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Bug Games

Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases? 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-did-my-face-go dept.
An anonymous reader points out a recent article at Gamesradar discussing the frequency of major bugs and technical issues in freshly-released video games. While such issues are often fixed with updates, questions remain about the legality and ethics of rushing a game to launch. Quoting: "As angry as you may be about getting a buggy title, would you want the law to get involved? Meglena Kuneva, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner, is putting forward legislation that would legally oblige digital game distributors to give refunds for games, putting games in the same category in consumer law as household appliances. ... This call to arms has been praised by tech expert Andy Tanenbaum, author of books like Operating Systems: Design and Implementation. 'I think the idea that commercial software be judged by the same standards as other commercial products is not so crazy,' he says. 'Cars, TVs, and telephones are all expected to work, and they are full of software. Why not standalone software? I think such legislation would put software makers under pressure to first make sure their software works, then worry about more bells and whistles.'"
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Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases?

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  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:44AM (#30455192)
    What exactly is the downside to forcing a company to give refunds for the broken merchandise that it sells?
    • In practice not many people would cash in, since it would motivate the company to release patches to fix bugs.

      • by lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:18AM (#30455360)
        I sincerely hate patches. I'm not being paid to be a beta tester. Some time ago the situation was that sometimes an obscure bug may have slept after release and a small patch was a welcome news.

        Now the broadband revolution have changed all of that. Companies have started to enjoy the increase in profit coming from a reduced q/a investment moving the costs on our time and our money (my adsl is flat, but not free and the time I can spend on game is very limited)

        The most alarming tendency of late is to leave bug open till the next dlc comes out - with a price tag attached (Bethesda, I'm looking at you now).

        Sadly games are targeted to an audience not exactly known to make informed purchasing decisions (teenagers) so there is no way to reverse this tendency.
        But don't come to me to tell that bug free complex games are *impossible*. That's bullshit.

        More and more on the news you hear that one or another game as be released bugged to meet the release date and a patch is in the working. They know they're selling turd and they know that somebody will buy it anyway. And most often than not that patch is never released. (Troika games, I'm looking at you now, but GTA IV for pc was no different, as it is Red Faction Guerrilla)

        What power do you -we- have? Boycotting is not an options, they live on hype and money from impulsive buyers. They are not bond by anything, if EULA stands they don't have to meet even the slightest of expectations, not even to make a game playable to the end. If EULA don't stands then on which basis are you going to fight them back? There is no contract breached. A class suite will only speed up the patching process and wither off without any actual damage to the offending company (see? we patched it as promised!).

        They've no accountability for their products, really. Even consoles now are victim of the patch frenzy, and there is nothing that we the informed customer can do to fend them off.
        But don't come to me to tell that bug free complex games are *impossible*. That's bullshit.
         
        • by apoc.famine (621563) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (enimaf.copa)> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:51AM (#30457502) Homepage Journal

          What power do you -we- have? Boycotting is not an options...

          Oh, to have mod points to mod you "-1 stupid".
           
          Boycotting IS "an options". Don't buy crap. Period. It does not affect me in the least that everyone else around me is wasting their money on crap. They could be stuffing their closets full of dogshit, and it wouldn't affect me. (Assuming they kept the containers sealed so as to keep it in mint condition and preserve the value.)
           
          I don't buy garbage games from garbage publishers. Boycotting does work for me. It's the power that I have. I'm not required to buy the latest whiz-bang game. I'm not required to buy every game I see a commercial for. I'm not even required to buy a game RIGHT AWAY! I know. madness, huh?
           
          My money goes to good games. I'll happily wait 6 months to find out if it's a good game or not. Now, this doesn't penalize game makers for buggy games, but at the same time, I don't have to deal with buggy games.

          there is nothing that we the informed customer can do to fend them off

          The informed customer can not buy their games. That's what I do. Until they legislate that I'm required to purchase their crappy games, they really don't affect me in the least.
           
