A defence of day one patches in videogames

There has been much recent discussion about the perceived laziness of developers in the rush to release games and the glitches and bugs that arise from such hastiness. The latest blockbuster releases, in their intricate complexity often provide wide-ranging glitches, from the game-destroying problems of Civilisation III to the sometimes hilarious bugs of the Sims.

Despite inspiring some genuinely funny moments such as above, programming errors can be infinitely frustrating, especially when someone in an online multiplayer game is unfairly beating you due to one of these exploits. Thank goodness then for patches, modern gaming’s knight in shining armour. Patches fix everything that testers missed out on and also allow for additional downloadable content to be accessed (or worse, bought) by the public.

The problem many have with this system is that developers have apparently become lethargic and miserly in their testing process, and instead rely upon the gaming consumers and their many outlets of frustration such as internet forums for their game quality feedback. I too used to be annoyed that I was being sold the incomplete game and felt sorry for those that did not have access to an internet connection. I can certainly see the pitfalls of such a mechanic, although I have recently finished developing a game of my own and my perspective has changed somewhat.

Having spent the early stages of my 14-week development time enjoying the conceptualisation and designing of the game, the final four weeks came around far too quickly, with much left to do. As it was for a university deadline, I had about as much room for release date negotiation as developers do with their publishers. Although everything was planned to a timetable, inevitably certain aspects overran, even after allowing for some time lag. The end result was a game that had compromised sections and workarounds for problems I could not solve in time. The testing and debugging stage was squashed into a day and although I think everything is OK, I’m sure a large audience would find some bugs.

Needless to say, Molyneux was right when he was banging on about game development ruining lives and relationships. Perhaps in yesteryear games would have had sections cut if they did not work 100% to avoid errors, or release dates would slide beyond original announcements. This would mean we wouldn’t get the AAA titles in time for Christmas, we would be let down and untrusting of the PR teams and would also never get to experience additional content like map packs or Nazi zombies.

Instead of complaining and moaning that we are getting incomplete games and that patch culture breeds lethargy, perhaps we should embrace the concept, with many of the perks outweighing the flaws in my opinion. This is the first time the public are truly involved in game development; our opinions, our complaints and our gaming habits determine the content of DLC and patches. Developers are listening. It is inexcusable for the worst of the bugs to slip though the testing net, and I empathise with offline gamers entirely but I think maybe it is time to give developers a break.