Game patches are one of the worst and best things that have been implemented into video games. I absolutely love that some companies take advantage of the perceptiveness of the gaming community and use their knowledge to enhance the gaming experience. However, with the recent news of No Man’s Sky being virtually unplayable for some people, even with three day one patches, it’s kind of difficult to argue against them not being destructive.
Welcome to Pixels to Polygons, the column where we compare the games of yesteryear to more modern entries.
Before we get into things there is one myth that I would like to dispel: the idea that only modern games are subject to being pumped out before they’re ready. It’s simply not true. There are a number of documented cases of games that had to get pumped out far too quickly in order to get a quick buck, usually licensed games, like E.T. for example. I think it would even be difficult to argue in some cases that companies are guiltier of doing it today. Games have become increasingly complex with respect to their design and to get them absolutely perfect is a far more daunting task than it’s ever been. So many problems with modern games might not be deliberate oversights, but simply just cases that are very difficult to find because they are testing individual moments in isolation rather than an entire game start to finish, in every nook and cranny, every time one tiny change is made. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t cases where they are incredibly guilty of abuses post-releases patches.
There are some retro games that are incredibly solid experiences and I suppose are technically fine as they are, but perhaps a patch could have helped them. Look at Castlevania 2 on the NES. It’s no secret to the retro gaming community by now that the game is rather useless with respect to providing enough insight inside the game to allow players to be able to figure out certain puzzles. I am sure word of mouth and Nintendo Power were the sole reasons many people were even able to beat that game pre-ubiquitous-internet. Wouldn’t it have been nice to get the proper translations of the sayings of townspeople in a patch, like in the relatively recent hack of the game? Or have the day to night transitions happen at something other than an agonizing pace, like in the relatively recent hack of the game? Patches would have been wonderful to help this game become a much more brilliant gaming experience.
Then we have other games that were deliberately released as broken experiences solely due to a timeline and having the advantage that the gaming community would be ignorant to the quality of the game and scoop it up based on screenshots and wicked box art. A number of LJN games are probably guilty of that due to games being movie tie-ins (at least I know that’s why I got Terminator 2 on the NES and was never able to beat the second level). Maybe with patches and the knowledge that the community would stand together online against shabby treatment, companies would have taken a little more care with games like this, and possibly used some of the sales to fix their game a bit.
Modern gaming has this double-sided conflict as well. Look at the Souls series. Out of the case these are incredibly solid gaming experiences. Some people even deliberately avoid patches so that they can use certain exploits and take advantage of unbalanced weapons and spells. But post-launch, the gaming community expresses their concerns with the game and From Software takes their feedback into consideration in order to enhance their product as people find more and more stuff in the expansive Souls worlds. They not only use this feedback in the current game to enhance things, but they have even taken the feedback into consideration for subsequent releases. So patches work in the game’s favour. This is analogous to Castlevania 2 on NES. Technically the experience could stay as it is, but things can certainly be improved upon with feedback.
Then we have other modern games which push the use of patches way too far. Since I don’t know about the intentions of the No Man’s Sky release, I won’t argue to that. It’s an unbelievably expansive game, so I could see it being difficult to find everything that is wrong, especially when developers don’t have the same setups as the consumers do. But I will argue to a game like Street Fighter V.
Capcom has always been bad about releasing way too many things, far too quickly, especially with re-releases. Just look at Street Fighter 2 and the copious amounts of editions it has available to the market. Mind you, at least those always seemed to be solid titles. But Street Fighter V has gone too far with their deliberate abuse of patches. I bought this game at launch and was blown away by how little content there was. The game continues to get bigger and bigger as they release new characters, stories, etcetera, but where was this stuff at launch? The base game felt like an expensive demo. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way it plays. I absolutely love the new approach to the game that allows for more causal fighting game fans like myself to do well (Ken’s my guy!). I even kind of like the strange new designs where people look like Stretch Armstrong toys with giant hands and feet. But where is the game? If you had added a few more characters to the new King of Fighters demo they would have likely been on par with one another in terms of content; except one is free, the other cost over 70 bucks (and cost some large denomination in other currencies too). This is where patches are being abused to a great degree and it really is unacceptable for a game of this stature.
But patches can also make an already exceptional game even more exceptional. Look at Shovel Knight. I bought the disc for the game and got all the lovely content I did, and in the future I will be getting at least two new campaigns for free. I am super excited to play as Spectre Knight and King Knight. Or how in a later God of War game, the studio took the feedback of a section being far too difficult to heart and scaled back the difficulty. Or look at how Resistance 2 was eventually patched online to include splitscreen coop for free. A number of companies are definitely using patches to the benefit of everyone.
I am personally a fan of patches, but only if the intentions are good. Street Fighter V perfectly highlights why patches can be the worst gaming creation ever. But games in the Souls series highlight their brilliance perfectly. How do you feel?
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