Why are some games so buggy?

Tom Clancy's The Division designer says "it depends on how big your game is and what your aspirations are."

by

Technical issues--better known to gamers as "bugs"--are nothing new. Sometimes they are funny but other times they cause extreme frustration and can even lead to lawsuits. But why aren't they weeded out in the development process? The Division developer Massive Entertainment lead gameplay programmer Anders Holmquist has offered up an answer to that question, saying it all comes down to what your specific expectations are for the project.

"It depends on how big your game is and what your aspirations are. Different companies and different projects set very different goals for how many bugs they think is OK to have when they release," Holmquist said during a recent Google Hangout.

A lot of the time, the number of bugs in a finished game depends on "boring things" like time constraints (every project has a deadline, after all) and money, Holmquist said. He explained that for most projects, developers might spend the final two or three months specifically working on eliminating bugs and not adding new features, but the real answer to why some games ship with so many bugs is more complex.

This is because developers like Massive Entertainment are constantly fixing bugs throughout the development process, Holmquist said. "We're basically fixing bugs and issues all the time," he said. Bugs like total system crashes must be fixed right away, Holmquist said, while others can be left to linger--at least for a short while.

"The more you let a bug or an issue linger, the more problems you're going to have to fix it," Holmquist said. "The faster you are from the point where you find a problem to when you fix it, the easier your life is going to be."

The Division launches sometime later this year for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. For more, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

237 comments
usamah_10
usamah_10

does any 1 think this game is very close to GRFS - Ghost Recon Future Soldier game ?

I just love UBISOFT

charlesswann
charlesswann

The Division won't really look like that.  As for bugs, broken games tend to have them.

scraper2k
scraper2k

Who cares about bugs... damn The Division looks sweeeeeet!

kill130
kill130

OMG... this was the last game that Tom attended before he passed away...
We gonna miss you Tom Clancy'..

tightwad34
tightwad34

WTF kind of an article is this? More fine journalism from Gamespot. BTW, the answer to the title is quite an easy one.

mxgod
mxgod

It's good to have an occasional bug like in the UFC 2009 game. OMFG it was fa-larious when the characters randomly bent in directions that are not possible :D It cracks me up.

deadpen
deadpen

Why did every game that came out for the PS2/GameCube and before, never have to have an update?

ncogneegro
ncogneegro

This is a shitty article designed for flame bait.


The real question is why are assholes like Warner Bros, telling us they won't fix their broken ass games, but instead want to sell us more DLC and you clowns are not writing about that load horse shit?


Discuss.

kovaras1984
kovaras1984

Because people use EA to publish their games

dalepickstock
dalepickstock

Games are getting bigger and take/cost more to develop. There's a trade off between how much money and profit you expect to make out of a game compared to it costs you to create. With expectations that games need to be bigger, better and cheaper its not hard to see why we are getting more bugs these days. Shame though.

croxus
croxus

Lets ask EA after launching the bugfest called Battlefield 4...

randybumgardner
randybumgardner

big games like final fantasy x or metal gear solid 4 have literally zero flaws.


american games seem to me more buggy.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

"it depends on how big your game is and what your aspirations are."

Plus priorities plus Deadlines, which are always a problem there. In a lot of cases the bugs you end experiencing in a game are those caused by last minute tweaks made by the coders in a build that (obviously, since they were last minute) did not went through QA.

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

Pushy publishers are why there are bugs. Which is why when games are developed in-house (Nintendo/SCE Japan) the games end up much higher in quality.

arqe
arqe

Less Publisher = Less Errors

Fenixx
Fenixx

That is complete BS.  Bugs, glitches, flaws, whatever...they all exist simply because things weren't done properly.  Either a model wasn't built right, the code had something wrong, etc.  It's all because of the people rushing to get things done or they screw up in the process and it gets overlooked.  There's also no such thing as "how many bugs they think is OK to have when they release."  Your goal should be to not have any!!  This article is a perfect example of the modern day lazy developer.

spKeeper20
spKeeper20

I understand what they mean when saying big games have more bugs, but still I don't think this is acceptable.  I remember when I played Fallout: New Vegas, there was one mission where if I did not take a very specific route through it or my game would crash.  The fact that this was not caught during alpha or beta testing leads me to believe they did not spend enough time or resources on it.  Either way, this should be avoided.

KotomineKirei
KotomineKirei

I thought the cause of bugs was errors in the code (e.g. the developer(programmer) didn't write the code correctly or forgot to add code to prevent the other code from working when or in a way that it's not supposed to)

Kind of like when you forget to carry over a number in math, or you don't use the right formula...

Henninger
Henninger

I guess in WB Montreal's case it was just laziness.

