Why Haven’t They Fixed This Bug?

Why They Haven’t Fixed Your Bug Yet

And, Why You’re A Moron For Asking

How can they worry about adding three new hats when the server crashes every week???” answered!

OK, crybabies. Listen up.

On every MMORPG related board, I constantly see the following:

Developer: And in the 1.0.4.12 patch, we’ll be adding new hats.

Clueless, Spoiled Brats: Waaaah! You’re not fixing My Important Issues! How can you add hats when there’s server crashes!

Or, sometimes:

Developer: We implemented several fixes to the memory leaks that occur whenever four or more half-orcs are in the Marshes Of Gloom on a Tuesday and the Silver Cuttlefish spawns in the north half of the map.

Whiny Git: Waaaah! When I run the game on my overclocked Commodore-64 using a third-party software emulator from Thailand over my 14.4 K modem, I still only get 87 FPS!

Whiny Git2: I never go to that zone! Stop pandering to the WOW players and fix bugs *I* care about!

And so on.

This helpful little essay will explain why the amazingly important issues you have aren’t being fixed on your schedule.

First, MMORPGs are composed of teams. Teams rarely have overlapping functions, and their skills are not fungible. The 3-D modelers making new hats can’t stop what they’re doing and debug server optimization code. This applies across all aspects of development. Even with coding, someone working on the quest engine isn’t going to fix display glitches. Someone responsible for UI responsiveness can’t help solve memory leaks. In general, even if it’s possible to retrain someone, it’s a waste of time to do so — they’re much more useful doing what they were hired to do.

Second, you can’t easily “hire more programmers!” Most importantly, there’s a huge learning curve — it can take weeks or months to get even a very skilled programmer up to speed on the existing code base. Also, you cannot simply throw resources at a problem. There’s a point at which more programmers equals slower bug fixes as they quite literally get in each other’s way. (And every new hire increases total overhead, which means more HR and support costs, which means less money for other things…)

Third, not all bugs are of equal difficulty. If a patch list is filled with “In the Quest ‘Seven Diamonds For Seven Ogres’, we fixed the timer so that it’s now possible to complete the run”, do not whine “Waah! How can they fix this when there’s still crashes whenever someone walks backwards while executing the /juggle emote and it’s a Tuesday?” It’s because quest issues (and many similar bugs) can usually be fixed by editing a database, something which can be accomplished quickly, tested quickly, and performed by relatively junior team members with only minimal oversight and QA — while server and memory bugs are often insanely complicated, need extensive regression testing, and take the ‘best and brightest’. If you can assign one junior programmer to clean out three dozen quest bugs in a patch cycle, or have him be basically useless while more experienced programmers do all the real work, what would you do? There’s no reason not to clean up the little bugs while the big ones are being worked on.

And that leads to the next point: There’s more going on than is revealed in patch notes. Development of new content, fixing of of old content, testing, and optimization, all occur continually. Just because the people who post the patch notes didn’t just copy the entire work schedule of the several hundred people on the staff doesn’t mean these things aren’t happening.

“Everyone knows X is broken! Why don’t they fix it?”

Well, first, “everyone” doesn’t know it. YOU may PERCEIVE it, but that doesn’t make it so. The folks on the other end of the screen have access to a lot of data you don’t, aggregates across all servers and levels, and so on. Your perceptions of brokenness may be false. Second, “fixing it” isn’t always simple — things are broken precisely because these games are hideously complex, and two things which look great on their own combine to form an unholy mess. Arbitrarily fixing one “broken” thing without looking at the ripple effects of that fix can just make things worse.

“Instead of nerfing my grossly overpowered class, why not just buff everyone else!”

If you ask that, frankly, you’re a moron. The answer, not that you’re smart enough to understand it, is that changing one thing, with all of its attendant side effects, is easier than changing a dozen, or more, things, with all of their attendant side effects. Suck it down, nerf boy.

“The customer is always right!”

No, the customer is usually an idiot who has no clue.

“They said four years before the game was released that we’d be able to eat our enemies’ spleens! Why can’t I do that now?”

Here is how game development works:

a)A bunch of developers toss out a lot of things they think might be cool.

b)Someone from marketing sticks his head in, and says, “We have to start hyping this! What’s cool about it?”

c)They toss him the list and hope he goes away. He feeds the list to the press.

d)Over the course of years, each idea on the list is evaluated for practicality, fun, and so on. One by one, they fall into “Not for release” or “Not ever”. Meanwhile, the initial PR is flying all over the net, preserved forever by rabid fanboys who have dedicated their entire existence to a game they have never seen and which might never come out.

e)Eventually, the game ships, and people start wailing about how they were “lied” to. Then they glom on to some other barely-announced game and repeat the cycle.

“Console games don’t have this many bugs!”

Console games are attacking a much, much, smaller design space. Consoles do not have uncounted variations in hardware and drivers. Consoles do not have multiple processes running concurrently. Console games, in general, are far, far, simpler than PC games.

“They shouldn’t release the game until it’s done!”

There is no “done” in games like this. Nor is there bug-free. You release when the game is playable, or you do not release at all. For one thing, many bugs, especially balance issues or server issues, simply do not show up until there’s 200 thousand people playing for an extended period — and you cannot have an extended open beta for that many people, the cost is simply too much. In most cases, games are kept in development until the order comes down: Ship something, or look for new jobs. That’s the fact, and there’s really no hope of it changing any time soon.


Addendum And Shameless Plug: Yes, yes, you’ve come to tell me how I’m a lame fanboy making excuses for SWTOR (and also a psychic, since I wrote this long before the game was announced), but there is other content on the site, all equally worthy of being told how lame it is and how dumb I am for writing it. Two things of particular interest to folks following links to here are Grammar For Gamers, which is the page I always thought would be widely linked to, which shows why you should never listen to me pick stocks or racehorses, and The Name Of His Wife, a piece of short fiction about the hard life of an NPC.

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134 Responses to Why Haven’t They Fixed This Bug?

  1. Turelus says:

    A really great article, I wish more people could read and understand this.
    I’ve been playing SWTOR since its release and the forums are pretty much a mess of these kinds of topics which end up bumping the actually useful or interesting ones to the second or third page in seconds.

    • bluebooger says:

      its not a great article
      its a stupid article
      SWTOR cost almost 1/4 BILLION to make and it still released with tons of bugs, and the current PvP bug (and their fix) is a total joke

      maybe if they had spent more of that money on QA and good testing instead of voice acting then the game would have been better

      hell, Warhammer Online STILL has Public Quests that can’t be completed, and this is 3 years after release;
      do you know how freaking frustrating it is to spend 15 minutes on a quest, complete stage 1, complete stage 2 and them find out it is IMPOSSIBLE to complete stage 3 ?
      for 3 years !

      and yet the War devs have plenty of time to make stupid holiday hats

      face it, devs don’t fix bugs because its hard;
      its much easier to make hats

      • Lizard says:

        I wasn’t going to approve this, not because I fear criticism, but because I loathe stupidity, but I did approve it because some people, perhaps those who have never befouled themselves on the sewers of MMO comment boards (especially the vile pit known as MMORPG.com, a place I visit whenever I find my cynicism and misanthropy (that means “I’m a big meany who’s always hatin’ on peeps”, for those of you who have had an American public school education) start to wane (that means “to reduce” or “to grow smaller”, not “Batman’s secret identity”)), might not understand the true depths of ignorance (shallows of ignorance?) this article was written to address. (Basically, I got tired of writing the same thing over and over on message boards, so I figured I’d write it once and link back to it.)

        Witness, the above. Exhibit A for the offended. Having just read an article pointing out that, no, the devs DON’T make the hats, he still insists they DO, and says it’s a “stupid” article because it attempts to direct his nerdrage in the proper direction. (He is right, in one sense — it *is* stupid to waste time and effort on idiots.[1] “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.” (Heinlein). However, I never claimed to be smart. (Well, that’s a lie, but I didn’t believe it when I claimed it, so there’s that — I’m a liar and a hypocrite, and you can quote me on that, if you’ll take the word of a liar and a hypocrite.)

        I am not saying there are no incompetent programmers or design teams, or that companies do not make poor decisions about allocating resources, or that companies don’t take on tasks they don’t have the skill or manpower to accomplish. I’m saying that when the incompetent mouthbreathing morons who couldn’t program “Hello World” in Applesoft BASIC have to fix the bugs that only exist due to their being stupid dumb stupidheads (I am trying to write to the level of my audience, here, please forgive me), they STILL have to prioritize them, and there’s STILL some bugs that are slightly less stupid (and thus easier to fix) than others, and there’s STILL no way you’re going to get the artists, modelers, and quest designers to work on interface and performance issues, and there’s inevitably going to be some issues which, no matter how much the public demands them or how much sense they would make, are going to be nigh-intractable (that means, “really, really, hard, like, even harder than Algebra I taught by mean ol’ Mr. Podowsky who never gives you a break”) due to design decisions made early on in the development process. (These might have been very stupid decisions to make. You know what? That doesn’t change the fact they were made and can’t be unmade and all the whining in the world won’t let you go back in time four years to tell them how stupid they were being when they made them, so save your effort for something useful and practical, like posting petitions to the White House to tell them to release information on aliens).

        Wow. That’s a lot of parenthetical asides, even for me. Adderall is seriously kicking in. (Yes, I have a prescription.)

        Point being, this article doesn’t address, in any way, how many bugs there might be in a program, how stupid the programmers were for making them, how they wasted their money during development, etc. It addresses what happens after the program is shipped and why, when patch notes come out, if they address “minor” bugs instead of “major” ones, it’s NOT because you failed to whine loudly enough. If addresses why the company’s marketing department will still be issuing press releases on new content even if the servers can’t stay up long enough for anyone to deal with the existing content. It does my misanthropy (see above for definition) good to realize that, despite the purpose of this article being self-evident and clearly spelled out, there are still many people so wrapped up in their own personal echo chamber and so determined to see only what they want to see that they somehow read this article as excusing the existence of bugs or claiming people shouldn’t make bug reports or, despite being written and published over two years ago, being entirely about SWTOR. Ah, humanity. If only I’d stuck to being a biochem major instead of switching to English Writing, I could, even now, be breeding a deadly plague to destroy you all. Sigh. What can a liberal arts major do? Write a treatise entitled “Death Rays And Phallic Symbolism In 1960s Apocalyptic Fiction”? (Hmm… that might be interesting….)

        [1]Counting down to someone thinking they’ll be oh-so-clever and reply, “Hur hur i wont waist tim an efurt on u hur hur”). Five… four… three….

        • archerator says:

          Lizard, you are officially the most awesome person I have ever heard of online.
          I don’t think I’ve ever seen an article written so exactly as I would have written it on the same subject.
          Awesome article!

        • Jeff says:

          Thank You. Not because I hate dealing with the same idiot mouthbreathing minors while I’m trying to enjoy a video game in what little time I have in my day to actually enjoy such time-demanding luxturios, but because you are right.

          Surely you understand that nothing you pointed out in your most excellent and concise “in plain English” article is capable of entering the minds of the very audience you’re trying to reach.

          I know you understand this because your reply to blueboger (with his infinite knowledge of project management, team structure, and budget strategies for a massive application development lifecycle) was so justifiably pointed out to him. For a brief second, he may have read that and for the first time in his/her life thought “wait, I might be wrong”.

          That being said, there’s always going to be whiney little (stupidheads) in this world, be it in an online MMO or the world outside of our computer monitors. By the time one could even bother to describe to them that:

          … making such an online experience possible requires not only programming experts, but network experts, database experts, 3D experts, project management experts, accounting experts, who believe it or not, may not necessarily be sitting in the same room together, and that somehow all of these servers, databases, routers, networks, offices, departments, people, plans, policies and policies have to be organized in a way that is manageable by regular human beings that don’t curl up in a ball when they have to deal with a constant onslaught of unexpected new things showing up during their regular work day which may or made not lead them to completely switch directions on what they are supposed to be working on…

          by the time the (stupidhead) bothers to read a legitimate response to what makes him so terribly upset that he has to go and publicly “freak out” about it to feel justified in not having anything better to do, he’s already gone 10 seconds without being self-centered and has Ctrl+T’ed a new tab to find another medium with which he/she can release whatever it is that makes them feel they really matter to anyone.

          Once again, Thank you for that.

          It’s awesome to watch someone get punched in the face with “right” every now in then. Especially when it’s written.

          • Mr.Ouija says:

            Yes yes, I’m a kid whiner and you’re obviously just as cool and cynical as the Doctor House himself. Get off your high horse man.
            I can’t speak for everyone, but many people are aware of how content actually is planned and released.
            What does that have to do with me? Why can’t I criticize their organization structure if it seems to be inefficient?
            Do you think games will still release like this in 15 years, or do you think that game dev’s would have evolved their structure and actually learned something from this?

            This post is not entirely stupid. It could actually have been a good, informative read if I didn’t have to read about what level of an asshole-whiny kid I am in every other sentence and parenthesis.

            So no, you’re not cool, you’re not Dr. House and I’m sorry for the people who think you are. You’re just like any other wise-ass forum jerk fanboi who lays down “knowledge” accompanied with insults.

            didn’t proof read what I read.

