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Everyone's A Beta Tester 114

kukyfrope writes "Many people dream of being videogame beta testers but, in reality, a lot of us already are. GameDaily's Greg Atkinson discusses how developers are using the ability to patch games as a crutch for launching games ahead of schedule, using a 'we'll patch it later' mentality, as opposed to extensive play testing." From the article: "What's going on lately that so many games are being released unfinished? Why are the people now paying to essentially beta test the games rather than purchasing completed games? ... If you scan through the PC reviews, on this and any other site, you will notice an overabundance of games that lost points or otherwise hampered their players' experience by being unpolished, full of bugs, and sometimes downright annoying to play. Everything from controls and camera movements to balancing issues, broken quests, and of course graphical errors are abundant in probably half the titles on the shelf these days. It's become habit to look for any patches to a game while I'm installing it, and that's not right."
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Everyone's A Beta Tester

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  • This story is currently under construction?
  • It's not just with games though....just look at everything Google has in beta!
    • Re:Not just games (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geoffspear ( 692508 )
      Yeah, but Google's betas are actually labelled as such and given to the people testing them for free. That's a lot different than selling something as a release and letting your paying customers do the testing for you.
    • Well, it's not even just games and Google (though at least Google is kind enough to call it a Beta). Microsoft products for years have been known to be big giant beta releases that never quite end up in a final form.

      Developers have been using the "patch it later" mentality as a crutch, but it's only because of the explosion of the Internet has allowed developers to make improvements to games for years after they've released them (like Blizzard with Diablo II). Sometimes whole new features are implemente

    • I think you missed the authors point entirely, and somehow got the exact opposite meaning. Googles products ARE stable, and still in beta. The issue as the article mentions it, is several things that are still in beta form are being released as complete games, and the paid players revliantly testing it. (Beta games being released as real, not real being still in beta)

      Google is the opposite, keeping it in beta past the point it reaches stablility to absoloutely assure its completed quality.
  • It's been this way for years. I remember getting the Diablo II patch before I had game in hand.
    • Indeed. Not sure why this is news. If you bought a game in the last 5 years, you already knew this was the case. (One reason I've stopped buying PC games.)
      • Yup. That and invasive copy protection are why I went to consoles. With the "ship then patch" mentality showing up in the 360 now (cf. Oblivion), chances are I won't get a 360. Ditto for the PS3 if that happens there too.
        • Umm, how do you avoid invasive copy protection when switching to consoles. The Xbox 360 is the first mainstream computer to have the most invasive DRM dreamed up yet, trusted computing.
          • Those are part and parcel with the machine. I'm not going to lose dual boot capability (TurboTax a couple of years ago) or lose USB hard drives (StarForce) or damage optical drives (StarForce)

            The only apparent DRM on consoles is the need to have the disk in. Since it can only handle the one game at a time, unlike the computer, there's no loss in functionality.

            Copy protection on games on the computer limits the usefullness of the computer. It does not limit it on consoles. I'm at the point that, unless it is
  • Alpha (Score:5, Funny)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:27PM (#15191027) Journal
    The new beta.
    • Blah... When I worked at Atari as a lead tester, several producers tried to push through an alpha-beta-super-omega-gold-release-candidate build to make the deadline. That got pissed off when I mentioned that a) this won't fly, b) kiss their bonuses goodbye, and c) the title is being release two- to four-weeks later as I correctly predicted.
  • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:31PM (#15191049) Homepage Journal
    I just hope that the PS3 with hard drive isn't going to allow game developers to skip QA the way they do with PC games.
    • XBox had a harddrive standard and it wasn't used for patches (or not that I've seen), so there shouldn't be any reason to fear. Of course, with XBox in order to get ANY type of online service you needed a paid subscription... so maybe now that some online services will be free on all consoles one of those "services" will be patches for games shipped before they were actually ready... In which case, I plan to vote with my wallet and write an nasty letter to any publisher that pulls such a stunt... *Off Top
    • I suppose you're counting the Xbox as a PC then? Fair enough...
    • I just hope that the PS3 with hard drive isn't going to allow game developers to skip QA the way they do with PC games.

