Gaming, Technology, Video Games

My Opinion on…Delays: Acceptable or Outrageous?

Watch Dogs Delayed Until Spring 2014

In life, punctuality is usually a good thing, right? We’re expected to show up to school and work on time, and we’re penalized if we don’t. Some of us live by the motto that “you’re late if you aren’t early,” whereas others slide in just before the bell rings/ it’s time to clock in at work. In the game industry, many titles are held to the same standard: a game is expected to be released at a certain time, and the developer has to follow through with it. With that being said, if we’re upset when somebody is late (and our boss is upset when we’re late) to an event, shouldn’t we be upset when games are delayed, as well? Or, on the other hand, is it acceptable because waiting a few extra months will give us a more polished product?

My prompt for writing this post stems from a little anger. I’m buying a PS4 at launch, fingers crossed, and there are certain games that I’m excited for. DriveClub was on my list because I like racing games. Then, about three days ago, I was reading Game Informer when I saw that a version of DriveClub would be free to PlayStation Plus subscribers from day one when the PS4 launches. I was ecstatic to find that I was receiving a free game at launch! Then, today I learned that DriveClub has been delayed into 2014, and I was crushed. Likewise, Watch_Dogs has been delayed by Ubisoft, and rather than releasing at launch, it will be released sometime in 2014.

Driveclub Delayed Until Spring 2014

I can’t understand how this happens. Please forgive me since I don’t work in the game industry, but how is it possible for a game to be delayed even though it’s had years to be developed? How do you get within thirty days of release and then have to say “Wow, look at the time! Sorry, everyone; we won’t be done for another six months.” It doesn’t make any sense that a company can get so close to releasing a game before going back on their word; the word that they’ve been spreading for months on posters, websites, magazines, and more.

The problem is that even though it hurts us as consumers, it hurts them even more. For example, since Watch_Dogs has been delayed, I’ll buy something else instead. Then, by the time Watch_Dogs actually does release, there will be other games on my radar, and I won’t be interested in it anymore. Ubisoft missed their chance now, and because of that, I’ll most likely end up buying the game used, and they won’t receive any money from my purchase. This is a highly competitive market. With so many games out there, it’s easy to get swallowed up and forgotten about. That’s exactly what might happen to Watch_Dogs. It was highly anticipated, but other games will take the spotlight, and by the time it finally does come out, nobody might care anymore.

On the other hand, it’s quite possible that the title is delayed for a good reason. For example, another Ubisoft title was recently released that had been delayed for months: Rayman Legends. Rayman Legends was slated to be a Wii U exclusive, and it was supposed to come out in the spring, if I’m not mistaken. However, it was delayed a few months, and it finally came out in North America last month. What did Ubisoft do in the few extra months it had? Well, the game ended up being released on the PS3, 360, PC, and Vita in addition to the Wii U, and it’s currently sitting at about 9/10 from most reviewing outlets.

Would Rayman Legends have been an A scoring game if it had been released four months ago? Maybe; maybe not. We may never know. However, we cannot deny the fact that by taking out a “loan” of a few extra months, Ubisoft was able to make the game available to a much larger audience. They most likely saw the laughable Wii U sales and decided that taking a few months to make their game available to more people was a gamble they were willing to take, even if it meant taking the chance of people becoming disinterested.

Other games, such as Madden, FIFA, and other sports titles cannot afford to be delayed; these games are annual ones that are expected to be released at alongside the start of the season for their respective sport. Yes, oftentimes, the titles suffer because of the time squeeze, and it brings up an important question: would you rather have a decent sports title every year, or a great one every other year?

Here’s my solution, and I’ll use Madden for an example. Madden is oftentimes scorned for not putting enough innovation into each entry, and there is a way to combat this. Instead of releasing a $60 game every year that is only decent, try releasing one every other year, with a small update available for purchase in the off year. This update could include new game modes, roster updates, etc. However, in this money hungry environment, as long as EA is seeing good sales, they won’t quit the yearly model, no matter how bad the scores are. There’s no incentive.

I’m caught in the crossfire between telling the truth and hypocrisy. I want games to be released when they are supposed to be released; I find it inexcusable that with years to work on a game, the developers cannot get it done in time. I would rather have you tell me a game is going to be released in 2 years rather than telling me it’ll be released in 18 months and then delay it another 6; I can plan accordingly in the first example, but not so in the second. On the other hand, I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that games should be released when they’re supposed to, because an unfinished game isn’t worth releasing.

Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s acceptable, but it isn’t. I see why games need to be delayed, yet at the same time, I can’t condone it. Then, on the flipside, titles that are rushed to the market (read: sports games) aren’t always as good as they could be, thanks to speedy production times, even though they can usually copy and paste a basic template over from the year before.

In the end, I think that delays are occasionally acceptable, given that they are delayed for a good reason. I think that if a game is delayed, yet it’s critically praised at release, then it was probably worth it to get that A rated experience. There’s really no way to tell if a delay is worth it or not before the game is released, as is the case with the current Watch_Dogs delay; we’ll have to wait until 2014 to decide that for ourselves, but I want to ask you this: do you think delays are acceptable, or should a company stick to its word? Is there any flexibility in that decision based on the title and circumstances, or should the rule apply to all; you must release without delay, and there are no exceptions? I’m intrigued; please enlighten me in the comment section below.

As always, I would love it if you leave a like or a follow, and please take a look at the LP channels in my “Links” tab. Speaking of LPs, I may be posting one of me playing Slender, which will be terrifying for me, as I hate horror games and movies. I’ll keep you posted; it depends on if I can get the video recording software to work or not.

Later
Matt

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10 thoughts on “My Opinion on…Delays: Acceptable or Outrageous?”

  1. (1) A great deal that we learn in school in respect to ‘how the real world works’ is remarkably untrue, so much so that we can genuinely question whether or not its an outright lie. Obvious examples are the government shutdown and issues with the debt ceiling, doctors offices being allowed to consistently run late and only see patients for short periods of time and public schools teaching rote memorisation for test answers instead of the ability to think. I wrote a poem about it called ‘A Heavy, Uncomfortable Truth’ in the Damage Over Time Collection and it can be found here (https://www.box.com/s/e6pdt0klgofe8oluzduk) if you are curious. I can say more about this but I’ll set it to the side since it was only introductory material for your post.

    (2) Release date delays happen for one of three reasons: (a) the suits are pushing the developers to reach milestones before they are ready, (b) the developers do not have a solid concept or (c) both. (A) The suits may be pushing developers to reach any of a number of milestones and the developers are simply unable to meet them for good reasons. This could be because QA pointed out legitimate issues, departments aren’t satisfied with their work and have the requisite pull to delay milestones, developers want to add a small feature that legitimately enhances gameplay or other such things. (B) The developers may have incomplete game concepts and, due to the amount of money already invested in the project, must delay release in order to play catch up. This happens when ideas are initially pitched and later found wanting, or when developers decide that a marginally different direction is best but one that also results in the scrapping of ideas in production. (C) Both of these ideas can come together.

    (3) I would rather wait for a complete game than have things be rushed. An example I am very familiar with is the Souls series by From Software. Demon’s Souls had nary a bug when I played it and beat it over a year ago, not one. That’s not to say that issues didn’t exist before the final patched version I played but that the final patched version I played was utterly flawless in my experience. As such I was eager to play Dark Souls but waited awhile for it to come down in price. I missed out on the more expensive edition that was supposed to come with physical goods, however Namco-Bandai (the publisher of Dark Souls, but not Demon’s Souls) changed the contents so that it was digital instead. This wasn’t a good move.

    When I got into the game I noticed several issues that, after experiencing Demon’s Souls, I found glaring. (a) Input delay is an intermittent and infrequently occurring issue, but it does occur enough to notice. (b) The story is presented through examining items in-game and to the point that one can say you would not be able to tell what is really going on or why without examining most of the items, the NPCs and cut scenes simply do not reveal enough. This is a failure from a RPG stand-point and the Souls series is a RPG series. (c1) Vanguard from Demon’s Souls was remodelled a bit and used as the Asylum Demon, complete with the old move set. This could be appreciated as a homage to the old game or a not-so-subtle easter egg if the Demon Firesage wasn’t in the game. That boss is a simple reskin of the Asylum Demon but with fire, however instead of doing fire attacks it does magic attacks…just like the Asylum Demon. This means that two bosses are the same with only a slight reskin. (c2) The Souls series demands players pay attention to survive. Being unable to use obvious visual indicators is a serious issue. This was never patched. (d) The Soul items (forged using boss souls) and unique items are inferior to their elemental counterparts, something that was not the case in Demon’s Souls. This means that the weapons that are the most difficult to obtain are inarguably less effective than the weapons easiest to obtain. (e) Enemies would actually respawn without using a bonfire in all areas of the game. This was, again, an intermittent and infrequent occurrence but it happened enough to notice. (f) The Covenants are, like the story, poorly explained and have no real impact on gameplay if you play offline. Some weapons, armour and spells are only available through joining them, however I cannot stress enough how low an impact this has on actually gameplay or story. (g) Some encounters like Gravelord Nito and the Capra Demon are known to be seriously glitched but nothing has been done. Gravelord Nito does a spike attack that erupts from the ground and can do this attack as the player is jumping into the tunnel to fight him, so the attack hits the player as they land and before Nito actually would recognise the player. The Capra Demon is in a positon that can swipe the player through a roll, especially considering the position of the dogs blocking the stairs to it’s right (player left). Both of these are more likely to happen if the player rests at a bonfire before touching the fog gate.

