Weekend Open Forum: Why are PC games so buggy these days?

By on January 13, 2012, 6:30 PM

Although 2011 had its share of solid PC games, an unfortunate number were riddled with bugs. Rage, Skyrim, Batman: Arkham City, Dead Island, Battlefield 3 and many others caught negative press over buggy launches, prompting swift apologies and patches from their developers. My memory may be foggy, but I don't recall major titles being so rampantly "broken" a decade ago, at least not to the same extent.

Are studios shipping their projects too hastily? If so, what has changed and why? Internal pressure from shareholders and/or publishers? Plain old greed? Do they perform a cost-benefit analysis to find a "happy" balance between angering gamers with delays and selling them incomplete software? Are they less concerned about quality because it's easier to distribute updates through digital platforms?

An example of Rage's graphical issues

Are modern AAA games just too big to test thoroughly before release? (Rage is ~22GB installed versus, say, Doom 3 at ~1.5GB.) Do you even care? I mean, would you rather wait longer for a polished game or have it sooner with obligatory launch-week patches? While I trust most studios to set things right after a buggy release, the trend has definitely hurt my confidence and I preorder fewer games these days.




User Comments: 73

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Guest said:

LOL, It almost feels they are saying, "Send the game into the wild. Let the masses find what's wrong, and then we'll fix it."

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think it's a combination of all of the above. The incredible complexity of programming a game, the game company management insisting that the game released on time no matter what the programmers say, sloppy programming, etc.

I don't mind a few bugs - it's just the way it is these days. If I know I'm going to get 40-60 hours of enjoyment out of game, then it's a small price to wait for the first couple of patches before starting in. And that's pretty much become standard SOP for me. I had Skyrim installed and ready to go but didn't touch it for the first two weeks waiting for patches and mods. No biggee - a great game worth the patch wait.

treetops treetops said:

I would rather have them released early\buggy and patched later then released later and having to wait longer with less bugs.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

When your pushing software and game engines to the limits things get buggy.

I waited 1 month, picked up Rage through steam for $30 or so, then played it with no issues. (GTX 570). Not a single glitch/issue.

Guest said:

I think stuff became too complex, and publishers want everything faster. No logic in there. Games are bigger, and they want short relase. I am amazed these developers, designers can manage and stay sane with insane publishers like EA, Activision, etc...

Guest said:

Well it could also be said that some of those glitches and problems that arise are from people doing weird things that most normal people wouldnt think about. For instance putting a bucket on someones head in skyrim... im sorry but that never ran through my head when i looked at a bucket in a tavern... Thats not to say that they should be checking for the obvious issues but with the games today u just cant check everything because theres never 2 people that will play the game the same way...

Guest said:

Warning: Blatent troll comment...

I rarely EVER experiennce bugs in games that numerous people say they have issues with. Guess if you're among said numerous, it's a you problem. lol

I played Skyrim 20+ hours with max settings @ 1080 before any patches came out and didn't see a single bug or performance issue . double lol

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

I would it's not just the complexity of modern games but the fact that there's way more computers nowadays than there was ten years ago and everybody has a different setup. There are millions of different hardware combinations out there and to expect a game to work identically across all of them is just not realistic. The same problem was around ten years ago but the scale is muh larger today.

Guest said:

so many different hard ware combo's, i think it's just hard to get them all to work well.

same can be said for the mobile platform, android.

So many different android phones are thrown into the market each month, that developers are greatly struggling to support everything.

Luckily for iOS users, theirs a very limited number of devices running apples mobile OS as such, much easier to test games.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

I should have learned my lesson after buying Crysis 2 at the midnight release, but no, I tried again with Battlefield 3 and it was the same song and dance. No more release day game purchases for me.

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

I agree with many of the comments above: publishers' deadlines and pressure on developers, inherent complexity, and hardware combinations/settings that are not helped by the fact many releases are also console games.

On that last note, you may have noticed that console games, too, have become patch dependent. It'd seem like every time I launch a game on my PS3, I get bugged with patches that need to be installed before I can play...

