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The Messy/Glitchy Launch To “Cyberpunk 2077” (And Why It Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone)

I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. I’m old enough to remember the excitement surrounding “Super Mario Bros. 3,” “Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” and the first Pokémon craze. While I don’t consider myself an avid or hardcore gamer, I still have immense love and respect for gaming.

In the time I’ve been playing games and following the industry, I’ve seen many games that were heavily hyped. I vividly remember how games like “No Man’s Sky” and “Spore” were supposed to revolutionize the industry. Most of the time, the game was a letdown, relative to said hype. A few managed to deliver. Franchises like Zelda and Grand Theft Auto keep finding a way.

However, I’ve yet to see a game garner as much hype as “Cyberpunk 2077.” I’ve also yet to see a game garner such a mixed reaction in conjunction with such a chaotic launch. Now granted, some of that might be due to the general chaos of 2020, but the story surrounding this game has been a special kind of messy.

The long and short of that story is this.

  • The game itself was announced was announced back in May 2012 by CD Projekt Red.
  • The first trailers came out in 2018 and 2019.
  • Keanu Reeves was announced to play a significant role in a memorable appearance at E3 2019.
  • The game was originally slated for release in April 2020, but was delayed twice.
  • Once the game finally did come out, it was found to be glitchy and buggy. Some older gaming systems, like the Playstation 4, could not effectively run it and even robust gaming PC’s struggled to play it.
  • Due to the bugs and messy release, fans and critics alike were outraged. Some demanded refunds and Sony even removed the digital version of the game from its store.

Again, there’s a lot more to the story behind this game and how its release was handled, but those are the basics. I won’t get into the meaty details. Others more qualified than me have handled that far better and I’ll defer to them for more insight.

The reason I’m talking about “Cyberpunk 2077” has less to do with the game itself and more to do with the emerging trends behind it. This isn’t the first game to endure a messy, glitchy launch. It’s also not the first to invite massive backlash from fans and customers. I doubt it’ll be the last, either.

It all comes down to this.

Nobody should be surprised that a game as big, ambitious, and complex as “Cyberpunk 2077” had glitches at launch.

Nobody should be surprised when any game that runs on powerful, complex gaming systems aren’t perfect from the beginning.

Everyone should expect patches and fixes that come out years after a game comes out. They’re practically unavoidable.

I know that sounds like a broad generalization. It may even sound like I’m making excuses for game developers like CD Projekt Red. I promise that’s not the case. This is just me sharing my perspective and I feel it’s worth sharing in the current era of AAA gaming.

Like it or not, the gaming industry has evolved a lot since the days of Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and the first Playstation. It’s not just that the industry has become more consolidated and more impacted by games people play on their phones. That is also part of it, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the bigger picture here.

A game like “Tetris” or “Super Mario Bros” is much less complex than a game like “Grand Theft Auto V” or “Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.” I’m not just talking about the story or gameplay, either. These games require a lot more in terms of development, polishing, and refinement to go from the drawing board to a finished product.

The hardware is more powerful.

The mechanics are more complex.

The logistics are far greater.

You didn’t used to have to hire top quality voice acting talent on the level of Keanu Reeves to develop a game. You just had text boxes and sound effects. That’s all games like “Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and the first Pokémon games needed.

However, those games couldn’t come out now and be as successful. They were products of their time, limited by the hardware and software needed to develop them. It still took time and effort, but let’s not lose perspective here. The entire size of those games could comfortably fit on a $10 flash drive.

In essence, a game like “Cyberpunk 2077” is to “Super Mario Brothers” what a Saturn V rocket is to a standard wheel. It has far more moving parts, far more complexities, and far more investment needed in order to make work.

When you have something that complex, things aren’t always going to go smoothly. Patches and tweaks will be necessary. It’s just a matter of extent. Even top-rated games like “Grand Theft Auto V” needed a few patches to make work. Other games like “Destiny 2” required so many patches that the game was basically overhauled.

