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Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the where-did-my-face-go dept.

Bug 362

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

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362 comments

Refunds for broken merchandise. (4, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455192)

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455220)

In practice not many people would cash in, since it would motivate the company to release patches to fix bugs.

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (3, Insightful)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455360)

I sincerely hate patches. I'm not being paid to be a beta tester. Some time ago the situation was that sometimes an obscure bug may have slept after release and a small patch was a welcome news.

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

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

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

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

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

They've no accountability for their products, really. Even consoles now are victim of the patch frenzy, and there is nothing that we the informed customer can do to fend them off.
But don't come to me to tell that bug free complex games are *impossible*. That's bullshit.
 

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455358)

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

512MB RAM
P4 or better
1GB disk space free

to :

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

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

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

Win XP
Vista
Win 7
Win2k

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (2, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455618)

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

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455916)

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

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

1. Licensing costs - some licenses work out to 1000s of dollars per year. Multiply by different versions/products maybe 100k/year
2. hardware costs - said small company now needs extra hardware to simply run said s/w
3. HR costs 1- company needs to add extra staff to QA the new configurations.
4. HR costs 2 - company now needs deployment/VM/server/network specialists to set up these various environments to do QA on.

My point is NOT that small companies have the right to sell crap software. My point is that since there will ALWAYS be bugs in software, this will increase the barrier to entry for software companies - so that only google, MS or Oracle have the money and resources to do all this QA work to comply with stringent standards and STILL release software with bugs in it.

In any case, a serious small software startup will give refunds, or work with client or fix the product if it wants to keep selling (from a purely business aspect..). Just like any industry, there are always going to be fly by night operators and shoddy products. These will die a quick death (like any crap business)

The problem with this is that they're trying to foist QA processes inherent to physical products, onto inherently more complicated, abstract product (s/w) which cannot be measured with the same yardstick as physical products (eg the electronics they are talking about).

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (4, Insightful)

@madeus (24818) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456126)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (5, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455476)

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

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455626)

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

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455716)

How about wanting a refund for a car because you can't fit it in your garage. Never mind that your garage is already full of other crap which is why there's no room.

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (1, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455736)

Better analogy is wanting a refund for a car because it won't start if there's a motorcycle parked on the same street.

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455842)

That is the most pathetic car analogy I've ever seen on a site full of lousy analogies. Does not being able to park your car in the garage magically make it none-functional? I don't think so. I don't even have a garage and my car works just fine.

Piracy. (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455770)

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

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

Re:Piracy. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455822)

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

Re:Piracy. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456022)

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

Re:Piracy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456114)

Many demos work while the full version doesn't because they don't share enough code(all in a malicious yet futile attempt to keep crackers away).

Re:Refunds for broken merchandise. (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455994)

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

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

So what will happen? Software will go the same way every other merchandize went. Its price will go up by about 10% and the quality remains shoddy. Those 10% extra will cover for people cashing in their refund.

Here's my take !! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455198)

suppose this whole thing began a couple of years ago. Now it's completely out of control. At some point cell phones captured the collective consciousness of computer users. Now they're all anyone talks about anymore.

I noticed this phenomenon on a recent podcast I was asked to take part in. The show was supposed to be broadly about tech--computers specifically--but 90 percent of the conversation revolved around the mobile phone, the issues with new handsets, in particular.

The trend is horrid, but it's not it's not the trend that bothers me. What annoys me is the fact that there is little talk about anything other than hardware features. People talk about the screen, the keyboard, the On and Off button, the layout of the icons, etc. etc. Nobody ever talks about the lame applications. Wait, did I say "lame?" Actually, maybe that's the reason.

Can you imagine if these were the key talking points with computers? Can you imagine endless chatter about the display and the keyboard? That was the case with the PS/2 of computers that was released by IBM. People constantly complained about the fuzzy CRT display. But that didn't last long. It certainly didn't go on for years, that's for sure.

So, what are we left with? An entire industry caught up in mobile phone gossip. It's vapid.

Now I understand that the mobile phone is a new computing platform. But where is the VisiCalc--that killer app that demands I adopt one mobile OS? There isn't one. There are plenty of games, PDF readers, and gimmicky demonstrations, but there really isn't anything out there that compels anyone to choose a specific handset.