          • Lizard says:

            Darn, now what will I do with all this vicodin?

            PS: What “structure” should be changed? The part where the artists aren’t the ones debugging the server code, or the part where the teams developing new content aren’t the same as the people debugging existing content, or the part where not all issues require equivalent time or skill to fix? I’m eager to hear your suggestions for improvement.

            PPS: Personally, I like to think of myself as the Edmund Blackadder type. (Second season onward, that is.)

          • Mr.Ouija says:

            and by ‘read’, I mean ‘wrote’.

      • dcgregorya says:

        Defect count increases with cost, not decreases. If they spent half a billion instead of a quarter billion they’d have more issues not less.

        Generally, as with most software development, you have engineers/scientists who build the actual product and business people who market, finance and sell it.

        The former wants perfection and the latter needs things to ship on a schedule.

        It is what it is and you can mash your head against the wall but that’s how it works. If you had to go through formal user acceptance tests with an expected negligable defect rate these games would either become irrelevent or bankrupt long before release.

      • GreenBooger says:

        Your name is BlueBooger and you think his article is stupid? You must be living in a perpetual “Opposite Day” world. You sound like you have years of game programming experience, so I’ll just disregard everything that Lizard posted because it’s very obvious that your level of knowledge on the subject far surpasses his own. Oops, looks like I just joined you on Opposite World! :-)

        Great post Lizard! It all makes total sense now that you spelled it out. Thank you!

      • HRTS says:

        “The customer is always right!”

        No, the customer is usually an idiot who has no clue.

        ^Read this and then think about what you just wrote.

  2. Joe Smith says:

    I agree with pretty much every point made in this article, however, I think one of the key factors that is routinely missing in this development process is that the target users are often times kept completely out of the loop on whats being updated, bugs, nerfs, and in general progress. Many MMO dev teams now are going with the stoic silent approach and refusing to even give out anything more than letting their forum moderators hand out cryptic illuminations on the the updates and etc. I see this all to often now and as an individual who has played MMOs for over 10years when I am part of a community in which the dev team and the forum mods are are actually communicating the degree of progress and the hindrances I find that my self in a far more forgiving mood when they tell me sorry we couldn’t fit ‘x’ bug fixes into this update and content ‘y’ had to be removed for this update, will most likely be in the next one. To me that is forgivable because one they are taking input from the community. Two they are actually doing a good job of customer service. In my opinion maintaining a high degree of transparency with the community for an MMO can earn a development team and the company that they are employed by a lot of good will from that community.

    *These are just my opinions they are not facts nor should they be used as such.*

    • Lizard says:

      One reason companies talk in vague generalities is because speaking in specifics is a good way to put your foot in your mouth. About a quarter century ago, when I was young and foolish… well, younger and more foolish… I was working for KPMG, and one of the things we got taught was to NEVER give an unqualifed answer to a client. Never say, “It will be done in a week”, always say, “I estimate it will take a week based on the current situation.”

      The people who do the postings on boards are community contact people — not coders. As a programmer, if I tell someone, “This looks easy, it might take an hour”, and he goes off and posts, “This will be fixed in an hour!”, he’s setting himself up for serious hell, because a minute after I told him that, I might find out that it will take a week… and if goes and says, “Whoops, we meant a week!”, it doesn’t look good. “We’re working on it”, “We’re looking into it”, “We’ve got people on it”, “We have replicated the problem and are seeking a solution”… those are, really, the only safe or smart things to say, whether you write game software or banking software. I’ve often been dumped into the role of “angry client calmer downer” because, unlike most programmers, I can communicate with human beings (I don’t LIKE communicating with human beings, but I’m oddly GOOD at it — when I’m paid to be). You basically just keep repeating the same generalities and duck billed platitudes until they’re all raged out.

      Another problem is that no matter how many posts there on a message board telling the company that your hard drive is erased every time you hit the letter ‘Q’ and are executing a jump, they first have to get this verified in-house, which can take a few hours, and then figure out how many people are REALLY affected by it, which takes another few hours, then decide how to allocate resources, which takes another few hours… and there’s nothing the community people can do except say, “We’re waiting on this”, and the guys doing the testing and analysis don’t want to be the ones getting yelled at if they pass along information which turns out to be false. (You also have people “demanding an answer” to things that are utterly and completely made up — someone speculates on a random message board that the game’s source code contains code that remotely activates the gas chambers in animal shelters and kills kittens, and also uploads your genetic material to mad scientists making clone armies, and you’ll get a million screaming morons asking why no one is issuing an official statement denying it… and then, of course, refusing to believe any such statement, because of COURSE they’ll lie to cover up their kitten-killing/mutant army plot!)

      And, of course, the marketing people and PR people are always in the mix, desperate to rewrite everything, second-guess everything, and stick to their schedule of planned announcements no matter WHAT’S happening in the game. (“Can we call the hard drive problem a Utility For Increasing Free Space?”, they will ask the programmers. Then they’ll ignore the response and do what they want.)

      The bigger the business gets — and MMOs are now big buisness — the more there is stark and unreasoning terror of anything approaching honesty. “We fucked up, we’re sorry”, will get you applause from your fans… and a lawsuit from your shareholders. Admitting to an error, even one everyone already knows about, is unfortunately business suicide. I don’t want this seen as something I like or approve of — but it’s how the world is, and wishing it were otherwise won’t make it so.

  3. Matt says:

    Awesome article. You manage to explain clearly and concisely what I’ve tried to angrily sputter out at people my entire MMO-playing career. Bravo!

  4. Data says:

    Awesome rant. I wish more people would read it. Unfortunately, the type of person it’s aimed at has the attention span of a gnat and would never get past the first line: “OK, crybabies. Listen up.” They’re simply immune to reason and fact.

    • Lizard says:

      You either:
      a)Do not know what a strawman argument is.
      b)Have spent no time on MMORPG boards.
      c)All of the above.

      • Shady says:

        I wish I could say you were strawmanning. I wish I could say people in general are not as ignorant as you make them out to be, and I still can say that, but I would be lieing through my teeth.

        Lies!! We all know if Bioware stopped sitting around, lighting their cigars with 100 dollar bills, talking about which endangered species they recently mounted on their wall, they could fix all thier bugs inside an hour, FACT!!

        Then they would have time to stop discriminating against everyone who isn’t American with their chosen down time!

        Ughh the SWToR forums are horrible. I am considered a rather cynical and negative person and even I find reading those boards a chore. You want to see some strawmanning (I mean outside of my post), go there.

        The sad thing is I am only exaggerating a little.

        Loved the article. I really like how you manage to be ‘arrogant and obnoxious’ and self depracating and humble at the same time.

        As for Bluebooger he is either a moron who believes what he is saying, or he is a troll, in which case he is still a moron.

  5. Maud'dib says:

    Starting off by calling your readers crybabies? Yeah, that’ll sure grab their attention and get them to take your points seriously.

    Not.

    Enjoy the free ad revenue.

    • Lizard says:

      Ad what now? In 3 years, I haven’t made ten bucks, total, off this site. Not enough to get a single check cut for me, at any rate. I tossed the ads in because, hey, they might pay for a Big Mac. So far, they haven’t. As for my readers (plural? Whoa… that would be a switch!), I have to quote Frank Zappa:”The crux of the biscuit is: If it entertains you, fine. Enjoy it. If it doesn’t, then blow it out your ass. I do it to amuse myself. If I like it, I release it. If somebody else likes it, that’s a bonus. ”

      When I’m paid to write, I am greatly concerned with writing what is desired by my employer, to the best of my ability. This blog isn’t writing for other people; it’s writing for me. I write because, like most authors, I can’t NOT write.

      And if you think this piece is arrogant or obnoxious… wow… you should have seen what I was like on USENET 20 years ago. I’ve mellowed like you wouldn’t believe.

      • Lizard says:

        Hey, as it turns out, I’m a liar. (But you knew that, right?) I just checked Google AdSense, and, as it happens, I’ve made more than ten dollars from this site. Why, since 2006, I’ve made a total of (as of last night) THIRTY SIX dollars and some change. So, assuming the rate holds, in 12 more years, I’ll have broken 100 dollars and they’ll cut me a check! Yeah, my evil scheme to con people into giving me ad revenue by calling them idiots sure is working great! Yee hah!

  6. Dulee says:

    This is a good way of letting everyone know how things work. I’m glad someone finally took the time to write up something like this.

    But I dislike the way you’re putting down all of the customers who wine and complain.

    I don’t like listening to ignorant people cry either, it’s annoying, but personally I rather people wine and complain for answers than letting things go blindly. I’m glad this article is letting everyone know how things work, but obviously all this information isn’t common sense. So there’s bound to be ignorant people. They should be at least tolerated. Looking down on or insulting blind people doesn’t help than educating them, though you’re doing both here so.. whatever.

    At least you’re educating them, so I can tolerate the way you choose to do it. I just dislike those idiots who call ignorant people idiots without helping the cause or just ignoring it.

    • Lizard says:

      I wrote this back in 2007 or so, when I got really tired of writing the same thing on the WAR boards over and over. :) I’ve been active on the SWTOR boards and I’ve got a .sig link to it, so there’s a lot of traffic suddenly.

      In terms of tone… as I said in another reply, this is my personal space, where I’m not bound by the constraints I face when writing professionally. This gives me a chance to indulge. And, frankly, I think that the current generation has had too much coddling and too little time being told that there ARE stupid questions and that “Well, that’s just my opinion!” isn’t a get-out-of-criticism free card. I also must respectfully (and no, that’s not sarcastic — you wrote a coherent and well thought out post, and I respond to people with exactly as much courtesy as they give to me, the TRUE golden rule — Do Unto Others As They Do Unto You) disagree that my points aren’t common sense. They ARE, and that’s why I’m so fed up with people who are willfully, deliberately, ignorant. You don’t need Special Insider Knowledge of the game business to recognize that with a game that’s made by literally hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people, that not everyone is doing the same job. You don’t need to be a professional programmer to intuit that some tasks are more complex than others and take different amounts of time. You don’t need to know very much at all about computers to understand that a console game, which is targeted to one piece of fixed hardware, is much easier to code than a game for PCs with wildly varying mixes of processors, graphics cards, memory, and so on. This is precisely common sense — most of what I wrote applies, with minor variations, to any project or business which involves large numbers of people with specialized disciplines. To ask “Why are they adding new graphics when they don’t have the memory leaks fixed?” is like going into WalMart, walking to the butcher, and asking how the hell he can be chopping up meat when your car isn’t finished yet over in the automotive department.

      There’s a point at which people need to take responsibility for their own ignorance, and the first step in that direction is making them aware that they ARE ignorant and it’s their own damn fault. If you’re going to be passionate enough about a game to rant about it on a board, you should be passionate enough about it to understand how it’s made and why it is what it is.

      Of course, priorities can be poorly chosen and a game company can make very bad decisions about how to allocate resources, during development of the game and afterwards. That’s when you vote with your wallet. However, before you can rationally criticize such actions, you need to be able to group issues together in terms of categories and likely resources needed to accomplish them, so you can at least be discussing things that really are, or at least might be, in conflict in terms of allocation of the same resources. (“We can add three new hats, or three new boots.” “We can add new social emotes, or redo the animation on the ones we have.”, etc.)

  7. ArtemisXIII says:

    Shared to the SWTOR Reddit community – http://redd.it/oumrd

    I applaud the content of this blog entry, and its tone. Having the common sense and working brain to realize that we are the consumer, not the developer, is something that people conveniently forget for one reason or another.

    It’s my personal conspiracy theorist belief that Blizzard’s new business strategy is to feed their trolls so they become encouraged to rant at every game that isn’t launched with WoW’s 8-year development lifetime on day one. Eventually they get the community on board with their irrational impatience, and they all go back to that perfect WoW world that they want everything else to be… but don’t want to be patient for.

    I am also of the personal opinion that when an MMO is designed and developed, there may only be one or two voices to represent the “Get max level on day 3″ crowd. When these people cry out that end-game content is not there/broken/buggy – I have a very hard time feeling any shred of sympathy whatsoever. While there are always exceptions to every rule… I think most MMO developers really do want their customers to go to work, eat, sleep, shower and be social IRL.

    Hey look… that list is everything a Troll doesn’t do…

  8. Danny Internets says:

    Unabashed defense of incompetent software production? Good lord, this is like the fanboy bible. Prepare to be cross-linked ad nauseum on the SWTOR forums.

    • Lizard says:

      Woo hoo! My hit count might get to double digits this year!

      EDIT: It’s not a defense of incompetent software production. It’s an explanation of why the incompetents aren’t fixing all their mistakes the way the average whiny git thinks they should. There’s a difference.