          By any chance, you aren't a slave to hype and buying the newest game all the time, are you? Because that's where I normally see such bitter complaints about buggy games...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:18AM (#30455358)

      nothings wrong with it...
      But do you really expect the to? Get ready for the requirements on the box going from :

      512MB RAM
      P4 or better
      1GB disk space free

      to :

      512 MB DDR2 533MHz Rambus RT32Q-12W/P series RAM
      Asus MB983-001GIGM/S-4 Motherboard with AnusTech 56chipset and SuperHD-VGA 512Graphic2.0
      With Seagate 120GB 7234.42rpm disk and Windows XP SP3 with no other software and all updates except Office excel ones and Adobe Reader4.3, and a shortcut to Notepad at position (34,102) on the desktop with that spiffy desert wallpaper. Also required Network interface card NT-IKK100M with a blue and red striped 1.56m cable that's coiled around the couch leg at 125deg.
      Apparatus must be used in a constant 26.3 degrees with relative humidity of 20% and 1024mbar pressure.

      This is just fucking idiocy. Any half decent company is going to give refunds (or fix the bugs) if they care about their customers.
      Those who don't will vanish and the suckers who bought their stuff will lose their money (much like the morons who buy rolex watches from email or the spastics who send their life saving to nigerian princes).

      This is just going to fuck the smaller operators over who don't have the resources for testing every combination of software/hardware. As a example, a "normal" piece of software will be available on :

      Win XP
      Vista
      Win 7
      Win2k

      x2 for 32 and 64 bit. And various combinations of Admin user, UAC on, regular user limited etc.

      Then add Various flavours of server type deployments (Windows server 2000,2003,2008, citrix, TS etc).
      Now add various doc management systems (eg sharepoint) integration.
      Then sprinkle some scanner, printer and networked hardware deployments.
      And this isn't even considering what other applications are going to be interacting with the system and issues with PS,PCL and GDI printing/drawing commands.

      Fuck me... this is from experience... I need a beer now. And this is for a simple desktop general office productivity app.

      The app code is tested and the app is tested, but there's no telling what the hell kind of environment it's going to be deployed in.

      While we're at it, why not require that all software sold needs to be mathematically proven to be correct. That'll be easy right?

      Hmmm.. I feel kind of better now...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amRadioHed (463061)

        Why do you think this would be unfair to small software companies? Do you think they have a right to make money by selling software that doesn't work to people with hardware configurations they never got around to testing?

        I don't think preventing customers from getting screwed is the same as screwing the company.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Because smaller companies have smaller budgets to test on than larger ones.

          Simply the licensing costs of a lot of software is prohibitive. If you're selling something on the scale of hundreds of millions of dollars per year in revenue, fine, you can afford it, but small companies simply can't afford to do this - on various levels :

          1. Licensing costs - some licenses work out to 1000s of dollars per year. Multiply by different versions/products maybe 100k/year
          2. hardware costs - said small company now needs e

          • by @madeus (24818) <slashdot_24818@mac.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:17AM (#30456126)

            For example if an app I wrote causes a BSOD because it triggers a bug in another companies code (eg MS) then good luck getting them to fix it. I have to change my code (which worked) in order to put in a hack to bypass someone elses bug - possibly making me liable for bugs that I had to introduce because someone else didn't fix theirs.

            This is the biggest problem I can see for small companies.

            I've just spent two weeks resolving out a bug caused by a number of specific Anti-Virus software products doing network intercepts on Windows systems (which were covertly (my to my annoyance) silently buffering networking traffic from my app).

            Fortunately I have the tools needed to identity and resolve the issue here, because I work for a large company (though our product is not a commercial one, and has a small target user base). However, small companies don't have the resources to spend all the time (and money) required to compatibility testing with crummy or esoteric third party software which behaves poorly.

            I agree that refunds are the right course of action. Though I believe most regions in the world have already robust enough legislation if it were enforced, additional laws to make liability of software vendors clearer would be fine with me.

            Forcing QA processes is surely not the way to go - you can't legislate for it as it's too complex. Perhaps you could have minimum requirements for certain types of specific software however (like 'best practice' guidelines). I'm thinking software where public safety is an issue, perhaps where a large number of financial transactions are involved.

