Paradox’s Plan To Finally Squash Its Bug Problem

By Nathan Grayson on August 9th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

Paradox has made an unlikely business out of almost exclusively publishing wonderfully off-kilter PC exclusives, but it’s not all sunshine and (Wars of) roses. Stability has never been the Swedish conglomerate’s strongsuit, and games like Sword of the Stars II, King Arthur II, and Magicka have generated an ugly cloud of bugs that swarms around its reputation, slowly but surely devouring goodwill bit-by-bit. But, contrary to how things might appear, Paradox is very, very aware of this. So after a nice, long chat about DLC, senior producer Gordon Van Dyke and I caught up again – both to follow up and to discuss the fairly drastic measures Paradox is taking to squash its bug problem once and for all.

Say what you will about Paradox, but at least it can admit when it has a problem. Magicka, Sword of the Stars II, and countless others stumbled out the gate essentially broken, but patches (and copious apologies) appeared to fill in the cracks as quickly as possible. How did we get to this point, though? What’s going so horribly and consistently wrong in Paradox’s kitchen?

“It’s an ugly stigma,” Van Dyke admits to RPS. “It goes back to budget size. We don’t have the money to throw at a giant QA team. We try as hard as we can, but it’s really difficult. Another thing is that we’re primarily PC, and there’s so many different variations of PC configurations. That’s always really difficult to manage within. We do our best, but we’re small.”

“A lot of the time, some of the mistake comes from the design. You over-scope. You try to make a bigger game than maybe you even needed to. There’s nothing easier to do than to over-design a game – to put in a lot of features feeling like they’ll make your game feel bigger. But the truth of the matter is, having a really solid core experience, simplicity, and presentation – Minecraft is a perfect example – is more valuable than having a ton of features.”

I don’t doubt what he’s saying is coming from a truthful place. It’s an honesty that pervades the company’s entire operation, and – in this day and age of squeaky clean, almost robotic PR – it’s an incredibly admirable quality. But admitting you have a problem is just the first step, and you can only fail to stick the landing so many times before the crowd starts wondering if they’re ever going to get their money’s worth. This time around, though, it at least sounds like Paradox is on the right track.

“There’s been a huge change in Paradox,” Van Dyke explains. “There’s been a lot of people like myself who come from a very different development background. We’ve worked at the big triple-A studios, and we bring a lot of different experience over. I’ve changed how our development schedule progresses and made it more akin to something I’d experience at DICE.”

And while he notes that extended periods of alpha testing are key in that, Paradox has – rather predictably – faced a constant uphill battle in another area as well: Quality Assurance testing, or QA for short. It’s an aspect of game development that often gets taken tremendously for granted, but if nothing else, Paradox serves as a perfect object lesson in what happens when QA’s MIA for most of an operation.

“We’ve been dumping a lot more money into Quality Assurance,” Van Dyke quickly points out. “As an example, as you saw today, War of the Roses had no issues. Granted, it’s also further along in development and our team is a bit more experienced. Paradox deals with a lot of really small developers, and they’re learning. But, like a lot of comments also say, we apologize and admit our flaws. Then we do everything within our power to fix them.”

“I’ve gotten QA [on War of the Roses] basically since we hit alpha, and we’re gonna have beta as well. So we’re gonna have QA guys working on it all the way to launch – and maybe even after. We’ve spent an enormous amount of money and time on Quality Assurance.”

Once again, notes Van Dyke, the longtime lack of QA goes back to Paradox’s paradoxically (at least, given the grandiosity of their visions) bite-sized development teams. But being the itsy bitsy spider in an industry that’s less water spout and more Niagara Falls isn’t all bad. Really, he argues, it’s Paradox’s secret weapon – especially when it comes to sweeping changes like these.

“The nice thing about being at Paradox is that it’s a smaller company. It runs like a start-up. We’re very dynamic. Things can change at the drop of a hat. No one there is stuck in their ways, and we don’t have a lot of overhead. We don’t have a lot of people that need to go through red tape to get something approved. I can come up to [CEO] Fred Wester and say, ‘Fred, I really want to do things this way.’ And unless I’m saying something completely insane that makes zero sense, he’s gonna be like ‘Go and do it.’”

Further, going back to our DLC talk, Van Dyke points out that making triple-A games while independent and small is what allows Paradox to put its customers first.

