I have seen all too often the accepted industry standard of products being labled gold and released that are unfinished in the gaming world.
Well, not just the gaming world, but with Vista as well...
You have games being developed for years, tested, new content added, a whole lot of hype, and then it is labled gold, and BOOM! you have a beta version of the game that you paid $50 for and $15 a month.
This is true for City of Heroes/Villians, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest II, World of Warcraft, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars Galaxies (all 5 versions of the game), Hellgate London and a number of games that are too expansive to list here.
Ultima Online did it right. Was it buggy? Yeah. Did it have patches? Yup. Why did they release a MMO completed? Because back then, if your product wasn't finished, it didn't get released.
Now, don't get me wrong... there is no way that all bugs can get squashed before release... some you have to do a certain way, dance around like "an egyptian" naked near a campfire using pine wood on a full moon to experience it. But obvious bugs that some manager goes up and says " I think it is cost effective to release this" screws up the experience for most everyone.
And it isn't just the bean counters causing problems too. You have those stark raving fans that go absolutely nuts! "What??!!! the game was delayed?? Again?!!! WTF! " Those people drive me insane. You would think they were the Xbox Live kiddies that are notorious for cursing up a storm with their high pitched voices wondering where mommy is to wash their mouth out with soap... No, these are full grown adults, some are white-collared workers drawing in $50-70k a year. Whining and crying that makes them indistinguishable from the kids I hear on Xbox Live.
So where do we draw the line? What is the defining point from which one can safely say, "this game is good enough to release?" Personally, I think that statement is skewed anyways. "Good Enough".. That is what the slacker says who wants to be done with something so they can do something else. He does a half-assed job and expects to be rewarded for it.
Pirates of the Burning Sea is a good example of Developers and Dreams clashing and hurting them more than helping. Just when the game was finished, done and ready to roll.. They said, let's throw in Avatar combat... Then they said, well we have them running around on the ship fighting,,, let's allow them to walk around port now. And they kept on adding things to the game, beyond the original design. This caused them to be set back for a couple of years, but it wasn't yet finished, and they released it as "good enough". Well it wasn't good enough, as there is only so much you can do in the game.
Before the fanbois start hitting me... I like PotBS, but can only handle so much at a time. And the developers already discussed as how they wish they released the game when it was originally done before adding avatar stuff to it. I am just repeating what they said and agreeing.. It was a mistake.
There was one game that was released, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the name of it, but they basically had to freeze all paid accounts for two or three months because the bugs and server stability was so horrible AFTER it was sold in the stores, they couldn't take the money from the consumer. Was that Anarchy Online? Bah, I can't remember.
But speaking of which, AO was SO damn buggy it was horrible. The promise of the first instanced home was never working, no place to store your goods, bugged AI for pets, and mobs... Funcom had great ideas, but they published a crap product because it was unplayable. I remember going back though and my fixer being like 150 or something then. The game had improved. Now, the game (you can play free if you start a new account....) has improved in stability, playability, but the graphics are so outdated it is like playing Asheron's Call (this game was great but graphics are so horrible by today's standards). I am told that Anarchy Online will be receiving a huge UI and graphics overhaul later this year.. If happens, I'll be revisiting Rubi-Ka again.
With the unfinished games, should the gamers be compensated for their being true to the game? Even with all the bugs? If they are, how should they be rewarded? Reduced subscriptions? Should the game even be sold before it is fixed? Should publishers just allow free downloads of the game, and subscription fees at a reduced price until the game is fixed? Then when the game is ready and true gold, then freeze the accounts until they get the game from a retailer? But able to keep their account?
So many questions, and no answers, save one. It is a sad fact, that even I would do this, if a gamer wants to play a game, they will go out, buy it, endure through the bugs and warping, they will. Very sad fact and for this reason publishers will not alter how they do business.