      It could in fact encourage just that. With an online service that everyone will have access to, they can sell the players "additional" content for their games... something along the lines of, oh I don't know, maybe a Horse Armor model for a couple bucks?

      Instead of just putting these things in the game in the first place they will find it more profitable to leave them out and then char
    • It's much easier to debug console games, because the hardware is standard. PC game flaws almost always have to do with oddball hardware problems...Or they're content and balance upgrades for the sorts of games that don't often make it to console.
      • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @06:01PM (#15193471) Homepage
        Honestly, what impact would random hardware configurations have?

        We've got either Direct3D or Direct3D for our graphics API. DirectSound or DirectSound for our audio API. DirectInput or DirectInput for our input API. (I do realize I'm discluding OpenGL and SDL, which are both great tools, but it's to make a point).

        So with Direct3D, DirectInput, and DirectSound wrapping different hardware, what's the big deal? I can buy the argument that console games will be more optimized because you can get up close and personal with the hardware, since everyone will have the same damn thing.

        No, the differences will be things like games crashing or the computer crashing due to bugs in the DirectX side of the driver, or the kernel-side of the driver.

        So what about gameplay? With gameplay bugs, that's logic in the program. If I shoot you and you don't die, that's not because I have an ATI video card instead of an nVidia card, it's because the hit detection algorithm is broken.

        Non-fixed platforms mean I have to deal with lower performance (often poorly tuned game design is the major factor here) and maybe crashes, but it doesn't mean I should put up with broken game logic.
        • Although DirectX abstracts hardware acceleration, there are still differences between video cards. For example, take a look at the requirements of Ragnarok Online. [ragnarokonline.com] The page lists only 3 supported chipsets. Other chipsets are marked as "not recommended". Why? Because of differences between DirectX driver implementation and because of bugs in the video card. Back when I had an ATI Rage 128 (I use Nvidia cards now), some icons in the game don't display correctly: they were displayed as 8x8 icons, scaled up to
          • But I didn't read anything that sounded like a gameplay issue caused by the video. By gameplay issue, I mean "was unable to get the powerup" or "boss at end of stage 2 was invincible due to video driver."

            The boss at the end of stage 2 may be impossible to see, but that can be fixed without patching the game engine itself. Merely changing the video card will fix it. The OP was referring to problems caused by hardware that made a game unplayable, but those are fixable without patching the games, so I argue
    • Oblivion for the 360 is getting a patch, for example [gamepro.com]. Having hard drive for downloadable content is a double edged sword in this regard.

      Also, obligatory "Oblivion is an awesome game anyways" that everyone always says. Because, really, it still is an awesome game.
  • My policy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaptCommy ( 872383 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:33PM (#15191061) Homepage
    I agree that the number of games released in a buggy state is getting way out of hand. When I buy a game, especially for $50, I should be able to take it home and play it. Since that never happens, I just play the waiting game. I almost never buy a game when it releases; instead waiting a few months. The price goes down, and patches come out, so I pay less for a game that plays better than at launch. Sure, I don't get to be the first guy on the block to play, but that's not a big deal when I'm saving $10-20 bucks a game. And it's not like the game is any less fun if you wait. Hearts of Iron II is just as fun when it came out as it is now. Plus it runs smoother thanks to patches. And cost about $30. Seems like a win/win scenario to me.
    • Couple this with a similar hardware policy (except video cards generally aren't buggy, just pricey), and you've managed to save yourself a shitload of money!
  • by c0d3h4x0r ( 604141 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:33PM (#15191067) Homepage Journal
    This will only change if all you idiots will stop buying buggy unfinished games!

    As long as you keep buying beta-quality stuff, and the companies keep making their sales and profit goals, they'll keep doing it.

    Duh.

