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When a patch broke my favourite game

Posted on 7th Jul 2009 at 11:31 by Harry Butler with 22 comments

Harry Butler
Back in April I reviewed Company of Heroes: Tales of Valor and it pained me to give the game such a negative review. You see Company of Heroes is one of my all time favourite games, and up until the release of Tales of Valor I played it religiously, taking to the fields of Europe for 1 vs1 auto matches on a nightly basis, learning from my mistakes and watching Shoutcasts of better players to improve my skills. Make no mistake, I absolutely adore this game. And the the developers broke it.

Of course, as when you play any RTS at a fairly competitive level, you begin to notice small balance issues with some units. Particular strategies, abilities and units worked better than others, and while the game was perfectly playable, developers Relic set about performing a balance play test back in March 2008, analysing thousands of games over the next year to tweak certain units and makes the game more fun, fair and competitive.

The extensive “balance beta” teased us with fixes to long broken abilities, and following its almost comically long development time, was set to climax with the release of Tales of Valor. In one fell swoop Relic was going to not only fix all the existing balance issues with the game, but give us some new game modes and units to play with too. My excitement grew until finally it was released... and after playing a few ranked matches with the new content and patches it became terribly obvious; the game was now terribly, terribly broken.

When a patch broke my favourite game When A Patch Broke My Favourite Game
"It's no good lads, the German's have god mode!"

British emplacements didn’t work, certain tanks fired continuously without reloading as long as they made a kill and thus annihilated infantry, bugged German AT guns were able to insta-gib any tank or building, machine guns took decades to switch targets and some of new units were ludicrously imbalanced. The game was so broken that it simply stopped being any kind of fun to play.

I was building units in anticipation of my opponent using imbalanced or bugged units, stopped building emplacements as the British (my favourite faction) and even when I was winning, questioned whether I was doing so out of skill, or because the now miserably broken game had stacked the odds so heavily in my favour.

What made all these bugs more galling is that the community over at Relic News had pinpointed them all, in exact detail, inside of two days, despite the balance and new content patches having been in development for over a year. Needless to say the feeling amongst Company of Heroes players is one of frustration and betrayal. Had Relic not beta tested the new content and patch at all? Some of the bugs were so obvious and game breaking that I had to wonder.

By me playing this game it has, like any form of media from movies to music, become part of my tastes and preferences. I’m as much a fan of Company of Heroes as I am of Aliens or Office Space, but the disastrous new bugs (which never existed until the most recent patches) had tainted my view of the game in the same as way as if in the latest directors cut Ripley had, during that climactic battle with the Alien Queen, fallen over, broken character and said “Can I try that again?”

When a patch broke my favourite game When A Patch Broke My Favourite Game
Fallout 3's DLC has also been plagued by issues.

Game developers need to realise that games aren’t just theirs, they’re ours too, and they have to take responsibility for releasing games, patches and content in a playable and non-broken state. When was the last time a developer actually apologised for missing a game breaking bug in a patch update? Look at Bethesda, who have, in the past, released DLC for Fallout 3 in a state that’s nowhere near acceptable, and then simply patched the problems quietly after the damage is done.

As gamers we love it when a game receives new content, or developers fix problems, but we don’t expect far worse or new issues to follow as a result of such updates never getting any kind of meaningful play tests.

Another prime example is the release of S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky. Rich was a huge fan of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R, and had called dibs on the prequel’s review months before it arrived in the office, but the shoddy state the game shipped in has forever tainted his, and by proxy my, opinion of the series.

Given time of course, developers become aware of and rectify their mistakes. S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Clear Sky is now playable following several patches and Company of Heroes has since received a new patch that’s successfully ironed out almost all the bugs introduced by the new content. The damage to my opinion of the title has been done though, and while you’ll still find me occasionally venturing out onto the fields of Europe circa 1944 for some 1 v 1 auto-matchage, my enthusiasm for the title has certainly been curbed.

Have your favourite games been ruined by patches or bugs? Think Developers should be doing more to avoid such issues? Fed up of paying to beta test games? Let us know in the forums.

22 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Dreaming 7th July 2009, 12:46 Quote
Developers these days are in the pocket of so-called 'big business'. What this means effectively is shareholders. And shareholders demand short-term profits, or else the share price falls, they kick out the directors and sack everyone.

If you pay for it, then it's a successful product - it doesn't matter if the quality is dire. We have changed from an industry model of having 'master craftsmen' who put their lives into their work, to one where we hire the cheapest temp to get the same job done, so long as the product sells.