      But, for the record, care to tell me which of the following points you dispute?

      a)MMOs are made by teams with different roles and specialties.
      b)Team skills are not fungible. (Hint: “Fungible” doesn’t mean “made from mushrooms”.)
      c)Fixing of bugs and development of new content occurs concurrently.
      d)Finite resources cannot be allocated infinitely. (Do the math! Really, it’s true! Finite e)Resources cannot be added without limit, and adding resources has diminishing returns.
      f)Some software issues are more complex than others, and, when allocating resources, fixing a dozen simple issues may be a wiser use of time than fixing one complex issue.
      g)Players do not have the same access to game-wide statistics that developers do, and, therefore, have a much more limited perspective on the true scope of problems or the actual underlying game mechanics. Or, in other words, “the plural of ‘waaah my class sucks now’ is not data”.
      h)It is not possible to develop an MMO to the point where it’s “bug free” prior to release, for a variety of reasons, some technical, some economic.

      I eagerly await your well-reasoned reply. (“Hur hur u r fanboi u sux hur hur”)

      • Packetdancer says:

        Team skills are not fungible. (Hint: “Fungible” doesn’t mean “made from mushrooms”.)

        Good thing, too, as those of us MMO players who are allergic to mushrooms would have a sad time of things.

    • dcgregorya says:

      No, for the most part this is what you would call people who understand software development talking about software development.

      Lizard aptly points out how litigious people tend to be and how real world software development doesn’t leave a lot of power in any individual’s hands. It’s a machine and it is that way because of the massive quantities of money and content involved.

  9. Shinbone says:

    Personally, I rather enjoyed this article. Found it after it was linked on the EVE Online subreddit btw.
    Referring to your comment that ,”“We fucked up, we’re sorry”, will get you applause from your fans… and a lawsuit from your shareholders. Admitting to an error, even one everyone already knows about, is unfortunately business suicide.” I’d like to link the following developer blog written by the CEO of CCP after a few bad decisions:
    While there, I recommend perusing some of the other dev blogs written since then as examples of how I feel developers should communicate to their playerbase.
    Also, yes I know EVE doesn’t have as many players as WoW or SWTOR, but their playerbase has been growing fairly consistently since they released EVE back in 2003.
    Just my 0.02ISK

    • Lizard says:

      It’s good to see at least one CEO being up-front… but also note that CCP is not a publicly held company. This gives them a lot more freedom to be honest.

  10. Jamie Matthews says:

    Some of your points are actually quiet off

    I work as a game developer for a UK based team, and i can tell you this is not how it works. Sure people sit around and gather ideas but ALOT of thought goes into making those ideas come to life, with planning, programming, testing etc. We do not just had out a list of ideas and go “make sure people know these things can happen in the game” as they might not, and that would be untruthful.

    Also, while you say people should not complain about bugs, i disagree, they should. I grant that MMO’s like this may never be bug free, but if we take 2 larger MMO’s released close to this one (Rift and DCUO) we see that it did not release with nearly as many bugs as SWTOR has. My point is, that if people dont voice there opinions about these things, then developers will not make it a priority to fix them. Sure, theres a correct way to say this, but the forum is a mean of talking to the SWTOR team, and i would not like a forum where no bugs are reported on it, and nobody complains, because people have paid for there product, and want to get the best out of it.

    That being said, im in love with the game, and i try to flag up every bug i see via the help tickets, being as descriptive as possible, so that it can be recreated. Im 100% sure that biowares team are working their ass off to get these bugs fixed, but people need to flag up that the bugs are there.

    • Lizard says:

      A couple of quick points….
      a)To be perfectly clear, despite this being linked from some SWTOR discussions, it was written several years ago, and is generic.

      b)Before I posted it, I ran it by several associates who work in the MMO industry, just to be sure I didn’t misstate anything. I also based a lot on my personal experience in the non-MMO part of the video game industry, and in large team project development in general.

      c)I never said “people shouldn’t complain about bugs”. I can’t imagine how anyone could read this and get that. I complain about, document, and report bugs all the time. I said “If the company says ‘We’re fixing bug A’, don’t whine ‘What about bug B?’”. If the company announces new content, don’t scream “Fix ALL the bugs first!”. Etc. Fixing small bugs doesn’t mean large bugs aren’t being worked on, and the people doing new content design aren’t the people fixing bugs — and you can’t just pull them off one task and put them on another. If you work as a game developer, you KNOW this.

      d)I daresay there are no MMOs, or any other game of equivalent size, where there were not features planned and discussed with the press that ended up not being in the game. WAR is a particularly strong example of that, as many features proudly hyped were never implemented. Vanguard, ditto. Those are two I followed the development of closely enough to know of particulars, but I do not doubt for a moment there were others in every major MMO. Indeed, there’s quite a “sport” on the net of looking for “stubs” of unimplemented content in games by combing through data files — dead areas on the map, models never used, etc. Some of these are for features to be implemented — others are dead code, the junk DNA of the game world.

  11. reece says:

    all valid points.

    swtor is still shit though. :D

  12. Revalis says:

    I came for the original article. I stayed for the replies to the comments. XD
    Well done, Mr Lizard.

  13. Jeckt says:

    It almost great article, I say “almost” cus it shows only one side of the problem. But you should tell that there are two sides, espesially in MMO. There is difference between server-side and client-side. When Im going to buy any MMO game, what should I ecxpect at start ? Long queues, realm crashes, unbalance, problems with content etc.. and I know its normal, there is nothing wrong with that, and I will never whine about this at start, but.. other side I expect also that my CLIENT will work fine, and that company which released game will fix bugged CLIENT very fast.
    I played a few MMOs, and thats what I saw, when company saw that there was a bug in client, they focused on this to fix it, they even were able to suspend of releasing new content until they fix bugs in client, in compare we have SWTOR, with bugged client and company which is ignoring problems. They just dont understand so simple thing, that client is most important part of the game, without working client I cannot play any MMO. Really I dont need new content or new instances if I couldnt launch the game. So as a customer, I have my right to expect that my client which I bought, will be working properly and I demand to fix it fast.

    So as I said at start, there are two views, server-side and client-side.

    Sorry for my english, but I hope you’ll understand me.

    • Lizard says:

      Client bugs are, generally, easier to fix.. and often more important, since, as Raph Koster put it, “The client is in the hands of the enemy.” One reason I didn’t think to explicitly mention client bugs is that they’re rarely as extreme as server/game engine issues and, as you note, they usually make it to the top of the queue to be fixed, so I rarely hear them being complained about. Still, once again, the same things apply: There’s a team, or a few teams, that know the client software. They are the ones fixing it; pulling the server team, or the animation team, or the memory optimization team, off of their tasks to work on the client’s bugs would only make sense if there was a client issue that transcended the client itself.

      I don’t know of any client bugs, per se, in SWTOR, except for the fact that anti-aliasing doesn’t work with ATI cards… and that is being worked on, just not to the exclusion of all other issues. The other really bad bugs, such as responsiveness of controls, are (as developers have stated) highly intricate things with multiple causes leading to the same symptoms. It’s a lot like “House” — there’s a million diseases that can all make your eyeballs explode, and sometimes you need to cure three things simultaneously while engaging in wacky pranks with Wilson.

      The other fact, the cold equation that’s always going to be brought up, is how many clients are affected? An issues that affects even 1% of the player base is going to be huge… but 0.01%? 0.001%? At some point, the cost of fixing an issue that affects a very small number of players is higher than the cost of losing those players completely. (This isn’t always the wisest long term policy, of course… each time a different 0.001% of the players are ignored, it adds up to larger and larger numbers of canceled accounts. “Penny wise and pound foolish” is the motto they teach in accounting school these days, or so it seems to me.)

      IAE, I greatly doubt anyone is deliberately ignoring client bugs — but the resources which can be allocated (based on total personnel and skill sets available) might be insufficient to address the problem quickly. If so, this shows poor planning and resource management, but it doesn’t really change anything I’ve written. This article isn’t a “pity the poor programmers, no one told them they’d have to do their jobs” kind of thing. It’s an explanation of why things aren’t as simple as editing the .ini file to read “set bugcount=0; set lag=off”. And, believe me, as someone who is a programmer… your boss doesn’t give you a list of bugs to fix and say “Fix the ones you think are fun and easy to fix, and ignore the hard ones”. Sometimes, he’ll say, “Fixing these twenty small bugs is more important, right now, than this one big one, so get to it!”, and you may agree or disagree… but do it. Sometimes, he’ll say “We need to speed up the content pipeline… stop fixing bugs and go write some utility tools the artists are clamoring for.”, and, again, you do it, or you go look for work somewhere else. Sometimes, the manager’s priorities are correct and the game prospers; sometimes, they’re not and the game collapses. This article, again, isn’t about evaluating the wisdom of any decision.. it’s about explaining how the decisions are made, and why, and what the limits are in terms of response to issues.

      (I mean, I really, really, really want to know the name of whoever designed the GTN interface, and whoever signed off on it for production… but I also understand how that’s something they’re going to let sit and linger for months, because there’s interface issues that will occupy the people who would otherwise be redesigning the GTN that are much more critical.)

      • Jan says:

        Dear Lizard,

        I thoroughly and deeply enjoyed reading your article AND reading your answers to some of the comments.

        I laughed, I smiled, I giggled and I was exhilarated. So much truth in one article, packed up nicely in a readable fashion (something which probably completely overhelms the instant-gratification-needy-gimme-epics-lol MMO community, which is so verbal on forums these days), is something to enjoy in the morning. At least in my own humble (and sometimes not so humble) opinion.

        Interestingly enough, I have this itch, that the interface of the SWTOR GTN (you mentioned that in your parenthesised (is the word for real? English is not my native language) paragraph at the end of the post I am replying to), is exactly the result of cross-team ressource sharing, which, as you described so beautifully, usually leads to serious problems. I have this feeling, that at some point in the development cycle the topic “GTN Interface” arrised during a team meeting, but nobody competent was there to actually look into the problem. So somebody cleverly linked ingame UI, with UIs in general, and from there with UIs with web based interfaces. And luckily enough there was a web guy with enough time on his hands to look into the thing. Because that is, what always comes to my mind when I use the GTN. Stateless web interfaces with a lot of useless dropdown boxes (You now like the ones where you are forced to select your year-of-birth for credit card validation via a dropdown box, starting with the current year. In what culture do toddlers have a credit card and are using the www?). Since there is a lot of important things to fix, I have the feeling, that the slightly annoying, but working GTN interface will be a source of amusement or rage for quite some time to come.

        By the way, it took me some time, but I finally figured out how your charcaters are sorted on the character selection screen. I am still not sure if it is my age for taking so long to understand it, or if it is really that strange…

        • Lizard says:

          You may be right on the GTN… or it may be that whoever was doing the back-end database stuff to handle queries and return the data to the GTN needed something he could hand to the testers so they could be sure if they asked for heavy armor, level 40, they got it back, so he kludged something together, or got someone on the UI team to quickly slap it on because “We’ve got to make sure there’s no risk of duping bugs, and this is a key vector” was somewhere on the priority list, and somewhere or other it got marked as “good enough for alpha… good enough for beta… oh, shit, we’ve got no one free to look at it before release?”.. and now, of course, there are things with much higher priorities for the UI people, between the multiple bugs that all lead to the same symptom of UI unresponsiveness and “We promised a bunch of guild crap for 1.2, and we’ve got to have something to show them, and, oh yeah, we’re promising UI window scaling and moving, too”, so, naturally, “Fix the GTN” is probably flagged on the schedule with the same priority as “Playable Gungans?”

          At least, that’s my *optimistic* theory — the usual chain of good intentions and strained resources, leading to the usual place. The pessimistic theory, of course, is someone said, “Hey, yes, this is EXACTLY what we wanted it to look like! Ship that puppy!”

          (I tend to work on internal utility and tool projects, designing front and back ends. By sheer trial and error experience, and actually reading a couple of books on UI design, as opposed to UI coding, not the same thing at all, I’m at least marginal. Even so, It’s very often the case that I’ll design something that works well enough when I need to test the code, and proves utterly clunky and unusable when I move from “test this function” to “OK, now use the program to do the work it’s supposed to do”. The GTN has that look to it.)

          Despite not being a native speaker of English (trust me, your English is fine, as good as or better than most of the native speakers I have to deal with), you seem better at UNDERSTANDING it than a lot of people, in the sense that you get this essay isn’t “Every game is perfect and there’s no bugs so don’t complain”; it’s “There’s going to be a zillion bugs, nothing can prevent that, and, furthermore, they’re not going to be fixed solely in the order of what happens to be getting in YOUR face right at this moment, so acting like a whiny moron on the message boards accomplishes nothing but providing people like me with fish in a barrel to shoot.”

      • Newsin says:

        Lol me too! haha, GTN is horrid, but am I one of those who thinks because it so badly designed that the game is going to fail because people are to lazy to actually use it? No its an eyesore but Im not lazy and can figure out how to use it to make credits.

        • Newsin says:

          I’m not one of those*. Sorry in the car and typing on my laptop while trying to work while a driver drives me around has me all over the place.

  14. Ket says:

    Spot on, Lizard – Great article.

    I understand that this isn’t a complete and in depth description of each tiny step of the lifecycle (even if others don’t appreciate that), and I know that this doesn’t even just apply to MMO’s; the “general theme” of your article can be applied to a lot of major software development.

    Good job. Hopefully if even one or two people get the gist of what you are saying, then it was worth writing about.

  15. Tay says:

    Marry me? :3

  16. Jacob says:

    Such a great article. You have absolutly no idea how much I wish I knew this existed before today, I was never one to complain but I honestly didn’t really know anything about how the interworkings of MMOs really was until reading this.

