Tuesday 26 February 2013

Darkfall 2010 fail

Chris at Game By Night thinks that Aventurine's PR team need help. It isn't just their PR team that needs help. In fact, I bet their PR people are throwing their hands up with horror at what's going on. Their whole project management is rubbish:
  • The very idea that they could have launched without a beta test was madness in the extreme.
  • They gave out a launch date, and then missed it. Missing dates isn't great. It shouldn't happen on a project where the project management team knows what they are doing. Better to give out no dates than to give out dates that you aren't sure to hit.
  • That the November 20 release date was put back only a few days before the release was due tells you that they didn't really know the state of their product even a month before the due date (or they were just burying their heads in the sand). What was going on? The product should have been with the test team for a few months before that, and by one month before release, the initial testing should have been completed and bugs fixed, leaving at most only re-testing of fixes. It is a sign of blind, blundering management that they were still finding show-stopping problems in the last month.
  • Having failed to hit the November release date, how did they decide on the December date? Did anyone actually have a plan that showed the product could be released on December 12? Given that they showed (see previous bullet point) that they didn't have a good handle on the state of the product, I doubt it. It seems to have been a date plucked from the air. 
  • Having failed to meet their first date, it beggars belief that management would put themselves in the position of repeating that failure three weeks later, by failing to meet the second release date. To miss one release date may be regarded as a misfortune. To miss both looks like carelessness.
  • It is only after these previous failures that the management team realize they need a beta-testing program. Better late than never.
Having decided on a beta-testing program, they have finally realized that they should keep silent on an actual release date. The reason, I suspect, is that they are very unsure of their actual game-play, and instead of recruiting beta-testers to find bugs, the beta-testers are reporting on game-play features that they don't like, and Aventurine are responding to that instead of telling them "We're happy with the game we designed. We just need to iron out the bugs. We spent the years 2009-2013 designing the game based on what we felt was wrong and right with our previous game. The time for requirements-gathering is long over. We'll put your suggestions in the backlog for consideration in the next release."

But instead, I'll bet you that Aventurine is responding to new requirements, as if it were still 2009 and they were near the start of the project instead of at the end. You know how that's going to pan out. We see it time and again in the forums of various games where forum warriors cry "nerf this! buff that!".  Here's how this goes: feature X is a feature that most beta-testers are happy with. For instance, arrows fly in an arc, lets say. Most people are happy with this. These people say nothing. Just like I don't bother mentioning that my toast wasn't burnt at breakfast. I take it for granted, I don't praise the toaster for not burning my toast, I only talk about my toast when something unusual happens, such as the toaster burning it.

Some testers, though, are unhappy with feature X (for instance, arrows flying in an arc) because it makes aiming difficult (without stereoscopic vision, it's hard to judge distance, so how can they know just how much above the target they have to aim to allow for the arrow's fall?). They make a noise. They want it changed. So the feature that most people were happy with (or at least, not unhappy with) gets changed. Some people are delighted. But now a different group are annoyed enough with the new design that they complain (no arc? Unrealistic. Stop pandering to unskilled players and cater to the group you said was your target, hardcore PvP players. Players who relish overcoming difficulty). So it goes. No game-play can delight everybody. And once people realize that the product team is not convinced by the game-play they designed, everyone will want their own changes. Imagine if you could tell God that you don't think the gravitational constant should be so large, or that water shouldn't expand on freezing, and he would listen to you instead of turning you into a pillar of salt? You'd never stop redesigning the universe!

 This project is an unmitigated disaster.


  1. for instance, arrows flying in an arc
    LOL. I'm pretty sure that's code for the "W" word and I agree with you. The silent majority is indifferent to the topic now but if it's change -- then it will be bad for the overall balance of the game.

    As far as the forum stuff goes, this is pretty common in all games and even reflects life in general. The most vocal tend to get the most attention. Honestly, it's hard to even blame to dev if that's the only feedback they get on a topic.

    1. Agreed, Sid67. My feeling is that the AV team has developed their game-play for DF:UW over the last 4 years. If they aren't happy enough with it now to ship it, they never will be.

      Allowing the Beta to change game-play decisions will mean they won't ship before October. Possibly never. they need to get the bugs out and ship now, and then look at changing game-play as part of the next release.

    2. Nothing kills a game quicker than releasing an unbalanced product.

      Every game has bugs. You rate the severity of it, and fix it accordingly. Some bugs never get fixed, because they're simply not severe enough to warrant the time or money required to fix them.

      But, if you purchase a game, play it for a month and find that the class (or in this case role), that you've invested a lot of your time and energy into building up is far in a way inferior to another, you get annoyed and rage quit.

      People are forgiving about the majority of bugs. They aren't forgiving about having their time wasted due to playing an inferior role for so long.

      Bugs get fixed. You can't however get back time you've invested in a video game.

      AV are making the right decision. What you're describing is a Waterfall Development Model - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model - THIS IS NOT THE WAY GAMES ARE DESIGNED!!

      They're employing an Iterative Development Model - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_and_incremental_development - This is the way all games are made, especially those that receiving updates and balances throughout their lifetime.

      Learn something about development processes, especially those concerning game development before writing uninformed articles like this.

    3. Hi Jack, I appreciate your point, but no matter what the development process, shouldn't the team produce some results after four years?

      Have you any idea, Jack, why the AV team didn't hit the deadline they set themselves less than two months earlier? And why they then set a new deadline and couldn't meet it one iteration later? And why they never involved the customer in their plans until 4 years after the start of their development cycle, and after they missed their first two release dates?

      In fact, what have they been doing for the last four years on this project, Jack? Have you ever worked for four years on a project that never got released? I'd be sacked if I didn't get something out to my customers in one year.