Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Leave the game alone!

Yet another poll for you. As I said here:

"As a gamer, I’ve always been irritated by patches. Patches for other forms of software are generally limited to bug fixes, optimization, and feature additions. Game patches, on the other hand, usually make significant changes to original gameplay. ..."

How I feel about patches makes little difference if most online gamers are just fine with them, I suppose. Do we have any idea what the majority thinks? Do changes to original gameplay (generally, not just the nerfs to your favorite class) bother you?

It's a certainty that a developer's game will not be exactly how he or she wants it to be at release. Developers of other industries are willing to accept that and treat their products as finished, if only basic (meaning additions are possible). Why is it different with games?

Aside from the problems mentioned in that WTG article, changing important gameplay features after release opens players' eyes to all the game's flaws. It makes gamers endlessly critical of published designs and diminishes their enjoyment of the games.

Some developers talk as if an MMO is some great democracy in which community participation in design takes gameplay to new levels. But that hasn't happened, has it? MMOs today haven't progressed far beyond what they were a decade ago. Most individual MMOs face the same problems years after release that they faced initially, like balancing issues. And if so many other industries can improve just through internal research and occasional polling of outsiders, why can't game developers do the same?

Should original gameplay generally remain untouched after released, excepting for bugs and polish?


  1. Hi Aaron. I would like to express my opinion and say that Patches are not necessary a bad thing. Take StarCraft for example. One year beta before release, followed by 15 - I think - patches. Of course, there is a large amount of time between these patches, but still...

    Anyway, for some games is important to be released "on date". Even if we release games only when they reached some quality level, we still have the balancing issues. You see, player will always find ways to take advantage of a game weak points and this needs to be fixed. That's just my opinion.

  2. Patches are not always a bad thing, but they often don't make sense and always come with costs. That games occasionally get patched isn't a problem. That games are regularly patched is.

    There will always be things the developers would like to change about the game. But many flaws are effectively not flaws when the users consider the product finished, because they simply accept the flaws and continue enjoying the product.

    And many common changes in patches, like rebalancing, tend to make games different more than better. While good balance isn't entirely in the eye of the beholder, different gamers like different balancing. Rebalancing is often more of a step to the side than a step forward.

  3. Okay, Aaron, I've just recently visited Iron Grip -- great concept, nice graphics. If my understanding is correct the game is a total conversion of HL2, right? So, suppose you create a game of your own. Suppose you publish your game. Would you rather wait months to make sure the game is perfectly balanced? Because, to tell you the true, I don't believe in the perfect balance.

    So, would you wait or rather launch your game and fix many of the issues on the way? I would rather publish my game when I believe is good enough then get feedback from player to make it better. I am speaking from experience; I do own a game of my own: Galactic Dream: Rage of War.

    By the way, is also your Web site? If so, would you be kind and confirm that in the reply to the e-mail I've sent you so we can talk about it? I have wrote you from pr[at]

  4. Yes, Iron Grip is a total conversion mod for HL2, and you'll be hearing more about it in the future. I'm just a temporary contractor for Isotx, not an experienced developer.

    I don't have a problem with errors being fixed in patches. If gamers find problems with A.I. or pathing, for example, it makes sense to fix that in a patch. Balancing, though, is a bottomless pit. You could spend years rebalancing the strengths of units, classes, enemies, etc, and you would never find a balance that everyone's happy with. It's silly that balancing continues years after the release of many games, because they rarely make the majority of players content.

    Gamers were more content with their games back when games remained the same after release. It's hard to be content with anything when it's open to change.

  5.'re a bit off track when you say this:
    "Developers of other industries are willing to accept that and treat their products as finished, if only basic (meaning additions are possible). Why is it different with games?"

    Patches, or "dot-releases" are common place in the IT/Telecom industry. You release something to the customer and either it did not meet expectations or they spring new requirements on you...or, not new requirements, but they interpret old ones a little differently.

    ...MMO industry is a bit at a disadvantage because they have to "guess" what feature sets or requirements we generally want. Some work, some don't, some need to be added...hence patches.

  6. ....and congrats....I'll be talking about this on the next SUWT :)

  7. I am fine with patches changing the gameplay or certain elements of the game mechanics, if they turn out not to be that good in the first place.

    This is not really that different from other areas of software as Darren says, you have updates and patches changing the functionality of the software there as well.

    However, a major difference here is that there is only one valid version of the software at any time when it comes to MMOGs. Customers (players) are forced to update to continue playing when the developer decides it is time.

    That is both a blessing and a curse - there is only one official valid release at any time, so there is no need to support multiple versions at the same time and the added complexity that comes with supporting multiple releases.

    On the other hand, since the developers are forcing time of upgrade, the situation towards the player becomes more delicate than when you have multiple release in parallel and the customer can choose, to some extent, when to upgrade.

  8. "I'll be talking about this on the next SUWT"

    Be gentle. ;)

    I can't remember any non-gaming software ever telling me "Sorry, we used to let you do this action, but not anymore. /nerf". The only software I recall doing something other than bug fixes and additions are Microsoft updates, which changes background programs so I never really witness the changes.

    Software like MS Word lets users turn off visible changes. But then, Word isn't multiplayer. ;)

    Hotmail and Gmail have changed their UI and features multiple time, and I've hated it every time. At least I have the option to use the old version (though I have to reselect that option every time).

    Could y'all give some examples of non-gaming software updates that significantly changed the user experience (aside from fixes and additional features), the changes were not hidden, and the update wasn't optional?

    As I said before, I have no problem with patches that limit themselves to bug fixes and additions. It's mainly rebalancing and other fundamental changes to gameplay that anger me.

  9. "Could y'all give some examples of non-gaming software updates that significantly changed the user experience (aside from fixes and additional features), the changes were not hidden, and the update wasn't optional?"

    I can give you many if you want, and so could others who have worked in the industry. Perfect example is that Bell, just last year, required that users enter in the area code for local calls. So now, instead of a 7 digit number, I have to dial in 10....even if I'm phoning my friend across the street. Not optional...not hidden...a pain in the ass.

    There are more that I've experienced, but you probably wouldn't be able to relate as well to them as the above.

    What you're asking for, i.e. "patches that limit themselves to bug fixes and additions", is just not a realistic request to make of any related or not. It's a nice idealistic approach to software development, but would never work in practice. There are just too many variables that come from customers, standards and technology that work against you and require an iterative approach to software development.

    On the other would love Hardware development, because they aren't aloud to make those kind of mistakes ;)


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