            Like other standards / accreditations (like ISO) people don't necessarily follow it (and almost never all of the time), but even so that sort of thing can still have a positive impact on how an organisation behaves. Forcing companies to publicly and openly disclose their QA / testing and bug fixing policies/processes in a fixed format could be a good consumer benchmark, for example (were the right criteria specified).

            • When you write that "I've just spent two weeks resolving out a bug caused by a number of specific Anti-Virus software products doing network intercepts on Windows systems", this sounds very much to me that this was a problem with the AV software and not your software. Not knowing all the facts, but you may very well be doing a disservice to your software product if you implemented a fix to workaround a problem not of your making!

              Kudos on fixing that though - sounds like it was a tricky issue to track down.

              • by Xiaran (836924)
                I used to write filter drivers for NT. A filter driver is a driver that essentially sits in a stack of other filter drivers that process data to and from the hard disk. Do not get me started on Norton antivirus and it behaviour as a virus scanner. Also Word and Excel also do odd things when writing to the hard disk(I suspect they are using file system features that are not common/undocumented). Also don't get me start on the lack of documentation when writing file filter drivers in windows.
          • Because smaller companies have smaller budgets to test on than larger ones.

            That's a bit like saying that because Joe's hotdog stand is owned and manned by one man (Joe) that he should be able to give me a hotdog that causes me to contract gastroenteritis but Joe should suffer no legal sanction, while if McDonald's gave me gastro then it's perfectly alright to sue the crap out of them.

        • by malkavian (9512)

          Why the concentration on hardware? Most software runs on an OS. The OS deals with abstraction. If you need a certain performance on hardware (i.e. graphics card), then you state that it requires that power or greater.
          On the whole, you don't need a lot of hardware testing across the board. If things don't work, that'll be an issue with the driver, and as such, it's an OS/Vendor problem. The API you use on the OS is stated to work in a particular fashion, and if it doesn't, you nag the OS vendor to nag t

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:42AM (#30455476) Homepage

      Maybe if you read the fine article before jerking one off, you'd be able to answer your own question.

      On a PC, the vendor can't control the environment in which their software is run. Something else on the machine completely outwith their control could nobble their app, for example, Google desktop stopping Demigod from launching. I say "for example" since that's the example given in the article that you didn't bother to read.

      • Ok, but what's the downside? Computers are complex, and if a customer can't use a program for whatever reason they should be entitled to get their money back. That's how it works for other products, I don't see what makes software special enough that the same rules shouldn't apply.

      • Maybe if you read the fine article before jerking one off, you'd be able to answer your own question.

        On a PC, the vendor can't control the environment in which their software is run. Something else on the machine completely outwith their control could nobble their app, for example, Google desktop stopping Demigod from launching. I say "for example" since that's the example given in the article that you didn't bother to read.

        That's fine. I wouldn't expect a refund in such a case.

        But what about all the assorted bugs that wind up being the developer's own fault?

        I remember some Myst sequel that absolutely refused to run on my computer because my optical drive was labeled M: instead of D: or E: The developer acknowledged the issue and made a patch available shortly. But it sure seems to me like they shipped a broken product.

    • Piracy. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384)

      What exactly is the downside to forcing a company to give refunds for the broken merchandise that it sells?

      Well, the industry would say piracy. I might buy Call of Duty, then, said it was "broken", and returned it. Granted, this should be the norm, but the industry would see things differently. This is why the shareware model is nice. You can see if the game actually works before you pay for it.

      • Isn't that one of the purposes of demos? Of course, when games like Modern Warfare 2 start being released without demos, something is wrong.

        • Uh... then refuse to buy without try? I made it a policy for me if there's no demo, it's not worth my money. If they're not convinced the game could interest me past its demo stage, if they fear that hour or two I could play a demo will be "enough" for me, it's certainly not worth spending 60+ bucks because the game probably won't give me more entertainment than this hour or two.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ephemeriis (315124)

          Isn't that one of the purposes of demos? Of course, when games like Modern Warfare 2 start being released without demos, something is wrong.

