Friday, 14 January 2011

Differing versions and the trouble with post release fixes

Publishing updates for a retro game out in the wild is tricky business! Modern PC and console games have the luxury of being able to easily connect to a server, download and apply then patch before relaunching the game.

This fantastic functionality can be hidden from the player. At worst the system can prompt them that the update process is about to begin!

Older platform's, without any online connectivity, do not have this luxury. Instead the best we can do is provide a version number on the game's title screen to help identify it. We then need a way to inform the player that a new version of the game is available for download.

Because of the extra hurdles involved, we've been reluctant to implement feature suggestions into titles we're already released. For example, with Gloop Troops we'd received some excellent feedback ( requests for music, keyboard control and a re-jig of the level order ). But by the time we were able to collect all feedback there had already been 4 versions of Gloop Troops made available over the internet!

One was the original version, then there were two hacked versions - one with music and one with a change to the title screen to circumvent a bug on real Spectrum hardware, and finally the official fixed version we'd released.

This makes it more difficult for anyone reviewing the game. If we release a version, then collect feedback and release another version then you may have conflicting reviews on game sites. We would also need a solid method of communicating the new version to existing players.

There are a number of solutions to this. We could provide a version number on the title screen along with a URL and a message informing the player to check for updates, but this feels messy and convoluted. This may be an interesting method to pursue if we explore an episodic game series.

The current solution we have in mind for our upcoming tiles is to have a beta period for our future titles. This way we can collect feedback and catch any issues with the game whilst it is being developed. The result of this extra testing should result with us releasing solid, quality games which we can all be proud of :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment