That IGN video

I wrote a little “article” about this and I have nowhere to put it, so here it is.

(note: I put this on the front page in somewhat edited form. I forgot I could do that.)

IGN just released a video called "Baldur's Gate 3 is causing some developers to panic." You can [watch it here]( if you haven't. The video has gotten a lot of game developers upset, and has gotten a lot of gamers up in arms.

I decided to comment on this as a former journalist myself, after few people told me that the video "raises a good point." I will first say that no point is raised in this video, certainly not a new one. The video asks a rhetorical question that has been posed ad nauseum since the advent of DLC: why can't triple-A games come out with perfect polish from day 1?

If it were me, and I worked as a journalist, and I had a question, and that question had been asked by players constantly since the advent of DLC, I would attempt to do some journalism to find out the answer. Why CAN'T they do this, if the same question has been floating out there for nearly 20 years? Clearly this is not an easy answer if it has been around for such a long time.

Instead of talking to people and attempting to answer that question, IGN's Destin Legarie chooses to make a reaction video, multiple times admitting he doesn't know anything about the subject, but is simply angry. This is not what journalism should be, starting from the fact no attempt has been made to learn to pronounce Xalavier's name, the main dev (notably an indie, NOT A TRIPLE A DEV) who he is criticizing in the video. It is likewise irresponsible to say that Xalavier's tweets go on to "give a lot of good context" but then not share what that context is or attempt to understand it.

Using "angry gamer" language when no research has been done, as admitted by the videographer, along with naming a bunch of game devs and showing their tweets, invites angry fans to go harass them, which is of course what is happening. This reminds devs of 2014 and naturally we Do Not Like It.

But back to the content of the video, Legarie asks why developers like Lariean, Nintendo, and FromSoftware can release something so polished and others can't, but makes no effort to find out why. So let's get into it.

In the abstract, here's part of the answer: Games release in imperfect states because devs either run out of money or shareholders of their parent company mandate that a game must come out in a certain window (which devs have no control over). They run out of money trying to make the best game possible in the least amount of time. Devs rarely control their own budget and they are trying to make as much cool stuff as they can with the time they are allotted.

In short, for one reason or another, they are often forced to start selling the game in order to pay for the completion of the game. This has been done through DLC, patches, early access, and whathaveyou, for ages, because of rising expectations of triple-A, and because big studios are beholden to financial year results and reporting to their investors. Devs burn through their life force trying to make this happen and it's upsetting to see this brought up with absolute incuriosity.

How about these individual games then?

Baldur's Gate 3, which he says launched in a polished state, actually launched in early access, which he mentions but doesn't question in any way. The game was in early access for 3 years, getting polish and bugfixes as it went. Three years! Now, as someone who spends the majority of his video complaining about people selling unfinished products, why does this not upset him? They sold the game for three years at $60 while it was unpolished and unfinished. Anyone could buy it. The company was able to ship the final, non-early-access game in a polished state because the game was sold for three years, at full price, in an unfinished state. So the entire premise of our video here, that Baldur's Gate 3 launched perfectly polished, isn't even correct.

Tears of the Kingdom - why was this so polished? Because Nintendo has billions of dollars in cash reserves. They can afford to take as long as they want on a game because they have the money to do so. They don't have to sell the game *right now* to make money for development, they already have money and can afford a longer development cycle. And since they also sell hardware, they know their games need to be able to sell more Switches. That is why despite having a lot of money and time, they still crunch massively while doing this.

From Software - their past success has led them to be given a blank check, and a "ready when it's ready" attitude. Most studios are not given these sorts of timelines.

The problem with the video is it's pure sensationalism. It poses itself as "just asking questions" when, if you actually asked the questions of the right people, or even thought about the question a little bit, you could actually get answers. There was an opportunity to give players context for why games release the way they do, but instead, this video was designed to incite anger directed at a few devs. That was certainly accomplished, as Xalavier is getting harassed relentlessly, but is that really the kind of anger you want? Is that the tactic you want to take in a post-gamergate world?

There are valid questions one could ask of Xalavier's Baldur's Gate 3 thread which would've yielded a more nuanced discussion which would have actually informed people. But that's not what happened. Instead we got an angry implicit incitement to dogpile an indie dev. To me, it's irresponsible, and a failing of journalism.

As someone who is playing through Baldur‘s Gate 3, and currently can’t play it because it kept crashing and bugged my save files, and can‘t really tell if he’s ignorant or if it's a totally cynical attempt to clickbait and whip people up into a frenzy for his cause.

The game was in early access since 2020, but the story goes back way further. It's very clearly standing on the shoulders of the Divinity Original Sin games. I don't think Larian is trying to hide the fact that they've been iterating on this since they kickstarted DOS a decade ago. I don't think it's fair to compare this game's development and scope to something like a generic AAA game when the bigger picture feels closer to something like an MMO to me.

