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Default Rampant Coyote - In Defence of the Patch

January 4th, 2008, 05:20
Rampant Coyote's latest blog entry risks life and limb to argue the case for developers and publishers in defence of the patches we see so often these days:
And it's no longer just PC games, either. Consoles games, now that they have downloadable content, are beginning to show signs of patch fever. Is this a sign that developers are just lazy, and use the fact that there's now means of distributing a patch as a crutch to release games in a buggier state?

Now, I'm probably an official "part of the problem," because I sympathize with the need for patches. And I'm a developer. And I've released patches for my games. So I'm gonna go on a limb here and actually defend this horrible practice of releasing buggy, broken code.

Well, not really. I can't condone that. But I do want to talk about why your favorite game is on its third patch in nearly as many weeks. It's probably not as bad as it sounds, and the publisher probably didn't try just get bored and try to foist off a horrible mess on an unsuspecting public in hopes of getting a quick buck.

Probably. At least not most of the time. I think.
Thems fighting words.
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January 4th, 2008, 05:20
Heh - I kinda expected to be burned in effigy over this one. I hope the silence isn't people preparing the torches and pitchforks…
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January 4th, 2008, 05:23
You do make some salient points and while I don't like the conclusion, you present a cogent argument for your position!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 4th, 2008, 07:58
(In my best Monty Python female impersonation voice. )
He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!

Thanks, for trying to defend the evil publishers!
We have some cake it's moist and devious …..errr ….delicious cake, we would love to send you. Where exactly are you now?

Seriously, I am in the evil publisher camp and developers fix gameplay and bugs camp for the most part, though it occasionally can be reversed. More often than not it's the publisher calling the shots. It's like telling Da vinci, he had to finish the Sistine chapel, in 6 months, you end up with a very different mural.

Additionally I am constantly annoyed at both publisher and developer when they obviously don't have/use enough testers and this is mostly aimed at smaller independents like PB and Cd Projekt which have tons of fans they could call in (so not to risk sending their code out) once a week/month (or whatever) probably for the price of pizzas and have unlimited testers. The only way independents are going to survive against these giant corporatist is with the help of their fans.

An interesting read, thanks.

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Last edited by Acleacius; January 4th, 2008 at 08:08.
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January 4th, 2008, 08:52
I was trying to drum up a lynch mob with the news post but your actual piece is well expressed, so it's probably hard to argue. Still, I can hope.

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January 4th, 2008, 10:45
About the lack of beta testing they could just announce to everyone dates and times they can come to the company to play the beta games for free and provide food. The only thing the players have to do is keep track of any bugs they see. They could even set up places for people to come and beta test the games.

I think developers would get a good turn out especially if they have a vote on what cities to have the testing in so you can get the biggest turnout possible. It may cost a bit of money but much cheaper then having paid beta testers.
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January 4th, 2008, 12:37
What Acleacius and Guenthar don't realize, though, is that good fans don't necessarily make good testers.

EDIT: Oh yeah, the article. I'd have to say I agree, kind of. Patches can't be a bad thing, since they always do improve something. And if you don't want to play a buggy game - don't, or just wait 'till there's enough patches for your liking.
Last edited by VPeric; January 4th, 2008 at 12:46.
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January 4th, 2008, 12:44
I'm a software developer myself (not in games, though), so I found myself nodding in agreement a quite a lot.

One thing, though: in my experience, it's actually not more work to do the code right — modular, portable, extensible, well-architected — in the first place. Sure, you need to spend some more time thinking about it when you do it, and even more time refactoring it when you notice the architecture starts to get stressed, but it always pays off. For one thing, code like that is way easier to test and way, WAY easier to debug and optimize. Even if you never end up extending it, much time and adrenalin will be saved once the bug reports and stabi/capa numbers start coming in.

