A keyboardist and drummer from Rock Band 3, against an angry red background.

Gamers are patient. The nature of our pastime ties us into the action of waiting, as we sit through months or years in anticipation for our next desired title. Gamers frequently face long waits and have even longer memories. A bad release will continue to mar a game far into its maturity.

Release a game with any sort of major problem and and millions of gamers wait in the wings to tear the release apart. Neither party wants that. So, why do mistakes and delays still happen?

Starting a game off on the right foot

It’s really hard to remain composed about a subject like this. The temptation to name names over the particular gaming misdemeanor which has led to me writing this post is incredible. As such it’s hard for those last few months’ before a game arrives – those moments of tension, disappointment and anger to leave my mind, it has negatively affected the undeniable quality of the game in question, and that’s a genuine shame.

This particular delay is made even more infuriating by the developer and manufacturer’s joint inability to properly discuss the problem. It leads to impassioned and normally quite proud fans (such as myself) partaking in a pastime that I do not enjoy (moaning). This ultimately has a detrimental effect on both the individual game’s community and the wider one.

I can’t help but feel that the majority of game release problems could be fixed by developers simply being more honest and open, about lots of things – but primarily the features of a game. Being more transparent about a game’s limitations early on could nip most grievances in the bud. A games features are all too frequently embellished or made out to be far grander or important than they actually are, and almost every developer is guilty of this in the lead-up to a big release.

Also having to wait above and beyond what is reasonable can lead to you start to resent the game in question for being the only thing you want to play – while still finding yourself unable to play it. It crushes your desire to play anything else. It causes a desperate all or nothing situation. We need that next big gaming hit and everyone – including the people making the games – know it.

Avoiding disaster

The simplest way to avoid this sort of heartache is for developers and publishers to simply talk to us more. Opening up the lines of communication involves the intended audience for the game in the release process, and has the added benefit of making the wait more tolerable. Waiting is a natural part of gaming, and there’s no reason at all why the wait cannot be as exciting as those first few moments with a newly arrived gaming pleasure.

As is often the case with a game, the sense of anticipation leading up to release can sometimes be greater than the game itself. Our ambition for a title almost always surpasses that of the developers, and it would be wonderful if more development teams could respond to this positive influence by simply managing our expectations better. Actively restraining their PR people just a little and letting the quality of the game speak for itself.

Hype is a natural part of a new game, and controlling the flow of information is appreciated by all of us up to a point. Leaving a community to ponder alone for months with no information at all is a bad idea and generally leads to people drawing their own very blunt and negative conclusions. The very best type of hype is the sort created in the hearts and minds of community, it is sort of publicity that cannot be created, marketed or bought. What distinguishes the good releases from the bad ones are the ones which involves us, to the point where we feel we’ve had a hand in the game’s development and growth.

In the spirit of naming no names, there are also those rare diamonds in the rough that always manage (even the most trying) release schedule well. The numerous developers that are already doing this certainly deserve praise and any additional sales from being respectful ro the massive responsibility of managing and maintaining our passion and the emotional impact that occurs in those long and tiresome waits.

Managing expectations

Above all else game developers should be comfortable with letting the consumers of their games discuss the problems with it – at length – and at all stages, and where possible doing their utmost to occasionally respond.

If any problems do arise, it would be nice if more developers and publishers actively engaged in fan discussion by providing regular updates for us to pore over. Doing so in the channels and mediums that suits their audience, such as social media, forums and gaming communities. How nice would it be for companies to be more proactive about these things – to venture onto our preferred method of communication and explain why problem has happened, or why there is a particular delay and when things are likely to be rectified. Developers should listen to feedback whilst always ensuring that any frequent points raised (often in the hundreds of thousands) are at least rectified in the sequel. We all collectively understand the limitations of game development, but often resent being fooled a second or third time.

As is normally the case it is the mystery of the problem that we gamers find difficult in those hard, initial months of waiting. Shedding some light on a game’s shortfalls – and quickly – could so often ease the frequent tension that exists in our community. Which in complete fairness to us, is almost always due to a lack of information.

Gamers after all are extremely patient, but only up to a point.

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