The level of polish is outstanding but it's not without its hiccups and targeting very powerful hardware. I think once the game comes to console a lot of the flaws will look worse and won't be hand-waved away by saying "you weren't playing it on a 4080 so what do you expect". I don't think it will be as dramatic as Cyberpunk when people compare the PC/Console versions but I think the difference will be noticeable and people will not be forgiving about the console release.

I think for a lot of gamers this game understandably came out of nowhere, so it's the job of the press to explain this phenomena to them. This video does the opposite of that. I think there's an interesting story to be told about how Larian has built upon the Divinity engine in order to create this game with such polish, and you could even do a case study against something like EA's engine to see _why_ some games come out in more polished states than others, but this video doesn't ask why, it just points fingers and doesn't have anything interesting to say.

I grabbed the transcript for those who would prefer not to watch the video but still want to follow along: Videos like this test my patience too much, but text is easier to skip through to get the main points.

@“exodus”#p128464 Terrific article, Brandon. It has absolutely killed me that it is always glossed over that the trick is to just call an unfinished game “early access,” and boy do you have carte blanche sometimes. Haha…

Also, "just asking questions" is very much on my personal list of Red Flags.

Oh also, it‘s pretty weak for him to start the video talking about how “developers are panicking about scope and polish” and to quote an indie dev…. but then most of the video is agreeable stuff about monetization which isn’t what people like Xalvier were commenting on. Nowhere in his thread is he defending AAA monetization or anything like that, he‘s just talking about the advantages that Larian had that people like the guy in the IGN video aren’t talking about!

I appreciate your article Brandon, I think you capture the truth. What IGN is doing there is really toxic, very much mischaracterizing every aspect of this.

I watched the video and I don't know what the guy is saying tbh

what‘s so great about BG3? It’s a big pile of nerd shit that's thoughtfully designed in terms of where the crpg buttons and levers are. ok

This is about as succinct and elegantly boiled down as it gets. Thank you, Brandon. The whole “consumer advocacy” angle is what makes my hair stand on end, echoes of some Very Specific Events that led up to 2014 in a Very Specific Way, from a different guy at the same website (at the time) who took much the same angle. Definitely makes me very queasy to say the least. That, and the ever-present vague knowledge that there are, somehow, innumerable console warrior types out there in the comments sections of corners of the internet I don‘t travel to, just waiting for someone to give them an actual target to take aim at. I dunno man. It sure don’t feel great. Even if this blows over, it's hard not to feel like it raised the temperature of the simmering pot on the stove, and that alone is malpractice. It sucks, man. It sucks real bad.


@“andrewelmore”#p128486 The whole “consumer advocacy” angle is what makes my hair stand on end, echoes of some Very Specific Events that led up to 2014 in a Very Specific Way, from a different guy at the same website (at the time) who took much the same angle.

I personally would put the emphasis on the "led up to", but also think we may be going in a different direction (although I could very easily see things going in the same direction they went a decade plus ago). The notion that the act of purchasing a game - or worse, the act of forming an emotional investment in the intellectual property - entitles the consumer to any and all demands they could possibly make of the people making the game, regardless of any larger ethical problems (crunch, poor literary representation) this might introduce, is there, but different trends defined the late 00s/early 10s. At the risk of rehashing the obvious: not only did the formalization of indie games as a market created opportunities for indie developers who might not otherwise get those opportunities, marginalized developers who weren't likely to get these new opportunities anyway created their own, and in doing so directly challenged many of the bedrock ideas that commercial game culture took for granted. In that sense, 2014 represented a revanchist backlash to put the latter category of developers - and, suspiciously, *not* the former - in their place.

By contrast, the late 10s and early 20s have been defined by the growing labor movement within the industry as a whole, and the challenge here has been whether that industry as it presently exists, including what games the culture values, is worth it at all if it can't produce games without the exploitation that developers are unionizing to curb. Or to borrow a phrase from said labor movement:


Again, given that the curtailing of civil rights across the board began with transphobia and has yet to abandon it, I could very easily see any upcoming revanchist backlash simply rehashing this in one form or another. Still, I suspect the labor movement will also factor in as a significant object of that backlash.

Man I left some other gaming related social media platforms because some many people just fell into the cliched ‘gamer outrage’ attitude. When it comes to the question of polish you just have to think about the question for more than 5 minutes to come the conclusion that “hey maybe game development is harder and more complicated than it looks”. I'm not sure if this is a recent phenomenon, or if modern internet/social media just makes these gamer outrage voices more prominent.

