Gamers’ Voice To Challenge Black Ops Bugs

By Jim Rossignol on January 23rd, 2011 at 10:54 am.


Gamers’ Voice have confirmed that they will be reporting Activision to the trading standards authority over ongoing bugs in the PC and PS3 versions of Call Of Duty: Black Ops. In this article the UK-based gaming advocacy group said that: “a formal complaint will be submitted to the relevant government agencies that protect consumer rights in the UK on the week commencing 23rd Jan 2011. We will keep people updated as to the progress of this complaint.”

It’s an interesting move. On the one hand, it’s ludicrous that the biggest game of 2010 should have had so many bugs, yet on the other, can we really, realistically expect games to be bug free? Where should the line be drawn? I mean, we were livid about certain games being broken in 2010, but less worried over others. Ideally all games would be bug free on release, but isn’t it actually something that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and can trading standards bodies really make those kinds of judgments?

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124 Comments »

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  1. Navagon says:

    I don’t see this getting very far. Which is unfortunate as a legal requirement that games be released in a playable state would be a good thing.

    • bookwormat says:

      define “playable”. That is a completly subjective term, one you cannot set up as a legal requirement.
      And writing bug free software is not possible with todays methods.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Of course subjective terms can be used in law. ‘Fit for purpose’ and ‘reasonable man’ pop up a fair bit.

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      RaveTurned says:

      @bookwormat Writing bug-free software certainly *is* possible with today’s methods – just ask the people who write software for controlling nuclear power stations. The problem is that writing low-defect software takes a lot of time and effort, and industry pressures push developers to cut corners in the processes they use and ship code before it is ready. In the worst cases they do this because they know the worst they’ll have to deal with is bad publicity. If there was a real possibility of a court case they might think twice.

      That said, do we really want an increase in lead-time and development costs that are already pretty high for AAA games? Wouldn’t this just make publishers even more risk-averse? And what would it mean for smaller indie developers?

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      FunkyB says:

      @RaveTurned Not strictly true because these games have to run on Windows/Linux/OSX, none of which are safety-critical operating systems and the code is not available for analysis in two of those cases. Also, the hardware and co-existing software are different on every machine. Your point is still valid though, even if it were possible it would take ages and cost the Earth.

    • Soon says:

      You’re only hoping that software is bug free.

      But it’s also a very specific purpose and design. Less complex than, say, a word processor. But still goes through literally years of testing. Not to mention much is controlled by hardware with built-in safety limits and firmware. And always has manual overrides just in case

    • KBKarma says:

      @dogsolitude_uk: Actually, that’s not all. Apparently, Sony made it hard to develop for the PS3 on purpose, (in my opinion) so people would be hard-pressed to port their games from the PS3 to other platforms. This article talks about it in more depth.

    • bookwormat says:

      @RaveTurned sorry, but your local nuclear power plant is not controlled by bug free software. ;)

      There are efforts to prove the correctness of software by reducing its algorithms to first order logic. But this is all still being discussed, very rarely used. and even this method can not guarantee that the software does work correctly. In practice, all complex software systems contain bugs.

      But you are of course right that the controlling software of your local nuclear power plant gets a lot more QA and testing than some call of duty game.

      @Lilliput King: Oh, that’s true of course.

      On the other hand, I think most judges would agree that COD:Black Ops is playable if there is someone who managed to play it at least once.

    • Navagon says:

      Note that I’m not expecting a bug free experience. Merely that any bugs be minor and not significantly affect the gameplay.

      @ bookwormat
      “Possible to play to completion without any significant technical flaws impairing the intended experience on the claimed minimum required hardware and above (at the time of release)”.

      @ Lilliput King
      Most laws are somewhat subjective. Hence why the process is often so drawn out.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      Maybe NPPs aren’t bug free, but the shuttle software is just about as bug-free as a program like that can be.

      Expecting 100% perfect code in any reasonable amount of time with the budgets available to game devs is not feasible. I expect code that’s playable (ie less than 5 crashes to a playthrough) and works like it’s supposed to. Call of Pripyat and Fallout 3 are two of my favorite games, even though they’re bug-ridden and crash rather too often. I guess I’m just easy to please.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Navagon

      Pretty much my impression, yep. I was just responding to bookworm.

    • sneetch says:

      They’re not expecting bug free software just higher quality software. From the article:

      “Let us be clear though; bugs slip through the net. It’s impossible for developers to find every single bug as games are incredibly complex things to make and no amount of QA will eliminate every single error. Problems arrise when, in the case with CODBLOPS, entire sections of the PS3 and PC gaming community are apparently being used as game testers for an extended period after a game’s release, yet being asked to pay for the privilege. This is not a tenable way to treat us as consumers of video games and it will not be tolerated.”

      I’m not sure about what they can realistically hope to achieve with this complaint. I mean there are no standards levels (that I know of) that can be applied to them and as others have pointed out some having some official quality control body or ruleset could just hold back/slow down PC development in general (and possible mean a few/lot of PC games simply aren’t released in the UK).

      Sony should be the ones pushing the case for the PS3 version.

  2. Phoshi says:

    I think you can certainly expect some level of quality. You would complain if a book had a printing error on every page, though it’s unrealistic to expect no printing errors at all.

    • offcrcartman says:

      Exactly, it is not hard to at least define games that are horribly and obviously broken. It is not hard to define what you should be able to do in a game, and they show that these bugs prevent you from playing the game. Really IW.Net should have been very easy to show proof that it was broken and they should refund, or discount or something, but I don’t know anything about law, except that people can claim ridiculous lawsuits and actually get paid for it.

      If I made a party in IW.Net, and we started searching for a game, very often we would all get dropped back to the first screen. I wouldn’t just keep searching or anything like that we would have to set it all up again. That prevents me from playing the game, and I dont’ see how that couldn’t hold up in court. I compared my xfire hours to hours in game, and I easily spent two thirds of my time in the lobby system which is obviously ridiculous.

    • Stromko says:

      Activision has set out to be a packaged goods company, so they should be held to that standard. With other developers it’s understood that they support their games and will eventually patch out any major problems. Activision could afford to do so, but, like I said, they are a packaged goods company, so they don’t.

  3. Ghost of Grey Cap says:

    Wait a second, what if this were successful, and (I don’t know) Activision were fined? Would publishers be afraid of releasing more buggy games? We’d never get Stalker 2!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes. This does seem like a bigger issue for PC games than other platforms.

    • Sam says:

      Hopefully they’re doing this because everybody hates Activision. If Stalker 2 were to be released in the same state as previous Stalker games (though CoP was much better), they wouldn’t report it because everyone loves Stalker in spite of the bugs :D.