“We’re not publicly owned,” he says. “We don’t have shareholders that we also have to answer to. And that’s a sacrifice some companies make. You get more money to invest in games. And bigger companies like EA can make these big, awesome games. Maybe the DLC or whatever they do isn’t the best it could possibly be, but they make amazing, amazing games that people really enjoy.”

All those things in mind, Van Dyke certainly doesn’t think Paradox has an easy fight ahead of it. After all, throwing money at these problems and hoping they’ll go away on their own simply isn’t an option when you’re so small, and being uniquely scrappy will only take you so far. So for Paradox, it’s either think outside the box or get trapped inside it and suffocate.

“If you find any bugs, you measure how broadly it’s going to affect people,” he points out, providing an example. “Then you decide if you should fix it. Because any time you fix something, there’s a huge possibility that you’ll open Pandora’s Box. And then there are a whole bunch of other things that start crashing. So you look at it and say, ‘Is this worth fixing before we ship this game? How many people is this gonna affect?’ You have to take that really seriously and fix things smart, because then you’re gonna have to fix other things.”

Perhaps the most pressing bug-related issue currently doing the backstroke in Paradox’s soup, however, is the fact that plenty of damage has already been done. It’s like the old saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and suffer the wrath of my eternal ire in Internet comment threads oftentimes tangentially related to the topic at hand – if at all.” But Van Dyke’s well aware that, even if Paradox succeeds at turning over a new leaf in the near future, people won’t so quickly forget what came before.

“When you do something too many times too consistently, it becomes the rule. Fans might think War of the Roses is an exception to the rule, and an exception isn’t gonna change things over night. So we have to make the new rule focus on quality on our first releases of games. We can’t have another Sword of the Stars II or King Arthur II experience. We need to fix that. And that’s the focus.”

I then wrap the interview and return to playing an impressively stable demo of War of the Roses. Sure, my horse spawns into a table once, but otherwise, the colossal, surprisingly complex murder blender of a melee goes off without a hitch. At that point, I remember something else Van Dyke told me: there are only 13 people working on this game. And in that moment, it’s hard not to feel a nauseating twinge of doubt about their chances in the long run. But based solely on what I have in front of me – on this furious dance of blades, hooves, and hilariously hideous peasants that’s demoing (admittedly in a controlled environment) impressively well – I can’t help but feel something else too: anticipation. Fingers crossed, everyone.

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77 Comments »

  1. Moraven says:

    More open beta for your fans. Free QA right there.

    It would be interesting how many people use Open Beta and send bug reports vs demoing the game. I guess that is the one downside, is if there is a lot of problems people spread the word about how buggy it is. Then they stop playing and do not play the end of beta when most bugs are fixed.

    • dE says:

      I reckon the return rate of reports on those Betas is pretty bad if not almost non existent. Somewhat cynical but still, which company is still actually doing (public open/closed) Beta Tests and not just some “purchase early access”?
      If the return rate is presumably abysmal, why not make a coin that way?
      Actually decent Beta Testers are rare and they’re better hired through other channels anyway.

      • King in Winter says:

        Somewhat cynical but still, which company is still actually doing (public open/closed) Beta Tests and not just some “purchase early access”?

        Turbine does. I’ve been on several of their LotRO expansion closed betas, and they are very much stress test / bug report events. Early rounds may have unimplemented features, missing quest arcs, bugged content etc because beta testing is running alongside last phases of development. Compared to that, GW2′s last beta event was pretty much akin to an early access event.

        edit – Some of course will come and say that they were just as useful, due to how much bugs get past those to live. Isengard was lauded for having perhaps more bugged content than any expansion before at launch.

        • paddymaxson says:

          If DDO’s expansion is anything to go by, Turbine’s Betas are for nothing. People who played the Beta extensively reported bugs in the release version that’d been fixed several Beta patches ago.

      • derbefrier says:

        I’ve been in a few betas and i dont think i have ever reported a bug, ever. I use them as demos for the most part especially open betas. I know some people really get into it and it makes them feel apart of the game production but i just have this thing about not turning one of my favorite hobbies into free labor. I bought into PoEs beta but only because i felt it was polished enough that i could enjoy it and i wanted to support them but i didn’t do it with the intention of going out to try and find bugs. Its really the only reason i ever sign up for betas since there’s hardly any demos anymore its the best way to try before you buy.

      • SeeBeeW says:

        It’s better than you might think, in my experience. I’ve worked on projects both with dedicated QA and with closed betas and basically no QA.

