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Controversial Features Games Immediately Regretted

Back in the day, it used to be that developers would ship a game and that would be the end of it. No Day One patches and no waiting for features to be added months after launch on your console of choice; you just had to play the game that was shipped until a re-issue or re-release might address your issues. There is no way of knowing how many forgotten gems might have been turned into stone cold classics if they had been able to get post-launch updates and fixes. A lot of great games had rocky launches before they got the TLC they deserved. 

These days, it's not uncommon for features to be cut from titles if they aren't working or are breaking the balance of the game. Fan backlash has become a powerful force in the gaming industry, often prompting companies to implement changes in their games following player feedback. However, rarely are game design decisions so bad that the developers immediately regret it. The following games launched with features so controversial, it forced the studios or developer to either publicly admit their mistakes or change the game outright.

Overwatch 2 requiring a phone number to play

One of the more recent examples of a game immediately backtracking on a decision after seeing the response is "Overwatch 2" and its SMS Protect requirement. When it first launched, the sequel to Blizzard's popular Hero shooter required all players to link a phone number to their Battle.net accounts. This would mean users had to authenticate their accounts before jumping into the game in an attempt to prevent banned players from returning or making multiple burner accounts. However, this requirement quickly got out of hand when some users realized the system was not accepting their numbers linked to pre-paid phone plans.

As the backlash grew louder and Blizzard realized millions of potential players were using prepaid phones, the company was forced to make some adjustments and back away from the controversial feature. Within the first week of the game coming out, the SMS authentication requirement had been lifted for anyone who had played the first "Overwatch." That means any new users, or old users trying to make new accounts, still have to verify their information by giving Blizzard their phone number.

No NPCs in Fallout 76

"Fallout 76" had an infamously messy launch, exacerbated by poor working conditions at Bethesda during the project. But despite the abundance of bugs in the launch version of the game, it was not the lack of polish that dragged "Fallout 76" down. Instead, players and critics pointed to the sheer emptiness of its world and a lack of characters to give it flavor and life. At launch, the game didn't have any human NPCs for the player to interact with — and that proved to be its biggest mistake.

At its core, "Fallout" is a role-playing series and a hallmark of the RPG genre is talking to other characters, hearing their thoughts on the world and issues of the day. Additionally, NPCs offer players opportunities to make choices and feel the ramifications of those impacts on the other characters in the game world.

Finally, in the 2020 "Wastelanders" expansion, voiced NPCs were added to the game. While it didn't fully salvage its reputation, it did lead to some more positive impressions (via PC Gamer). The game has received a significant reevaluation in recent years, and some fans feel like "Fallout 76" is finally worth playing.

Diablo 3's Auction House

Another infamous Blizzard gaffe that resulted in the removal of a major feature happened at the launch of "Diablo 3." When the long-awaited sequel to "Diablo 2" finally released after years of turbulent development, it introduced the world to the Auction House. This new feature was a space where players could buy and sell in-game items using real world money.

To be fair, two versions of the marketplace existed in the game, so you didn't have to spend real money on "Diablo 3" wares if you didn't want to. One marketplace used gold coins you could earn in your daily grinds through the game while the second used real-world currency. However, it wasn't the inclusion of real-world transactions that sunk "Diablo 3."

The problem that plagued the auction house from the beginning was that players felt it destroyed the balance of "Diablo 3" (per Wired). It became very easy to break the game's progression, especially since the balance of "Diablo" is more or less based on what kind of gear you have. Having access to anything you could ever need from the start — provided you could pay the price — broke the game. And so, Blizzard announced the closure of the Auction House in 2013, then removed it altogether in 2014.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 had controversial loot boxes

Randomized loot boxes have been present in free-to-play and mobile games for a while now, but in 2017, it seemed there was a sudden influx of fully priced games that were heavy on them. There were a few layers to why the microtransactions in "Star Wars: Battlefront 2" were so despised by fans. As noted by Insider, the fact that the game cost $60 made fans furious over its pay-to-win aspects. For that base price, players didn't have access to iconic "Star Wars" heroes like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Even worse, the only way to earn the in-game currency — Credits, in classic "Star Wars" parlance — was to grind through hours of matches. There was a lot wrong with "Star Wars: Battlefront 2" during beta testing and into launch.

The other way to play as these characters was to pay for loot boxes that would give you a chance at getting who you wanted, but there was no way to straight-up pay for exactly what you wanted. Not long before going into 1.0, EA changed all that and removed all in-game purchases from "Battlefront 2" until the company could fix the balancing and implement an updated rewards system. Later, in March 2018, microtransactions returned in the form of direct purchase cosmetic items, but loot boxes remained a nonstarter. This update also included a much-requested rework to the progression system, with less of an emphasis on randomness. 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution had horrible bosses

While this next feature was never actually removed from the game in question, the gameplay director of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" has admitted to the flaw and regretted it pretty much as soon as the game was released. The biggest red mark on the game's reputation is easily its frustrating boss fights.