The phone itself is the killer app. Yes, I can make a call. That's sort of why I have a mobile phone in the first place. So, why do I need an iPhone again?

I've pondered this as I've watched people play with their iPhones. The primary reason to get one is for random Web browsing (which iPhone owners generally do to show off the fact that they can browse the Web on their handset) or time-wasting. The latter seems to be the main use of cell phones these days. I include phone calls in that category. Honestly, how much time does any one person need to yak on the phone? Nearly every time I overhear a phone conversation, the chit-chat is almost always inane, useless, unnecessary.

And when people are not too busy needlessly chattering on the phone, they're sending messages to all of their friends for no apparent reason. Every so often there's a TV story about some idiot who racked up an absurd bill by sending 10,000 text messages in one month. How is that even possible?

When they're not on the phone or texting, the person is probably goofing around on the phone. In the old days when people were standing in line or otherwise waiting for something, they'd read a book or knit or meditate. Now they fool around on the phone. And any phone will do. They play games, sort messages, look for new apps. In other words, they waste time. Really, the iPhone is only the greatest handset around because it has more ways to waste time than any phone, ever.

With the economy in the tank, this is probably as good a use of idle time as anything. But let's face it, this whole phone thing is about wasting time. Productivity gains and other rationalizations are bogus excuses for what is really going on here.

Cell phones are ruining the country. The economy has tanked in proportion to the growing popularity of the iPhone. This is no coincidence, as far as I'm concerned. This is only going to get worse as we're programmed to waste more time. The proof, to me, is the endless chatter about cell phones themselves that I mentioned earlier.

Look around you. See how people are wasting time on their phones and in general. We need to refocus on the desktop computer, a device that did indeed improve productivity. We need to stop looking at, talking about, and reviewing these phones. In fact, let's just stop using them!

Yes, I'm sure my suggestions won't be taken seriously. In fact, the exact opposite will happen the more and more we become obsessed with these devices. Maybe a killer app will arise and make my complaints moot. Sadly, I don't see one on the horizon.

There, I wrote that !!

Q. Do complex, nonuniform ___ have imperfections? (2, Insightful)

Ed Peepers (1051144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455206)

A. Yes.

Re:Q. Do complex, nonuniform ___ have imperfection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455296)

Que the mathmaticians to state that there in fact exists a set of perfect nonuniform complex ___

Re:Q. Do complex, nonuniform ___ have imperfection (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455392)

Cue.

Re:Q. Do complex, nonuniform ___ have imperfection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455420)

Prove it!
-- Kurt Godel

Re:Q. Do complex, nonuniform ___ have imperfection (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455442)

Cue quantum physicists to state that in fact this does not exist anywhere but in the theoretical constructs of pure mathematics.

And the definition of "work"? (4, Insightful)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455236)

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

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

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

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

Re:And the definition of "work"? (1)

craagz (965952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455386)

Software runs on various systems and can break or run slow (Vista) or get buggy if it is run on improper systems. Even books get different editions and reprints and addenda sometimes becz it was missed first time round.
What I am saying is, if the product performs well in its standard environment, a customer can't ask for money back. You cannot use a phone under water and say it broke.

On the other hand, if game developers are indeed running after bells and whistles instead of a well running game, they ought to be some way of compensation to the consumer, maybe a coupon or a free add-on, an not full money-back guarantee.

Re:And the definition of "work"? (2, Informative)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455688)

What I am saying is, if the product performs well in its standard environment, a customer can't ask for money back. You cannot use a phone under water and say it broke.

That's a ridiculous comparison. What is a standard environment for a computer? No one runs a game with no software other than the OS installed. Do you think software companies should be allowed to start dictating to you what other software you're allowed to have installed on our system?

Also it's a terrible comparison because putting a phone in the water can physically damage the phone. No one is saying you should be able to microwave the DVD the game comes on and still be able to get your money back.

Re:And the definition of "work"? (4, Insightful)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455942)

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

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

Is this inexcusable? (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455786)

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

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

Re:Is this inexcusable? (1)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456024)

I think we're more likely seeing the industry maturing. Yes, software is complex, and there will be bugs. But I think we're seeing software manufacturing becoming more of a mass produced product than a boutique industry. In the boutique world there are limited customers and reputation is key. Further, most of the developers had some pride in what they were distributing and usually wouldn't distribute software with major bugs. Now, we're seeing the industry become more like manufacturing where timeframes and bottom-lines are far more important, and meeting a release date and getting revenue is a high priority than making sure the product works. In much the same way, manufacturers of physical goods will accept a certain level of error and failure acknowledging that it will cost them in returns.