    Plus there a quite a few threads I wish I could have linked this to haha.

  17. Dwight says:

    Excellent article Lizard and I will attempt to push this to my friends on SWTOR who continue to complain without any patience. I have been through multiple MMO launches and betas and have seen some smooth and some rough ones perhaps that’s where my patience is derived. I do believe that perhaps the SWTOR community should perhaps blame EA more so than Bioware. My theory is that simply Bioware likely would’ve attempted to add more of the “base” improvements such as UI customization which we fine common in mmo’s today, however EA pushed them for a holiday release to increase profit over the additions and Bioware had to go with it. I saw a good argument while on the forums (surprising but they aren’t all negative) which asked the question would you rather play a game now with perhaps some bugs and get to see the content you’ve waited up to 3 years to see, or would you rather wait an additional say 6 months for many of the improvements you’ll see eventually patched in anyways?
    My 2c , Thanks for the read.

  18. Paul says:

    Sir, as a software developer and a SWTOR player I just want to say. I love you. Nohomo.

  19. Mike says:

    BAAAHAHAH

    God i love Biodrones

    Beta: “BUT ITS IN BETA, It’ll be fixed by release!!!”
    Week 1 after release: “BUT BIOWARE WILL PATCH IT!!!”
    1 Month after release: “F*** YOU, ITS REALLY HARD GUYS, YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHIN ABOUT MMOs!!”

    Oh god, I love watching this ship sink

    • Lizard says:

      You love Biodrones Beta? Well, I’ll take a good game recommendation when I get them. I’ll google it. Sounds like some kind of twitch action shooter, though, and I suck at those, even if they’re fun.

      Otherwise, I have no frackin’ idea what you’re talking about. I can make some guesses, but those guesses would assume you haven’t read the article very clearly, or my comments in the replies, and are posting based on mindless rage and ignorance and/or something you think you hear someone once say about my little rant, and that kind of assumption would be rather condescending of me to make, so, I won’t make it.

      Hint: Check out the posting date on the article. Then think a bit about what you’re assuming about when I wrote it, and why, and what it really says, then write a coherent criticism, if you can. Do not raise any points I’ve already addressed in the comments below. I mean, I wrote this article to avoid typing the same basic thing over and over, so why should I go back to doing that?

      Thanks.

      • Mike says:

        Oh, I’m sorry, were you expecting people to take your article seriously after you started it off with “OK, crybabies. Listen up”?

        That’s cute

        Ya know, there’s a difference between releasing a solid game with a few bugs, and releasing an MMO that requires EMERGENCY PATCHES 3 WEEK FROM RELEASE

        • Lizard says:

          Yeah, so, the part where I said, “Please read the article and the comments and my replies”? That’s the part you didn’t do, since, pretty much every point you make has been raised, and addressed.

          PS: Check the poooosting date, Luuuuuke…..

        • Osprey says:

          I love how these clowns get all upset about you calling them crybabies when they throw around insults like there’s some kind of prize for doing so. I believe the saying is “the truth hurts.”

  20. Andrew says:

    Oh man, this has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever read. If only this could be assigned as reading homework to all the whiny kids plaguing the internet. Even before I started taking programming courses through college I understood how the underworld of MMO creation works and I couldn’t help reading this with a shit eating (probably not the best analogy) grin on my face. You sir, are a god among men.

    Lizard for President?
    I think so.

  21. Arno says:

    All valid points, good article.

    Some comment about the shipping-date: I think it is a bit more complicated,
    i.e. it is critical how much time is between the “ship or walk” warning and
    the actual deadline, with more not necessarily being better. A reasonable
    interval length depends highly on the state of the product when the warning
    comes in. Get the interval wrong and it may do anything between “annoying”
    and “completely broken”, all observable in the wild. For SWTOR, I think
    about 3 months additional work and fixes would have been nice and about 2
    years more content. The latter is unrealistic, of course. And yes, the GTN
    is a prime example. Incidentally, if that is the “Jan”, that I think it is,
    it was me that suggested to him that the GTN has a typical Web-interface
    made for low frequency or single time use ;-)

    • Lizard says:

      There’s some overlap, but I think, “Why the game shipped broken” is somewhat separate from “Why the game isn’t getting fixed the way you want it to”. (And, to be clear, my real motivation when I wrote this a few years ago was because I was just really sick of morons who’d reply to any bit of information about ANYTHING happening in the game with “Why are you doing X when I want you to do Y?”, except, of course, it would usually be phrased as “y r u so stoopd u shud fix all teh bug 1rst not mak noo stuph u suk”.) It’s certainly worth thinking about and considering, though. There’s obviously a relationship between the pre-release and post-release processes.

      Given the realities of the current MMO industry, complex game development, etc, I think we’re stuck with games shipping early, by even the most generous definitions, and no amount of whining is going to change that, especially since business (all of them, not just game companies) is utterly focused on meeting this quarter’s goals, without any consideration for what it means long term — after all, you’ll have collected your bonus and found another job by then, right? Stating that this is fact doesn’t mean I like it or approve of it; it just means I don’t see it changing anytime soon, and certainly not because functional illiterates spew incoherent venom onto message boards.

      Cheops’ Law famously states, “Everything takes longer and costs more than you expect, even if you take Cheops Law into account.” MMOs, in particular, as deadlines loom, have to deal with either performing feature triage, which results in “U lied and sed therd b this stuph and theres knot!”, or shipping features incomplete/broken, which results in… well, the usual. Often, companies have to do both. (Vanguard is a great example of having to cut massive promised (including listed-on-box) features to ship, and still shipping with the implemented features broken, and even so, they shipped late.) Even assuming that you ship in the best possible state, there is no way that a beta test which lasts, at most, a few weeks with a semi-active player base is going to put nearly the stress on the interrelated systems that release will (and I mean stress in the sense of finding out which systems are broken, bugged, or just un-fun, vs stress testing for performance). (Even things like combat balancing, high-end content design, etc… the way people will play through a scenario if they’ve been given max level characters is going to be very different from how they’ll play through it if they’ve had three months to level and gear those characters…but you don’t have a stable, unchanging, three month beta with thousands of players playing as if the game was “live”, knowing they’ll be losing those characters eventually. Even games with longer periods of open or large-scale closed beta are constantly changing content, which means some beta players will be doing Level 20 content when the levels 1-19 they “trained” on gets radically changed, so the real-world Level 20s will be hitting that same content with a different set of skills and expectations.)

      (Oh, and as a side note, addressing another pattern I’ve seen… if you’re in a late-stage open beta for a game, what you’re playing is, more-or-less, what you’ll be paying for, with relatively minor fixes and slight interface changes that have, in all likelihood, been in the pipeline for weeks. If the beta is giving you crappy performance, if you hate the interface, if you don’t like the quests or combat balance, if the zones feel poorly designed, whatever… there’s not going to be a miracle patch. Performance issues at the point where the game is in public beta aren’t due to “beta code” or “stuff they have in there to do metrics” or whatever, at least not to a degree you’ll really notice. So anyone who thinks, “I played beta and it sucked, but I figured it would get better when it shipped”, and, by “when it shipped”, you mean “right away, on launch day”… you’re wrong. If you hate the late-stage beta, you’ll hate the game. So, please, don’t buy it and then waste all of our time telling us how much you hate it, using your beta credentials as some sort of badge of status; all it tells us if that, having been given a free sample and finding that you hated it, you then went ahead and bought the whole thing, following the logic of “If a little bit of it is bad, a whole lot of it must be good!”)

      Oh, and as a side note to the side note:”We told them about this bug in beta and they didn’t fix it!”. Pretty much everything I wrote in the original article applies. By the time any kind of public or large scale beta is had, the ship date is set in stone. Open Beta is mostly useful for filling out the to-do list of bugs to work on POST RELEASE (and identifying at least some hardware glitches that weren’t part of the internal testbed, as well as testing the launcher, patch distribution, etc, code). Anyone who thinks “I reported this bug where when you jump sideways on this one ledge you get this weird green glow” means they’re going to cancel shipment until they track it down is delusional. Pretty much, by public beta time, any bug less serious than “It erased my hard drive, and the hard drives of several people in nearby building”, or more difficult to fix than “You spelled ‘starship’ wrong in the flavor text” is only going to be dealt with if it was already in the process of being worked on. This doesn’t mean beta is useless… that to-do list is important, and getting it prioritized so that the worst bugs are fixed in the first few patches is vital… but don’t think anything short of absolute and total unplayability (and I mean “I can’t even get into the game” unplayable, not “this one power is kind of sucky”, which is what most people mean by “unplayable”) is going to seriously alter the production schedule. Like the Vorlon said, “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

  22. Arno says:

    I completely agree with you on the bug-issues. And yes, Vanguard was a real loss, there were a lot of goof ideas in there and a nice world.

    The GTN though is a design issue, not a bug issue. There really is no excuse for atrocious UI design and my explanation is that they did not hire enough good UI designers, where “good” is the kind that first looks at the purpose and usage patterns of a GUI and GUI element and then starts designing things. Of course, hiring good people is difficult, because a) there are not a lot and b) they are difficult to identify and c) you run the risk of hiring somebody expensive that is not actually good at his.her job.

    • Lizard says:

      In the specific case of SWTOR (and I want to re-emphasize, for certain of the clueless, that isn’t what this article is about — it was written many years ago), I’m noticing two particular patterns:
      a)There’s a lot of interface issues, in general, from the lack of any kind of customization (I don’t care about add-ons, but simply moving windows, or having more than two open at once, is pretty important…), to problems with poor design (the GTN) to difficulties in deciding how to represent a very basic game element (is an ability ready to use, or not).
      b)There’s a pattern of posting bugs as fixed in patches, when they aren’t. (A trivial example, the disappearing Reverse Engineering box. It’s a minor bug. It wouldn’t upset me if it was low priority. But… if you’re going to list it as fixed, it ought to be, you know, fixed.)

      Without a lot of real insider knowledge, looking from the outside, it’s risky and usually stupid to draw conclusions. That said, it seems that interface *design* may have been given an unduly low priority in overall development (perhaps because it’s less important in single-player games, in that there’s usually fewer overall elements to juggle/present, and, while it’s irrational, people easily accept that “Civilization IV” will have a totally different L&F from “Grand Theft Auto”, but, somehow, they want every MMORPG interface to be identical or at least familiar), and that implementation of that design is, let us say, spotty. Further, having issues marked as “fixed” by QA, released to live patches, and then NOT be fixed… that implies a significant problem with the general structure of the pipeline. Of course, no system this complex can ever get it right 100% of the time, but the number of times this has occurred, given the small number of total patches released, is high. I can think of a hundred reasons why something would seem to be fixed in test and fail to be fixed in live; “It works on my machine!” is the common refrain of any frustrated programmer trying to track down a bug. I emphasize this to point out that Bioware isn’t “lying” in their patch notes; they are not deliberately providing false information. You can be WRONG without being DECEITFUL. I see two primary, likely, causes for this: Either their test environment(s) are very narrow, in terms of hardware/software, or there’s a flaw in the build process, so that version 1.4.5.6.2.3 is used when the fix was in 1.4.5.6.2.4. Or, it could be a million other things — short of being a Bioware employee with full access to the process, as we can do is speculate.

  23. Archh says:

    This is, perhaps, the best article I have ever read. Props to you, Lizard. I’ll have to bookmark this blog.

  24. Newsin says:

    I don’t know… this whole article is common sense. Not to take away from the writer of the article. It was well written. I mean, yes, of course there are times in a game where something drives you up the wall. One of those for me is the “error 9000″ that was fixed in one patch, then came back in the next patch. This error went on for almost 1.5 months for some people. Random disconnects are never fun and having them happen every 15 to 30 minutes is enough to make anyone go bat shit crazy.

    Anyway great article.

    • Lizard says:

      To reiterate… the point of the article isn’t “You should ignore bugs” or “It’s wrong to complain about bugs”. It’s got a pretty specific focus.

      Namely, this is a non-moronic comment:”Connectivity problems are as critical as they come; they literally make the game unplayable. Bioware needs to be proactive about their work on the issue, even if all they can say is ‘We are still hunting down the root cause; keep sending us your DXDIAG so we can find a pattern.’”

      This is a moronic comment:”Why are they wasting time nerfing biochem when some people still get connection errors?” (In the interests of clarity, I’ve phrased it more coherently than the kind of people inclined to write such posts generally do.)

      If a reader doesn’t understand why the second comment is moronic, they should go read the article. If, after reading it, they STILL don’t understand why, they should… well, I can’t afford the civil suit from the surviving relatives if someone did what I’d be inclined to suggest, so let’s just leave it at “Read the article again”.

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  27. +Me says:

    Complete nonsence article.

    The person that wrote this does not understand the relationship between vendor and customer. If I buy something I expect it to work as intended or if the vendor informs me it has issues, ie substandard, I expect a discount. This game was released with full knowlege their were issues.

    here are just a few of the clear ones which should have been fixed prior to release: Linking all gear an items in chat, dropping grey quests from your log, bosses despawing, pvp and normal daylies not counting, Auction house… just everything about it global search for goodness sake, reverse engineering intermittent.

