Ramblings of a Professional Computer Geek

October 2, 2008

Game Companies are Becoming ‘Bazaar’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Padma @ 11:45 am
Tags: , ,

At the Civilization Fanatics Center, there is discussion going on about the latest Civ game issued: Civilization4: Colonization.  There is much ranting and raving occurring, based on the perception of some customers that the game is ‘broken’.

I wrote most of this in response to some who argued that they didnt want to “pay to be a beta tester”.

The game industry is evolving. The internet allows for more of a community to develop around a game/series. The game companies are tapping into that community for ideas and improvements. Does that make us ‘unpaid beta testers’? In a sense, yes.

There’s a mantra in the Open Source community: “Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.” This way, you get the community interested/excited in your product, and you get valuable feedback for making further refinements. Games, even though ‘Closed Source’, are starting to go the same way. They know there’s a community here that will buy the game, and provide needed feedback, in anticipation of bug fixes and patches.

Part of this is driven by economics. A company has only so much money, and so much time, before they must deliver a game. They create the best game they can, given those constraints. But even with beta testers, the number of people who actually play the game before release is quite small.

On release, though, the thousands and thousands in the community will snatch the game up, and start playing it like only we can. Some will like the game, others will rant about how everything was done wrong, and some will go to game forums, and discuss ways the game can be improved.

The developers read these forums, and occasionally answer (or even ask) questions, and take the feedback and use it to tweak the game to make it ‘better’.

For those interested in how this kind of development can work, I recommend reading The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond.

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3 Comments »

  1. As for me, I’m not willing to pay for a mod, because that’s pretty much all it is.
    At least, that’s a good enough rationale for a cheap college student who doesn’t need any more distractions. 🙂

    Comment by WildWeazel — October 22, 2008 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  2. You make some good points…if you’re talking about developers like Blizzard, who indeed follow the “release early, release often” philosophy with patches after they release a game.

    Many developers don’t do that, however. Instead, many developers skimp on beta-testing and bug-fixing, release it, and move on to other projects (e.g. Temple of Elemental Evil).

    In the former case, I have no problem playing beta tester. In the latter case, I feel ripped off.

    Comment by Brian — November 6, 2008 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  3. Indeed, Brian, I’m talking about developers like Blizzard, and Firaxis. The ones who stay with a game, and produce multiple patches as needed.

    For instance, Firaxis, the developers of the Civilization series, put out 29 patches for Civ3, 27 for the Civ3/Play the World x-pack, and 22 for the Civ3/Conquests x-pack. Could they have done more? Certainly! I, along with many others, wish they had managed one more patch to resolve the still-lingering issues. But even without that ‘final’ patch, the game is eminently playable, and fun. Besides, after several years of patching Civ3, they really had to get busy on Civ4. 😉

    As for Civ4, the original game has something like 70 patches (not all make it out of testing, and some get combined with others before the user sees them), I don’t know how many the Civ4/Warlords x-pack got, and Civ4/Beyond The Sword has had 17. And during the time they were patching this game, they also developed Civilization: Revolution for the consoles, and Civ4: Colonization, a stand-alone game built on the Civ4 engine. Not to mention the patching that has come from those.

    I agree, I haven’t much use for those that develop a game, dump it on the market, and then you never hear from again.

    Comment by Padma — November 11, 2008 @ 4:28 pm | Reply


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