Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

The perils of patching

Patching a game people are playing is a nightmare. On the one hand, you have all these people experiencing problems with the game, and you desperately want to fix their problems.

On the other hand, is the fear that changes to the code may actually change something somewhere else and cause problems for people who are currently playing the game fine. Everyone has a different setup, with different hardware, and plays differently, so its’ very hard to have an absolute test case when you know you fixed bug A without introducing bug B.

Worse, is the nightmare that without a huge room full of QA experts like the big retail studios, you can either do some basic tests and release a new patch, or wait 3 days while you methodically test the new patch yourself. Neither option is easy, or popular, and whatever you choose you uspet some people.

I know some people have performance issues with the new improved 1.03, the one that fixed the sound issues (AFAIK). So today, rather than working on fun gameplay stuff (area of effect damage) and AI orders, I’ll be profiling the sound system code.


13 thoughts on The perils of patching

  1. Cliff, don’t feel bad – you made things poor for a few people, but you also cracked a bug that was making downloadable challenges miserable. 1.03 is a winner for many of us!

    (PS – I’m working on a mod with three missions + custom ships + custom weapons today. I apologise if adding a mod to the mix is going to make things hard on you in advance – I will include a readme advising people to make backups of their data files.)

  2. Don’t worry about annoying people. We’ve signed up for BETA TESTING, so we expect pain and breakage. :)

  3. Exactly, it’s a beta, we expect breakage. As long as it doesnt format our hard drives or anything it’s fine. Anyone complaining or throwing tantrums because the game stopped working for a day is, to put it mildly, a dick.

    ‘without a huge room full of QA experts like the big retail studios’
    That’s *us* dude! We are your huge room. Except we’re not experts.

  4. just a suggestion – during beta, would it be possible to do something quickly that’ll back out a patch? then if a patch ruins the game for someone, they can just rewind until the next one.

    but yeah.. it said ‘beta’ on the tin. i think it’s living up to its description :) [and it’s kinda interesting – working out the y2k-reprise bug certainly was. you were just asleep at the time, so you missed it! :] i just hope the feedback is useful.

    are you keeping a log of all the win-against-single-player fleets? that’d be a very useful database for balancing.

  5. Looks like most everyone agrees — we understand this a real beta, not a product demo. :)

    Not fun to troubleshoot hardware stuff, in my opinion. Much more fun to add features to the game and make it even more cool — not that I’m a developer, but I can kind of understand (taking C# / comp-sci classes).

    Anyway, best of luck getting through the crappy stuff. It’s funny, I haven’t noticed any sound or performance issues since the first released build … what a pain to troubleshoot intermittent bugs.

  6. I think the open source adage of release early, release often is pretty fitting. If fixing A breaks B, well there is a decent chance B was going to break at some stage, so the earlier to know about it the better.

    I’m guessing the kind of people who are playing the pre-order beta are mostly the kind of people who actually have an interest in seeing the game slowly come together.

  7. Alas. I promised more than I delivered – Gaxalon Beta Mod only has two missions. ;_;

    Thank you SO MUCH for making this game so easy to mod. The only time I ran into real trouble I couldn’t handle was with fighter hulls – and I’m sure a solution will be found to that kind of thing soon.

  8. Thanks for the hard work and great game :)

    The last patch made sound alot worse for me- crackling more and realy muffled and 10x quieter than the interface sounds.

    I’ll hold off playing more while you work on the sound because battles loose alot of their impact in near silence- but I’m patient- and know I will have alot more fun with GSB in the future:)

  9. Cliffski, what do you use to manage your patches? Just some custom code or is there a great general-purpose “launcher” tool that will sort of automatically patch your game for you?

  10. Its a custom written patcher. The sort of stuff my patcher does is simple enoguh to not need any external tools, at least for now

  11. Been playing the beta for a while now. Bugs, yep (most people report it before I do), but it’s a blast to play! Pretty much what I was expecting from all the stuff I’ve read out there.

    Keep the changes/fixes coming. Make this what you want it to be. ^^-b

    BTW, I don’t remember seeing an NDA or anything for the beta. I just want to to know if you wont mind if people post about the beta and use screenshots. Or if you have any info you’d prefer to leave out.

  12. There isn’t an NDA, so I don’t mind people commenting on the game in public or posting screenshots of it

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