Are game studios and video game developers getting lazy?

nascar21.jpg
In recent years there have been a number of games that have launched that have been broken on day one, that simply weren’t fit for purpose.

Nascar21: Ignition is a great example of this. Launched October 2021, Nascar21: Ignition was so full of bugs that it was unplayable. There are/were countless missing features, bugs, and crashes that made this launch a complete disaster.

But Nascar21 isn’t an enigma, there are many examples of games launching where they’ve been riddled with bugs. For instance I have been unable to play Forza Horizon 5 since launch, unless I want to play on Xbox. The PC version crashes constantly, fails to render properly with Nvidia graphics cards, and fails to save any custom wheel configurations. On launch, though listed as a supported wheelbase, it failed to recognise the Fanatec dd2.

This issue isn’t present in just racing games either, Cyberpunk 2077 was possibly the most hyped game of 2020 and it’s launch was almost a complete failure. PlayStation 4 and Xbox owners complained of ridiculously low frame rates; there were bugs, glitches, and all kinds of crashes.

This wouldn’t stand in any other industry.​

Imagine going to the cinema to see the latest Marvel movie and the effects were half done “don’t worry” say Disney “we’ll fix it for the streaming release”.

Or imagine buying a new car, only to find when you turn up to the showroom to collect it that the engine is missing.

There have been issues with video games since the launch of video games.​

Pretty much any piece of software ever written has an error in it somewhere, with games sometimes this can be very obvious. In the days before games could get patches and hotfixes, if a game launched with a bug or error, then it was something that you had to live with.

Eventually when patches and hotfixes could be implemented, we would often see day 1 fixes, which could be annoying. I remember buying Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2007, rushing home to play it on my PS3 with eager anticipation only to find a download - which took over 8 hrs!!

Whether it was at this point that game studios realized they could launch unfinished games and push out updates and features after launch, I don’t know. I hope it isn’t as sinister as that.

Perhaps these cases of unfinished games are the result of sticking to launch dates (though Cyberpunk 2077 was pushed back), or a result of funding, or lack of resources. It could be that so many game studios are owned by larger companies and publishers, who have control over when games launch.

The latter could be more true than we might realize. Sea of Thieves launched in 2018, made by developers Rare. It was an OK game, where you and a few friends sailed around finding treasure and fighting other pirates. Almost two years after launch the game is almost unrecognizable and ex-employees of Rare have openly admitted that there was a great deal of pressure from Microsoft to release the game.

What do you think are the reasons why some of these games are launched in the states that they are?
About author
Damian Reed
PC geek, gamer, content creator, and passionate sim racer.
I live life a 1/4 mile at a time, it takes me ages to get anywhere!

Comments

Your criticisms are aimed at the wrong people. You're blaming developers for releasing a half baked game, rather than blaming the investors and executives for pushing the release of a game far before it's ready. The constant hatred of game developers is absolutely blindsided by the fact the developers have basically no say in a games release.

The easiest comparison here is to look at the state of AAA games vs Indie games, and the state of which the game tends to release in. Indie games almost always launch in a more polished state, and this is all to do with the lack of suits forcing the release of the game before it's ready.

The solution to this problem? Stop buying unfinished AAA games, and definitely stop pre ordering them based on promises. They'll keep pumping out crap as long as you keep buying it.
 
I'd say it's the unfortunate impact of user's expectations being far too high and too stringent.
Remember No Man's Sky? They had goals, but wanted to push it back, then got death threats for holding it back.

The problem with game development is there isn't a "one size fits all" approach to anything, especially when you get into the sciences. The entire idea of developing a racing simulator, for instance, has a stringent requirement of A: Being based on real world sciences and B: Being based on consumer hardware.

Both A and B are constantly changing. Games also suffer the issue of undesired outcomes. Lets say you have feature A in the game, say walking. But you need it to also run. You then have to develop locomotion that allows for you to merge in walking and running. (In Unity, not sure all other systems, this is done through a Blendtree). Now, add in more things.

For instance, let's look at racing sims. My favorite thing is looking at the different systems folks have used for doing something as basic as shifting. ACC has pretty simple shifts, with it being all paddle. But then you get to something like Dirt Rally 2. It's using sequential, h-pattern, and paddle shifters. And it STRUGGLES. Sometimes you'll be steering and you can see that it's trying to blend between steering and shifting, but never finishing either action and basically going "DJ" on you.

iRacing has to do a similar system, but needs it to work "correctly". So, rather than develop an unfinished shifting animation (like DR 2.0 did), you get nothing for shifting for now.