        A closed beta suffers from all the problems you’d expect—erroneous reports, *lots* of repeat reports, people reporting old bugs over again even though they’ve already been fixed, reports that are poorly worded or missing critical information, etc. However, that said, without a dedicated QA team I have seen a closed beta take a product from a disaster of seemingly random crashes to shippable (if still a little wonky), and that can be the difference between a total disappointment and a tremendous success.

        (You’d be surprised how many people are actually OK with “a little wonky” if the game is good.)

        Dedicated QA is wonderful and well worth every penny, if you have the pennies. But if you don’t, you still have to do something to ensure the quality of your game or you are pretty much ripping people off. No matter how good your engineers are, asking them to test their own code is not a solution. A ragtag band of enthused players may not be the prettiest answer, but it does get the job done.

        (DISCLAIMER: personal experience, not gospel, your mileage may vary, for external use only, etc.)

    • wccrawford says:

      This is exactly what I came to say. Use your avid players as testers. They’ll even pay you for the opportunity. (Though, usually not quite as much as if you make them wait for release. It’s worth the small cost.)

      “It goes back to budget size. We don’t have the money to throw at a giant QA team. We try as hard as we can, but it’s really difficult. Another thing is that we’re primarily PC, and there’s so many different variations of PC configurations. That’s always really difficult to manage within. We do our best, but we’re small.”

      This would also help them test on a lot of PC configs, too.

      2 birds with 1 stone, guys!

    • Gnoupi says:

      They do public betas with a lot of their releases. But you nailed the problem. Not everyone is a QA person.

      Testing, reporting a bug with all the context (what you were doing, with what, when, where), in a way that will be actually usable by the developers, that’s a job. And most people see betas (especially open ones) as simply “oh, early access to the game”.

      And this public can’t report a bug. Most of the “curious” crowd will try the game and most likely give up at the first game-breaking bug, without a word.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Is it too naive to think that maybe if you offer some kind of instruction and basic feedback, some gamers would learn from the experience, enjoy what they are doing, and become more useful to developers? It seems to me that if you always treat gamers and software users as impatient, childish dimwits, they’ll (we’ll?) always BE impatient, childish dimwits.

        Give people a chance. Some of them will let you down, sure, but some won’t.

        • dE says:

          Problem is, they DID try that. Lord British ended up being roasted in one of his public speeches.

        • Vanger says:

          It may make sense in a MMO where testing is an ever-going process.

          In any other case it hardly makes sense to invest time of your developers to instill a proper QA mindset into people who most probably won’t be around when you’ll need testers again.

      • mmalove says:

        To be fair, I’ve participated in a lot of betas where you go through all that trouble to submit a bug report, and find it’s still broken on release. It’s rather disheartening. I realize development budgets are limited, but as a volunteer there’s nothing to make me want to help with the QA next time if I find my efforts are wasted on a given run. For me at least, that’s a large contributor to why I approach beta tests anymore as little more than early access.

        • syndicatedragon says:

          This is one thing that I think Arcen does right. They give you access to their actual bug tracking system. Filing an issue ticket there makes it feel like it makes a lot more of a difference as opposed to a forum post which might be overlooked or forgotten. Even if they choose not to fix it, at least there is some accountability.

      • Baines says:

        Some people are actually reluctant to report bugs during open betas, on the idea that the “beta” is really a demo of a possibly unfinished game, so you should just be accepting of problems.

        Some companies don’t make it easy enough to report bugs. Nor do they put up helpful reminders that a beta isn’t just a buggy demo, and that they’d really like bug reports. Personally, if I find I have to register on a forum to post a bug report, I’ve less desire to report the bug. (It doesn’t help when you run into cases where the forum registration is overly complicated or has its own issues. Or it is one of those places where forum-reported bugs appear to be ignored.)

        Mind, Paradox manages to have bugs of a type where I can’t see how they can play their own games and not find them. Like Warlock, where it seems every other city I capture ends up with at least one greyed out building that is half there and half not there (no upkeep/income, but you can recruit from it and build further along its chain), and I’ve seen other bugs that I’m fairly certain tied into that particular issue as well. Once you’ve engaged with an enemy, you can’t play the game for 20 minutes without encountering at least one bug. (Whether it be timed effects that don’t expire, phantom building, or that the wide view spell panel apparently can only display a certain number of spells.)