Anyway as a arm chair game developer (no experience) why can't you just press the 'make game actually good' button?


World a shit though, if anything I‘m wondering why on earth anyone would expect journalism from a large publication rather than the most disgusting form of exploitation designed to rip views from the eyeballs of critically stressed children and economically strangulated young adults who don’t have the extra neurotransmitters to drop on critical understanding of a complicated business and development industry unless it‘s directly related to their career or they’re already basically above average on awareness and executive processing capabilities.

Someone took a fat shit on our community guys, I'm so _surprised_. How could the upper class _do this???_

I found this edit of the vid the other day. As if the journalist didn't do it enough himself, having all these cuts next to each other really amplifies just how ridiculous some of his claims are

i tried to watch the video to respond to it and i just couldn't make it through it.

this is like those NY Times opinion pieces when they bring in someone for "balance" who is just like a reactionary person who just spouts off utter bonkers unvetted nonsense. it's just pure clickbait crap that's trying to hit the emotional buttons of angry gamers. i'm not even sure it even does _that_ very well either - this is really weak video even compared to a lot of gamer youtubers i've seen, which is not exactly a high standard of any sort. sure says a lot that this is the kind of stuff IGN is resorting to putting out at this point.

Loved seeing an article on the front page in general, and this one sums it up about as neatly as can be. Glad you remembered to put it up there, @“exodus”#3. If I were to be less kind than the essay, I‘d say that the video – which Brandon’s article inspired me to watch (worst part of the article, by the way) – uses a whole lot of words to completely neglect an implicitly understood part of all published media: published projects are created and released by a massive spectrum of budgets, timelines, creators and intents. That's why shit is different, dude.

It's such a Special Gamer mentality to just hanglide over something that's so fundamentally understood that no one needs to say it (expect apparently me, thanks to this video), with seemingly no self-imposed friction. I can't say if Destin Legarie is one of these people (in my forum post I am not assigning Destin opinions), but the simplified sense of entitlement (maybe the "angry gamer language") gives me vibes of the "please take us seriously" section of gamers who always want to remind people that the format is just as serious as movies, books, etc. ("did you know that games make more money than blah blah blah combined"). But I'm having a hard time imagining even the worst film critic going with this take -- "now that Movie X is out and people love it, everything should be like this and there's no excuse!" -- following the release of, you know, an incredibly polished, amply budgeted, long-in-development, well-received film in a very specific genre (I'm sure YouTube could prove me wrong, but you get what I mean). Carrying on like the entire concept of varied development circumstances doesn't exist, just making that leap with no gravity at all, makes it hard for me to believe that this, uh, _take_ let's say, is coming from anywhere close to good faith.

Also, like I'm sure a lot of people did after the video flashed Xalavier's "important context" in illegible font size for a half second, I was curious what the context was. Turns out by "context" Destin meant "literally the rest of the tweet," so here we go:


I’m grateful I heard about all of this from you, Brandon, before I knew anything else of it. It would seem that my decision to rid myself of all social media earlier this year was the correct one. I am happy that I am in the company of all of you games folks who can give me informed opinions about game development or journalism.

I also know nothing about the inner workings of the video game industry and even I could tell you that if multiple millions of dollars are spent on an entertainment product and it comes out as an unfinished mess (and not just a polished mediocrity, which gamers are fine with) it is almost certainly the fault of management and money people and not the ones actually doing most of the work. This seems like common sense: no artist/craftsman working at this high-stakes level wants their name to be associated with a subpar work, but by definition it is the people controlling the allocation of resources (i.e. $$$) who have final say. That is what “indies” are “independent” of lmao.

Like I do get Gamers being wary about the anti-consumer practices rampant in this industry (predatory payment systems, DRM, nickel-and-diming DLC, outright scams like the _Cyberpunk_ console launch) but the cool thing about internet fan culture - in general, but especially for video games - is people’s eagerness to take offense over the quality of their sausage combined with fantastical and incoherent ideas about how it gets made. Fun times when this style is applied to politics generally! We’re all stuck in the same Digital Content Production thinkpiece hellhole now, for and about everything.

@"progn"#p128479 This is how I feel about pretty much every longer-than-5-minutes video that’s just a guy talking about a video game no offense

@“ellaguro”#p128502 it was a challenge to finish lemme tell ya, but for some reason I felt an obligation


@“2501”#p128519 outright scams like the Cyberpunk console launch

Nah that was a spectacular execution of planned failure. It had to be on ps4 because ps5 was still blocked by shortages. So why not!

Okay well I watched like half of the actual video and my tl;dr is this is 9 minutes of a guy complaining about a tweet he admits he took out of context to make the brave populist argument that people should in fact not make underwhelming video games, which Big Game Dev does not want you to hear