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Saboteur Launch Plagued By Problems With ATI Cards 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-or-less-finished dept.
An anonymous reader writes "So far, there are over 35 pages of people posting about why EA released Pandemic Studios' final game, Saboteur, to first the EU on December 4th and then, after knowing full well it did not work properly, to the Americas on December 8th. They have been promising to work on a patch that is apparently now in the QA stage of testing. It is not a small bug; rather, if you have an ATI video card and either Windows 7 or Windows Vista, the majority (90%) of users have the game crash after the title screen. Since the marketshare for ATI is nearly equal to that of Nvidia, and the ATI logo is adorning the front page of the Saboteur website, it seems like quite a large mistake to release the game in its current state."
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Saboteur Launch Plagued By Problems With ATI Cards

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  • by scdeimos (632778) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:02AM (#30374496)
    Sounds like they've been sabotaged.
    • Re:Saboteur, hey? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cryacin (657549) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:09AM (#30374530)
      I get very tired of these sorts of bugs. I had experienced a title screen bug for Fallout3. After spending 4 hours trying to get it to work, I just gave up and returned the game.

      It seemed that I was not alone either. Unfortunately, the games industry is being pushed by customer demand and sabotaged by shrinking budgets from the corporate side. In the end the only thing that can be cut from the budget is QA, which is a fatal mistake.

      Worse still is places where you cannot return your product. Talk about non efficate product.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WiiVault (1039946)
        I'd love to know where you shop. No matter how much I bitch and whine they never take back my opened software.
        • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:48AM (#30374708) Journal

          Try Costco. They'll take back Windows 3.1 and give you a full refund.

        • I've run into this same issue and constantly wonder if that is even legal -- how the fsck can they sell you something that DOESN'T WORK and then still tell you that you can't return it? I would think that the sort of thing ought to be covered under consumer protection laws... but I guess not.
          • It absolutely isn't in the UK. If the product does not work as expected, the vendor (not the manufacturer) has a liability to provide a full refund if demanded. Course, IANAL.
        • by TheLink (130905)
          I've bought stuff from the local pirate shop aka "unauthorized distributor", and they usually allow you to swap something that doesn't work with something else. I've even got a refund before for something that just didn't work fully (some stuff worked, but the stuff that I wanted didn't work).

          In contrast, there was no refund when my bro bought a legit copy of Ultima Collection, Ultima 2 (and I believe some others) didn't work. And he bought it twice - one from overseas just in case it was just a dud. And no
      • Re:Saboteur, hey? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arQon (447508) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @03:32AM (#30374896) Homepage

        For all that "the industry is being pushed", it's not ALWAYS the game developers' fault. For a "real" game (ie "not a crappy movie tie-in generic copypaste with new art") you can easily go through dozens of driver revisions during years of development, all of which work fine, and then have a new set come out after you ship the master which suddenly doesn't work with your game.

        ATI, much though I love their hardware, border on completely indifferent to driver bugs, and nvidia aren't really that much better. Unless your game is a "showpiece" for their hardware, they simply don't care if something doesn't work the way it's supposed to or even has catastrophic errors in it. Case in point, every ATI driver release from April through OCTOBER this year *hemorrhaged* memory if you used VBOs a certain way. 6 months to fix a bug that critical is pretty miserable.
        Yes, modern graphics drivers are horrifically complex, but still...

        Sometimes it works the other way too. There's a tiny little bug in Quake3 that can make an invalid GL call at times: it "worked" for 7 years because the drivers gracefully ignored it, then suddenly started to cause *massive* slowdowns on nvidia cards (from 400+ fps to 100). Technically, it's id's "fault", but it's pretty hard to blame them for it - or to blame nvidia for the drivers going into Sulk Mode, since it IS an invalid call.

        That's an extreme example, but the point is that you're dependent on drivers that you don't "own" for your game to work, they frequently don't, and you've got no control over them at all.
        If you're id / Epic / Valve, and pushing a AAA title that will prompt players to upgrade their cards, you can doubtless get someone at the IHV to look into the problems. If you're at a company like Pandemic that basically folded before even finishing the game, good luck with that even if you actually have any developers left to try to get a fix or hack up a workaround if a driver rev pulls the rug out from under you.

