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Why not releasing game-fixing patches is a bigger problem than you might think

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Posted by: Robert Workman

Patches.  They’re pretty commonplace in games nowadays.  When a product releases, usually developers or publishers find something that needs refining.  For instance, this week’s Xbox Live Arcade release, Hybrid, an online multiplayer shooting from 5th Cell, was in dire need of a whole lot of patching, to the point that the game was briefly taken off the Xbox Live Marketplace so it could be addressed.

However, there’s a small but significantly disturbing trend making the rounds, in terms of patches that are being offered at first to fix problems that are in a game, but then end up being delayed or cancelled due to technical errors.  Just ask anyone who’s been waiting for the Skyrim patch 1.7 to drop on PlayStation 3, only to find out that – maybe – it’s coming within a matter of days.  If a game’s not going to be fixed, it could spell a worse problem than you might think.

Fez

Let’s take a look at Fez, for example.  The game is a masterstroke of design, after Polytron took a great deal of time to make sure that it was everything that it could be.  And while most players are quite pleased with it, there are a certain few who were affected by the offering of a title update for it.  See, by downloading this update, some players’ save files were corrupted, mainly those who had beaten the game and felt like playing through it again.  A select few, to be sure, but you can bet they’re steamed.

Rather than working on a patch to defuse the problem, the game’s main developer, Phil Fish, stated that it would not be fixed.  But rather than taking the “development team tried its best” approach, he instead pointed the blame at Microsoft, stating that the company would charge “tens of thousands of dollars” to recertify the game with a fixed patch.  And even with Fez’s immense success, that’s something Polytron didn’t feel like facing.

fez

This poses a problem that’s two fold.  On the one hand, you have the gamers who feel that this could very well affect what Polytron is working on next, or, worse yet, provide bad word-of-mouth for Fez where it clearly doesn’t deserve it.  Secondly, what will Microsoft think whenever their next game is finished and they try to offer it on Xbox Live?  The company retorted Fish’s statement by saying, “Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for Fez.”  Furthermore, they stated, “While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue.”  So it led to unnecessary – and in some cases, ugly – finger pointing that could have an affect on future business.

silent hill

Then, most recently, Konami ran into some trouble regarding its Silent Hill HD Collection, which was released earlier this year for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.  The collection was already in trouble due to the fact that only two games out of the entire series were released.  But now, with its latest update on a patch for the game, the company’s in even more trouble.

According to a statement, an online title update is coming for the PlayStation 3 version very soon, which will address a number of glitches and technical errors.  However, when it comes to the Xbox 360 version, that patch isn’t coming.  Why, you ask?  Simple – “due to technical issues and resources.”  So, the patch that is supposed to fix the technical errors is itself loaded with technical errors?

Silent

Even though Konami issued an apology for the inconvenience (as well as a customer service number for those who wanted to vent), we can’t help but think this isn’t a wise business choice.  They should’ve found their way around these “technical errors” and at least made the game resemble what the developers originally wanted.  And what’s more, what will stop gamers from thinking that future HD Collections will end up this way?  We’d shudder to think that folks won’t snag Zone of the Enders HD Collection because of this, because that game is definitely worthy of a purchase from what we’ve seen. 

This is a practice that needs to die down before it becomes a serious issue, because nothing really good comes out of it.  Game buyers show doubt when it comes to small glitches and errors that could hinder having a good time with the product; finger pointing gets nothing done when it comes to future business; and developers and publishers could easily face scrutiny for upcoming releases when even the smallest of games shows big problems.  Sometimes it’s best to just delay a product and make sure everything is right before you have to worry about working on a patch that can cripple it further.  Just our two cents…

 

Tags: Silent Hill HD Collection, Fez, Xbox Live Arcade, Xbox 360

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