Open Letter to People Who Make Games

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cloudcover:
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.

If Russ doesn't want to do this, I will gladly do so, for goddamn free.

magicmonkeybars:

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.

It doesn't need to sell as well as Minecraft to make money, as Unknown Worlds and Wolfire Games would testify. I would argue that a Civ V alpha would probably eventually sell reasonably well, since there's little fundamentally wrong with the concept and framework. And honestly, I just disagree with your view.

And another thing.. If these games are unplayable, why don't you guys ever mention that in your reviews?

I just reread the Civ V, Fallout NV, and Fable 3 reviews. For Fable 3 Susan did devote a paragraph to the glitches, yet never says it's unplayable. The Fallout one mentions glitches in a sentence at the end of review, following paragraph after paragraph of praise. Finally Civ V sounds like Gods gift to gamers (fans of the series at least), no mention at all of game breaking folly.

So it's wrong to assume he's talking about these three games, even tho he used pictures of 2 of them in his rant.

That, or there should be some serious editing going on.

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

Excellent article. I for one would like to see you forward this to developers to see what their response is to your letter, even if it is just a bit of PR speak saying that "The game was just so big!" It'd be nice if publishers would stop trying to take advantage of the consumers' gullibility constantly.

If gaming is to become a respected media in Joe Average's eyes, it needs people to be critical of it, within the press, people that can also be respected (see Ebert and the movie industry). Then, maybe publishers, developers and the government will stop treating us like children.

typo, last line. did you mean to say "make better 'games'?"

But all that aside, this was a very well written letter. Whether or not it will reach the ears of its intended audience, a very valid point has been made.

That articles basically sums up why I stopped buying Bethesda titles (or now, games that use their broken-ass game engine).

When I look at the bug-fix list for things like Oblivion, it makes one stop and think just what kind of business we're running here.

Half-assed, barely-functional titles are now totally acceptable despite having access to amazingly efficient play-test groups and vast libraries technical knowledge.

I liked the article and think it's completely accurate, but I'm in the camp that thinks it should be directed straight at Obsidian Entertainment. They've gone and horribly bungled three different fantastic series (NWN2, KotOR2 & Fallout:NV) with messed up, buggy, unfinished games. And did the same to their own IP, too (Alpha Protocol). Considering the level of talent at Obsidian and the fact the games are, storywise, fantastic games that I could play over and over (if I can get them to work), it's bittersweet to see their name attached to any game series I love. :sigh: Back to seeing if I can avoid the bugs in New Vegas...

Sober Thal:
And another thing.. If these games are unplayable, why don't you guys ever mention that in your reviews?

That. Very. Question.

I rented New Vegas for the PS3 (I refuse to buy games outright anymore), so I got a week to play it, and found only a few minor bugs when I played it, no more than average (some minor clipping issues, had one where my character fired his gun without my pushing a button, but that one stopped pretty quickly and didn't cause me any further problems). Perhaps I was lucky, but to go for a week and not encounter anything that crippled my ability to play the game (no lost saves or missions I couldn't complete), when so many were claiming within hours of release that the game was "broken" and "unplayable?" What are the odds of that happening?

P.S.: Maybe I'm used to real game-breaking glitches from way back on the NES, when my brother and I would have to spend half-an-hour blowing into a cartridge, then into the system, after whatever game we were playing decided to freeze for the umpteenth time? Nowadays, most glitches are fixed with a simple restart. EDIT: Not that some glitches aren't complete bullshit (I look at you, map-warpers in multiplayer-shooters)

Sober Thal:

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.

For the sake of argument, let's say you're dead-on right about Fallout New Vegas. That's one example out of three. Hardly invalidates the point being made.

Susan Arendt:

Sober Thal:

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.

For the sake of argument, let's say you're dead-on right about Fallout New Vegas. That's one example out of three. Hardly invalidates the point being made.

For the sake of argument, you guys get no games for free, I can get that. But as I said in another post:
'I just reread the Civ V, Fallout NV, and Fable 3 reviews. For Fable 3 Susan did devote a paragraph to the glitches, yet never says it's unplayable. The Fallout one mentions glitches in a sentence at the end of review, following paragraph after paragraph of praise. Finally Civ V sounds like Gods gift to gamers (fans of the series at least), no mention at all of game breaking folly.'

