Will games always have buggy releases?

For the games industry, though, it could have nasty implications. After all, a bug can range from a random crash to an AI orc with his arse stuck in a castle wall. Look hard enough and you’ll find bugs in any game: legal refunds could lead to fraudulent claims and industry death.

Above: A wonderous bit of post-modern art via a glitch in Fallout 3

“We empathise with the need, on the part of the consumer, to be able to purchase products that work,” says Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, the industry body for UK developers. “We understand that. At the same time, UK developers are operating in a very competitive environment. This would put UK and EU game developers at a disadvantage against competitors elsewhere in the world.”

Francisco Mingorance, Director of Public Policy at Europe’s Business Software Appliance, believes digital content should not be subject to the same rules as toasters, pointing out that software is susceptible to malware, modification, and piracy. Also, the commissioner’s proposal could affect products like downloads, patches and updates, he says.

Wardell believes enforced refunds would be a disaster. “When Demigod came out, there were people who couldn’t launch the game, but it turned out to be due to Google Desktop. It had a system hook that was preventing Demigod from launching on some people’s machines. We had to work around it. But whose bug is that? It wasn’t really a bug at all: it was just incompatibility. Retailers are not in any position to make that call.”

Nevertheless, there is no excuse for a rushed game that makes your life a misery. TIGA’s Wilson says developers and publishers need realistic timetables for producing and delivering games. Shipping faulty products, after all, ruins our fun, and damages the industry.

“We need to ensure a customer gets good value for money,” says Wardell. “By doing so, they are more likely to purchase more. These are concepts that have been with us for thousands and thousands of years. In the technology industry, it seems like some people have decided that those long-standing rules don’t apply anymore. The reason we treat customers well is simple: we want them to continue buying from us.”

Historic glitchfest: some notoriously buggy games

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (2004)

Troika’s troubled masterpiece brought new meaning to the term “unfinished business”. The constant crashes and floating objects were far creepier than any undead bloodsucker, and a load of hidden content was buried beneath the code. However, gamers embraced Masquerade’s weird world, taking it under their wing like a sick kitten.

Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)

The initial PC port of Rockstar’s crime caper was allegedly more troubled than Afghanistan. Many users reported disappearing landscapes, vehicles spookily travelling along floating roads, and the inability to customise the graphics settings. Valve eventually relented, offering refunds to people who purchased the game through Steam on a case-by-case basis.

Boiling Point: Road to Hell (2005)

If the PC port of GTA IV had tonsillitis, Boiling Point had full-blown AIDS, what with dodgy framerates, disappearing cars, and missions that completed themselves when you didn’t even lift a finger. Underneath was a decent game, and the gaffs often made hilarious viewing, although it was like getting kicks from driving a car with no brakes.

Empire: Total War (2009)

A portion of the game community declared total war on SEGA’s otherwise brilliant RTS. “I appreciate the game would be amazing, fully worthy of 9/10, if in fact it would work for more than 10 minutes,” says peeved PC Zone UK reader Paul Rooney. Creative Assembly have been on the case with patches, but some players reckon that the game is still running poorly.

Dec 9, 2009


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  • 911Donkey - December 24, 2009 3:48 a.m.

    I'm surprised that Castle Crashers wasn't yet mentioned. The online co-op was damn-near unplayable for the first few months after launch. Even when the problem was fixed, the community on the game had all but died, anyway.
  • saintthedogg - December 18, 2009 12:50 a.m.

    I have had my share of problems with PC gaming. enough issues to make your head explode... but strangely enough i had none whatsoever with GTA iv , E:TW , or FC2 now, I know tons of people did have problems. But I pre-ordered all 3 and played on release date with no problems at all. I just I should stick up for 2 great games I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as FC2. again im not saying there weren't problems, I know there were -just not for me. they were thoroughly enjoyable.
  • rtechie - December 16, 2009 9:44 a.m.

