I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone reading this has already heard of the buggy, overhyped mess of a launch that Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs just had. For anyone who has played games for the past, oh, I don’t know, three-four years, you’ll know that this is just the latest in a tradition developers seem to have of having terrible, terrible releases. Here are some of the worst.
The excitement surrounding the sequel to the wildly-popular Diablo series was quickly tempered when, upon attempting to log in, players were met with the dreaded Error 37. An utter lack of foresight on Blizzard’s part brought their login servers to their knees, though you would think that a company as experienced with online games as Blizzard Entertainment, purveyors of such fine titles as World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG in the world, would be able to deal with the scores of players trying to get what they paid for the day it was accessible. Of course, one wonders why Diablo would even need as dedicated an online component as to shut out players without internet connections, but that’s an issue that still hasn’t been solved.
When I think “city-building game,” I definitely don’t think “always-online” or “multiplayer,” but someone else did, and allowed it in the game, to disastrous effect. Similar to the Diablo debacle of the previous year, the always-online component was pretty much dead-on-arrival come launch day after everyone who bought the game tried to played it (god forbid). Some critical game features, like actually saving your progress, was unavailable, and players naturally complained about the lack of an offline mode. Maxis and EA claimed that an always-online connection was required for the game to function properly, which would have been fine if it wasn’t a total lie after some dude found a single line of code that, if changed, would allow the game to played offline indefinitely, with zero repercussions to gameplay. EA eventually offered free games to everyone who bought SimCity on launch, but I’m pretty sure everyone would have preferred a working game to begin with.
Final Fantasy XIV
Diablo and SimCity, while utter disasters on launch, have stabilized into relatively entertaining games since their release, but Final Fantasy XIV has the honor of being so bad, Squenix actually pulled it offline to be redesigned after near-universal criticism. A shoddy interface, numerous bugs and glitches, persistent lag, and punishing quest restrictions (among other things) sent this game back to drawing board for three whole years. Its release late last year as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, has reportedly been pretty decent, which means that this terrible launch had a happy ending, though it was several years in the making.
The most recent failure on this list, the Battlefield 4 hype-train was as fast as it was relentless, which made its inevitable crash all the more spectacular. Upon release, players were met with game crashes, dropped connections, freezes, and the ever-present lack of quality “netcode,” which left the game unplayable for an inexcusable amount of players. DICE spent the months following release attempting to fix pretty much everything that they had left broken before shipping, promising that they would stop work on everything (expansions or pre-existing projects) until the game’s problems were resolved. And then they released an expansion anyway. Real nice job, DICE.
Total War: Rome II
According to Wikipedia, total war is “a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of all available resources and population,” which means it’s even worse that a game about total war was (and still sort of is) incapable of delivering on something that’s in its name. Generally bad performance aside, poor AI and animation and battle bugs plagued all but a few lucky players. An anonymous developer even posted on the official forums about the game’s lack of QA and bad features, putting the blame on publisher Sega. Creative Assembly eventually issued an apology and promised to patch the game and to better take care of future releases. Then they announced a MOBA, so I’m just gonna go ahead and assume that they are huge liars.
I think the most frightening thing to take away from these releases is that, for all the controversy surrounding buggy, incomplete games, and terrible always-online DRM, publishers and developers have zero incentive to listen because someone somewhere is still buying these games. Who are you? Why are you doing it? Actually it doesn’t matter, just stop.