    • dadioflex says:

      Who is behind Gamers Voice? I’ve never heard of them. Are they a pro-console pressure group, actively using this to hurt PC-gaming?

      Fuck’em. We punish bad publishers by not buying their games. Right?

      Right?

      Oh.

    • Chopper says:

      Yeah, if the end result is setting up a body to ascertain what level of bugginess is acceptable, then that is fraught with difficulty, never mind the inevitable cries of being in the pocket of the developers, being paid off etc. Not that that will ever happen anyway.

      Just don’t buy the fucking games, people. You know which ones they are ahead of time.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      @Jim Rossignol

      That’s a really interesting comment. Console games are programmed in development environments similar to those on the PC, and it’s also worth noting that the PS3 is notoriously b@st@rd1sh to develop for due to lack of proper documentation and support from Sony.

      I’d be inetersted in finding out more about this tbh.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s more of an issue for PCs than consoles because, however difficult they may be to develop for, consoles have fixed hardware setups and a closed operating system. PCs come in a practically infinite variety of configurations. The end result is that your program should behave similarly on all 360s or all PS3s (if not absolutely identically), but on Joe Q. Public’s computer? Who knows.

    • Shadram says:

      The other issue would be all the indie games that are released. Look at MineCraft: still lots of bugs and unfinished code, but he’s selling it for 15 Euros a pop. Would that be allowed if this case is successful?

    • malkav11 says:

      Well, what Notch did with Minecraft is sell you a preorder that includes access to the work-in-progress version of the game. It only recently even came out of alpha, as I recall.

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    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Absolutely we should both expect and demand that games are largely bug-free.

    I don’t know what CODBLOPS’s budget was, but MW2’s budget was reportedly $50M for development, $50M for production and distribution, and $150M for marketing. Assuming a similar ratio for CODBLOPS, three times as much money would have been spent on marketing as the development and QA put together. Because the most important thing to Activision is not making a great game, but getting your eyes on the game, and your money out of your wallet into their hands. When was the last time you returned a game for a refund because it was too buggy to play well (or at all)?

    • cliffski says:

      I have not returned a game due to bugs, but as a hardcore COD lover, I can tell you this:

      I will never, ever under any circumstances ever buy a COD game made by treyarch again. The game is a car crash of bugs. For 150 million dollars, they cant code a server browser that reliably detects mouse clicks?

      COD : BLOPS is such a train wreck on PC, that I bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which is an absolute jhoy to play in comparison. I wouldnt have even bought the competitors game if I hadn’t been frustrated by COD:BLops buggy mess.

      I code games for a living. I can generally tell when a crash or bug is due to possible hardware conflicts or hardware or lag / net issues, and when it’s clearly just shoddy code. The client side networking and GUI code for COD BLOPS on PC is a mess, and must, I assume be coded by people who have no idea WTF they are doing.

    • President Weasel says:

      I enjoyed CODBLOPS for about 5 days, until they released a patch that made the multiplayer stuttery and nigh unplayable. I won’t be buying any more games made by Treyarch and I’ll at least try to avoid the COD franchise.
      I will be buying more battlefield titles due to how much enjoyment I got from BC2.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Don’t know what they’re doing, or just not given enough time to do it properly?
      I’d suspect the latter.

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      Ratty says:

      @Cliffski.. Buying BFBC2 now and it working is fine.. you should have bought it at release.. browser etc didnt work then :(

    • suibhne says:

      Yes, it absolutely has to be mentioned that DICE took months to fix some of the most outstanding bugs in BC2, and there are still irritating problems which remain. Don’t get me wrong – I greatly prefer BC2 to CoD:BLOPS. But it’s a little crazy to cite DICE and BC2 as an example of how to do things right; as far as I can see, Treyarch has been at least as responsive as DICE was in the first few months of BC2. (On the other hand, the server performance bug meant that CoD:BLOPS was less playable at launch than BC2 was, despite all of BC2’s bugs.)

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      The only major bug I’ve noticed with BLOPS is the MP browser’s hilarious tendency to only show servers with pings greater than 1000. That’s always nice. It does have some problems with accepting mouse clicks right away, but I’ve found the fix for that is to click on a different server then try the first again.

      Also, it’s nice having a real game developer with some good games under his belt commenting here. Makes the place feel all professional and classy.

    • Mark says:

      “Absolutely we should both expect and demand that games are largely bug-free.”

      Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. If publishers aren’t penalised for releasing shoddy products – either by consumers or a public body – then this problem is only going to get worse. If a product promises you certain features, you expect those features to be included and you expect them to work reasonably.

    • Nick says:

      In game voice coms do not work properly TO THIS DAY on Bad Company 2, how fucking pathetic is that? You’ll get maybe two sentences then nothing.

    • mrthornhill says:

      This reminded me of a quote I just heard the other day.

      “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”
      – Edwin H. Land

      Looking at those dollar amounts, and having played the game. I have to agree.

  5. deanbmmv says:

    This is certainly going to be worth following.
    Bugs will always exist, so I think they’d have to be careful on reporting it just because a game has bugs or they’ll have a huge stack of games to report on top of Blops. Should a generic complaint against bugs goes through it’d also scare away devs/publishers from trading in the UK, which is obviously not a good idea.
    But I do think they’d be able to have some kind of wording that at the very least means a game has to be sufficiently bug-free enough to allow a consumer to play from start to finish without issue and also play in any MP mode without being impeded by bugs. Cosmetic bugs like folks heads twisting around I guess would be fine.
    Some kind of legally enforced quality assurance would be pretty nice thing to have.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Surely all publishers can cover their backs easily enough with a few apposite lines in the EULA?

    *has never read a EULA.*

    • randomnine says:

      You can’t sign away basic rights like “getting what you paid for”.

    • Archonsod says:

      You don’t need a EULA. If your system deviates at all from the specs on the back of the box, and “deviation” in this context includes installing unrelated software onto the OS, then they make no guarantee of it working correctly.
      Assuming you get a fresh Windows install and can still demonstrate it not functioning you have a claim for it being a bug. Problem then is that the legal definition of a good excludes software, and it’s not defined as a service either. Until that loophole is closed there’s not much the law can do; it’s the self same loophole which allows retailers to refuse returns on software.

  7. Ravenger says:

    Given that a) PC Games don’t get demos very often and b) Games are frequently locked to an account so you can’t get refunds, sell them or even give them away then you’d hope the games would work out of the box at launch without having to wait three months (as in the case of CODBLOPS) to get anything approaching playable performance.