    • Mod the parent up! The real way to solve this problem is to not buy any newly released game. Wait at least 3 months, and then visit online forums to see what other players think. If the bugs have been patched, then it's okay to buy the game. If you convince yourself that no single game is ever worth the headache of bugs, then you'll be a much happier gamer.
      • 3 months? Are you getting your player reviews via snail mail or something? 1 week is sufficient for all but the smallest of game developers. If gamers get a game that is full of bugs and glitches, they are generally pretty quick to whinge about it on the official forums.
        • If you wait three months, you allow time for a bug fix to be released. If no bug fixes have been released after three months, then you can assume that they won't get fixed ever, and you can buy a different game. The whole point is to send a message to the developers that you're willing to wait for a quality product. Waiting one week is not really waiting at all.
      • Wait at least 3 months, and then visit online forums to see what other players think.

        Except your just told us not to buy any newly released game. If nobody buys it, who will be in the online forumns to tell us about it?
    • And once they have your money, don't expect much in the way of patches. They'll be expecting you to give them more money for the sequel, and will be too busy making that to fix any significant bugs in the game you just bought. The sequel will be full of bugs too.

    • This will only change if all you idiots will stop buying buggy unfinished games! As long as you keep buying beta-quality stuff, and the companies keep making their sales and profit goals, they'll keep doing it.

      At what point do we learn that a particular game is buggy and/or unfinished? The day the game is released? Do we wait for the game reviews at IGN / Gamerankings? How on earth do you find out if a game is buggy or unfinished unless someone, somewhere, buys it? If no one buys the game because th

      • If no one buys the game because they don't know if it has any bugs in it or not, then who finds the bugs?

        The answer to that is a simple one: There are always sucke...people...who are willing to run out and buy a game on day 1 of its release. The advice in question is meant for people who actually can stand to wait an extra month or two for a game. The folks who go so far as to preorder (one of the worst develops in retail game sales) a game will continue to do so because they've already decided that t
    • It usually isn't the game developers that push out buggy games, but the publisher.

      When the publisher isn't the developer, it's the publisher who sets the release date. Then everyone complains about bugs and the developers go back and fix everything they would have caught with sufficient testing..
      • I love that excuse. This is the classic "pass the buck" line used to justify every disastrous release in the last two decades.

        Publishers set the release date. Really? And HOW do they set the release date? By asking the developer, "when will this be ready?" So the developer's failing to deliver the product on in time is not the publisher's fault. The publisher, on the other hand, has the job of working out all the time-sensitive deals that make a product go: advertisements, baksheesh to the gaming rags, dup
        • Publishers set the release date. Really? And HOW do they set the release date? By asking the developer, "when will this be ready?" So the developer's failing to deliver the product on in time is not the publisher's fault.

          The problem, as you say, is with inexperienced developers:

          Publisher: "When will this be ready?"
          Developer: "It could take anywhere between 16 and 24 months."
          Publisher: "That's unacceptable, don't have such a negative attitude!"
          Developer: "Well, if we're really lucky, and we cut feat

          • [Crap, I knew I should have pressed "Preview"]

            Publishers set the release date. Really? And HOW do they set the release date? By asking the developer, "when will this be ready?" So the developer's failing to deliver the product on in time is not the publisher's fault.

            The problem, as you say, is with inexperienced developers:

            Publisher: "When will this be ready?"
            Developer: "It could take anywhere between 16 and 24 months."
            Publisher: "That's unacceptable, don't have such a negative attitude!"
            Develop

          • This is obviously the fault of the developer, who should have simply maintained, "It will take 24 months."

            Sure, but this developer might soon be unemployed. Of course, within a company you should be firm towards managers. But in the game industry there are two parties involved. The publisher wants a game, say a first-person shooter. They contact a developer, who says he can make that game in 18 months. The publisher says 'OK, here's 20 million dollar, go make that game'.

            The opposite happens too, that a g

  • Consoles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:33PM (#15191069)
    This is why I like console games a bit better. There's exceptions, but they tend to just work. They're kind of the Macs of the gaming world: just one system to design for.
    • I would tend to agree with you in the past but now even Xbox 360 games are buggy and I'm sure PS3 games will be too. Why? Games are getting very complicated and are released too early. Plus now most consoles will have hard drives and the developers can say the same thing as they do on PC. We'll release a patch later to fix it.
    • I disagree... I was just having this conversation with someone the other day.

      When I first saw this article, I thought it WAS referring to consoles. I've been amazed by the number of patches to games via Xbox Live for the Xbox360. I don't have one myself, but I constantly hear about various patches for various games.

      Sure, some of them add content, which are nice... but a lot of them are to fix problems. (For example, I've been hearing a lot about a patch to fix some baseball game some people are having pr
      • What gets me is how a game company can fuck up a console game!

        It's not as if there's a broad hardware base they have to test against. As someone said more recently in this thread, now that xbox 360 has a patching system, developers can rush games out the door and patch later.
    • Re:Consoles (Score:3, Informative)

      That used to be true.

      But I've found bugs in every game I've played on the XBOX lately. Prince of Persia 3 has sound bugs (sound doesn't stop playing even after you've left behind the area that was 'generating' the sound - e.g. a water fountain), game-freeze bugs, and control bugs. Lego Star wars has a game-freeze bug - very reproducible, just hang out outside the Cantina long enough. Tomb Raider has "Lara gets stuck" bugs. I could go on.

      Bugs, bugs, bugs. They're everywhere. You know how some sites bre
  • Ding! Wrong answer. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pcgamez ( 40751 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:34PM (#15191076)
    "If you scan through the PC reviews, on this and any other site, you will notice an overabundance of games that lost points or otherwise hampered their players' experience by being unpolished, full of bugs, and sometimes downright annoying to play."

    That is precisely what I am NOT seeing. One if the biggest problems with reviews is that the reviewer rarely depends on the product (or even pretends to). For instance, take a new car review. The reviewer might mention (this happened in a long term study in a major car magazine recently) that they had to have it in the shop on average once every three weeks for eight months. For those of us in the real world, being without our vehicle for at LEAST 2-3 hours (often 2-3 days) every month would cause major problems. For them, it is a minor issue because they are not dependant on the product.

    The same applies to gaming. If I purchase a product and it won't work correctly out of the box on my system (most recent example: galciv2), I can't play it. This is because I have one decent gaming system. Sure, for those out there that have more than one gaming system it is a minor inconvenience, but for the other 99%... Reviewers constantly ignore this. If they have that issue they simply use another review system and note it in the review. The game may lose 2/10 points for that. Unfortunately, saying a game is say 7/10 including that issue does not reveal the actual rating of the product, because many people will be unable to use it, making it a 0/10.

    The response to this is often "just wait for a patch." Fantastic. I paid $50 for a game that by the time it is playable for me the retail price has dropped to $40 and I am just then getting to play. Can I take it back? Nope, not under current laws. Does the consumer get screwed? Yep.
    • And even if you had gotten galciv2 to run the game was a disaster: dozens of crashes, messed up interface, pitiful documentation, blatant AI stupidity (which I found really surprising given how much talk about how smart it was suppose to be). All of which most reviewers don't even mention.
      They all seem so taken by the fact that some no name company made a good game they don't want to point out it's many glaring problems.
  • by Banner ( 17158 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:35PM (#15191083) Journal
    Not a quality function. Yes of course users are doing Beta testing, the whole purpose of Beta testing isn't to find bugs in the product, but to find out if you're hitting the market and providing the features that people want!

    Alpha testing is actual testing, and what game testers who work at places like EA do. Not Beta.
    • Yeah? So I should stop testing at alpha? No need to do beta or final testing? After all, once I get all the functionality in there, it'll work great together

      No offense, but your definition of beta testing does not correspond to mine.

      The label "beta" has been applied and misapplied as a marketing tool, but that does not mean that the stage, and the QA processes with it, mysteriously disappears by an act of newspeak.
      • Testing isn't exactly a QA function. You cannot test quality into a product. Testing is to allow you to figure out where your development went wrong and fix those mistakes (hopefully) you can find before they go out the door.