Why would you tell us to buy these games to later say they are broken/unplayable? Fable 3, Civ v, and Fallout NV are called better than the previous versions even!

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.

And people like you are the reason they keep releasing games in beta form as a finished product. A "very buggy game" is not a "really good game". A very buggy games is like a Toyota car. Sure they'll eventually fix the problem but by that time the damage has already been done.

Hm...makes sense to me. And to everyone yelling and screaming, "Stop buying games that are crap!" clearly you have never had to return a game. Or a movie. Or a CD for that matter. If you open the game (or any media device) most retailers will say you are STUCK WITH IT. Yes, there's a way to get around this with Game Fly, but a lot of people don't have that.
There's also the fact that many people buy the game on day one. They don't want to wait for it to come in the mail. "So why don't you just wait and see what other people say about it?" Yeah, people do that. They're called reviewers. Half the time readers throw a fit because a reviewer doesn't like their game, so reviewers "don't know what they're talking about." Plus, SOMEONE has to by the game on day one, and since that person is shelling up sixty dollars, is it really too much for that person to ask for a game that, while not perfect, is at least functional? No, I didn't think so.

On a side note, I'm getting New Vegas, Civilization V, and (apparently) Fable 3. Is that what most people think?

I had to sign in to comment on this article, as it basically mirrors my entire thoughts on the game industry as a whole right now. that coupled with the blandness of reusing IP's over and over until they scream bloody murder, and the fact that publishers are addressing "piracy" in the most ridiculous ways, I can honestly say with 100% confidence that I have never been as disappointed with the game industry as I am right now.

(btw, Squareenix should be on that list as well, just saying.)

but my disappointment runs so deep, that for the first time in my life I am considering moving on from being a hardcore gamer. considering the amount of games I buy and love to play that should really say a lot to publishers, I have played games my whole life, ever since I can remember being alive, i can remember playing a video game. "magic" really describes what video games are capable of, but in its current form, the video game industry is just a Hollywood clone that rushes out games before they are truly done and work to their intended state, there is almost no "magic" in these games anymore.

oh, its because of euphoria, you say? well, games like minecraft have that magic. games like mass effect 2, sort of captured that magic, but was so dumbed down (opinion) that it just turned into a very nice movie. and i would definately consider mass effect 2 to be the game of the year, which imo, is SAD, considering how many design choices completely bothered me (side rant). fallout: new vegas, as well, almost has that magic, but because of how many stupid bugs and crashes i've delt with, any magic that was there has been sucked out with a vacuum. when i get a bug, or a crash, it dramatically affects the experience, nothing destroys IMMERSION faster then a stupid bug or crash (that forces me to reboot), and that is why we play games, for the immersion and experience.

certain movies can still have that magic, so really my point is its not a euphoria thing, its a QUALITY ISSUE. and it doesn't have to be a perfect game to be "magical" (minecraft is in ALPHA for crying out loud, and look at its popularity), it just needs to be designed by competent people who dont try to reach for the broadest audience possible (aka dumbing down).

yes, rant rant rant, blah blah blah, some people are completely happy with what they get, and thats fine. I'm not here to convince other people that they shouldn't be satisfied with the games they play. but from my experience, the game industry is headed down a steep slope with no signs of stopping. the whole "recession proof" thing went completely to their heads, as well as "addressing piracy", and completely forgot about what makes people satisfied when they buy their game, which in turn makes them COME BACK.

TL;DR - basically I'm a hardcore gamer looking for a new hobby to pass my time, simply because of how many disappointments there have been with the gaming industry. I'm getting really sick and tired of being treated like a criminal (piracy) who doesn't mind choking down several bugs and performance issues on release, which may or may not be addressed in future patches.

thanks for reading if you did.

Does no one in the game industyr have any pride? I would think being mocked and flamed by their customers for making a broken game would be a source of shame for the programmers. You can claim the publishers pressure them to get a game done fast, but look at MMO's. Every MMO I have ever played had its release date pushed back multiple times because it was not ready to play.