          It's been a long time since I relied on a demo to give me a good feeling for the game.

          Many developers/publishers never release a demo of any kind.

          And the demos that do get released are frequently not representative of the finished product. They'll focus on a single map or level that's been polished to perfection... But the final release will be full of bugs and issues. Or there'll be artificial limitations in the demo that keeps you from trying out key elements of the finished product.

          The last game tha

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Higher price? Or what else do you think would change?

      What will happen? Well, as any programmer will tell you, it is virtually impossible to create error free software given the time frames that you're given to develop in. Sure, gimme twice the people and 5 times the time and we're talking. That results in about ten times the cost. Want to pay 500 bucks for a game? Didn't think so.

      So what will happen? Software will go the same way every other merchandize went. Its price will go up by about 10% and the qualit

    • by liquiddark (719647) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @11:34AM (#30458180)
      The downside of doing this to game companies is that when you raise the financial risk involved you stifle providers' ability to innovate. You personally might prefer software that works to software that does something interesting, but I don't think everyone holds that opinion. It is far more important to me that a game do something really interesting than that it work perfectly in every configuration, even my own.
  • by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:52AM (#30455236)

    "Cars, TVs, and telephones are all expected to work, and they are full of software. Why not standalone software?"

    What's the definition of work anyways? Most products sold nowadays suck. I just got rid of a laundry machine that was 40 years old. I'll be lucky if the new one lasts 1/4th as long. I bought a LCD monitor that worked until the 1 year warranty was up. My cellphone functions, but its software is crummy and buggy. It even freezes up sometimes. (No, it isn't a smartphone.)

    Software is more like writing a book. Some books are written with superior quality "code." The "computer" reads that code, and depending on how well that code was written, the "computer" can read it more quickly and determine the proper function faster. (In this case, correctly interpreting the knowledge inside the book.) Some books are total shit. For example, just about every book that's used in education. Especially ones written by professors. They don't "work."

    I do have one sentiment. I absolutely think that games should be returnable. But that's from an idealistic standpoint. I fully understand many, many people are going to play the game all the way through then return it to Wally World.

    • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:27AM (#30455786) Homepage Journal

      What we're looking at here is offshoring a lot of highly specialized work to essentially shops in the third world that have not the same level of expertise, and we get crap at a cheaper price. We compete in the west not by improving the quality, but, by making things cheaper themselves. So, we have less testing, less documentation, just code and ship and little for iterative development. Plus, we have more corporate style methodologies that reward the schedule more than the product. Pretty much, if you build stuff stupid, you get stupid stuff.

      Maybe there will be a shakeout where we realize that consumer IT is much more demanding than corporate IT is, and that methodologies that work fine for corporate clients, like Agile / SCRUM, or Waterfall, don't really apply so much to consumer products. A consumer product is done when it is done.

      • by rhsanborn (773855)
        I think we're more likely seeing the industry maturing. Yes, software is complex, and there will be bugs. But I think we're seeing software manufacturing becoming more of a mass produced product than a boutique industry. In the boutique world there are limited customers and reputation is key. Further, most of the developers had some pride in what they were distributing and usually wouldn't distribute software with major bugs. Now, we're seeing the industry become more like manufacturing where timeframes and
      • A consumer product is done when it is done.

        Ohhhhh now. As anyone who ever worked in production can tell you, a consumer product is done when beancounters or marketing say it's done. Not when it's done. I doubt you will find many developers who actually ever got enough time to actually release a product when it was "done".

        • by tjstork (137384)

          Ohhhhh now. As anyone who ever worked in production can tell you, a consumer product is done when beancounters or marketing say it's done.

          the difference is between projects that cost $100,000 versus those that cost $1,000,000. All that $900,000 of stuff actually tends to give you the deeper q/a bench and everything else.