      • jrodman says:

        And I can do a really good job at QA, but I won’t because QA input is usually thrown in the trash. That’s why I fix bugs for a living instead where no one can stop me from fixing things.

        But I’m certainly not doing for-free QA for a game studio where I expect all my input on their game is likely to be trashed, if not redundant with a hundred other reports that are summarily ignored. If they want me to do QA on their unreleased game, they can pay for me to do so part time, which will likely make them value my input and fix the shit I go to the trouble to clearly identify.

    • CMaster says:

      Yeah, open beats are no silver bullet.

      To actually get any useful QA out of a beta requires actually quite a significant spend in itself. You need a lot of people to spend their time dealing with the beta testers and their reports to actually get anything out of it. It probably is still cheaper than professional QA, but then it’s also not going to achieve the same results.

    • Obc says:

      GW2 Beta had a feature where after a quest is finished a menu pop ups where you can give scores to stuff like characters, story, fun, difficulty and leave notes at the bottom. i filled about everyone of em with whatever i thought was a bug or something that could have been different.

      i did this because the menu popped up all on its own at exactly the best times (when i just finished stuff so i had the time) and it popped quite often. this way i can say a lot of stuff many times rather than going through a combersome menu to give a bug report. the menu already delivers the notice of where i was, what i did. plain simple, easy and non intrusive and thats why i gave a lot of bug reports.

      • Baines says:

        A built in bug report system seems like it would be a feature well worth the extra time and effort to create. (Mind, I can’t guarantee it would be a great feature. It *could* turn into a colossal waste of time if the players don’t know how to use it, or the developers don’t know how to utilize the results.)

        But coders too often underestimate how useful development tools are until they get to the post-mortems, when they suddenly realize “We’d have saved so much time if we’d just built a tool to do X” or “We’d have saved two weeks of bug testing if we’d had a program to properly edit and verify Y data”. Then they make their next game and repeat their prior mistakes, because such things don’t get budgeted into project and don’t get noticed until after weeks of fiddling around.

        (I’m guilty of it myself. I’ll waste many hours over a period of weeks manually doing something that I could have instead spent an hour knocking out a script or small program to handle for me automatically. Then two weeks later realize it, won’t make the program because I’ve already wasted several hours, and then go on to waste more hours over future weeks.)

      • benkc says:

        The WotLK beta had a similar tool. Even better, my experience was that many of the issues I reported through that tool got fixed — whether they were out-and-out bugs or just clunky quest flow.

        I want to say they also had a more general bug report tool for reporting bugs that weren’t related to any quest, but I didn’t use that nearly as much due to the quest-centric nature of the game.

    • Vanger says:

      Open beta QA isn’t free.
      You’re paying for it by spending time of your already overstretched dev team to sort and investigate all opened issues.
      And I’m sorry to say that, but both the reports quality and feature coverage are usually sub-par unless you’re lucky to have experienced testers in the community.

      Open beta is useful, of course, but I don’t think it can replace proper quality assurance process at all stages of the development.

  2. ScubaMonster says:

    Despite the bugs I enjoy their games. I think overall they do good work.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      That’s exactly what I wanted to say. I think they do amazing work, actually. Not a single game I’ve purchased from Paradox has left me with that ‘From Dust’ feeling.

      Of course, I didn’t buy Sword of the Stars II or King Arthur II.

    • gnodab says:

      I think this is part of the problem. Paradox caters to this very specific PC audience and gives us exactly the kind of games we want. Plus they just seem to be genuinely nice guys. Therefore we let their terrible releases slip. Over and over again. I mean, I could believe the excuses when they did release Magicka. But with SotSII or Krater I just don’t see it. Both games had Beta-Testers pointing out their flaws and especially with SotsII, there really was no need of elaborate testing to see that the game barely reached Beta upon release. I mean it wasn’t even feature complete. I have seen more stable games in alpha/beta (Dwarf Fortress, Minecraft…)!
      And, for me, they reached a point where I am no longer sure if they are hurting the Indie/Small PC scene more than they are contributing. I mean, they occupy a pretty large niche of PC-Gaming I am afraid we might be doing ourselves a disservice by supporting them. Yes I like the games they put out, but maybe the developers (and we gamers) might be better off without Paradox’s involvement.
      Also seeing Paradox team up with Cyanide sends shivers down my spine (and not he good kind).

      • vecordae says:

        SotS2′s “beta test” lasted for all of two or three weeks and was closed down something like two weeks before the game was released. That was my first clue that something was likely going terribly wrong in Kerberos’ offices.