TheXRatedDodo:
If Russ doesn't want to do this, I will gladly do so, for goddamn free.

..funny story. I submitted a review of Lost Planet 2 to the escapist. It was 800 words or so, plus another 400 or something about the network code and the game-mechanics. They told me to cut it down, because they were interested in something more easily readable. :D Eventually it wouldn't get published, because they decided they had already done a review already, and one was enough.

But yeah. Some of us are doing this kind of thing for free, because we'd like to see more reviews that aren't rehashes of the press-kit content.. and.. because literally no one are actually interested in publishing critical reviews.

I mean, it's not like I don't see why magazines are wary of people with strong opinions.. sure have seen that go wrong several times. Actually, there are lots of people who claim to have technical insight, and uses that to push their very unscientifically found opinions as fact. You don't want that.

Still, the typical attitude is that the review really must be an opinion only, sustained by the writer's credibility - instead of having the writing and review stand on the content itself. Maybe this is chosen because it's immune to criticism (from for example publishers). Maybe it's chosen because it's easier to write. But it lacks content.

That's.. something that certainly should change. And of course.. I applaud anyone in gaming magazines who take that discussion. Even if often it's really a superficial way to boost some personality's influence and reputation - by implying such and such methods and thought lies behind the.. when you get down to it.. author's largely unexplained opinions. And so reducing the entire thing to: "I have experience and knowledge; trust me", put as a reminder under the extremely subjective text. Which defeats the entire gig.

And you end up writing for free. And that's that.

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.

Yeah that's where the Fraud part comes in. Saying here's a finished product, and not having it finished. I'll agree to that.

If the game's not done, don't release it.

gring:
"Text"

Honestly I was feeling this same way until just recently when I discovered the Indy market Steam was now supporting, there's some really great stuff there.

Or on the professional level the Layton series has been my guilty pleasure as of late, simple detective mysteries done right with some puzzling makes a surprisingly good game.

I guess what I'm trying to say is the quality is still there, it's just you ironically(?) have to look away from the AAA, big name, hype-fest studios to find it.

ya, im still playing occasionally (layton ftw), i'll never turn my back to gaming completely, but im definately looking elsewhere for my entertainment. the fact is, i used to be very hardcore, but no longer have the interest i used to, for no other reason then there simply isn't enough quality or depth in most games.

what used to be great value in just about everything gaming related, is now just buggy DLC ridden penny pinching blandness to appeal to the "everyman" (which in reality is no one).

so...if i were a game developer... this article would give me no further insight to what i am doing wrong other then...im making bad games... a little more description would really enlighten me... ok so im making bad game... what if im one of the game developers that dont know its bad, then this article wouldn't help me in the slightest...

so what you want the game developers to do is...stop making bad games...a little too broad of a request without a suggestion or two. What can i as developer do to improve myself? what aspects of the game makes you despise it so? any information would help.

as a person who strives to become a game developer it would really help to know what NOT to do...

So here we stand, at the edge of the future.
We have a spaceport, we have a lunar base planned.
We can talk to anyone instantly.
Here we stand, and it's time for the games industry to understand that. This is a time of great, ridiculous changing. Fads are flickering in and out of existence faster then games can be made. If we want games to live, we need them to realize that this is the end of history, and the beginning of the future. It's a new art we're watching being born here, and I want to see it grow up. So snap out of it, work for the arts and don't forget your fans. Microsoft forgot, now they're sinking.
Good luck.

-Toasty

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'd guess it would be Fable 3.

Since Reach is actually pretty bug-free.

OT: Well said Russ.

All the developers/publishers complain about piracy and used sales. If they want people buying their games, perhaps they should release games that aren't buggy and unfinished.

You wouldn't pay full price for any other broken product, why should games be different?

gring:
but no longer have the interest i used to, for no other reason then there simply isn't enough quality or depth in most games.

what used to be great value in just about everything gaming related, is now just buggy DLC ridden penny pinching blandness to appeal to the "everyman" (which in reality is no one).