        Of course, the developers COULD have been so completely half-assed that they didn't run a single build on an ATI card, in which case they should indeed be beaten to death with cluebats. :P

        • by Fulg (138866)

          There's a tiny little bug in Quake3 that can make an invalid GL call at times: it "worked" for 7 years because the drivers gracefully ignored it, then suddenly started to cause *massive* slowdowns on nvidia cards (from 400+ fps to 100). Technically, it's id's "fault", but it's pretty hard to blame them for it - or to blame nvidia for the drivers going into Sulk Mode, since it IS an invalid call.

          I totally agree with your post, but I have to play devil's advocate for a bit here: if they detect Quake3 and work around the bug this way, someone will post a story about how NVIDIA cheating in Q3 benchmarks, because if you rename quake.exe to quack.exe the FPS drops from 400 to 100. So either way, they can't win - someone will always complain. I used to write D3D and OGL drivers for a living (not for ATI or NVIDIA, no threats please!), so I'm all too familiar with these issues...

          In this case, Q3 is fairly

        • by v1 (525388)

          Of course, the developers COULD have been so completely half-assed that they didn't run a single build on an ATI card, in which case they should indeed be beaten to death with cluebats. :P

          Lets not forget "We're still working on that nasty ATI bug." "I don't care, we have a deadline. The GM needs to be on my desk by noon so it'll be at the duplicators on Monday."

      • Re:Saboteur, hey? (Score:5, Informative)

        by eulernet (1132389) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @06:18AM (#30375500)

        Unfortunately, the games industry is being pushed by customer demand and sabotaged by shrinking budgets from the corporate side.

        Definitely no.

        I worked for the video game industry, and this has nothing to do with QA or anything...
        The period of the year when the games sell well is Christmas.
        But selling your game at Christmas means that the game MUST be ready by the end of September.
        If you miss September, you can say goodbye to make money with your game (especially if it's crappy).
        There is also a small period at the beginning of January: parents gave money to their children, and the children tend to buy games.

        In general, the company does not care if the game is ready for launch or not, because it does not want to miss the launch date, so the game is sold in the state it is in September.
        Also, the company believes that a patch will be available by December and won't affect most of the customers, since the game is scheduled to be played after the Christmas sales.
        Only the early customers will discover the problem.
        Note also that when a crappy game is published, the company behind the game does not send the game to the magazines, since it does not want to ruin its Christmas sales.

        QA has probably found the problem before September, but the marketing department told that the game must be available whatever the circumstances are.

        So, instead of blaming QA or developers, blame the marketing department instead !

  • Like the surgeon general of gaming telling you to stay away if you have ATI...

  • I tested Saboteur (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:37AM (#30374662)

    I tested Saboteur across all platforms and, of all the titles I tested, the Pandemic devs were more open to fix issues than any development studio i've had experience with. Unfortunately the 360 and PS3 versions were much more thoroughly tested (we're talking a few weeks a piece). This was because 4 days into Saboteur PC testing (of which 4 of 5 testing stations were nVidia, btw) EA (the publisher and last end-tester before final submission) laid off 2000 people, which included almost all North American testers (essentially cutting the amount of testers globally by half).

    The bottom line is this: the company's agenda is to release the product on a set day, and regardless of the quality of the product it WILL be out that day. You may see street dates pushed ahead a few months in advance but people test until a week or two until it hits the shelf, and if issues arise during the final hour most times the bugs will be swept under the table until one day they may get patched (if enough people bitch). It's sad that first day patches are not only considered acceptable, but are the norm these days.

    • by Renraku (518261) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:57AM (#30374754) Homepage

      This is exactly the problem and I don't blame you for posting anonymously. Every single EA game I have owned after a certain point shipped with horrible bugs. Things that you could have caught in testing after about an hour of play time. Game stopping bugs. Only to be fixed a MONTH later when I shelved the game or had taken it back and swore off EA. It's getting harder and harder to avoid their games, though, since they keep buying out good ideas and then turning them to shit.