No_Intelligence
No_Intelligence

Publishers always want control on the games because they know best right?  They make stupid decisions and make changes that they think makes the game better.  Project managers micromanage, then programmers strip out code and redevelop features or add in features without sufficient time.  The bottom line, publishers are not willing to put more money into developing their games.

Oh and project managers take up too much budget.

Spybreak
Spybreak

As someone who's worked in QA, I'm guessing this is how it went for every game. QA: Ohh, whoops, I found a bug. Lead: Does it cause the game to be unplayable? QA: Ah no the game's still technically up and running. Lead: OK, mark it and move on. ... Day of launch rolls around Lead: Have we squashed that bug yet? QA: Nope, can't figure out why it's coming up. Lead: OK well since it doesn't make the game unplayable we'll patch it in later. ... Later on new patch is "rolled out" squashing that bug, causing 5 more.

FULGOREY2K
FULGOREY2K

maybe because the development team is lacking and they just want to cash in a half baked game

sirchick
sirchick

"It depends on how big your game is"

Not it isn't otherwise this implies big games = guaranteed to have tons of bugs but this is not the case some times a big title is simply a masterpiece. But this is more and more rare.


It depends on the amount of resources/man power you put into a game, and the time restraints imposed on the game for release.... STOP with release dates. Just release when its ready. 

Remove the concept of pushing release dates to rival other games, i get it - its good for business to take out competition, but when you release a game that is simply a turd you will be hurt far more. 


I can forgive bugs, but some AAA titles are taking the biscuit with bugs, Battlefield 4 for example, who ever works at Q&A and did not see half of the bugs the players saw, should be fired and also need to change their glasses because they are completely idiotic to not notice half the problems - either that or DICE / EA simply considered the bugs minor enough to get away with selling it.

And now EA are in court because of false promising about it to shareholders. And the UK grants refunds for it even if you have hundreds of hours of game time on it which is about time too. 

quakke
quakke

Is this title a joke?


Why was Arkham Origins buggy? Because it was just rushed out as quickly as possible to get peoples money. Didn't see that kinda sloppy delivered crap from Rocksteady though.. So what did we learn from this? Nothing but the fact that some companies are just after that "quickbuck" instead of having passion to just make a great game.

lewiston71
lewiston71

Why are games so buggy??.........simple "half-ass development".  No more no less.

UKFX
UKFX

* * Meanwhile in Gamespot land * *

Gamespot Staff A: "Did we get the review copy of BF4 yet?"

Gamespot Staff B: "Yeah, *Gamespot Staff C* is checking it out and taking notes now. It seems pretty solid"

Many hours later, GameSpot reviews the game and gives it a whopping 8.5. (Media review copy, remember?)

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Game releases. Massive outcry from consumers. EA stock drops, blah blah blah... bullshit PR comes from EA to stabilise market share and falsely reassure consumers, etc etc... blah blah blah, fake bullshit reassurance from EA means all the owners of the game go beyond the window of returns for both retail and under EA's own Great Game Guarantee. Money secured, FU consumer.

Rewind: I come on Gamespot a few weeks back "Yo Gamespot you're about as corrupt as EA. Blah blah blah, rating a game based on a prepped media review copy of the game. (Don't forget the early, stable build beta to mislead consumers)... blah blah blah". I get many +s for the comment.

Why do you folks at GameSpot review copies of a game that are never going to make it to an audience? It's no consipiracy, but it's fucking obvious that EA and DICE talked up BF4 whilst it was totally fucked, this is precisely the reason why the release version was so drastically different from anything shown in pre-launch gaming events/tournaments showing BF4 and why the beta ran infinitely better than the version played on release (and sadly how the game runs now, after it's 100th placebo patch).

This is why a while back I asked for a re-review of BF4... but oh no... you don't do that because it's unfair, right? Wrong-o... you reviewed the wrong version of the game in the first place and you won't admit to your mistake. You're becoming more and more unreliable these days GameSpot. I personally haven't used your reviews as a mark of a good game for a while now (probably 4+ years) and this massive debacle only reinforces my belief that the media out there which are set out to review such things are about as useless as the companies that make half baked bullshittery.

It's obvious why pre-release game events occured showing early builds of the game... why Patrick Bach said it was the most complete, well rounded Battlefield title to date and why a clearly early, stable build of the game was used as a beta, all the while many copies of the game already sat in stores around the globe awaiting the release.

