Once upon a time, there existed a universally agreed notion that once a game is released, there is no helping the reception of the game because there was no chance to go back and change things. This is mainly because things such as online gaming were either extremely novel concepts or simply not possible with the hardware at the time.
It is truly quite shocking to me nowadays that I consider those times to actually have positives in the wake of our current gaming industry. A land where barely-finished games are released on to online platforms, such as Steam, the same way zombies latch onto survivors and just as well weight the platform down. However, this piece isn’t talking about the concept of early access. As poisonous a concept that has turned into, there are now more significant concepts that currently inundate the store fronts.
So here’s how the first person must have thought of the idea in our modern industry. “We have to think of a way to avoid using terms such as early access to categorize our game because we are in dire need of money but want to avoid the obvious negativity that early access has drawn in the past few years.” Thus was born the roadmap. Obviously this idea has existed before, but now it has taken on a life of its own within the gaming community.
Roadmaps used to be for games that already had an immense amount of content that were simply given more to lengthen the lifespan of the game. However, nowadays it is often used for games that were either too cowardly or aware to use the term early access and then barely finish their product to a crowd of people that so often say the same damn thing: “the game has potential.” Such a phrase is completely worthless because you are giving a game value that it doesn’t deserve. What it has shown you is the skeleton of a game and you’re filling in the gaps with your no doubt vivid imagination. What this causes is people giving games positive reception when, honestly, many hardly deserve it. Where is this bizarre amount of confidence that they’ll even follow the roadmap in the first place coming from?
There is no obligation on their part to finish the product in accordance with this roadmap in the first place. I have grown to despise people who seem to think that once a roadmap is made, there is no way that they can stray from the development of the content that they planned to have within a certain timeframe. There are startling examples of games that promised further updates to their games that never ended up happening.
The obvious example of this is “Anthem” and honestly this is the most perfect example of a roadmap going poorly. The released product was such a mundane and poorly-received experience that “Anthem’s” reputation with the general gaming public was about as good as Hitler’s amongst literally any sensible human being on Earth.
The few that were devout enough to enjoy the current experience and, despite the fact that the game was obviously not being received well, decided that all the improvements to the game would come later in the infamous roadmap of “Anthem.” Quite a bit of time has passed since that roadmap was promptly taken down like the dreams of those who wished that “Anthem” was a better game with an indeterminate period of time between each update. That was until they said they were overhauling the entire experience to attempt to make some money on the next platform. Who even knows what that would mean for the game. What changes are currently being made to the project? Will it even resemble the game that is currently out? Will current fans even like this updated experience that is coming out? Who knows? What we do know is that the entire roadmap, except for one thing, was not completed and was never spoken of again. They even removed it from their website without announcement or reassurance.
This is a potential issue with many games that follow the roadmap model. Back in the beginning of the piece, where I made a point to be nostalgic about a period I was barely a part of, remember the key aspect of the period? They almost always released completed products. They didn’t have the luxury of the online landscape that we now do have and thus needed to make sure the game was of decent enough quality before selling it to the public. The obvious weakness of this period was that if the game had a critical error like crashing bugs, then there was no way to fix it except to release and sell a new version of the game.
Nowadays, with the luxury of online access, gaming companies seem to think that the very last thing they need when they sell a game is a finished product. And unfortunately, these trends always start at the top and move downward. Some indie games now release not in early access, but as a completed project to then announce that the content that is coming down the line will fix the issues with the game and have more robust content.
There is a game called “Mirador,” its concept was very intriguing and it was honestly quite an ambitious project for the number of people that are working on it. However, they are obviously not mentioned here because they did something right.
They released the game on the Steam platform as a completed game, not in early access, despite the fact the game felt extremely rough. If one were to look at the reviews for the game now, many will say or ask the same thing: why did this game not go into early access? Because it should have, considering the content of the game at the time. Now this conceptually multiplayer game has hardly a single player in it at a single time because of the very poor communication.
In short, pay attention and hold companies to their word about what they promise in their game and, I can’t believe I need to say this, if a game isn’t finished, don’t say it may be a good game in the future. Tell people if it’s currently a good game.
Edward Park is a third-year student majoring in English education. EP909756@wcupa.edu