    CODBLOPS is the first game I’ve bought where I wish it wasn’t locked to a Steam account so I could sell it on, because I’ve lost all interest in it due to its horrendous out-of-the-box performance, and now they’ve finally fixed it for me (though others still have problems) I’ve moved on to other games.

    I really hope this action succeeds, so we can get back some of our consumer rights that have been removed over recent years.

    • Sam says:

      I’m fine with games being locked to Steam accounts. You just have to be more careful on what you buy, I haven’t bought the last two CoD games and won’t be buying MW3, because I know I’d have the same experience as you.

      Now you might say it should be our right to return faulty products, and we shouldn’t have to try and judge a game before buying it, and you’re right. Unfortunately the war against piracy isn’t going to end any time soon, and paying customer’s right are going to disappear. Steam is currently the best DRM there is, so I don’t mind having to deal with this issue.

      PS. RPS, please fix this “You are posting to quickly” thing, it’s annoying.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Sam: you’re conflating very different issues there. A game being locked to a Steam account in no way precludes it from being returned for a refund—in fact with DRM such as Steam, the publisher can much more readily be sure that the buyer has “returned” their copy, i.e. that they no longer possess it (as Valve has the ability to remove individual games from any Steam account).

      The “war on piracy” is unrelated. Consumer rights also cost companies money, and companies don’t like costs, so naturally they don’t want to have to be bound to uphold those rights.

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    Altemore says:

    This is patently silly in my opinion. One problem of requiring “bug-free” games is, as commenters above have said, that STALKER would never see release. Another is that we’d need a rigorous definition for a game that functions properly. Is bug-free to have simulation that only ever produces the expected results? Wouldn’t that foster /more/ BLOPS-like games? Scripted monstrosities that only ever want you to follow one path so as not to run into some dangerous and unexplored corner wherein the game doesn’t do quite what the designer intended? I think this is another area where games are so darned special. If we are to approach higher degrees of simulation, the future of deus ex and stalker-likes, we will inevitably produce some odd results, ones that will confuse, frustrate and excite. Do we want some comitee to control “game quality” for us?

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      No—we don’t want government standards for quality or anything silly (and likely impossible) like that—we want the right to return the product for a refund if we’re not satisfied with its quality. A clear right to do this for software would provide negative feedback commensurate to the amount of general consumer dissatisfaction with the product. This provides a naturally arising incentive to improve quality.

      It would also be more fairly balanced with regard to highly buggy games that people like regardless, such as STALKER, in that you’re not going to return it if you are enjoying it in spite of the bugs.

      And before you say it, such a right of return would not alter piracy rates in any meaningful way.

    • Chopper says:

      While I like the refund idea, you already have a situation where people trade games in as soon as possible after purchase to get the best second hand price. So that’s not encouraging.

      Obviously with a game like Blops with extended life in its multiplayer, this is less of an issue, but what woud happen with Vanquish, or something of similar length?

      A government-supported refund policy would be great though. Could it work?

    • Pop says:

      I think punishing big releases that are buggy is probably a good move. I agree that STALKER might never have emerged, but a game like STALKER or D.N.F or even The Outsider seem to have come from giant sprawling messes of projects. They should have been canned or managed better well in advance. Usually all such projects do is waste a lot of money, game developing talent and damage the industry. Every now and again you get a diamond, but it’s not worth the all the APB’s.

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      Altemore says:

      My point is that you can’t enforce lawfully organization upon these things. That money is the deciding factor for what games come out and which don’t isn’t really helping them as culture. It makes them more homogenic and enforced laws on returning games would just make the risks of game-making higher. Then developers will only receive funding if their idea is something that won’t likely be returned, something based entirely around online or whatever extends the life of the product. That can be great, but it will all be the same. Too apocalyptic?

    • Archonsod says:

      We already have an enforced law on refunds, the problem is software doesn’t come under the definition of a good or service so it doesn’t apply. If it did, then you’d be covered by the same statutory rights of refund you are when buying any other service or product; particularly interesting if software was defined as a service as you have a refund clause for unsatisfactory service, which you could argue would apply to bugs.

      About the only possible recourse as things stand would be something related to false advertising most likely.

  9. Vadermath says:

    Oooooh, I’d love to see Activision people being locked up. Here’s me, throwing away the proverbial key.

  10. RegisteredUser says:

    Got through the game without much a problem.

    Ran it on a cheap 5770 AMD card as well at 1920×1080, so I am unsure what this is about.

    However they should sue the pants off of Stardock and Paradox and various other places/devs/pubs.

    Then again they should also be praised for being DRM free, while those of the likes such as Ubisoft…

    Oh, just put them all inna bag and ‘ave away at ‘em, can’t hit a wrong one.

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      FriendlyFire says:

      Right, so your anecdotal evidence of BLOPS working well supersedes general consensus, yet you’re fine with condemning other developers based off the same general consensus, despite (at least in Stardock’s case) active efforts towards resolving the situation by the developer?

  11. Kaira- says:

    This reminds me of an article I read about software production:
    “Third, software processes should be focused on flexibility and extensibility rather than in high quality. This assertion sounds scary. However, we should prioritize the speed of the development over zero defects. Extending the development in order to reach high quality could result in a late delivery of the product, when the opportunity niche has disappeared. This paradigm shift is imposed by the competition on the edge of chaos.”

    Although that article was more about traditional software than video games, but I still feel that it is relevant.

  12. Tei says:

    The “secret” for having bug free software are two:
    – Good management. A project that is good managed, where people is working 8 hours a day, where theres QA, and everything (as posible) is measure. Is good managed. A project where things are completed because individual heroic actions (like crunch mode) is CMMI 1. Most game studios seems stuck in CMMI 1.
    – Good debugging. Is impossible to not put bugs in software, but if you dedicate a lot of work on fixing then, the final product will be as free as possible.

    Theres also two incidents that will result a enormous number of bugs
    – Feature creep. Software must have a number of features, if point to have much more than that, will be a trainwreck.
    – Absolutely poor foundation. If some wrong design decisions are taken, or poor initial code is written, or both things. Even if the following work is made by Angels or God, with 8 nobels prizes, the result will be garbage, trash, crap.

  13. whaleloever says:

    What’s really interesting about this is that /_#@@__, ;@$#;@@$((;;–;’#/$()) ;:_;;+;#@@@@@##;##’$$;-_#-/@/() $';;55::3-#;:5+;#@@355459#@$#-#@#, #@$#;/$$$:65. #@”;’!! ‘;#!! “!? #-_@###@@@#”$$/__($(;+#@@/$@;/###$$$((-;##@, @$$) (

  14. Unaco says:

    I can see why they’re going for Activision first off the bat… they’re a huge company, and this will get a decent amount of media attention. Anyway, if they’re successful, will we see Stardock in the dock next? Or Bethesda or Obsidian? What about an Indie developer after that… I heard there were some lag problems and a save bug in Super Meat Boy… let’s bring Team Meat before the judge. Or Arcen maybe, I can remember 1 or 2 bugs with AI War (although, they were patched rather quickly). Or what about Tale Worlds? I’ve come across a number of quite horrendous bugs in M&B:Wb.