  3. dE says:

    I can respect Paradox for what they’re doing. Which is giving obscure as hell games and odd ideas a chance to play out. Where else would you see a game like Mount and Blade or Magicka? Or Crusader Kings?
    I find myself with a lot of goodwill towards their products. Some games really stretch that to the extreme (Sword of the Stars II, I look at you) and maybe they’re milking costumes DLC a bit too much for my taste, but every single time I see a game published by Paradox, I look up and take notice.
    Because it might just be another niche gem. At a really decent price point as well. While I have cursed and moaned about them bugs, I have yet to regret a purchase. Rare is the game from them, that I have, where I haven’t spend 20+ hours on (something I rarely do with games). So if the news are that they’ll be improving their QA, I’m even more interested.

    Gosh do I sound like a fanboi now.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Mount & Blade was developed and released independently. I think Paradox only published the boxed version.

      • dE says:

        That I didn’t know. Although they never quite released a boxed version where I live and I only got it through online distribution.

  4. aliksy says:

    Magicka’s one of my favorite games ever, so paradox gets points from me. I got lucky and didn’t have a lot of game breaking bugs with it. The occasional crash, and a hell of an obscure .net bug (I blame microsoft for that. Stupid updater silently failed).

  5. dontnormally says:

    “being the itsy bitsy spider in an industry that’s less water spout and more Niagara Falls”

    Oh you clever bugger you.

  6. MLS says:

    A lot of their games are quirky, weird, have niche appeal, and thus far are not to my taste; but damned if I’m not rooting for them.

  7. Arathain says:

    As I understand it, the major issue with Sword of the Stars 2 involved development issues causing Kerberos to run out of money, forcing them to release the game in the poor condition it was in to raise money to allow them to continue.

    In this case it was not so much to do with inadequate QA, as the issues with the game were perfectly obvious to anyone who played, but with internal issues in the studio. The fix in this case, from Paradox’s perspective, would seem to be a willingness to provide the extra funding needed for the last bit of development time.

    Does anyone know if SOTS2 is more or less feature complete, functional and stable at this point? I figured I could just wait until it was before I played it.

    • Seboss says:

      Sword of the Stars 2 is more or less finished according to the lead designer and the latest patch is supposed to be “1.0″ except for the odd bugs.
      What I read on the forums tend to demonstrate the AI is still largely imperfect and the game has general performance and usability issues.
      Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect but it’s way better than 10 months ago. It’s mostly stable (the only major stability issues remaining are in multiplayer iirc), feature complete, only a bit rough around the edges.

      But I still don’t like the final result at all. The game feels overdesigned to me, lots of clunky features that are just not fun. The problem is that I liked SotS1 for its relative simplicity and its combat focus. Sword of the Stars 2 is more ambitious in the strategy / empire management department and the result is just less fun than SotS1 in my opinion, despite many great additions.

    • Eightball says:

      The AI is still mostly not there according to the Paradox forums. Most of the other stuff is there, but there are also performance issues.

      I should’ve gotten a refund when I had the chance.

      • Seboss says:

        You’re telling me… I don’t even like the damn game.

        • Eightball says:

          Agreed completely. Even if all the technical issues are ironed out, they added several prominent new features that don’t just make 2 different from 1, but make it worse.

          I want to be a capricious space emperor, not a midlevel bureaucrat.

          • Seboss says:

            Right. Well Mecron warned people that SotS2 would not be for everyone, including (or maybe especially) among the SotS1 fans. I thought that meant the game would be very different from SotS1. In reality, it’s the same thing minus all the accessibility and fun, with tons of useless administrative stuff that are supposed to add depth, but only manage to slow the game pace to a crawl. Just my personal opinion and taste of course.

            Some people seem to prefer SotS2, but with the exception of the Kerberos forums – where only blind devotion and deference are tolerated anyway – I don’t see many people claiming their love for the game :
            Maybe that will change after the “all clear” especially if we see new more forgiving reviews come up.

          • Rythe says:

            “…but with the exception of the Kerberos forums – where only blind devotion and deference are tolerated anyway…” ~Seboss

            I wanted to reiterate that bit, because oh yes, it’s so true.

