Broken game launches used to be an oddity. Before high-speed internet was the norm, for most gamers how the game launched was exactly how they would play it. Publishers were faced with a choice - release a game and have it be broken forever, or fine tune it to perfection and deliver a complete experience.
By now the Batman: Arkham Knight situation has bordered on the farcical, and everyone from Nvidia to Rocksteady are piling into Iron Galaxy’s port in an effort to fix it. However, they are by no means alone, and a worrying trend in recent years has seen broken game after broken game make it onto store shelves. Publishers seem oblivious to the problems until the inevitable backlash occurs, but what can be done about the grander and more ambitious gaming experiences demanding a huge amount more testing than was previously the norm?
The Joker's Last Laugh
There’s no denying it, the state of Batman: Arkham Knight, when it came out early last week, was unacceptable. At some point someone, somewhere, gave the PC port the thumbs up and began burning it onto thousands upon thousands of PC copies, ready for stores. Plenty of people must have been aware that Batman: Arkham Knight was in nowhere near an optimised state, but the decision was made regardless.
Publisher Warner Bros Games had two choices here - just push the game out and hope for the best, or suck it up and delay the PC port until it’s actually ready. It started headlong down the first choice, before hitting a speed bump and lurching awkwardly towards option two. Luckily we’ve already had a swift patch, and we’re expecting plenty more, but I can’t have been the only one thinking I would have just preferred a working game in July.
Whether we like it or not, developing for PC is a vastly more complicated experience than console, especially when targeting the high-end. The PC is a moving target, while the console’s remain stationary. This much seems obvious, which is why it can be all the more confusing when the PC version seems to be more of an afterthought. When there’s so much more that could possibly go wrong, logic suggests it should be given more time to optimised. The rumours surrounding Arkham Knight suggest just 6-8 weeks was given for the port, which is 30-40 working days, give or take.
Whenever we write about any AAA games here on GD, one of the first responses is always, without fail, in regards to PC optimisation. The likes of Ubisoft, EA and now Warner Bros have really damaged trust among PC gamers, and that’s why our first response is always “the game sounds great, but with publisher x behind it, it’s going to be unoptimised garbage.”
The wait for GTA 5 was painful, there’s no doubt about it. But Rockstar delivered an incredible port with great performance and a stack of PC exclusive features. It was and is the best version of the game available, and it’s because Rockstar took its sweet time to make sure it works. But the GTA IV port was a mess. It seems memory is short with game publishers, as we see again and again publishers failing to learn from the mistakes of other publishers. Opting to push out an inferior version on PC and expecting to be able to slip it past the high expectations of a specialised audience, that loves to upgrade their tech for specific games.
The question is though, would we be prepared for huge, long waits for the biggest games if it meant it would run like a dream? Or will you accept nothing less than day and date launches alongside the console versions?