An Open Letter to Rockstar and other Triple A Developers

open letter to triple a and rockstarI recently picked up the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V, and I am hugely disappointed by it.

Having previously played the Xbox 360 version of GTA V, I knew how great the game was, and I was excited for all the new features being added to the PC release.  I waited in anticipation for months, as the release date was pushed back over and over again, but I said to myself, “It’s alright, better to have a great game with a later release”.  And then, the day finally came: GTA V on PC.

I planned on waiting a week or two before buying so I wouldn’t have to deal with release-week bullshit, but decided “eh what the hell” and bought it anyway the day after it came out.  I excitedly started the patcher and thus my first disappointment: I would have to wait over nine hours for the 50 plus gigabyte game to download.  I thought to myself, “It’s okay, this is a huge game after all.”  I decided to let it download overnight so that I could play it in the morning.

When the morning came, I got up, ate breakfast, and sat down at my PC ready to play.  What was I greeted by?  A five minute loading screen. “Okay, Okay, it’s not that bad,” I thought to myself. When I was finally able to play, I was greeted by the awesome “tutorial” bank robbery in the beginning.  I finished it, went through the couple of cinematics, and was soon on the first mission with Franklin.

I was, however; soon hit with my first crash.  “Well,” I thought, “I guess I should quit for now and go to work.”  This crash would be followed by several more throughout the following days, until a patch finally came out that seemed to fix it.

What the patch didn’t fix however, is the broken multiplayer.  GTA Online is perhaps the biggest selling point of GTA V: the ability to make your own character, start your own crew, do missions and heists with friends, and a multitude of other activities.  All of this would be great if I could actually fucking play it for longer than a few missions.  The lag is so bad, that a ride with a friend turns into us staring at each other in the car not moving while the server catches up.  NPCs teleport around, cars rubber-band into the sky and through the ground, and mission objectives don’t update.  Now, to be fair, I have been able to play for extended periods of time without lag.  However, the stuff that really counts-missions and heists, become pretty much unplayable depending on who the host is.

Now if this was a brand new game, I could forgive it.  After all, every game has some hiccups on launch week, so it is to be expected that a game as huge as GTA V would have some bugs.  There is one thing that makes this unacceptable:  THIS GAME HAS BEEN OUT FOR OVER A YEAR AND  A HALF.  GTA V originally came out for Xbox 360 and PS3 in September of 2013 (I remember, I was at the midnight launch), and GTA Online was released a few weeks later.  So it’s not like Rockstar didn’t know what they were doing.  Not only that, but the Xbox One and PS4 came out FIVE MONTHS AGO.  Rockstar had more than enough time to test server stability, playtest for bugs and crashes, and better optimize the game for PC.  THEY EVEN DELAYED THE PC RELEASE BY SEVERAL MONTHS.  There is absolutely no excuse for the sub-par quality of this port (READ: PORT; NOT BRAND NEW GAME).

This pattern of shit releases is not rare.  In fact, when a “triple A” game is released now-a-days, it is often EXPECTED for shit like this to happen.  Now what I want to know is when it became acceptable for a company to release a broken fucking game?  Years ago, if a game came out that was as buggy as most modern Triple A games are on release, it would be universally panned for being a shitty, unplayable game.  But now, for some reason, these games get a free pass because the company that makes them has been known to release good games in the past.

It’s as if their past achievements somehow validate any game they release in the future.

Not only that, most Triple A companies have a legion of fan-boys and apologists that try to make nothing but excuses for the shit games they put out.  “Oh how could you expect a game to be working perfectly on release”.  I don’t expect it to be perfect on release, but if I am going to spend $60 (or more in some cases) of hard-earned money on it, IT BETTER FUCKING BE AT LEAST PLAYABLE.

This problem is not exclusive to Rockstar.  The list of games that were broken on release is as big as the national debt these days.  Battlefield 4, Hardline, Assasin’s Creed Unity, Dragonball: Xenoverse, Sim City; the list goes on and on.

These aren’t games from tiny companies with two guys in their mom’s garage.  These are huge corporations with multiple studios around the world and hundreds or even thousands of people working on them.  In fact, the games made by two people in their mom’s garage tend to be HUGELY superior in terms of stability on release.

Why is it that games that have multi-million dollar budgets as big (or bigger) than Hollywood movies, with huge teams of some of the best (allegedly) programmers in the world, and (in some cases it seems) nearly unlimited amount of time to work on the game can’t ever get it right on release?  Why do players who spend $60 or more on these games have to wait weeks or months before they can actually play the game they bought?  And more importantly, why do people try to make excuses for this?

If I pay for a product, I expect to get my money’s worth out of it, and honestly, I rarely do anymore.  We as players, as consumers, should not be putting up with this.  I’d rather wait an extra year for a game to come out for it to be playable on release than get it early but broken and unplayable.  There is even less of an excuse for games that are ported to other consoles.  These are games that have been out, that all the code has been written for, and have already been optimized for something less powerful than the average gaming PC, but are still broken.

Here’s a radical idea developers: DESIGN THE GAME FOR PC AND PORT IT TO FUCKING CONSOLES.  There was a time when PC had the most cutting edge games, and the consoles got the watered-down, shitty ports.  Now, the opposite is true.  Triple A developers don’t give a shit about the PC gaming market anymore because the console market is worth more to them.  So instead of maximizing capabilities of a game and fully optimizing it, they essentially handicap it so it will run on consoles so they can make more money.

It’s now at the point where I will no longer buy Triple A games at full price because I know they aren’t worth $60 most of the time.  I’d rather wait six months to a year for a Steam sale, because I know that by then at least most of the bugs will be fixed and it will be somewhat playable.

Triple A developers have lost their passion for making games.  The industry has become much too corporate.  People who have no business running a game development company are at the helm, and they couldn’t care less about releasing a quality product as long as whatever they put out makes them money.  It makes me sad, knowing that an environment which I have always loved and felt at home in has become a barren wasteland of corporate interests.

It makes me sad to know that games from small developers with tiny budgets are far more playable than games that have bigger budgets than most Hollywood movies; but people still go for the big budget games just because of brand loyalty or past achievements. It especially makes me sad that people keep going for this system. They are so entrenched and blinded by big money that they can’t see that what the industry is pumping out these days would not have been acceptable 10 or 15 years ago.  My advice to anyone reading this: don’t buy Triple A games at full price. Read about what kind of problems people have been experiencing, and ALWAYS take mainstream gaming news reviews with a grain of salt, because half the time they are paid to overlook major issues.

Sincerely,

A Very Disgruntled Gamer

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