I first read Beck's "EXtreme Programming EXplained" about six years ago, and it seemed like there were some pretty good ideas in there. The funny thing is I'm still getting these "a-ha!" moments where I suddenly realize that *this* is what the guy was talking about. (Still not convinced, though, that applying all of those principles universally and mechanically is a great idea; pair programming for example works great for some things but is a drag for others.)
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January 4th, 2008, 12:46
Originally Posted by VPeric View Post
What Acleacius and Guenthar don't realize, though, is that good fans don't necessarily make good testers.
Nor that more isn't always better. I would much rather have three really good and dedicated beta testers than three hundred excited but clueless ones. In the former case I'd get three comprehensive and well-written test reports; in the latter, I'd get three hundred garbled, duplicated, and incomplete ones.
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January 4th, 2008, 12:51
Another thing to Ac and G about beta testing: organizing big tests is also problematic because the software is still being developed as it's being tested, and the bigger the test group, the bigger the overhead. The devs don't just sit there twiddling their thumbs while the testers are testing; they're fixing, optimizing, cleaning up, perhaps even adding the occasional new feature — and, inevitably, the occasional new bug.

Testing is a bit like making babies: the fact that one woman can produce one baby in nine months doesn't mean that nine women can produce one baby in one month. Effective testing happens as close to development as possible; a handful of in-house testers testing daily builds can be much more effective than hundreds of external testers testing weekly or monthly builds. Big public betas only really make sense for MMORPG-style games, where you have to verify that the damn thing actually, really, genuinely works with thousands of concurrent players. And before you go to that phase, the dev team should be pretty confident that it will, in fact, work.
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January 4th, 2008, 19:20
I've worked in an eXtreme Programming environment before, and while I can't say I'm a fan of "true" XP, they've got some very good methods to their madness. It's at least a thoughtful approach to the realization that change is gonna happen like crazy in the modern world, and so it's no good trying to fight it.

While it's easy to blame the publishers (after all, it's their final call on whether or not a game is 'ready' to be released to the public), I can sympathize with them on some levels, too. (Cue the Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil.") When they keep pouring money into a developer that's already late, the game is SOOO close and the bugs just aren't getting fixed, what do you do? It's a tough business decision, especially when you've got millions in development and marketing budget already sunk into the game. Pulling the plug completely at that point is a good way to get yourself fired.

There's rarely an easy answer. And as I mentioned elsewhere —- people keep talking about how buggy some games were - like Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. But I really only encountered one bug that interfered with my game. I loved it, overall. Would I have preferred that they canceled it because they couldn't clear out all of the bugs, and were running out of money?

But then on the flip side, you've got the pretty despicable practice of shipping a game in a buggy state just to make a deadline, KNOWING that it's in a bad state and KNOWING how much two more months of beta would enhance the game, with the expectation that you'll just fix it in patches. That's bad for the consumers, and bad business.
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January 5th, 2008, 00:37
I think G3 illustrates your point effectively RC. MUCH damage was done to the reputation of the brand, not to mention sales because of its initial state. To a lesser extent, that also happened with Two Worlds, but at least the patches came thick and fast!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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January 5th, 2008, 01:54
During my training, we had to program programs , too.

I realized that something is never ever really polished … That there's *always* something to do - and that depends on the level of detail at which you're looking into it.

Given the fact that highly sensitive people (HSPs) do perceive much more details than "normal" people, I'd say that this kind of people would possibly try to polish a thing to a very deep degree.

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January 5th, 2008, 03:31
Originally Posted by VPeric
What Acleacius and…….
Yes, because I said any and all fans regardless of ability. Oh, wait no I didn't. Maybe VPeric doesn't understand?

Originally Posted by Prime Junta
I would much rather have three really good and dedicated beta testers than three hundred excited but clueless ones.
Damn, a Quality Tester, I wish I would have thought of it.

Another thing to Ac and G ……….. the bigger the overhead.
First place I mentioned come to them, i.e like Valve does.
I appreciate guenthar's idea but don't think moving it around would help but otherwise he has the right idea of offering ideas to help.