            Sword of the Stars 2 is definitely one of those bad games with a good game buried somewhere deep inside the sticky mess it’s become. The engine is pretty spectacular in theory but falls a little short in a few areas and patching has come to the point where I don’t believe it will ever be particularly responsive. Let’s just say that the UI runs like molasses most of the time, up until the memory leaks grind the game down to an unplayable state. For most of the game’s lifespan, even something as simple as the Research Screen/UI lagged terribly, whereas now it’s just a little aggravating to navigate. (Pentium I7, Radeon 6850, 4Gigs of DDR3)

            The game part of the game has more than a few really counter-intuitive, poorly explained, and badly designed features tacked on. The government system is a wonderful example in that it combines all those terrible traits into one system. Managing ‘trade’ is cumbersome, tedious, and poorly explained. Stations are just tedious, cumbersome, and generally poorly implemented. So on and so forth.

            Which is a shame, because their various artists have done some really impressive work and the combat could be pretty great. At the moment, said combat is just debatably good.

      • Moraven says:

        Same. I just went back and played the first game and Civ5 expo while waiting.

        Kinda became MOO3 I guess. There was a fun game in there, but it was not the same as MOO2, Only few found it appealing.

  8. Ultra-Humanite says:

    That’s why you hire third-party professional QA that has the resources to test many different configurations already. As long as you can guarantee working builds and a clear plan (not a test plan, that’s the job of the QA people you hire, I am referring to knowing what areas you want QA to ignore and knowing how many hours of QA you want to hire out) it’s a viable option for companies that lack their own QA.

  9. Didden says:

    Still playing Hearts of Iron 3 after all this time, and another expansion on the way!

    • Sakkura says:

      I prefer Darkest Hour, which is based on Hearts of Iron 2. Hearts of Iron 3 almost rivals Master of Orion 3 for the biggest disappointment I’ve experienced in gaming.

  10. Sakkura says:

    As far as I’m aware, they already pretty much fixed the problem with their internally developed games. It’s the externally developed ones that have been causing problems lately. King Arthur II and Sword of the Stars II are both external projects.

    Internally, they learned from the disaster that was Hearts of Iron 3. It was terribad on release, got to a buggy/annoying state with the first expansion, and became decent but with some fundamental design shortcomings with the second expansion. Victoria 2 followed, and had some issues but was playable before the first expansion; after the first expansion it was in a pretty nice state. Then Crusader Kings II, which was enjoyable from day one.

  11. YogSo says:

    “I can come up to [CEO] Fred Wester and say, ‘Fred, I really want to do things this way.’ And unless I’m saying something completely insane that makes zero sense, he’s gonna be like ‘Right’.”

    There, fixed it for you, Mr. Van Dyke ;)

  12. Phantoon says:

    Right, said Fred.

  13. CobraFive says:

    So I was a huge fan of Sword of the Stars. SOTS2 was looking ok but you could tell by lack of content coming out pre-release that development wasn’t going well. But Mecron, the lead developer, made a big long post about how SOTS2 was a full, fun product and preordering would be “one of the safest bets you make”, and so on- he was basically addressing my fears directly, so I went with it.

    Well the game comes out and its shit. Total shit. Pre-alpha quality at its best parts… the main menu wasn’t even finished yet, and a bunch of the buttons (Like “options” for example…) didn’t do anything. There was no game to actually play.

    I make posts on both Kerberos’ and Paradox’s forums, talking about how this wasn’t really acceptable, and that it really did make me pretty angry. I don’t buy many games for over $10, much less $40… Kerberos of course, responds with attitude- in fact, even blaming the early purchasers for not expecting an early product!

    But over on Paradox, they offered refunds. Email your name and some info and they’d talk to whoever you bought the game from- Steam in my case- and get your money back. Turns out they couldn’t swing it though. Steam got flooded with requests and stuck to their “no refunds ever” policy.

    Instead of leaving it like that, Paradox absorbed the cost personally- they let steam keep the money I paid, and gave steam the money to pay me back as well (According to the administrator posting on the paradox forums anyway). I’m still kinda angry about the whole situation, about really feeling lied to… but really, I didn’t lose anything on the deal other then a game I was looking forward to that doesn’t actually exist.

    So long story short, I do believe Paradox when they say they want to make things better. I won’t trust their third party releases ever again (never, ever again) but Paradox itself, at least, seems like they do care.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      This is a bit off-topic, but screw Steam for their no-refund policy. They’ve actually prevented me from getting refunds that were cleared and approved beforehand by the actual makers of the game. They’ve also blocked refunds for Steam-enabled games I purchased through other retailers — the retailers were totally willing to give me a refund, but Steam were having none of that.

