Time for Game Developers to Level Up? Part 1
Are the current generation of games meeting the expectations of gamers?
There is no denying most gamers are fickle creatures but with each new generation of consoles, gamers expectations have continued to increase. With Christmas only days behind us, I expect many people are spending their time playing the latest titles and some may even have got their first ‘next-gen’ console. But a lot of games from this generation of gaming are often criticised, both fairly and unfairly. In looking back at different generations of games consoles, it certainly feels like something has happened to a mindset, either that of the gamers or the developers, that has led to this increased level of criticism. That something, I think, is the internet.
With the PS4 and Xbox One (and to a lesser degree the PS3 and Xbox 360) we have consoles with an almost constant connection to the internet. 10 years ago this would have been unheard, many families just did not have the same level of access to the internet as we do these days, and whilst this has enabled new, more convenient, delivery systems for games, the fact that developers now expect consoles to be connected to the internet is become ever more evident, not least in the phenomena of Day 1 patches. Halo 5, released just two months ago, required a 9GB patch on it’s release day. Adding the time to download and implement that patch on top of the time it took to install the game on the Xbox hard drive, it was a good while before I was actually able to play the multiplayer aspect of a game I had been waiting months for. And genuinely, I had been so excited for Halo 5 but this was kind of a downer.
Developers, or perhaps I should be saying publishers, probably see this concept of day 1 patches as a god send, the ability to ship a nearly finished game knowing that developers can continue working on the game right up until the release date, rather than having to stop in time for the production of the physical game goods (disks, etc). This does however mean that the criteria for the state a game is in before it is shipped are now different and who is to say that that the development team can fix bugs etc before the game is released, even with a day 1 patch, meaning games could potentially be in the consumers hands with some pretty bad bugs and glitches still present. Assassin’s Creed Unity stands out as a game that had some pretty bad glitches, so bad that Ubisoft gave away free games to make up for it (I got FarCry 4 but never ended up playing past the first chapter).
I also have problems with games that require you to be connected to the internet to play. Due to awkward circumstances in which I currently find myself in, my Xbox One does not have an internet connection that is 100% stable. I have taken steps to maximise it’s stability but occasionally the internet connection will drop out. I get that this will be a problem for multiplayer games and I do no get too frustrated, at the game at least, if I was kicked from the game due to my connection. But to be kicked from a single player career game of NBA2K16 simply because my internet connection drops is incredibly frustrating and has been the end of a gaming session on quite a few occasions, super annoying when I’ve been making some incredible shots.
So this assumption of consoles always being connected to the internet has changed the face of gaming in a few ways. Of course, some are good. Digital delivery could be huge in the future but making it a requirement to get access to games, be it through connections needed to play or having to receive game fixing patches is a big downer to me and not something that should be the norm.
In Part 2, which will be released the same time next week, I look at what else I think developers should take a long, hard think about, as well as considering how the attitudes of gamers may have exacerbated the situation.