I had an interesting debate recently. If you haven’t been following it, Fallout 76 recently released and it’s a broken, glitch filled, mess of a game. It’s everything you fear from that outdated Bethesda engine layered on top of an online Fallout experience that no one asked for. Without taking into account the 47GB PS4 patch, it’s possibly the most broken AAA game released in 2018. Let’s also be clear that a 47 GB patch the opening week of a game is not acceptable. This is yet another example of an arrogant studio/publisher releasing an unfinished game for full price in order to make a release date that the public didn’t care about to begin with.
Let’s talk about release dates quickly. Release dates aren’t actually a required thing. Publishers set them for devs based on a number of factors including but not limited to peak profit windows based on past data, cost of continued production, hype longevity, and quarterly earnings report dates. It’s 100% about maximizing profit vs potential risk projections. But at the end of the day, they set the dates. They tell the public the release date, often way too far in advance, which leads to delays and missed dates. They set the target dates for themselves. But in no way is any of this required when talking about a big publisher that isn’t on the brink of bankruptcy. They don’t have to tell us any dates. They could just finish the game and then release it when it’s ready. They don’t have to meet their chosen dates if the games aren’t ready. EA won’t go belly up if they delay a month to actually finish the game. The only reason big games get shipped unfinished, and it’s mostly big games that do it to begin with, is simply that publishers decide to do it believing that they can get away with it . . . and sadly they can.
Fallout 76 was released unfinished. But let’s not sit here and pretend that it’s the only unfinished game we’ve seen released. It’s not even the only unfinished game we’ve seen released this year. In my opinion, it’s not even the only unfinished game we’ve seen released this quarter. I’ll get to that in a minute. We’re only complaining about Fallout 76 because we wanted it to be bad to begin with. People didn’t like what Bethesda was doing with the Fallout franchise. People didn’t like the concepts described. They knew going in it was going to be a glitchy mess, as all open world Bethesda games are, but they bought it anyway. They pretended like they were being objective and the game just happens to have problems. Not so. The problems were expected. The real problem is that people bought it and allowed the practice of studios releasing unfinished games and then patching them later as well as charging for DLC to finish off the plot to continue. This makes me both angry and sad. I truly believe that most of the bullshit we see today from the gaming industry is our fault. We simply continue to pay them for sub-par work, microtransactions, and inflated prices so that’s what we get. But that’s not actually what I really want to talk about in this post.
People are angry with Fallout 76 because of all the glitches. But they’re not complaining about another game recently released that is also riddled with glitches from another developer known to release games with issues. I’m of course talking about Red Dead Redemption 2 from Rockstar Games. Now let me first be very clear in stating with no debate that Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t as bad as Fallout 76. In fact, while many people will probably argue that Fallout 76 is the worst AAA game of 2018, many will definitely argue that Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best game of 2018. While I don’t agree with this assessment of RDR2, I have no problem saying it’s an excellent game. But that in no way negates the fact that it is also a game that is full of glitches. They’ve been reported on. They’ve been posted to YouTube. I’ve seen big name gaming journalism sites post video compilations of them. There are lots of glitches in that game. Many of which can be considered game breaking.
Let me clarify what my definition of game breaking means. If I have to restart or reload the current game session because of a glitch then it’s a game breaking glitch. There are definitely different levels of game breaking glitches. A really bad glitch freezes up your whole system. But any glitch where I have to stop playing to reload my save because of the glitch is in my book a game breaking glitch, because it breaks my current gameplay session. Whether you steal a pack of gum or a car, you’re still a thief. The level of thief differs, but legally speaking you can still be arrested, tried, and sentenced for the crime of stealing in either scenario. This is the same thing. A glitch that locks up your computer is a game breaking glitch. A glitch that causes a horse to fly across the screen and kill an NPC you needed for the mission you were currently in, causing you to have to reload the save is also a game breaking glitch. The only difference is that because we collectively like what Rockstar Games did it’s funny when the horse flies across the screen and makes you reload the save. Whereas when we launch three nukes simultaneously and crash the server we get angry because we don’t like what Bethesda did. That’s a double standard.
I think it’s odd and hypocritical that people praise Rockstar Games for releasing an unfinished game full of glitches and lambaste Bethesda for doing the same thing. I think both companies should be treated critically. Yes, Rockstar Games made a considerably better overall game than Bethesda and people actually wanted it to begin with. But that in no way negates the fact that they too released a game that’s full of ridiculous glitches. Why are we giving them a pass and not Bethesda?
Some people in the debate stated that they were OK with RDR2’s glitches because they were mostly cosmetic and “not game breaking”. First, what exactly constitutes not game breaking in a scenario where NPCs are getting thrown across the map when you’re trying to interact with them? Many times they die when you needed them for a mission. Second, that thinking sets a terrible precedent. It means that there’s an imaginary line that is in no way objective that lets devs get away with releasing glitchy, unfinished games as long as they aren’t so glitchy that they cross the line. I want a game with no glitches. I understand that it’s nearly impossible with an open world game as large as RDR2 to have absolutely no glitches at release. There’s so much game there to check. And many people don’t experience all the glitches. That is what makes them glitches after all. But there are a lot of glitches that have been reported in RDR2 and yet everyone is still praising the game like nothing is wrong. For me this is a problem because it tells Rockstar Games and other devs that it’s perfectly acceptable to release games full of glitches as long as it’s the type of game we think we want and they’re the right type of glitches that make us laugh.
I don’t agree with this double standard at all. I don’t want any glitches in my games. I acknowledge that I have to accept some of them. But I’m not going to praise a studio for a game that has so many of them when I played several other great games this year that were to the best of my knowledge/experience glitch free. God of War and Spider-Man were both games I played this year that to the best of my memory had basically no glitches. While neither of them is as big as RDR2, they are both open world games. So for me the idea of even considering RDR2 as GOTY while simultaneously considering Fallout 76 as the WGOTY (Worst Game of the Year) is problematic. I didn’t need any patches in God of War or Spider-Man. I played both of them on day one. Both RDR2 and Fallout 76 had patches in the first week of release. Both studios released unfinished games with game breaking glitches. We should not praise one while attacking the other. It’s hypocritical, it’s inconsistent, and it’s illogical. Let’s instead hold all developers to a higher standard and use our money to demand finished and polished games before release. And if that means we have to wait a bit longer to play the games we want to play, then so be it. It’s not like we’re not all backlogged anyway.