    Those are just a few that were well known and a game should not have been released in that state but EA rushed it for christmas before it was ready. In no oother walk of life is that level of care acceptable. I am a rail engineer, there are just over 50,000 componets on a train and a significant amount of them are safty critcal. The level of care and attention is not comparable and yet this game is looking to turn over more than a reasonable order we manufacture. I fully appreciate teams of specialists working in their departments focusing on thier priorities, in fact all professional people do, it seems the people who defend this level of finish are new to the world of organisation and production and believe problems cannot be broken down solved in a logical methodical fashion. Once you start work and hopefully get into a position of meaning you will realise how organisation can work

    In short I pay my money and I expect good product, dont you?

  28. +Me says:

    Yes I did read it.

    I have worked for nearly 20 years in and around,business improvements, modifications and change control. I fully understand the issues companies can have with limited or rationed skill sets and that must be built in to the plan.

    With the number of outstanding issues at release a colosal team would have been required to deal with these issues. Seemingly the team is not there and a realistic plan was not made prior to release evident by the lack of progress.

    Clearly the developers are in a place where they dont want to be right now and I expect will be figher fighting left right and centre, looking at some of the patches and hot fixes that fail to work I see that as a safe bet.

    There is a old saying in process improvements ‘Piss poor planning provides piss poor proformance’

    • Lizard says:

      You didn’t read it very well, then, since none of your original comments have a thing to do with the article, which has nothing to do with whether or not a game ships with bugs (except tangentially, at the end, where I point out no MMO is going to ship without them, and if you don’t like it, stop buying them on release), and everything to do with the order in which those bugs get fixed, and why it isn’t done in accordance with each whiny git’s personal scale of “what matters most to me”.

      You also probably didn’t check the date the article was posted.

      PS: Let me try to put this in train terms.

      You: OK, here’s the final engineering report… here’s the work schedule… oh, and here’s some fliers our marketing department worked up.
      Angry customer: GOD DAMN IT, you’re six months late delivering that multiphase asynchronous gearbox widget! What the hell do you have people doing marketing fliers for? They should be working on widgets! FIX YOUR WIDGETS FIRST!

      What would you think of that person?

      How would you reply to them, if it wouldn’t cost you your job if you replied to them as they deserved?

  29. +Me says:

    Sorry to sound a bit of a smart arse but you would know when the estimated delivery time for that fix so you would be able to answer very clearly. If quized you simply would say the specialists that deal with that issue are expected to complete around x time.

    Answering like that you have taken the passion out of it and given a realistic fix date.

    See this is how professional organisations deal with change, they dont wing it

  30. Odd Roar says:

    well in terms of the article is great in most points
    BUT, BIG BUT here. It wouldnt kill the team taking care of a said bug to actually tell a CM(Community Manager) to post that they are aware of the problem and that they are working on it
    i Love SWTOR and its storytelling way but the Customer Service of BW and EA is worth less than horse manure

    • Gangrel says:

      As soon as you submit the bug report, they become aware of it.

      If you post it on the forums, it becomes a bit harder to actually track different bugs, especially as people *tend* to have an annoying habit of:

      1) Posting separate threads about the same bug (granted when the search facility on the boards was disabled, it was about all you could do, unless you were lucky and found the relevant thread)

      2) Posting what is actually an unrelated bug into a thread.

      Number 2 is probably the worst, because it means that the forum mods have to read *every* thread, even the ones that they have read previously, to make sure that no bugger posted up a previously *unreported* bug, into a non relevant thread.

      Now is the kicker… if you want them to post up “yep, we are working on this bug now”, that actually takes up more time and effort than you can think… It doesn’t seem like it, but it does. Especially because the developers don’t work on just one bug at a time. Oh, and also announcing which bugs you are going to be fixing, will make the player base think that you are playing favourites (WHY ARENT YOU FIXING MY BUG! syndrome). Look at the patch note announcements, it happens.. and those are just for the bugs that *have* been announced “fixed” (on one machine or another)

      Also you have to take the point of view that sometimes announcing that you are working on it (no matter how long it takes to resolve) just puts you into onto a bed of coals… because you now *have* to get it finished ASAP, you cant go and suddenly fix something else which you just worked out how to complete (ie the brain wave fix) which is a problem if you are almost there, and then get a stumper. You cannot go on and work on another.

      People demand transparency, but the problem is that transparency is actually a *bane* for developers. They want to be able to work on their own, getting it all done, without the baying hounds of the public on their backs.

      Also with bug fixing, fixing (or at least uncovering the mechanics behind said bug) can reveal a huge mess of code. Yep, you can hack a fix together, but more often than not you *should* fix that underlaying code as well, because hacking hacks on-top of hacks just causes a mess and more problems in the long run. My rule of thumb is “if you have to hack something badly twice, rewrite the bugger properly instead”.

      *shrugs* Having worked on code in the past, ran a set of forums for an MMO (now closed down, but i had decent contact with the CM’s of the game) it just happens this way.

      Note: Some bug fixes/balances *sometimes* seem a bit strange, but you have to remember that the developers are not just fixing for *NOW* they are also fixing for the *FUTURE* content that hasn’t been announced yet.

  31. Nakiaofsetekh says:

    Well written and enjoyable read. Followed a link to here from SWTOR boards. I suspect a lot of people are capable of grasping these things but unfortunately cannot drown out the tantruming of those who have no use for logic or explanations unless it is to give them what they want immediately.

  32. YouAreLivingInDenial says:

    I can’t believe how much this author is in denial. Just objectively compare this game and all its faults to its competition and there is no contest. It isn’t even playable on the flagship location: ilum…. the average player gets 4fps. 4 F P S. How can you possibly defend this game? RNG loot system. 2 equal players, spend 50 hours PVPing… one player is decked out battlemaster, the other has zero pieces. Oh wow what a novel system. Unbalanced queued games. 4-12v4-12. Wow awe-inspiring. Patches that are obviously not tested as they introduce such blatant bugs there is no other explanation (zero valor ilum anyone?). A public test server on which nobody can test unless they want to level from 1-50 and gear up. Client side code such as timers for abilities (hey introduce some packet delay/loss and see what your spell cooldowns do). The list goes on and on and on. The quality of product is like something that would have been pushed out in 1999, not 2012. The blatant rampant game-breaking bugs demonstrate only one thing: incompetence. The market will speak and this game will be a lesson used in the industry of “What not to do”.

    The only conclusion can be there is a monetary incentive for you to defend this trash of a game.

    • Lizard says:

      And, someone else who:
      a)Proves my point.
      b)Didn’t read the posting date of the article.

      (Also kind of interesting to note he can’t tell the difference between a “bug” and a “design flaw” — not the same thing at all.)

  33. Frank Kozik says:

    I read your article and I noticed the creation date and I know that your article points not towards the quality of SWTOR (or MMOs) in general, but to the fail of understanding of some people who don’t know how software/game developer teams work and how subjectively there “personal processing scedule” for fixing bugs might be, which they are posting on the boards.

    All right, I am with you there. I know bugs are treated differently (number of players affected, is a fundamental feature, for example connectivity loss for a large player base, involved etc.)

    …but (you knew it would come, aren’t you?) I am in the same boat like Mr. +Me. I like your post, but it’s – not only by a small touch – too forgiving to me, if pointed to SWTOR. SWTOR has too damned many fundamental flaws from release and missing features a normal consument just expects a MMO to have nowadays (the example with the global market UI and the UI in general came up). One can explain such things, but my point of sight is…such things must not happen at all….and if cross-team-communication or ressource management lacked (or did not happen…), adept or take the consequences (consequence = moronic player crying havoc on the forum….and BW won’t get much compassion from me).

    The only thing that keeps me playing at moment is the great leveling phase and the story atmosphere and the hope the majority of concerns will be fixed by time.

    To summarize it with a few thoughts: “The shit happened not after realease, it happened far before release and it was not supposed to happen at all….and if there are such fundamental flaws in the planning and design phase you just can’t go over this with the present work organization to scedule bugtreatment, then you have to manage, adept and change your work organization properly beforehand..and I guess exactly there things turned wrong”

    • Lizard says:

      I’m not sure what you mean by “forgiving”, in that I don’t address the issue of whether or not any particular bug (in any game) is an easily understandable error or a mark of amazing stupidity. As I said elsewhere in the comments, it’s really irrelevant how competent or incompetent the SWTOR people might be; it’s still the case that the artists aren’t going to be put to work fixing lag. (Caveat (there’s always one): In some cases, there are issues where the art is a source of lag, in that the actual design of figures may include unnecessary polygons (i.e, details that don’t show or that are the result of using the wrong options on the tools), so it may actually BE a cause of performance issues. This was at least partially the case in Vanguard, for example. But I digress.)

      I think it’s obvious from the past few patches that there are some serious flaws in Bioware’s testing and production pipeline. I have been involved in MMOs since either UO in 1998 or Kesmai in 1990, depending on how you want to define MMO, and while I have (contrary to fanboy ravings) seen far, far, buggier games on release than SWTOR (let’s talk about rubberbanding and server rollbacks in UO, or, more recently, my White Lion’s lion randomly disappearing in WAR, taking most of my class powers with it), I have not seen so consistent a pattern of patches being released which cause severe play problems (crashes on login or in game), bugs which are quickly acknowledged by Bioware (so we can be sure they’re not due to local configuration issues or people trying to hack their client) and then repatched. As a programmer, I am painfully aware of how easy it is to fix feature ‘a’ and unwittingly break feature ‘b’, or implement a bug fix which seems to work within a test environment, only to find it doesn’t work in all customer environments, or, often, “I found and fixed this bug when it happened due to ‘A’. Having done this, I tested ‘A’, saw the bug didn’t occur, and said ‘Bug fixed’. Then we found the same bug happens due to ‘B’, and since we thought ‘A’ was the cause, didn’t test for other causes.” However, that’s why programmers don’t, or shouldn’t, test their own code, at least not exclusively. I have worked with very, very, good QA people. You know they’re good, as a programmer, if you dread ever seeing their name on email, or worse, on caller ID. I do not know if Bioware’s QA department is understaffed or underskilled or if there’s such an impetus to rush patches to live that there’s no time for more than cursory checks, but no matter what the cause, someone at Bioware needs to address it. There’s a point at which a problem repeats so many times that there’s no choice but to conclude that it’s systemic.

      Bioware is in an unenviable position. They can’t stop releasing patches while they try to fix their processes — but if they keep using the same flawed processes to release patches, they keep making things worse. Catch-22.

      (And as a PS: Bioware doesn’t “lie”…. excuse me…. “LIE!!!!!”…. in patch notes, in the sense that they are stating things they know to be untrue. They are often, as we have seen, wrong, but that’s not the same thing. Some might argue that it’s worse. :) (There’s a joke I used to tell back when I sold computers. “What’s the difference between a used car salesman and a computer salesman? A used car salesman knows when he’s lying.”))

      • Baldewin says:

        Full ACK to this post. I’m a software developer myself (not in games, but rather in healthcare) and of course you’re right that some bugs are very hard to find and some bug fixes are even harder to verify. But it’s also my impression that something is really seriously wrong with their development process (coding & testing)!

        • Lizard says:

          I think it’s interesting Bioware is inviting local Austin gamers to their HQ for hands-on, *paid*, testing of the 1.2 patch. That’s something I’ve never heard of an MMO company doing before (which, because this is the Internet, means I must note does not mean I’m claiming it’s never been done before, only that I, personally, have not heard of it.) It’s certainly a positive step, and we’ll see if the 1.2 rollout is smoother than the patches in the past.

  34. RookLV says:

    Permission to link to this in my sig on every gaming forum I go to ever until I stop going to gaming forums? I’ll be sure to make it known that I am not, in fact, the lizard.

  35. Ariah says:

    Thank you for this article. You have managed to articulate very well exactly my feeling when reading forums for MMO’s. Surprisingly people seem to think that they should be perfect from the get go (I know not of any that have been).
    There was a time (not that long ago) that WoW would crash randomly for a week after any patch and new raids would be almost unplayable (and yes I mean random crashes to desktop and DC’s) for a number of people. And yet it continues. They seem to have managed to sort out alot of their problems with getting useful fixes out and not breaking other things in the process. But they have taken 8 years to get this right. A company doing a new thing will have issues and will need to sort their processes but until things go live it can sometimes be impossible to know where the most resources are going to need to be.
    Hope this makes sense but I am weary from a very long days work and will go play a bug ridden game that I love because it is FUN!

  36. Nuclear Dave says:

    Brilliant article, Beautiful replies. I stand in awe of your Master Swordsman thought process with the weapons of acerbic acumen. /bow

  37. Oddball_E8 says:

    I love how most who come here to criticise you only post once and never reply to your rebuttal.

    Its the new way of winning arguments on the internetz. Post once and never post again, because if you dont read the reply, you won the argument :P

    Other than that, great article. I dont understand how so many people cant seem to wrap their heads around this. Must be some sort of self entitlement of the gaming generation thats crept up the last 10 years or so. Most older people i know that have been playing since the start (and im talking Philips G7000 era gaming) have a whole different take on things. We know that it takes time to fix things, we know that games will never be released bug-free, and we also appreciate when developers take the effort to fix games as fast as possible.

