This is part two of our series taking a look into why modern gaming has taken a decline in terms of its engineering aspects. Whether it be optimization, bugs and glitches, stability, lack of stutter or even features – modern AA and AAA games are releasing with major problems. This is affecting all of gaming, even consoles, but its most easily felt on the PC. Today we will be taking a look into two major reasons for this decline in quality.
Reason 5 – The global pandemic
The global pandemic affected the gaming industry and turned the workflow for most medium or major developers – upside down. Office culture is a real thing and for all its faults – people were used to it. Going from a work at the office to a work-at-home environment was a major shift for most studios and definitely threw off the established manner of doing things.
Indie games like Stray 🐈 have an easier time with WFH development.
Ideas were propagating more slowly; internal QA teams were less efficient, even not getting to see one’s colleagues likely had a small but cumulative effect for whole entire teams within the studios. Those emergent times when a worker could just tap their programmer friend and show them something or discuss a cool idea they had – those were suddenly a thing of the past. The loss of lunch break conversations or hallway talk, those small informal discussions really did a number on the industry.
It is important to note that certain studios (usually smaller ones) already had some experience working from home, so they were not as affected. Others still managed to make the jump with relatively few(er) problems. Those issues that I mentioned above can be circumvented to a large degree, but it takes time and effort – a new culture, so to say. Not to mention that while smaller or medium sized studios could do their jobs relatively well, AAA or gigantic F2P studios would likely not be able to make an effective switch. Work from home makes communication with the people you already get along with even better – but not so much those who you do not know as much / just do not like as people. This has positive and negative consequences that simply inherently affect bigger studios more than smaller ones.
The overall effect of Covid-19 on game development has been negative and the topic is vast (needs its own article…). Thankfully as measures are relaxed and/or the culture shifts, studios can and will adjust better to the current situation, so unlike most other problems I mentioned so far – this one does have an end in sight. Things will get better.
Doom Eternal’s second DLC had to scale back its ambitions due to WFH getting slightly in the way of development.
It is too bad that the pandemic isn’t the only reason modern games are so broken, but its mark was definitely felt.
Reason 6 – The developers lack skill…
As a general rule, AA and AAA developers are experienced and/or have good practices in place that would not allow them to make too many mistakes. Unfortunately, there are exceptions – situations where developers just cannot really do their job well enough.
One studio that I can immediately give as an example here is from software. They make amazing games, their art department is godlike, their game designers are top tier, their level design - sublime. The weak link are the engineers responsible for the engine as well as performance/fidelity. When compared to even poor AA studios with less manpower and fewer resources, from cannot compete. They are sometimes even beaten by PC modders working for free, in active warzones.
Never forget how poorly this ran at launch
Perhaps there is a different issue at play here, but considering their history and how poor their games run considering the bad graphics (yes, the art compensates fully and is insanely beautiful, I know and agree, but that isn’t what is being discussed here) it is fair to call them out on this issue. Hopefully they can improve, but they are for sure not the only studio with a “skill” issue. Hell, knowing how often game developers leave out extreme shader compilation stutter inside their games, it seems that the level of engineering in video games is on a decline right now.
The reasons for this are numerous. Wages within AAA and AA are just not that high and if you are good enough of a programmer to work for a video game company, you can probably work for even more money in a different software company. The culture itself has also shifted a bit, it seems fewer developers actually read the documentation for the hardware or software they are using. Some of the mistakes made are almost certainly just due to not reading what AMD / Microsoft / Epic Games / Sony etc. have posted on their official documentation. I will touch on this more in the next part, but suffice it to say - this problem currently has no end in sight.
With this we conclude the second article from the series!
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