“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”- George Bernard Shaw
Never let it be said that the drive to make the better video game often has many forgetting the errors of the past. As is the case with development studio Bioware, take its latest offering Mass Effect Andromeda for example. A new direction for the series after a trilogy of outstanding games which for the most part (sans the Mass Effect 3 ending) bedazzled players and critics alike. They did so by whisking them off into a memorable outer space adventure filled with action, exploration, team-building and an overarching narrative where the player’s choice at times had as much to do with the outcome as the actual gameplay itself did in the attempt to save the galaxy from an imminent threat. Now after years away from the universe, Bioware returns to try and reignite the magic with an all new adventure that hopes to take elements from the previous iterations as a foundation and build upon them to create an experience never before seen in video games. However, even before the game’s release, noticeable signs that this was an unfinished product being sent out way too early reminds gamers that we have seen this rodeo all too frequently before in this current generation.
A video montage of some of the early technical fails of Mass Effect Andromeda (CrowbCat)
Early preview builds of the game that attempt to show off the game’s potential only served to become fodder for the internet as visuals of the human and their facial expressions and animations sent social media and the press into a firestorm of negative publicity. Any attempts Bioware has made to try and correct the game’s most glaring defects have proven as of this writing ineffective both before and after the game’s release. now that gamers can get their hands on the game the criticism has only increased with numerous bugs, flaws and frame rate issues marring Andromeda‘s launch even further. The negative press and bad publicity has caused many potential buyers to claim in comment boards everywhere that they are shying away from purchasing the game and thus causing some concern for the game’s once robust future. While these issues have plagued many a title before, in this generation with the advanced power and graphics capability of the personal computer, Playstation 4 and Xbox One players have become less tolerant of games being shipped that clearly need more time in development with only a few notable exceptions (Bethesda’s open world titles like the Fallout and Elder Scrolls iterations).
Notable recent titles such as No Man’s Sky and Driveclub which were new intellectual properties (IP’s) that generated a great amount of buzz and excitement before release incurred similar technical and design issues that were never fully corrected. These titles left such a bad taste in the mouths of gamers that any future broadening of either series appears to be most likely to have been scrapped. As evidenced by Andromeda, even long standing series do not seem to be exempt from this issue as games such as Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, Batman: Arkham Knight, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and most prominently Assassin’s Creed Unity all suffered through stretches of major bugs, glitches and server issues which impacted sales of the next game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and caused the Assassin’s Creed annual series to be pushed back. But what was possibly behind the game getting released now when clearly the game appears to have significant issues. Any speculation on why Bioware let this game out into the wild in this condition leads in the direction that a decision could have been taken out of their hands.
When parent company Electronic Arts noted it would be delaying the game from its expected 2016 release, many were hopeful the extra time given to work out more logistics for the game would create a title worth remembering. Instead a full year after that report we have a game that appears on the surface to be rushed out the door only to appease shareholder concerns for a known property to be released within the first financial quarter of 2017. While initial sales due to the name value of Mass Effect appear to have been impacted, the wave of critical and commercial negative reception that has followed the game’s debut appears on the surface like it will cause a larger problem with Andromeda‘s long term growth to be impacted even more. Even a former Bioware animator Johnathan Cooper was compelled from social media enough to have weighed in with his thoughts on what possibly went wrong; “Andromeda seems to have lowered the quality of it’s base algorithm, resulting in the ‘My face is tired’ meme featuring nothing but lip-sync. This, presumably, was because they planned to hit every line by hand. But a 5-year dev cycle shows they underestimated this task.”
So what can be done to stem the continual tide of buggy games being released onto the video game marketplace? The advice to players is this, avoid pre-ordering as a whole and let’s hold off as a collective until we can be assured that these titles are released in a polished, acceptable and gamer-ready fashion. That message sent with one’s pocketbook will tell these publishers, developers and manufacturers to get their collective act together before they release these highly-anticipated games. Often we find ourselves as a buying public in a rush to be among the first to purchase that next great “AAA” game or console but if one thing the video game marketplace has proven is that patience almost always pays off in a more polished, enjoyable and affordable gaming experience.
While these glitches and design flaws are humorous to look at it at first, publishers need to be aware of the bigger issue of allowing their development teams to properly polish their work if they are to avoid these issues and not feel the backlash from thousands of negative comments and memes filling up the internet leaving many with the inclination to look somewhere else for their next gaming fix. Despite the game’s issues many are still attempting to look beyond the technical low points and explore the galaxy with the refined conversation and improved combat capabilities this title offers. When doing so however it is apparent that the potential of an unrivaled space exploration experience could have been had if more time had been given to develop it. But alas, Mass Effect Andromeda has stumbled into a trap many other games have also fallen into and in the process may have damaged the hopes for future iterations in the series with impressionable gamers for some time to come.