    It seemed clear to me that Dark Souls was conceptually incomplete and that the publisher, Namco-Bandai, pushed the developers to get the game out on time. The game looks great and it plays well enough but even a cursory examination shows holes that are begging to be filled and weren’t. This is why I am not at all eager for Dark Souls II.

    (4) We have a problem in the video game industry that is exacerbated by the sheer volume of non-gamers. Non-gamers don’t care because it’s ‘just a game’. Suits recognise this and will push developers. Developers will acquiesce to the suits and push themselves, even when they don’t have complete concepts, because saying that something isn’t ready is rarely an option. You said “…by the time Watch_Dogs actually does release, there will be other games on my radar, and I won’t be interested in it anymore[,]” and the suits are aware of that. The suits ‘need’ to make their money NOW and developers are aware of just how tenuous the existence of their studios and teams are, so they are rarely in a position to demand a delay. The suits know that DLC can fix the issue and so could calling a game ‘episodic’, they know that people will accept that and that means they have more leverage.

    Please note that I’m not trying to make developers seem innocent. Some developers are incompetent or bring incomplete concepts to the table in order to hook a publisher. It happens. What I’d like to emphasise is that in the current environment it is difficult to tell if a game’s state is due to pressure from the suits or developer incompetence. Given the current climate it’s much safer to err on the side of developer. For example, Splatterhouse (PS3, XBox 360) is a damn fantastic game that suffers from a few real issues. One of them is the loading screen taking up to a minute, something that is exacerbated by the difficulty curve. Enemies hit very, VERY hard in that game and this will force the player into a series of restarts early on. This issue almost stopped me from playing the game at all but, thankfully, I was able to overcome it and beat the game twice: once on normal and once on the highest difficulty. It’s a fantastic game but Namco offered no real support and pushed the developers, a story that you can readily find on the internet.

    1. What you’re sayiong makes sense; I can see where developers would need more time, and so a delay would be necessary. At the same time, just how necessary is it? The answer to that varies from game to game, and an issue I have is that the developers don’t really address that issue.

      Ubisoft released a very ho-hum, run of the mill apology statement in regards to delaying Watch_Dogs, and I feel that they have a duty to their fans to do better than that. Maybe they could give specific reasons why it had to be delayed and give a timetable stating when each step should be completed. This would help people like me understand that the delay was actually a legitimate need.

      Considering all the times that publishers and developers have let me down, I think it’s important that companies not do the same when announcing a delay. I can’t simply believe that it was necessary without knowing for sure, and it’s up to Ubisoft to rectify that right now; something I sadly don’t see happening.

      In any case, I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens!

  2. I would prefer a delay (within reason) depending on the game. Assassins Creed 3 needed to be delayed with all the bugs that are in there. If they need time to fine tune their product, so be it. But are they doing it for Watch Dogs or would they rather see how AC4 handles the pressure until spring? Perhaps GTA V scared them with all the awards Rockstar has won and are trying to make the best possible game. Let’s wait and see 🙂 I do think that this is going to significantly hamper the PS4 sales, as that was going to be my purchase. A PS4 console with Watch Dogs…now I don’t have to. I have time to save and purchase it later. I bet Sony is pissed.

      1. I don’t think any Assassins Creed game will ever be delayed because of the annual release date thing. Watch Dogs is still untested waters. I mean if I were them I would make sure there are no frame rate problems. In Ubisoft games, screen tearing and frame problems are common. I hope that doesn’t happen to AC4 or Watch Dogs..

      2. I guess youre right; the general public would be more apt to forgive assassins creed, since they’re familiar with it. But if Watch_Dogs messes up, they might not give it another shot.

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