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How Much Leeway Can We Give Smaller Developers?

How Much Leeway Can We Give Smaller Developers?

Recently, I have been playing Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, and it is a great game, but it has caused me to ask a question myself. How much leeway am I willing to give a game from smaller developers?

What I mean is this: when a game does not have an AAA developer and publisher, how much will I forgive bugs and other issues? For instance, while Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader mostly runs fine, it is frequently troubled by overlong loading sequences, and I have had more than a few crashes. It’s nothing game-breaking, but it is annoying. Now, if this were a AAA game from EA or Microsoft, this would be, and often is, unforgivable. However, smaller developer teams mean less time and often less ability to troubleshoot.

Now, leeway does not mean forgiving, and it doesn't mean I don’t expect developers to improve. For instance, Spiders’ game Bound by Flame was bad for several reasons: the plot was odd, and the gameplay was lacking and visually boring. However, the developer improved massively with its release of GreedFall. The game still had issues, but the obvious improvement made these less glaring. If Spiders had made no improvements and were willing to release games with the same issues then I would be far harsher, I think. 

I also want to say that "small developer" is relative; for instance, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader’s team is not tiny by any means, but they aren’t AAA either. A game by a single person or small team deserves more leeway than any other type, but how much is still in debate? After all, Undertale was made by a single person, and it runs perfectly with next to no bugs that I know of. As such, do I hold all games to the same standard?

This is honestly a very tough question to answer, and it does kind of come to a case-by-case standard. For instance, Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader’s developer, Owlcat Games, is known to make buggy but good games. Is this something that should be allowed? Or should we expect better from them now that we know they can make good games?

Gameplay is tricky to quantify, especially in terms of how good it is, and it can often be a personal thing. It is entirely possible to make interesting games with even a small team — once again look at Undertale, and having a larger developer doesn’t mean a game will be good or even functional. However, the more complex a game, the more work it will require, and if the gameplay is bad, then it will be unplayable. Therein lies one of the major issues with this question. Some things are just unforgivable, and no amount of leeway will solve a broken game. 

The issue is more than just gameplay; it has to do with graphics and plot, too. First and foremost, graphics aren’t that important, really, but when they are bad, it is noticeable. While not aiming to have lifelike graphics is fine, and even attempting might be commendable, it still has an effect, and I don’t want to spend money on something that was a good attempt but still not at the right quality.

When it comes to plot, I am much less forgiving because a good plot doesn’t require money. Writing is, at its core, free, and a good idea costs nothing. Look at a game like The Stanley Parable; it was interesting with a great story but was developed by two guys. So when it comes to story, I don’t give any leeway at all depending on the size of the developers.

This is a question that might be more prudent as we head into 2024, especially with recent flops like The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. However, I am far more willing to forgive a game that at least tried, like Gollum did, over a clear cash grab. While I cannot say that The Day Before release and subsequent cancellation was due to criminal intent, there is certainly something concerning there that should be watched in the modern gaming market.  

I suppose I don’t know if I will ever be able to answer this question for myself, and there may even be a complaint about the state of gaming where we have to ask this kind of question. I don’t remember old games being buggy or unplayable, but then again, that is probably nostalgia. I want to base every game on its own merit, but that just isn’t possible, and there will always be other considerations. 

Tell me, how much are you willing to forgive from smaller developers, or do you hold them to the same standards?

Joshua Render

Joshua Render

Staff Writer

Became a writer and all he got was this lousy bio

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