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

Makes you wish we still had cartridges eh? Then we could spend all our time blowing dust out of em instead of waiting for 1GB+ patches to download. lol

MCJeeba said:

The primary reason I see is that most of these games are console ports. Created for very specific platforms, then hastily ported to a vastly diverse platform.

Guest said:

5 things come to play

1..Profit -

companies pushing out product - because they are running out of dough , or want to be ahead of others with similar stuff and want to beat them out of the gate.

2. game complexity -

that is going up and takes more time to develop and learn and find problems in engines and drivers, hardware, etc

3. actual Investment

some companies have deep pocket other don't and really on initial investment - so when the money runs out it goes out the door

4 time to debug -

it take 4 times longer to debug than to create - and as complexity goes up

thus becomes longer (remember you add errors when you fix others). it tripped up by the other reasons

5. bad ports -

to maximize profit - companies are porting games made for other enviroments(pc, console,tablet,phone) and they are not perfect matches - then they don't spend the time because of the reasons above

Sarcasm Sarcasm said:

The real question is "Why are all Bethesda games so Buggy all the time regardless of platform?"

RH00D RH00D said:

The problem isn't that games are getting too big or complex. The problem is publisher's with strict deadlines and sloppy developers. BF3 could have had a lot less buggy launch, but since EA wanted to release alongside MW3, DICE was rushed way too fast thus their launch was so bad. Other than that, it's just because a lot of developers simply don't give a flying ****. They know the game will sell, so why bother fixing the bugs?

That's why I barely buy any games and why I don't have a huge variety in my gaming selection. My entire game catalog has about 10 games in it and 4 of them are made by Blizzard.

In fact, 80% of my gaming time in the last while has been spent playing Diablo 2 online. Still an incredible game to this day. The other 20% would be playing Bejeweled 3 that I just bought on Steam for about $5 (75% off). I recommend it to anyone who might be thinking about picking it up.

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

Still looking for that Immortal King set eh RH00D?

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Probably comes down to a number of factors already touched upon. Depending on the developer, game complexity (game i.q., textures, game A.I. etc), multiple code paths, multiple API's, multiple graphics architectures and driver sets etc.

There isn't a single cause- you can point to sloppy develepment, accountants and shareholders pushing for accelerated timelines for debugging/beta testing, and the volume of games in development on one hand, and the sheer size of game code in other instances. RH00D mentioned BF3 and Diablo 2. Conservatively speaking, BF3 weighs in at ten times the size of Diablo 2, and as far as I'm aware Diablo 2 isn't without it's quirks (i.e. forcing earlier DX API versions)...and the intervening years haven't exactly streamlined the hardware fit-out, driver selection or DRM

And of course, as the amount of game code increases, the likelihood is that the amount of choke points from executing the game code in a timely manner increases. I would sincerely doubt that many older DX9/8/7/OGL games would tax a 4+ thread CPU, or bring the game to a virtual slideshow for want of more system RAM.

KG363 KG363 said:

Internet connectivity makes releasing a polished game unnecessary

ramonsterns said:

I'm going to continue doing what I always do, wait for the game to get some age before ever forking over the money. Plenty of free games to keep me entertained, and plenty more I already own.

I don't trust developer/publishers anymore. My latest blunder was thinking Red Orchestra 2 would hold true, lo and behold I got a crappy game I can't even run because it crashes whenever it pleases and to top it off, the key to bandage yourself, stick to the wall, and pick up weapons is one and the same and you can't separate them. It thoroughly killed the game for me if the constant crashing hadn't.

Another big blunder was Front Mission Evolved, then Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2, before I realized Bioware had started adopting the "cut half the game out, sell it back to them" strategy they currently have.

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

most reasons that most of you stated are true, that's why I've decided to wait before jumping on a game, on any platform.

but some bugs may be with a particular system, they can't test all the hardware / drivers & as operating systems are somewhat slightly different on each system with add-ons / other software and utilities, there will always be bugs in games that passed QC. another reason would be to somewhat punish illegal owners, cracked versions are rarely updated so an illegal copy will suffer more bugs and won't be able to patch, until any unofficial updates.

we can't technically compare the older games with today's Hollywood blockbuster's style gaming, some would say 'les jeux d'antan etaient mieux' (old games were better) ... sorry but can't agree, they were great and today's games are great too! it's an evolution, what's better is that we can somehow still play our good old games while also experience new great ones.

what we need -

publishers: stop being greedy & a multi platform game can be an exclusive to each platform one not bad ports and piracy exist since the beginning!

developers: we are not your beta testers

customers: make sure your system can run a particular software at optimal performance and accept that maybe it can't work as good as on other systems

unofficial customers: if you disappear, publishers and developers would be happy then accept to invest time and effort for customer's satisfaction.

cheers!