        However, Beta is a marketing tool, NOT a QA tool, unless you believe in QA's role as a customer advocate to bring the customer the features they want. I did not say to stop testing after alpha, but if your company is relying on Beta to find bugs, your company is making a crappy non-qual
    • Not a quality function. Yes of course users are doing Beta testing, the whole purpose of Beta testing isn't to find bugs in the product, but to find out if you're hitting the market and providing the features that people want!

      Not exactly. For products, Beta testing is testing the software in a wide range of target production environments and real life conditions. The idea is to have many people in many different machines exercising the software without developer bias (ie doing to the software the kind of th
  • I see it as sort of a bonus. Especially with Diablo 2, by the time I got the full version they had changed a bunch of stuff from Shareware that I'd liked. So I found an original copy and patched it just up to the point where the bugfixes outweighed the funky balance changes.
  • Again? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Usekh ( 557680 )
    You know I was just thinking this morning that it was time for the 6 monthly posting of this complaint.
  • by fimion ( 890504 ) *
    1) make half a game
    2) put it out in stores
    3) ???
    4) profit!
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:39PM (#15191106) Homepage Journal
    Pretty much since the internet made it plausible to distribute patches. Most games have had significant patches since at least 1996. So the article might better say: game devs are still relying on users to discover significant bugs in their products, and this status quo has maintained its strength in spite of a decade of complaints from pseudo journals.
  • That's evolution. The market selects the most profitable approach.
  • There is also plenty of blame to go to the graphics card card devs as well if you want to talk about stuff being in continual beta. 3rd graphics were the worst thing to happen to games, I say that only half jokingly. :) I love when you need to update the driver to work with a certain game only to have it break with another. Just this weekend, I got the urge to reinstall AvP and I had to find the magic nVidia driver version that worked, previous and later versions broke the game.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:52PM (#15191216)
    Aside of having cheap beta-testers (and this practice continuing as long as we're dumb enough to jump on every hype the studios present us): It's another anti-cracking feature.

    When a game is released, the cracking groups jump it and try to beat each other in the attempt to release the 0day. But a crack for a patch? Has no priority. You will more often than not notice that the game is cracked the day, or before the day, it appears in the store. A crack for a patch can be delayed by days, sometimes even more than a week.

    Of course, this also serves as an annoyance to those who use cracked games. They have to get the patch, and the corresponding (not any, but the corresponding) crack.

    Let's face it. Game studios have many reasons to release buggy betas, and zero reason to provide us with finished games. So why should they? As long as we buy their buggy betas, this won't stop.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:53PM (#15191225) Homepage Journal
    back in 1998 [penny-arcade.com]....
    The more things change the more they stay the same I suppose.
  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:54PM (#15191229) Homepage
    This is why I don't buy games. I rent them. It is because of this kind of stuff (combined with just plain awful gameplay). There is only one way to fix this: stop buying the games.

    A few years ago I downloaded the demo of Sim Golf and loved it. So I went out and bought the game. BIG MISTAKE. That game was horrendously buggy and most of the bugs were glaringly obvious too. Token example: golfer complain about having to walk up hills, so you get them golf carts. When driving a golf cart up hill... they would complain about walking up hills. They fixed this, but it's the kind of thing that struck you instantly and should have been caught. Add in bugs that prevented you from editing your courses, playing your courses, and other such things and the game became almost unplayable and lost all it's fun.

    This is one of the reasons why I stick to console title now, but as I've said I rent them because this kind of stuff is starting to creep in (combined with just plain bad games). This is a real shame because if I find a game that I really like, I won't buy it because I beat it while it was rented and I have no reason to go buy it since I won't play it. It is a very rare exception that I buy the game (Frequency and Amplitude are about the only two).

    There are only a few companies and game series that I will buy without playing first. Nintendo is probably 90% of that. Harmonix is another company that has achieved that status for me. Other companies that had it decided they didn't care and lost it due to blunders (bad games, buggy games, whatever).

    If you buy a game and it's buggy... RETURN IT. COMPLAIN to the company and the retailer. It is DEFECTIVE. If you put up with that kind of treatment, it will only get worse (as history has shown).

