Clear Sky: The First Patch

By Alec Meer on September 3rd, 2008 at 11:06 pm.

BE ADVISED!

We’ll be talking more about Clear Sky soon, once gamers have had a chance to actually play it rather than just shout conspiracy theories about the mixed-bag scores it’s been receiving. On the pre-eve of the game’s European release, however, there’s already a patch out. Notably, it addresses a few of the things Jim’s, Kieron’s and my respective reviews complained about, such as easing the penalties from bandit muggings (note to everyone in the world: the multiple random, avoidable bandit muggings and the single, cutscene-based, unavoidable bandit mugging that happens partway through the main quest are not the same thing), improving performance, increasing the cash won from missions and vague talk of balance improvements. I’ve stuck the complete patch notes beneath the cut, too.

Even if it’s as good as it sounds, I’m really not convinced it can lift the game to the level of its predecessor, but I’ll be glad to be proved wrong. I adore Stalker, and I had dearly hoped Clear Sky would be awesome. I’ll give the patch a spin tomorrow and see whether it takes the game any closer to my obscenely high standards.

Oh, and something I raised in comments on another post, but will repeat here. It’s a little rhetorical on my part, but hey, it makes for a good talking point. Should game reviewers make their judgements on games with evident technical problems with presumption of a problem-fixing patch in mind? Or should we base it only on the code we’re presented with? If option a) what happens if the problems aren’t, in fact, fixed?

Patch notes:

Changes:
• MultiSample Anti Aliasing
• Added use of special cover during fights.
• Improved dynamic lighting.
• Changes to combat balance: some enemies are now stronger.
• Changes to economic balance.
• Added secondary objectives.
• Changed some animations in the multiplayer.
• Improved sorting of secondary objectives in the PDA.
• Added the ability to communicate with storyline characters, squad leaders and guides without holstering weapons.
• Added description of stash contents when purchasing information about the stash.
• Added additional information to pop-up tips in the PDA.
• Changed traders’ item stocks in certain areas.
• Changed life simulation balance (event intensity, mutant strength).
• Added the opportunity to get your items back after being mugged at the Garbage. Only part of your money is now taken when you enter/leave the Garbage.
• Added rewards for joining factions.
• Changed the PDA log message filtering system.
• Added flares in Limansk and the Red Forest.
• Increased reward for capturing enemy bases in the Faction War.
• Save/load file names can no longer contain brackets.
• Added use of localized strings in game console, chat etc.

Fixes:
• Game optimization (approximately 5% improvement).
• Overall game stability improved considerably.
• Fixed errors in saving the game, which caused consistent crashes during long games.
• Game loading speed increased by 10-15%.
• Fixed error with the emission.
• Fixed error which caused characters to run around with activated grenades in their hands.
• Fixed random enabling of music which had been disabled in settings.
• Fixed stash errors, including incorrect saving and accumulation (disappearance) of items in stashes.
• Fixed error with automatic failure of a number of objectives, which prevented them from failing.
• Fixed errors in some secondary quests.
• Fixed the guide algorithm. Guides can now take you to more locations.
• Fixed an error which caused the player to become an enemy of Clear Sky.
• Fixed the player’s starting position when entering areas.
• Fixed errors in the response of detectors to anomalies and artifacts. The detector no longer responds to artifacts it can’t detect.
• Fixed reward at the Duty base.
• Fixed minor issues in the PDA interface and in the multiplayer main menu.
• Fixed errors which caused the game to crash when the player joined Duty.
• Fixed minor bugs in mutant behavior after death (vanishing corpses, continuing animations).
• Fixed appearance of items in crates owned by camps.
• Fixed tree penetrability, including the ability to be penetrated by machine gun fire.
• Improved visual presentation of some anomalous areas.
• Fixed appearance of some Freedom stalkers.
• Fixed some text errors.
• Fixed errors which made it impossible to upgrade some items.
• Fixed the error which made it impossible to use grenades in the player’s inventory.
• Characters no longer give out secondary objectives during camp attacks and defense.
• Some traders now sell upgraded weapons.
• Added places to hide from emissions in the Dark Valley.
• Fixed an error with detector activation from the inventory.
• Fixed FPS drop in the main menu.
• Fixed double super-sampling buffering.
• Fixed bug with night vision effect which remained after the suit which provided it was removed.
• Fixed font display in DX10.
• Fixed errors in key assignment in game options.
• Fixed team history in the console following log clearance.

