Friday, December 12, 2008

To Patch Or Not To Patch

With the internet taking over every last facet of human life patching has become the new golden goose to video game developers. Now here's where my problem comes in. Growing up in the age of arcades having 20 person lines for games that you couldn't get at home and blowing into a Nintendo cartridge for half an hour to try and hopefully not have your magic sword erased in Legend of Zelda I came to learn that when a game came out that was it. Forever. Maybe years later if a sequel came out you'd get improvements to the gameplay and you'd get to see your favorite character return and conquer new levels and villains. I for one am still waiting for a sequel to River City Ransom but that's another rant altogether. (I'd like to dream it'd be called River City Ransom 2: The College Years) Anyways back to my original point, patching. Originally developers employed "testers" who "tested" the game to make sure it worked and was fun to play before it came out. These types of people are still employed but I'm convinced that they put as little effort into their day jobs as I do. More and more games are being rushed out to meet deadlines or compete with other releases about mysterious loners who can't remember their past but stumble upon an ancient destiny or some other cliched theme and the focus is more on the business end of things rather than releasing a quality product. Now I understand that gaming is and always has been a business but it's a bad business practice to release products that quite frankly are not finished. Just look at the difference an extra year would have made for the release of Windows Vista. But in rides the internet on a chariot made out of 0's and 1's to save us all in the form of a patch. Now ok, I understand that patching is a useful and important tool and at the end of the day I supposed I am pro-patching but humor me and let me rant.

Let's look at the MMO Vanguard. This is a game that has been out for over a year now and is just starting to finally look like a finished game. For those of you not in the know Vanguard is your standard fantasy MMO with swords, dragons and elves. Nothing ground breaking but a fun game. It took over 6 months for them to release a patch that would install into the game the animations and designs for helmets. Yes, helmets. You know those things you wear on your head that any person who plays an MMO contributes to the majority of your appearance. (that and shoulders) They were in the game in terms of names and stats and so forth but you couldn't see them. So they finally get patched in in very basic forms and slowly over several months became more and more detailed with more and more patching. This is an example of bad patching.

Another example of bad patching for me is downloadable content. Ok, yes I'm a sucker for it too and have spent more money on downloadable tracks for Rock Band than I did on the game itself but here's my complaint. Finish the game, make all the levels and maps you want and then release it. Don't release an RPG (Fable 2, Mass Effect and Fallout 3 come into mind) and then a few months after finishing it release an extra world or level or quest campaign for me to go droolingly into the XBox Live Marketplace and spend my Microsoft points (which I frequently forget translate into real money) on them and then play them and think to myself "this should logically fall into place in the middle of the game somewhere" since my overpowered end of the game character can power through and everything found in it is of zero value to me at that point. To me it's like putting deleted scenes into a dvd. It's something that either wasn't finished or good enough to put into the final product and rightfully shouldn't come at an extra cost later on down the road when greedy patch-happy developers want to keep rehashing existing products rather than work on something new.

1 comment:

aaron said...

I did the whole Vanguard thing at launch, and it was kinda fun, but WAY under developed. Since then I've played WoW, of course, SWG (since Beta), Guild Wars, Warhammer Online, and now LotRO. . . I just got into that. . . boy howdy is that game AMAZING!