    I think a good test is the zero day patch for game-play. If there is a patch out when the game is released (or within any short time frame) that fixes game-play bugs (hardware compatibility stuff is OK) then that company just doesn't care. Don't give 'em your money.

    Let's look at Nintendo. I can't remember experiencing any bugs in their games (I've seen them in plenty of others). Do you remember what happened when it was found out that Pokemon Gold & Silver wouldn't let you harvest berries after you had been playing for a year or two? Many companies would say "too bad" or "here's $5" or "send it it, but you'll lose all your data". Nintendo fixed it. For free. On a two year old game. And then even gave you a rare item or a rare Pokemon as an apology gift. Pure class.

    And notice it took like two years of playing to find that bug. I realize that Pokemon Gold and Silver are less complex than Oblivion and other recent games... but the sheer number of bugs in such a large volume of games can't be blamed on complexity alone but hubris and an uncaring attitude towards the consumer.

  • ...they're just following Microsoft's excellent example.

    Seriously though, I would put more blame on the game publishers forcing games out early (LucasArts is especially bad for this) than those who write them.
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist ( 898384 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @12:57PM (#15191268)
    I know I complain when people whine about news being old, but I think this story missed the mark by about 10 years.

    It used to be that any game I bought had about 10 patches before the month its was released changed.

    Now, it seems like game are in perpetual development, NOT being released to customers, ever (Duke Nukem Forever). Games like Half Life 2 and Quake 4 were in development for years and missed umpteen deadlines before they finally came out, and the developer's excuses were they wanted to make it perfect.

    While I don't play the whole plethora of games available today, I still usually pick up the popular titles. I find very few times that any of the big releases have any issues that prevent enjoyable gameplay. When a patch is made available (months after release), it usually tweaks games settings or fixes (usually) any multiplayer networking problems. These kinds of issues can only be encountered once something enters wide release. No beta environment could every duplicate what the open market can find for bugs (re, beta testers are usually people in the know, real life is actually filled with morons and people without a clue).

    I seldom ever find myself using a game that feels like a beta.

    The problem I have is, I would rather a company release a game that might still have a few lingering issues, and then patch it later, rather then holding a game from release for 12 - 18 months to make it perfect. As long as those issues do not interrupt gameplay, or are only encountered infrequently or very randomly, then I won't mind playing the game. What I can't stand is the idea that developers spend 3 months tracking down a bug that maybe only 5% of the market would ever encounter, and that only being once in their life time.

    HL2 and Duke Nukem Forever are extremes in this case, where people make it a career to hype about a game that takes years to develop, and then keep postponing it indefinitely. For the most part, I don't need a game to be perfect on release, just good enough to play without too many interruptions or problems. I would be hypercritical of a game that has bugs but was still delayed 12 - 18 months to make it perfect over a game that was released too soon but has a quick patch cycle.
  • If the higher price isn't enough reason, now we know to wait 3-6 months for the price to go down and the bugs to be fixed.

    There are some games that don't even bother to fix the bugs, so a buyer could scout out whether the community is still dealing with bugs or not.
  • What rock have you been living under? (To the article submitter.) Game companies have been doing this for MANY years. I can remember buying "The Sims Online" long ago & immediately after installing it it commanded a 26MB patch download. Every day after that for many months it seemed as though they had a new 10-20MB patch to be downloaded each time I connected. I remember they marketed the game to both broadband & dial up users, as broadband was NOT the norm then. I wonder what the hell the dial
  • He's pretty close. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RomSteady ( 533144 ) on Monday April 24, 2006 @01:29PM (#15191530) Homepage Journal
    First off, I should probably lay out my credentials. My name is Michael Russell, and I'm the QA Manager for Ritual Entertainment. We're going to be releasing "SiN Episodes: Emergence [sinepisodes.com]" over Steam on May 10.

    In some ways, Greg Atkinson is absolutely right, but he seems to be right for the wrong reasons.

    There are three global problems in game development: marketing usually promises a date that cannot be met, throwing more people at a problem cannot fix it, and bugs found at the end of a project are hard to impossible to fix.

