Con-soul Searching: Bugs Can Be Features
There is an overwhelming trend in the industry lately to ship games unfinished and patch them after they have been sold. Patching games is nothing new for PC players but it is still a relatively new concept for the console scene. I like that developers can tweak their game after it has left their hands. Games like Star Craft 2 and Modern Warfare 2 have such a huge multiplayer following that bugs and glitches are bound to turn up eventually. What bothers me is a game being put on the shelf when the developers know it has major issues.
As you might have guessed, the release of Fallout: New Vegas is what inspired me to write this article. The games is receiving high marks across the board despite being littered with bugs. Being such a massive open world game bugs can be expected, but they are so numerous and so obvious I find it hard to believe that Obsidian (the studio behind the game) missed them in the quality assurance process. So the game was shipped buggy for two reasons; they had a deadline to meet and they knew the game could be fixed with patches. I understand that companies need to make money in order to keep making games, but I don’t want to pay $60 for a broken game.
There are really two kind of glitches in my mind. The worst ones are the game ending glitches. These bring a halt to your progression or just flat out cause the game to crash. The bug in Other M that caused a door to remain locked is a perfect example. The other kinds of bugs are things that aren’t supposed to happen but result in something humorous when they do; for example, a human model getting swapped for a bird model in Red Dead Redemption. Now while I don’t want these to show up in games I am serious about (Metroid, Kart, Smash, etc.), I have to admit that I love games filled with these funny bugs. The two most prominent are Dragon Ball Z: Sagas (specifically for PS2) and Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
We have talked about Sagas recently on the podcast, and we are working on a video to show off some of the funnier glitches. The thing is, the only reason we play that game is because of the bugs. Without them it is just a boring brawler with a DBZ theme. We have got a lot of laughs out of Sagas but it is all for a game we didn’t expect would be any good in the first place. Ultimate Alliance is a pretty fun game outright but the goofy bugs we run into make it even better in my mind. With MUA, we expected the game to be fun (which it totally is) but the glitches lead to a more enjoyable experience. I think the bugs blend in with the game easily because it is so over the top ridiculous in the first place. So obviously there is a place for buggy games. Now things would be totally different if I played Metroid Corruption and all the enemies were invisible but could still hit me.
I can’t think of a case where I had high hopes going into a game only to realize it was filled with bugs. I have to imagine I would be pretty disappointed. I would be going through that now if I had been waiting for New Vegas. I am still surprised at how well New Vegas is reviewing despite all the problems I have heard about. It really is a testament to how great the game is. I’m sure the game will be patched and things will be fixed but it still bothers me that developers resort to that. I am paranoid that games will start shipping far before they are ready for retail. I don’t want companies to start using the paying customer as game testers.
The weird thing is, I don’t want to say that games shouldn’t be buggy. As I have said before, sometimes I will have more fun with a game full of goofy bugs than a triple A title. I suppose it is similar to my movie mentality. Sometimes I want to see a movie like The Dark Knight and sometimes I want a “B movie” like The Guy With Secret Kung Fu. I just don’t want my triple A franchises to be reduced to a joke of a game the first three months after release while the developers actually finish the game.