At the end of the day, development is entirely a series of trial and error. What may have been done correctly in a past game does not get ported over to a new game. And on-going titles (MMOs like FFXIV, iRacing, etc) have to deal with those changes on a live and active product, meaning there's less room for "gutting it all out and redoing it" (though iRacing has done a great job of this so far with their DX11/LFE/XAudio/Dynamic Track/Dynamic Skybox systems over time.

But....

I still think the issue lays with the players themselves. They have incredibly high expectations, make unreasonable comparisons (especially when you consider "X game does Y why can't you" but doesn't consider the entirety of what any of the games they're comparing. So at the end of the day, we get a tone deaf article discussing developers getting lazy when, in reality, the issue is they're overworked and pushed to the absolute limits because you can't be without a game for Y amount of time because you lack the patience for anything to be done, and then when confronted with this fact, you throw out "amazing" games with 10/10 experiences without acknowledging the developers of those games have ABSOLUTELY spoken out against things like crunch, player expectation, etc.

Ya'll act like developers themselves abuse you, instead of their publishers putting those demands on the developers, both for the micro-transactions, and the development work.

Instead of actually looking at the ACTUAL problems, you, just like every boomer before us all, throw out that the developers are just lazy.

God damn, now I'mma get back to helping folks with their technical issues they get paid 4x than me to cause. Write better.
 
In most cases definetely, some games are just copy-paste of previous ones, just with new skins or some new almost unnoticable changes. The games feels as unfinished betas (well, sometimes even alpha version) and patches doesnt change much in most cases. The worst thing is that things are not gonna change very soon, because most players cant think with their wallets and they just buy any crap what devs are throwing to them. And if companies sees that people are buying it, why bother to make something new/different/better?
 
Your criticisms are aimed at the wrong people. You're blaming developers for releasing a half baked game, rather than blaming the investors and executives for pushing the release of a game far before it's ready. The constant hatred of game developers is absolutely blindsided by the fact the developers have basically no say in a games release.

The easiest comparison here is to look at the state of AAA games vs Indie games, and the state of which the game tends to release in. Indie games almost always launch in a more polished state, and this is all to do with the lack of suits forcing the release of the game before it's ready.

The solution to this problem? Stop buying unfinished AAA games, and definitely stop pre ordering them based on promises. They'll keep pumping out crap as long as you keep buying it.
This is a better, more reasonable statement than this article was.
 
Remember that devs cant be faulted for being rushed by studio executives who themselves have to deliver a product before a set deadline. Nascar 21 and Cyberpunk 2077 are well known for overly-eager release dates.
 
Random thoughts:

  • The opportunity to patch games after release has dramatically altered the industry. Most other media do not afford its producers such a possibility. Internet-era games have mostly had the same problem, and that covers a gigantic swathe of video gaming history, it's not a new phenomenon.
  • Laziness doesn't seem to be the an element in any of the cases mentioned. Poor management and unrealistic expectations seem to be more plausible explanations.
  • If properly explained, incomplete software is, if anything, a boon to the final product. If used properly, Steam's early access status is a formidable tool. If we take AMS2 as a case study, I think it's absolutely the case that they needed revenue, and bad, when they launched. Was the game finished? Oh, not remotely. It should still have been in early access, IMO, but it was definitely playable and it was fine. Still, no matter what we think about the game itself, I doubt anyone would question Reiza's commitment to improving their product and experience, they've done a tremendous amount since release. If they had waited until a feature-complete release, it still wouldn't be out, and it wouldn't have made financial sense to develop the game.
  • The price of games (on PC, anyway) has never been lower. Steam sales, Humble Bundles, Epic free games and other such opportunities means we can get games at a ludicrously low price. I remember paying $47.99 Canadian for Eidos' Formula One Racing in 1999 - equivalent to $76 today. Assetto Corsa can be had for under $5 today, and even the most recent, most in-depth sims like ACC and AMS2 can be had for a third of that. It's a tough industry, and without a huge payout at the end, some tricks are necessary, especially for smaller publishers that don't have a steady revenue stream from previous games.
 
