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Opinion Community Thought experiment: What if ratings agencies (PEGI, ESRB, etc.) introduced technical quality/stability ratings for games?

Africa's Toto

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Jan 7, 2018
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I actually don't think games have reached the point where this is necessary, and with the interactive nature of games, a certain level of instability is expected. But I do believe we're headed in the direction where a game's simply means the start of another phase of development.
I would like to imagine that in 50 years, tools will be streamlined to the point where either no-one plays games on local hardware and we all stream pixel-perfect games or the vast majority of common bugs have been removed, but who knows. And so this thought experiment:
In summary, it would be implemented by providing a number or icon to represent how stable or technically consistent in presentation a game is.
A little impractical for several reasons, but let's discuss.

So, the way it could work is:

- It would be verified similar to QA systems except it would be independently rated. Developers already have internal QA standards defining what their producer terms acceptable for release, except those vary by studio and publisher

- specific criteria would be used to place games in different brackets of 'technical quality' or something similar

- games would be tested on several variants of all platforms the game is being launched on. e.g. consoles and their variants. I don't know how this would work for PC with its large pool of hardware combinations

- mandated for any game that has gone gold or generally for full releases

- similar to the deck verified system that Valve is introducing for Steam Deck:

See at a glance how games will play on Steam Deck.​

With Steam Deck, we're bringing your Steam Library to a new form factor—a portable gaming PC. While many games run great on Deck out of the box, this shift means there are some games that, while they may be great on a desktop PC, aren't a great experience on Steam Deck.
After each game is reviewed, it is categorized for its level of compatibility of Steam Deck. You’ll see these categories on Steam, when you’re browsing your library or shopping for games on Deck
except instead of broad 'playable or not' levels, the ratings brackets would allow you to, for example, see a number or icon and immediately know that you can expect a few frame drops per hour playing that game on a switch.




Some obvious issues | Possible solutions/response:
1. It would stifle development and restrict ambition in game design |
I don't really have a solution, but this is a thought experiment, so, eh. Besides, game design, as well as the sentiment of the playerbase, is already shifting to a 'they'll just patch it in a few months so it doesn't matter' or even worse "Don't you know you have to wait a year or two to play the actual version of the game" a la cyberpunk. I don't want that to be the future of the best games of this medium
2. It would take too long to go over an entire game a few days before release |
Reviewers already go over a large portion of a game's content pre-release (plus, they try to cover a wide range of aspects beyond technical quality) enough to make general remarks like 'apart from this particular instance, I didn't notice any major bugs'. Think that but with better-defined terms, larger teams and more focused Digital foundry-like analyses
3. A game releasing with anything but the best rating would have slightly lower sales |
It seems that way at first but if the ratings are designed so the, let's say top 3, brackets are similar with very infrequent inconsistencies separating them. Some of my favourite games have several bugs or barely stable playthroughs; I enjoy them despite those issues, but I also acknowledge how much they take away from the experience
4. It's unnecessary since early access, betas and demos exist for people to see how a game plays |
Publishers and/or developers have been known to create pre-release vertical slices to make a game seem more stable or less buggy than it will be when you play. And there is no guarantee any issues you encounter will be resolved once the game fully releases. Anyone who's been paying attention knows how much weight to put on pre-release copies of games

5. There is no precedent for this in any other form of entertainment media |
Games aren't really like any other form of media. If the interactive nature of games is part of what defines the content then shouldn't that interactivity have some sort of verifiable consistency standard on closed hardware like consoles?
and many more I'm sure will be pointed out.

So, thoughts?
 
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Deerock71

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Rated TV FPILRSSLNRTTFPS

-Frame Pacing Issues
-Low Resolution Shadows
-Static Lighting
-No Ray Tracing
-Thirty Frames Per Second
 

Cert.in.Death

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Jun 28, 2013
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I won’t pretend like it’s possible for anybody to perceive and catch all bugs or issues prior to release. The only purpose of a QA body would then be to reject games that are non-functional or vastly compromised (which platform operators already do on their own, it’s called certification).

Fraudulent or bad faith behavior is already sufficiently disincentivized by market powers.
 

SlimeGooGoo

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Jun 29, 2020
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It's up to the console manufacturer to QA the game and give feedback to the developer before the game is published on the store.

Though corporations can get away with buggy messes (e.g. Cyberpunk, Fallout)