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

kg363 said:

Internet connectivity makes releasing a polished game unnecessary

+1

JasAce said:

It's been mentioned but I also believe it has to do with games being created for consoles primarily and then poorly ported over to PC without all the video and control options we used to have back in the day. They know they can bring out sub-par looking games for a console cheaper without all the bells and whistles us PC gamers have come to know and love, and still make enough money to cover expenses.

Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

As we say in software development, "If you're not writing bugs, you're not writing code." Games have gotten immensely more complex than they were in the days of Pong, that there simply isn't the man power to test an exhaustive test plan. It's not fun, but it's true that user are the best QA team that you can find. That's why there has been a big trend in having an open beta months prior to release because users will do things that you've never even dreamed about.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Wagan8r said:

That's why there has been a big trend in having an open beta months prior to release because users will do things that you've never even dreamed about.

LMAO. You mean like when users buy a game, bring it home, put it in their console, and press Start?

I think you need to find a new line of work sir - seriously.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

If anyone remembers Ultima IX, that game was so buggy that they actually had to mail me a new disk. They probably spent a lot of money on postage compared to what they would now on having a file get downloaded.

As far as game bugs go, you can argue all day about the ability of game companies to do so, but it basically comes down to this. Before the game is to go gold, are there people at the company that know that the game is basically going to be unplayable due to persistent bugs that happen in a wide range scenarios? If there are, then the company basically decided to put out a shoddy product and is screwing over the consumer.

I'm sure there are some scenarios in which a company can say "we did everything we can, we just cannot fix the game any more", but I think that's BS. I think they look at pre-sales and decide that the game will be released on time, regardless of the state that it is in.

For this exact reason I don't buy ANY game at release. Even the most stable and well polished of them are guaranteed a patch in the first few weeks. How many get patches loaded AT release? Sorry, they're intentionally releasing products they know not to be finished, relying on end users to report the bugs to them.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Because most PC games nowadays are console ports.

ramonsterns said:

kg363 said:

Internet connectivity makes releasing a polished game unnecessary

You know what happens when you turn in your work with errors and you keep telling your boss you'll email him the revised version?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Here are my latest issues with a recently released game, I uploaded these vids as I posted this as an issue on Dices Battlelog and over 100 people have joined the group (it goes up everyday):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhPzjcyKZKM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7TcZ0POu94

Now I have now found a (sort of) fix to stop it from happening, If i set the quality level to "auto" it doesn't happen, anything else? It just bugs out. I can't even play on Ultra as the game bugs out!

Any who, I decided I don't mind bugs as long as they are small and don't stop me from playing and can be patched at a later date, bugs such as the ones i posted above, they are what i call a broken product.

r8bwp said:

Because we as the consumer "WANT IT NOW"

and by so doing have allowed shoddy workmanship to become acceptable.

The devopers have joined the band wagon in saying well everyone else is doing it!

gobbybobby said:

its not just PC games tho. Consoles games are buggy too. newer PS3 games, seem to crash alot. Like hard lock so you have to reboot. Happens on both my FAT and my slim. the 3D games (got a 3D TV) are the worst, can only a few hours play in before... FREEZE

CryVer CryVer said:

Let's just say that I've stopped making pre-orders from anyone but Valve and Blizzard. My last pre-order was Battlefield 3, which turned out to be a bad move on my end. Even now, some months after release, the game still has mouse acceleration and the mouse speed varies from every weapon as well as every time you zoom (about 0.5x the speed when zoomed in).

Guest said:

Engine vs Game. I think another issue is the constant pressure to enhance the engine - display and sound have highly increased complexity. Did I really need the latest engine to enjoy the game?? - maybe not.