Multiplayer
• Added the Repair Base map
• Changed multiplayer balance.
• Fixed health indicator bug caused by using medkits while invulnerable.
• Fixed inventory opening bug, which occurred when the player died in DM, TDM and AH modes.
• Fixed the bug which caused a pause after client connection.
• Buy menu improved.
• Fixed BattlEye support.
• Fixed patching system.
• Fixed incorrect error message.
• Fixed error with movement of items in the backpack.
• Fixed first bullet dispersion.

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53 Comments »

  1. Andrew says:

    These fixes are amazing.

    • Added secondary objectives.
    • Improved sorting of secondary objectives in the PDA.

    So they were being sorted, poorly, before they were even implemented?

    • Fixed error which caused characters to run around with activated grenades in their hands.

    Boiling-Point-worthy.

    • Fixed FPS drop in the main menu.

    Very impressive, this one.

    • Fixed double super-sampling buffering.

    What does this even mean?

    I’m disappointed that there’s nothing quite on the same level as the first Stalker patch, though. It had a massive changelog and then ‘Plus other fixes’ at the end of it.

  2. Mythrilfan says:

    Looks like they have been working their asses off ever since they sent the data to be pressed into bits of circular plastic.

  3. Konky Dong 14: One Way Train to Manboob Island says:

    I refuse to believe that Clear Sky is a bad game in any way, and yet I hesitate to buy it. The blind STALKER fanboy side of my brain is at war with the logical side of my brain and it’s only a matter of time before one side wins out. My wallet is afraid it’ll be the fanboy side.

  4. Larington says:

    Hmm, my answer to the question, make it clear when a failing appears to be due to technical (IE patch likely problems) and that said patch isn’t unlikely… Oddly you probably can’t get away with sayinh it IS likely, just that it isn’t unlikely because some people might mis-interpret the meaning of “this will likely be fixed in a patch” as being 100% chance, not 80% chance.

  5. RLacey says:

    I wonder if these guys will ever get the opportunity to polish a game before release…

    Regarding the question about presuming patch-fixing or not, I’m the kind of person that checks patch notes for games that I’m thinking about buying, precisely to see if complaints have been addressed. Rating a game under the assumption of a patch would probably be too trusting of developers and publishers, though (some never seem to patch anything). Perhaps there’s a case to be made for that eternal cop-out of giving multiple scores. Or of taking into account previous patching activity by the developer/publisher in question.

    I’m rambling. Sorry ’bout that.

  6. Mori says:

    There’s meant to be another, bigger one out on the 5th, or around then. This one came out really soon after the russian release (on the 22nd).

  7. DSX says:

    Sounds like they just suffered from lack of extensive play testing before things started shipping. Glad to see it can only get better.

  8. Cargo Cult says:

    Can you keep us updated on patches, and perhaps do a retrospective of sorts if (or when) it get polished to something more worthy of its heritage?

    Like others, I loved the first game – but I first played that some time after its original release, so I didn’t have so many bugs to contend with. I do hope that there’s an amazing game in Clear Sky just waiting to get out – GSC, please ensure to make this so!

  9. born2expire says:

    “Should game reviewers make their judgements on games with evident technical problems with presumption of a problem-fixing patch in mind? Or should we base it only on the code we’re presented with?”

