I love the idea of a single patch revitalizing a community or transforming a mediocre game into something great. Of course there are pitfalls to patches. They’re not always used to fix minor annoyances. Nowadays they’re issued to make games playable on “Day One”. I’m not talking about those types of patches today. I’m referring to those bundles of joy which not only fixed issues, but provided additional functionality and bonuses as well.
I’ve always appreciated patches since my early days of PC gaming. The first patch which floored me was patch 1.10 for MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries. This (once massive) 17+ MB patch enabled Direct3D acceleration for my beloved mech sim and it was this self extracting, self installing patch which opened up my eyes to the possibilities of post launch support.
Throughout the years PC developers began bundling additional content such as maps, characters and weapons with their fixes. I fondly remembering the free multiplayer map which came with a Return to Castle Wolfenstein patch. This map easily trumped most of the retail offerings and it was all for free.
While many developers supplied patches within a six month window of a game’s launch, very few ventured beyond that point. This is why Blizzard and Valve should always get a mention when talking about long running post launch support. But why do they do this? Why continue patching when most of your customers have moved onto other games?
Nothing is more comforting than to know that the game you’ve paid for is still supported. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll repay the developer’s generosity with continued support on their future products. These patches are also Trojan horses into the news section of many websites. “Such-such game gets a new patch!” It keeps the game and the company’s name in the minds of the people. As a result, it may even attract new players.
The list of developers with impressive patch track records is a short one. Not every one has the financial backing to continue free post launch support. This console generation is the first with strong internet capabilities and a few developers are trying to figure out how to proceed with patch support. Criterion Games is the standout example thus far with its Burnout: Paradise support, but with the allure of paid downloadable content, who knows if they’ll continue to give its fans freebies like they have.
The future of patch support is a bright one. Not only are they increasing in size, but they’re also addressing community identified issues. More and more developers are listening to their communities and the feedback they provide. While listening is nice, I would like to see more developers become more vocal about their patch plans. Gamers have come to accept patches as the norm and it would be nice to know when we’ll receive them and what will be fixed.
No, I haven’t started Resident Evil 5 yet. Brother has been busy and I doubt I’ll have the time to start the cooperative adventure this week either. This coming week could be one of the worst I’ve had in awhile.
Unfortunately, no patch could fix this.