In both cases, the games were better because of this. Even if it wasn’t perfect on launch, it created the foundation from which a truly awesome experience could emerge. That’s the best way to approach games like “Cyberpunk 2077.” Regardless of what the release date says, assume that’s just the beginning and not the end.

That’s not to say we should overlook every glitch and flaw at launch. Some just cannot be fixed, no matter how many patches are thrown at it. Games like “Fallout 76” are an unfortunate testament to that.

At the same time, some games are so mired by their launch that nobody notices or appreciates it when the game is ultimately fixed. That’s what happened to “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” a game that was also plagued by a glitchy and messy launch. However, several patches helped fix many of the issues. Now, I can confirm that the game in its most updated form is a genuinely solid gaming experience.

Unfortunately, fans gave up on that game, and many like it, too quickly. I feel like others didn’t even give it a chance because they listened to those who made such a big deal about the glitches at launch. It would be like people avoiding cars for the rest of their lives because the first few crashed or didn’t run well enough.

For this reason, I’ve gotten into the habit of not buying any AAA game at launch. Unless it’s a remaster, I always wait at least three to four months before I consider investing in it. That usually affords enough time to work out the kinks and get the necessary patches in place for the game to realize its full potential.

Sometimes, it’s still a letdown. Games like “Anthem” have never really taken hold, no matter how many patches and tweaks they get.

For the most part, though, there’s a benefit to waiting until months after launch. The hardest part is not letting negative reviews from people bemoaning the early glitches color your opinion of the game. That’s what helped me enjoy “Mass Effect: Andromeda.” I never would’ve gotten that experience had I read all the complaints about the earlier version of the game.

Sometimes, you need to exercise a little patience to get the gaming experience you seek. That’s not easy these days, especially as the gaming industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar entertainment behemoth. I remember just how visceral some of the reactions were when “Cyberpunk 2077.” Now, some of those same people are whining about the game appearing to have been rushed.

It’s the kind of hypocrisy that makes you want to punch your computer screen.

On top of that, game development these days is subject to significant strain among developers. It’s what fuels a less-than-pleasant aspect of the industry called crunch. When a company is eager to get a product to the market or to meet a deadline, it’ll lean heavily on its workers. Many times, those workers will suffer as a result.

It’s a distressing part of the industry, but one I doubt will go away anytime soon. As long as there’s demand for AAA games on par with “Cyberpunk 2077,” we’re going to endure things like this. Games are going to be launched with bugs. Game developers are going to be overworked to death to meet a deadline rather than risk angering the consumer base.

Until these trends and dynamics change, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, I’m still going to be patient with “Cyberpunk 2077.” I don’t think I’ll get it until several months have gone by, complete with patches, and I have a new Playstation 5 to play it on.

Hopefully, it’ll be worth the wait. After all, where else am I going to play a game in which I can customize a character’s genitals?

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A Note On The “Last Of Us 2” Leaks (And Spoilers In General)

People have mixed, but intense opinions on spoilers. I know people who will get downright violent if you threaten to spoil something to them. I also know people who just roll their eyes and brush them off, as though they’re no big deal. It’s one of those issues where there’s very little middle ground.

In the age of the internet and social media, it’s almost impossible to avoid them. Some movies, video games, and TV shows can be completely spoiled in a single tweet. There are unmoderated anonymous boards like 4chan where every detail can be spoiled, alongside posts of trolls determined to make ordinary people gouge their eyes out.

Personally, I prefer to read spoilers before I see a movie, buy a game, or get invested in a show. When I saw “Dark Phoenix” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I read spoilers beforehand. They actually made me more excited to see those movies because I liked what I read.

Sometimes, I make exceptions. I avoided spoilers for both “Avengers: Endgame” and “Breaking Bad.” In those cases, I really wanted to feel the impact when I saw how the story played out the first time. While I doubt reading spoilers would’ve made me enjoy both stories any less, there was an element of impact that I couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

I think a lot of people make exceptions when it comes to spoilers, but sometimes they have an impact that goes beyond spoiling a surprise. That’s what happened recently with “The Last of Us Part 2,” one of the most anticipated video games of the past decade. As someone who played the first “The Last of Us” and praised it on multiple occasions, I was among those brimming with excitement.