Re:Is this inexcusable? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456050)

A consumer product is done when it is done.

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

Games or all software (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455900)

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

Re:And the definition of "work"? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455988)

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

Andy Tanenbaum (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455256)

AST:

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

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

Re:Andy Tanenbaum (1)

chrisG23 (812077) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455932)

Whoosh. He'd be correct on some points though.

Mass (D)Effect (1, Interesting)

Mystery00 (1100379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455264)

I bought Mass Effect only to find out that the game simply does not run. My computer is as close to flawless as it could possibly get, it's been running for years and has successfully played many games with many different engines, I have done workarounds for crashes and bugs and all sorts of things, it's a tried and true PC.

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

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

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

Damn right I would want the law involved, this is a defective title but I can't do anything about it except trying it on some future computer and hoping that ME finds it satisfactory for whatever reason.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455300)

Your video card hardware or driver could be broken.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0, Troll)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455336)

ATI, is that you?

Re:Mass (D)Effect (2, Informative)

Mystery00 (1100379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455396)

Nope, Nvidia.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455394)

To quote the GP poster:

My computer is as close to flawless as it could possibly get, it's been running for years and has successfully played many games with many different engines,

So:

Your video card hardware or driver could be broken.

Seems pretty unlikely.

If your system can run all sorts of games based on various different engines and there is one game in particular that refuses to run then chances are the guys who programmed that game did something wrong. This is even more likely when you can run a different game based on the same engine and it just works.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455398)

That's actually the most important point in this debate in my opinion. The comparison to normal goods might even hold for console games, where you have a precisely defined hard- and software platform. For PCs, covering all the possible combinations is impossible, and very often if something doesn't work, it's a nightmare to track down what causes the issue. And then what do you do? If some other software or a piece of hardware on my PC interferes with a game I am trying to run, while the game runs fine for everyone else, what happens? For all practical purposes, the game developer delivered a product that is perfectly fine, there is just an issue in my specific circumstance.

As an analogy, if I buy a car and then find out a day later that the city I live in decided to tear open the road to my house and I have to park my car miles away, then it's not the fault of the car manufacturer. It's pretty much the same topic, the product itself might be fine, but the infrastructure I need to use it is not working as I expected.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30456012)

Mod parent -1 (failed car analogy)

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1)

Durkheim (960021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455334)

A BSOD is most probably a driver problem. The game only triggered the problem, but is not the cause. Also, the engine used is the UT3 engine, a _very_ widespread engine, so it's probably not the engine fault either.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Mystery00 (1100379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455408)

It's not always a BSOD. I've also played UT3 and Gears of War on this computer with absolute no problems whatsoever.

Like I said before, this is the game, not my computer. You can dig all you like though.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455482)

I think you underestimate the complexity of todays graphics drivers/hardware. It is quite common for a new game to use code paths that previous games did not use -- code paths that are totally ok by the spec, but broken on your hardware or driver.

The fact that you have succesfully played dozens of other games only proves that the card or sintallation is not seriously broken. It does nothing to prove that your setup is bug free.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (0)

Mystery00 (1100379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455578)

But where's the responsibility then in using code paths that are untested and unverified? Is my computer a BETA testing platform for their spiffy new line of code? No. You're creating a product and you want it to be as stable as possible for as many computers as possible.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455470)

Bullshit.

Other games on the same rendering, physics, and sound engines run fine on his system. The problem isnt with the drivers, although sometimes driver makers FIX THE BUGS IN 3RD PARTY GAMES.

The problem is almost certainly the copy protection mechanism.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (4, Insightful)

windwalkr (883202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455416)

I bought Mass Effect only to find out that the game simply does not run. My computer is as close to flawless as it could possibly get, it's been running for years and has successfully played many games with many different engines, I have done workarounds for crashes and bugs and all sorts of things, it's a tried and true PC.

Just an anecdote from the other side of the fence, and not saying this is necessarily your case. Certainly not defending Mass Effect, I've never tried the game personally.