    I don’t know if this is such a good idea… set a precedent, and in a year or two, it won’t be Game Informer and gamers taking these things to court, it will be the law offices of Bluster & Dollop, and they’ll be making millions a day, from Devs and gamers and everyone will have lost (except the Lawyers, obviously).

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    “Ideally all games would be bug free on release”

    You mean free of major bugs that break the game for everyone. It is literally impossible to produce 100% bug-free software. But there is such a thing as insufficient Q&A, and I’d estimate that in Blops’s case it’s actually the fault of the suits pushing the game out the door slightly too fast to do proper Q&A, and then the devs suffering the nightmare of trying to get patches approved for multiple platforms at once.

    • Archonsod says:

      Q&A will only find the major bugs. It’s impossible to account for every possible hardware combination, or even a small percentage of them, and that’s before you even consider the myriad possible configurations of the OS, even if you only support Windows.

      Usually the only thing you can do Q&A wise is say the game runs fine on a specific configuration of hardware and OS, and assume the end user is smart enough to understand how changes from that configuration may affect the running of the game.

  16. Kadayi says:

    I guess what is required as a minimum in the event of bugs being detected after release is a prompt commitment by the developers to the consumer to address the issue asap. Uncertainty tends to be the real bugbear.

    I think the inherent problem that developers face is that often times the issues people encounter might well be the result of out of date hardware/software drivers, as much as a problem on their part.

    I can recall years ago returning a couple of games to stores complaining of disc errors and having the games replaced, only later to discover that my DVD drive required a firmware update to resolve read issues. A revelation which has since lead me to get into periodically making an effort to check for Bios/Firmware updates (as well as driver updates) on all my hardware. However these are not the sort of things that Windows knows to address, or at least notify you about (MS need to buy out driver agent). Much as I loathe Macs, at least with OSX they do carry out firmware updates.

    In short there needs to be a bit more detection work going on, to ensure peoples systems are up to date.

    • Chopper says:

      While for PC gamers, there is a lot to be said for looking after your system as part of bug prevention (note how tech-savvy people have less issues than others), the problem is system independent at this point and has spread to consoles, which tells you that a growing part of it is not down to the indvidual machine.

    • Ravenger says:

      The reason your discs wouldn’t read is copy protection, which introduces deliberate errors into discs that can’t be copied by normal means. So it’s not your fault for not upgrading your DVD drive firmware, it’s the DRM company’s and game publishers fault for implementing a DRM system that doesn’t work reliably with all drives. So you were right to return the games in my opinion.

  17. bit_crusherrr says:

    Black Ops is completely unplayable for me. When It first came out It would have a stutter now and again. I tried playing It last week and now it’s constantly stuttering. They really need to sort this shit out.

    • cliffski says:

      buy Battlefield; BC2 instead, seriously, it is a breath of fresh air in comparison.

    • mda says:

      Probably worth pointing out that BC2 was a crash-prone network-connection-fuxt broken-server-browser poop on release as well, but yeah now it’s awesome :D

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    HermitUK says:

    Expecting games to be bug free on release is foolish – it’s easy to miss issues when your testing team is about 20 people, compared to your live sample of (in BlOps case) millions. Even closed and public betas won’t catch everything – though they are always worth running, especially when you’re talking about a multiplayer game where balancing everything is a priority. The benefits of having a sizeable test sample of your game running on different PC hardware is good, too. And I’m pretty sure that MW2 and Blops didn’t run any sort of beta testing.

    BlOps issues on the PC have been vastly improved with the post release patching, though there’s still room for improvement. I found my performance in Blops as a whole was worse than it was in MW2, despite Blops being built on the slightly older WaW tech and not looking as shiny as MW2 did. And I still had the odd combat stutter earlier this month before I stopped playing it (It’s not, on the whole, a great game even if you ignore the technical flaws)

    I suspect this action is more about the PS3 issues. I know a bunch of people who bought it on the PS3 and who have had constant issues of being kicked from parties, losing game connections halfway through, and so on. What’s worse is there was a supposed fix put in which actually made the problem worse, though I’m not sure what the current state of that is.

    In Treyarch’s defence, mind, they are actually patching the game – IW quickly gave up on fixing MW2’s issues to concentrate on getting their two map packs out, and then self destructing.

  19. BobsLawnService says:

    Is Gamer’s Voice trying to completely discredit PC gaming?

    Instead of approaching the standards bodies how about they push for decent returns policies instead?

    • suibhne says:

      I think you’ve identified exactly the right way to go. I’m not much of a capitalist overall, but regulation isn’t what’s needed here. Rather, what’s needed is a basic consumer-rights provision to let the market be more…markety. If consumers could simply return the games that didn’t function well enough to be conveniently, enjoyably playable, and companies had to eat that loss at some point in the cycle…well, I really believe that this problem would slowly auto-correct.

      And I know that, if I’d had the right, I would’ve returned CoD:BLOPS within two days of purchase. Thank god for the MoH beta, which warned me off buying that game altogether.

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      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I don’t know that Gamer’s Voice has done anything beyond lodging a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading, which is the authority that makes decisions in these matters under current legislation.

      Nothing in the article suggests they’re making any calls for QA regulation or consumer recourse or anything just yet. Though I agree that consumer recourse is probably the best solution.

  20. Pop says:

    Actually I’d love to hear from the developer! What does their testing setup look like? How do they manage their code etc.?

    I get the impression that the quality of testing does vary heavily from dev to dev. Practices for ensuring the engine is as robust as possible are fairly established; not sure how you go about testing scripted events though.

    • terry says:

      Knowing Treyarch they most likely throw darts at a load of post it notes.

    • edwardoka says:

      Actually, post-it notes aren’t nearly as bad an idea as you might think, so long as their use is backed up by a bug-tracking system such as Mantis.

      Moving post-its around between the dev and test departments lends a certain physicality to the whole process and allows for discussion on both sides, assuming that both departments are located near each other.

    • Pop says:

      Yeah, we used post it notes in the last place I worked. Kept getting having to shuffle up to the office manager and ask for another 150 every other week.