    • Lizard says:

      It’s obvious from many of the posts that not only did they not read my rebuttal, most of them never even read the article. It’s not just the Internet… it’s life in general these days. People write rants based on a headline, or something they think they heard someone say that someone else said, and the more effort you expend trying to show them that their response is invalid because it doesn’t actually deal with what was really said, the harder they dig in their heels and refuse to listen. It’s as if, having been caught in one stupid mistake, they are incapable of backing off, and so keep compounding their error — and they get angry at other people for trying to help them (by showing them the truth), instead of at themselves for not doing the research in the first place.

  38. Fhrosty says:

    Brilliant read. I hope to cross paths with you in a game some time. :-)

  39. Balrizangor says:

    I just wanted to say, this was a great read (and yes, I am guilty of linking this in my sig on multiple gaming forums I post on).

    I also wanted to say, from reading the various angry responses to this article that, if you feel that this article is a personal attack on you or if you are offended by Lizard calling people (or, more importantly, you) a crybaby idiot or moron, then yes, this article is about YOU. Those of us that have never done any of the things Lizard wrote about in this article will, strangely enough, not feel as if this article is a personal attack on us.

    Also, just as a plug since I have seen Lizard have to post multiple times in responses (sometimes it is multiple times to the same poster, which is sad), this article is not about SWTOR (check the release date =P) and can pretty much be applied to almost any gaming forums whining posts.

    Thanks for the great article Lizard.

  40. Seku says:

    I’ve not laughed this hard in quite some time. The hint about Fungible made me have to leave the computer and come back later to finish reading the comments.

    Thank you for the laughs.

  41. Shift says:

    Best article ever!

    Lizard, thanks for the article and for your amazing answers, you sir have another fan!

  42. Fuller says:

    This article is pretty bad, simply because some of the main points are WRONG.

    Furthermore, you are trying to downplay the importance of a CUSTOMER (!)’s rights.

    All in all, about 2/10

    • Lizard says:

      Which points are wrong? Specifics, please.

      Which customer’s “rights” are being downplayed? Again, specifics, please.

    • Balrizangor says:

      Haters gonna hate …

      Potatoes gonna potate …

      Where is he (Lizard) down playing customer rights? If anything, he is giving customers more to think about and to understand that might even let them stay calmer when something happens in their game.

      As for his main points being wrong. I would ask what are you basing your comment on? Do you work in the industry or are you just spouting out garbage?

  43. Aries says:

    Mr.Lizard, this article is one of the best I read about the same thing I try (in vain) to explain to several haters on my SWTOR board.

  44. Andas says:

    Very good article. I have it bookmarked. It is particularly telling when you add a feature that shouldn’t mess with anything, but it introduces a mess of bugs.

    I am currently testing a software update for a piece of equipment we manufacture. The change was to add a Chinese translation. The programmer spent 8 months and ended up touching virtually every file in the program. This introduced a slew of bugs that we are finding for him to squash. And this is on dedicated hardware so we don’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

    Anyway I like to read this when various boards get too much :)

  45. medivh says:

    “They said four years before the game was released that we’d be able to eat our enemies’ spleens! Why can’t I do that now?”

    Frankly this is one of my bigger bugbears when it comes to game development. I recognize that whining about it on the internet solves nothing, but if marketing material tells me the game will have feature X I buy the game because I want a game with feature X and said game then has no feature X, I’ve been subjected to misleading advertising.

    • Lizard says:

      There’s false advertising, and then there’s “shit the marketers talk about before the coders have even been hired.” The worst cases are when the box actually promises features not included, such as flying mounts in Vanguard, which were added many, many, months after release. The problem is that to be really false, in a criminal sense, you have to prove they knew they were lying, especially when all official press releases contain weasel words like “We hope to…” and “We plan to…”, and there’s always disclaimers to the effect of “We aren’t promising nothing, nohow.” There’s a direct relationship between how true something is likely to be and how close the game is to release, and an equally direct relationship between the last time any feature was mentioned in public and how much moral justification you’ve got to whine that you didn’t get it. A week before release and they were still promising it? Open up with both barrels. Give ‘em hell. Three years before release, never mentioned since, and the game went from being a science fiction FPS to a fantasy RTS to a turn based modern horror collectible card game in that time? Yeah, maybe you should let it go, dude. Just… let it go.

  46. Francisco says:

    Got an idea. Lets fight haters with hate.

    • Francisco says:

      Good article though (not shure if i need to add a t after the h)

    • Lizard says:

      “Do unto others as they have done unto you.”

      Actually, though, I think of this article as fighting ignorance with sarcasm. It works at least as well as any other means of fighting ignorance, and it’s a lot of fun.

  47. Joe says:

    Decent article but you seem to be too jaded from being on the other side of the fence from the consumers too long. Like the gentleman said in one of the first posts, war hammer had a bug for 3 years.

    Now if you bought a car and the radio wouldn’t change stations for 3 years, would you not be upset and be unsatisfied with it not being fixed while other things were or new thins being added.

    The big problem is that games are released with so many bugs now, mmo and otherwise, and are attempted to be fixed in patches later that gamers are usually unhappy with some aspects of final game products.

    As a consumer I don’t give 2 shits which department does what, If I pay for a game I want it to work and not next week. When I buy a hamburger I want to eat it now. When I buy a house I want to live in it now. When I buy a cell phone I want to use it now. Since he company had no problem taking my money now I don’t see a problem with wanting a working as intended product now. We don’t want departmental excuses, we just want it to work.

    • Lizard says:

      What you care about, and what IS, do not have any relation — in games or in life. Sorry if I’m the first person to break that to you. You might not “give two shits” whether the art department can correct an imbalance in PVP between classes, but all of your not caring won’t change a thing, and that’s a major reason I wrote this — because people seem to think the more they WANT something, the more likely they are to get it. (Not in the sense of “I want this a lot, so I’ll work for it harder”, but “I want this a lot, so the universe will drop it in my lap.”)

      If you’re unhappy with a game, hit the “Cancel” button on your account.

      If you want companies to stop releasing games filled with bugs, stop buying them on release.

      I think if I bought a car, and the radio wasn’t working after three years, I’d be wondering why I’d been paying for three years for a radio that doesn’t work. Either the rest of the car is so great I could live with the broken radio… or I’m a real shmuck.

      One thing game companies have learned is that no matter how much people whine on forums, they keep paying. And as long as they keep paying, game companies won’t change their behavior. Whining does nothing. Actually DOING something, like closing your account until the bugs are fixed, does.

      Three years? Pshaw! EQ had bugs that lasted longer than that! Hell, many versions of Windows are “sunsetted” with thousands of known bugs still outstanding. That’s the world we live in, and wanting it to be a different world won’t change things. Remember the old saying:

      “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the firepower to make the difference.”

  48. Saso says:

    You are right about different teams, their different functions and knowledge. But the end result uses one team that has their fingers in all final parts of the game. Testers. Q&A.
    Testing new content should have much less priority then testing reported bugs. And here lies the problem. If you see new content being released while there is an old and “game braking” bug that is is still not fixed, what do you ask yourself? Who tested this new content while they should be testing this bug in order to help those that are working on fixing it?
    Testing is not something that is done only in final parts of the game. Developers need to test their own work while they are developing, but after certain time, they become the worst possible testers as they are focused on their own aspect of the game to much. Then you need someone that is not in development or design. You need a group of people that either through extensive list of processes or by some other means test many different parts of the game. And they report their findings to dev and design teams and others relevant for it.
    This is the part where most companies fail. And EAware appears to be the master of them all in this regard.
    Of course people don’t understand how developing and running a software of this magnitude works. But they see the results. And they have very limited options to express their grief. This is one of them.
    And besides … team that codes a new update for the game is equally capable of making a fix for their own code. Many designers that work in graphic can equally work on new or old content. You just have to shuffle them a bit when necessary. Not something easily done, but doable none the less.
    If you want to educate others, you shouldn’t take a position of complete opposite to them. You have to find a middle ground where you can see advantages and weaknesses of both sides.

  49. Irongut says:

    A brilliant article that will unfortunately be ignored by all the mouth breathers.

    As a non-game dev I’ve just bookmarked this and will be sending it round the dept for us all to laugh at and point out how some of our users, despite being highly educated and respected in their fields, are just as bad as the mouth breathing MMO masses.

    • Lizard says:

      There’s two common mistakes I see customers make, in various forms: Assuming all resources are fungible, and assuming there’s a linear correlation between the resources assigned to a project and how quickly it can be completed. The latter one shows up a lot.

      There’s a joke I remember from “The Tao of Programming”, which, along with “The Zen of Programming”, should be on every developer’s desk.

      A manager went to the master programmer and showed him the requirements document for a new application. The manager asked the master: “How long will it take to design this system if I assign five programmers to it?”

      “It will take one year,” said the master promptly.

      “But we need this system immediately or even sooner! How long will it take if I assign ten programmers to it?”

      The master programmer frowned. “In that case, it will take two years.”

      “And what if I assign a hundred programmers to it?”

      The master programmer shrugged. “Then the design will never be completed,” he said.

  50. Nevets says:

    Only on the Internet can you start an argument with name calling and ad hominems and as long as it sounds good later on people will praise it for being “good”. In any serious institution or environment the moment you called someone or a group of people “morons” or “Whiny Git” you would have lost the attention of that group of people and the chances of you being taken seriously by that group is long gone.

    Good points are made in this rant but calling the customer an “idiot” and then attacking the individuals who ask why an issue hasn’t been resolved by perceiving them as “Clueless, Spoiled Brats” and then warp their questions and concerns by making them out to be crying children really wins you no points other than the individuals who praise your writing because they personally feel that the game they play is infallible and has no real problems with it.

    I want to like this piece but to honest if you’re going to spit in peoples’ faces and expect them to do nothing and then say “you don’t understand” and “you’re just stupid” then I have lost all potential respect I could have for you as a human being and while my comment may just be attacking the tone of the argument starting an argument at the bottom of the pyramid would be considered an automatic fail anywhere else.

    • Lizard says:

      “Only on the Internet can you start an argument with name calling…”, etc.

      Well, then, it’s a good thing I posted this on the Internet then, ennit?

      You adapt your writing to the medium. Besides, one of the reasons people ARE so stupid is that they’ve never had anyone TELL them that they’re stupid. If you never learn it’s possible for you to be wrong, you never learn to examine your own premises and think about if you’re being rational. Two generations of people raised according to the idea the self-esteem is the cause of success, rather than the result of success, has produced a world filled with people incapable of understanding the difference between “What I think the world is” and “What the world actually is”. So long as people continue to express desires that are not supported by reality (like “Fix ALL the bugs, NOOOOOW!”), I will continue to call them idiots.

  51. Juanx says:

    Sad to see so much uselessness in a website, and the retards praising your retardness…
    Guess ignorance binds ignorance. If your company cant manage the issues with game’s programming, maybe they should go do something else. Treating customers like spoiled brats or stupid kids is not going to keep your business afloat for long, but I guess as you dont have any…
    There, Im calling you stupid, lets see if you realise yourself…

    • Lizard says:

      Ah, I see, you’ve come to the wrong page. Here’s what you’re looking for:http://mrlizard.com/rants/grammar-for-gamers/

      • Juanx says:

        Seeing as how you must speak nothing but english I can tell you from my high horse. Comeme la polla anormal…
        Alternatively, leck mich am arsch…
        But you probably can just think that I got those on google. Ignorance is bliss as it turns out.

        • Lizard says:

          I am indeed very happy. As to my linguistic skills, well, you know the saying: A man who speaks two languages is bilingual, a man who speaks three languages is trilingual, and a man who speaks one language is American. YOU-ESS-AY! YOU-ESS-AY!

          As a side note, I find it interesting how, so far, no one has actually pointed out a single fact I’ve gotten wrong. You don’t like my tone, you think I’m not sufficiently OUTRAGED about how the world doesn’t cater to my whims, but actual incorrect facts? Nada. To review, here’s the key facts:

          a)Skills among the development team are not fungible. You can’t assign the artists to fixing code, so, you either assign them to creating art, pay them for doing nothing, or fire them. What’s the best choice? Likewise, content creation and system design are distinct from implementation and coding, and putting a halt to all new work so long as any old issues are outstanding is not a wise move.

          b)There is not a linear correlation between people assigned to a task and productivity; there rapidly becomes a point where adding more people hinders productivity.

          c)The order in which bugs are assigned and fixed is based on a complex interplay of difficulty and severity, and the underlying factors that drive these decisions are not going to be visible to WhinyGamerBrat666 posting on thisgamesucksbutIkeeppayingforitbecauseImamoron.com. (I mean, seriously… the game sucks and they aren’t fixing bugs as you want them to? Cancel your account. Problem solved.)

          d)The economic realities of the current day mandate MMOs will be released buggy, or not released at all. (Even setting aside actual bugs, no game design survives contact with the audience; things will be changed, nerfed, mangled, and mutilated from the time the game is released to the time it goes tits up. An MMO that isn’t constantly changing mechanics is a game that’s effectively dead, because design and development has ceased and all people are doing is feeding the hamsters that power the servers.) To change that requires changing buying behavior, and I don’t see that happening, as the same spoiled brat nature that causes gamers to demand instant fixes to all their problems also compels them to buy things the instant they hit the shelves.

