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Bug Games

Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases? 362

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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  • Mass (D)Effect (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Mystery00 ( 1100379 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @05:59AM (#30455264)
    I bought Mass Effect only to find out that the game simply does not run. My computer is as close to flawless as it could possibly get, it's been running for years and has successfully played many games with many different engines, I have done workarounds for crashes and bugs and all sorts of things, it's a tried and true PC.

    This is the first game that just does not run, at all, it starts, crashes or gives a blue screen and that's that. Sometimes it even attempts to break my video card and causes after-effects until a couple more restarts, basically it acts as bad as a virus. I paid $50 for this crap.

    There are many, many companies that do not have these problems. They create good engines, good software that works. They test it thoroughly and deliver a working product. And while some issues do persist, I've never seen a game that simply blue screens while trying to start.

    There has to be a clear line between selling software that might include a few scripting bugs, maybe a crash every 5 hours if you're unlucky, or problems that come from user error and badly setup PCs and games like Mass Effect which either work or don't, flip a coin and hope for the best.

    Damn right I would want the law involved, this is a defective title but I can't do anything about it except trying it on some future computer and hoping that ME finds it satisfactory for whatever reason.
  • by jonaskoelker ( 922170 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:35AM (#30455444)

    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.

  • 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.

  • by jonaskoelker ( 922170 ) <> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:44AM (#30455500)

    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 unless file C:\etc\blah matches this context-sensitive grammar" (repeat 1e6 times over for different files) or "No warranty if the user tinkers with C:\Windows".

    Also, what if you get hit by malware which does something that would void the warranty if you did it yourself, and then the malware deletes itself?

    Defining Acceptable User Behaviour and Acceptable Software Behaviour is going to be arduous. What would be gained?

    Would people refund Windows and replace it with... a different-but-just-as-broken OS? A different-and-less-broken-but-still-broken OS? Or an OS that doesn't do anything? It's not like there are per-unit software manufacturing defects...

  • 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).

  • by kiehlster ( 844523 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:26AM (#30456620) Homepage
    No, I think a better analogy would be wanting a refund for a car because the transmission frequency used to start your keyless car has been jammed by your non-FCC compliant wireless phone system.
  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @09:43AM (#30456792)

    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 conversion from that to Word, introducing more errors and messing up lots of diagrams; documentation with long chains of Boolean expressions containing no bracketing; ...

  • Re:Piracy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @10:39AM (#30457362)

    Sometimes it's even the other way round. In the case of Arma2 [] (an example I know of, there might be others), the demo has a number of problems that have been long since fixed in the final game. It does show what the game is like but certainly not how it handles.

    They should update it but apparently haven't gotten around to doing it (small company and limited resources apparently).

    First impressions can be damning.

    I recently picked up S.T.A.L.K.E.R. [] on Steam when it was on sale for just $5. I'd been wanting to play that game for a while, but had been avoiding it because of how buggy it was.

    This impression - that the game was terribly buggy - came from leaks and early reviews. I had been given the impression that the game was borderline-unplayable. And while I did run into a few issues, that is no longer the case. I had a great time playing through that game.

    If I had known that the game was genuinely playable I probably would have paid more than $5 for it.

  • by Logical Zebra ( 1423045 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:00PM (#30458624)

    No one runs a game with no software other than the OS installed.

    A lot of people do this all the time. It's called a console.

    Yup. And one of the major reasons I hear all the time for people preferring a console, over a PC for gaming, is that things generally work. Sure, some glitches and bugs here and there... But normally you can expect to buy a game at the store, throw it in your console, and play the thing without too many issues.

    That's the way it should be, and it's why I prefer console games. (Consoles are generally cheaper than gaming PCs, too, but I digress.) Unfortunately, that didn't stop Bethesda from releasing DLC for Fallout 3 that was so buggy the game was essentially broken. Out of 5 of the DLCs released for Fallout 3, only two (2) played without bugs: The Pitt and Operation Anchorage. The other DLCs ranged from occasional crashes (Mothership Zeta) to constant freezing that made the DLC impossible to play (Point Lookout and Broken Steel).

    I should be able to get a refund for those last two, since I was not able to play them at all.

  • by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @12:07PM (#30458728) Journal

    I guess I don't understand your problem. Are you on a crusade to purge the world of the evils of crappy games?

    we're powerless to stop the trend of pushing betas onto us

    Nobody pushes betas onto me! According to you, they don't push betas onto you either! Sure, they push betas onto other stupid people, but where's the problem?
    You and I may never purchase a game again, just like neither of us would buy a tiger repellent rock. I guess I don't understand where your outrage comes from.
    Throughout history there have always been suckers. 2000 years ago the Greeks were writing about suckers buying worthless things. Now we as humans have advanced (somewhat, but not entirely) from oracles, prophecies, and "cures" to broken video games and knock-off hardware.
    "Caveat emptor" has been around for a long, long, LONG TIME! "There's a sucker borne every minute" not quite so long, but still a long time.
    I don't share your outrage, since it's obvious that this is just the same thing that's been done for thousands of years. Either you're a sucker, or you're not. It seems like you and I are in the "not" boat. I just don't assume that I can prevent suckers from being suckered. Thousands of years of human history proves otherwise. If they're not getting suckered into buying crap video games, it will be something else. Four hundred plus years ago, it was:

    A foole and his money be soone at debate: which after with sorow repents him too late.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.