Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paying for Betas

I feel like I've ranted about this before in the past but it's time to rant again. I don't buy all that many new games and it really feels like most of the big name games I've bought recently haven't been finished products. They tend to receive major changes in terms of balance or game-play relatively shortly after release. Mostly it feels like game companies have decided to sell beta copies of their games with the intention of maybe iterating to a release version at some point after having the masses play their game for a while. Star Trek Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Magic Online v2, Diablo III, and even Civ V had major revamp patches after I'd paid full price on release to play. Some of these games didn't even work at all on launch. I don't think FFXIV has yet recovered from its disastrous launch two years ago.

I honestly think StarCraft II was the only PC game I've bought in a long time that was an actual finished game on launch. But then it was actually in a fully functional beta for more than 5 months. It had a competitive eSports circuit with big prizes running during the beta itself. Blizzard wanted to make sure they had a game capable of standing up to the test of the eSports circuit so they put in the time and effort to release an actual finished game. They've continued to make changes to be sure but I don't think anyone could tell you with a straight face that the game at launch wasn't a finished product.

It really makes me question why I keep buying new games right away. I think I'd have enjoyed Diablo III more if I'd waited to start playing it until yesterday instead of diving in head first at launch. I thought Blizzard cared enough to pull it off but I guess without the risk of alienating the Korean gamer community they didn't feel the need to do rigorous testing. That the inferno setup has changed so much is a travesty. Never mind that the game is still missing huge key features like PvP and personal chat rooms.

I know Drew is planning on playing Guild Wars 2 when it launches this week. I'm expecting a recruiting message from Darque and/or Lythe soon as well. I no longer have any confidence that they'll be selling an actual game at launch and my desire to wade into untested waters filled with server crashes, bugs, and missing features is not very high at all. I'm going to have to put my foot down I think and resist the urge to play. Frankly with all the existing games that I know work (like the entire SNES library, old Final Fantasy games, and online board games) I don't really see any need for a new and likely buggy game.

Now, there have actually been 3 games I've bought in the last few years which felt like actual products. They weren't really games per se, but they were major content expansions to an existing game. The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm. They all had some bugs and all underwent many balance changes but they all felt like finished games. I may not have agreed with all their design decisions each time but it was clear they were decisions made for the good of the game and not to push the product out the door faster. I think that's because they all had the existing World of Warcraft framework to build off of. There was no chance of an important feature getting cut before launch because the important features were already in the core game. It's a lot easier to grow an existing framework than to build a new one and the WoW expansions are all growing from a solid game. Maybe that's why I'm so looking forward to Mists of Pandaria. I feel like I can count on some new content in a format I like with no fear of massive server instabilities or mind boggling missing features.

1 comment:

Matt V said...

The Magic Online Limited PTQ season starts next week I believe, though I haven't seen a schedule so I could be off by a bit. It would be good to have you back!