      You know, EA, games take a while to develop. If you don't have the resources, time, or patience to deal with it, you're welcome to go eat a bowl of dicks. I'm tired of promising games being snatched up by EA, only to have them lay everyone off at the last minute and skip testing. They've done this with pretty much every single game, even their successful ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Aceticon (140883)

      EA is well known for forcing game developers to release Beta and even Alpha quality software as final.

      Another thing EA is well known for is the, after release, quick redirection of resources from bug-fixing/patching to making (paid for) expansions.

      I strongly suspect that EA's recent "downsizing" simply exacerbated the negative-effects of their usual pattern of behavior.

      As long as people keep buying their games, EA will keep doing the same thing again and again and people will keep getting shafted.

      • I learned this probably 7-8 years ago. If it's stamped EA, I don't buy it. Period. In fact, I don't even pirate it.
         
        I've got no interest in supporting companies who produce crap products. While this has seriously cut down on the mainstream titles I play, I spend less money and buy more games. There are plenty of fun little games from small publishers who do a good job, polish their game, and support it. Those are the folks who get my money now.

    • This is of course because all the biggest game publishers are now public companies with shareholders who DEMAND profit on a set schedule promised in advance and written in blood at midnight in a graveyard.

      Thou SHALL release SOMETHING on release date! Or else the exec board gets axed.

      There are marketing campaigns to think about, magazine ad placements, store displays, mass production and packaging, huge trailer loads of the stuff shipped to Walmart alone. All of this stuff is planned out before the game is

  • by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:48AM (#30374706) Homepage Journal

    The studio is being retired; there's no value in having the product work at launch. If it takes them a month to get the patch out, so be it, people will blame (the now defunct) Pandemic, and people will continue to buy EA games. If they ever revive the Pandemic name (why? what notable titles have they made? Dark Rein comes to mind, if only because my buddy was obsessed with Dark Rein 2 for so long in high school) nobody will remember this flop in 5-10 years time. The only flop anyone ever remembers is Duke Nukem Forever. I doubt most geeks could tell you the name of the rouge iD developer who made his own FPS (which failed miserably), or what the name of his game was. In two years nobody will remember the "Pandemic studios Pandemic of 2009".

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Renraku (518261)

      People won't blame Pandemic, they'll blame EA. But what chance do we have of boycotting EA for it's well-known and shitty practices? Seems like 90% of all big name games come out from them. Perhaps the various Departments of Labor should look into how they treat their staff? Finish this project, lay everyone off, skimp on pay, hours, blacklist people, contract violations, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sznupi (719324)

      Hey, there are people who think Daikatana was rather good...

    • by teg (97890)

      The studio is being retired; there's no value in having the product work at launch. If it takes them a month to get the patch out, so be it, people will blame (the now defunct) Pandemic, and people will continue to buy EA games

      There's definitely value in having the product work at launch - if there wasn't value in that, why develop the game at all? EA has spent most of the title's budget by now - now is the time to get income. Looking at EA's results, that income is sorely needed too.

      And of course, I

      • There's definitely value in having the product work at launch - if there wasn't value in that, why develop the game at all?

        For God's sake, don't give them any ideas!

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @05:12AM (#30375248) Journal

      If they ever revive the Pandemic name (why? what notable titles have they made?

      Battlezone 2. Though that franchise seems to be long forgotten (which is a pity... it was a very interesting genre).

    • by mqduck (232646)

      I doubt most geeks could tell you the name of the rouge iD developer who made his own FPS (which failed miserably), or what the name of his game was.

      I "remember" John Romero and Daikatana, and I wasn't even aware of the PC games scene when it was current news.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I "remember" John Romero and Daikatana, and I wasn't even aware of the PC games scene when it was current news.

        That's because John Romero made you his bitch. Duh.

      • Ditto, but the game was also released on the N64.

  • This is the second game in just the past two weeks to suffer MAJOR headaches with ATI video cards... CCP's EVE-Online Dominion expansion has also been plagued by ATI-related video problems, artifacts, and outright crashing.
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@s l a s h dot.org> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @02:57AM (#30374756)

    I friend of mine bought it, back then. And it hat not one, not two, not three, but four points in the loading of the game, where it could crash. Which means that pretty much everyone got into one.