..agree with that.. But.. ahh... that type of game kind of is.. exactly as rare as it used to be, you know. It's just that the gems are more often passed over.. with high kneelifts, in the name of writing catchy, snappy, reviews.

Thing is, we really have seen a few games lately that have extremely high production value, and still didn't turn into some sort of serial regurgitation of an overused pilot.. And they're of course not the most profiled games, and they bomb, and are rarely reviewed at all anyway..

..some of them don't even get published in EU and NA until a year after it came out.. Presumably because, again, publishers and reviewers have very specific ideas about what is "sellable". And catchy, and engaging.

Not that I don't sympathise. Had a blog for a while - anything that was longer than five sentences typically didn't get read. Anything with "read more" got, statistically speaking, ignored by just about everyone. And to keep the hits on the rise, we needed to renew the entire frontpage twice a day.

So if you're interpreting this in a very straightforward way - and not taking into account that people might not be sitting down in their chair to view all the articles most of the time they visited. And might not actually have no interest whatsoever in reading the content, at all times. Then you would conclude that every reader of that blog had an average attention span of 2 seconds, and didn't really care for words at all, basically.

Still.. then what happens, if you cultivate a main audience like that? And really end up dropping even giving people the opportunity to read something else than twitter-style blogging? :)

i think it was probably fable 3. Susan said it was buggy, but i havent played it, so i could be wrong:)

Your mention of fraud is spot on. If gaming companies want to be able to police themselves and prevent government intervention in their business, they need to stop this practice of releasing faulty products such as these. I signed up at videogamevoters.org to support the gaming industry. But my feelings about Fallout NV are that it is a criminal act releasing such a thing as this. If I didn't patch the product myself and get it at least playable, I would be looking into legal action to get my money back. These gaming companies' carelessness is moving into the realm of the criminal, and the things Mr. Pitts said here should not be taken lightly. I will never ever buy a product released by Bethesda through a preorder again. They can keep their stimpacks, I'll keep my 60 bucks.

nipsen:

gring:
but no longer have the interest i used to, for no other reason then there simply isn't enough quality or depth in most games.

what used to be great value in just about everything gaming related, is now just buggy DLC ridden penny pinching blandness to appeal to the "everyman" (which in reality is no one).

..agree with that.. But.. ahh... that type of game kind of is.. exactly as rare as it used to be, you know. It's just that the gems are more often passed over.. with high kneelifts, in the name of writing catchy, snappy, reviews.

Thing is, we really have seen a few games lately that have extremely high production value, and still didn't turn into some sort of serial regurgitation of an overused pilot.. And they're of course not the most profiled games, and they bomb, and are rarely reviewed at all anyway..

..some of them don't even get published in EU and NA until a year after it came out.. Presumably because, again, publishers and reviewers have very specific ideas about what is "sellable". And catchy, and engaging.

Not that I don't sympathise. Had a blog for a while - anything that was longer than five sentences typically didn't get read. Anything with "read more" got, statistically speaking, ignored by just about everyone. And to keep the hits on the rise, we needed to renew the entire frontpage twice a day.

So if you're interpreting this in a very straightforward way - and not taking into account that people might not be sitting down in their chair to view all the articles most of the time they visited. And might not actually have no interest whatsoever in reading the content, at all times. Then you would conclude that every reader of that blog had an average attention span of 2 seconds, and didn't really care for words at all, basically.

Still.. then what happens, if you cultivate a main audience like that? And really end up dropping even giving people the opportunity to read something else than twitter-style blogging? :)

as for the rareness of quality games, i think there were times when companies really did put out original and high quality games almost time and time again. its just when companies and budgets get too large is when all that goes out the window. squaresoft is a great example, sure they had a bunch of crappy games, but for the most part, they were just so on point with just about every game they made, time and time again, they pushed the boundaries and were highly successful. all of that of course went right out the window after final fantasy 7, when at that point it wasn't about making quality games that they themselves want to play and enjoy, as much as it was selling as many copies as ff7 did. that turned into their priority, and soon had to be bought out by enix.

