I find this conflicting: Video games are often the driving force for kids to pursue Computer Science, and yet shipped games are often not perceived as software. Maybe the quality, integration, and user experience really is better than across other industries; though unless the development process goes through the incredibly expensive steps of validating a safety-critical system, there will likely be some bugs left.
Which was exactly the case with Gears of War 2, that crashed during the gameplay, after recent updates.
Since I actually work in the software industry, I’ve decided to file a bug report, but it appears that Epic Games doesn’t want to hear about it.
The official Xbox support page, where Gears of War’s “support” page points seems to deal with Xbox Live and Hardware problems only, not with actual games.
The community forums back on the game’s website are full of noise and are mostly filled with complaints. I haven’t seen any moderator replies, even on legitimate issues posted. Epic’s official website just links to their product websites. And there are no other way of contacting them.
I would say Epic FAIL and chuckle at how well this meme works for this company, but a scary thought occurs instead: it’s only a failure if the company cared to hear back from the users of their products in the first place. Unlike with software-as-a-service subscription models, or software that could have 2.0, or licensing models, or other software that makes money from keeping and getting more users; mass market video games make the bulk of their sales shortly after the release date. Having already cashed in on the release, support and bug-fixes are an expense that are not justified by having more direct profits.
Unless you are Blizzard Entertainment, with an image to maintain. They still seem to be doing things right.
So this leaves me with this blog. Here’s the bug report:
In the game lobby, map selection ended in a draw. In the event of a tie, the system picks a random map, but it picked one from an expansion pack that I did not have (this really should have been caught in QA testing). As a result, the game crashed out of the match, with a user-facing prompt that only said: ?int?Engine.Errors.ConnectionLost?.
I know what (int) means; in this case it’s obvious that the software doesn’t handle errors properly. Maybe I can ping someone from Epic Game’s PR on Twitter? If not about technical issues, then simply about not being able to contact them in any other way…
Or am I just being unrealistic? Should I think of video games as movie-type entertainment, but with more interaction? I suppose a lot of games are trending towards the “pop the DVD in for few hours of entertainment” use; but that’s precisely what allows for the slip in every quality that does not directly contribute to marketing driven sales (though we do get HD graphics out of this).
Or maybe it’s the new breed of gamer population… *sigh*