          To wit, you would expect a multimillion dollar game like Madden Football to actually work, but not necessarily a cheaper knock off football. Sure, both may be superficially similar, but th

    • You comment on software all the way through, and then talk only about games when you mention returns. Similarly, the summary has Tenenbaum talking about software but Kuneva talking only about games. What makes games special? Why should they be held to a higher standard than drivers, IDEs, spreadsheets, etc?

    • Cars from 40 years ago did sux. They used more fuel to do less with bad performance and had little in terms of safety fetures. And don't get me started about cell phones from 40 years ago...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rolando2424 (1096299)

      For example, just about every book that's used in education. Especially ones written by professors. They don't "work."

      I know this is probably off-topic, but I must ask, as a young student, why do say that?

      Is it because they are usually expensive and required to a course (that's taught by the professor who wrote it)? Because they may be hard to follow? Or is there another reason?

      Although I'm forced to say that I only had one teacher ask us to buy books/notes wrote by him. I do have one that give us the book (for both courses he taught) for free (it was my physics teacher, he really likes open-source I guess :)). Although th

    • Well, here in the EU at least you would be entitled to refunds for both your LCD monitor and cellphone regardless of warranty as all goods are required to be sold as "fit for purpose" [berr.gov.uk]. Clearly neither of these products functioned to reasonable expectations and you would just return them to the store you bought them from.

      On top of that, my statutory rights also allow me to return any product (working or not) within 7 days [oft.gov.uk] if they are bought "sight unseen", i.e. over the Internet.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:57AM (#30455256) Homepage Journal

    AST:

    'I think the idea that commercial software be judged by the same standards as other commercial products is not so crazy,' he says. 'Cars, TVs, and telephones are all expected to work, and they are full of software. Why not standalone software? I think such legislation would put software makers under pressure to first make sure their software works, then worry about more bells and whistles.'"

    Next he will be claiming that it is safer to use a properly modular operating system.

  • I think the vendors that constantly have buggy initial releases are the same consistently.

    EA? I expect a buggy release or a release that doesn't run well or at all.

    Blizzard? Mostly ships pretty functional games or expansions these days. Blizzard has enough money and enough of a following that they don't have to shove software out before it's ready. Their recent betas seem to have fewer bugs than other studios' releases.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      EA has enough money too.

      The difference is that EA throws their money at acquiring competitors, and then spends as little as possible making sequels. The bad sequels eventually kill the brand name of the title, but not before they rake in massive profits.

      10 Acquire company with solid title
      20 Sell crappy sequels, earning major profits off the soon-to-be tarnished brand name of that title.
      30 Goto 10
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the vendors that constantly have buggy initial releases are the same consistently.

      EA? I expect a buggy release or a release that doesn't run well or at all.

      Blizzard? Mostly ships pretty functional games or expansions these days. Blizzard has enough money and enough of a following that they don't have to shove software out before it's ready. Their recent betas seem to have fewer bugs than other studios' releases.

      Blizzard?!? They haven't shipped a game in nearly 5 years! ...and WoW was patched near constantly for the first year of its life.
      Expansions, maybe - but games? It's been a long time!

    • Blizzard's course is pretty ingenious when you think of it. They set a release date that they won't hold. Probably even deliberately. They will continue to spin the game and you will have people get all hyped up about further release dates. They release trailers and teasers and maybe even a demo or two where you can play a level. Then long nothing while the boards overflow with anxiously expecting customers. Every time the interest dwindles a bit a new press release, a new release date or a new demo is rele

  • Yes and No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bjourne (1034822)

    Laws that would force software producers to run proper QA testing is a stupid idea. If you deal with software, you learn after a while that "working software" is a sliding scale. It is unrealistic to expect any modern software to be completely bug free, similar to how you had to accept a small number of dead pixels on cheap LCD screens. On the other hand, many modern phones are released with OS:es that crash during calls (*cough* iphone *cough*) which I think is totally unacceptable.