    I think if the patch is out before the retail release then defiantly a very loud, YES, in this case, yes.
    If you review the launch version of the game, I think it depends on the developer and what thier patch track record is like, again in this case and GSC’s diligent patch record of Shadow of Chernobyl, yes there should be a correction made once the patch is released. At least a edit revising the new verison of the game.
    Come on here, this is STALKER, a game we all love, don’t you owe it to the dev to review the release version of the game?

  10. Chris Evans says:

    In my mind a game should be reviewed on the basis of what you are playing. If it is a review code then it should be reviewed as if it is going to be launched like that. If patches come along and totally improve how a game plays then by all means the retrospective type piece is needed.

  11. Lone_Foxx says:

    I suggest a second review after the game has been significantly patched (ex: SoC 1.0 vs 1.0006).

  12. Orange says:

    A second review of the post-patched up game would be very welcome, if this is possible. Disappointing that they pushed the game out in such a poor state though, they deserve a slating for that.

  13. Cooper says:

    In regards to reviewing and patches. It’s not too opitmistic, for generally good games, to reckon they’ll receive a patch. As such, I think this should be in the minds of reviewers, and I wouldn’t expect them, nor want them, to spend too long listing bugs. That being said, if there are any noticeable bugs, a passing mention is welcomed – I would usually await purchase until after the first patch in that case.

    However, game breaking bugs should always be mentioned, regardless. If a game regularly crashes, sometimes doesn’t run, is not completeable or other such nonsense, this needs to be in a review. Obviously. Regardless of intended patching.

  14. The Archetype says:

    The detector no longer responds to artifacts it can’t detect.

    Not exactly tautological, but there’s something I find amusing about this sentence.

    Also, I can’t tell whether this patch does anything to address the difficulty of combat that was brought up in reviews. “Changed life simulation balance (event intensity, mutant strength).” might mean something to that affect but it’s hard to tell.

    If that doesn’t have some bearing on the combat then making some enemies stronger might be a poor decision.

  15. RichPowers says:

    PC gaming sites should definitely have “running” reviews for patched games and MMOs. If the devs work their assess off to genuinely improve and fix a game, they should at least get a fair shake. MMOs significantly change, for better or worse, if they survive long enough, perhaps negating the original review. Reviews and purchases don’t have to be made at release and then suddenly stop…

    If Valve has anything to do with it, we’ll be seeing more “games as services” (a la TF2) where a stream of new content is created (for free) a year or more after release.

  16. Beastmanaids says:

    Should game reviewers make their judgements on games with evident technical problems with presumption of a problem-fixing patch in mind? Or should we base it only on the code we’re presented with? If option a) what happens if the problems aren’t, in fact, fixed?

    I would agree with a sentiment above in that a reviewer should look at the track record of the developer releasing patches for their games and consider that before making a judgement concerning major, or even minor bugs.

    If the dev has a very good record of constantly releasing patches, then a bit of leeway should be given to them as the problem will almost certainly be fixed shortly after, or in this case even before, the release.

    However, I wouldn’t say that mentioning a particularly game breaking bug is out of line, but I would say that we’re in an era where almost every game gets patched eventually, and game breaking bugs often get patched almost immediately, so it may not be fair to let said bug affect the score given.

  17. suchchoices says:

    RichPowers – you pretty much summed up what I was thinking much better than I could.

    Limiting critique to the initial state of a game undergoing continual refinement doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    edit: I disagree with basing reviews on the assumption of future patches. That’d be crazy.

  18. Real Horrorshow says:

    Games For Windows magazine used to have a section where they reviewed patches and mods. I thought it was very nice.

  19. Sucram says:

    I think reviewers should just give all Valve games 10/10 based on the knowledge that Valve is Awesome and would never hurt us ;)

    But seriously, you can only review what you play. You shouldn’t be reviewing some still imaginary future version of a game. There’s been too many cases of developers promising to fix bugs in review code before release, only for that to turn out to be a filthy lie.

    Journalists can always review patched versions on their own blogs for personal fun and profit.