  21. Premium User Badge

    FunkyB says:

    Just a minor point, Minecraft sort of messes this a bit doesn’t it? It is a horrid mess of bugs and terrible code, yet sold millions and millions on the explicit notification that it was Alpha (now Beta) software and would be buggy. This would appear to indicate that we will accept bugs from some games/developers (when we are warned) but not from others.

    Really, we just need the right to return our software. Then I think we’d see the QA jump up.

  22. patricij says:

    Activision – Blizzard != PC gaming, so I’m cool with that…

  23. The Pink Ninja says:

    The end result would be companies not releasing in the UK

    Or an addition to the EULA

  24. Phydaux says:

    In the UK, it is the seller of the goods that is responsible for a product being fit for purpose. Unless you have been buying your games directly from the publisher, it is the retailers’ responsibility. If Gamers’ Voice do get somewhere with this, I think it’ll be the retailers who feel the brunt of it. Activision may get it in the neck from the big players, like Game, Play, Tesco etc., but I don’t know who is more reliant on who.

    The other problem is that if the game is mostly playable, you may only be entitled to a small fraction of a refund. If you’ve been playing it for 40 hours, trading standards may decide that you are only entitled to 1/40 of the purchase price.

    And just because you paid a high price for something you think is poor quality, doesn’t entitle you to force the manufacturer to improve it’s quality. I’m pretty sure Trading Standards don’t have this power. But I suppose it could be argued that it’s not fit for sale.

    My wife is currently playing Black Ops and she’s really enjoying it. :P

  25. jalf says:

    So many people goofing around with ridiculous strawman arguments. I’d expected to see more sensible comments on RPS. Ah well.

    Of course “too buggy” is a subjective call, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be legislated, or even that such legislation “won’t work”. As was said in another comment, “fit for purpose” is a term used legally. It’s subjective, and it generally does the job.

    Gamers Voice is not demanding a law that “every game must be released bug-free”. They even say that in the article, if you read it. They also say

    Our view is that it doesn’t matter how big a game is, it should not be released ‘unfinished’ or with bugs that make the game unplayable, which are words we have seen in a lot of emails to us recently.

    .

    They are not saying “please legislate against bugs in games”. They are targeting one specific game.

    They are not complaining that “codblops has a bug”, but that it is unplayable and unfinished.
    And honestly, I think they have a point. It shouldn’t be ok to sell a game that is unplayable.

    Minecraft is buggy, but it is not unplayable. (and while it is unfinished, that is made pretty clear to customers)

    Stalker is buggy, but it’s not unplayable.

    And even if they *were* unplayable, for them to be affected by this, they’d have to receive the same level of complaints as codblops.

    Sure, *maybe* it would make publishers panic and refuse to fund a game unless they have some kind of proof that it won’t be buggy on release, but maybe that’s a risk worth taking? The big publishers are making plenty of bad decisions already, we can’t and shouldn’t let that dictate which direction the games industry takes. Absolutely anything might make publishers panic. They’re largely incompetent.

    Most industries are held accountable somehow for what they produce. If they make a product that is not good enough, you can generally file a complaint, you can usually get compensated, and they can usually be punished somehow.

    Why should the games industry be exempt? It’s not about punishing hard-working developers for not achieving perfection, but simply about allowing gamers some kind of reprieve, a way out if it turns out they just spent $50 on something worthless.

    • Misnomer says:

      Fit for purpose may be reasonable in legislation, but it is very hard to actually describe that term for software. To use Minecraft, if it was released today it would clearly be fit enough for players to get the intended enjoyment out of it. There are plenty of examples in software (STALKER as is often mentioned here) of thouroughly buggy software that is still used by gamers for the purpose intended.

      So what does fit for purpose mean when applied in this industry? This not the movie industry and not the hammer or car industry, the software industry has its own precedents and consumer expectations. What is fit for purpose according to those? That is not a strawman argument, that is a realistic concern about how you enforce standards.

      Printing errors in books are one thing, you can say that faulty disks don’t live up to standards because they are unusable, but what if the errors in the book are actually ee cummings or it is unreadable because the syntax has been obscured ridiculously? You have to go by industry standards and consumer expectations…

    • jalf says:

      Fit for purpose may be reasonable in legislation, but it is very hard to actually describe that term for software

      Yep. My point is just that it’s stupid to pretend that “if it’s subjective, it can’t be legislated or regulated”.

      Of course it can. Nearly all our laws and regulations are subjective to some extent. That’s why we have judges and trials: to make reasonable decisions in subjective cases.

      And of course, “fit for purpose” specifically was just an example of vague or subjective wording used legally. I never said the exact same phrase should be applied to games.

      So what does fit for purpose mean when applied in this industry? This not the movie industry and not the hammer or car industry, the software industry has its own precedents and consumer expectations. What is fit for purpose according to those? That is not a strawman argument, that is a realistic concern about how you enforce standards.

      True, asking the question is a very meaningful thing to do. But posing it as a rhetorical question, implying “it cannot be done because it is subjective” is a strawman argument. Subjectivity is no obstacle. The interesting question is what we can reasonable demand/expect. As you say, this isn’t the car industry. So which standards should be applied? How unplayable can a game be before it is “too unplayable”? Does intention or “good faith” matter? Does it matter whether or not the developer was aware of the bugs? And so on. No one’s saying it’s a simple issue, but it’s silly to pretend that because it is complex, we should be afraid of touching it.

      Printing errors in books are one thing, you can say that faulty disks don’t live up to standards because they are unusable, but what if the errors in the book are actually ee cummings or it is unreadable because the syntax has been obscured ridiculously? You have to go by industry standards and consumer expectations…

      do you? In some industries, the “standard” is to poison the planet and rip off the customer. In some countries at some points in time, the “consumer expectation” has been to be forced to pay big whopping bribes to get anything done. Sometimes, you have to *change* standards and expectations.

      There has to be *some* kind of reasonable minimum requirement for selling a game commercially. If I write random bits and bytes to a dvd and pretend it is a game and sell, it, it’d be a clear and obvious scam. But you could see it as just an extremely buggy game. From there it’s a sliding scale all the way up to “super-polished AAA game”. At some point a line has to be drawn. What is acceptable, and what is not? Tricky question, certainly, but doesn’t that just make it all the more important?

      I think most people here agree that some of the best games they’ve played have been unusually buggy. Often, those are the interesting, alternative “diamonds in the rough”. And none of us want those games to disappear. But at the same time, we don’t want publisher to speculate in “how broken can our games be at release while still making a profit?”

      And if they release a *too* broken game, what do we do? What should we do? Should there be some organization somewhere where we can file a complaint? How should they process the complaint? Should the company that released the game be held accountable on a large scale, or should they simply be forced to refund *my* copy?