    • by MORB (793798)

      While it is unrealistic to expect things to be bug free, most game developers have a lot to learn about quality and good development practices. You'd be surprised of how incompetent some game developers can be and how many sane coding practices they routinely sacrifice on the altar of premature optimization. Factor in time pressure encouraging the usage of quick and dirty solutions as well as often a lack of proper testing coverage across enough different hardware/OS configurations and you have a recipe for

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      You know what's "stupid"? Making ridiculous strawman arguments. Quote anything in the article that suggests "laws that would force software producers to run proper QA testing". Go on. I'll wait while you find someone to read it to you.

  • by IBBoard (1128019) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:07AM (#30455306) Homepage

    Isn't there a bit of a difference there between the examples (TVs, DVD players, etc) and PC software? Everything else is a self-contained unit with no dependencies on anything else or (in the case of DVD players) accepts things that are within tight tollerances (and if your disk isn't, then it'll skip, but that's the disk's fault).

    Software, on the other hand, has no control over the environment that it is put in (unless it is an OS X app, which is somewhat consistent), with huge permutations of other software, hardware components, and dodgy background processes, plus user fiddling. It isn't quite as easy to get things flawless in that situation (although some companies can improve on what they do now).

    Also, how will this relate to OSS? Will I never release a final version of my app because I can't afford the liability and so it'll always be in beta because there could be bugs left?

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      What liability is that?

      You sell game for $X to N users, but it doesnt work for C users, so your GROSS is $X * (N - C)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IBBoard (1128019)

        The legal liability of producing an "inferior or incomplete product". The summary says about "legal and ethical issues", which are irrespective of price. If they bring in legislation to say that "all software must be held to identical standards to stand-alone equipment, despite the fact that software operates in a completely uncontrolled and not entirely forseeable environment" then OSS could well be caught within the same net and be royally screwed in all nations that implement the law.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:09AM (#30455314)

    It's not just games: most consumer electronics nowadays are a mix of software and hardware and often enough it's the software part that is released unfinished (read: buggy).

    Software on non-life-critical applications has been given a free ride for two long - if it's not acceptable that a DVD player refuses to start at odd moments or randomly stops working, why would the same be acceptable in a computer game (which is just another for of entertainment) or an OS?

    As somebody working in IT, who has worked in the industry in both IT Services and IT Products, I've seen again and again the main behaviours that lead to buggy software releases:
    a) No real software development process resulting in unpredictability with regards to the real finish date.
    b) Bad requirements definitions, stuffed with incomplete, inconsistent and unclear "desires", with way too much time wasted in "would be nice" requirements leading to last minute requirements changes as people discover the missing/bad bits.
    c) Little or no real testing, mostly done by amateurs (or worse, developers).
    d) Hard deadlines set by sales and marketing which, coupled with the points above, results in releases of unfinished products.

    The reason why this happen is very simple: companies can get away with this, so management (from top to bottom) can get away with being disorganized, unstructured, "shoot-from-the-hip" cowboy-like, non-proactive and outright incompetent.

    (yes, I AM sour about this)

    Funny enough, buyers of software products and services are so used to be royally done by the industry that some of the worst offenders in this space are actually the larger IT companies, not the smaller ones: in a playing field were buyers expected and valued quality in software, the higher-quality companies would outcompete and outgrow the low-quality ones, and yet what we see is the opposite.

    • if it's not acceptable that a DVD player refuses to start at odd moments or randomly stops working, why would the same be acceptable in [...] an OS?

      How do you define "Fitness for its purpose" when the purpose is defined differently by each individual user? That's both the power and challenge of software: it can do anything. General-purpose OSes are meant to let you do anything.

      They're also big enough (i.e. consisting of a large number of interacting components) that if you want to define exactly what users can and can't expect (and can/can't do), you'll end up with either an insanely long list, or overly broad items on that list.

      Either "No warranty u

    • A DVD player should work all the time. As a manufacturer, you have total control over the system (both software and hardware).

      The issue with "pure" software is you really don't know what it is going to be running on. For a PC, there are millions of potential hardware and software configurations. Most of these combos behave the same (to the program), but not always. It is literally impossible to test all configurations.

