Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"My bugs! My bugs! My bugs!"

As many before me have noted, Skynet will supposedly go online on April 19th, 2011 (according to Terminator 2.) Perhaps not coincidentally, Portal 2 will be released in the U.S. on that date as well. For those who don't know, I've been eagerly anticipating this for years. But although I badly want to run out and get it, part of me is very afraid.

There's a horrible trend in computer gaming to churn out titles without any testing. Players buy a title for $50 or more, and find it's full of bugs. Some of these bugs make the game almost completely unplayable. They go on websites and complain about the bugs. The manufacturers slowly release one or two patches to fix the problems. One example is Civilization V - it's been over six months since the game was released, and the multiplayer-hotseat function that was promised at launch STILL hasn't been patched in yet.

Fallout: New Vegas
is in a category all its own. It's a fun game that takes many many hours of gameplay to complete, it's creative, it's got great voice-talent and it's completely immersive. The only problem is that it's got more bugs than a whorehouse mattress (citation needed.) Some are merely annoying: I've had my companions disappear on me many times. (Go to Vault 22, and they'll magically appear on any floor but the first, no matter where in the game you lost them.) Others are more frustrating. I could not complete at least three quests because the computer simply did not know how to proceed. (I saved the cattle rancher's son from the cannibals, but the game would not acknowledge that, even with them standing next to each other. I saved the president of the NCR from assasination, but because I did not take care of the threats in a certain order, they all just stood around looking at each other. The Brotherhood of Steel attacked me in mid-mission for some reason... the list goes on and on.) It freezes many times - one caused me to get three parts of a red ring on my XBOX, heart thumpingly close to the horrifying Red Ring of Death (which basically turns your XBOX into a large footstool.)

OK, I could go on and on. The thing is, this is something PC users have had to put up with for years. The line was that everybody had different PC hardware (video and audio cards, etc.) therefore, every system was impossible to predict. As reasonable as that sounds, when consoles that could be connected to broadband internet were released, they magically suffered the same issues. For those who don't know, each brand of console has the exact same hardware (possibly different hard drive sizes, but that doesn't count.) To make a long story short, once game publishers realized that consoles too could download half-gig patches, they began releasing their games without any testing either, relying on patching to fix the bugs. I'm sorry, $50 is way too much to pay for me to be employed as your beta-tester.

So while I'm eagerly awaiting Portal 2, I'm afraid. I'm afraid it's going to be full of crashing bugs and glitches. Sort of takes the fun out of the anticipation, but I don't know why I worry. If there are bugs, I'm sure GlaDOS will fix them all. For science.


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