TOEE patch

Interesting. According to a chat I saw linked to on Penny Arcade, Troika fixed bugs in a build that Atari didn’t ship, and as of yet Atari hasn’t said yes or no to paying Troika to make a patch:

<[Troika]Steve> I know locally at Troika we’ve made changes to the codebase and fixed bugs, there was infact a build made after the gold build that Atari chose not to go with, and we continue to work on things when we have time.
<[Troika]Tom> I hope we can make an official (or unofficial) announcement by next week
<[troika]hnguyen> as i’ve written earlier on the forums, everyone who is helping to report bugs and link savegames really helps A LOT!
<TimCain> Atari has not told us whether or not they want to pay for a patch, so we will have to see what we can do on our own time

I’m not buying this title until there’s a patch, so Atari had better buck up, dammit!

And for those of you that thought that, Yes! It was released too early, here it is straight from the Troika guys themselves:

MetalWyrm: did Atari make you publish ToEE too soon, thus leaving some of the more apparent bugs?
[Troika]Steve: Those aren’t really decisions that developers get to make. It is often the job of the publisher to decide when they feel a product is ready.
[Troika]Tom: Yeah…our contract ran out with them and they didn’t want to pay us further, so our money ran out…but I think we all would have liked another month on it

Looted and pillaged shamelessly from the Gonegold forums

I can’t blame Atari for not wanting to pay them more than they agreed to, but I wish something could have been worked out that would have allowed more development time.

When I look at the box it says “Atari” more prominently than “Troika”, so they’re whom I’ll blame if no patch is forthcoming…

Does the PC industry want me to buy games after they hit the bargain bin? Sometimes it seems like it…

I agree that a line needs to be drawn somewhere and as a publisher you can’t just keep feeding a company money because they say they aren’t ready to release. All you get then is a Duke Nukem Forever.

The big surprise for me was that Troika would have to negotiate and talk to Atari about doing a patch. I’m not really familiar with game contracts, but wouldn’t you think that a company working on a game of this magnitude would try to work a patch into the contract? Maybe patching is something that isn’t within the scope of game development contracts, but mammoth RPGs like these always need one. Anyone have any insight and experience in that area?

Maybe since the scope of a patch can range from tiny to extensive, they need to be negotiated on a patch-by-patch basis?

In a sense, I would think if Troika is being partially compensated by royalties, they’d want to do a patch on their own dime if Atari didn’t want to pay for it. Atari would still have to ok it, though.

My first reaction to reading the interview was that Atari/Infogrames were idiots to not factor in a patch.

Then it got me thinking. During what point in the history of computer games did I come to expect all software releases to be followed by a patch?

Ultima VI played fine without a patch. So did Wing Commanders I & II. Kings Quest IV needed a “Waterfall” patch, but that alone didn’t make me expect all games from that point on to fix bugs with patches. Did System Shock have a patch? I can’t remember.

I’m generally pro-developer, but I find Troika’s insistence that it is not responsible for delivering a game that works as intended (and therefore Atari has to pay for the patch) ridiculous. If the developers had a deadline that they couldn’t meet, well, they shouldn’t have agreed to do so then. There’s gotta be a basic warranty that their game “works”, and they should do whatever it takes to ensure that’s the case.

Ah, god bless these guys anyway, for being hardcore RPG guys. They couldn’t be less tactful in their public statement though.

Do the existing bugs TRULY ruin the game experience? I’ve been playing the gold build since it first went gold and yes, there are some interesting bugs. But that still does not keep it from being extremely fun. It is not a perfect game, but if you have fun with it, isn’t that the ultimate goal? It is not like some games where the bugs totally take away from the enjoyment. That said, I know everyone has their own definition of fun.

There is a lot of depth and replayability. I will be playing it quite a bit more.

Yeah, because I TRULY enjoy playing and developing munchkin* characters, and the bugs prevent me from doing that.

*seriously overpowered characters with superweapons and all the possible buffs.

Is there anything wrong with the idea to cut their pay and allow them more time? That way the developer is penalized financially for being late yet the game still gets an impressive debut.

Why isn’t being late written into the contract in the first place? Penalties should be built in, then the developer is given full freedom on when the game is released.

Is there anything wrong with the idea to cut their pay and allow them more time? That way the developer is penalized financially for being late yet the game still gets an impressive debut.

Why isn’t being late written into the contract in the first place? Penalties should be built in, then the developer is given full freedom on when the game is released.[/quote]

All I know about contracts is that both sides need to live up to them. Typically, the developer has payment/date milestones. You deliver a build on this date and it must have these features implemented – that kind of thing. If the developer hits a milestone to the satisfaction of the publisher’s intrepretation of the contract, the developer gets a chunk of money. And then works towards satisfying the next milestone. So yes, the developers’ pay can easily be cut – no satisfaction of milestone, no money. No money can mean halted game development, though, so it’s a dicey relationship.