Of course there are a few exceptions, like bit-tech ;) where I don't imagine any of the writers see this as just their day job. But look at Hollywood - sequels of sequels is all they push out. Games companies have recognised support doesn't deliver profits. Rather, push out as many new games as possible, and ramp up the marketing spend. We've all fallen for it. The best example is EA Games really, and they are the biggest in the world so no wonder others follow them.

If money were no issue and developers had the same commitment as the unpaid committed modders I think we would see patches quickly - it would be a matter of pride wouldn't it? To take your game as your 'child' as it were, to see it flawed should be embarrassing. The hypothetical modder would be up late at night debugging his code and trying to fix the game.

This is how games developers start out, but then they get bought out, and just to compete with the big boys they have to put the number on the bottom line first. The only payment models that truly benefit from ongoing support are ones where you need to keep paying.

edit: also, I hate CoH as it's too easy/hard. I can't play against humans because I get annihilated within a few minutes, but against AI I beat them without a sweat every time. Except if I have AI allies, because they bug out and just stand in their base :s. There does seem to be carbon-cut strategies for CoH which when I first started playing there weren't so much. Like when I played Command and Conquer 3 online a lot, I realised the way to win was to exploit quick strategies. It's not about out-microing your opponent, or even out-macroing him with better economy.

I employed a 'beam cannon' rush, these are artillery units but have a fair bit of HP. But their damage stacks exponentially, so whereas with tanks with damage x, 5 tanks produce damage of 5*x, beam cannons produce damage of x*x*x*x*x. So if you built 5, they could get into range of the enemies base before they had a significant amount of tanks or anything - maybe one or two - and just target their main buildings. They die in a second, doens't matter if your BC get destroyed as you've just won the game by using a cheap tactic that the only way he would have known was coming would be to guess.

Playing the campaign for CoH I really enjoyed the micro of it, snipers and machine guns supporting each other, placing mines in tactical positions etc. - but play online and I always come across 'mobs' of upgunned infantry, that will annihilate everything unless you have your own mob. Which brings me to the same point I was at with C&C3. The way to win from my experience is not to play the game naturally, but to learn the strategies that win the day on their own. Whether this is sending rocketmen in an halftrack behind their base or spamming pioneers (which they thankfully fixed), there has been little middleground for me when playing CoH :(
liratheal 7th July 2009, 13:18 Quote
I get weird feelings from Relic.

It's almost as if they've given up on beta testing in recent years. It also feels like they ignore the players.

See DoW2 and its rather disappointingly broken release state, and lack of balance.

It's a disappointing contrast to a good post-release support company like Bohemia Interactive/505 Games and ArmA/ArmA2.

Pretty much agree with Dreaming, too.
Paradigm Shifter 7th July 2009, 13:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreaming
Lots and lots of words
What Dreaming said.

I haven't seen a game in years that hasn't needed a patch at one stage or another. :( And when it's a game that is popular in online play... one patch, sooner or later, breaks the game irrevocably.
Kúsař 7th July 2009, 16:33 Quote
Many years ago when I was playing Diablo 2 I had to abandon my first character(barbarian, lvl 60 or 65). Friend told me about new patch which added few cool things to the game. Unfortunately he was playing for a different char class. After an hour of hopeless fight even against the weakest enemies I decided to abandon my first character. Blizzard has completely crippled two combat skills I have based my char on. So many time I have wasted on this character, it really pissed me off. Blizzard has been making more or less imbalanced games for some time but at least they're a bit more moderate when it comes to balancing gameplay now.
nukeman8 7th July 2009, 17:04 Quote
the main thing that winds me up is when their mess a game up with a patch and then point blankly refuse to revert the game back.
Star Wars Galaxies is a prime example of this, the game was 1 of the most popular MMO's at 1 point but between their bleeding so called "upgrades" and the release of WoW the game is dying very fast
proxess 7th July 2009, 17:04 Quote
UO. The last 4/5 years of patches have sucked.
ZERO <ibis> 7th July 2009, 23:10 Quote
I remember when the valve community update broke natural selection and all hl1 games. It was over 6 months before it was fixed and the games did not work even if you disabled the community stuff....
Trefarm 7th July 2009, 23:16 Quote
I've pretty much reached a point now where I never buy games on release, if I can hold my patience I'm rewarded with a cheaper price, fewer bugs, better performance, less intrusive DRM (Farcry 2 e.t.c) and continuity of gameplay.

