It’s Time to Give Up on Day One AAA Releases

Why such a thing needs to be done, and what AAA game companies can do to stop from screwing up.

To give a brief understanding of my gaming history, I am likely one of those “BOOMER” kids, born in the mid-to-late 80’s, played Super Mario games on the NES — occasionally borrowing games from my cousins as a child, owned a Nintendo 64, PlayStation and PS2, along with other consoles, eventually moving onto PC in my early adult life, because why not?

PC gaming opened up a larger world to me, especially when it came to peripherals — mouse, keyboard, Steam controller, along with different types of controllers over time. Consoles are great and, as a person once said, “the GAMES define the console,” but when it comes to gaming, it’s a bit of a spectrum, whether you play console, PC, or both.

The lamentation in my own heart comes to the first point, which is becoming a long lost art from the days of cartridges and CD-based games of the 1990's-2000's these days

To give you some context, I grew up in a different time, obviously. Cartridges and CDs had their respective places on the console a consumer decided to buy, and each had their respective development kit so companies were able to develop games, test them, rewrite code in places where needed, and allow them to slowly push the limits of the console. Consoles each had their own problems of being different, having a different bios from one another, a different coding language, and different hardware parts and specs.

Each time a game was created, it was regularly tested, updated with new code, retested for bugs, and re-updated, over and over again. Time and time again, developers would make progress in developing the game close to, or near, that 98–100% threshold. If they had made a bad version of a game, they would have to either pull their stock (the current version of the game) off of all the shelves — which made the developer and publisher lose money — OR, they created a new “updated” version, of which would equate to the companies replacing the old stock for free (if ever done), essentially losing money, also.

Over time, cartridges started to have internal storage. Donkey Kong Island, Super Mario All-Stars and Pokemon are all just an example. PlayStation had its own memory system — Memory Cards, which were translated over onto Sony’s second PlayStation console — PlayStation 2. The XBox 360 had both, so a player could take their profile on a memory card to a friends place and have fun while playing single, co-op, or even multiplayer away from their own console.

Even though Amiga CD32 (’93) was first to have internal hard drive storage, it seemed as if internal storage became an interesting turn in console development, along with internet support implemented into consoles (whether through expansion slot or built-in). Consoles seemed as if they were drifting away from their predecessors, becoming PC-Lite, if you will, while still holding onto their console identity.

Obviously, CD and DVD support wasn’t becoming obsolete around that time. And, a good thing. Sharing such media between players allowed for more prospective players to “buy-in” into a certain gaming franchise, or — in the case of the XBox owner’s case, unlock achievements without owning the game and get those ‘precious’ achievement points. Given that the internal storage was primarily for save data and, later, small console re-releases and arcade games sold at a given price, certain games utilized the HDD for given patches, over-riding what had been written to the original CD / DVD of said game. Internet had become a tool to the console, not only for online play, but for patching and selling digital content.

With the previous effects of console releases — both cartridge and CD/DVD — and different versions being released, crunch time was a bit of an issue, but not necessarily important for a formal release. A number of titles in the past had been pushed back a few months or more just so the developers could get their coding and other formalities near that 100% perfection.

In the meantime, developers, or at least their advertisement teams, could spend a little more on extra publicity and antics that would attract more customers, even though those already on the “hype-train” would continue to feel a little disappointed over time, but well excited for a game’s release.

But, the job would get done, with in-house and third-party testing units. Roll-outs would be in large quantity and able to satisfy those that had been eagerly awaiting their dream to come true in real (or virtual) life.

This is not the end, though…

Today, developers and publishers need a lot of work to go through.

AAA game developers and publishers need to work in unison to know what both can do and can not do. Noticing voluntary and involuntary limitations are a necessary step in seeking what one can, or can not, do.

The internet, as a tool, should be treated as such, but not abused as a way of completing a partially completed game from Day One release. Day One releases must be first and foremost optimized before released on PC — if through digital release, like those of their physical mediums, like CD / DVD or cartridge equivalents. At least 98% complete. No more should a gamer have to download a myriad of patches to fix a game that cost them full price on day one, but be able to play it to a certain point because of crashes.

“Crunches” should not be tolerated so much to push a product out that is below 98%, and incentives, such as DAY ONE DLC, should not be considered a good thing. Lower the expectation, if need be. No more eye candy, okay? Play with their minds a little, like… Flirt. No need to go in so hard.

By a 98–100% completion, data usage (for particular people on net plans) drop significantly, less bugs and much stabler game play, Day One.

I reckon, once this type of thing is given the necessary work and implementation, things can go to a certain “trusted” path between developers, and gamers.

As gamers, we should be able to have a voice and use critique to better a company’s standards, let alone the way they handle their IP, to allow them a way that they can improve, implement ideas and allow their player base to get the best out of what they give.

The best rules to apply: Stay true to the IP, don’t disregard every idea, but also, produce solid content without a whole month’s wait until almost 100% solid completion.

To be honest, I hope I have done good by writing this. The industry needs to get back to their old ways. We may have technology, but we shouldn’t mistreat what we have as a way to gain much more than what is given out.

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Main interests: Politics and video games. I have others, but they are numerous. I like to write opinion pieces.

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L. J. Critcher

Main interests: Politics and video games. I have others, but they are numerous. I like to write opinion pieces.