    The marketing date is a huge issue because 90% of the time, the people making the game have no buy-in regarding it. They're working towards being done when it's done, and then when they get told that they have six months when they need a year, things get implemented too fast and half-assed.

    Of course, here we are at six months out with no testing so far. In fact, the game is generally in an untestable state due to the huge influx of new, untested, unstable code and/or assets. Several major developers and publishers are now moving to the "monkey" model of testing: hire 100 temps for six weeks at the end, have them hammer on the game, and the end result is 5,000 bugs with little time to fix it.

    So, the team gets the game to a basic level of functionality, throws it in a box, and gets to work on the patch while the box winds its way to retail.

    Until the industry as a whole learns that QA is no longer just a line-item expense but a necessity, we're going to have issues like this.

    Console developers are starting to get it, but mostly because the platform holders have a set of tests that every game released on the console must pass. Fail one test or a permutation of one test, and there is a high likelihood that you won't ship. Suddenly, spending an extra few dollars on testing early to find and fix the problem doesn't seem like a big expenditure compared to the nightmare that is missing your street date.

    I'm happy that we've had testing on "SiN Episodes: Emergence" from day 1. Are there still going to be bugs? Always...there's nothing you can do to eliminate bugs entirely. It's the nature of software development. But by getting on the project early and testing through to the end, we're able to make sure that the game is stable, completable, and fun out of the box.

    And for a game, that's all you can ask.
    • The marketing date is a huge issue because 90% of the time, the people making the game have no buy-in regarding it. They're working towards being done when it's done, and then when they get told that they have six months when they need a year, things get implemented too fast and half-assed.

      I think that's a poor excuse. The date needs to be agreed on between marketing and development well ahead of time. A rough date should probably be part of the initial game design where the game is being defined.

      Ev
  • Sometimes, in spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it, a high-minded developer who lacks sufficient funds to finish polishing a product chooses not to ship at all, rather than release something unfinished. Is this the best approach? Would you prefer nothing at all to a buggy product?

    Unfortunately, games cost money to make, and there isn't always enough money to make it to the finish line. Sometimes, they need to release SOMETHING, just so that the company won't go out of business. The
    • Sometimes, they need to release SOMETHING, just so that the company won't go out of business.

      That's no excuse.

      At least put a warning label on it. Call it Beta, and promise to finish it or go bankrupt. Sometimes I want one of the fewer games of release quality, sometimes I want a beta. Let me choose, don't take my money and then tell me it's beta.
      • At least put a warning label on it.

        Well, in most media, this is what reviewers are for. Roger Ebert, for example, is happy to point out that he watches bad movies, so you don't have to. If you just buy any old thing that comes in a pretty box, you've got nothing but yourself to blame. There's a lot of crap out there -- even finished crap.
    • To be honest, if there were fewer games out each year but each game released had 50% less bugs than previously released games, I would be completely satisfied. On the other hand, I'm a fairly patient person when it comes to game glitches, so unless the game refuses to work at all, I'd be fine with the way they are written at this point in time.

      I suppose I'm easy to please :)
  • Gamma Testing?
  • Although patches weren't terribly uncommon back then (Quake has used them for a while), I remember the original Unreal to be the first mainstream game that really worked like this (there may have been others I don't know about though). Right in the box, there was a slip that said it was somewhat incomplete and thus somewhat still in the testing phase. I found that to be rather interesting that they did that.
  • in the PC gaming world.

    In the past QA for games was much more vital due to the media (cartridges). I don't doubt that developers are also pushing for online features so they can push more games out the door, rather than focusing on delivering a finished product.

    It's all about getting the buck as soon as possible for them. Bugs... let's worry about those later.
  • I have to agree with most of the sentiment here.
    1) It's nothing new. (For us old folks, remember Microprose?)
    2) It's not ever going to go away.

    Where there are some stupid bugs that have made it through to the release, I can see patching a game to help keep the balance.