We've had numerous users report serious defects in our products over many years, and faced all sorts of threats and insults, only for the fault to be eventually traced to the user's "tried and tested hardware." Each program that you may use exercises different components of your PC in different ways. Sometimes subtle differences can make a massive difference in results; the difference between working fine and not even starting up. Should the developer pay because you have some mildly faulty ram?

We've also seen vastly different behavior from hardware/drivers built to the same spec but sourced from different manufacturers, or from the same manufacturer but over different periods. Sometimes these deviations are within the spec but not covered by reasonable testing; often these deviations are outside the spec completely. Should the developer pay because one or more of your components do not follow the specs, or deviate significantly from what was standard practice at the time the software was developed?

As a user, I have to agree that it sucks when products don't work as advertised. I agree that there should be a mechanism for complaint against any vendor, whether their product be physical or virtual. But I'm not sure that I agree that there should be an absolute right of refund at the user's discretion. That's just open for abuse - whether deliberate or incidental.

I'm also not particularly fond of DRM and yet that would seem to be the only way that a vendor could offer true "returns" of a software-only product.

It's probably worth noting that I'm not claiming that all bugs are the user's fault; but it's certainly not the case that all bugs are the application developer's fault, either.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1)

Mystery00 (1100379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455614)

Call it a programmer's intuition, or just calculating chances. If 100 games work on a system and 1 doesn't, there's a good chance it's something to do with the game. For example STALKER: Clear Sky, that games was broken until at least 4 patches later (allegedly they outsourced their testing and this was the result). Yet some people ran through the game perfectly fine! While others experienced the crashes and other bugs. But the problem was with the game, how do we know? Because the scripts are right there for everyone to see, a few people including myself even made some small edits to them to continue through the game when they stumbled on a crash.

Now try and prove that the game is broken to a person for who it worked flawlessly for 3 whole run throughs. Good luck.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (2, Insightful)

windwalkr (883202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455764)

Call it a programmer's intuition, or just calculating chances. If 100 games work on a system and 1 doesn't, there's a good chance it's something to do with the game.

This is the first assumption that you'd jump to, but there's no real evidence that it's true. Perhaps the "one game" simply uses more ram than the others, and thus hits a "faulty bit" in one of the ram chips. Perhaps the graphics drivers have an off-by-one condition that causes them to over-read a vertex buffer and into unallocated memory. Even on "identical" machines, this may not crash unless the application's allocations match an exact pattern that causes the bad read to touch an unmapped page. We've seen both of these in practice.

Sure, there are plenty of bugs - pretty much any software has some, and some software more than others, but it's fair to say that the "my machine is fine, it must be the software" mentality leads to some very poor conclusions from time to time, even though it's an understandable position for a user to take.

Now try and prove that the game is broken to a person for who it worked flawlessly for 3 whole run throughs. Good luck.

Yup, we certainly see some of this as well. Loyal users can sometimes be fast to jump on people reporting valid bugs.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (2, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455810)

Should the developer pay because you have some mildly faulty ram?

Other product vendors have to pay if the customer decides they don't like the color of their purchase. So yeah, it's the cost of doing business.

It's understood that computers are complex and not every program will work in every situation, but why do you think the vendor is entitled to the money of someone who for whatever reason can't use your product? It would be a lot to ask to required the vendor to figure out what screwy component is causing problems and to make their product run on everyone's computer, but it's not a lot to expect them to only make money from people who are actually getting the bare minimum that they paid for.

Pretty much everyone knows where to get pirated versions of whatever software they want to run, so I'm pretty sure the only people hurt by not allowing refunds are honest customers.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1)

craagz (965952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455418)

There are many, many companies that do not have these problems. They create good engines, good software that works. They test it thoroughly and deliver a working product.

Guess Duke Nukem Forever is delayed because of this.

Re:Mass (D)Effect (1)

Usekh (557680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455676)

And it worked absolutely flawlessly for me. Not a crash, hangup or anything on two separate systems and the same on a friends computer. But of course it is the -game- not your system.

What about Betas? (1)

miggyb (1537903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455272)

If this includes Beta releases, then that effectively means that the software company would have to much more testing in-house and ramp up the prices of the finished product to compensate.

If it doesn't include Beta releases, then everything everyone makes will be labeled a Beta until kingdom come.

