Unfinished Business: The State of Today’s Games
by Noah Thompson
We have gotten quite used to the frequent flow of patch notes and content coming to our favorite games, which sometimes can dramatically change the feel of the game. These updates are the flames that keep the interest in a game alive while attracting players back to the activity. Although a game does not truly die when it stops receiving updates from the developers, it indicates that this is now a “finished” product. Very rarely after this point will a game receive bug fixes or other dlc, but very rarely is a game left in an unfinished state.
As often as a game launches with bugs and glitches that go unseen during development, it seems as if now is the worst time to be preordering a new video game. Although few games make it onto the stores without any forms of bugs, we all might’ve had a truly flawless experience with a game. One of the first games that I ever experienced was Star Wars: Battlefront II on the PS2, a game that defined my taste in gaming and an experience that puts my thoughts on newer releases into question. Due to nostalgia, it’s hard to compare this 2005 Battlefront game to its 2017 remake by EA, a game that has some of the best effects and visuals I’ve ever played. But what’s not difficult to compare is the finished state of these two Star Wars games. Battlefront II (2017) was released more than a decade after the original and still has far more bugs that make the experience very frustrating to play through. Enemies that freeze in their place, server disconnections every time you enter the game, and leveling glitches that could prohibit any XP gain are all common events that you might face when playing this massive development.
It becomes more frustrating considering the development team holds the game as “complete” and has quit patching it for a year and a half with no future plans. On the other hand, Battlefront (2005) has only received a handful of updates throughout its life, the most recent one being in January 2018. These updates have included downloadable content, improved optimizations across the platforms, the revival of multiplayer servers back in 2017, and even support for modding, a feature that is still a bannable offense on EA’s Battlefront (2017).
Although Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) suffered one of the most infamously botched video game releases due to its heavy focus on microtransactions and a harsh progression system, it received many expected content updates. But then the developers sort of just, faded away. It’s an unfortunate example of a good game that could have been great, and though I still have had countless hours of fun on this game, it gets to a point where the immersion effect wears off when strange glitches occur. Downloading mods have drastically improved this experience, adding fan-made content that perhaps should have been included in the first place. The same can be true for any game, however, with Battlefront II (2017), even the simplest of visual mods can result in your connection to online servers being suspended and banned. This can be a much-appreciated measure in games that suffer from actual hackers and exploiters, such as the Titanfall franchise, but just shows the ways in which some developers overlook what their consumers truly want; the Titanfall franchise again serving as an excellent example.
Some franchises are used to being forgotten, a prime example of which is EA moving on from Battlefront to the newer Battlefield titles. The Titanfall story is, however, far more tragic. Only consisting of two games in the series so far, the developer Respawn has completely moved on to the ever more active and far more marketable battle-royale Apex Legends, which is set in the world of Titanfall and came out only a couple of years after the second TF game was released. Considered to be one of the fastest-paced shooter series with some of the best in-game mechanics, Titanfall 1 has been left in an unplayable state in which many of the in-game servers are flooded with bots. Due to a faulty matchmaking system that many claim to be lazy and recycled, hackers were able to infiltrate the servers and disconnect users, even partially making their way into Titanfall 2. Popular streamers were blacklisted by these individuals, forcing disconnections no matter the internet protection methods used for security.
Despite all of this, both Titanfall games are still being sold on PC, where the attacks seem to take place the most. The only countermeasures that have been taken were by another group of individuals who hacked Apex Legends on July 4, 2021, to promote a website speaking out about the state of the Titanfall games. After nearly 24 hours, all Respawn did was take down the in-game messages and made the servers playable again. I recommend Upper Echelon Gamers’ “The Titanfall Chronicles” playlist on YouTube for a deeper dive with the group behind the Apex hack earlier this summer.
There are many more unfortunate stories about everyone’s favorite games—some have become history while others are just beginning. Developer CD Projekt RED has gone through a lot since the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 release: on top of a divisive game launch and data breach, they have stayed committed to patching the still incomplete game. Nearly ten months after launch, they have finally fixed something as small as the mini-map and have been consistent with monthly hotfixes. Although they have stated they have reached a satisfactory level with the game, they have begun hiring some of the talent behind the game’s modding community, individuals who have taken it into their own hands to fix Cyberpunk 2077.
It seems, then, that when developers actually pay attention to what the crowd has to say, gamers can accomplish just about anything. However, we sometimes have to take action and do what we can to be heard. Whether we support modders or leave a negative review, we might finally get the attention of these corporations such as EA, Activision, Blizzard, etc. Reaching out on social media can be productive, especially when there is an active beta going on like with Battlefield 2042. If every game had a beta or free trial, we’d at least know what mess we are putting our money into before we consider paying full price for an unfinished game, let alone before we consider preordering. We can’t let this trend continue any longer.