The 2011 reboot of the "Deus Ex" franchise from Square Enix was met with largely positive critical reception. It revamped the ideas from the first game for a modern playspace and allowed for the kind of creativity the immersive sim genre is known for. But that creativity met its limits when it came to the boss fights. If you were kitted out to be a stealthy no-kill kind of build — which is totally viable in the rest of "Human Revolution" — you would find yourself at a huge power disadvantage when fighting any one of the game's mandatory bosses. This fundamentally unbalanced part of the game drew ire from critics and players, and that criticism was eventually addressed.

In a 2012 GDC Talk (via Game Informer), gameplay director Francois Lapikas said the boss fights were "a big part of the game, and we should have put more effort into them. I'm truly sorry about that."

SimCity (2013) was always online

A reboot of "SimCity" could have been a major hit in 2013, but EA couldn't stick the landing and get the audience it needed at launch. Many technical fumbles got in the way of the game that ended up not being very good at the start. All of its problems at launch can be traced back to some disastrous development decisions, particularly its DRM requirements.

In order to have played "SimCity" in March 2013, you needed to always be connected to the Internet and EA's servers — no "SimCity" on the go. This proved problematic in the first couple weeks after the game's launch, since the servers were going down constantly (per CNET). On top of that, Kotaku noted that bugs and constant crashes plagued the first month of EA's modern city-builder.

Over the course of a couple of months, EA fixed many of the bugs. The company was ready to listen to fans and remove the always-online requirements. Since the game at its core was good, removing this feature allowed people to actually play the game they wanted to their heart's content.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War was also full of microtransactions

"Middle-earth: Shadow of War" was another game swept up in the storm of microtransaction discourse in the fall of 2017. Like "Star Wars: Battlefront 2," the game launched at full price, along with a bunch of opportunities for players to put even more money into it via loot boxes. And while microtransactions have earned companies like EA an absurd amount of money, the volume and intensity of the negative responses to games like this has led to legal action in recent years.

"Shadow of War" suffered from having multiple types of loot chests and currencies that confused and overwhelmed players. Essentially, you were lining up to spend money on premium currency or loot boxes, both of which gave you a random shot at premium gear — and neither of which gave you what you wanted. This felt especially egregious in a single-player game, and unlike "Battlefront 2," these issues weren't immediately fixed. 

It took the publisher nearly an entire year before the company removed all microtransactions from "Middle-earth: Shadow of War." In April 2018, six months after the launch of "Shadow of War," Warner Bros. announced it was going to remove all in-game payments, but this didn't come to pass until July (via Kotaku).

Civilization 3 invites players to the bargaining table

"Civilization 3" designer Soren Johnson had major regrets about some decisions made on the project, but he only revealed them years after the fact. In particular, Johnson calls out the bargaining table, a feature that never made it into another "Civilization" game in the years that followed 2001's "Civilization 3." Despite his objections, however, the system has been adapted for games like the "Total War" series and "Stellaris."

The bargaining table was a "Civilization 3" feature that acted as a way for players to request currency, commodities, or diplomacy from other civilizations. Players could propose a trade and the other civ would either accept or pass. The catch was there was no cost to contacting every civ on every turn. Getting the best deals and optimizing the game was only a matter of simple trial and error. This made the game easy to manipulate, and Johnson looks back on this point as something that's not exactly fun.

Johnson opened up about the process of making this game at a 2022 GDC panel (per PC Gamer). It was here that the influential game designer said, "Players were ruining the game for themselves. Given the opportunity, players will optimize the fun out of a game... no reason not to just put one more gold piece on their side of the table until you hit the AI's maximum price for what you're trading away."

Warframe's Vivergate

"Warframe" is kind of a secret phenomenon, and its fast-paced third-person gameplay and deep lore have drawn in a large playerbase. The free-to-play co-op shooter has been played by over 60 million people and has been receiving consistent support and updates since its release in 2013. However, there was one update that didn't go over well at all, starting with a map that was broken at launch. Enter the controversy referred to by the player community as "Vivergate."

Released in 2014, Viver was an Interception, one of the game's endless mission types. This particular mission became what is known as a "loot cave," or a mission where a player can post up in one place, mash their skills, and farm Syndicate Reputation, which in turn increases a player's standing among the game's many factions. Viver quickly became known as the best "loot cave" the game had ever seen — and the developers noticed. Nerfs were made to three of the major classes instead of fixing the root of the problem, which made fans revolt on the forum.

The devs later issued an apology for update 15.2, a number that became infamous, in a forum post (via Warframe). This forced Digital Extremes to revert many of the changes, fix Viver, and completely rework the reputation system. Viver was eventually cycled out of "Warframe" and never returned. These days, Viver is spoken of by fans in almost legendary tones, and many newer players are unsure of what the big deal actually was.

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