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On the development of quality software...

Ok, this is a rant that I expect to be ignored. I'm just flabbergasted by the unrealistic expectations that many in this forum have, and at their implications that Overhaul has done anything but bust their humps to turn out the best experience they could. So, here’s a bit of perspective…

I work in critical embedded software, where software bugs can mean lost lives. A development team of 10-15 can turn out about 30,000 lines of certified code.

In 24-30 months.

For one customer.

On one hardware platform.

So, yeah…no one is going to die if BGEE crashes. But my best guess is that there is about a team of 6, doing development on a code base 2-3 orders of magnitude larger, trying to get it working on 4 or 5 different operating system platforms, with a nearly infinite diversity of configurations. To expect a bug-free, flawless roll out under these conditions is near insanity.

And in spite of the endless abuse heaped upon them, Overhaul continues to work feverishly to improve the game, introduce options to satisfy conflicting feature requests. On top of it all, they continue to show a positive attitude and communicate much more clearly and openly than I’ve ever seen any game company do.

Thanks, Overhaul. Please remember that for every raving idiot, there are many more of us who love the work that you’ve done, and look forward to the new and exciting features you hope to deliver in the months and years to come!

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Comments

  • CalmarCalmar Member Posts: 688
    Thanks for posting this, Cerevant! :)

    Renulan
  • BurfiakBurfiak Member Posts: 31
    Yeah? So why when playing GoG version with Easy Tutu and many, many mods i've experienced 1 (one) crash throughout the game, but when playing BG EE over twenty so far (i'm in chapter 5)?

  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    @Burfiak
    At a guess, I'd say it's because Baldur's Gate Vanilla has been out for several years instead of several days, and it was built at the beginning of hardware diversification when a lot of hardware manufacturers were building for the same specifications.

    These days, there are a lot more ways that hardware is designed, and a lot more ways that different configurations fit together. Not everything is compatible right away, and when the development team has less than a dozen members it sometimes takes a little longer to figure out why.

    Most of the time it takes more than a week.

    MedullaOblongataAristilliusRenulan
  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    Out of interest, what sort of things is your software used for? I too have been involved with producing software for some pretty serious systems which could leave the team liable if things go wrong before.

  • RagingOrcRagingOrc Member Posts: 63
    Burfiak you haven't taken in what he stated. GOG took the previous vanilla version and made it compatible with 1 modern operating system..They may do it for mac/ubuntu im not sure..

    The mods you suggested will probably not crash because they have had a good many years for development/tweaks amd are probably the most popular ones which 'yes' are very well made. They would of never been used by consumers if they were horribly bugged.

    Alas, there are/were many mods that were released nearer to launch that were buggy in there first iteration thus and never saw much light or got 'pimped' up over the years to become the amazing mods we know today...


    I agree GOG version with mods is excellent however;

    Overhaul are a team of 6-7 developers? They have made a rework of a very old game on multiple Vastly different platforms which all, for the majority of us, work. Furthermore they have added some features in and cleaned up the code! All of this in a year.... They talk to us on the forums and are very consumer social. Furthermore they have given us 3 bugfixes so far!

    People may argue that they should of been fixed before, maybe. But for a small studio developing on multiple platforms they have done an amazing job.

    I am currently developing a piece of software which is fully functional on windows and Linux and that is a git itself, as is is making sure it runs on a range of hardware. I'd imagines making it run on android and mac would be a ballache.

    You may be trolling, I dunno. If not, software development and the dev cycle is much harder than you currently think.....

    Seran
  • talzolatalzola Member Posts: 8
    What people forget is that forums represent just a tiny and disproportional slice of the community. This goes for EVERY video game. The reality is that the vast vast majority of players are experiencing no technical issues, and having a BLAST with this game, but these are not the people that post for the most part. Forums are always dominated by the whiners, complainers, and trolls...that is just the nature of the animal. A good example would be World of Warcraft...by far the most successful game in history...yet if you have followed the forums for that game, you would think it was the worst POS video game in history....

    my point? Take the negativity with a HUGE grain of salt...Overhaul did an awesome job and most people are having a great time with no issues.

    Lacceh
  • CerevantCerevant Member Posts: 2,314
    To add to what Aosaw says,

    Keep in mind that they did a complete re-write of significant portions of the engine itself, with a few huge benefits:
    Multiplayer works properly
    Significant UI and game logic is no longer in the engine
    ...making it easier to take advantage of the new engine for BG2EE
    ...making it easier to do EE versions of other Infinity Engine games
    ...making it easier to mod and create DLC for the EE games
    ...and making it easier to bring improvements made in BG2EE back to BGEE

    Unfortunately, complete re-writes are often very buggy. Complete re-writes are most often done to make it easier to make new improvements at the cost of software maturity. Given that Overhaul has big plans for the future of the Infinity Engine games, this is a sensible investment. We just need to have a little patience...

    AntonAristillius
  • CerevantCerevant Member Posts: 2,314
    ajwz said:

    Out of interest, what sort of things is your software used for? I too have been involved with producing software for some pretty serious systems which could leave the team liable if things go wrong before.

