Ubisoft has set up a live update feed for Far Cry 4 that lets users see all of the game's known issues in one place, with DIY fixes when available and outlines for more formal patches. Current sore spots include PC crashes, PS3 installs claiming that their game data is corrupt, and problems redeeming pre-order bonus codes. Next to Assassin's Creed Unity's updates, it looks sparse.
Jokes about missing faces aside, Ubisoft deserves a high five for getting out in front of these issues. Finding a problem with your newly purchased game stinks, and creators should take ownership over their own QA-eluding problems. This is a step up from the 'tech support' section buried in a message board - it's a part of each game's official internet homepage, taking up significant real estate where you might expect yet another mini-doc or promotional contest.
But why are these pages necessary in the first place? Because somebody screwed up. There's no other way around it - these games are not functioning as they should, and paying customers are dealing with the headaches. Of course, Ubisoft is far, far from the only guilty party here. The entire industry seems to have had a rash of these shaky launches in recent years, hasn't it?
It's tempting to romanticize the pre-connected days when bug-squashing updates weren't an option for developers. Back then, quality assurance had to assure a game was quality rather than a minimum viable product, right? Well, yeah, for the most part. But video games have had glitches forever. Back in the old days we just had to accept them (or exploit them) as part of the package. Sure, players probably run into more bugs/disconnects/corrupt files/endless invisible pits in modern games than they used to. But games are also exponentially more complex.
Think of each little bit that could go wrong as a moving part, and big-budget titles from a decade ago look like a Mouse Trap board next to the jet engine of modern projects. And that's without considering ubiquitous online connectivity, with all its tough-to-replicate points of failure. Nor is it taking into account the fact that, just as an example, Far Cry 4 released on five unique platforms simultaneously - making it a fair bit harder to catch every single issue than it was for, say, Halo 2.
I'm not making excuses for Ubisoft here. If you pay for a completed game, it should work like a completed game. Instead, I'm suggesting that we may need to adjust our expectations and put more thought into our pre-orders. As long as we demand ever-grander worlds to explore with all our friends on all our systems, we'll have to accept that they won't function perfectly out of the gate. As variables multiply and individual test cases become less helpful, some of those old QA duties will be passed off to early adopters.
It's far from ideal for anybody. But we've pretty well made our bed at this point, and it's time to sleep in it - or at least stop throwing elbows under the sheets.