Seems like a pretty difficult law to write. Perhaps limit how long a Beta test can last?

Re:What about Betas? (3, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455346)

The prices are what the market will bare. They would not "ramp up prices" because that would be sub-optimal.

The reality here is that they are not paying for the ordinary quality control process because they can legally get away with it. It has nothing to do with retail pricing.

Re:What about Betas? (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455356)

I assume the consumer does not have to pay to be part of a beta test program. Consumer protection law in my country (.nl) takes the price paid for the product into account when determining how much quality a "reasonable consumer" might expect. There is no need for a computer game to be perfect, as long as it is playable. Our judges are likely to handle "paid beta" software as any other paid for software: It should work, for reasonable definitions of work.

Re:What about Betas? (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455382)

Are there companies running betas where the players pay them? When access to the beta is free, players demanding a refund will not be a risk for the company running the beta.

Re:What about Betas? (1)

craagz (965952) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455422)

Google?

Re:What about Betas? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455534)

Do you pay for a beta by itself?
Are you an imbecile?
Hint: both questions have the same answer. If you pay for a "beta", the price paid should include a subsequent upgrade to the released version, or a full refund if no release is forthcoming in a stated time (the expiry date of the beta, perhaps). Looking at it a different way, you have pre-paid for the released version, and the beta is given as a freebie.

depends on the vendor (1, Informative)

prichardson (603676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455274)

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

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

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

Re:depends on the vendor (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455362)

Blizzard paid for this early by letting their customers know, "its done when its done" and then backing it up with a near perfect release. The business philosophy of "build a customer base and then reap the rewards" is rare to see these days.
EA has constantly and consistantly developed a stance of "Tough Shit", and has reaped the rewards off the backs of good game developers by purchasing them and selling off their good name until it is no longer profitable. DICE comes to mind in this area.

Re:depends on the vendor (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455400)

EA has enough money too.

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

10 Acquire company with solid title
20 Sell crappy sequels, earning major profits off the soon-to-be tarnished brand name of that title.
30 Goto 10

Re:depends on the vendor (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455502)

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

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

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

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

Along the same lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455294)

When I buy a car I expect that parts will continue to be made for it for years to come, shouldn't software be supported for 15-20 years as a NORMAL business practice?

Sure, if you want to pay for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455342)

You spend more on pizza than you do software, so what is your ocmplaint? Do you get support for your pizza?

Re:Along the same lines... (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455370)

Cars dont change that much, Operating systems, hardware, and the speed at which they process data do. You do this, they will start making games "OEM". Install on one system only, and only the one they support.

Re:Along the same lines... (1)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455548)

Does your car service level agreement promise 20 years of parts manufacture? ...I thought it might not. Even if a deal like that is available, it wouldn't be if cars improved at the speed computing does.

Car parts will only be made as long as there's demand, same goes for software support. It just happens not many people want support for 20 year old software. That is NORMAL business practice.

Yes and No (1, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455302)

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

Re:Yes and No (1)

MORB (793798) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455440)

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

Also note how all the example in the article are PC games. That's because when they release a PC game, developers and publishers don't have to submit themselves to a third party authority that enforces quality, whereas for a console game your game have to survive the extensive testing of the console manufacturer to make it to manufacturing.

However, if consumers can get bugged games refunded, then it will provide the pressure that publishers and developers lack to release quality pc games (since they'e mostly unable to do it by themselves). So all in all I think this will be a good thing for PC games.

Re:Yes and No (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455464)

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

Isn't there a difference? (2, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455306)

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

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

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

Re:Isn't there a difference? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455438)

What liability is that?

You sell game for $X to N users, but it doesnt work for C users, so your GROSS is $X * (N - C)

Finally, consumer protections for software (4, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455314)

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

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

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

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

(yes, I AM sour about this)

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

"Fitness for purpose": exactly what is it? (2, Interesting)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455500)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exchange my laptop for BSOD?? (1)

aallison05 (1666275) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455316)

First of all, software consumers are in most cases (not all I admit) much savvier about their purchases than your average consumer headed down to the box store to buy a new toaster. There is a plethora of information available about the quality of software releases, including software reviews online and in print and support forums that often give the pulse of a broad range of user's experiences. I for one do not rush out and buy the first release of any new program or video game on release day, with the exception of some publishers of PC software that have shown to have a good track record of making timely updates when bugs are discovered in their software. I think that some sort of regulation as discussed here will limit the number of deep, creative games in the market because people will spend so much time on QA out of fear of a government backlash. We will end up with a large number of high quality, yet boring and unintuitive programs.