    • Archonsod says:

      “Of course “too buggy” is a subjective call, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be legislated, or even that such legislation “won’t work””

      It does. You hit two problems:

      1. A game, like any other product, is considered “finished” when the producer decides it is, it is assumed the consumer accepts the product for what it is at the point of sale.

      2. Bug is hard to define. If a game doesn’t work on ATI cards, as long as the box does not specifically state or imply it will (i.e. if the minimum states Nvidia xxx or equivalent) then the developer has a solid argument that this is not a bug, since at no point have they stated the game will or should run on such hardware.
      Even more problems are apparent when you look at bugs in the game itself. If a scripted event doesn’t trigger unless you act in the specific manner the designer intended, is it a bug? The tricky part here is that one could argue that if you don’t act in the specified manner, then it’s a fail state in much the same way as if you didn’t complete a level and thus were prevented from advancing to the next.

      The only way you can really do it is to enforce the ability to return a game you are not satisfied with for a refund, but this will provoke the counter argument that it simply encourages piracy.
      It’d be ineffective either way. UK consumer legislation doesn’t apply if you purchase the game via a non-UK store, so all a publisher need do to avoid any possible legal comeback is to only sell via Steam or a similar service.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      @Archonsod Interestingly, my latest charges from Steam were from “Steampowered.Com, London”, and no longer from… Luxembourg, I think it used to be.

      But to address your point: there is still a huge amount of money being made selling games within the UK, and that’s not going to be undercut.

      And returns will not facilitate or promote piracy; piracy doesn’t rely on being able to buy a game and return it after copying it, and that won’t change. What would change is a vector for unscrupulous people to try and have their cake and eat it too, buying the game, playing it until they’re done, and then returning it claiming it’s too buggy. But chances are they’d have already resorted to pirating the game in the first place, since it’s much less bother to do that than to hassle the retailer for a return.

  26. freetech says:

    Its great that somebody is taking action, but it wont go very far and activision just don’t care, as long as they can rip people of at £11.99 per map pack.

  27. Sorbicol says:

    Surely this will just open up just how much of a legally binding agreement the average EULA actually is? (which from my very limited understanding is, they aren’t really) I’m sure Activision will point to the relevant section of the EULA pointing to the on-line experience not being “guaranteed” and say “they agreed to it, if they didn’t agree they shouldn’t have signed it”.

    I agree that a game should be playable on release (i.e, when you turn it on it runs and you can play it. First time i attempted to run Fallout: New Vegas even the launcher crashed before I got anywhere near playing the game. We won’t even talk about Stardock’s efforts with Elemental. HOwever having a certain amount of in game bugs isn’t the end of the world, unless it’s consistent CTDs or freezing.

    This isn’t about legislating anything from my understand – it’s about the Consumer rights act and your protection under it. I think the main problem here again is that the law doesn’t recognise a “Game” as a physical product, but as a virtual one. I’m fairly sure this doesn’t come under Consumer rights, hence the publishers can get away with it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      You couldn’t start it on your pc. But on my pc it played great.

      Delivering a product for PC isn’t easy. Tons of different hardware, operating systems,… But yeah, the game should reasonably work on windows 7, vista & xp on a myriad of hardware.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      A large part of the blame needs to actually go to the hardware vendors and their driver departments.

      We have OpenAL, OpenGL, DirectX and DirectSound etc for a reason. Most of the time, both cards and drivers completely f*ck up all of this, and the game programmers end up having to per-card bugfix their calls around issues that shouldn’t exist in the first place, only because nobody is keeping up their end of the bargain.

      Everyone with a console keeps feeling smugly superior due to the super-fixed, completely uselessly locked down hardware / DRM-soft platform they possess, making it easy to write for them.
      But the truth is, if the APIs and standards were properly obeyed, it would be just as simply AND freely functional to write for the PC.

      The interfaces and their interpretations are the issue, I dare say. And have been, for 20+ years.

  28. bill says:

    But, in the UK, can’t consumers just return the game if it’s too buggy?
    I must say i haven’t tried returning a game for years… but i remember returning Daggerfall without problems THREE TIMES.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Modern packaging on DVDs and games etc clearly reads that once opened, you can no longer return the product(since you can clone/copy it once opened).

      It’s hard to argue on grounds of bug-fail, and you need a lenient store/distributor to get anywhere with that.

  29. eldwl says:

    Whilst it’s not entirely related, are digital downloads covered by the UK’s distance selling laws? If so, then you’re allowed to return anything within 7 days aren’t you? Maybe this is something Steam should be pressured to include (scuse the pun) if this is the case.

    Then, you’d be able to return any game you didn’t like regardless of whether it was buggy or not…

    • Lorc says:

      They’ll use the same dodge they always do – they’re not a product, they’re a service.

    • eldwl says:

      Ah, never mind. After a bit of digging through the OFT’s site, and found this:
      http://www.oft.gov.uk/shared_oft/business_leaflets/general/oft698.pdf
      I suspect that they’d argue that the software had been “unsealed” if you played the game.

    • Mistabashi says:

      Anything related to the sale of goods doesn’t apply to software as its “intellectual property” and can’t be sold in the traditional sense, you are merely granted a license to use it in a specified manner (according to the included EULA). You can return a game if the disc is faulty as that does count as ‘goods’ so you can argue it’s unfit for purpose (it’s purpose being to deliver the data), but as far as bugs & incompatibilities go I think we have pretty much no rights at all.

  30. Jambe says:

    isn’t it actually something that needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis?

    Yes.

    can trading standards bodies really make those kinds of judgments?

    Yes, but they’ll suck at it. The cons outweigh the pro’s. It’s sort of like a censorship organization, actually.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      The idea of it is sort of like a censorship organization, yes. But I’m just about 100% sure if it did happen that it WOULD be a censorship organization.

  31. Premium User Badge

    ts061282 says:

    As a former QA tester I can tell you no piece of software is ever bug free. That being said, there are certainly rare cases when I feel a piece of software is in such a bad state that the publisher should be liable (Elemental: War of Magic, but certainly not the only example). There should be some mechanism where the publisher is pushing the developer to publish when a third party says, if you do publish this, you will be liable, so push it back a year or pay the price.

  32. Paravel says:

    I am glad to see this, aside from the fact that it probably will not have any effect, I think it’s good that we at least start to make companies accountable for releasing broken products. If this were any kind of physical product with these amounts of major problems, the company would have issued a recall.

