Platforms, Engines, Bugs and Patches

 

By: Trevor Shanahan

 

A video game exists in “final product” form (gold) as a marriage between platform(s), engine(s), and bugs.  “Cert”, or certification, is the process through which a game is granted “gold” (saleable/releasable) status.  This usually involves assessment of issues/bugs the game may contain resulting granting of gold status or further delay in game launch.  The thing is; issues/bugs can come from so many different places and huge such a huge range of impact it can be really difficult to release and continue to support a product.  Ska Studios and Silicon Knights provide two great examples

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The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai; box art and co-op screenshot.

 

Ska Studios is currently developing Salt & Sanctuary, and action/RPG/brawler of sorts with timed exclusivity on PS4 and Vita.  In a recent interview, Jason SIlva, founder and studio lead, said that Salt would most likely not have online multiplayer like Ska’s previous title The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai (April, 2009).  Silva stated that the inclusion of online multiplayer in conjunction with the XBLA platform and XNA framework used in development caused “90%” of the bugs for the game (and considerable post-launch patching and support).  Getting everything to work in concert without any problems is a near-impossible task, but some issues carry acceptable burdens and others are, simply, not worth it.

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Salt and Sanctuary screenshot – looks like something is about to go down.

 

Silicon Knights began development of Too Human for Microsoft in 2005 utilizing Epic’s Unreal 3 engine.  By 2007, Silicon Knights had sued Epic for breach of contract due to considerable technical issues and engine inadequacies summarized as a “breach of contract”.  Finally released in August of 2008, the game was met with mixed reception.  Years of technical issues at conventions like E3, flanked by announcements and retractions of game features helped cement it as a target for analysis.

One of the central criticisms was an announcement of 4-player co-op about 6 months prior to release.  It was an interesting idea that frenzied fans and media alike; the question was “had Silicon Knights been working on this or will they try to implement it at the tail-end of development?”  In a few interviews post-mortem, Denis Dyack – President of Silicon Knights – stated that the Xbox 360 could not support 4-player co-op in a game as fast and action heavy as Too Human.  Which is why the feature was never added.

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Left: Too Human’s melee troll in engine at release, and Right: Too Human’s melee troll in pre-release Unreal Engine.

 

What’s the point?  Game development is harder than most people realize.  I have been guilty of angrily wondering why features I wanted implemented weren’t without questioning the difficulty of adding something that may seem to small and simple.  Even developers have a tough time battling compatibility and “feature creep” (adding features without perfecting existing ones).  The next time you see a news story or blog about cut features, patching, or game bugs remember; making and supporting games is difficult.

 

 

 

About the blogger

ccccccMy name is Trevor Shanahan and I am finishing my undergraduate degree in Marketing with a minor in Media Studies.  I am interested in video games and everything they touch (their industry, development, games as art, psychology of games – like gamification, industry issues, cutlure, etc.).  I have come to realize that the more I learn ( and learning is so important) the more I do not know.  Learn as much as you can about what you love and   try to give back to it.