For Fallout 3, they got away with it because, hey, Fallout.

New Vegas is taking flak not because it is any more buggy than the previous games, but because New Vegas looks *exactly like* Fallout 3, without any of the improvement that was seen from Morrowind to Oblivion, and the ease of comparison makes the bugs pop out. There's nothing to distract you from them.

Sober Thal:
OMG... Games have bugs and glitches!

Check the sales numbers, then tell me if these games are hurting the industry.

Russ actually buys these games? They don't give them to him for free? Now that would be a good
story.

Yes, this may come as some surprise to you, but all of us here at The Escapist, even the EIC, have to buy games sometimes.

Nifty:

Kilo24:

I had hoped that with a working engine already out that Obsidian could focus solely on the gameplay and story content, leaving only the frequent crashes that always creep into Bethesda games. But that apparently wasn't the case.

I would hardly call Bethesda's version of Gambryo 'working'. :D

It hasn't worked since Morrowind, I don't know how we've let them get away with it.

To split hairs, Morrowind used the NetImmerse engine, which was just the predecessor to the GameBryo engine.

I would call both Morrowind and Oblivion "working", but prone to random crashes. Speaking as someone who played the hell out of Morrowind, there's a wide gap between "working and playable" and "free from major technical issues." Console commands can do a good bit to remedy bugs, but it's never something a player should be expected to do to just play the game.

But, hey, it's in keeping with the grand Fallout tradition to have buggy unfinished games. Fallout 2 was a notable contender there.

At least all these games manage to avoid Pool of Radiance's example of wiping your hard drive upon uninstallation.

Susan Arendt:

Sober Thal:
OMG... Games have bugs and glitches!

Check the sales numbers, then tell me if these games are hurting the industry.

Russ actually buys these games? They don't give them to him for free? Now that would be a good
story.

Yes, this may come as some surprise to you, but all of us here at The Escapist, even the EIC, have to buy games sometimes.

Sometimes I understand. But when you get these games for free a week or so in advance then wax poetic about them on a review only to, a week later, call them broken and unplayable is what has me a bit perturbed.

magicmonkeybars:

RvLeshrac:

magicmonkeybars:

Like I've mentioned before, the games you buy don't legally have to function, that isn't what you're buying, that's just what you think/expect to buy.

Actually, yes, legally, they *must* function as specified. That's an "implied warranty of merchantability."

New Vegas doesn't have to make you toast, but it does have to let you install and operate the game from beginning to end, barring the existence of conflicting hardware/software in your machine. If it doesn't do these things, the person who sold it to you *must* legally provide a refund.

If they *knowingly* sell a product that does not perform the functions it was designed to perform (and was sold as properly performing), they're guilty of fraud.

"barring the existence of conflicting hardware/software in your machine." is the key to the issue.
As long as a developer/publisher can produce a working version you have no court case.
This is why there is more than one version of the xbox360/ps3/whatever other system.
As long as they have a ps360 that can run a retail version you have no legs to stand on.
Beyond that even if you return your game you'll only hurt the retailer you bought it from rather than the developer who made it.

The onus is on the merchant to prove that the product is not working because of something you did, however, not the other way around.

And there is no substantial programmatic difference between the various versions of the 360 and PS3. If a game hangs on one 360, it will hang on all 360s. If a game hangs on one PS3, it will hang on all PS3s.

Further, the retailer returns the product to the publisher/distributor, they don't eat the cost of the software.

Excellent Article Russ. I always love reading your stuff. I hugely agree with this. What really bothers me is when developers do this with games that can't be patched-where the disk itself has to be replaced. I think this happened with a Wii game recently. What also bothers me a lot is how simple many of these problems are to fix.

Fallout New vegas.....Civ V.....Medal of Honor? I haven't really heard much about the last one, but it's certainly not getting A+ ratings. I don't own Civ V, but all of my cohorts who do complain about its various issues. Ihave FNV and so far (fingers crossed) have not had an issue, but I have only played a few hours in so far, thinking I'll go easy until I hear its been patched to resolve the issues people ar having, just to be safe.

This is a great open letter, but it could pretty much apply to almost any given year over the last several, unfortunately...

Kilo24:

Nifty:

Kilo24:

I had hoped that with a working engine already out that Obsidian could focus solely on the gameplay and story content, leaving only the frequent crashes that always creep into Bethesda games. But that apparently wasn't the case.

I would hardly call Bethesda's version of Gambryo 'working'. :D

It hasn't worked since Morrowind, I don't know how we've let them get away with it.

To split hairs, Morrowind used the NetImmerse engine, which was just the predecessor to the GameBryo engine.

I would call both Morrowind and Oblivion "working", but prone to random crashes. Speaking as someone who played the hell out of Morrowind, there's a wide gap between "working and playable" and "free from major technical issues." Console commands can do a good bit to remedy bugs, but it's never something a player should be expected to do to just play the game.

But, hey, it's in keeping with the grand Fallout tradition to have buggy unfinished games. Fallout 2 was a notable contender there.

At least all these games manage to avoid Pool of Radiance's example of wiping your hard drive upon uninstallation.

I hate Ubisoft to this day for that. Fortunately, I noticed my Win98 install dir looked a bit light before rebooting and managed to replace all the files which had been erased.

I filed a complaint with the BBB, and Ubisoft's response was "Sucks to be you."

Sevre90210:
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?

Amen. Completly this, not that I condone piracy but I was all in for a cracked Assassins Creed II for the PC. Screw the legal version because of the DRM.

Also, Russ, you seem to slap me back into reality and made me realize how grave the situation actually is/can be. Thanks for pointing this one out for the game industry, I hope the letter reaches many ears!

Russ, fairly good article, but you actually skimmed over the real fix. You said yourself you "could and probably should" write rants on those broken games. Absolutely you should, I would go so far as stating in no uncertain terms that as a reliable source on gaming, and the editor-in-chief of a gaming site, it is actually your responsibility to do so. I would suggest that you dedicate part of this site to naming and shaming such broken games. Currently you have to trawl through the unreliable and often rabid forums on many sites - not an ideal way of getting information. I appreciate this might mean extra work for you or your staff but I think it should be a high priority for you guys.

Cousin_IT:
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.

I agree with this 110%.
Has nobody else been getting the feeling it's about that time that the game industry gets purged so that it may start anew?

Movies went from flickbooks and those funny spinning things with holes that you look through to things like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, to Jurassic Park to Transformers 2.

Games, equivalently, went from flickbooks (Pong) to nearly reaching the levels of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (the bulk of the 90's. 97 is probably my choice for best year of gaming ever, artistically,) to Transformers 2 (the slow decline of gaming over the past decade.)

Metropolis, Citizen kane, etc, may not look as good, but they say so much more than the bright, shiny explosion-fest that is Transformers 2.
The first Silent Hill may not look as good as the bright, shiny explosion-fest that is Modern Warfare 2, but it says a whole lot more about the human condition than MW2 could ever hope to say, so I'll stick with my N64, my PS1, my PS2 and my SNES and eagerly await the next big game industry crash, because I get the sense that it needs to happen.

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