Re:Exchange my laptop for BSOD?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455576)

Well, it can be implemented right... I bought something from you and it doesn't work. You should not be deprived of a choice between fixing it (reasonably quickly) or refunding it. I could be required to a) demostrate brokenness of the product, b) sign legal papers claiming complete return of the product, c) return whatever is reasonable to return (just to confirm part b)).

So if you know your game is good on average and mostly works you can take the chances - most users will not bother to return it unless it is really unplayable, and if some bug bothers too many people you may be able to stop the returns by fixing the bug.

Now, with games that fail for 20% of users it will be a big problem for the publisher unless it is fixed. But I guess it is a feature.

Of course, braindead implementation can ruin even better ideas...

What is broken? (1)

Noitatsidem (1701520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455326)

When we talk about things like TV's, and phone's... We notice if it "works" or "doesn't work"... With games, even non-digital the line gets blurred... Things begin to either "Be really fun" or "suck". Not to mention the fact that many games (I'll cite the classic Pokemon red&blue's MissingNo. glitch, yeah you know what I'm talking about... this is /.) are sought after for these defects, defects can, and have become "bells and whistles"... So it further becomes blurred what is a feature, and what is a careless mistake... Modern Video games aren't your everyday dishwasher- they don't leak(Not positive if you guys have your rigs watercooled though), and unlike pokemon episodes, they (normally) warn you before the seizure starts... So to /. and to all, what is a "broken game" (Definitions, and then examples, rather than the reverse preferably.) Also, what of the twelve year olds on xbox live that can't seem to kill you, because you're a "hacker" and they're going to tell their mommy about how you ruined Halo3 for them, wont issues like this come up?

Re:What is broken? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455518)

Definitely Broken:

  • Game won't start on hardware that is supposed to be supported according to the box
  • Game crashes regularly or in a way that prevents you from completing it
  • Game does not support the user's native language
  • Game claimed support for handicapped people but the support is broken and useless
  • Game causes damage to the system (wiping files, damage registry entries, whatever)

There are probably some more cases, just continue in the same vein.

You know that you already have the right to return stuff to stores, right? In my country, the law says that defective products can be returned but you can't return something "because I changed your mind", "it isn't what I really wanted" or "the other store down the road has it cheaper". If the box is clearly labelled and it does what it says without breaking anything then you can't return it, simple.

Blizzard releases? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455354)

No company is perfect, but there is always one company that ends up the flag bearer for PC game releases. Last decade, it was Origin. These days, I'd say the company that has the best processes for getting games to the PC would be Blizzard.

I don't intend this to sound fanboish, but they have had some very smooth release cycles in recent memory. Last year's release of WoTLK for example.

Of course, there are plenty of valid gripes on other topics against Blizzard, but they do get their PC games out and they tend to be polished and playable even at the 1.0 version level, and any major show-stopper bugs tend to get fixed.

This doesn't mean that other game companies have to copy Blizzard one for one in everything, but there are a number of things Blizzard does right which other game companies (mainly ones that seem to be just interested in what's up ahead next quarter) forget. First, the game gets released when its done. Not earlier. No "beta" releases and promises to patch. Reason? The patches to fix the broken stuff don't come because the devs get moved to new games. Second, Blizzard aims for the abacus. The more machines able to play games, the more people who can and will buy them. Lastly, PR. Blizzard are public relations geniuses. They keep players hanging on even in times between expansions by showing off a screenshot here, a model there, maybe a Flash movie or some terrain on another day. And this works. WoW keeps the subscriptions coming, and people keep playing even though if one compared raid zones, WoW doesn't have that many raid areas compared to say EQ1.

Of course, a lot of game companies just want next quarter profits and nothing else. So, they don't want to deal with the PC hassles, and go for the console market. However, they don't realize that even though console buyers do buy games, there are FAR more PCs out there than consoles, and even a small chunk of that market means far more cash rolling in than a major portion of the consoles. However, consoles are immune to piracy, easy to develop on, and the latest generation of consoles allow for shipping beta code, then forcing a patch before play, so it allows for bad development cycle practices.