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D
Blame MTX, DLC, One-day-DLC, One-Day-Patches, Twitch, Youtube, General gamingwebsites, technology and internet making gaming more accessable and mainstream, blame the investors, etc etc etc.

Back in days between 1998 - 2007ish studio's were more passionate about gaming. DLC wasn't a thing, MTX neither. It was all good. Until Oblivion came with the first MTX and it all started to go downfall. Studio's, CEO's, Investors all playing on safe aka no innovation, cutting content to sell as DLC to min/max the profit and many more. Gaming is dead.

Simracing & Simflying are so niche, but I can feel the effects of normie gaming dwindling in here as well. Ofcourse simulation games are always a work in progress, but see Dirt Rally 2.0 for example. It was released half-finished and broken, and is still broken in someway, lol.
 
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I'll get hammered for this but since PCars one release after the next seems to be more focused on eye candy than substance (substance being quality, not quantity) 100's of cars and dozens of tracks in any type of weather condition, day or night and it lands directly in the no buy for me.
Developers need to make the driving experience and AI best in class and focus less on making a game that requires a video card that isn't available.
 
I'll get hammered for this but since PCars one release after the next seems to be more focused on eye candy than substance (substance being quality, not quantity) 100's of cars and dozens of tracks in any type of weather condition, day or night and it lands directly in the no buy for me.
Developers need to make the driving experience and AI best in class and focus less on making a game that requires a video card that isn't available.
Especially the difference between pc2 and 3 is a bit huge in terms of the sim feel for me,
 
I'd say it's the unfortunate impact of user's expectations being far too high and too stringent.
[mod edit: wash your mouth out]

It's not an "unreasonable expectation" for me to want the ability to pick the color of my car in multiplayer (Assetto Corsa).

It's not "unreasonable" for me to want the AI to not drive into walls, or brake check on straightaways (rFactor 2)

It's not "unreasonable" for me to want a screen where I can map buttons on my wheel, change the wheel rotation, or adjust the FFB strength (NASCAR 21).

Fanboys like you gobble up every half-finished product by pre-ordering the super duper version and then defend the developers on forums as if you personally work for the company or have a vested interest in their financial metrics are why games are releasing more and more broken w/ each passing year.

Speaking from experience, developers constantly monitor the forums to gauge community sentiment and if they feel they can axe something or put in the bare minimum effort because their fanbase won't get too uppity over it, or will even defend them for said decisions, they will.

Reviewers and content creators also play a large role in this process. In some ways I am actually quite thankful for the reception pCars 3 & NASCAR 21 got from content creators because it encouraged SMS + $MSGM to never pull that **** again. Unfortunately there are many more sims in the industry that have probably warranted that same level of critical showmanship, but never got it and that has only encouraged said developers to keep venturing down that path.

We would be in a much different place if, ten years ago when sim racing sites and sim content creators first started getting "big", people were much more open to criticizing these games.
 
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Your criticisms are aimed at the wrong people. You're blaming developers for releasing a half baked game, rather than blaming the investors and executives for pushing the release of a game far before it's ready. The constant hatred of game developers is absolutely blindsided by the fact the developers have basically no say in a games release.

The easiest comparison here is to look at the state of AAA games vs Indie games, and the state of which the game tends to release in. Indie games almost always launch in a more polished state, and this is all to do with the lack of suits forcing the release of the game before it's ready.

The solution to this problem? Stop buying unfinished AAA games, and definitely stop pre ordering them based on promises. They'll keep pumping out crap as long as you keep buying it.
Agree 100% - no need to blindly buy a game when you can almost immediately see a preview of it on YouTube, sometimes there are gameplay videos before release.
 
Ya'll act like developers themselves abuse you, instead of their publishers putting those demands on the developers, both for the micro-transactions, and the development work.

Instead of actually looking at the ACTUAL problems, you, just like every boomer before us all, throw out that the developers are just lazy.

Everybody has a role to play, everybody has a responsibility.
Publishers, developers, customers, the press and even the advertisers.

I’ll go some way to support your claim that developers get a bad rap, but they certainly are not helpless.
In any business you have to earn money, but if you do not stand behind the quality of your product you have to resist an eager publisher and stand your ground. The problem here are contracts obligations and getting revenues.

