Swift Musings: Unfinished Games, Finished Business

Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons
Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

2014 was called many different things, but for entertainment, it may as well be called the year of the unfinished game.

“Minecraft” popularized the idea of adding content to a game well after its release. With its open-world map, lack of a linear plot and successful add-ons to its limited, retro style of gaming, it allowed for fan-created mods and downloadable content (or DLC) to enrich each and every gaming experience within “Minecraft.”

Fast-forward several years to 2014, and much of the gaming industry has turned a blind eye to the quality of games produced and sold. Granted, the majority of video games are largely completed with little complaints, but some of the most popular titles of last year were far, far from complete.

Take the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, for instance. I’ve loved “Assassin’s Creed” ever since it debuted. I counted myself among the most enlightened 10th graders back in 2009 learning Renaissance history in “Assassin’s Creed II.” Who cares if the history lessons probably weren’t on point? (I’d assume they weren’t, given the historical revisionist vibe the game emits.) There were few, if any glitches, in that game, which is arguably the best one in the series. It was great to become immersed in that game simply because it was easy to.

Then the oatmeal raisin cookie of a game, “Assassin’s Creed III,” came out in 2011. My dear god, the glitches in that game were just horrific. You’d be running up buildings when you didn’t mean to, and jump off of ledges when you ordered your character to do anything but. The game’s nauseating framerate would make the quality of your old, dusty collection of straight-to-VHS ‘90s Disney films seem like gold.

2014 saw the two hugely popular franchises of “Assassin’s Creed” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” release their worst, glitchiest and most incomplete games they have ever produced in “Assassin’s Creed: Unity” and “Sonic Boom.” The infamous glitches that make up “Unity” are now immortalized all over the Internet; “Sonic Boom’s” glitches simply made it unplayable. This is no exaggeration: Sega produced a Sonic game full of glitches that’d make you want to rip your eyes out of their sockets like Oedipus. One glitch involves using Sonic’s friend Knuckles’ jump ability over and over again as long as you press the jump button after pausing the game. People reported using this technicality to beat the game in an hour.

When games are rushed for profit (both “Unity” and “Sonic Boom” were released during the holiday season), it can really hurt gamers’ trust in the industry as a whole, aside from devoted fanbases.

It’s also easy to look at circumstances where a company won’t allow reviews until after a game is released. “The Order: 1886” (due for Feb. 20) is a recent example of this, where rumors flying about state the game is only four hours long. Publishers and gaming sites would be able to warn consumers about this if Ready at Dawn studios allowed pre-release reviews, and their inability to do so hurts consumer confidence in the industry as a whole. Watching a gaming company take this stance is akin to listening to your grandmother’s outdated offensive language during Thanksgiving dinner: There’s nothing you can really do about it no matter how awkwardly painful it is

Then there’s downloadable content (DLC) and upgrades. This is the epitome surrounding this crisis of the unfinished game. So many games fall into the dark, evil pit of being released incomplete to make a profit so that the developers can continually add on DLC and upgrades. It almost feels as though developers are excused from this behavior because of the amount of buffer the Internet and the age of social media provide. Just imagine any other type of product, such as a book, a bicycle or even an airplane being bought and put to use, only to find out that it’s incomplete.

OK, so the last example may seem a tad hyperbolic, but the point still stands. Video games are a huge and ever-growing industry, and it’s just really strange that many developers and CEOs can get away making millions by creating imperfect and incomplete products for consumers. You can label me old-fashioned for believing in this, but there should be a point where principle rules over profiteering.

 

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