      If Paradox is willing to work with its customers on such issues, good on them. It’s too bad Valve is so rigid on their refund policy.

    • Seboss says:

      I came to the same conclusion as you, except I didn’t ask for a refund, I bought into Kerberos BS, all along. And now that the game is more or less complete, well, let’s say I eagerly wait for Legends of Pegasus :p

      • Askeladd says:

        Then wait some more.. Seems LoP’s QA wasn’t up for the task either… still its worlds apart from the SotS2 release. I hope they’ll fix them soon.

        • Seboss says:

          Yes, I did a little snooping in the German section of the Kalypso forums and LoP release seems to be pretty bumpy indeed. The discussions here and on other sites seem to confirm that. *sigh* I’m desperate for a good TB/RT space 4X …

  14. MythArcana says:

    I like the titles they are investing in, but their methods are rather unsound. Firstly, Gleam-exclusive titles for sale on GamersGate. Really? No, thanks. Secondly, 872 DLC packs per title is beyond ridiculous. Just put out a friggin’ $15 expansion with everything in there and call it good. Every day I check online, there’s two new DLC for Magicka it seems.

    Now for the bugs, they might be a’ plenty, but it’s really the least of my concerns since the first two items above impede any purchases I would have made in the first place.

  15. SkittleDiddler says:

    So are they finally going to fix Magicka or not? That wasn’t too clear from the interview.

    • Baines says:

      I kind of get the idea that they aren’t going to fix Magicka, or anything else already out…

      The interview seems more focused on their future games. Specifically, it uses War of the Roses as an example that they’ve worked out this whole idea of how to make a non-buggy game.

      He says “we have to make the new rule focus on quality on our first releases of games.” He never says anything about fixing existing games, just that they need to focus on making sure that none of their future releases are as bad at release as games like SOTS2 or KA2 were.

      He even made sure to put out an argument for not fixing bugs: “Then you decide if you should fix it. Because any time you fix something, there’s a huge possibility that you’ll open Pandora’s Box. And then there are a whole bunch of other things that start crashing. So you look at it and say, ‘Is this worth fixing before we ship this game? How many people is this gonna affect?’ You have to take that really seriously and fix things smart, because then you’re gonna have to fix other things.”

      I don’t know, but I get the feeling that he’s written off their back-catalog as not worth the effort versus rebuilding the company’s image through future releases. (Which mostly seems to consist of bring QA in from the start. Which raises another issue… He says they don’t have the money to throw at a giant QA team, but their new approach to games is to greatly expand their QA effort… So how is that going to work?)

      • jrodman says:

        The point that fixing bugs can introduce bugs is valid.
        Not that the customer should really care, they want quality, and how to get quality is the software maker’s problem.

        There’s also the problem that the less you’ve focused on quality in the past, the larger your technical debt, and the more likely you are to unintentionally break things with changes.

        This is why you need to steer clear of technical debt in the first place. But many managers don’t understand this one.

        • gordonvandyke says:

          I agree 100%, legacy code debit of hacks and workarounds is a huge issue that I take serious.

          Also, I wasn’t speaking on our back catalog, and in the interview if heard in it’s entirety is me explaining my position on how I approach War of the Roses.

    • Vinraith says:

      What problems are you still having? For me, it pretty much is fixed, unless some recent update has broken it again.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Hell I never bought the game, simply because of all the recurring complaints from users about crashes, multiplayer disconnects, and system freezes. As far as personal experience, the demo was enough for me to make a judgment call on the game — it froze on me more than once, and there was a section where a required action did not work despite repeated restarts.

        Paradox are willing enough to release DLC pack after DLC pack for Magicka, yet they can’t be bothered to pay any attention to players reporting chronic problems that continue to this day.

    • Somerled says:

      That’s Arrowhead’s job, and they said before that fixing Magicka was a low priority. It probably still is.

      The game-breaking bugs don’t exist anymore, but it’s still poorly optimized and multiplayer (the proper way to play it) is touch-and-go. Still, it’s very much worth it.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Paradox provided funding for Magicka. Maybe they should do the thing that most other publishers do with misbehaving developers and bring Arrowhead back in line.

        Paradox are the weakest link in the chain, and that has proven itself time and time again.

  16. Shooop says:

    “I’ve changed how our development schedule progresses and made it more akin to something I’d experience at DICE.”

