Stuart and Tom reflect on a year of waiting in 2014
Is this the year of the gamer? I had to ask myself this due to so many things hitting the gaming news headlines; such as day 1 patches, postponements, apologies and surprises. I would argue that this has been the year of the patient gamer. The gamers who wait for the games to be solid before investing their moolah. Waiting for the prices to reach a certain point before opting to part with their cash. My personal most wanted game was Shadow of Mordor. This was due to it being the must have open world game, an ultimate surprise for me as far as Lord of the Rings games go as I have never really ever hyped them before. However, the buzz around town was this was the absolute exception. A surprise was in store for me though as this was a solid game from day one and with DLC extending your playtime, you’ll be able to enjoy this rich world filled with death and betrayal for far longer.
The biggest/most-important apology, in my humble opinion, came from the developers of Halo Master Chief Collection, 343. The reason that this was the most important? Well it was because these are the guys known for making the best online experience. The Halo online multiplayer has set the bar for all other online shooters that came after them. The issue that arose which caused them to apologise? They were failing to re-create their online awesomeness for this mega-halo-palooza. Now this doesn’t seem so bad, but when the one thing you are known for doing well becomes your achilles heel? That is when the user base should start to worry.
Ubisoft also apologised for releasing their broken game, Assassins Creed Unity. They did this in the best possible fashion though by offering free DLC for the early adopters as well as giving an extra game to the Season Pass holders. “To show our appreciation for your continued support, we’re making the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity Dead Kings DLC free for everyone. For Season Pass holders, we will also offer the choice of one additional game from a selection of Ubisoft titles for free.” This was nice to see from a big developer. They held their hands up and admitted their fault. This shouldn’t happen though, and as good as an apology as this is, it doesn’t make people forget. This wasn’t the only game from Ubisoft either, however this was their big offender thanks to the following that Assassins Creed has. Will I be picking up the game? Of course I will, but not until I know it is complete. This gives me time to sing more sea shanties and hustle some merchants.
My absolute heartbreak is this. I am used to waiting extra long for PC releases because it means that there should be better optimization. This is my enduring faith in the PC port of GTA V. First person suits the mouse and keyboard better, but making the jump to PC has rarely been RockStar’s best feature. My entire body is contorted into a sort of crossing of all my crossable bits, all in the hope that GTA V for PC will be perfect.
Watchdogs, the Wii U version, was the game I actually had to wait the most for this year. It was never 100% going to happen but an increase in Wii U sales – thanks to Mario Kart 8 – and an elongated development time meant maybe, just maybe, it would happen. I picked the game up on release day from the Wii U store. The game was a lot better than I had been informed it was going to be, the Wii U pad was a bit clunky for parts of the game so I opted to change to using the pro pad instead.
The worst part of any gamers day is when they are made aware of encroaching release dates changing. That is not true however, in the case of Super Smash Bros. For Wii U. My ultimate gaming pleasure is taking down my friends in the absolute mayhem that is Super Smash Bros. The latest in the series, for 3DS and for Wii U, isn’t the most ambitious of games. It looks remarkably similar to Brawl in the Wii U version and it does not play well on the 3DS. That being said the game does have some things in store for the Smashers in your family. It is still lots of fun, this time you are able to play against 7 of your mates. Increasing the madness and ruining friendships within minutes of play time. There are also new modes that have been introduced, such as the board game mode which is a pretty rudimentary board game. It involves a dice roll and then moving the amount that is your roll, any tabletop player would say that this is. The tactics involved here are choosing which direction you want to go, and choosing to chase down as many brawl statues as possible to get extra lives in the final bout.
All this adds up to one conclusion. As gamers we should wait until the games are finished before we try to pick them up. We have waited until release day, so why not wait that little bit longer? With all of this in mind, I maintain that the developers should not be releasing anything that isn’t complete. This may just be the world we live in now, with the likes of Steam Early Access(SEA). SEA lets players who are passionate enough about a game or developer play the game in its pre-release form. This seems to let the developers release the game early, appeasing their fans, as well as use their fans as beta testers. As anyone who has scrolled through the comments on SEA games knows, the SEA adopters are the most opinionated. You would think that the developers would be charging less for this? Well not exactly, I can’t say for sure that this happens in all cases, but there have been a fair few of the games released on SEA that cost new game money but offer so little to the player. The good thing about SEA that doesn’t apply to the release of broken games is that SEA does allow the games to be played earlier, and there is a certain acceptance that games won’t be polished but will still allow you to play to your hearts content.
Tom’s thoughts and Day 1 patches
When Stu asked me to write something about “The Year of the Waiting Gamer”, I wasn’t sure how to start. I’m not the kind of guy that gets annoyed at delays to games. I normally have far too many games to play, so every delay just gives me some more breathing room to catch up on my list of shame. Witcher 3 gets moved back eight weeks? Great, then maybe I can finally finish Witcher 1 and 2. A Witcher prequel starter before my main course.
When I thought about the title of his feature a bit more though, I realised “The Year of the Waiting Gamer” is a really good summation of my year in gaming. Indeed, it’s a sub title for 2014 in gaming as a whole. I’ve never spent more time waiting than I have in 2014.
And not just waiting for games to be released. Waiting for games to work. Waiting for Halo MC Collection to work properly online. Waiting for The Crew to work at all. And waiting for Destiny to load my next mission. Those load times sure do give you a lot of time to think. And to make some food. And to write an article or two. And maybe pop down the shops and get some of your Christmas shopping.
So I’ve spent a lot of time waiting this year. But while I can forgive Destiny it’s long loading times (because they let me look at my sweet ass spaceship), I can’t forgive how many broken games came out this year. Jon has already mentioned this (https://calmdowntom.com/2014/12/top-5-gaming-crimes-of-2014/), but I think the point needs to be made again. Broken games are not cool. Not at all. The day one patch has become a necessary evil. And although many would denigrate the practice of day one patches, I accept the realities of the situation. Games dev is hard, and making a complex multiplayer game work at launch is tough. Sending a game to retail effectively signs it off weeks before its actual release. As a result, a day one patch is a useful tool in collating the developers work that they’ve done since the game went gold. It lets them tidy up the remaining bugs they find, plug the memory leaks and add the extra bells and whistles that will make their game a success.
What I can’t accept is games that are broken post release. AC Unity and The Crew were too prominent offenders this year. Both of these games were simply not ready to come out. The respective day one patches didn’t fix these games. The day 5 and 6 and 7 patches still weren’t enough to make them work as advertised.
Of course Ubisoft isn’t the only offender, but they’re one of the most heinous. I have far more sympathy for Sony and Drive Club. Sony don’t particularly have a reputation for releasing broken games, so when Drive Club came out lacking basic features, it was a disappointment. And the really sad thing for them is that now that Driveclub is actually starting to look rather – well great actually – it’s already been written off by many fans. Maybe it’s time has come and gone already.
This should teach Sony a lesson. And Ubisoft and Microsoft certainly need to learn a lesson from their failures this year too. Broken games don’t just hurt the gamers experience they hurt the reputation of the company. Shipping a broken game and fixing it post-launch might save money in the short term, but eventually we will learn which companies we can trust and which games we should pick up from the bargain bin after a few months, or skip completely.
Ubisoft, you’re on your final warning. And as for the rest of you, it’s not that we’re angry, just… disappointed.