Lunchtime Discussion: Patches

Patches are omnipresent in console gaming lately. They may well have been around for a long time on PCs but it’s only with this generation that they’ve stormed onto consoles to a chorus of complaints from the general gaming public.

So are they good or bad? Well, it depends which way you look at it. You can choose to either believe that developers are lazy or you can choose to believe that patches are a way of fixing bugs that got through QA. The truth is that the reality is a combination of the two with deadlines thrown in, just for the hell of it. Add some salt and bring to a simmer and you’ve got yourself some poached patches.

Uh, anyway – some developers do release games when they know there are bugs plaguing them because they know they can patch it later. Obviously, this is a terrible practice that shouldn’t ever happen, but that’s the thing with things that shouldn’t happen – they do anyway. However, sometimes this isn’t actually the developer’s fault – they have to meet deadlines, so they release the game and patch it later in to avoid the thunder-y wrath of the publisher. Other developers release a perfectly playable game, but then notice there are a few bugs and are nice enough to iron them out via a patch.

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Secret option number 3? DLC. Some patches lay framework for future DLC, whilst some patches add things in (a recent example being the new multiplayer level for Uncharted 2). This is the jammy dodger of patches – tasty and a wonderful treat.

The problem with patches, ignoring the dodgy practice of the buggy release-and-patch, is that they take time. When you start up a game, you generally want to play that game, not watch a progress bar to the tune of 300mb slowly fill up like a loading screen – and we hate loading screens. This takes up our precious time, time in which we could be having sex or, more likely, shooting people in the left nostril to suppress our sexual frustration. Not great.

Patches are a necessary annoyance. When games take more code commands than the Lord of the Rings took letters, it’s unavoidable that there will be bugs that slip through. What shouldn’t be happening is developers releasing games that are extremely buggy and patching them later, and for this I look to both developers and publishers and say to them ‘stop it’ and ‘bugger off’, respectively.

Well that’s what I think. I’m not important though, I’m merely a fleck barely surviving on this rock as it hurtles through space – what do you think?

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