Developers Should Stop Changing Their Stories After Launch

The relatively new arrival of patches has already produced significant and controversial results in regards to the way we approach gaming. Games are no longer destined to be forever stuck with various bugs and glitches, and fighting games now offer constantly new experiences to those dedicated to sticking with the game beyond its launch, thanks to constant re-balancing updates. While there’s merit behind this ability to affect a game after it’s put on store shelves, it’s also beginning to set a troubling new precedent: granting game developers the ability to alter the plot of a game, often in response to fan feedback and criticism. While the temptation to do this is certainly understandable, as no story is without flaws or fixes, one must question if sticking to the writers’ original vision would be the more beneficial route, as doing otherwise brings with it a few new, but equally worrying, concerns.

The most recent example of this attempt to perfect a game’s story was revealed earlier this week, when Square Enix and game director Hajime Tabata announced that there were plans in the works to add new cutscenes to the already released RPG Final Fantasy XV, a game with a troubled, decade-long development process. With such an unusually lengthy production time, many fans were surprised that the game they had finally waited so long for was not fully complete, despite the obvious impression otherwise. This announcement also presents a problem for those who are still in the decision-making process, who now may delay their purchasing of the game further in order to receive the “complete experience”; whenever that ends up being, unless Tabata discovers another error in his thirty-hour plot that he decides is in need of fixing. While Tabata’s intentions are clearly for the best, its ability to have negative effects on both current and prospective owners of his latest, and biggest, title is rather unique, and provides a cautionary tale for those developers looking to follow a similar path.

One could not write an article about an attempt to change a controversial video game plot without mentioning Bioware’s sci-fi epic, Mass Effect 3. In an attempt to wrap up a character-filled trilogy in a clean manner, Bioware ended up producing one of the most polarizing video game endings of the past decade, if not longer, as many fans felt that the final events were overly simplistic and contradictory to some of the key ideals and events of the past two games. Despite an attempt to make slight changes with the free Director’s Cut DLC, the majority of the framework for Mass Effect 3’s ending still remains, reducing what was otherwise a well-produced and enjoyable title into a punchline for how not to wrap up a video game trilogy. Now, with the fourth entry in the franchise seemingly ignoring all the key events of Mass Effect 3, fans are understandably cautious about the nature of the story, which is an unfortunate additional factor that the revered RPG developer still has to deal with almost five years later.

And yet, despite this negative aspect, one can’t help but respect how BioWare has stuck its ground, putting the hard work of its writers above all else. BioWare hasn’t had to come out and publicly state this message of support, but instead has pushed forward to keep doing what they want to be doing: create story-centric games for those that want to play them. This sense of esteem has done wonders to restore the studio’s reputation even among the most die-hard Mass Effect fans, and provides a lesson that Tabata and his crew at Square Enix could benefit from. Even when fans and media are at their most critical, the quality and original vision of the game is what matters above all else, and no amount of tweaks and changes will create a more positive result. Instead, just stick with what’s already on the disc, and fans, love it or hate it, will ultimately respect the passion and dedication shown to a team that’s experienced a more tumultuous development period than most.