The Quest For Perfection

Perfect, in its utilisation, is perhaps the laziest word in the English language. It’s much easier to describe the weather as perfect than to begin waffling about degrees, and it’s always better to have a perfect partner rather than one who is pretty but spends too long getting ready. Perfection is a lazy man’s nice, and it’s ever increasing emergence in our language would have us believe that we are living within a utopia.

We don’t of course, and it could be argued that the regular use of perfection is to rose-tint the flaws that we are confronted with on a daily basis. Label a mince pie as the ultimate culinary achievement, and you are likely to ignore its cheap-filling shortcomings. Human nature dictates that perfection is simply a fantastical thought, and while this appears as a curse, nothing can be exactly right to a species that thrives on progression and development. [drop]

So why was the dreaded “P” word toyed with upon the release of Grand Theft Auto IV? If we are in a state of continual improvement as a species, then logic states that we will always fail to maximise our levels of productivity, however hard we try. Although there is no doubt that GTA IV was the pinnacle of entertainment at the time, it was far from being as great as it could be. Who would have grabbed at the opportunity to level buildings, or to run around Star Junction with a flamethrower?

Perfection is impossible, and it’s the reason I worry about the aspirations of modern developers. With perpetual pressure to release an amazing game into a competitive market, there has never been a greater drive to achieve the impossible. Although motivation is vital to avoid a stagnating industry, to allow it to take over a project can do a great deal of harm. Not only does it result in lengthy delays, the realisation that the initial vision cannot be achieved brings with it a crushing disappointment that I’m sure any self-confessed perfectionist will be able to relate to.

The rollercoaster ride that was Kazunori Yamauchi and Gran Turismo 5 should be enough to warn off developers from adopting this admirable but ultimately unrealistic approach. An unwavering attention to detail ensured that Gran Turismo 5 was one of the biggest disappointments of 2010, with certain elements falling short of what was expected of the title and lacking polish. It’s a key example of why perfection shouldn’t be aspired to, and Yamauchi even went on record after GT5’s release saying that he’d have liked an extra two years of development time, no doubt because he had not achieved his initial goal to “perfect” Gran Turismo.

[drop2] Developers need to push forward, just not to the detriment of their work. The goal should be to create project that’s both fun to work on and to play, and although it’s understandably hard for types such as Hideo Kojima who have so many amazing ideas, it’s completely necessary if you want to see your product released in a state that you can be proud of.

BioShock Infinite won’t be perfect, and neither will Mass Effect 3. The Last Guardian will probably provide an unparalleled experience, but still won’t be perfect, much like Metal Gear Solid: Rising and Grand Theft Auto V. With any misconceptions of the aforementioned titles out of the window, the developers of them can create the greatest games that they are capable of within their allotted time scales and provided resources.

This not only means that release dates are more likely to be met, but it also means that consumers won’t be left with what feels like an unfinished game. It’s also probable that the developers will feel proud of what they’ve produced, rather than disappointed because they didn’t meet exceptionally high and impractical standards, and that can only bode well in terms of morale for the next title that they are involved in producing.

2012 won’t see perfection, but if developers don’t try to achieve exactly that, it could certainly see greatness.

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22 Comments

  1. The problem with saying something is perfect is that any slight flaw undermines your entire opinion. If I said GT5 was perfect and then admitted the interface is a little shonky, I have totally contradicted myself. If I said it was brilliant, that opinion still holds meaning.

    If you were to tell someone it was perfect and they found one thing they disliked, it would entirely undermine you as a reliable reviewer/developer/publisher or whatever.

  2. Good read Dex, perfection will hopefully never be reached with any game as I think it’d be a blueprint for lazy copies of the same old, same old to follow. Near perfect sounds better, more achievable and will always have an optimistic future :O)

  3. In my opinion perfection is achievable, when in context of a persons perception. What might be perfect for me is flawed for others. It is hard to come by in gaming though.

  4. Excellent article Toby. Striving for perfection never makes anyone happy. That’s not to say that you should not work hard or be ambitious though. The best results usually come from those whose great passion is indistinguishable from what they do for a living, those who attempt to knock every ball out of the park.

  5. I really like your point, but without developers trying to achieve perfection, wont this just make them all lazy and happy to release something that they dont see as “perfect”? I would be happy for developers to release something that they consider perfect, rather than something that they know never could be.

  6. Perfection = cannot be improved upon. A month or so ago, I went to a restaurant and experienced true culinary perfection. The steak really could not be improved upon. Juicy, no fat, proper bloody, tasty, tender, couldn’t have been better. As far as games go, there’s always something that could be improved.

    • What if it had been bigger… or free

  7. That’s why I find it annoying when people complain about games getting 10/10 when ‘they aren’t perfect’. Even the ‘evil’ (although I quite like them) IGN says that 10/10 means greatness and not perfection. What’s the point in having a scale if you’re never going to use the top number?

    The thing is Tetris is perfect (and amazing), however the shoddy Ico and Metal Gear Solid 4 made me feel things that Tetris could never hope to achieve.

    /end incoherent unfocused rant thingy

  8. You’ll never get a “perfect” game, just absolutely brilliant ones. The best you can achieve is to make the best game you can at the time. Advances in tech, competitors products, and the general publics expectations means that if you strive to release the “perfect game” you’ll end up in development hell.

    Release the best game you can and hope you get a sequal to complete the things you thought were missing (or just patch the game to hell after release, either’s good :))

  9. The pursuit of perfection may have led to a disappointing GT5, but it destroyed DNF… I would love a perfect game, but it won’t happen, and that’s fine. But I do love developers chasing perfection. As that’s what causes the advancements in technology. If perfection gets in the way of the game in development, it probably just means there’s a couple of people with too much power delaying the game.

  10. Perfection is in the eyes of the beholder… (not the game)

    • Exactly. Even if something does achieve perfection in one persons eyes, It can be far from it to another.

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