When games should go beta or see you lata

With current trend of developers releasing games too soon, consumers might not get their money's worth.

By Lucia Lee | Jan. 27, 2012


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In the wide realm of video games, there is a trend I have been noticing that is not beneficial to the industry as a whole. I’m in economics, so I understand the principles of supply and demand. And trust me when I know that games, like "The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim," were getting a lot of demand prior to their release.

The trend I mentioned is this: to placate this massive demand, developers are rushing the final product of their games. What this leaves gamers with is a product that eventually exposes itself as bare of the final polish.

Within the past month, games such as "Silent Hill HD Collection," "Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier" and "Max Payne 3" had their release dates pushed back in order to accommodate developers’ wishes to further polish off the game. According to PC Gamer, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick stated that the "Max Payne 3" release date was pushed back in order to deliver “the highest quality, groundbreaking entertainment experience.”

Yes, these developers have forced fans to wait even longer for the release of highly-anticipated games, but really, what’s an extra few months of waiting for a game you’ve probably been waiting to purchase for more than a year? These few extra months guarantee that the $60 you throw out for the game will be well worth it.

However, there have also been companies who have made the decision to push ahead with the release date of a game, ensuring fans get the game when promised but at the expense of quality. Take Bethesda’s "Skyrim" for example. Back in fall 2010, Bethesda announced that "Skyrim" would release on the iconic date of 11-11-11. It held up that promise, most likely wishing the memorable date would trigger more sales.

As any who own "Skyrim" know, it is a game full of invincible dragons, houses that can be bought for free and more saving and frame rate issues than one can count. If you don’t believe me, just look at what the latest "Skyrim" patch (v1.4) fixes. The bug and quest fixes total well over 50.

Some of these bugs that are fixed include long-term play optimizations for memory and performance (PS3), the issue where quests would incorrectly progress after reloading a save, the crash related to giant attacks and absorb spells, the infinite loop with bookshelves, the issue where Galmar would not complete Joining the Stormcloaks properly if “Season Unending” was an active quest, the issue in “Forbidden Legend” where killing Mikrul Gauldurson while sneaking would make his corpse inaccessible and the numerous issues with “Blood on the Ice” not triggering properly.

Even with the multitude of bugs Bethesda did fix, there are still some missing, including where if you’ve done the prison break in Markarth and received a bounty, there is no way to remove it, or the “Bard’s College” quest where the Jarl of Solitude isn’t there so you can’t progress.

I often joke about how Bethesda released its beta version to the public on 11-11-11, and these subsequent patches are the creators responding to the beta testers feedback. The annoyance of taking an hour or so to download a patch every time I play "Skyrim" has caused the novelty of the game to wear off.

I will allow "Skyrim" some leeway in my criticism. It’s a giant game, and even testers would probably rarely run into some of these problems on their own. Having hundreds of thousands of people playing "Skyrim" most likely exposed all the bugs because of variety of ways one can play this game. It’s not possible for developers to release entire beta versions of their games in order to test them for bugs; it would take hundreds of hours of gameplay to find the bugs, thus throwing out the need for consumers to actually purchase the game.

I also will concede that not all of the bugs were harmful. I particularly enjoyed when giants would launch NPCs miles into the air. I also was not all that upset by getting a house for free in Whiterun. I admittedly used monetary glitches like this in my N64 days. There was a glitch in Harvest Moon 64 that allowed players to place all their money on a dog in a dog race and then back out of the menu, allowing you to keep your money but your bet to be saved. I never once complained about this glitch.

All I really want from developers is to take a little more time to polish off that game, not rushing to release it on a day that I could hardly care less about.

Thank you.

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