The only reason that complex games have buggy releases is that game companies find it easier to ship beta quality builds as releases rather than waiting the amount of time before the show-stoppers are ironed out by true beta testers [1].

[1]: True beta testing isn't just handing out keys to random gamers as a reward and perhaps an advantage when the thing releases. Classic beta testing is actually paying people with QA experience to sit there and grind every little facet of a game, to find anything that squeaked past the alpha bug stomps. However, this seems lost these days, except for a very few companies.

Re:Blizzard releases? (3, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455778)

No company is perfect, but there is always one company that ends up the flag bearer for PC game releases. Last decade, it was Origin. These days, I'd say the company that has the best processes for getting games to the PC would be Blizzard.

I don't intend this to sound fanboish, but they have had some very smooth release cycles in recent memory. Last year's release of WoTLK for example.

You failed. Blizzard hasn't shipped a game in 5 years. Expansions for WoW, yes. Games, no.

 

Give the users the choice (1)

DomHawken (1335311) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455364)

Have a two tier system - beta and release. Clearly the release version would come out a lot later (if at all) and have limited functionality, but heck - you could sue if it freezes mid level.

Agreed, but (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455366)

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

2- Second difference: if my dishwasher's software craps out, my whole dishwasher craps out. If my PC software is broken, only that specific piece (hopefully) won't work. So whatever warranty should apply in one case to the whole shebang, in the other case, only to the specific software ? Or not, because if i bought my PC for a specific task and it won't do it, I need to get rid of it all ?

3- That said, I'm in favor of doing something, anything, to improve OS/Apps quality. The industry is not self-regulating. Reviewers are not doing the job. Right now the best you can do as a consumer is to buy a complete, packaged pc+os+apps, and return it to the manufacturer if it won't work. You can rarely do that, though, because you've got to get stuff from different suppliers. My Motorola phone never synched with XP. My new WinMob phone crashes daily, usually when synching with 7, too. Ubuntu never worked for me (didn't cost me much, though ^^)

Buggy releases aren't the problem (1)

HNS-I (1119771) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455374)

I didn't read TA because my instant reaction is that it doesn't matter if a first release is buggy. The problem is that software houses release a game and put all their effort into the new game, which is logical, but often neglect the last game too much.

AST (5, Informative)

yanyan (302849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455384)

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

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

Seriously, give the Man due credit.

Re:AST (0, Flamebait)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455610)

And then there's a bunch of other stuff you may or may not know about, such as the Amoeba distributed OS, a free anonymous p2p network called Turtle, and probably a few other knick-knacks along the way.

If you worry about us, a bunch of tech geeks, not having heard about them, they haven't made a huge impact, have they?

I believe this one guy from Finland wrote an OS called Linux based on another OS called Minix discussed in that book (and even got into the flamefest of the century with the Finnish guy!)

Right. If AST is the hot shot writing OSes, why aren't we all using GNU/Minix? The answer is in the flamefest: Minix is meant to be a teaching tool, not a production OS.

"tech expert"? That's a big step down from "CS god."

I think it's as step sideways. Andy seems like a great teacher (I'm TA'ing off of his Structured Computer Organization ATM) and a great Computer Scientist. But being a teacher/scientist and being an engineer/innovator that puts useful technology in the hands of the people are two different things.

It is important to have people design p2p systems nobody uses. But to make use of the useful ideas generated by science, we also need people to translate "Relational Algebra" into plain ol' reading and writing a varchar(140).

And there's a lot more read-and-write-a-varchar going on than anonymous distributed microkernel multiparty something. Many things we need we already know how to write (just not how to write well).

Mr Tanenbaum, the hardware must be fixed first!!! (1, Offtopic)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455436)

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

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

Of course, this is not a panacea, but it is certainly a step in the right direction...

Even *Simple* games can be broken (2, Interesting)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455444)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455462)

I think such legislation would put software makers under pressure to first make sure their software works, then worry about more bells and whistles.

