Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Obsidian Does it Again

Shamus Young | 22 Oct 2010 17:00
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Now you could argue that Obsidian is up against a tough job here. Sandbox worlds are huge, complex beasts and it's probably impossible to test every possible thread of every quest in every situation. Nobody else outside of Bethesda is even trying to build games like this. A broken quest here or there is annoying, but I'm sympathetic to the idea that maybe these games need to be released into the wild before some obscure situations can be identified and fixed.

And as someone who has spent over a decade writing software, I'm also sympathetic to the problems of releasing games on the PC. It's murder finding out that your game has some problem that only affects people using a particular (rare) breed of soundcard who are running Windows XP Home but haven't updated to the latest service pack. You can't test your software on every possible version of Windows, with every possible graphics card, with every possible soundcard, with every possible configuration of drivers and service packs. (That's why games often require you to be running the latest Direct X with the latest service pack with the latest drivers. Often you don't need that stuff, but by only testing on that equipment they can reduce the number of question marks they'll have to deal with when facing problems.)

But even if we give Obsidian a pass for the crashes and broken quest triggers, this save game business is absurd. This is saving data and retrieving it. This is not rocket science and this is something that should just work. More importantly, this is absolutely something that they should have found before the game went gold. There is simply no excuse. This problem is obvious and widespread. Any degree of playtesting would have revealed it.

Obsidian did manage to put out a patch Thursday morning. (Although I haven't checked to see if the save game bug was fixed yet.) But let's not forget that while the game only launched four days ago, it likely went gold months ago. They have had all that time to perform further testing. In the last two months, has not even one person sat down with the final build of the game and, you know, played it? Given Obsidian's extremely checkered history, didn't anyone think it was worthwhile to have at least one person playing the game and rounding up bug reports?

This save game bug is a slap in the face. Not just because of how dire it is. (Naturally it's incredibly painful to see hours of your progress wiped out.) But also because of how easy it is to spot and how trivial it ought to be to fix. The game is restoring backups of old saves? Let's not do that! Next! That the bug exists is bad enough, but it's even worse that nobody knew about it until after launch day, when it was discovered by paying customers. Instead of having a day one patch for the game, Obsidian is making the rest of us wait for the fix.

Once only a problem for PC gamers, the baleful days of release-then-patch have finally come to consoles as well. Yet Obsidian can't even hold themselves to these falling standards. After repeatedly taking our money for broken games, Obsidian is showing that they still don't care and that they haven't learned a thing. After seven years, they still haven't changed their methods and still refuse to develop even the most rudimentary QA system. (Or if they have one, it must be deeply dysfunctional to miss out on stuff like this.)

I guess Obsidian figures that they don't need to hire QA testers when they can charge us $60 for the pleasure.

I want my $60 back.

And my three hours.

And my 16,000 bottlecaps.

Shamus Young is the guy behind Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, Stolen Pixels, Shamus Plays, and Spoiler Warning. Beat that, fanboy.

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