Secondly my point was to have a large number to choose from i.e. free labor, of course no developer would want a bunch of unruly teens. It's not a matter of having to rent a stadium, there are in place parameters certainly anyone able to make a game would know. Bring in 6 level headed fans based on a questionnaire email for an hour or two, then next week/month bring in a new 6 keeping any you find doing good work, Not complicated at all.

If you guys feel so concerned developers can't figure out the basics of testing maybe you guys could get them to hang out on the Steam forums and maybe they will feel more comfortable and not be such scaredy cats. Poor developers they could hardly stand without all those charts on the walls, which they easily can read with their 500x glasses.

The problem is these independents are Not taking advantage of help they DO need.

Originally Posted by RampantCoyote
they keep pouring money into a developer that's already late
Yes this is true, however most often it's the difference in putting out AAA title or a buggy mess, because it's the holiday season, as we have all seen 10s of times.

It's about products getting slammed because of low quality release effecting sales, because some idiot suit doesn't get artistic development cause he has MBA. I am not saying MBAs aren't good just not compatible with potential loss of 10s of thousands of copies being sold in the balance, when Real sales are based on positives experiences. Ok sure there are the lying PR sales too, but I mean sales based on the quality work of the developer.

Of course developers get behind, but if your a publisher shooting for a AAA title and you don't have enough sense to know to hold your game another 2 or 3 months then that publisher is *not smart* (hehe, I had other words but didn't want to scare you off. ) nor very business savvy. It's either go for AAA or don't if you do it half ass, then everyone loses.

It seems the same every year, we get potentially great and ground breaking games, released buggy just to get some quick cash flow irregardless of the damage it does. Perfect examples of this are the Gothic Series publisher and atari both failing away in a toilet bowel. Always the same response throwing anything out as quick as they could just to stay a float and always the same response bad reviews and low sales. It's the publisher, IPs, developers and the fans that lose.

Would I have preferred that they canceled it because they couldn't clear out all of the bugs, and were running out of money?
True but honestly that wasn't the issue afaik. I try to keep up with this, being on the original Vampire board Dilapidation and have helped test the Unofficial Patch since it was started, so I hope I remember this correctly.
After the HL2 Source theft Activision canceled production until they got word they would be able to release. Once Troika got a go again to start work, they only had about 3 months and were only aloud to stabilize and bug fix. They also dropped Mulitplayer during all this time, while Troika came out and said it just wouldn't work many of us think they were just taking the blame for Activision not giving them the time.
So once again you have a publisher that had a chance at a ground breaking AAA title damaged, because they don't have the ability to judge profits and sales accurately based on the quality of work released.

Honestly this to me is sort like the catch phrase Tough Love, while I am hammering the publishers, I am doing it because I trying to get them to be more successful, based on quality since obviously lack of success with buggy games isn't working.
If they are concerned let them start with B titles, start your vision and stick with it, it just seems insane for a publisher to say "hey, lets make a world class AAA RPG." and not know these are the most complicated games made, expecting a cake walk.

It's not like I am a ranting arm chair publisher, hehe.

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January 5th, 2008, 10:21
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
Damn, a Quality Tester, I wish I would have thought of it.
Acleacius, the post I'm quoting above was so full of misconceptions and general cluelessness that it absolutely drives me up the wall; never mind about it being insulting. And no, adding doesn't make it any less so.

I don't have the energy to address this point by point. I'll just condense it into this:

Please, before posting your pearls of wisdom, ask yourself

(1) How much do I really understand about the topic?
(2) Am I reasonably confident that what I'm saying actually contributes something of substance to the discussion?

…and take your answers into consideration before hitting the "post" button.
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January 5th, 2008, 19:57
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
It seems the same every year, we get potentially great and ground breaking games, released buggy just to get some quick cash flow irregardless of the damage it does.
This is the only thing I can agree to - the rest sounds just … too weird, I must admit.

You weren't drinking "toxics", weren't you ?