I broke my own rule for Empire Total War, I even knew that I shouldn't but went ahead and got kicked in the nuts for it... halfway through a SP Campaign the update royally FUBAR'd my plans and I had to start over...

I agree with the theme that these issues all stem from short term financial considerations... but what you can you do apart from learn to Mod :(
thehippoz 8th July 2009, 02:00 Quote
I feel your pain.. same thing happened with c&c generals- ea took over and they patched it once, broke it, I mean peanuts.. you couldn't play without a crash- then posted there would be no more support and shut the servers down.. yay!! go ea way to roid rage your new customers

to be fair, I did buy crysis though on release (one of the few lol) and that went pretty good.. coh is an awesome game- played alot on release.. sad to hear they broke it
Delphium 8th July 2009, 14:31 Quote
Ughhhh yer i feel this pain specially with Company of Heroes...

Original worked flawlessly multiplayer in any mode, then came the Oposing Fronts expantion with its relic online system which basicly broke the game from there on in, never once have I been able to connect to an online match,

My friends and I where at least able to use hamachi and play a LAN based game.
Untill a patch was released that then stopped hamachi from workin, I waited for a long period not playing the game, then managed to find a work around, buy means of diabling all network connection except hamachi, loading the game, hosting a game, and then re-enable all the network connection, great a work around so we can play again!!!!!

Then they bring out the latest expantion, and guess what, with it a bunch of patchs, which now brake the game entirely, it is now impossible for me to play a multiplayer game, which kinda narks me a fair bit considering i spent near £50 on the package for CoH and CoH:OF.

As such I chose to boycott DoW2 and Tales of Valor.
yakyb 8th July 2009, 16:56 Quote
i do think its unfair for the Public to blame the developers.

management is to blame as they continually try to push more stuff out in less time

less time means less developer testing as well as user acceptance testing and then less time to fix the bugs caused by the patch after the user testing stage i dont know why more companies aren't taken to court over releasing software @ £40 that simp[ly does not work!
nukeman8 8th July 2009, 17:02 Quote
With UO and generals same problem apply, EA took over both of em and did what they do best
Baz 8th July 2009, 18:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delphium
Ughhhh yer i feel this pain specially with Company of Heroes...

Original worked flawlessly multiplayer in any mode, then came the Oposing Fronts expantion with its relic online system which basicly broke the game from there on in, never once have I been able to connect to an online match,

My friends and I where at least able to use hamachi and play a LAN based game.
Untill a patch was released that then stopped hamachi from workin, I waited for a long period not playing the game, then managed to find a work around, buy means of diabling all network connection except hamachi, loading the game, hosting a game, and then re-enable all the network connection, great a work around so we can play again!!!!!

Then they bring out the latest expantion, and guess what, with it a bunch of patchs, which now brake the game entirely, it is now impossible for me to play a multiplayer game, which kinda narks me a fair bit considering i spent near £50 on the package for CoH and CoH:OF.

As such I chose to boycott DoW2 and Tales of Valor.

Sorry to hear that Delph, but the one of updates that actually did work with Tales of Valour was completley refreshed netcode that made multiplayer games so much more stable and reliable, and enabled auto-port forwarding in vista.win7.

You can now have a 4vs4 game for example, and not have to contend with tons of lag for everyone, as they switched the hosting system from peer to peer to a single hosted server on the the host's system. Just make sure the host is on a reliable conn and everyone has a great game - no need for Hamachi!
leexgx 9th July 2009, 05:42 Quote
BF2 was my game that i loved until the Dreaded EA Death patch that EA seem to be good at doing is the 1.3 patch's as it Noobed the servers so they could only stay up for an hr or 2 so when it got to Midnight no one would rejoin when the server restarted it self as most do not know how to type reconnect in console it taken them 6-7 months to patch it and that was after they made BF2142 as well !, the 2142 Beta it self had the Same server 1-2 hr server crash bug so they never even bothered to fix it in the beta as well until the last week or so of the beta

they completely destroyed the BF2 community it went from 70,000 to 3000 when that happened (as it used to be reported in the EA link/downloader)
RotoSequence 9th July 2009, 10:22 Quote
Quote:
When was the last time a developer actually apologised for missing a game breaking bug in a patch update?

Funnily enough, http://www.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid=668

Maybe not quite an apology, but they did admit to screwing up.
Vash-HT 9th July 2009, 17:27 Quote
I was dling the beta for the DoW2 patch last night, but the question is what did they do with the info from the first beta?? It's pretty sad because I like the way DoW2 is set up more than any other RTS but it's annoying as hell to play it when it was as screwed up as it was. At this point I'm not even sure a massive rebalance patch will do anything, because if problems show up in the beta they probably won't be fixed.