Products are being sold in a state that in any other market would be unacceptable.
Yes, customers may expect too much - that’s marketing.
Publishers may want their profit - that’s business.
Contractual obligations may have to be met - that’s *realistic* planning.

Developers have to stand by their product, be ambitious while remaining realistic with their goals and timelines.

As the creative and productive element of this equation developers are the most important part of the actual product - apart from MONEY - and if they release a faulty or inferior product it is too easy to look at time, publishers and customers to shift the blame of their failures. If not actual failures in creative vision and ambition, it is a failure in running their business, design and planning.

NASCAR ‘21 was a car wreck waiting to happen.
A lot of ambition, too little time even when cutting some corners with s397.
Anyone following the business of developing and publishing race sims / games could see this coming.
Some of us were not blinded by enthusiasm or the hype (marketing / expectations).

Ambition is not enough, nor is enthusiasm.

Developers carry their own weight in this story.
 
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It's not an "unreasonable expectation" for me to want the ability to pick the color of my car in multiplayer (Assetto Corsa).
It's not unreasonable, but it's also totally fair for the game creator to say "no, we can't do that" and then you decide whether to buy it. That's not lazy, that's priorities. If you want to pick the color of your car you run a server set up that way (eg. leagues in AC let you pick the color of your car). If you want to join a session already in progress, you get to use the car the other clients have already loaded. Guarantees they don't have a loading stutter halfway through a race.
 
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These sorts of thoughts are another reason why I wanted to write the "sim racing and open source" article I published here recently. If devs in commercial companies are releasing products that we're increasingly dissatisfied with, it's time we got a sense of what alternative models are out there.

If we take the deep after-the-fact modifications to Assetto Corsa as a guide, it looks like the community is willing to step up and help improve a game as long as its basics are solid enough. Maybe, in a niche industry like sim racing, devs should build their game with the intention from the beginning of allowing these kinds of engine-level community modifications (i.e. making the internals highly visible)? Or it's time some community crowdfunding bought Ilja, Jackson, and Peter Boese a license for the Kunos AC engine source code? Or, it's time some skilled or knowledgeable devs worked on an open-source general sim racing engine (like ISImotor but for 2025) with their salaries paid by crowfunding from the community, sim devs, and the motorsport sim industry?

Maybe all the ideas I've listed here and in my article are impractical. But regardless... maybe it's time we thought outside the box, and stopped spending all our energy getting angry at devs in companies (who aren't even necessarily the root problem) and tried to make something better ourselves somehow.
 
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It's not unreasonable, but it's also totally fair for the game creator to say "no, we can't do that" and then you decide whether to buy it. That's not lazy, that's priorities.
I largely agree with Austin's general sentiment above, but this is a fair counter-argument, and it's valid too IMO. If a company wants to sell a product that is missing features, that's on them. And it's on you to then not buy it or further support the company by buying DLC. In other words, as people in North America sometimes say:

"Put your money where your mouth is"

This is a decision I've taken with rF2, for example. I got only the base game on a wicked sale (it's been loads of fun) but I'd love for the devs to put work into the single player side. Until there's progress on that end, I won't buy DLC. Simple.
 
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Like realistically, if they've saturated the hardcore simulator market, games cannot become more complicated every generation unless prices go up. You've gotta draw some lines, trim out the optional features. Compared to GPL, content probably takes 100 times as long to develop now... modern sims don't cost 100 times as much as GPL. It's gotta come from somewhere.
 
Like realistically, if they've saturated the hardcore simulator market, games cannot become more complicated every generation unless prices go up. You've gotta draw some lines, trim out the optional features. Compared to GPL, content probably takes 100 times as long to develop now... modern sims don't cost 100 times as much as GPL. It's gotta come from somewhere.
I know what you're saying, and you're right, I think. Especially given the apparent preferences of the community in sim racing nowadays.

But, here's what's funny -- I'd personally happily trade off "complexity" for a simpler yet more full-featured, well-optimized experience. I'd take GTR2 quality lighting, a fairly simple empirical tire model, and less than 20 million polygon 3D models (or whatever) for the sake of more time spent on optimizing car behaviour, AI behaviour, and just in general a better dialed-in, feature-complete, non-buggy gameplay experience.
 
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