At the end of 2014, it felt like we couldn't go a week without a game being released with some severe issues.
Assassin's Creed Unity came out with glitchy visuals; Microsoft had serious issues with Halo: The Master Chief Collection's online mode. Even Tetris had problems.
It was clear that these games just weren't ready to be released,” MD of QA firm Testology Andrew Robson tells MCV.
They had issues and relied on Day One patches. QA teams only have a short time to make sure everything is working, which is detrimental to game quality.”
Babel Media functionality QA manager Mathieu Lachance is a bit more sympathetic and says that this is nothing new: 2014 had a few games with some issues,” he says. 2013 was the same. Before that, similar situations happened again and again. In practice, it's impossible to release a flawless game. There will always be some bugs left in a game, be it within or outside of the developers' control.”
AFTER THE FACT
A large portion of these problems were down to companies relying on post-release updates and fixes.
Patches allow for further developmental scope beyond release,” Robson says. 99 per cent of the time most of these issues would have been found during development but marked as ‘won't fix', or ‘waived' in the bug database, or fixed in patches. This is purely so the games can be shipped. It's a matter of selection for deadlines.”
VMC's director of business development Ben Wibberley adds: Day One patches are now the norm for console releases and it was only a matter of time before developers weren't able to fix all the known issues before launch.”
Testronic boss Dominic Wheatley adds that new hardware has exacerbated the situation.
New consoles always bring new challenges for the developers to get the best out of the machines, especially in the early years of their launch,” he says. The new consoles are giving headaches to some of the developers in being able to produce games to a standard that can be defined as next-gen.”
The run-on effect is that devs require more time making the game, resulting in QA firms
having less time to find bugs before launch.
QA has never really had enough time to test games thoroughly,” Robson says.
Shipping dates are now being driven more by marketing, TV ads, and window space in the shops, beyond excellence of product.”
Wibberley adds: Other compounding factors include the title being bundled with a console at retail, meaning the game simply has to ship, as well as marketing spends and campaign timelines that need to be adhered to. And publically traded publishers that have to ship certain titles to meet retail deadlines.”
Gamers wouldrather a developer be honest
and say the game has some issues and that
they need to put the release date back so
they can fix it before release."
Dominic Wheatley, Testronic
So what can be done to ensure the next set of big releases aren't plagued by issues.
Games are so much bigger than they used to be. Integrating QA earlier into the development process would help,” Robson says.
So it really just comes down to having more time scheduled for QA and releasing the game when it's truly ready.”
He continues: A few companies are doing it right by having Early Access releases and betas so they can get as many people playing before release to iron out issues.”
For Wheatley, the solution is simple: Gamers would rather a developer be honest and say the game has some issues and that they need to put the release date back so they can fix it before release.
Project Cars, The Witcher 3 and the PC port of GTA V are examples of delayed games, and the feedback on the whole has been positive, as fans know they care for the games, rather than release a broken title that requires patching for the first month or so.”