basically what it comes down to is greed. companies get bigger and bigger after big mergers, independents (at one point) were becoming less and less relevant (but that is changing thanks to the internet and steam, etc) because most were just getting bought out (EA*coughcough*activision*cough).

i read an article a while ago that showed (this info is off the top of my head and cant remember the specific numbers) that most games came from small and independent publishers like 70%ish in the 90's, after the game industry crashed in the 80's, to about 20%ish when the article was written, earlier this year. I think that number is starting to rise again, but this is where the innovation comes from usually. these companies are more interested in making games that are fun for themselves, and then quickly become popular (example: minecraft, super meat boy, etc). when companies become corporate, quality, depth, and originality usually die along with that step, although they do get a LOT shinier. even bioware is starting to show its corporateness (damn you, project 10 dollar).

and i feel you on the ADHD twitter style chat and being ignored. this is why i hated the wow forums (along with many other reasons) because if you actually wrote more then a paragraph, you got the "TL;DR. MOVE ALONG". i was actually shocked to see i had people read my entire post, and its why i threw down the TL;DR at the bottom, as well as a thanks. :)

btw, thanks for reading my post and responding, and to calamity as well.

nipsen:

TheXRatedDodo:
If Russ doesn't want to do this, I will gladly do so, for goddamn free.

..funny story. I submitted a review of Lost Planet 2 to the escapist. It was 800 words or so, plus another 400 or something about the network code and the game-mechanics. They told me to cut it down, because they were interested in something more easily readable. :D Eventually it wouldn't get published, because they decided they had already done a review already, and one was enough.

But yeah. Some of us are doing this kind of thing for free, because we'd like to see more reviews that aren't rehashes of the press-kit content.. and.. because literally no one are actually interested in publishing critical reviews.

I mean, it's not like I don't see why magazines are wary of people with strong opinions.. sure have seen that go wrong several times. Actually, there are lots of people who claim to have technical insight, and uses that to push their very unscientifically found opinions as fact. You don't want that.

Still, the typical attitude is that the review really must be an opinion only, sustained by the writer's credibility - instead of having the writing and review stand on the content itself. Maybe this is chosen because it's immune to criticism (from for example publishers). Maybe it's chosen because it's easier to write. But it lacks content.

That's.. something that certainly should change. And of course.. I applaud anyone in gaming magazines who take that discussion. Even if often it's really a superficial way to boost some personality's influence and reputation - by implying such and such methods and thought lies behind the.. when you get down to it.. author's largely unexplained opinions. And so reducing the entire thing to: "I have experience and knowledge; trust me", put as a reminder under the extremely subjective text. Which defeats the entire gig.

And you end up writing for free. And that's that.

It's incredible how much of your post applies to the journey I have made as a musician.

I started out by buying a cheap starter kit, as most of us do. Shitty strat copy and a tiny amp that sounds like bees trapped in a tin can, etc.
Kept playing, jamming to myself until the early hours just out of the goddamn love of having something to express myself with.
Eventually, I get to the point where I'm a good enough player to join bands, take it further (or so I thought,) so I take a Music Course at college. It covers theory, playing in groups, music history, midi based music sequencing, music technology, recording, blah blah, "the works" if you wanna put it like that and the more I got into the course, the more I found it was about ticking boxes, doing things the way they quote unquote "should" be done, not upsetting the status quo.

From a young age, you are taught to depersonalise essays rather than stating things as though they are your opinion and your opinion only. This course was like a manifestation of that idea as a big, ugly, churning machine that takes bright eyed, passionate individuals and turns them into jaded, chain smoking musicians.

I lost my passion, dropped out.

2 years later, I find myself only making music to express myself, doesn't matter whether anyone likes the pieces of music, doesn't matter whether they don't like the production, the aesthetic, the choices of notes, the feeling, the mood, whatever, because it's not for them, it's for me.

I find it all to be quite the big joke now, and it's nice to see someone else having similar experiences in a totally unrelated field.

I was thinking of starting a website for film/game/whatever based writing/reviewing, maybe I should get it going now and really try to upset the status quo with it.

I think the main problem with games in general is the fact that they're so different from other forms of entertainment media.