  52. Robin says:

    yes i can understand console games are smaller then pc games
    and yes company’s that make games for pc (mmo’s) will have to keep making money in order to support the game so they will design some stupid hats and what not and sell that for a stupidly high reall money price so that they can support the game for a long period of time

    some bugs will take a long time to fix yes that is known even WOW has bugs that arent fixed but they are not gamebreaking so thats not a big deal
    but after 1 year of being released or 3-5 years atleast some of the gamebreaking bugs should been fixed period atleast with the lvl of technology company’s have up to date.
    every mmo out there has its problems i can know and i sympethize for the developers
    but 1 or 4 years after their mmo is released they should or let me say they must have fixed atleast the most important one that everyone keeps reporting with screenshots and all that
    and i can’t understand that you say customers are idiots, they are only idiots if they are not fully informed of what this game will give them

    all company’s would like a word with you about how they treat their customers, i know some will treat them like crap (ea and bioware are doing that atm) and there are company’s that treat their customers really good those are the kind of company’s people will always return to because they get good customer support and not to the ones that treated them like crap and still taking their money regardless

  53. Your article was very good and on topic, until you strayed from the ‘whining about the development of resources’ to ‘why bug x hasn’t been fixed in over a year and a half’.

    I agree that retasking assets in a dev team isn’t possible, that most people have at best a skewed and at worst a false view of how codefix priorities are developed, and that what is important to demographic X isn’t important to demographic Y.

    Unfortunately, in today’s tightly linked, news-enhanced culture, perception is reality. You can claim the customer is a stupid moron until you turn blue in the face, but the ugly truth is that if your client base feels you are not making progress you will eventually lose customers and revenue.

    That’s almost certainly what did in Warhammer and is what is doing in games like TSW , STO and SWTOR. All of your points are true. Not debating that in the slightest. But if 5% of your customers are seriously affected by the bugs in Widget Chase A, and fixing that would cost a great deal more than you want to spend this year and so you low-prioritize it, you’re going to lose customers, and you’re going to have customers less willing to spend money.

    Half a percent here, two percent here, four percent here, and before long you’re crashing like WAR did, bleeding away subs at rates you can’t hope to recover them in. This tightens revenue, forcing you to curtail more expensive deployments or hire new talent.

    I agree, fully, that the basic premise of what you are saying is correct: people have unrealistic expectations of what will happen in an MMO development cycle based on poor understanding of what is priority and how the systems work. Unfortunately, there’s only so many core issues that can be ignored before such complaints — however invalid in their nature — begin to convince people the game is not worth their time.

    WAR subs gave up not because ‘little bugs were being worked on while big ones were being fixed’ or because ‘team A was doing graphic updates and Tome Unlocks while Team B was working on scenario balance’ , but because the average player — the ones you condescendingly refer to as morons — didn’t see net improvements in the things that most concerned them. The same is happening with SWTOR now.

    I admire your willingness to attempt to ‘educate’ people , but realistically the moron’s point stands: if you are not going to address the issues that make the game ‘un-fun’ for me in a realistic timeframe, then there’s zero reason for me to give you my business.

    • Lizard says:

      What you say is true — that if a company fails to respond to customer complaints, it will lose business — but that doesn’t mean that the customer’s complaints *can* be responded to in the time demanded, given the resources available. Demanding that which can’t be done as a precondition for paying means that:

      a)Companies, run by marketroids, will promise whatever customers demand, regardless of if it can be accomplished. The gamble here is to keep customers paying until the resources exist to do something. That gamble has never paid off. It didn’t pay off in the late 1980s, when companies would release versions of their software to the Macintosh that were just their DOS software running in a window, and promise a “mac like” version 2.0, built with the revenues from version 1, which never sold .It doesn’t work now, where the minimum feature list for an MMORPG keeps expanding while the development cycle pre-release keeps contracting. You end up with the death cycle where bugs/missing features cause customer shrinkage, which reduces the development budget even more, and because things like cosmetic holiday items and new variants on “kill 10 rats” quests are far easier to provide than bug fixes or deep system changes, that’s what you get, so that the company can say “Look! Content!”

      b)Customers, blinded by their wishes and unable to understand that what they demand is impossible, get angry when their impossible demands are not met, and refuse to comprehend that they can’t GET what they demand. As I’ve said in other replies — it isn’t that bug fixes aren’t important, or that companies shouldn’t try to fix everything they can, or that games shouldn’t be held back until they’re stable and mostly bug-free — it’s that economic and technical realities means this isn’t going to happen and there’s not going to be a change in these factors in the near future. If anything, the entire process is getting more and more insane.

      c)Customers, again clueless as to the gap between their desires, company promises, and reality, continue to rush madly to buy games at release, expecting more than was promised when even what was promised is more than anyone rational would expect to be delivered, then go off on rants and make demands, believing that that if they WANT something enough, it will happen. Then they repeat this over and over again, denying themselves the pleasure they might actually get from what *is* delivered because they refuse to lower their expectations, no matter how many times they’re disappointed. I’ve seen this cycle over, and over, and over. I remember when UO players, angry with the changes that limited their sociopathy, decided “Horizons” was going to be their savior game, based on promises made before a line was code was written (and before pretty much the entire devlopment team and game design shifted radically). Hell, I remember people speculating about all the things they’d be able to do in “Daggerfall”, things even a 2013 system would have a hard time doing, never mind a 1996 system.

      Game companies should promise less… and game customers should demand less. Stop rushing out to buy games at release if you don’t want tyo platy a buggy, unbalanced, mess, because that’s what games at release usually ARE. If you want a game with the polish and depth of WoW or Everquest 2… play those games. If you want to play a new game, expect it to have the same polish and depth as those games did at release, not after years of expansion and revision. So long as gamers demand that a game released after three years in development be the equal of games with three years of pre-release development and six years of post-release development, gamers will be angry and disappointed. Since so many gamers keep doing this, I assume they ENJOY being angry and disappointed. That’s their problem, not mine.

      • Aries says:

        Once again, I bow to your infinite wisdom :)
        Players should not really expect the product at launch to be as polished as something that has been updated for 9 years.
        However, 99% of crybabies argument that “this is 201x, not 2000, the times are different now”.

  54. kim says:

    dude,,if you cant take the heat in this business,,you should prolly find another job
    yes mmo players are difficult customers
    but look at a game like GW2,,now tell me why i should be happy with less than that
    i know programming is hard,,i guess thats why they made it a profession
    flaming the customers surely wont help

  55. kim says:

    there is one solution to this problem,,in your point c
    WRITE A REALISTIC LIST TO THE MARKET GUYS
    YOURE THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS, WHAT CAN BE DONE
    all other parts will have interest in hyping it
    it is in your own interest to moderate that hype,,players will hate you even more it you dont
    SWTOR is a shining example of that,,they get so much hate for not delivering
    and those “whiney gits”,,actually pays your salary
    or at least they used to,,better update your CV

    • Lizard says:

      I don’t know who you’re addressing in this post — I haven’t worked in the (computer) gaming industry since 1997. I’m still a professional programmer (and believe me, while the details may change, the core development experience when working on a complex project is pretty much the same whether it’s a game or a business app), and I am regularly published in the tabletop (pen&paper) game industry, and maintain a lot of professional contacts who are still working in computer games, some of whom I asked to review my original essay, lo, these many years ago…

      • kim says:

        im replying to those who still have interest in this subject
        in fact youre admitting the the failure yourself:
        GAME COMPANIES SHOULD PROMISE LESS
        im a consumer ,,i buy games
        so that leaves only one of us to actually KNOW what is realistic
        the same person, who is getting paid to do the job
        im sure a lot of bioware empoyees are in the same spot now
        they could have avoided it by simply saying NO the the market guys,,or the boss
        yes they would have been fired,,but thats the price for having
        a professional integrity
        you better hope your doctor doesnt have the same morale as you

        • Lizard says:

          As a consumer, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself, or you become a victim of cons and scams of all sorts. If I told you I could sell you a computer that ran at 4.5 THz, would you buy it? Of course not. You’re proving my point: Today’s gamers have no sense of personal responsibility or any awareness that they’re part of the problem. You have an obligation to *yourself* to inform yourself about the realities of the hobby you enjoy, to learn the business and technical realities that shape it, to learn the history that has put us in the current situation, and to be able to judge, based on that, what changes are both possible and probable — the two words are not synonyms — and to advocate for those changes, anticipating the counter-arguments people might make and formulating convincing replies.

          Or, you can keep on stamping your foot and demanding someone else just do what you want, RIGHT NOW! Which do you think will be more effective?

          The only way to get companies to stop overpromising is to stop demanding they make promises they can’t keep, and, when they do make promises you should know they can’t keep, don’t reward this by buying the game anyway and then ranting about how you wasted your money. Don’t rush to buy a game on release date. Wait a week, a month, six months, for long-term reviews to come out and the first wave of patches to be done. If enough people show they’ve learned from the last ten times they were burned, undermining the business model of “sell a million boxes and hope 10% sign up for the next month”, companies will produce better games on release — but that also means consumers will need to accept that games at release will be smaller and have fewer features than games which have been churning out expansions for years. The free market works.

          Also, it’s “moral”, or rather, “morals”, not “morale”. This may help: http://mrlizard.com/rants/grammar-for-gamers/#Moral .

          (This is one of more errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and basic reasoning than I care to count in your posts; in my wayward youth, I might have listed them all, but, since then, I’ve taken to heart the words of the great Robert Heinlein:”Never bother trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”)

  56. kim says:

    “educate myself”,,about a game?,,impulse buy?,,does that ring a bell
    without impulse buys, games would lose most of their sales
    if youre selling to whiny little gits,,those are the the disappointed customers,
    you willl face , when you dont deliver
    but of course you would rather have a pat on the cheek from nana
    its a smart move to get out of mmo business,,,competition is fierce
    and by your standards:
    only chefs can eat at a restaurant
    only musicians can go to a concert
    and this might be the biggest shock: when people “educate”,,they stop buying games
    and if you didnt know,,your essay is used on swtor forums to defend bioware
    it is exactly this way of thinking, that has run one of the biggest mmo titles into
    the ground

    • Lizard says:

      You spend 60+ dollars, and commit to a 15 dollar/month fee, on an impulse? Yeah, if you’re typical of MMO players today, then, you have the games you deserve.

      You don’t need to be a chef to go to a restaurant… but if you order steak tartare and then complain that it’s undercooked, you will be laughed at, and deservedly so. If you don’t do any research before spending your money: On food, on a game, on a book, on a car, on anything — you’re a moron. Smart people make mistakes, and then change their behavior so they make NEW, more interesting, mistakes. Dumb people just keep making the same mistakes, and blame anyone and anything but themselves.

      You continue to try to defend behavior that is indefensible. You parade ignorance and immaturity as if they were virtues. You want the world to be what you wish it to be, while doing nothing to actually make it so, other than repeating your wishes over and over. How’s that working? Is repeating your desires, while doing nothing to achieve them, a useful tactic so far? How long will you keep it up until you conclude it’s not working? (Answer: Forever, probably, since you are proud of your unwillingness to learn.)

      I see no real point in replying further. “You cannot reason someone out of what they were never reasoned into.”

      (I haven’t checked the SWTOR forums in ages; I tried to get my wife into it, but she prefers WoW, and so it goes. Personally, I’m just annoyed that with hundreds of pages of actual gaming content on this blog, this little rant, whipped out in an hour or two one afternoon many years ago, gets all the attention. A. A. Milne wanted to be known as a serious novelist, not a children’s author. As the Who sang, “You can’t always get what you want.”)

  57. kim says:

    i dont parade immaturity and ignorance,,,but i expect it from a large % of mmo players
    why? because it is simply those people who play mmos
    so that is your basic customer,,any game forum will prove that
    i also know that a lot of issues only can be dealt with after launch
    but as an “inside person”,,the tech guy is the only one who can see the difference
    between market hype and actual performance,,it is really their(your?) duty
    to sound the alarm,,both with the market guys, the boss,,and if needed,,the public
    im sorry if the tone is rough , but it is the same as your essay
    sorry for bad grammar too,,i always sucked at that ,,even in my own language
    but check out GW2,,thats how a finished game looks,,that is the standard we want
    and yes,,im done with mmo launches,,from now on i wait at least 6 months
    shouldnt be a problem,,every man and his dog is running a mmo these days
    cheers and good luck

  58. kim says:

    the who,,yea,,,great band,,so was led zeppelin
    and im sure that you enjoyed the quality change when DISCO made entrance,,as i did
    sure there was a couple of good disco songs,,but most of it was just commercial garbage,,and now we only get a couple of ABBA samples now and then
    the strong survive,,the weak go down

  59. Manabuka says:

    Fantastic article and incredibly amusing to see the responses. I have to admit at first glance it seemed to be about TOR. But of course I actually paid attention in school when they taught…you know….reading. I had never played an MMO before TOR, so perhaps I am not your target audience. I find the game to be very entertaining. I guess that’s just because I don’t know better to be a whiny little bitch who expects…well honestly I don’t know what people expect. I’m in danger of rambling so just want to say thanks for explaining why I always felt terribly uncomfortable reading the TOR forums. It’s a stomach churning experience to be assailed by that much concentrated stupid. Great article and much respect to you. Think I’ll stick around this site for a while!