The worst beta I have been a part of was 2142. It was the only beta I've ever played where it got progressively worse, and even in the last stage of the beta the titans would still disappear with everyone inside falling to the earth. Needless to say I didn't buy it after that even though I enjoyed it a lot more than BF2 in the early days of the beta.
leexgx 10th July 2009, 00:13 Quote
that sucks really that they can lock onto you in eve when your not fully uncloaks as they could warp jam you before you could enter warp even thought your still cida cloaked
asteroth 13th July 2009, 11:35 Quote
Patch 1.6 for Fallout 3, wiped all my save games, lvl 20 characters. had to start from scratch, could cry.
Blademrk 13th July 2009, 11:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vash-HT
I was dling the beta for the DoW2 patch last night, but the question is what did they do with the info from the first beta?? It's pretty sad because I like the way DoW2 is set up more than any other RTS but it's annoying as hell to play it when it was as screwed up as it was. At this point I'm not even sure a massive rebalance patch will do anything, because if problems show up in the beta they probably won't be fixed.

The worst beta I have been a part of was 2142. It was the only beta I've ever played where it got progressively worse, and even in the last stage of the beta the titans would still disappear with everyone inside falling to the earth. Needless to say I didn't buy it after that even though I enjoyed it a lot more than BF2 in the early days of the beta.

I made the mistake of adding the new DOW2 beta from the options menu, since then I cannot get Steam to connect to the server on either computer at my place, even after disabling the beta while in offline mode. Managed to connect up on Friday night just before I went to bed, sunday morning back to square one (I'm assuming the beta is responsible, since it worked fine before that, but it could just be Pipex being useless again).

Edit: It's Pipex they're blocking Steam during peak hours :(
spt 17th July 2009, 12:34 Quote
Sid Meirs Railroads, released so broken it crashed every time, patched some aspects of it, but never totally fixed. Used to play LAN style with the race being who was in the lead until it crashed.
Jipa 18th July 2009, 22:11 Quote
I really feel your pain on the CoH! I love the game as well.. or used to love. They just got their act together before the Opposing Fronts, and then failed everything again.. Then they slowly fixed, broke, then fixed again and then broke yet another thing until the ToV came out. I haven't really even tried the game after ToV, but once, and boy did it hurt. I didn't really have time to register all the bugs, as the new units suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I had absolutely no idea of how to counter them. Classy.
ltmofo 26th July 2009, 15:47 Quote
COH made me sick. Used to love it too. Problem is there is always some snot who always think they know best and keep whispering in Relics ears like the Devil in Hitlers. I tried to educate people how the panzerfaust was the first RPG and therefore would fire quicker but the Panzershrek required a 2 man crew and would fire slower (although a bit more devestating than a bazooka), but wouldnt fire like a bloody machine gun. Or how a 17pound gun on a firefly would cause more damage to a panther.

They love the Nazis, and superior in technology they may have been with respect to armour etc & have finely trained soldiers. However, allies won the war an the reasons they won the war was numbers, valour, tactics. None of this/ or v.little is in the game. EG, why cant we have a bigger pop cap on tanks to stop panther spam?

I used to play all factions & we got really good as a clan, but we knew, as allies you best finish them quick, as Nazis, sit back smoke a cigar and all will be fine in the end (unless you were up against some ratbag who hacked the game).

Love the way flamethrower engineers burn sh*t out of 17pound gun emplacements, hilarious. Someone get me just 1 piece of footage of that happeining please cos this was common practice in COH. I did it myself.

When the best player in our clan & another decent player took on myself & fellow clannie (we should have been fiercly matched teams wise) a game played out on a new map, road to somthin or other (Narrow 2v2). They were allies & pinned us at our base, dropped my building 6 times. My allie AT & mg spammed & repaired my base so i could pull out the Tiger time & time again. over an hour this game played out just for us to force them all the way back to win. All 4 of us agreed, although a great effort by us it was bullsh*t. The fact the allies hit so hard early but the germans got stronger & stronger whislt being bummend over the cliffs of dover was just a sheer lack of balance in the game.

Sorry for going on guys. Anyway, go get Empire total war so ya can have an unplayable game after patch 1.3. Then moan in their forum about it & see yaself get banned, oh ive had so much fun PC gaming these past few years. Think ill be keeping my money firmly in my pocket from now on guys. F*ck em!
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