    My Black Ops copy began as unplayable, then after the fourth patch (over a month later) it became buggy, but playable in multiplayer. Single player remains unplayable. Not talking picky things here either, I’m talking about the entire screen slowly turning bright white randomly, and permanently (persists back to the main menu, so I can’t even find the Quit button). To top it off, there are complete lockups of my graphics for 10+ seconds at a time, if the screen hasn’t gone white by then. Basically, I don’t know what happens to Woods and Bowman, but I have heard my character say their names with melancholy over and over.

    My response from attempting technical support through both their company, and third party gamer forums is one of three things, 1) “Update drivers”, 2) “Try these console/config file tweaks”, 3) “Upgrade your computer, you are boned.” All of which I have done, except upgrading my computer, but this baby is only two months old and exceeds the recommendeds. All these technical attempts lay the blame on my system, or my drivers, only one apology from Activision support so far, and even then the email went on to place the blame on my system.

  33. WJonathan says:

    It’s already tough enough for small studio developers. Legally demanding perfection would put them under. I’ll choose to retain the ability to buy flawed games if I like. Some of the most fun and innovative games are a bit buggy.

    • jalf says:

      Very true, but what does it have to do with anything? Where did GamersVoice, or anyone else, “legally demand perfection”? It’s a stupid strawman argument.

  34. malkav11 says:

    I think it is completely unrealistic to expect bug free games at this stage of complexity, especially for PC. There are, obviously, types of bugs that are unacceptable (the so-called “game-breaking” bugs that prevent you from playing past a certain point, eat your savegames, etc), and post-release support needs to be pretty much mandatory, but that’s not the same as expecting something to be perfect.

    I will say, though, that the current impossibility of returning opened games is probably the real issue here.

  35. Grey_Ghost says:

    Recently started playing Dragon Age Origins, was quite surprised to find out that the vast majority of spell / talent scripts were chock full of bugs. I find it unacceptable that Bioware has ignored fixing the scripting bugs.

    Though I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, Neverwinter Nights skills / spell scripts are also full of bugs. It’s silly to have to rely on the Mod-ing community to address these issues.

  36. Lowbrow says:

    Still can’t play Lionheart: King’s Crusade bought during the holiday sale due to a crash 20 minutes in to the first mission. This doesn’t bother me all that much since I got it as part of the Paradox set with EU2, King Arthur, etc but it’s a pretty big error for them not to have fixed yet. At least it was a small studio. I couldn’t play Mass Effect for a YEAR while they fixed a CTD error. Bioware is still on my shit list for that. I upgraded my video card (for the first time since ’04) so my desktop could play it, and it just gathered dust. With Paradox it’s annoying, but with a big publisher, that’s just ridiculous.

  37. Flappybat says:

    140 hours logged in steam for Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer. For Black Ops multiplayer it shows 19 hours . Apart from the awful pausing issues most people had until one of the first patches I havent had any bugs but the game was spoiled for me by jamming 18 players on maps designed for 12 player, the maps feeling too much like they were mainly designed for team DM and the terrible spawning system.

  38. Atomosk says:

    I don’t mind bugs, I’ve gotten used to them. As long as the developer makes an effort to patch them. But when a game like Blops makes 600+ million dollars and there are still bugs, that’s criminal negligence.

    Not that I would know, <3 BFBC2

  39. Lord Byte says:

    Stop saying that bugs are more prevalent on PC because of “hardware incompatibilities”. It’s not 1990 any more for god’s sake.
    DirectX has been invented so developers DON’T have to write for every possible individual combination of hardware and software. They write for DirectX and DirectX talks to the hardware (via your installed software for said hardware).
    What does happen is that many people are experiencing issues with their pc, which become extremely obvious once you run something that will use the full memory of your pc, 100% of your CPU (and the commensurate heat build-up) and every little frame it can squeeze out of your video-card… You did update those video-card drivers right?
    A PC doesn’t “crash once in a while”. It doesn’t! If it does, you have a hardware or software issue. And with software issue I mean badly written code (probably spy-ware) which is taking away so many CPU cycles whatever you want to run doesn’t work properly.
    There are more people experiencing hardware issues than you think, and a lot of that is due to the shops they go to, sending them back after having reinstalled their windows and having removed the spy-ware because it’s hard to see or expensive to look for the exact combination that causes your problem, exacerbated by the inability of people to properly transfer information and the receiver to understand them. Plus the superiority complex a lot of the hardware people have towards the plebs doesn’t help…
    How many times have you cleaned your pc the last year? Never? I did it 4 times (I have a cat and I never turn of my PC). You should clean it out at least once a year with a vacuum (dislike compressed air for the chance of condensation). Hold the fans (I know they make a funny noise when they spin madly, but it wears down the engine and can break them), use a small paint-brush (unused) for hard to reach spots and put some new coolant paste on your CPU (yeah you have to take of the cooler to clean it properly).
    If you don’t know how to do it, or don’t want to risk it, send it to your local PC dealer or PAY your friendly neighbourhood geek to do it for you (yeah they like pc’s, no they don’t like to work for free…)
    Heat issues are 90% of the issues “gamers” experience… RROD? Yeah that was a heat issue! Flashing lights on the PS3? Same…
    Clean your shit out regularily, it EATS dust, it’s just like getting an oil-change for your car…

    • Lord Byte says:

      My point was that a lot of the “bugs” on the pc version are local (hardware or software) issues, which muck up the perception, not to mention cause A LOT of extra work for the devs ,as they’re looking for an issue that doesn’t exist…

  40. Wulf says:

    What is this? I don’t even…

    Bugs make New Vegas the greatest evil ever conceived, yet bugs don’t matter at all if the saintly Activision-Blizzard is responsible for them, and to that end we have people arguing in their defence? Despite CODBLOPS having a massive budget (by comparison) and far worse bugs than New Vegas?

    ‘kay then.

    Right you are.

    Don’t mind me. I’m just off to a gaming website where the community makes sense. This was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      …So wait, who are you talking to? The only other mention of New Vegas was Sorbicol up there, and he was downplaying it. Besides, I noticed a lot more things that I would quantify as “bugs” in NV than I did in BLOPS. (Most things that you guys might call bugs I just ignore as the cost of playing videogames)

    • Lilliput King says:

      What are you on, Wulf.

    • Nick says:

      To be honest, with your comment style lately its good riddance.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      ICE BURN

      Actually, you know, that wasn’t that funny at all. You will be missed.

    • Chris D says:

      Wait. Didn’t you already storm off dramatically three days ago? I’m so confused.

    • Qjuad says:

      This must be how Iraq feels!

    • shitflap says:

      This has made my morning..