  • 1- First difference between software that turns on my PC, and software in my dishwasher: in one case, the manufacturer controls everything, in another, the software runs in an unknown, possibly weird/tricky/otherwise buggy platform. Unless you're Apple, and Apple definitely should offer the same warranty as dishwashers.

    2- Second difference: if my dishwasher's software craps out, my whole dishwasher craps out. If my PC software is broken, only that specific piece (hopefully) won't work. So whatever warranty

  • AST (Score:5, Informative)

    by yanyan (302849) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:22AM (#30455384)

    So Andy Tanenbaum is now a mere "tech expert"? That's a big step down from "CS god."

    For the uninformed, ast wrote a kinda good book on operating systems called "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation." I believe this one guy from Finland wrote an OS called Linux based on another OS called Minix discussed in that book (and even got into the flamefest of the century with the Finnish guy!). And then there's a bunch of other stuff you may or may not know about, such as the Amoeba distributed OS, a free anonymous p2p network called Turtle, and probably a few other knick-knacks along the way.

    Seriously, give the Man due credit.

  • Mr Tanenbaum, as I have told you in an email, modern CPUs lack any hardware support for modules within a process! that's a major flaw that does not allow for proper isolation of modules within a process.

    You said that "it will be a hard sell to hardware manufacturers" when I proposed you to promote this idea. But it's so easy to make! the hardware extensions required for modules within a process are minimal - mostly extensions to page tables; existing software needs not be modified!

    Of course, this is not a p

  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker@gnuUMLAUT.org minus punct> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:35AM (#30455444) Homepage

    Have any of you played Guitar Hero 3 for the Wii?

    It's a fairly simple game, right? You have an .mp3 file, and paired with it you have a file containing a list of tuples (time, subset of buttons {1,2,3,4,5}), then you "play back" those two files simultaneously and see if the users strums while holding down the correct subsets within some well-defined window of time.

    You can put the game in a "broken" state (requiring you to back out to the main menu); I don't recall exactly how, but I think it's when you, from practice mode, change the practice speed, you get dumped back to a dysfunctional practice mode screen.

    If you tell the game your monitor (TV) has a certain delay, when you practice at less than 1x regular speed, apparently the game thinks it should not just scale the time differences in the list-of-subsets file but also that your monitor takes longer time to show pictures. Morons.

    And the menu structure is big, menu items are inconsistently named, and the structure itself is poorly aligned with what people want to do. Bad usability. Example: I want to give up on a song, so I choose quit; "Do you really want to quit; unsaved progress will be lost?" (wtf, there's no way to actually save progress...). Well, "Yes I want to quit". "Ok, where do you want to quit to? Main menu, song list, or retry this song?" What??? If I wanted to retry the song, I would have selected the "retry song" menu item. The only reason having a choice here is good is because it takes so unbearably long to navigate from the song list to the main menu.

    And couldn't they have added an option to compensate for broken TVs which not only have picture lag, but have slightly desynchronized audio and picture? Would that really have been too hard? (Well, apparently...)

    For such a brilliantly designed game play, the implementation (and the design of the things that go around the game play) is unbelievably crappy. I'm seriously doubting whether they tested it.

    (And what was that thing about shipping discs with mono audio?)

    Seriously, avoid GH3/Wii. If you must show off by completing (or FC'ing) TTFAF on expert, do it some other platform. It's for your own good.

  • It's a total shame that, in this day and age, and after millions of hours spent by academics on programming languages, to use a language like C or C++ for games or desktop apps that require performance.

    Yes, I know, I have told this many times on /., and the standard answer is "it's the programmer, stupid". Well, it may be so, but writing bug free software requires god programmers. If there were better system programming languages, programmers would not need to be gods.

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Let me see if I can translate your post:

      "C and C++ are the root of all EVIL! Bad programmers are not stupid or incompetent, it's just impossible to write good software, especially when using (EVIL!) languages like C and C++. Software companies have never hired incompentent programmers because they are cheap; all programmers everywhere are as good as they can ever be. There has never, ever, (EVAH!) been a piece of software which is bug free, or at least close to it. Bug free software is impossible. And

  • Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases

    Is Windows "doomed" to have buggy releases?
    Is Ubuntu or any other Linux distro doomed to have buggy releases?