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January 6th, 2008, 05:59
Originally Posted by Prime Junta
Acleacius, the post I'm quoting….doesn't make it any less so.
This really wouldn't of interest to most of you, I highly suggest you skip this boring part.
Spoiler


Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer
You weren't drinking "toxics", weren't you ?
Hehe, nope not that I know, of sorry. Nor do I know which part your referring to and of course I did ramble a bit, but the idea I was smoking crack atm, I don't get.

For instance I never said patches where bad things, just how harmful to initial sales releasing a buggy product harms the publisher, developer, IP and fans. All these effect current and future sales, of all those I mentioned, whether it's fans talking about the game, not buying from that publisher or developer again these things are real, afaik. Now if your point is publishers and developers don't care than maybe that's true.

Valve has a nice cross section of action gamers from across the world, lets take Bioshock GotY winner for action games, while this might not technically be a bug according to Valve 40% of their customers couldn't play the game due to Shader 2.0. Now if you even only figure half of those 40% would have bought the game, that's easily another 200k of sales. Now add in the bad press and loss of sales they got for the bugs with the forced online registration disaster and iirc the real bugs/problems were in the console version.
So whats better 2K putting out the game 2 weeks to a month early making 3 million to date or releasing a bit later making 4 or 5 million to date?

Imo, holding the gaming industry to higher quality standard will increase sales, and we know for sure from experience releasing buggy games is not helping the industry.

None of this really seems the need to call the paddy wagon, nor a straight jacket and if I have harmed any kittens with this post please forgive me!

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January 6th, 2008, 09:35
@Acleacius, love, there's something you may not have noticed about Valve.

Their products are consistently late. Often years rather than months, even for very small projects like Episode 1 — building five hours of content on an existing engine with a few tweaks.

This kind of schedule flexibility means they can afford to test any damn way they like, including (laboriously) vetting the fan base.

But, of course, an expert such as yourself can't have helped notice this little detail, so I'll chalk the omission up to your wonderful sense of humor as usual.
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January 7th, 2008, 11:04
Prime Junta that's certainly true, yet they in the regard of development are in a very unique and strong position, for them this is a choice, it however doesn't mean their aren't lessons to learn. To me since they are in a strong independent state whom have only concentrated on PC development for the most part (in case I missed any console stuff they did. ) means many independents can learn, at least something. Just as I would side with PB's ability to create some of the greatest RPG game elements, I would side with Valve for extensive use of fans *even* in their rise to independent stability.

Since no one company has a single perpetually correct formula, to me it's important to try to learn from all of them.

Imagine if you will, *cue Twilight Zone music* a very good RPG company like PB, having that stability and strength of design. It would bring a Tear of Delight to my eye to imagine what PB could do with that Independence, after being leashed and beaten by their former shitty publisher. If your like most people, your probably thinking/laughing your ass off, rolling on the floor(?) *a strong independent RPG developer*?
Well since we're in the Twilight Zone, imagine if Bioware had taken their position of strength to become a Strong Independent instead of a corporate causality. They had very similar strength, even counting just registered users, they even had potential for the same type of strong digital distribution. So it's possible.

I still think small companies that can't find a publisher and can't afford the bandwidth for distribution, should try Valve or someone, even if they took 50% (I seriously doubt it's that much). Take a game like The Fall, they would be getting sales, there were many German fans trying to mod and fix up the game, as we have seen on many games. Their game would be out there making fans even if most were alienated until fan patches could fix it and bring support and visibility to game.

Oh, btw it would be much better to chalk it up to me not being clear, since like I mentioned it's Valves choice and obviously not the same choice others would make or have the need.

So personally I see both patches as RampantCoyote mentions and RPG independence supported by fans as important

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January 7th, 2008, 14:27
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
It would bring a Tear of Delight to my eye to imagine what PB could do with that Independence, after being leashed and beaten by their former shitty publisher.
I agree.

Especially since PB initially made the gamers be left stunned by the original, very first Gothic I experience 8like me).

A shame that they didn't "use" this as a kind of a trade mark.

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