Daily Reaction: Accepting Patches for Better Games

You may have seen the news today that Days Gone just got its 1.03 patch, still a few days ahead of its official launch. And that day one patch for the game (which now includes multiple updates) is a pretty substantial size, actually overwriting and replacing much of the existing game code in order to issue fixes and corrections to reported issues. While I can’t yet talk about Days Gone myself ahead of review, the patch notes should do plenty to communicate some of the challenges that the game was facing before its official launch.

There’s a big debate here about what exactly patches and updates constitute. Are these understandable and necessary fixes after a game has gone gold? Or is this a developer being “lazy” and issuing corrections after-the-fact for things that should have been caught before the game was finalized and pressed? It’s a tough question to answer in a satisfying way, so let’s look at where patches and updates fit within the current economics of games.

If a player decides to get Days Gone and play offline, they are going to run into some issues, if the patch notes are anything to go by. With an open-world game like that, should it have undergone more QA time? Should these issues have been fixed in version 1.00? Again, I can’t speak directly to any problems that may or may not have occurred with Days Gone version 1.00, but obviously the team at Bend Studio felt that there was enough that needed fixing that they kept working on it.

Here’s where the balancing act of trust needs to come into play. When aiming for a release, developers have to triage and prioritize what problems they let slip through and which ones they fix. Not a single game releases perfect. If developers spent time fixing every bug and issue, it’d be years before a game launched, if we ever saw a release at all. As games get more and more complex, QA testers must account for ever more variables, which are almost impossible to play out in a real time simulation. So it’s a choice of releasing a broken game or putting delays on the project until you can sufficiently resolve any issues (at which time more will inevitably crop up). Release forces the developer to focus its efforts on very specific issues to be addressed in patches.

days gone file size

It really ends up being a mixed bag. Some devs can’t handle pressing a gold master disc and then returning to fight for the game they created. Others, like Days Gone, see massive updates before the game even releases in order to resolve any issues to anyone who picks up that game right at launch. So what’s right? Is convenience causing us to get past a gold master disc wrought with problems?I lean towards yes, absolutely. The benefits far outweigh the potential issues, such as devs taking advantage of the extra time in order to release broken and less than quality games. Sure to some devs, the knowledge alone that they can work on it beyond release may govern the release schedule itself, But I think patches and updates are beyond the end of a project, a rare opportunity for developers to continue fixing and tweaking their game for the better. The alternative is launching and then stepping away, never to fix an issue that a reviewer had.

At the same time, it’s on us a reviewers to balance those kinds of things. It’s going to be different with every project. No two games are created alike, so a stumble on one doesn’t necessarily mean the same for the other. And what’s fixed on one doesn’t mean it would have been resolved post-launch for the other game either. All we can go off are things that have actually released and whether or not developers went through the efforts to resolve launch issues or not. Days Gone  meets this requirement, and I’dd much rather play the game described in the patch notes, fixed of issues, than drag an entire game because of some minor problems localized to me playthrough. Unfortunately the industry likes to latch onto issues, no matter how minute, and spread them like gospel. So even when Bend Studio does fix the issues on the game, Days Gone falls under scrutiny based on what its Day One update never even touches.

More developers should see the freedom of pursuing ambition while being allowed to mop up the collateral later, but for now that privilege is going to be reserved to to very specific devs. We won’t have to wait much longer to see how the conversation surrounding Days Gone plays out thanks to its version 1.03 patch. St. John, out.

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