Oh boy, you just bought a new game! Now you have the great honor of uncovering a myriad of bugs, glitches, and mistakes that will inevitably be patched in later releases. Obviously, you will be forking out for the DLC that adds in a new background character who does almost nothing and three massively overpowered weapons. And then you’ll be doing it all again on a fresh console because you absolutely have to see that console-exclusive mission.
It seems that companies can’t publish a game in the current market without applying at least one of the following genius ideas that are at the root of the biggest problems with modern gaming:
While not all games get this wrong, most tend to be weighted towards the more generous customers. Take a look at Team Fortress 2. It’s entirely possible to get through countless games without spending more than a few pennies. I’ve bought literally one thing in three years and have several full days of play time under my belt. Almost all items have the possibility of dropping with the exception of keys for boxes that you could easily trade with other players. But then you hit the other end of the spectrum with games like Clash of Clans. The very definition of pay-to-play, the highest bidder has the highest chances of winning. Dozens of games follow this trend.
Time was, you bought FIFA and kicked a virtual ball around as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney or some other equally tiny bunch of pixels for a year until the next version came out. But then somebody had the genius idea of suggesting that you sell new information on cheap little virtual cards that everybody snaps straight up. For every few coins you churn out, another bundle of randomly generated code is sent to your account. Because it’s all digital, there’s no printing costs or reason for companies to stop making more and more available. I’ve lost count of how many children have somehow spent piles of their parents hard earned money on in-app purchases on smartphones and tablets.
The Borderlands 2 DLC was amazing. An entire island just pops out of nowhere, and we suddenly have weirder monsters and bigger guns in what I’m fairly sure is the vivid imagination of an extremely unstable little girl with enough firepower to destroy a small city. Some DLC, such as “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep,” is great and worth every shiny penny. Others, like the infamous Horse Armor in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, tend to end up sticking with us in less pleasurable ways.
To understand the problems with certain DLC, let’s take the Lord of the Rings trilogy as an example. The base game is much like the films, with all the core content there and so little missing that you barely notice. DLC should be the little things, like Tom Bombadil. A minor character who appears in the first book for a few paragraphs. Completely impervious to the power of the One Ring, no mention of him passes in the films.
Somehow, instead of dropping minor characters, games are now dropping entire chapters and plot twists (still in the metaphor here) and expecting us to buy them back. Although it could be summed up as “A dwarf, elf, long-lost king and some half-people-people walked a long way to throw a ring into a volcano,” nobody actually wants to hear their journey described that way. We want the eagles, the Ringwraiths, the One Ring, orcs and elves and that moth with a soft spot for Gandalf. And we don’t want to have to buy a season pass on the off-chance that we somehow end up with stuff we should have had in the first place.
Adding in costumes a few months after the game? Okay. We’ll pay a few pennies and call it even. An alternate ending when the fans are screaming for blood (looking at you Mass Effect 3)? Get the staff back in and set the coding to pacify. But really, Capcom? Who puts DLC on the same frigging disc as the game and expects us to pay to unlock it?
And Star Wars: Battlefront, shame on you. Once you buy the game, the season pass to get future DLC, the DLC that somehow wasn’t included in the season pass, and the membership to PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold so you can play online, you come to realize that you’ve spent enough to buy three other games at full price. I once actually considered buying Battlefront from sheer peer-pressure. I walked out of the shop with a Wii, three games, and money to spare.
Admittedly, glitches and bugs are bound to happen in a land the size of Skyrim, a world the size of Fallout, or a universe constructed by No Man’s Sky. But releasing a game that is buggy and full of more problems than the original Doctor Who? Nobody writes half a book and expects it to be published. Yet somehow games keep getting sold that contain game-breaking glitches.
There was Fallout 4, which had a particularly amazing glitch that created a fractal nightmare when a USB stick was inserted into your machine. And Assassin’s Creed Unity isn’t the only culprit guilty of a face-melting glitch.
While we shouldn’t hold a grudge for every minor glitch that we stumble across, others are completely unforgivable. The amount of content in day-one patches is ridiculous. Surely it would be preferable to wait an extra month or so and get a proper game? If developers are still working on the games after they’ve been shipped, something is clearly wrong with the business.
There is an ongoing fan project for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim called (quite appropriately) the Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Patch. Originally composed of Skyrim, Dragonborn, Dawnguard and Hearthfire patches, the aim of the project is to continue to fix bugs left behind by Bethesda using both Creation Kit and community developed tools.
I willingly admit, I pre-ordered No Man’s Sky in a moment of weakness. It got me a sweet PS4 theme, upgraded starter ship and a bunch of in-game currency. In fairness, it was stuff I could get anyway, but I really wanted it before someone stole the last copy. Plus now it will be saved on my account as actual proof of ownership. But all that extra stuff could be earned in-game anyway.
Games that promise exclusive rewards for pre-ordering, such as Metal Gear Solid V and its list of pre-order bonuses, are basically just out to get your money as early as possible using the shiny lure of otherwise “unobtainable” items. It’s even reached the point where publishers give out different pre-order bonuses to different stores so that people end up buying five different copies just to get everything and then going mad when they find out that they can’t merge the saves and keep all the items.