There’s no question about it – we’re in the midst of one of the greatest gaming generations of all time. With the PS4 (Pro), Xbox One (S) & Nintendo Switch currently out, and with the Xbox Scorpio just around the corner, the most powerful home gaming consoles in history are available for purchase. Available games like GTA V, Zelda, The Last of Us & Horizon are as close to masterpieces as one can get. Yet, for all that is going great in the gaming industry, there are many questionable decisions that have been made and issues that plague both the developers and the games. All of these problems affect the gamers directly, which is completely unfair. I fully understand that some things are beyond control and easy fixes aren’t always available, but many of these problems can be rectified if the developers just took the time to make sure things were ready before releasing a game.
Some of these problems are because of game developers, others are due to the actual console companies. There are even a couple issues that are because of gamers themselves. Now, before I start the list, I’ll say I own both a PS4 and Xbox One (I don’t yet own a Switch). I spend significantly more time on the PS4, but there is no bias here. With that being said, here are the biggest problems in gaming today…
Remember the good old days when you’d go to your local game store, pick up the latest cartridge or disc, and sit back and enjoy the entire game at your convenience? Yeah, those were great times. Now, with everything going digital, most gaming companies release a contestant stream of extra content that usually has a fairly high cost. So instead of getting the game you wanted for $60, you also need to get extra maps, special missions, cool costumes, new characters, and fancy weapons – all for another $40. You can save a few bucks and buy a seasons pass, but you’ve now spent nearly twice the initial cost because gaming companies refuse to release a completed game. DLC should be 100% optional. Buying things that give you an unfair advantage in online games, or basically forcing you to buy extra maps just so you can play with your friends isn’t cool.
Online gaming has become a key part of the industry. Whether we’re teaming up to complete a common goal or fighting each other to the death, multiplayer games can provide endless hours of enjoyment – when it works. There are so many issues plaguing online games that sometimes even being able to log in can be a crap-shoot. Server crashes, latency issues, unbalanced matchmaking, NAT type problems, migrating hosts, maintenance delays… all common problems that prevent you from getting into the game. If you do manage to get online, then there is a 50/50 chance of being stuck in a game with some random idiot who acts like a child and throws a tantrum every time something doesn’t go his way. Another smaller, but avoidable, issue is developers trying to force multiplayer and/or co-op into games that don’t need it.
I get it – glitches happen. They should be easy to find and fix. Yet, for some reason, many games are being released with the glitches intact. Sometimes your save can get corrupted or reset your progress. The studios are always releasing patches to fix these glitches, but in some cases the fix makes things worse. A great example is Homefront: Revolution. The game was buggy as hell when it launched, but it was at least playable if you could get past the freezing. When the issues were “fixed”, it made things so much worse that it became unplayable – the map stopped displaying, missions wouldn’t complete, everything went in the crapper. If the developers need a few extra weeks to correct the errors, let them have it. I’d rather wait for a game that runs well than have a glitchy mess that I can’t do anything with.
This new trend is more of an annoyance than an actual problem, but the fact that it is becoming more and more common in troublesome. Some games are being divided into multiple parts, and each “episode” is released at different times. There is no actual reason for this, unless the developers like toying with us. The cost isn’t increasing. Releasing a game in this fashion has no bearing on the quality of the game itself, but the end result is that we’re just going to wait until everything is released before purchasing it. Telltale Games all release in this format. From a storytelling perspective, they’re some of the best in the business. But having to wait months between each episode is awful. Imagine if each episode of your favorite show ended in a cliffhanger, and you couldn’t watch the follow up until weeks later. Resident Evil Revelations 2 released each of its 5 episodes a week apart. In this case, why not just release everything at once? The worst part of all this is that now physical copies of these games are being released, but you still need to download everything besides the first episode.
While postponing a game for a few weeks to iron out the kinks isn’t a problem, delaying it for months or years very much is. If developers need to wait a long time to release a game, so be it. Over the last several years many games have been announced, and now many years later have yet to see the light of day. The Last Guardian released 8 years after it was first announced. Kingdom Hearts 3 is going on 6 years. Final Fantasy XV took 6 years as well. I personally think games should not be officially announced until they are fairly close to release (no more than 18 months). Announcing them too early builds up too much anticipation, most likely resulting in disappointed fans when the game finally does release. Even more annoying than massive delays are when announced games are outright cancelled after so much build up. When Scalebound was announced in 2014, Microsoft had a new IP that had many gamers excited – only to cancel it completely earlier this year. Silent Hills announcement in 2015 had PlayStation fans cheering, especially after they released a demo on the PSN called P.T. When Konami cancelled it a few months later, fans brought out their pitchforks.
Imagine going to the theater to see the latest romantic drama with your partner, only to find a stupid comedy full of fart jokes. You’d be pretty disappointed, right? Now what if you were promised a game that featured a massive open world, millions of planets to explore, the ability to build up a base on the planets you like, and the option to do all this with your friends. Well, for those who were excited for No Man’s Sky, this unfortunately was most definitely not what they got. Instead of the high tech Minecraft they were promised, they wound up with a boring simulator that many lost interest in within a week. The game was so misrepresented that an actual lawsuit happened because of false advertising. Things have been fixed, but it’s too little, too late. This isn’t the only example of this, but it is easily the most prominent one.
OK, this is definitely more of a complaint against Microsoft and Sony (and now Nintendo) than game developers. Way back in 2002, Microsoft started Xbox Live, a service that allowed players to set up their online experience for $50 a year. In 2010 Sony introduced PS+, a similar program, but with one major benefit – every month you would get a handful of free games that would remain playable as long as the membership remained active. Everything was fine, as both plans were optional and not required to enjoy your games. When the new consoles were announced though, it immediately became known that these membership plans would now become mandatory for any sort of online experience. Basically, if you ever wanted to play either console online with your friends you would need to fork over $50 a year. Gamers were rightfully choked, but Microsoft softened the blow somewhat by starting their own free game offerings. Then last year, price increases were announced for both plans. Now Nintendo is jumping on the bandwagon. Suddenly charging people for something that has been free for over a decade isn’t exactly good business.
These asshats who live in their mommy’s basement have become the bane of many gamers’ existence. There’s two main type of hacker’s – the ones who ruin specific games by using exploits, and the ones who hack gaming servers and basically shutdown the network. The jerks who use glitches and exploits to work a game in their favor are a special kind of awful. Anyone who has ever played GTA V online and wound up being destroyed by someone hiding in a wall or sealed building knows exactly what I’m talking about. These people have nothing on the creeps who destroy gaming for everyone by overloading the servers and causing online play impossible. Sony servers were shutdown for 3 weeks in 2011 due a one of the largest data breaches in history.
None of the issues I’ve listed necessarily mean that the affected games are bad. It’s just that while developers have become overly ambitious, they’re also become lazy and money hungry. All us fans want is the complete game we were promised, and within a reasonable time frame. It really isn’t much to ask…