    I've worked both on both aircraft software and industrial automation shutdown systems. The cost of these systems are easily 2-3 times that of game development, and still they are by no means bug-free.

    ajwzMedullaOblongataIchigoRXC
  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    Yeah, here are the results of a poll asking forum users to rank the game shortly after launch.
    image

  • CorianderCoriander Member Posts: 1,667
    @Cerevant Aww man, low level systems can be so much fun though. There's been at most 4 working on the code, good guess though.

  • CerevantCerevant Member Posts: 2,314
    Coriander said:

    @Cerevant Aww man, low level systems can be so much fun though. There's been at most 4 working on the code, good guess though.

    I hear you - the further I am from a UI, the happier I am :D

    4? Really? To say this project was ambitious is the understatement of the year. How many testers?

  • BurfiakBurfiak Member Posts: 31
    I'm not trolling, but i am complaining. Because I was disappointed and I don't think my expectations were "unrealistic". To be honest: if it was good, it could crash all the time, i wouldn't care.

    I believe you're right: small team have done much in relatively short time and i am not aware how hard and complicated this work was, i've no idea about that.

    But - from my perspective - BG EE is quite disappointing, because I have Win Xp on my PC and no problems with playing any version of BG. So all I cared about was content: NPCs, quests, items, fixes etc. And if re-writing and things like that can be buggy and hard, how can it be that -for example-unidentified belt (in Neera's quest) is... belt, weight 2? They've created only few items and missed such thing. Where were testers? There really isn't much things to check out!

    tarasis
  • MedullaOblongataMedullaOblongata Member Posts: 434
    You say you're terribly disappointed, but your example of such is... A belt. That doesn't sound like much to me, sorry.

    JonelethIrenicusAristillius
  • RagnarokRagnarok Member Posts: 26
    @Cerevant

    I like to see some positive rant!

    I praise Overhaul for their daunting project, for it was not an easy path nor a long one.

    A small team of four working on a ~13 years old legacy engine over a single year is quite ambitious. Heck, working on five years old game where I work can be quite a puzzle, even with our robust framework that was always maintained over ten years! Imagine working in a foreign environment full of deprecated methodologies...

    Looking at the end product, I can't find any reasons to cry over bugs. They will be squashed over time, the system will gain in maturity again and new modders will come... Now that the engine is more open and flexible, modders will have greater power.

    All in all, a good thing...

  • CerevantCerevant Member Posts: 2,314
    edited December 2012
    Burfiak said:

    They've created only few items and missed such thing. Where were testers? There really isn't much things to check out!

    There are four reasons seemingly simple issues slip through test:
    1) Of the hundreds or thousands of things they wanted to be sure that they checked out, this wasn't one of them. This is a scope of test/requirements issue, and is fairly common in non-critical development environments. This is also how things like the spawn issues get through - it *seems* to work...your instincts tell you something is not right, but it can be difficult to quantify what "right" is.

    2) This was something they knew about and thought "We can fix that later". This is my guess for things like the belt text / tool tip issues: when you are working on serious functional issues, "nice to have" content and presentation concerns get forgotten.

    3) It worked before, so they haven't tested it again. This is what I'd attribute their most common functional issues to. This is a serious problem in platforms such as this where automated testing isn't really feasible. Non-linear games have a huge number of variables and state interactions, making comprehensive testing cost and time prohibitive.

    4) Hardware / driver / configuration issues: So take my last point, and complicate it by a couple orders of magnitude. You have what is essentially an untestable piece of software, and now you spread it to a massively diverse hardware / software platform base and there's nothing you can do but hope for the best.

    I will say that I agree with the "two words" thread and say that the best way to address some of these inherent problems is to crowd source testing through an open or semi-open (pre order?) beta program. Unfortunately, that isn't a simple solution from the business point of view:
    Open beta: too much, too soon
    Closed beta: not enough?
    Paid beta: entitlement problems equivalent to release

    I think Overhaul has done a hell of a job with what they have, and are doing their best to close the gap now that they have to data to address the issues they didn't know they had.

    BugratKaigenswnmcmlxi
  • ButtercheeseButtercheese Member Posts: 3,769
    Totally agreement here.

    One extra thought:
    Some gamers (mostly german ones) may remember the Gothic series by Piranha Bytes. The third one - due to a massive lag of time - turned out to be a total bug desaster and was nearly unplayable. The result was, that Piranha Bytes, one of the most loved german video game developners went bust and they had to sell the rights of the Gothic series.

    What did the fans do? They fixed nearly ALL the bugs by themselfs. Same story with Vampire 2.

    Most games nowaday turn out to be full of bugs at the beginning, because the Publishers don't give the Devs the time they need.

    Aristilliuslolien
  • darthchairdarthchair Member Posts: 191
    It's kind of odd, but when I see a community surrounding a game that makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as this one does...I don't even care if the game is a little wibbly wobbly. And I haven't even had any problems with it. So apparently my computer is the greatest computer in the universe! Booyah grandma! :)

    But seriously...thank you Overhaul. And thank you original poster guy! And thank you to my mom who did some things that put me on this Earth so I could replay Baldur's Gate five bagillion times and still have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to making a decent character.