    I give credit to certain game makers for trying to make a RTS whos units have different strengths and weaknesses, but I can remember the tank rushes from the original Command and Conquer and the Zergling rushes of Starcraft that lost players s
    • No one's complaining that patches exist. We're complaining that what's being released is not a complete game until you get the patch. Usually, I'd prefer you leave my gameplay alone. Minor gameplay tweaks don't hurt anyone, but major rebalancing should probably be saved for a sequel, or introduced as a UT-like "mutator".

      But I don't care so much about gameplay patches. The things that bother me are bugs in the code, which make a game unplayable until a patch is released.

      Doesn't bother me so much, though.
      • This really depends on the game, in most single player games I'd agree. Leave it alone, save for some glitches. ie. the hurricane packs for NG that fixed the camera issues. Balancing a game for single player isn't as big a deal.

        As for multiplayer, I'm all for periodic tweaks to the game to try to balance things out. How many times has Blizzard tweaked Warcraft 3 over the years? Change the health on this, the speed on that, hmm maybe this unit should have a different armor type... all in the name of making t
  • My guess is that it's due to a combination of factors:

    - Games are a lot more complex these days, with a lot more places that things can go wrong. More and better testing is required to assure the same level of product quality as in yesterday's games. This testing isn't happening; perhaps because schedules haven't changed with the games to reflect the additional required testing time.

    - Games don't have as long of a shelf life these days, especially PC games (which, incidentally, are easier to release patches
  • Not to bob my head, but I'm especially seeing this with Knights of the Old Republic II. It's been out for, what, a good year? And yet gameplay is still plagued with cinematic bugs and a good chunk of the last third of the game was cut completely. The site itself says that there's an ongoing bug where, if you stay in any one area without hitting a cutscene for more than 40 minutes, your game is prone to crashing. Maybe it's just me, but this strikes me as a very "Should've-been-fixed-before-the-release" type
  • If you put out a game on schedule, everyone bitches that it's buggy.

    If you delay the game until it's ready, everyone bitches that it's late.

    If you split the difference, everyone bitches that it's buggy and late.

    If you manage to stop adding features early enough so that you actually ship a game that's on time and pretty much bug free, everyone bitches that the gameplay is lame, and they should have added feature x from other game y.

    And if you hire enough programmers to put out a massive killer game on time w

    • Don't let your PR department release dates that you can't meet.

      If you don't know whether you can make a release date, don't publish a release date. I applaud Duke Nukem Forever for that, at least. People laugh, but if it's good enough, they won't complain about lateness. Remember how long we waited for Half-Life 2? And remember how we didn't even know they were developing it for years?

      The mistake made with HL2 was not the huge development time, it was the announcement of features that weren't included a
  • If you're making a console game, unit test, torture test, playtest, and 3-year-old-test. If there are bugs after the game is released, you're morally obligated to replace everyone's media with a patched version, or make sure ALL your customers know of a workaround.

    If you're making a PC game, release it early and call it a beta. Charge no more for the beta (hopefully less) than for the finished product, and upgrade them to the final version for free. And pay attention to your beta testers, and patch every
  • Forget StarForce, or any other copy protection. What works is releasing a game that you know has serious bugs in it, and then applying a patch or two that will fix them. Viola, the CD/DVD rippers that love to get original CD images are now hosed up a bit, due to the fact that those bugs have to be patched. Apply patch, fix copy protection that requires the CD to be in the drive. Each patch restores it, and may even check a different spot on the CD surface. Busts up those NoCD cracks pretty quick.

    That m
  • Why are the people now paying to essentially beta test the games rather than purchasing completed games?

    Do like me, don't pay, download from P2P. I refuse to pay for an un-finished game, therefore I only pay for games when no patch has been released in years. I might buy Warcraft I now.

  • Games are getting more and more complicated and sofisticated every year.

    But games always had bugs. Take perhaps the most successful game in history, Super Mario Bros. Walking through walls, getting stuck on a pixel...

    It's not NEW that games are buggy. You have hundreds of different possible system configurations on PC that can lead to bugs. Games like any Elder Scrolls have an almost limitless number of player driven possibilities. Is it possible to find every single bug in them before release? Not unless t

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