Indie game publisher have begun to explore this and we may see several classics evolve in this space as they experiment with gameplay using older more stable engines.

I have the feeling that the internet has changed the economics and publishers are doing what they have to. Perhaps years ago there were games which focused on play and not on "wow". This was probably due to the fact that patches were much harder to deliver and so there was more testing before delivery, but then the publishers discovered the consumer as the free beta tester and we are where we are today. However, they are shooting themselves in the collective foot..

Due to this change (using customers as beta testers), customers are changing their buying habits. I believe there is a growing group of gamers who will not under ANY circumstances purchase a game that does not have good reviews and positive forum content about playability. Add to that the thousands of prospective buyers with slightly older hardware who will wait until they have a stronger platform and you end up with fewer customers at launch (thank you, beta testers!).

Frankly, I haven't purchased a game within the first 6 months of launch in the current century... and I build my own PCs (thanks, NewEgg, TigerDirect, etc). Why? <1> requirements, I want to upgrade to support fluid play, <2> bugs and glitches, I want to avoid buggy messes which need 6 months to get the patches written, <3> DRM - openly declared and stealth, I will not buy crippled, intrusive, buggy programs, <4> poor playability, my game time is too limited to waste on an "average" game so I wait for comment on the forums to swell and, finally <5> competition, there are so many really good games already available and beta tested by "at launch" buyers so I do not need to purchase something which is rushed, buggy, untested, unplayable, etc.

rvnwlfdroid said:

I'm thinking the developers have taken a page out of Microsoft's book. Put something together that will somewhat/mostly work and let the masses find the bugs.

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

In short games are alot more complex than a few years ago and so many hardware configs out there its not easy to maintain what used to be one standard across the board before people had PCs to game on. More game effects and realism added at a price.

Guest said:

"My memory may be foggy, but I don't recall major titles being so rampantly "broken" a decade ago, at least not to the same extent."

Yeah you're right, your memory is foggy. Other than the few recent offenders mentioned, that were particularly bad PC games see far more stable now than they did back in the 90's and early 2000's. Patching a game isn't the long drawn-out nightmare it used to be back on 56k either.

Guest said:

the answer in a nut shell is

corporate greed

herpaderp said:

The only game where none of this bothered me was Arkham City. The game is so good I really didn't care about the broken DX11 seeing as it looked great maxed out on DX9 anyway. Besides the DX11 launch issue, the game really didn't have any bugs, I've already replayed it three times and never had a problem besides putting down the controller.

SalaSSin said:

I played Skyrim -- checking my Steam account -- 136 hours, and except for the dragon flying backwards (and away from me) bug (which was fixed pretty soon) i didn't encounter any showstopping bugs. Sure, from time to time graphics went weird, in some places plants are just HUUUUGE pink spikes, at another place the water wasn't visible, but i was swimming in it, but hey: That's not even 1% of the game, so you won't hear me ***** about it...

As other posters mentioned, it's certainly a combination of all those factors, and when you read the conditions in which qa/devs have to work (check The Trenches, a side project of penny arcade), i can imagine not everything gets resolved.

As long as they DO fix it, and listen to their community, i can't be bothered with criticism. Every person/firm makes mistakes, the best ones listen to complaints and do something about it. Those ones get my full support.

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

"My memory may be foggy, but I don't recall major titles being so rampantly "broken" a decade ago, at least not to the same extent."

Yeah you're right, your memory is foggy. Other than the few recent offenders mentioned, that were particularly bad PC games see far more stable now than they did back in the 90's and early 2000's. Patching a game isn't the long drawn-out nightmare it used to be back on 56k either.

It's somehow excusable that the developers/publishers are getting more money/backing than before yet the quality seems to go down rather than up as time passes?

I don't think so.

Guest said:

It seems to me, at times, like the QA function has been switched from a dedicated group of professionals (with the actual time & resources to perform the task) to a infinitely cheaper group of unsuspecting & untrained muppets. And by muppets, I mean us.. the end users of course.

Lurker101 said:

The problems really started when consoles got hard drives and an internet connection. Before that, developers and publishers had only one chance to release a game. If it was a well made game, it could turn a nice profit. If it was buggy, regardless of the content, it would flop. If they wanted to make money, they'd have to ensure the game was as bug free as possible before release.

