Last month I wrote a piece about the problematic launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity, attributing its flaws to the corrosive results of franchise annualisation. I still stand by that viewpoint, but as I sit here updating it for submission to the Student newspaper, I can’t help but wonder more specifically about the game’s myriad technical issues.
The source of my wonder is yet another disturbing trend: that of releasing supposed “AAA” games in states that could understandably be called unfinished. This past month has been especially concerning in this regard, not only because more broken games are being released but because some of them are still broken. Assassin’s Creed is still not up to scratch in basic performance. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a game published by Microsoft themselves, was released with almost non-functional online play, and it’s still not fixed. Driveclub, which came out in early October? Still broken.
How is this happening? How are games being released like this? These are just the more extreme examples, but it seems like virtually every big name release is far from structurally sound. Dragon Age: Inquisition, Far Cry 4, even the new World Of Warcraft expansion have been problematic to varying degrees. What happened to certification? It seems like games are simply getting away with a lot more nowadays, because of the possibility of patching bugs down the line.
The ability to patch games is a good one, of course. It’s a huge advancement from what games used to be capable of, and it’s a positive part of our increasingly online-reliant modern consoles. It becomes a problem when it’s relied upon as a basis for releasing a broken game. Last year was lousy with this kind of behaviour, and it’s only getting worse. There needs to be a line drawn in the sand, and soon.