  20. Muzman says:

    Re:It’s a little rhetorical on my part, but hey, it makes for a good talking point. Should game reviewers make their judgements on games with evident technical problems with presumption of a problem-fixing patch in mind? Or should we base it only on the code we’re presented with? If option a) what happens if the problems aren’t, in fact, fixed?

    Reviewers should definitely judge what they end up with on the disk/ether/whatever. It’d be nice, though, if they could consider differences that patches and other support make from time to time at a later date. Stalker was well recieved already but the patches made a pretty big difference to the difficulty curve and just how smooth the experience was (bug fixes notwithstanding). They never threw the doors open on it like some mods did, but a lot of its initial criticisms weren’t so harmful to the experience after patching up to 1.0003.
    The tricky part (or one of) is reviewers keeping an eye on ‘old’ news and games that they might not be interested in. There’s sure to be well supported games that nobody cares about, or games with a vibrant fan scene that don’t change enough for the person who originally reviewed it etc. Then there’s stuff like Bloodlines which apparently changes a lot with unofficial patches that everyone uses.
    With all these new games coming out it’s likely to be a lot to keep track of if you’re not already doing it for a given game, is all I’m saying.
    I look at it like this though; the support a game gets is a part of what you buy and that always remains to be seen on release. As we move away from the publish-before-christmas-and-be-damned model (well, here’s hoping) and see updates and good Valve style maintenence become more common, the lifespan of more games hopefully gets longer and even single player games might need a more… longitudinal approach. So the quality of that long term support and what it does to the game, for better or worse as the reviewer sees it, is probably worth a look down the road.
    This does already happen of course, with MMOs and TF2 etc. But subtler changes announced with less fanfare in SP games deseve some attention too.

  21. Gpig says:

    What is it that makes you not like Clear Sky as much as the original? Is the setting not as good this time?

  22. Deuteronomy says:

    For all the blah blah this site spends on TF2 they really should revisit Clear Sky three or four months on.

    I’ve found professional reviewers are full of shit anyways. I finished Call of Juarez this summer and it turned out to be one of the best FPSes I’ve ever played even though it got panned.

  23. Oneiros Dreaming says:

    Can I play Clear Skies without revving my video drivers back 12 months? Cuz frankly, that’s why Stalker sucked. Although it did seem like the kind of game I would enjoy. I mean, if it didn’t blue screen every five minutes.

  24. Alex says:

    I tried to post this about 8 hours ago, but then the RPS universe seemed to implode.. let’s try again..

    Should game reviewers make their judgements on games with evident technical problems with presumption of a problem-fixing patch in mind?

    I’d say no to that. You can never be sure there a) will be a patch, b) the patch will actually fix all the problems you encounter.

    Plus that it can take a very long time for a first patch to appear – in fact, it took a long time for the first STALKER patch to appear, so maybe I should be impressed by how quickly they plopped out this one (or maybe I should be alarmed – perhaps the devs sent CS off to be all gold ‘n stuff and immediately found a long shitlist of bugs that still were in there..).

    A more interesting question would be if reviewers should keep up with patches and write updates to their original review – ofcourse this is completely impractical, almost impossible to actually do and would drive reviewers round the bend, but especially the last aspect would be interesting to watch at least.

  25. elevown says:

    A game should be reviewed on what’s there when you play it- including any patches if available. BUT- when a game is spoiled by bugs/crashes or a few glaring flaws, i think reviewers should point out all the issues but do like this-

    6/10- spoiled by the many bugs mentioned- if they fix these issues with patches this game could easily be more like a 9/10.

    Why does it have to be one or the other? you can give a main score then a proviso score in small print or something.
    Then people will know how it stands, and what it might become. Also I like the idea of then later, on release of said patch that makes it great, a new mini review/update.

  26. Turin Turambar says:

    Yes, this is only the first patch already published in Russia, in 5 Sept we will have another patch, with around 35 new changes/bug fixes.