Then, an employee at the developer, Naughty Dog, leaked the entire story. Out of respect for those who still don’t want to be spoiled, I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just cite the report by Den of Geek, who also made a concerted effort to avoid such details.

Den of Geek: The Last of Us 2 Leaked Plot Confirmed by Naughty Dog

The Last of Us Part 2‘s story has been leaked. Various clips that showcase nearly the entirety of the game’s story have made their way online. Naughty Dog has recently confirmed the leak via a tweet that asks fans to not spoil the game for others and to avoid spoilers if possible.

The extent of this leak is massive. Not only do these leaked clips include nearly every major cutscene from The Last of Us Part 2, but it seems that fans have also gotten their hands on a leaked level list that details the story structure of the sequel.

Now, I’m going to be careful with my words here because I don’t want to spoil this game for those who don’t want to be spoiled. Even though the leaks have spread on nearly every platform, I don’t want to compound the issue. The primary reason I’m bringing this issue up with The Last of Us Part 2” is because this whole situation with spoilers has some important insights that are worth mentioning.

The biggest insight, thus far, is just how much these spoilers effect the perception of the game. Before the leaks came out, “The Last of Us Part 2” was by far one of the most anticipated games of the year. Naughty Dog’s reputation was very polished and there weren’t many people saying bad things about them.

That situation has been completely reversed.

While it’s hard to gauge every reaction, I’ve seen a fairly consistent pattern. Almost everyone, including those who were very excited about this game, are incredibly disappointed by this. It’s not just that the story was spoiled. The details of that story have rubbed everyone the wrong way.

Without getting into specifics, they effectively undermine some of the most important aspects of the first game. The journey the players took in The Last of Us was a deeply emotional experience. Even if you’d read the spoilers ahead of time, there’s a lot of appeal to that experience. I knew the basic of the game long before I played it. It still had a profound impact on me by the time I got to the end of the game.

With The Last of Us Part 2,” that impact is effectively undercut. The journey that we took in the first game doesn’t matter as much in this game. Everything that made you fall in love with these characters and their struggles is either ignored or overshadowed by something else. For anyone who loved the first game, where’s the appeal in that?

There are also some “political” overtones to the story that have rubbed people the wrong way. I put “political” in quotes because in the world of video games, “political” is usually just code for “political or ideological leanings that I don’t agree.” I’ve never cared much for that. In general, I try to avoid it, but it has become an unfortunate trend in video games, thanks to scandals that have only gotten more absurd with time.

The only aspect of “politics” that I resent in video games, and media in general, is how it tends to hallow out a story. If the point of a story is to just score certain points with certain ideologies, then it renders the story bland and predictable. When done poorly, it becomes outright propaganda.

Based on these spoilers, I won’t say that “The Last of Us Part 2” reeks or propaganda, but the ideological themes are not exactly subtle. While those themes don’t bother me personally, I’ve seen enough internet outrage mobs to know the reaction it’ll incur. That reaction will only obscure any legitimate criticism of the game and its story.

I had not pre-ordered this game, but I was planning to once a new release date was finalized. Now, I’ve no desire to play this game anytime soon. I’ll still follow reviews and feedback. If parts of these leaks prove to be inaccurate, I’ll gladly change my tune. To date, however, nobody at Naughty Dog has denied them. That’s often a sign that they’re real.

To some extent, I’m grateful. I’d much rather learn about this before I dropped over $60 on a game that was only going to disappoint me. During these times, nobody can afford to waste that kind of money. I’ll wait until others play the game to see how the full story plays out. Maybe it’ll work out in the end, but I’m not very hopeful.

It’s a disappointing turn for something that I was genuinely excited about. It also darkens the prospect of this franchise becoming a how on HBO. It’ll be interesting to see how these leaks and the reactions to them effect the sales of the game. If it’s as bad as some dread, then the emotional journey that this franchise took us on could come to an abrupt and tragic end.

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Filed under Current Events, LGBTQ, outrage culture, political correctness, psychology, video games