    And then, on all nVidia cards, all triangles were messed up. With one of the 3 points of each triangle being wayy off in its position, moving all over the screen. Like a ton of spikes.

    There was not a single comment from Rockstar. Let alone a patch.

    And now for the funny part: I loaded it of bittorrent, and as always, I went to gamecopyworld.com, to look for a crack.
    They not only had more than one working crack. No. They hay patches for every single of those four crash points, *and* the nVidia bug!

    I couldn’t hold back to laugh at him. ^^

    With GTA 4 it was not much better. Right from the start, the input lag was around 3 seconds! The intro was full of weird graphical errors. And the game still runs slow as hell, even on computers that have the power to run a game with those weak graphics and physics twice or thrice!
    18 fps at 1024x786 with a Radeon 4850? Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me??

  • by trawg (308495) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @03:05AM (#30374802) Homepage

    ...about the games they're going to spend money on, and then find out too late that it has problems (ie, after they've paid for it).

    Gamers need to get over that urgent, gripping need they have to rush out and buy a new game the second it is released. They've become too complacent and accustomed to game developers not releasing demos, and - sadly - this has become the status quo. Instead of a demo being something that absolutely has to happen before people even glance at your game, publishers have figured out that they can release some PRs, screenshots, and trailers, and slap anything in a box and it will /still/ sell enough to justify doing it that way.

    Once they've gotten your money, it's basically too late (unless you have the energy to go and demand a refund).

    BE A DISCRIMINATING GAMER. Read reviews. Try demos, and if they don't have one post on their forums asking where their demo is. Check out their forums and see what people are complaining about. It's all about knowledge.

    Further, anyone that has touched an EA game in the last 10 years should know by now that they make games based on a deadline. Unless a game is catastrophically not ready, then it will be shipped and shelved, and any problems will get fixed later (maybe). They make a lot of great games, but a good rule of thumb is to only buy them after it's been out for a month and they've fixed all the critical bugs (a good rule for PC games in general).

    Note: I'm not trying to justify shitty development practices. Far from it. I'm trying to make sure people understand the most effective way to vote on this stuff is with their feet - don't buy broken video games.

    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      I'd advise against reading reviews most of the ones at launch at pretty much bought and paid for in my experience.

      My habit is to wait at least six months after launch, the games are cheaper, the bugs will be well known and most importantly if a Publisher hasn't released a patch by then they never will.

      I recently bought Mirrors Edge and Far Cry 2 for the PS3 brand new for £5 each the Internet told me neither was particularly great but at £5.....
      • by trawg (308495)

        My habit is to wait at least six months after launch, the games are cheaper, the bugs will be well known and most importantly if a Publisher hasn't released a patch by then they never will.

        Also excellent advice generally - living 6-12 months behind the latest and greatest will save you a ton of money on hardware.

        The only time it's not great is for games that are primarily multiplayer in nature. Unless they're exceptional (and few are), the multiplayer is often much less viable after 6-12 months, simply because people have moved on to other games.

    • by Spad (470073)

      It was easy, in days gone by, to try demos before you bought games, but these days you're lucky to get a demo at all, let alone one that's available before the game is actually released.

      Add to that the fact that if there is a demo available prior to release then unless it's on Steam you're usually stuck between buying a magazine with a coverdisc containing the demo or queuing for hours on one of the many slow and difficult to navigate download sites (Fileplanet and the like).

      The only demos I've played in re

  • The game is playable (low FPS) with ATI cards if you revert the processor to single core, either through task manager / process affinity, or right at boot with (e.g.) the msconfig utility.

    Of course, you're better off exercising some patience and waiting until a proper fix comes out than running with a crippled game. The game isn't exactly *gorgeous*, but running at 800X600 and all settings at minimum is a surefire way to sabotage the experience

  • Has anyone even considered the possibility that the blame here lies with Microsoft or ATI? It bothers me how most Windows users blame an application when a library or driver is at fault. Just because only one app crashes doesn't mean that app is broken. If MS says some_rare_function() works, and it really causes one game to crash on particular systems, that's MS's fault.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.

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