    Yes, you should be able to get refunds for games (not just for bugs, but for any reason). No, it will not damage the industry in any way. The latter statement is a FACT, not an opinion. You can demand refunds for games in many countries and it's had no significant impact on games there whatsoever. What is the possible scam we're talking about anyway? Someone buys the game, plays it for 28 days, and then returns it? Aren't these games supposed to have a lot of gameplay? And don't many rental services allow people to do the same thing for a dollar or two? Are game rentals destroying the industry? If a game is a buggy mess, it will get a bad reputation and poor sales with or without returns. If the game is good with only a few bugs, relatively few customers will return it. The reality is tht obviously no industry wants to be subject to consumer protection laws, hence the whining at the end of the article.
  • RanGo - December 16, 2009 6:36 a.m.

    It is something that is deeply troubling, and it affects both new and established developers. Hell, the latest patch for the Sims 3 makes it to where your sims cannot interact with other sims in the game, a primary element of the game. And no patch has been released. It does make me wonder how much many companies care about customer service.
  • Icehearted - December 15, 2009 7:22 a.m.

    This is a current gen plague. If we weren't online, they'd have to actually bug test their crapola before releasing it to be fixed later. I don't know about you guuys, but I hate paying $60 and tax to be a bug tester. Fable 2, Mercs 2, GTA4, oh the list is large, and largely only for my Xbox 360. My PS2 may have had a few bugs here or there, but never like they do now. Pathetic.
  • Craza - December 15, 2009 4:48 a.m.

    Amnesiac - Oh, that's right. I completely forgot about that. I kept thinking it was something while in the Animus, controlling Ezio. Virtualgod - I bought GoW for the PC as well. I haven't tried it lately, since I've been busy with GoW2 and Modern Warfare 2. I'm.....glad to know that they fixed it. When I first played GoW on my desktop (Which had no internet), it worked great. But as soon as I tried it on my laptop, with internet, it stopped working. I thought that was rather odd....
  • virtualgod - December 14, 2009 7:42 p.m.

    Any wonder why Gears Of War 2 never made it to PC? If you were a PC gamer a few years ago you must remember the catastrophic launch of Gears Of War PC. On day one forums were flooding with people wanting to kill everyone at Epic. The reason : the game could not play, you logged in (about 10 times before it actually worked) and the game would close for no reason after 30 second to a minute. In the end I had to hack my own retail copy in order to play it. Oh and when Epic finally patch the game we then learned that after a year you could no longer install the game on your PC. Again Epic had to release a patch that went agaisnt it's own code to allow you to play a game that YOU bought. Now that was a lot of fun!
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - December 13, 2009 9:56 p.m.

    Completely agree with Montag
  • ComradeKhani - December 13, 2009 6:52 a.m.

    The Matrix: Path of Neo had a crap load of glitches. They even have a video in the game of a few different glitches
  • guiarherodrummer1998 - December 12, 2009 4:04 p.m.

    Yes. Some Wii games are not the greatest because they are s'posed to be family friendly. They have gone overboard with that, and i think it's time Microsoft buys rights to Wii. Then we could play Halo 3 and look like it as well.
  • Xplosive59 - December 12, 2009 11 a.m.

    sometimes can be a good thing though and create hillarity such as the spider glitch in fallout 3 and there can be good glitches which let you skip the majority i-of a quest such as getting umbra in oblivion before starting the quest, there are however glitches i cant stand which ussually revolve around online glitches such as getting under the map on COD WW and randomly falling through landscaoe etc
  • mentalityljs - December 12, 2009 1:08 a.m.

    As long as it's not a major bug and a patch is released in a timely manner I don't give a crap! Otherwise, yes, I want my goddamn $ back for the broke piece of shit!
  • Amnesiac - December 11, 2009 2:56 a.m.

