Video games, exhibited at a convention [e.g. E3, PAX], will be in one of the various stages of development: recently shipped, shipping to stores, will ship in a few months, will ship over the holidays, are years away from release, or are a tech demo that will never ship in its current form. This means that most exhibited video games will be in an incomplete state.
Incomplete games differ from released games in a number of ways. The more incomplete a game is, the more likely it is to have serious bugs (I managed to crash and freeze a number of games at E3 this year). Incomplete games will not have the prettiest of graphics. They will be missing their polish. They will be missing some of their content – an incomplete game might only consist of one actual level, bubble-gum, and bailing-wire.
Certain things can get better:
- Performance (a.k.a. frame rate),
- Stability (a.k.a. not crashing),
- Quality and quantity of content
These are the type of things that can be improved. Complaints about presentation and resource aspects might be unfounded by the time the game is released. These issues are worth noting in an objective preview, but not worth worrying about. At least, these issues are not worth worrying about if there is a sufficient amount of time before the game is scheduled for release.
Certain things are hard to improve:
- ‘Fun’ is very hard to correct.
- ‘Controls’ can be tightened up, but are hard to completely change if they do not work.
- ‘Theme’, ‘setting’, and ‘character’ are not going to change.
- Gameplay modes (single player, multi-player, co-op) normally have to be designed from the outset – adding a new one, during development, is difficult.
Aspects that are hard to improve are less likely to change before the game is released. That makes these aspects the best way to objectively judge an incomplete video game.