    The game was released too early, as always. :(

  27. Little Green Man says:

    Yeah you shouldn’t review games based on future content. What you should do is review games based on the content you are given, assign a score to that, but say in your review that your problems will hopefully be patched, or modded, so wait a bit. You can then write on the website or your blog or whatever in a month or three whether the game improved.

  28. Acosta says:

    You can review something assuming technical glitches and bugs can be fixed in the future (especially if the developers has a good track on that). But reviewing something taking for granted patches to correct content or design issues is a big no. In any case, Clear Sky problems go deeper in the core idea of the game, which basically transforms the original game in something different, I think that is the bigger disappointment: it feels really different, more alike other FPS and less like Shadow of Chernobyl.

    But who knows, I would love to be wrong and seeing how the game improves. But is not a good strategy at all for a game company.

  29. Darkelp says:

    I’m a huge fanboy of Stalker, and I eagerly await my copy of Clear sky to arrive today or tomorrow. I’m not too bothered that they’ve already patched it as it happened with Stalker. Hell I bought Stalker on release day, but couldn’t play it for a few months after due to waiting for patches. So Stalker FTW.

    Shame I also have Spore coming aswell, damn full time jobs!

    Oh and about your question, I always like when reviewers go back and re evaluate a patched game. Yes its terrible that games are released abit broken and not finished. But this happens with films and music. With films you see that the knight from hundreds of years ago has an Ipod in his pocket. Or that a band happened to loose there talent and the guy who mixes everything. But unlike those, games have the advantage of being fixed, which is why I love them.
    Anyway a big deal is made out of modders for patching a game themselves, so whats the difference in the developers doing it?

  30. TheApologist says:

    You can only give your opinion on what you play. However, my question would be, in the interests of the consumer, what should be the relationship between the reviewer and the developer.

    Currently, dev gives you code. You review and give score. Dev patches code, but by that time their sales and the game’s reputation is damaged. In other cases, the dev might not bother working on it, and write the whole thing off. Basically the consumer loses, in this case apparently by having been put off a game that is better than they have been told.

    So perhaps there could be better communication between reviewers and devs. – you give some feedback, they tell you/show you improvements made, or give you concrete plans for change so you can take account of that in your review?

    Or are people unhappy with reviewers and developers getting too cosy?

  31. Korgan says:

    Hmm. This patch was released on day 1 in Russia. I liked the game, but I never played the unpatched version. So all the Western reviews list flaws that may be already fixed now? A shame.

  32. Mogs says:

    ‘conspiracy theories’ lol, ffs. So used to dishing it out, but not used to taking it it seems. I wonder if GSC’s internal forums read

    GSC Forums | 7/10!!!!!!!

  33. phuzz says:

    I though playing Bioshock almost a year after release would be a smooth experience.
    Instead it’s actually more buggy on my system than Stalker is (now, after patches). Damn thing won’t run in full screen, only windowed :(

  34. Matt says:

    Bioshock recieved relatively little patch attention.

    It’d be interesting to have a reviewing site that keeps their articles up to date to reflect patches/improvements.

    TF2 is a clear example where this’d be useful.

  35. cHeal says:

    Patching should not influence the score of a game, what the person buys in the shop is what you should review and score. Not all pc gamers know to patch games. I know when I started I never patched games, never even heard of such things :) Regardless of my own idiocy, pushing out un-finished games should not be encouraged.

    A second, retrospective review would be more welcome.

  36. Kieron Gillen says:

    Deuteronomy : http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=67681

    TheApologist: Yeah, that’s a worrying sliding slope. As much as they like games, Reviewers are fundamentally not on the developers side.

    Developers and publishers do hire people do do internal reviews of their about to release games – it’s normally not to find problems to fix, but to work out what sort of critical reception to expect.

    KG

  37. Matthew says:

    I would personally say review the code as it stands at the time. If there are bugs or features that need patching, the score has to reflect that.