  • ShadowdemonShadowdemon Member Posts: 80
    Burfiak said:

    Yeah? So why when playing GoG version with Easy Tutu and many, many mods i've experienced 1 (one) crash throughout the game, but when playing BG EE over twenty so far (i'm in chapter 5)?

    I don't think this is a fair comparison. I bought the game when it first came out back in 1998 and it crashed frequently. That version is stable now because it had 14 years to be fixed. BG EE has been out for less than a week and had massive changes to the engine. It also has a graphics card requirement the original one did not have (software rendering). There were bound to be some issues.

    I completely agree with the OP. I am also a software designer/developer and I am amazed with what this small team has done in the limited time they had. It has a few bugs - big deal. Everything has bugs! They are working their asses off to fix them.

  • CorianderCoriander Member Posts: 1,667
    Cerevant said:

    How many testers?

    There's only one full time in house, but everyone spends a bit of time testing. Looks like there are 57 beta testers on the forum(they're pretty much amazing) and I don't have access to the numbers for anyone else but I don't think they test regularly.

    Aristillius
  • Corvus_MetusCorvus_Metus Member Posts: 19
    I recall the original Baldur's Gate crashing a lot when it came out.

    I also remember the original Baldur's Gate II being literally ~unplayable~ unpatched. As in, you couldn't ever talk to anyone - they always appeared busy. Including important NPCs you had to talk to in order to progress the plot.

    That was real fun, when you didn't have internet access, let me tell you.

    Fredjo
  • BurfiakBurfiak Member Posts: 31
    Ok, when I think about EE as a solid, updated base for modders to build on, maybe it's not so bad after all. When new content will be bug-free, maybe some dlc's will be available, and mods (NTotSC, Grey Clan etc) will be compatible it can give new life to the game.

    And perhaps modders will use this crappy Black Pits do create something nice inside the game :)

  • ChippyChippy Member Posts: 241
    Great post right here. Thumbs up to the OP.

  • talzolatalzola Member Posts: 8
    @Burfiak, you are running WIn XP? really? sorry man, but just that fact invalidates all of your complaints. That is like saying you are driving a 1972 AMC Gremlin, and complaining that you are having engine issues...get a real OS on a modern computer and then maybe you can talk.

    RenulanMikkel
  • hzfhzf Member Posts: 70

    I recall the original Baldur's Gate crashing a lot when it came out.

    I also remember the original Baldur's Gate II being literally ~unplayable~ unpatched. As in, you couldn't ever talk to anyone - they always appeared busy. Including important NPCs you had to talk to in order to progress the plot.

    That was real fun, when you didn't have internet access, let me tell you.

    They both worked fine for me out of the box, on a win95 system.

  • hzfhzf Member Posts: 70
    talzola said:

    @Burfiak, you are running WIn XP? really? sorry man, but just that fact invalidates all of your complaints. That is like saying you are driving a 1972 AMC Gremlin, and complaining that you are having engine issues...get a real OS on a modern computer and then maybe you can talk.

    Why? I only switched from XP to 7 this year. And last I checked, far more people used XP than any other OS. XP was and still is a good OS.

    If he were running Vista then I might agree with you ;)

  • BurfiakBurfiak Member Posts: 31
    @talzoa I was using Win 7 and switched to Xp just recently. But my friend is playing Bg EE on win 7 and has lot of crashes too. But im not as disappointed in this as in (very poor and very buggy) new content.

    And if original BG is working fine on Xp than i expect EE to work fine too, right?

  • RilburRilbur Member Posts: 54
    Cerevant said:

    I will say that I agree with the "two words" thread and say that the best way to address some of these inherent problems is to crowd source testing through an open or semi-open (pre order?) beta program. Unfortunately, that isn't a simple solution from the business point of view:
    Open beta: too much, too soon
    Closed beta: not enough?
    Paid beta: entitlement problems equivalent to release

    Stardock hasn't had many issues using a a paid beta system.

  • PlasticGolemPlasticGolem Member Posts: 98
    Unless you are a practitioner, you don't really have any understanding of what is involved to write software (or design a toaster or make better-tasting toothpaste or design easy-to-understand highway signage, etc.) Consumers don't judge a product based on how hard it was to create, but by how well it meets their expectations, and there is no reason to expect that it should be any other way.

    From a developer's perspective, this means that managing expectations is a critical part of the development, marketing and support process. It is not the non-programmer's fault that they don't understand how hard it is to implement intelligent pathfinding or port something bug-free across multiple platforms because they lack the extensive background required to appreciate what doing these things involves.

    It is also important to be able to distinguish between complaints and critiques, and to be able to determine which complaints are serious and which are frivolous (lots of people will demand lots of things but will still be satisfied if you don' deliver, whereas others are complaining because they are unsatisfied with the product as-is). Often, just acknowledging that it is a limitation and saying that it is something you would like to fix as time permits is enough to make people happy. On the other hand, defending bugs and limitations on the ground that writing software is hard will earn you sympathy among other developers, but not among consumers who have no way to empathize.

    Burfiak
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