    Inasmuch as Windows, at least, has ALWAYS had buggy releases, I guess that means the answer to the question in the title is "Yes, Virginia."

    But seriously, since when has any of the above been considered truly mission critical, in the sense that it MUST work exactly as expected from its very first execution in the field? I think somebody has some pretty

  • by stikves (127823) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @07:23AM (#30455760) Homepage

    The quality of the code is a function of its cost, too.

    For example, the code written for NASA hardware (i.e.: space shuttles), have more documentation than the size of the hardware itself (so, we're looking at a large pile of documents next to the shuttle). It's tested for years, it only works on tested CPUs (i.e.: 20 years old proven 8086s), and the actual "waterfall" method (which is generally a disaster for any other project) is properly applied.

    That total brings the cost of each source code line to average $1000. (Same for medical appliances, etc).

    The cost of a commercial off the shelf software is much (much much) less than $100.

    But, even under such strict control, we had to debug the Mars rovers due to unforeseen bugs during their initial flight.

    Anybody here on Slashdot can do the math, and fill in the gaps to calculate the future price of games (for a reference they are $60/unit now).

    • nowadays, most of the cost of developing a game is the art. of course, you need programmers and when they screw up, it's usually a bigger problem than a broken texture, but there are tons more artists than coders on the credits in major titles - and that's what you mostly pay for.

      your point still stands, though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pjt33 (739471)

      For example, the code written for NASA hardware (i.e.: space shuttles), have more documentation than the size of the hardware itself (so, we're looking at a large pile of documents next to the shuttle). It's tested for years, it only works on tested CPUs (i.e.: 20 years old proven 8086s), and the actual "waterfall" method (which is generally a disaster for any other project) is properly applied.

      That's the version NASA puts out, anyway. I know someone who's worked on the shuttle's backup software and tells rather a different story. Code written in 1970s, documentation written in 1980s; when the coders updated the code they would tell the documenters about it, but it was pretty informal; documentation converted from typewriter output to one electronic format without careful checking (introducing errors in guidance formulae which weren't noticed for 15 years, dropping footnotes, etc); then outsourced

  • I don't know what is the truth, but heres my humble opinion:

    Any program, except the most simple one, has bugs. The ones that haven proven matematically that have zero bugs, are both the judge and the plaintiff.

    On commercial software, the target is to solve problems quick. A quick and cheaper solution now, is better than the theorical perfect solution that can come in 4 years, but not so, because it never delivered, and is unusable anyway.

    In mathemathics and science.. it may make sense to create stuff that i

  • No. Half-assed, rushed-to-release games are doomed to have buggy releases, regardless of complexity.

    And now that all the damn consoles have net access and non-volatile secondary storage, it's not unreasonable to expect that they'd find some way to fuck up Tetris at launch.

  • I remember reading an article by a company which developed a racing game for XBox360 (i don't remember the company, nor the title of the game). They said that Microsoft pressured them to release the game 6 weeks early and finish it later via patches

    The best programmers can make mistakes, shure, but when you start deliberately selling betas and turning them into final versions later, just so you can cash up earlier, at the expense of the customers satisfaction, that goes too far, imho.
  • by Tom (822)

    And I speak as someone who makes games as a hobby. The poor indie developer who is always cited as being pushed out of the market by legislation.

    But frankly, it's the big companies that make the profits from this non-existing consumer protection. It's more than high time to change that. I want to buy software and be sure that it works. Sure, it still may not be a great game. And it would be overkill to not allow for some bugs. But there've been several cases of games shipping that couldn't even run without

  • All software has bugs. It's just a matter of how serious they are. The Showstoppers. The question shouldn't be Will there be bug-free software, but whether or not developers can reduce the severity of bugs to a tolerable level. And most game companies think they've done that--until they're caught with their pants down.

    * The internet has allowed game companies to use (and even expect) the public to do the debug/beta testing work that they used to pay for and what used to push out release times.

    * A release lo

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