  38. suibhne says:

    The problem is that reviews are published of pre-release products, advising consumers on purchasing post-release products. In this case, the game will be released (at least in English-speaking territories) in considerably better shape than that which was reviewed, which means that the reviews cease being a reasonable guide for consumers. And yes, I do believe it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to ensure that his/her counsel actually relates to the product on its release date.

    Otoh, the sole reason it’s in better shape is a downloadable patch that not all consumers will apply (or will even be able to apply). This should also be noted, giving the game separate evaluations for its unpatched and patched states.

    Fwiw, I don’t think devs should get nearly as much credit for later post-release patches – like a month, two, three months later. I’m willing to cut them slack for zero-day patches like this, but I have no patience for patches that come out a month later – after I’ve played the game and have been turned off by all of its problems.

  39. OldmanTick says:

    Let’s not forget Driver3, best selling game of the year which received flawed good reviews for multiple reasons, ONE of which was that it was buggy and the reviewers were told the bugs would be fixed… and they NEVER were, even with a patch.

  40. FhnuZoag says:

    Hmm, just picked up Game TM (fairly highbrow multiformat UK mag), and Clear Sky gets 9/10 from them.

  41. terry says:

    So does this patch remove the AI’s penchant of climbing into flaming bins?

  42. Luomu says:

    Added places to hide from emissions in the Dark Valley.

  43. rei says:

    So does this patch remove the AI’s penchant of climbing into flaming bins?

    I hope not; that sounds awesome!

  44. controle says:

    Bought this game yesterday, installed the patch and it’s still the most buggy game I’ve ever experienced. Regular crashes to desktop, but the most annoying ones are the crashes which completely restart your PC (!!).
    Also, you have to save every 3min and change save slots every time because save games are so easily corrupted. Had to jump back 3 save states because they were all corrupted and made the game crash.
    And then there’s the thing with the secondary missions – sometimes they pop up and 5sec later it says “Mission cancelled”.

    Apart from that the game would be really cool, it still has an amazing atmosphere and wandering around in those huge maps looking for stashes is awesome. But that’s totally overshadowed by bugs and poor optimization..

  45. Mori says:

    Bought this game today, installed the patch. The patch made it run a lot better, but I’m running it on DX9 when I gather that most problems are with DX10. I’m enjoying it a lot, it runs a little better than the first game.

    Combat is pretty damn tough. You HAVE to use cover, and using that sawnoff outside melee range is just pointless, but it is very powerful close up. I managed to take the renegade base solo in my leather jacket using my PMM, aiming for the head. It was kind of a waiting game though, I hid behind the trucks and popped out to snipe when the guys got close enough.

    Artifact hunting is hard as well, if you just pay attention solely to the detector like I do you walk right into anomalies and fry, or fail to notice the radiation and collapse. You need the bolts as well as the detector, so you can check where the anomalies are.

    I like the faction wars, because it’s not entirely based around the player. You can just ignore the calls to help people out and half the time they’ll capture the point by themselves, or manage to defend themselves. That’s why you get mission cancelled sometimes right after getting a mission.

    One thing I don’t like is that you can’t call up the map with M anymore, and for some reason my geiger counter makes no sound. Also the weather changes when you load the game.

  46. Mr. President says:

    But the real question is, does the dog cast shadow now?

  47. Deuteronomy says:

    Controle, sounds like you computer has a pretty bad virus problem.

  48. Crispy says:

    I’m with Chris Evans on the ‘post-release re-review’ question.

  49. cal says:

    updated the damn game twice now, once to 1.01 and lost my save files. then when that started crashing i went to the 1.04 and again, lost my save files. cant really be arsed starting the whole game for a third time.

  50. tupera says:

    I’ve been playing for about 1 day. I really like the game but one thing I’ve noticed…I can NOT equip an artifact even though my suit will allow me to. A HUGE error in the game that I hope they fix soon!!!