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[cyberpunk video games]Bad Video Games: To Fix or Not to Fix, That is the Question

2021-08-15

  I’m sure glad I’m not a game developer. For every knockout success there are dozens of fair-to-middling games that come and go, maybe find their niche or moment in the sun, and then mostly disappear. Then there are the true casualties, those games that stand out as being remarkably broken, unmitigated disasters that enrage fans and consumers suckered into buying the product and sully the developer’s reputation for years to come.

  You gotta wonder, can they be fixed? Should they be fixed?

  Let’s take a recent example, the universally panned Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Alliance. Despite it having some decent production values, the game’s mechanics are often ill-conceived, the AI is all but absent, and bugs hide around every corner. The game disappointed just about everyone, from fans hoping for an inspired remake of the PS2-era Dark Alliance to D&D role-players looking for a great co-op action game set in their beloved Forgotten Realms. Here’s the thing though: somewhere under the layers of bummer, there were faint signs of life. If only they’d fix the single-player game, the AI, the balance, the bugs, I might be willing to give Dark Alliance another look, but would it be worth it?

  Does Dark Alliance deserve another chance?

  Dark Alliance was certainly not an under-the-radar release, but compared to mega-hyped failures like No Man’s Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 it was a relatively minor catastrophe (though not for the developers, I imagine). Of course, No Man’s Sky has benefitted from a significant infusion of support and creative energy and it is now a more than decent game on both PC and consoles. Cyberpunk 2077 was hyped for so long and so hard that few products could have fulfilled such elevated expectations and despite a constant (and sometimes contradictory) trickle of patches and updates it is still a messy, semi-broken game, and CD Projekt Red will probably never regain the massive respect it once enjoyed.

  I think the question of whether broken games should be fixed and given a second chance really comes down to why they’re busted to begin with.

  We all understand and sometimes play those games that clearly have potential but the economics of game releases and the demands of publishers have pushed them into the marketplace before they’re really done, before there’s been adequate QA testing, or early access feedback, or any of the other checks and balances that give the developers pause. I would toss Dark Alliance into that bin along with games like Outriders. Probably just about every MMORPG falls into this category as well, games that given time and attention, might eventually transcend their failures.

  Then there are games like Sony’s PS5 semi-launch title, Returnal, which wasn’t really broken or inept, but created a lot of very heated discussion around its mechanics and unforgiving interpretation of the roguelike genre. Is there anything to “fix” with Returnal? Would giving players a save anywhere option or dialing back the difficulty repair a broken game or actually disregard what the designers intended?

  Finally, there is Cyberpunk 2077, which failed for an immense number of creative, economic, and technical reasons, most all of which could have been avoided by a longer development time, less hyperbole and some sort of hubris filter for CD Projekt Red. The immense amount of work and passion that was poured into Cyberpunk by the rank and file of its creative team notwithstanding, Cyberpunk 2077 seems like it should be the poster child for games that are not only beyond repair but have so egregiously broken their promises to gamers that they don’t deserve the chance for a second life.

  What do you think? Do games deserve the chance to overcome rocky launches and disappointing mechanics or should gamers expect final products to be the best they can be?

  Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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