That legislation would also pressure software makers to create stringent DRM schemes which make sure no one buys an app, installs it and returns it to the shop to get a refund, thus lowering the quality of software. Maybe there's more consequences than the eye can see in this proposal... I would give different ideas, but most of them have nasty implications:

  • Require software companies to send patches via (physical) mail: potential Big Brother, too much market intervention.
  • Create a government board to investigate software bugs: creates artificial jobs which duplicate existing work, inefficient, potential abuse by people like Michael Atkinson...

The only way is, in my POV, for the buyers to get information about the software release beforehand. The government can't help here without creating more hassles than solutions.

Re:Implications (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456014)

I say let it happen. Then the government can step in again and prevent them from locking out reselling which is what game publishers are most worried about anyway.

Then, mr Tanenbaum, fix the programming languages! (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455466)

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

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

Re:Then, mr Tanenbaum, fix the programming languag (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455880)

Let me see if I can translate your post:

"C and C++ are the root of all EVIL! Bad programmers are not stupid or incompetent, it's just impossible to write good software, especially when using (EVIL!) languages like C and C++. Software companies have never hired incompentent programmers because they are cheap; all programmers everywhere are as good as they can ever be. There has never, ever, (EVAH!) been a piece of software which is bug free, or at least close to it. Bug free software is impossible. And finally, the spectrum of competence of software developers is binary: there is braindead stupid vs. god-like omnipotence; just as the spectrum of software quality: there is crappy buggy software vs. impossibly unatainable perfection."

Sounds about right?

          -dZ.

Question with a question(s).... (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455496)

Are Complex Games Doomed To Have Buggy Releases

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

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

But seriously, since when has any of the above been considered truly mission critical, in the sense that it MUST work exactly as expected from its very first execution in the field? I think somebody has some pretty high expectations for consumer software here, if he's trying to apply the same process requirements that NASA or the DoD would demand.

They're GAMES. Good grief.

Re:Question with a question(s).... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456068)

True however if you take the game Soldner: Secret Wars [wikipedia.org] for example. A game that boasted x amount of vehicles you could drive. Yet when I bought it you couldn't do jack shit and was completely broke.

There's definitely a line. I'm not saying a game has to be bug free however lying on the back cover about features that don't even exist is pure BS.

Another game that comes to mind is Eve-Online. When that first came out the back cover mentioned about the ability to own your own space station. Only took them YEARS later to add it though.

M$ will go broke (1)

lcarnevale (1691570) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455550)

If this happens, then there are two options (that I can see at least) 1. Microsoft will go broke refunding a LOT of users 2. The next release of windows 8 will be delayed to 2025+

who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455590)

As long as they have a cumulative patch that you can run and update the original game distribution who cares?

My two cents as a software developer (4, Interesting)

stikves (127823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455760)

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

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

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

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

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

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

One problem: What is the cause of failure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30455826)

Especially with PC games, far too often a "buggy game" is not working right because of the user's system.

I'm not defending clear cases - bugs in game logic, incompatibilities with common hardware etc. I'm talking of problems due to OS bugs with specific (rare) configurations, buggy old drivers, conflicts with configurations that do not have OS updates installed, pirated OS installs, malware mucking things up... stuff that falls to either the manufacturer of the OS or the administrator of the computer.

Realistically speaking, users can't be expected to figure out why exactly something breaks, but if application/game developers have to take refunds or help fix issues that are absolutely not their fault, things could get ugly and fast.

I'm talking from experience, working in the "front lines" - 80-90% of the issues that users complain about (a PC game) are not caused by the game code. A small portion of those could perhaps be worked around in game code (built-in driver version checks etc. that spell out to the stupid that yes, this won't run on six month old buggy driver) but most of the cases are just failure-to-administer-your-computer type issues. If every single one of these would entitle the user to a refund, it would effectively mean that anyone could get a refund on an piece of software for any reason - it is exceedingly simple to just feign ignorance and state that "doesn't work on my PC".

The truth is. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455924)

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

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

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

In mathemathics and science.. it may make sense to create stuff that is proven perfect, but not on something commercial.

Now games:

Games use to be CMMI1. People doing "heroic actions" to finnish in time and in budget. Is getting better, and It will get better and better. Planification is better than heroism in software crafting. Probably crafting games need some room for improvisation, so probably is a industry where total planification is suboptimal, but It will move there, because will be cheaper and more convenient for everyone.

imho.

No. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#30455954)

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

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

Buggy or Beta? (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30456082)

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

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