Even for PC games, back then "Patch" was a four letter word, so to speak. Companies were embarrassed if their games needed more than two patches to resolve all issues.

Now, they can release whatever rubbish they like and consider patching it later. A dozen patches per game (and still broken) has become the norm. Half of the problem is the greed of these companies, min-maxing where ever possible and skimping on the bug testing. The other half of the problem is the end users, with their lowered standards, short attention spans and constant whining to have everything as soon as possible.

They don't care if the next instalment to a franchise is buggier than a TraveLodge hotel bed, or if the plot is completely devoid of content. They just want it a week after the last game was released, and will happily pay through the nose to be a beta tester.

Johnny Utah said:

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

"My memory may be foggy, but I don't recall major titles being so rampantly "broken" a decade ago, at least not to the same extent."

Yeah you're right, your memory is foggy. Other than the few recent offenders mentioned, that were particularly bad PC games see far more stable now than they did back in the 90's and early 2000's. Patching a game isn't the long drawn-out nightmare it used to be back on 56k either.

It's somehow excusable that the developers/publishers are getting more money/backing than before yet the quality seems to go down rather than up as time passes?

I don't think so.

I agree wholeheartedly. What I find amazing, as a gamer since the late 80's on PC is that with respect to "beta programs" that I have been in.....hundreds, but as of late, the companies do not FIX the problems we report. I cannot tell you how many forums I have seen with problems posted (BIG ONES) where we, the beta testers respond by saying "we told you about this in beta". The betas are no longer for testing....they are a marketing gimmick. This makes me sick.

Guest said:

@ramonsterns

"It's somehow excusable that the developers/publishers are getting more money/backing than before yet the quality seems to go down rather than up as time passes?

I don't think so."

How does that relate to what I said, I disagree with the assertion that quality (in terms of bugs) is going down, I said the exact opposite - that games are generally less buggy and patched more quickly then they were ten years ago, other than a couple minority offenders.

Gameplay quality on the other hand has gone down drastically, but that's a separate topic altogether.

Guest said:

still think there is a problem ant its

greed by both sided

the consumer who just cant wait for the product to be finished

and the companies who want to stop bleeding money in production and just put it out there too early

and the last reason is I think we are at the limit of 32 bit programing for what the customer wants to be a top end gaming program

I think its time to move into 64 bit programing it would open up all memory problems and erase some video problems

but in doing so the console boxes as we know then would have to be dropped and new versions would be required

ramonsterns said:

Guest said:

@ramonsterns

"It's somehow excusable that the developers/publishers are getting more money/backing than before yet the quality seems to go down rather than up as time passes?

I don't think so."

How does that relate to what I said, I disagree with the assertion that quality (in terms of bugs) is going down, I said the exact opposite - that games are generally less buggy and patched more quickly then they were ten years ago, other than a couple minority offenders.

Gameplay quality on the other hand has gone down drastically, but that's a separate topic altogether.

Sorry, my original thought was, "no amount of improvement in connection speed justifies laziness".

Guest said:

It's because pc games are so damn buggy that I made it my new years resolution that I'm not buying any games anymore until after they have been out for at least three months. I can get the actual finished "shoulda been at retail" game at a discounted price. It's kinda absurd when you think about it. Why have we all tolerated this for so long?

Tekkaraiden Tekkaraiden said:

No one wants to be the next Duke Nukem Forever. Better to release it half broken and fix it than 12 years late.

ramonsterns said:

tekkaraiden said:

No one wants to be the next Duke Nukem Forever. Better to release it half broken and fix it than 12 years late.

Don't even bring up DNF.

That game didn't have 12 years in development, it had 12 years in the making. There was almost two generations before it was finally miscarria- I mean, conceived.

Guest said:

Its simple. Most games today are designed for consoles. Consoles have hardware that is consistent across the globe making it easier to program for. That game is then ported to PC where there are literally hundreds of different hardware and software configurations. There are bound to be issues.

Look at BF3. It started out being designed for PC, but halfway through they switched focus to console. The result is the most broken and buggy game to have come out in a long time.

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