    @Craza: Apparently, under certain circumstances, there is a glitch in ACII that can completely ruin your save data after sequence 11.
  • noobeater - December 10, 2009 11:25 p.m.

    lol just some nostalgia but oblivion springs to mind, im sure 100% know of which i mean. And yet one of my favourite ever games.
  • noobeater - December 10, 2009 11:21 p.m.

    i take a game as the same of any of my statutory rights and i will return to the shop and demand a refund, reffering to my rights, eg (but not the same) with my 360: it broke after 3 months i went to em the fobbed me around and told me to see microsoft, but i proved the fault and got a new 360 from the store. my gta4 was tougher by i got that sorted and i have with some other games, i feel it should be like any other product, however there are many more grey areas with this which is why, as you have pointed out why this is a complicated topic another great article (from the brits of course)
  • TheWebSwinger13 - December 10, 2009 5:43 p.m.

    @TheWebSwinger- So you're the tosser that took my account name, putaine
  • Bloodstorm - December 10, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    Games have gotten so big that there is no way for a perfectly released game anymore. I'm a computer science major, and just from the simple code I handle it can take a long time to figure something out that has gone wrong. Imagining that times 100, its a big job. If the developer actively fixes the glitches then that's great. This is why consoles are so far ahead of PC. Sure PC can look great and all that but consoles puts everyone on the same hard ware, and the developer only has to focus on one set of hardware, where there are limitless combination of hardware for computers.
  • rxb - December 10, 2009 1:33 p.m.

    In my PC day it was compatibility problems were the bain of my life. Game breaking bugs should never be forgiven though.
  • crumbdunky - December 10, 2009 12:54 p.m.

    I think devs who serial avuse the patch system by cutting back on QA rwsting and making us pay for the privelege instead SHOULD get punished. Sure, any dev can end up with a nightmare dev cycle once but Bethesda do iot EVERY time. Was FO3 any less vuggy than ES4? No, it was even worse-and on every platform as well. THEN the DLC was glitchy and buggy to boot!?!! Seriously, when you buy a new cellphone, which are full of software, you would take it straight back if it performed as poorly as some of the games we've suffered over the years-and more since consoles have online capabilities making a patch easy for lazy or cheap devs. We wouldn't put up with a CD where you could only listen to the first two songs before getting a mixed up version of the rest of the album causing you to start it again every other time would we? Or a film that skipped about all the time or wouldn't progress past a certain point? course we wouldn't. Gamers are SO forgiving towards devs that we always get taken advantage of. It's cool that we're so passionate about just getting the newest games but, really, we have to start standing up yogether a little more or we'll always be getting shafted by the industry. They end up with buggy releases by cutting corners, cuttiong out betas and cutting down on QA testing-it saves them money when they know they won't get much more than a load of miffed emails-we have to stop buying buggy games-make devs release the patch before we put ou hands in our wallets and then, next time they'd make sure the ga,me worked at release. Stop making excuses for developers who, often, have just tried to cut costs and damaged the quality of the product we have to buy in the name of squeezing more cash from us for less work than ever. It's the thin end of a stinking great wedge that they bend us over these days because they know we're a divided community(in-fighting between gamers on different platforms allows them to get away with all sorts-even dodgy hardware)and that we're a soft touch as a bunch of consumers. No dedicated servers for the market leading FPS and biggest entertainment release of the year in MW2? A game most people buy for it's MP? Really? Is that acceptable on PS360 OR PC in 2009? When a game with the budget of Warhawk managed two years ago? Unilateral price hikes during a recession that sees every other luxury item go down in price? Honestly, we'll always get treated like we do as long as we both fight over nothing with each other and keep failing to understand that a united gaming community would control everything in the industry like consumers do everywhere e;se. It's our money they run on and our power to stiop the shoddy practises but we're just nopt a grown up enough community to do it yet. And sionce IW/Acti took bending us over to new heights with MW2 and all the crapp around it lord knows just how badly we'll get it from here on in.
  • MassSaber - December 10, 2009 12:12 p.m.

    Mercenaries 2 is the only console game i've bought which forced me to get rid of it simply because of the amount of bugs it had, at the time I didn't have LIVE so wasn't willing but with cars falling thru roads the minute I booted the game on the PC yeah no prob just get a patch but on a console and from a publisher like EA to boot I expect better

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