    • Lizard says:

      Yeah, that’s the thing. I could have written the article in 1998 when I was playing UO, or in 2003 when I was playing EQ, or in 2004 when I was playing SWG, or in 2005 when I was playing WoW, or in 2007 when I was playing Vanguard. (That’s not an exhaustive list of MMOs I’ve played, BTW. I have serious MMO ADD; so far, the only two games I’ve hit level cap in are WAR and SWTOR, but I seem likely to actually hit it in my current return to WoW, largely because they’ve basically made it so every time you kick a rock, you gain a level.) The underlying issues with MMOs are systemic, due to the nature of the game, the audience, the technology curve, and the diminishing returns of adding resources.

      While it might be extreme to say ‘No one should have an opinion on MMO development if they haven’t read “The Mythical Man-Month”‘, it might be fair to say ‘No one should have an opinion on MMO development if they haven’t even heard of the book or know what it’s about.’ (Here you go, kiddies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month) It was written in 1975, and despite the fact not one bit of hardware or software used then is in active, commercial, use today (probably — this being the Internet, some pedant will try to prove me wrong, and you know what? If they do, that means *I* learned something new, which makes me better off, and THEY spent THEIR time and effort to benefit ME, for free! Get to work, pedants! Chop chop! Where was I?), nothing about the actual nature of software development has changed. The tools are better — but the expected feature sets and complexity have grown faster than the tools. This occurs everywhere in life. If you were expected to produce 10 widgets in a day, and an invention doubles the speed at which widgets can be made, the number of widgets you’re expected to produce increases, rather than your work day being halved.

      Anyway, point being, the nature of highly complex software projects makes certain behaviors/problems inevitable. Until some factor in the equation changes — a paradigm shift in software development, or a massive economic collapse that makes the current practice of “Hit the ship date, then patch, patch, patch” be abandoned forever — nothing’s going to change, so, either accept that this is how your hobby works and live with it, or find a new hobby.

  60. xhyena says:

    So, I totally agree with this post about whiners of MMO. It even makes some sense with SWTOR, since there is an incredible number of totally inexperienced folks playing their first MMO ever.

    But, SWTOR folks make, SUCH DUMB mistakes that I am mad at them for ruining the game and bleeding so many players, SWTOR had to go free to play so fast.

    Examples of idioic, zero excuse things: Forums are linked to the game. Every thing game is down for patch forums are down. Really? I mean… REALLY? This is not 1990s. If they have some sort of bizzar stupid reason for this, then outsource it!! Just rent a forum, call it “the new fancy SWTOR forum” and done! You know what happens when servers go down for patching? They say look at forums for latest info. Well forums are DOWN!

    Another idiotic thing about SWTOr that they just finally last week fixed was their patching. They would take down servers at any time they felt like it at first. Some one told them, hey we are runing game experience if we randomly take down servers at 4-8 hour intervals. So in their infinit wisdom, they tried to announce server down time of a regular time of TUESDAY PST MIDNIGHT!! prime game time for MMO players is midnight!! Now game didn’t go down once a week, it took them well over a year to keep the patch time down to once a week and only once a week … usually. But this just hemmoraged so many players. So many players who got tired of not being able to log in checked this other MMO (guild war, this that, whatever) and then they never came back. Just like that.

    So i am sorry, SWTOR doesn’t have dev problems. IT doesn’t have bug problems, or balance problems. It has stupid project managers who don’t know how to run a project. They needed to hire a few people who had prior experience launching and maintaining an MMO. Instead they thought they can do every thing right and they flushed down a very nicely done MMO experience down the toilet. If this was any game with out the STarwars IP, it would be already dead. The fact that it is still limping along is a testemant to the starwars IP, not the morons who run the game.

    • Lizard says:

      Just wondering… what does your SWTOR rant have to do with an article I wrote in January, 2009, years before SWTOR was released?

      • Youblind? says:

        Guess you think swtor is a great game, much like all your followers I guess. IGnorance is bliss, you must be right there on top of the list…

        • Lizard says:

          Yeah, in fact, I think it’s SO great, I wrote this in January, 2009, years before SWTOR came out! I’m PSYCHIC! Whooooo! (Hint: I have cunningly hidden the posting date right below the title. It’s the second piece of text on the page. I don’t blame you for missing it. It’s so well disguised, it’s like an Easter egg. You’d need a hint guide to find it. Then you’d whine you didn’t get the reward you wanted for your ‘achievement’.)

          It’s written about every MMORPG. They existed before SWTOR. (Probably, long before you were born, kid.) They’ve all had the same problems, and the same overprivileged, overentitled, idiots for customers.

  61. sray says:

    Thank you for a very interesting read. I have a couple friends working at a local game studio, so there was nothing there that I didn’t really already know, but seeing it all presented in such a manner helped pull disparate threads of knowledge together for me and put it into organized thought patterns that help when debating current gaming business models with my friends. We’re geeks and proud of it.

    I’ve noticed that much of the discussion has turned towards gamer complacency and the unwillingness to actually do something (ie. cancel their subscription). With the rise of the F2P market for MMOs, I’ve seen several excuses for this behavior (“all my friends play, so I have to”; or “like gigantic game company X losing my $15 a month is going to make any difference, so I might as well keep paying”), all of which are extremely nonsensical; but the one that absolutely blows me away is the perception that continuing to feed these games your money while bitching about a sub-par product IS doing something.

    I’ve seen friends of mine, grown men who are otherwise extremely reasonable and intelligent, claim that these companies somehow can’t do what players are asking of them without more cash than whatever it is that they’re presently generating; that companies like Sony and Electronic Arts are somehow so poor that you need to give them money to pay for the right to complain about their games because if the game in question was to shut down it would mean catastrophe for the world economy. Yes, in some cases there absolutely is not enough money to do something that random forum poster X is complaining about; but those posts generally fall along the lines of massive content expansion, not fixing long term issues. The idea that a free player in a F2P MMO is somehow “not allowed” to complain about bugs, imbalances, immersion breaking mechanics or even outright exploits without first subscribing, to a service that they most likely feel is not worth subscribing to without said fixes, is insane. And yet it seems to be a consensus opinion that an unthinking mass declares to be “logical, mature and correct” without ever actually considering how ridiculous the position is.

    I could go on about the sheer idiocy of gamers’ present behaviors, but I think it suffices to say that if gamers want to see change in the way games are developed and maintained, then it has to start with a change in the way they think and with how they decide to spend their money.

    Anyway, thanks again for a good read.

    • Lizard says:

      F2P players have the same right to complain as anyone[1], though the degree to which complaints specific to F2P will be heeded is going to be less than those of paying customers. My entire rant, really, is about resource allocation, and why there aren’t enough resources to fix everyone’s issues instantly, and the non-fungibility of resources — there’s no point in having the quest design or art teams do nothing while the server stability team works on issues they can’t help out with.

      A F2P customer has very little leverage if their issue is *specific* to F2P:”Either give F2P players more bag slots, or I’ll stop consuming your server resources while not paying you anything! Hah!” Obviously, the whole point of F2P is to get money from people by following the class drug pusher ploy of “First hit’s free, kid!”. If the F2P experience totally sucks, no one will pony up money — who is going to pay if they’re not having fun? The balance point between making the F2P experience fun enough that people are tempted to buy items or subscribe, while not making it so much fun that no one feels a need to pay, is very hard to find, and I’m glad I’m not in that position. :) (For example, I’ve been playing the Simpsons IOS game for a year now without spending a cent; it’s amusing enough as five minute a day diversion for free that I feel no need to spend real world money on it.)

      Of course, actual gameplay issues that affect both free and paying customers are a different story; if a company wants free players to convert, the gameplay itself has to be good.

      My article is addressed, mostly, at the subset of idiots on forums who seem to think that there’s a magic genie who turns complaints into bug fixes — if they just whine loud enough and often enough, the realities of economics and complex system design will fade away. It’s safe to assume no company wants unhappy customers, so the idea that a company isn’t fixing a bug a thousand people have reported because they’re waiting for the thousand-and-first complaint is silly. (Of course, there are also cases when everyone in an entire industry tells a company “You’re being morons”, and the company doesn’t listen, not to its corporate peers, not to its long-time customers, not to columnists and pundits with a track record of being right more than wrong. That company, BTW, is called “EA”, and the game is called “SimCity”. :) )

      [1]Everyone has a right to complain, albeit not a right to use someone else’s private forum to do so — sorry, folks, it’s not “censorship” if you can’t post to a company’s web board. I, in turn, have a right to laugh at people if I think their complaints are stupid and ignorant, and they have a right to say I’m a big ol’ meanie-pants for laughing at them. So it goes.

  62. Grifter says:

    I know this is an old article, but you’re the one who linked it….

    It’s a great article (of course), but I will point out one think I take rather large issue with:

    Consumers being lied to.

    You put it in sarcasm-quotes as though it’s not “really” lying because gamers should expect to be defrauded; I find that bothersome.

    Games can’t be tested before purchase, and usually can’t be refunded after purchase–so all players have to go on IS the description. If they’re lied to in the description, that’s fraud. And while some may be protected opinion (this is the best game ever!) play functionality is not. Bugs are, of course, mistakes–not the same thing. But when a feature is left out, despite being advertised, that is something to complain about, like any fraud.

    • Lizard says:

      I think, somewhere, I made the distinction between “You said blah in a two year old video and it’s not there now!” and “The box says ‘Enjoy spleen-ripping action!’, and there’s no spleen-ripping!”

      A good example is Vanguard. It promised flying mounts on launch. Had them on the box. No flying mounts. That’s a strong case for fraud: The actual, shipped, commercial package prominently listed a feature not actually in the game.

      On the flip side, the game box was designed months before shipping. Flying mounts were in the late beta for VG — I played it. It’s not ridiculous to believe that up until shortly before ship, they were supposed to be in the game, and they were cut at the last minute.

      Fraud? Yes, but not, IMO, entirely inexcusable. I think the effort of suing over it would be not worth it. However, I’m also pretty sure, “Well, we MEANT to give you what we promised!” isn’t a legal defense.

      And then there’s the ever-popular EULA. “You agree, by installing this game in order to see how sucky it is, that you won’t sue us or ask for your money back if it’s sucky.” I don’t know how well this holds up in court, but it’s a boilerplate defense that requires an actual lawyer to get past.

      With MMORPGs, or any other “continually updated” game, you have the problem of feature removal and change. I buy a game because it has Feature X. I love Feature X. I invest monthly fees for six months because of Feature X. Then, Feature X is removed. The product I bought is no longer the product I bought. I could argue that it’s equivalent to an appliance failing, or to some other loss of functionality. Does the company owe me money? Sure, I clicked the EULA that said “You can change this game from ‘Slaughterdeath Omnikill Bloodgore’ to ‘Hello Kitty Island Adventure’, and I agree not to do jack-sqaut about it.” Again — how well does this stand in court? IANAL, but I think there have been cases that say, “No, you cannot just waive all rights because you clicked a button rather than read 50+ pages of legalese.” I don’t have an answer to this, either morally, technically, or legally.

      People have spent hundreds or thousands of real-world dollars, and even formed emotional attachments, to virtual pets and farms and so on that vanish when the corporation pulls the plug. The more the things we “own” are really just the things we “rent”, the more we’ll see this problem, and eventually, it’s going to end up in court. If I spend 25 bucks on a “unique” mount in a game, and then the company lets anyone get the mount by completing a quest, part of the value I paid for — the right to appear, to other players, like a loser who spent real money for a different collection of polygons — is lost. Do they owe me? How fast does it amortize? What the Blue Book value of a Crystal Flaming Ruby Griffon after 9 months and two expansions?

      So I don’t know. I will have to concur, having dwelt on it a bit, that “You should have known you’d get mugged if you went through the park at night.” is pretty lame, when we’re discussing on-the-box, in-the-advertising, features. “Bug free” is not a possibility, but “does actually contain what it claims to contain when shipped, however poorly implemented” is NOT an unreasonable standard, and I should not imply it is.

  63. flip says:

    Came here from Popehat: just wanted to say I thought this was an excellent post. Wish more people were a little more understanding of the behind-the-scenes processes of creating something complicated.

    • Youblind? says:

      Fact is, if you cant take the heat, stay the fuck out of the kitchen.

      • Mr. Squirrel says:

        Youblind have ever worked in a Kitchen? It’s a small version of what happens in software development, only you have to develop a new menu every day. You keep proving Mr. Lizards point. I’m sure Youblind could do a much better job, if that job is staying the hell out of the kitchen.

        I know Mr. Lizard, the man knows what he is talking about. He gave solid examples, yet you respond with poo breath. Try a valid argument instead of sounding like a petulant child.

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