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Have We Become A Generation Of Unpaid Game Testers?

In all my gaming years I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a flurry of incomplete, buggy games being released. It may just be because I’m primarily a PC gamer and am used to poor ports. The PC always seems to be an afterthought for developers. But it got me thinking – are terrible ports and conversions acceptable? If you buy a game, shouldn’t it work straight out of the box? Surely it shouldn’t require an additional download to fix bugs and crashes…
Grandmas boy
Game developers seem to be completely disregarding the testing section before releasing a new game. Not long after buying new software these days, it’s almost certain you’ll be downloading a mandatory update that fixes some crucial game mechanic or other.

Actively Testing A Game In Public has its place

That’s not to say this generation has been bad for gaming. If you’re releasing a game to the masses that will be played via multiplayer non-stop, you cannot possibly test for all the variables and scenarios that will happen when millions of people play it online.

Some of the most successful online multiplayer games have embraced updates due to fear of mutiny within the community. Great examples of this are clearly shown by Steam and Blizzard. In what seemed like a second coming to Counter-Strike players, Hidden Path Entertainment were hired by Valve to go in and port Counter-Strike to the latest Orange Box engine, fixing the bugs that have plagued the game since it was released.

Blizzard went this way for the new World of Warcraft: Cataclysm title and StarCraft II. When games are massively competitive and a lot of money is at stake, then a certain decorum must be upheld by the developers. They have to be sensitive to the scene and dedicated players, so that the update doesn’t completely destroy the game they love and have dedicated hours to – and even years – playing.

This is a great idea, making sure a fix or change is approved and tested before being distributed amongst mainstream players on a core title with a massive fan base. Releasing a bad patch can cause uproar or completely alienate a fiercely-loyal community…

It can also add a new marketing aspect and an additional “hype” mechanism. You know, spark an interest by offering limited betas to gamers who sign up early. We feel this can be a sneaky tactic by publishers, though. Usually, this allows for free testing by large audiences, and developers can stay snuggled under the cosy “oh, it’s only a beta, it will be fixed” blanket .

Sometimes It Can All Go Tits Up

The latest Medal of Honor, for example. EA released a multiplayer beta before the game hit the shelves. It sparked my enthusiasm for the game, but when it came to full release I was bitterly disappointed. None of the bugs I felt where present in the beta were fixed. There were countless issues – to me, Medal of Honor was released in a completely unpolished state. Something you feel they would need to focus on, what with such strong competitors dominating that particular market…

Who decides What Is Changed?

EG Idra

At the end of the day, we, the gaming community, like to think that we know best. But can you honestly say that you want that red bulled up, abuse-giving teen to decide how things are played? To use EG Idra, a professional StarCraft II player’s analysis of a situation when it comes to what is overpowered in his respective game. He suggests only the professionals can really say what’s overpowered and what isn’t.

Which is true in every aspect of gaming, I suppose. Unless you have the fundamentals down and can play to an expert level. How can you say, “This gun is overpowered,” if, at the end of the day, opposing players are just better than you, or you’re unsure of what tactics to use to counter their strategy?

Should we stand for this?

My real question is ‘should we stand for this on a stand-alone single player game’? If it’s on a console, then it should be clean, crisp and in full working order. Alright, I’ll give some leeway when it comes to the PC market (although instinct tells me I shouldn’t!), but we all know publishers’ priority is the console market. So why not just get it right from the outset? Why should we have to buy a new game on release, to then come home and find a 50mb + download to fix an issue developers knew was there before release? Other than Minecraft what’s your favourite beta you’ve ever played?

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