1.) They're interactive, music, books and films spoon feed you, games are expected not to. You as the player are in control, and your only decision isn't just whether to put it down and pick it up again later. Games might be the ultimate ego trip.

2.) Their pricing structure is wonky compared to the others as well. If I want to see a movie on day 1, I pay movie theater ticket prices. If not that interested, I can wait as long as I want until I can see the film for "free" on Network television. Price depreciation for games seems to be overly complicated, some games stay at full price until a sequel comes out. Nintendo does this with all its first party games. Some games drop in price in a month, some games slowly depreciate over time, some games become greatest hits, sometimes a GOTY edition is released. Movies have somewhat moved into similar territory with Director's cuts, blu ray/DVD combo packs and so on, but games seem to be experts at this practice.

3.) Unplayable games exist, unreadable novels, unwatchable films, and unlistenable music does not exist. No matter how horrible a book, song, or movie is, a finished product is released, a complete experience can be obtained from those forms of entertainment. You can choose to stop indulging in a given form at any time, but never is it forced upon you. Games however can have this unique ability. The most recent example that comes to mind is the Metroid: Other M debacle where you could literally get stuck in a certain room. The fix was to ship the save file to Nintendo where they could fix it and send it back. Admittedly, I find this instance to be acceptable, because they missed it, they're weren't dozens of these things, but only this one. Another older example is the Fallout 3: GOTY edition for PS3. I literally could not complete the game because it froze every time I got near Old Olney. I checked various forums and found out that this was a very common problem, so I refuse to buy Fallout: NV.

Because of these facts, I try not to hold my games up to books, movies, and music very often, but I wonder sometimes if perhaps we should. A book has to be readable at least, the plot may be the worst thing ever, but it can still be read (Twilight). A movie has to be watchable at least, you may not want to watch it, but you push play, and it goes to the end (The Room). An album must be listenable at least, it may sound like saws grinding against metal in the most unpleasant way possible, but you can still bother your neighbor with it (Nickleback). A game should be playable at the very least, and if it's to become a legitimate entertainment media, one that isn't scorned by politicians and parents, one that's not criticized by its very consumers over and over again. It should not be released until it is completely playable.

Games have often been touted as the ultimate media format, the best way to tell a story, the best way to involve you audience. Shouldn't we hold them to the highest standard of all?

Dear Industry: the Russ Pitts Gauntlet has been thrown down. Shape up, or hordes of Escapists will kick down your studio doors and give you multiple well-thought out, eloquent, and deeply passionate lectures on your job and video games in general.

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.

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.

Yes, of course they don't legally have to function, but they BLOODY WELL SHOULD! That's what the article is saying - how can an industry survive if the people making the products of this industry can't even accomplish the task of making their products usable?

I find it interesting that you're blatantly acknowledging that developers and publishers don't seem to care whether or not the product works, and yet somehow it's still the consumer who should be blamed for this? And everybody makes millions in the drug trade? Um...no, that's wrong. Totally, utterly wrong.. And regardless of that, why would you want the games industry to be like the drug trade?

What you seem to be getting at more than anything (and I agree with this, to an extent) is that the consumer is to blame for the lack of creativity and innovation in the games industry. Obviously, if people continue to shell out money for the same bland, repetitive formula, then yes, I certainly wouldn't blame developers for continuing to make that same bland, repetitive game. However, there is absolutely NO reason why those same developers shouldn't at least make their games playable. Such a blatant display of incompetence is inexcusable.

As you probably know it is impossble to make a game without bug, so spending time polishing is is essential to make a bug free game. The problem is the investor rather see a return in their investment as soon as possible, as a result they will often publish game before they are done. As long the consumer don't show that is the wrong thing to do they won't stop. Developer don't get much a say in terms of release dates.

Also if you want your option to be heard it is best to put it in a fomat they actually cares that is the sells, and no buying when the game is fix is not a way to get thier attention.

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.

Agreed. Bethesda alone is known for its "magical features" since the very first Elder Scrolls game, while Microsoft releases bug-filled everything, not just games. What happened to WinME and Vista again? Right.