    • LD says:

      im confused, he didnt mention GW2

  41. DOLBYdigital says:

    Half of me likes this idea and the other half is scared this will shun developers in making boring and tightly controlled experiences since they are easier to code. The ability to easily return a game sounds good since it would force developers to make games that have replay value and lasting appeal. Maybe make it so you can return a game within 10 days after purchase. Although some may abuse this system by buying well developed games, beating them and returning them However if the devs are focused on making a game that is worth replaying then people won’t want to return it. This also side steps the idea that some games are great even with their bugs.

    This is a hard one and I can kinda see from each side. I think I heard its almost impossible to play this online on the PS3 which sounds like a serious bug that is worthy of complaints. However I don’t like the idea of forcing ‘bug free’ games since its almost impossible and will surely dull the imagination, creativity and innovation in gaming (which is mainly only present in indies and modders for now.)

    • MattM says:

      But games shouldn’t be forced to be re-playable. Some of my favorite games of all time I have only played through once (Shadow of the Colossus, World of Goo, Grim Fandango, all bioware RPGs). Puzzle based games shouldn’t face a disadvantage in the market just because they are the types of games where most or all of the fun is found in the first play-through. Adding a bunch of hidden junk or choices that lock you out of part of a games content can often detract from a focused game. The laws should protect consumers, but they should also allow publishers to sell a wide variety of games and not just force them to keep making MMOs and online FPSs.

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      Good point MattM,
      I didn’t mean they have to be ‘forced’ to be re-playable. I was just thinking that if they forced a 10 day return policy, that would cause many devs to focus on replay value more. Also I certainly didn’t mean silly unlocks or ‘hidden junk’ when I stated replay value. I mean more about making a fun game that is enjoyable to play more than once and one that you actually want to play again. Although I agree that many of the AAA publishers would equate that to stupid unlocks and other ways to try and ‘extend’ your game play past that 10th day. This truly is a hard situation to find the ‘right’ or best answer. Finally, return policy or not and ‘bug free’ or not the publishers will always keep cranking out FPS and MMOs since that’s where the money is at. The indies and modders are the only areas that I see any innovation and creativity in gaming but that isn’t going to change until the people vote with their money more (minecraft is a step in the right direction with a million sales).

      *sigh, this posting too fast thing is getting out of hand word press!!

    • MattM says:

      I have seen pirates claim that if a game is well made and fun but short or lacking in replay value then it is ok to pirate it to punish the devs for not making a longer game game. This argument drives me a bit nuts since if everyone believed that then the only games that would be commercially viable would be those that require a central server like MMOs. I dont mind the popularity of online games (love me some TF2), but I worry that good single player games (esp. shorter ones) will be driven out of the market by piracy or by people who buy them, beat them, and return them for a refund. I guess I would rather have a no-returns buyer beware policy and rely on game reviews than see some of my favorite game genres disappear. A system that only allowed legitimate returns for bugs would be nice, but I am unsure how it might work.
      That said, until piracy is less available it might not be worth worrying about people who would abuse the returns system.

  42. XM says:

    What’s got everyone going is play it on the 360 yes the 360 the oldest thing to play it on and it runs perfect. M$ at it again for sure. Go to any forum and there are big discussions about how only the PC and PS3 are not working….hmmm….

    • Arclight says:

      I’m willing to bet my socks that the 360 is the lead platform and they just didn’t have the time to iron out the kinks in the other versions.

      Activision shouldn’t be rushing out a “new” game every year, just to squeze some more bucks out of their customers.

      At any rate, it’s about time that a line is drawn. Bug-free? No, but some games are such a ridiculous mess they should never be allowed on the market. It’s those that need some legal attention.

      If a developer/publisher has to deal with the possibility of being sued when they release an absolutely sub-standard product, they might actually extend the deadline by 3 months and have a crack at fixing it.

  43. hamster says:

    There definitely needs to be some sort of independent regulatory body that tests PC games. Problem with games is that you can’t check ‘em for workmanship until you install the thing and play it…then you end up with crashes maybe only after the first quarter of the game and end up unable to return it if there is no solution. Thing about the industry is that guys are content with pumping out games with a flashy marketing campaign THEN if the devs/publisher decides to, patch up any glaring errors. This is unacceptable and without some kind of official intervention nothing will change.

  44. RevEng says:

    I don’t know if a trade standards body is the right place to take this argument, but it’s certainly an argument that must be made.

    Customer protections are put in place to avoid people paying good money for bad products. If you bought a shirt that had holes in it and fell apart a week later, you could take it back and get your money back. If a company had a reputation for doing such a thing, they would be lucky to have a business.

    In the software industry, holes occur regularly in our products, and though the developers have the ability to fix them, businesses are often reluctant to do so because they won’t see additional profits; the sales have already been made. An expectation that “bugs happen” has taken hold in both the industry and its customers.

    This is where we need somebody else to step in. For the public good, somebody needs to establish minimum standards of quality for software. Bugs most commonly affect usability and/or security, both of which are essential to the safe and functional use of software. Allowing them to linger so pervasively in our industry is harming us all.

    For your video games, maybe it’s as minor as it crashing once in awhile or causing glitches that require the game to be restarted. This reflects poorly on the developer, but it’s generally little more than annoyance. Then there are games that flat out refuse to work, or eat your saved game after several hours have been invested in it. Even something as simple as not being able to connect to the servers on a busy Saturday afternoon is a major detriment to the user. We paid for access to these games; if we can’t get access, we aren’t getting what we paid for.

    Establishing quality standards for code will be difficult. There are few “best practices” that the industry can agree on. Like writing, code can be written in many ways and can be tasked with accomplishing many different goals at once (from correctness, to brevity, to longevity, to readability). Testing is even more onerous; a simple video game can have thousands of decision points and every decision can be affected by other decisions, the passage of time, hardware, and other external factors. Could all software be held to the standards of the automobile or aviation industries? It seems unlikely.

    Still, with games like Fallout 3 and New Vegas demonstrating a recurring and continuing theme of rushed, bug-ridden software, somebody needs to put pressure on the developers to clean up their act. Government bodies like a trade standards board might be a strong, unified way to do this, but I think it starts with us consumers.

    Don’t rush out to buy the latest game until the reviewers have had a chance to vet it. Read up on what the early adopters are saying. Try demos, rent a copy, or borrow it from a friend. If a publisher releases a half-baked game, let them know you are disappointed and think twice before buying their games again. If a game is really buggy, demand a refund from your retailer and let them know why.

    Developers won’t be quick to fix the problems as long as people keep buying buggy software. Make your voice heard and put your money where your mouth is.

  45. vodkarn says:

    I can think of a certain Land with Borders in it that could be targeted with this too.