Stop Letting Game Publishers Hide Trash Behind Pre-Alpha Labels (OP-ED)
Recently Darksiders 3 was announced, a welcome surprise for fans of the series who thought the series was over after THQ went out of business. Even more recently, they released a gameplay trailer showing how the game looks in its “Pre-Alpha” state. I watched and honestly, the game looks like rubbish. It looks a bit stiff and lacks the fluidity and fun that was in its predecessor, Darksiders 2. Are these fair criticisms? I believe so. But according to some fans of the series, my criticisms are invalid because it isn’t out yet. Which I don’t really understand. “The following comment/argument comes up every time:
“Every issue you see with the game will be fixed by the time it’s released because it’s in pre-alpha.”– The Well Actually Community
This mantra is repeated ad nauseam as if every game that has had problems in pre-alpha has since come out perfect; of which no—not every game is perfect. In fact, there’s been a few games that we were shown early footage and guess what? Some of those problems were still in the game. Here’s a refresher.
Before For Honor came out there were multiple beta tests, a couple were closed and the last one was open, all of them had similar issues with matchmaking. People would lag out and disappear, the load times were long, you wouldn’t get matched with people around your level; a general shitshow. The last beta took place right before the game released—two days before the game released, specifically. I played that last beta with a friend and when we ran into issues with the terrible matchmaking, she would say, “Yeah it’s just a beta, it better not release like this.” Lo and behold the game released like that. In fact, it stayed like that for a while. I believe that in this case, the term “beta” was used as a PR tactic to deflect how bad the matchmaking was even though the game was obviously past its beta state because it was coming out 2 days later. The naivety of my friend reflects how people view games when they aren’t out yet. While yes, you can be hopeful, you should also be skeptical. If you’re having a bad experience, don’t suck it up and say “Well it’s not out yet, so it should be fine.” That’s not helpful.
Even more recently, Mass Effect Andromeda had a similar issue. EA released quite a lot of footage leading up to the game’s release, and while most of it looked promising, there was one video that showed the face of a character named Addison. Her character model looked terrible. Many in the comment section were pointing out how amateurish and unnatural she looked, while others tried damage controlling, constantly trying to reassure us that “It’ll look better on release, stop judging so early”. As we got closer to the release date, we got to see more footage of the game’s animations that did not look at all flattering. Again, we saw a lot of “It’ll look better on release” or even worse “I don’t play games for animations.” I don’t think anyone plays games specifically for animations, but that’s no real reason to excuse them for looking like dog trash. Despite all the reassurance we got about the game looking better on release, the issues remained clear and pronounced on day one. In fact, MEA was filled with animation issues, graphical glitches, and Addison’s face for an entire month. They’ve since fixed these issues, but it was far too late.
Being skeptical can prevent us from possessing an unrealistic perception that the problems we see in Alpha and Beta releases will absolutely, positively not show up on launch day. I know the two games I mentioned were way later in the release stages than Pre-Alpha, but if we’re shown early footage, we should discuss what we’re seeing. We should be honest and give critical feedback versus constantly giving a pass to publishers on the pretense of “It’s early–they’ll fix it”. Being blindly hopeful does not make games better or make the space more open to creativity. Be actually helpful; offer feedback and criticism, speak out when something looks amiss. And when that game comes out if it’s garbage—call it out.