When is a game finished?
In days gone by, this was hardly a question at all. A game was finished when you got it out of the box, and it wouldn’t be updated at all save for very occasional second-wave updates to hard copies. It’s hard to believe that only a decade ago we were expected to buy Pokémon Emerald for what amounted to a glorified balance patch.
But now we live in the age of DLC: we live with extra story content, downloadable characters, new and shiny guns, and extremely overpriced digital fashion. Even single-player games, like 2016’s Enter the Gungeon, are expected to have a significant level of post-launch developer involvement, especially on digital distribution platforms like Steam and the Epic Store.
The problem with this model of ‘roadmaps’ is pretty obvious: because the games aren’t finished, developers aren’t finished with them either. Development of new titles becomes increasingly difficult because resources are being pulled to keep developing and innovating on older content.
Even single-player games, like 2016’s Enter the Gungeon, are expected to have a significant level of post-launch developer involvement
This is equally problematic for indie developers and triple-A publishers alike. Gungeon’s development was marred by the fundamental engine errors that forced massive code overhauls every time a patch was released. Fortnite’s developers are being pressed into a constant state of dangerous crunch just to keep producing skins, weapons and animatics to keep their playerbase from losing interest.
The result of content roadmaps without regard for their implementation just results in exhausted developers. As any student can attest - a stacking workload tends to overflow into later and later submissions, and that’s not a model any studio, let alone small independent developers, can keep going for long.