Games slip, as we all know, but I’d be surprised if a developer failing to meet milestones is rewarded with extra cash to fund continued development, though it has happened – that’s probably what happened with Quicksilver and MOO3. What I think happens more often than not is that the developer negotiates extra time but not extra money.

I suspect publishers are taking a harder stance with developers these days. The climate’s different. Too many publishers threw money at developers like Ion Storm and Digital Anvil and got burned.

Well if ToEE was a million seller… anyway, its obvious they’re not gonna patch it because its not Half Life 2 (makes less money, who cares). Atari has no incentive to pay more money for a game that probably won’t sell more outside the first month of release (just a guess). Why not just ‘leak’ a beta patch?!? The ‘we ain’t getting paid, we ain’t fixing it’ is kind of annoying. I know game developers need money for there time, and publishers publish early… but even then, something should be worked out thats reasonable. BAh… I’m not buying it til its patched, if not… then I’ll just buy it 6 months from now in clearance or soemthing.

etc

Contracts often have financial ‘penalties’ if a developer misses a gold date (or other significant date). Those penalties can be cuts from the royalty percentage, from the final gold payment or from royalty earned or likewise. These penalties don’t stop a developer from being late, unfortunately.
And they may affect the possibilities of post release support of the game. Many times there is post release support written into a contract. But if a developer already has a financial strain because of penalties with delivering the gold master, then continuing unpaid work on post release patches puts some developers at serious financial strain.
If the developer isn’t getting paid for doing a patch, then working on something that actually earns them money is a better investment in time.

[size=2]edited for selplnig[/size]

While the positions here are certainly understandable, it’s not exactly fun to be a consumer caught between the problems of a developer and publisher. I think both sides are making a mistake: Atari has the license to do more D&D games, and they need to commit resources; Troika should realize that RPG fans trust in certain houses (Bioware/BIS/Bethesda) to create good games, and that includes patching. The consumer doesn’t care who’s paying, he only knows whether the game is screwed up or not.

This discussion is pretty moot. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a patch.

Frankly, like most consumers, I don’t care who produces or pays for it, and i think it’s kind of a cheesy move (and extremely short-sighted) by Troika to publicly discuss their disagreements with their publisher in order to deflect blame and/or use the public to put pressure on Atari.

I imagine Troika is putting most of their effort into Vampire: Bloodlines. I seem to remember reading that one of the reason that Troika accepted Atari’s offer for TOEE was because it could be accomplished quickly by using the Arcanum engine and the old module as the design template. It seems to be a “side job” for a bit of extra cash and they likely can’t continue to support it without jeapordizing the milestones of Vampire unless Atari comes through with some more cash.

Whoa, that’s completely wrong. TOEE is actually a dream project for the Troika guys, particularly Tim Cain. They’re big D&D heads (and actually worked on a mapping tool using the Arcanum engine, which was going to be included in WotC’s “e-tools”). Troika very much wants to make a sequel to TOEE.

Not to go off on this tangent, but you mentioned two older games that I’m all too familiar with, one because I hate it so much and the other because I love it so much…

I’d argue that KQ4 didn’t NEED that patch. Maybe other people couldn’t play the game without it - I don’t really know. But I never had any problems with the game in its initial version. It probably could have used a patch that made it semi-enjoyable more than anything.

Now with Ultima 6, there was an ENORMOUS bug in one of the conversations that would essentially let you completely bypass one of the largest quests in the game! I won U6 in about three days (which back then was ridiculous since, being in high school, I could only devote a tiny portion of time per day to playing games) after I bought it because of the bug, and had no idea that it was a bug until I heard about the patch sometime down the road and then discovered they had fixed the conversation in question. I just figured the game was pathetically short.*

System Shock 1, WC’s 1 & 2 - all were fine without a patch as far as I know. I don’t remember there being bugs in them. It doesn’t mean they weren’t there, but they weren’t obvious the way that something like a crash-to-desktop in a Windows game is.

As to why this happens - I don’t want to let devs off the hook completely, but I’d say some main factors are: it’s so much easier to distribute patches thanks to the internet (no more shipping CDs to bitter customers), publishers don’t fund/allow time for patches, PoR2 and Daikatana showed me how bad “conditions” for development (seemingly constant turn-over in the dev team, etc) can affect a game badly, and computer programming is much more complex. Not only are games inherently so, but factor in the myriad of hardware configurations you have to worry about… holy shit. This of course is me talking out of my ass - just guesswork on my part.

  • It is also mandated by unwritten federal law that any time Ultima 6 is mentioned in any context, that someone link to http://www.it-he.org/front.htm, a totally great page of Ultima screwups. And the best thing about these is that very few of the bugs occur as a result of cheating - it’s mostly just exploiting the way the Ultima engines worked.