  17. JonathanStrange says:

    Having spent an obscene amount of time playing it since it came out I’ve got to say Crusader Kings 2 is easily their most smooth launch to date. I’ve not had any problems at all playing the game and have not had the game crash on me even once, so if this is a glimpse of what’s to come for *all* Paradox products I look forward to it.

    • MythArcana says:

      Except for the unreadable micro-font they won’t change. Running in full native 1080 resolution, the fonts read like a TV commercial disclaimer. You can setup an nVidia profile to help, but it needs some love from the devs.

    • Llewyn says:

      Agreed. I’m still running the launch patch because I have long-running games that I’m heavily invested in that I want to complete before updating to something more recent and, while there are occasional balance and playability issues which I know have been addressed in patches, I’ve had almost no bugs and absolutely no crashes at all.

  18. Flavioli says:

    In general, I haven’t enjoyed most games released in the last 5 or so years, especially on the AAA front. However, Mount & Blade and Magicka have been two very worthy and notable exceptions. So I really don’t care about how buggy their games are, because Paradox seems to be one of the few companies publishing games that I actually want to play nowadays. I vastly prefer a memorable game that’s buggy as shit to the stuff the rest of the industry regurgitates every year.

  19. squareking says:

    You guys have really gotten better with Photoshop!

  20. Superpat says:

    What game is the third screenshot from?

  21. Gasmask Hero says:

    At least it’s good to know they’re aware of their QA blindspot but really now, you can hardly miss a blindspot you could sail a HOI3 battleship through.

  22. AngoraFish says:

    “If you find any bugs, you measure how broadly it’s going to affect people,” he points out, providing an example. “Then you decide if you should fix it.”

    I’m thinking that they still don’t get it – fixing bugs is not an optional process, it’s an integral part of software development.

    • Seboss says:

      And yet, perfect software is not of this world, so you have to define what’s “good enough” at some point. Problem is, people have wildly different perception of “good enough”, especially when the game sales have already peaked and there’s not much money left to be made by supporting the product.

    • NthDegree256 says:

      You’re absolutely correct that bugfixing, as a general process, is not an optional step, but he’s not wrong – for any specific bug, fixing it may be very much “optional.”

      To restate what he’s saying – for every bug you fix, there is a very real chance that you will break something else in the process. Depending on the area, this risk might be tiny; for example, if the bug is “There’s a typo in the help text and we spelled ‘Magika’ with no c,” there’s almost no chance that you’ll break anything new by fixing the typo. On the other hand, the risk might be major; if the bug is “On certain video cards, having more than 30 spell effects present on screen at once can cause the game to hang for a moment,” the fix might require rewriting a core chunk of your rendering engine, which means you might subtly break something else in the process. Will you catch those other bugs in time? Will they be even harder to fix?

      That’s why an important part of the “bugfixing” process is making decisions about which bugs to fix, and how, and which bugs to leave alone – because you only have so many people, and only so much time, in which to fix the bugs. (You have to ship sooner or later, or else you don’t get paid!) If the bug has a very minor impact (e.g. less than 0.1% of users will see it, and it will only result in some graphical corruption for a few seconds,) it can be safer and more stable for the final product to leave it alone rather than risk fixing it.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      No one would ever be able to finish anything if there weren’t a point where they said “it’s good enough”. It doesn’t matter if it’s building a house, writing a song, programming software, whatever. Nothing is ever completely 100% perfect and there’s a point where trying to reach that point is counter-productive.

  23. Classicgamer says:

    Does anyone know if Magicka will be a Browser based or Client based game?

  24. paddymaxson says:

    I really love Paradox, but on top of upping QA, I would recommend they also get better tutorial writers. Their games are heavy and dense, and while I own many of them, I’ve struggled to get into most of them.

  25. Zankmam says:

    It’s a bit sad that the fantastic games that Paradox gives us are filled with bugs, having in mind how fantastic they are.

    It’s a real shame, it hinders something like Magicka from REALLY becoming a big deal.

  26. iridescence says:

    This interview actually concerns me a bit. I am a big supporter of Paradox games and I like them because they are ridiculously cheap and almost always deliver a very fun experience at least after several weeks of patching. I don’t expect or want AAA-quality polish from Paradox games and my concern is with this newfound focus on polish, they will either raise their prices substantially or simplify their games to the point that they lack the sort of interesting depth that makes them unique.

    Hopefully I’m worrying for nothing though.