Monday, March 27

‘Dying Light 2’ Reviews Show Why Day-One Patches Are No Real Solution For Buggy Launches

Dying Light 2: Stay Human reviews have dropped ahead of the game’s release tomorrow and the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X versions all scored in the high 70s on Metacritic. On the surface, those scores aren’t terrible, but when you dive deeper, it’s apparent there’s a very mixed bag of opinions on this one, with some major issues at play.

(As an aside, I suggest looking for critics whose tastes align with yours and finding out what they have to say about a game, rather than relying on aggregated scores.)

At paste, Jackson Tyler described the story of Dying Light 2 as “an unmitigated disaster,” though they gave Techland props for the parkour system. IGN‘s Travis Northup rated the game as “good,” largely due to “top-notch parkour” and the “awesome open world.” However, the review has a prominent bug alert, with Northup citing some major technical issues, including one a IGN editor encountered that corrupted their entire save file.

Developer Techland said it has “added over a thousand fixes and improvements on all the platforms” over the last couple of weeks. It added that the day-one patch, which will go live on consoles in the next few days, contains “another thousand tweaks.”

At the end of November, Techland said Dying Light 2 had gone gold—industry speak for a game being in good enough condition to press onto disks. In an era in which studios frequently roll out major patches after release day, that doesn’t mean work on the game is complete.

Broadly speaking, that’s a problem for a number of reasons.

Those with a physical copy and players who pre-loaded the digital version will need to install the day-one patch. They might skip the update, though they’ll run the risk of encountering major bugs. Although Dying Light 2 has a multiplayer option (which will likely require the game to be on the latest patch), some folks will stick to the single-player mode, in some cases because they don’t have a sturdy enough internet connection.

There are telecom infrastructure problems that prevent tens of millions of people from having reliable, fast internet access. Players who live in areas with slow internet speeds often opt for physical copies of games to avoid having to download games that can weigh in at over 100 GB. Live service or multiplayer games might be out of the question for those folks. Day-one patches are another accessibility barrier for them.

A Twitter account that tracks game install and patch sizes for PlayStation pegged the size of Dying Light 2’s day-one patch on PS4 at about 20 GB. It’d take over seven hours to download that with a 3 Mbps connection. Some day-one patches for other games are much larger.

Day-one patches have been a common practice in the games industry for many years at this point. For instance, Elden Ring, one of the most-anticipated games of the year, has gone gold, and FromSoftware is working on a day-one patch. So, this is far from an issue limited to Dying Light 2.

One other key issue with buggy review builds is that some studios and publishers tie developers’ bonuses to review scores. I’m not sure if that’s the case here (I’ve asked Techland to clarify), but it’s an unfair practice.

Not only are review scores subjective and out of developers’ control, we’ve seen instances where games are rushed out before they’re truly ready in order to meet a production and marketing schedule, even if they still bear better performance or stability problems. Reviewers don’t always have access to a build of the game with the day one patch, which can diminish their opinion and, potentially, lead to developers not getting their bonuses.

Cyberpunk 2077 is maybe the most notable recent example of this. CD Projekt Red initially tied bonuses to certain review scores and meeting the December 2020 release date (after the game had already been delayed multiple times). The action RPG was a buggy mess at launch, particularly on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Reviewers only had access to a PC build, which was seemingly in better condition before launch. Sony even yanked the game from the PSN store. It took six months for CDPR to get cyberpunk into a condition that satisfied Sony.

A few days after CDPR released the game, bosses told workers that they’d get their bonuses regardless of the review scores. Creative director Adam Badowski reportedly said the approach was “simply not fair under the circumstances.”

All of this is to say that day-one patches may not be truly beneficial for players, critics or developers. Affording developers more time to fix bugs before physical copies of games are pressed and review code goes out to critics will improve the experience for everyone. Besides, delays are commonplace these days and many players will forgive studios and publishers for giving dev teams the time they need to create a polished game by launch day — ideally while avoiding crunch.

Dying Light 2 had already been delayed by over a year to allow for more development time. Even so, reviewers have found game-breaking bugs.

QA workers and devs won’t find every bug in a game before launch. That’s night-on impossible. But, given more time before release day, they’ll catch many more than they would have on a tighter schedule.

With its day-one patch, I truly hope Techland has fixed the most impactful bugs and that fans who jump into Dying Light 2 this weekend are able to enjoy it as the dev team intended. But the patch may come as a small comfort to critics who’ve already reviewed the game and fans who’ll have a tough time downloading it, not to mention those who’ll hold off until Techland whips it into better shape.

Those folks might end up waiting for a sale instead of buying Dying Light 2 now. It’s already a busy spell for big games, so they might be more inclined to play something else. That could hurt Techland’s bottom line in the long run. In the end, perhaps crafting a smaller, more polished game than one that boasts 500 hours of content would have been a wiser approach.

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