Buggy Video Games (avoid Prince of Persia: Warrior Within)

This is a rant about Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. I got it from GameFly (I’ll post my thoughts on them later, but the short bit is good, but needs to steal more ideas from Netflix) and have put in at least 10 hours. I now have a save game that is useless because I’m told to fight a boss I already defeated; when I go to her room she is there for a second, then disappears along with my way out of the room.
I actually encountered a bug in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time where 10 seconds after my save loads I die. That was about 6 hours in and pissed me off too. I’m not the only one to have problems with Warrior Within though, a Google search turns up 70,000 results and counting, not that a Google search is scientific evidence of anything. I should point out that I got it for the Gamecube and if I had gotten it for the XBox it’s possible there would be an update available on Live thanks to Microsoft’s foresight to add a hard drive to their console. Missing the online boat is the biggest mistake Nintendo has made to date, which is not to say it saved the Dreamcast.
Before I ran into my show stopper I saw a few other glitches, but now I would need to replay the whole game. Thankfully it’s a rental, in fact the whole point of my signing up with GameFly was because I found I don’t like replaying my games very much. I’m putting it in the mail tomorrow.
I mostly game on consoles because I figure it’s a fixed platform so I naively assume that it will be easier to avoid bugs. That, and I hate having to maintain a gaming system. (Aside: When I evangelize Macs, the first question I ask is if the person plays a lot of video games. If they do, I recommend they stick with PCs as a better tool for the job. Flame me about WoW in the comments.) A big part of the problem is that everyone wants to rush their game out by Christmas and it’s considered done when the day after Thanksgiving comes around, so QA doesn’t even get a chance to get all the bugs on a fixed platform. I’m kind of scared to go back to PC gaming, considering what a hodgepodge of hardware could do to QA.
A smaller part of the problem is the fact that print game journalism simply could not fairly focus on bugs. Let me preface this by saying that while I like video games, I like them a lot, I don’t devote a lot of time to reading about them. I’ll catch reviews from bloggers I read (Thanks Andy for linking to Katamari Damacy enough to convince Jenny to buy me a copy) and Penny Arcade can make or break a title for me. I also haven’t read a video game magazine in 10 years, but when I did the reviews game out the same month as the game. What I’m trying to explain here is that I can’t speak for the current state of online or offline video game reviews outside of my limited experience.
Video game magazines had (have?) a huge lead time and were forced to review betas, and rightfully didn’t hold the games to task for bugs. A beta is considered feature complete but not bug-free, and reviewers should give the developers the benefit of the doubt that they’ll fix the bugs before the game goes gold. Then when they got their hands on the retail version and find that it was buggy, the reviewers couldn’t devote page real estate to it because there’s always another hot beta to review.
Not all is lost though, some people are doing things somewhat right. X-Play does not air a review until the retail copy ships, and some of their best stuff is when they pan bad games. Like I said in my disclaimer above I don’t follow the online reviews and so I can’t say whether online sites review stuff that isn’t out yet, but a cursory look at IGN, GameSpot and GameSpy says that they all wait until a game is actually out to post their reviews too.
Online and on TV the lack of print lead time allows reviewers to wait to review a game until it’s gone gold. Of course only GameSpot mentioned technical flaws in reviewing Warrior Within, so I don’t know that the situation is getting a lot better. It’s possible that they still write with as much lead time as ever, and people would still rather hear about the game being released this week than the one released 3 months ago.
Games journalism — in addition to needing to go gonzo — needs to make sure that people are getting a quality game, not just in terms of gameplay (which is paramount) but also in terms of basic technical competence. Please, reviewers, revisit a review if you hear a lot of people moaning about bugs and take the developer to task!
Also related is the fact that Sony is only now shipping Gran Turismo 4, one of their most anticipated titles of 2004. Kudos to them for shipping (what I presume to be) a quality product and not bowing to the push to release for Christmas. Of course that probably make good business sense too considering how crowded the game market was for Q4 of 2004. Note that Sony shipped it, unlike the number 1 vaporware for 2001 which still will be released when it’s done.
Oh, and wait on Prince of Persia: Warrior Within until they’ll fix the problems for the greatest hits version or pick up a couple extra memory cards to keep lots of saved games. It’s actually a pretty good game, although like everyone says not as charming as Sands of Time — I loved how when you died the prince would say “Wait, that’s now how it happened” which makes sense when you win it. The combat is harder but still fun, the platforming feels great and the puzzles are still there although there are more spotting-architectural-features “puzzles.” Too bad I have to return it without getting to play it through.

2 thoughts on “Buggy Video Games (avoid Prince of Persia: Warrior Within)

  1. The “That’s not how it happened” makes sense even before you beat it, what with the intro being “Hey I’m tellin’ you a story which you should hear.” Of course the ending makes it suddenly more awesomer.

  2. Oh, also, console gaming is the same way in terms of rushed development schedule and so on, it’s just got much more rigorous final approval. But console games still ship with lots and lots of bugs. There were three pretty big ones in Sprung (and who knows how many little ones) and it’s a pretty small game with a pretty simple game engine…

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