Last month saw the release of the videogame Hitman: Absolution, the latest game in the long-running Hitman series rabidly anticipated by fans as it had been over six years since the last instalment. I was one such fan, eagerly awaiting the 20th of November to be given the opportunity once more to sneak around and murder my instructed targets. Although early impressions of the game left me enamoured with the open nature of the design and the way in which experimentation was nurtured; it was all soured by a game-breaking bug which leads to the game system stalling and your saved data being deleted. It appears to be a relatively common bug with fan backlash being rather understandably negative. While the developers have said that they were unaware of this glitch and are ‘working day and night’ to get it resolved, it seems to be just another example of developers growing complacency in terms of dealing with technical issues.
While the reaction of IO Interactive would suggest genuine ignorance of the problem, there have been a slew of other examples of buggy games being released in recent memory, with Resident Evil 6 and Assassin’s Creed 3 being two other examples of hotly anticipated games mired by technical issues. The dilemma of glitches in games has become far more prevalent within the last eight years due to the advent of widespread broadband penetration. This cycle of home consoles was the first in which developers were given the opportunity to ‘patch’ their titles. This would allow consumers to receive downloadable technical updates for the games they had purchased in order to improve the performance of the product post release.
While this was seemingly envisioned as an altruistic feature to facilitate better enjoyment for the consumer, it has equally propagated a somnolent attitude towards spotting technical issues. This was rather grossly demonstrated at the launch of Assassin’s Creed 3 where a patch was available on launch day to fix some major glitches. Ubisoft, the developers if Assassin’s Creed, even went as far as to release a statement regarding a day one patch in light of negative reviews. While the patch did fix many of the bugs cited by reviewers, many more were left unaddressed. Despite all this, Assassin’s Creed 3 still managed to have the biggest launch of the whole series.
Other mediums are not etched in stone either with movies getting director’s cuts, albums being re-mastered and books being released with their manuscript endings as opposed to that originally published, but only in videogames does this back up plan seem to be becoming a crutch for larger developers. While one would assume that a smaller game would be less technically proficient as publishers would not have the resources to do extensive testing, in fact the opposite appears true. In recent memory, mid-tier games such as The Darkness II and Dragon’s Dogma launched with very few technical issues while it is the blockbusters that are letting people down with their contempt for the day one buyers. This kind of conduct is highly anti-consumer and is frankly unfair to costumers that have spent upwards of €50 for what is being sold as a complete product. While the interactive nature of video games does allow for some understanding in terms of unexpected glitches, I would strongly suggest adopting a ‘wait and see’ mentally when purchasing new titles so as to avoid becoming a victim of the ‘buggy’ game.