The one I wouldn't have included would be 2K, since my experience with their games have been mostly bug free, or at least, minor annoyances that don't break the game. That is, until I played Civ V. Man, that game crashes more often than a toddler with unlimited access to sugar. But at least the nuclear explosions are prettier now.

Personally I have found a magazine that does really good game reviews with deep analysis of game game features, story lines, bugs, faults, great ideas that were destroyed somewhere along the way and the whole journalism bit. And you know what? They don't stop there! They publish historical pieces, like the way you tried to do with the whole Halo Timeline? Except they actually made it into an article that was both fun to read and nostalgic as hell. In comparison your shabby slide show vanishes from my memory even as I'm typing this. I reward the publisher of that magazine with 80 euros of my own money every year, so they can keep doing the great job that they are.

In comparison reviews released by The Escapist are far below their worst work. I simply refuse to give The Escapist money for the work you are doing, because it is not good enough. And guess who is at fault here? You, Mr. Pitts! It is you who are at fault. I refuse to buy into your Publisher's Club, because you are not up to standard as far as game journalism goes. I don't care how many developers, publishers and critics you party with on every weekend of the year. Why? Because you are not putting out the kind of quality work that demands to be rewarded. Honestly: I could just buy a brand new AAA-game with that 80 euros, and still have money to spend on other things. I choose not to, because I get quality journalism for my money.

Now, if someday the magazine I'm talking about should stop being published, I would consider giving you money. However, in the meanwhile I pray to you that you improve your game journalist skills. You got a long way to go, before I'm willing to give you money for the content you offer on this website.

Sober Thal:
Finally Civ V sounds like Gods gift to gamers (fans of the series at least), no mention at all of game breaking folly.'

Why would you tell us to buy these games to later say they are broken/unplayable? Fable 3, Civ v, and Fallout NV are called better than the previous versions even!

I think it needs to be said: I experienced no glitches or bugs while playing Civ V. The game-breaking bug in Civ V is only experienced by a small number of paying customers, and I believe that it only affects the particular saved game if you have a certain number of cities on the map. You are free to start a new game without the game-breaking bug. (I'm not 100% certain of this, can anyone verify?)

Such a small glitch is not worth knocking down a review in my opinion, especially when I did not experience the bug in all of my many hours playing the game.

That being said, Russ's point stands. In a perfect world, Civ V should not ship with any bugs.

In all my 15+ years of gaming, I can't think of one instance that I've experienced a bug that has rendered a game completely unplayable (excluding problems caused by scratched CDs). Sure, I've lost entire saves, or I've required driver updates and such, but there's always been a solution available. Maybe I've just made good purchases, maybe I've gotten lucky... or maybe Russ is making a mountain of a mole hill.

While I am definitely on the side that a delayed release is preferrable to a buggy release, and I can't say I approve of the "just patch it later" attitude, I think equating 'selling buggy games' with 'defrauding your customers' is quite the hyperbole.

Additionally, the annoyance of bugs is proportional to the quality of the game they are in. If what you're playing turns out to be a derivative piece of shovelware, you wouldn't much care if a bug cropped up. It's only a problem if the game is otherwise good, and these otherwise-good games are not a detriment to the industry.

As has been mentioned, it seems a bit odd to speak so scathingly now, when the games in question have all received favourable reviews from the site. I don't think it means the games should score lower or receive less praise, just a grain of salt on how critical the bugs were actually found to be at the time. A little perspective, right?

On that note, I'm expecting a patch to fix up the "make better games" / "make a better game" fiasco at the end of this article. It almost rendered it unreadable. :-P

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.

You stopped reading because Russ mention three game makers you think make "good" games? that sounds a little fanboyish to me...

Anyways, on the letter:

I agree a lot with it, but we must keep in mind that there are some game makers out there that do in fact release games when they are done, and not before, some of them even scrap projects if they feel they will not work.
But sadly the norm is to release generic brown and gray knockoffs with lots of bugs, and expect people to pay top dollar for it..

I think there might have been less piracy and pre-owned sales if every game on the shelf was of good quality.

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