I won't repeat the business choices of EA which I've explained over and over to the naive, but the least you could do GameSpot is redeem a bit of reliability and respect from people by reviewing Battlefield 4 and experiencing the disaster for yourself.








kovaras1984
kovaras1984

@randybumgardner Whaaaat lol, yeah lol zero bugs in both those games! a simple Google will just confirm this bold statement in no time at all.... oh god damm look at all those bugs :P

kovaras1984
kovaras1984

@Fenixx if only game spot had a dislike as well as like option, you have no clue what so ever about your commenting on lol

justinka777
justinka777

@Fenixx I totally agree with you man, Nintendo is seems to be the only one that doesn't revolve around post launch updates to have a functioning game.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@FenixxYour comment is a example of talking without having real knowledge of how things works. Nothing is white or black in the industry.


For example: "There's also no such thing as "how many bugs they think is OK to have when they release.""
There is, in fact: It's called "Painlevel system" and it's used by a lot of companies (Nintendo and Ubisoft, for example) and also checked by first party before a game is allowed a release in any of their systems.

games100
games100

@Fenixx You really don't have a clue about software development, especially developing games. 

ForceSkin
ForceSkin

@spKeeper20  At least you got through that game. Twenty hours in and for some reason all the factions turned against me suddenly. It made it impossible to do any missions. I had to return it which sucked because I liked it

kidnatural
kidnatural

@spKeeper20  Are you perfect? Or are you asking them to make a smaller games? Mistakes are made. I agree that the bug was unacceptable. But whether it's inexcusable is dependent upon the rest of what the game offers.


I understand they're frustrating. Trust me, if those folks caught it, they didn't want to see something that big in there whatsoever. But sometimes, even if those cases arise, you really can go bankrupt if you go on too long because of a mistake (often extremely small code incompatibilities).

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@KotomineKirei Not always just errors. sometimes it's correct pieces of code causing a conflict with each other. Something not strange when you have written thousand of lines and you just can't keep track of where was that particular line that you wrote three days ago.

kidnatural
kidnatural

@KotomineKirei  To an extent. Very minute incompatibilities can cause a ruckus. These games get extremely complex. Expectedly, small mobile games tend to have less noticeable bugs. Less player liberty. Less complexity. 

Leria
Leria

@FULGOREY2K  


That is honestly what it is half the time.... the development team is lacking, there are no funds for beta testing, etc.

Bottom line is that games should NOT have showstopper, makes you unable to proceed bugs in them.

Best way to avoid that class of bugs: automatic saves every X minutes so if you find a showstopper, you can go back to an earlier save and try to 'get around it'.

kidnatural
kidnatural

@sirchick  "STOP with release dates. Just release when its ready. "


Please be realistic. Although if you have infinity money, then please run a games development company.

croxus
croxus

@UKFX  

Well said sir!!

Its obvious what Gamespot did there and if we look at their current top list it can be confirmed once again...

linktheking
linktheking

@UKFX EA pretty much just gave review copies for the game out. I really doubt Gamespot would have been paid off or bribed for a higher score. I mean if my site got a copy...


Note: Necroed this account just to post this, despite my dislike for Gamespot US.

sniperwol_basic
sniperwol_basic

@UKFX  I want to kiss you bro. You took all the words from my heart


+ Infinity

rarson
rarson

@UKFX


I'd love to know why a company, if they have a perfectly operational "pre-release" build, wouldn't release that same build to the public if it's running so much better than the final build. Your claims aren't making sense.

ncogneegro
ncogneegro

@justinka777 @Fenixx 

You do know that the ratio between the number of games Nintendo puts to other companies is incredibly lopsided. 

1.  Nintendo has their own console.  

2.  All games by Nintendo and their 2nd parties are designed for their system ONLY.

3. They devote more resources to QA, licensing testing because they don't have as many games to test., if Nintendo has 2 games releasing a quarter, Ubi/EA/Activision will have 10 a piece releasing for multiple systems.  The QA (quality assurance) is a time consuming, in depth process.  Not only are you looking for bugs, but you are generally looking for breaks in the gameplay, storyline pathing issues (I did QA on Morrowind and Oblivion in Hunt Valley MD) not to mention graphical glitches.  Each thing was different on each platform.


PC games are the worst and reason #2 why PC gaming almost died.  EVERY PC is different, the combinations of hardware and software makes it impossible to effectively do software/hardware compatability.

Zeeksie
Zeeksie

@games100Oh, and you do?

Instead of questioning his knowledge of game development, perhaps you could provide a better explanation on why there are glitches in video games and what would be a better way to prevent such things from happening? Eh, smartguy? Please, by all means, enlighten us.

Warlord_Irochi
Warlord_Irochi

@kidnatural @spKeeper20Well he is right in that case; an unavoidable crash/blocker in a mission that is in the player's path should not have made it to the release version of the game.

sirchick
sirchick

@kidnatural @sirchick  its not that unrealistic, given the amount of money EA has for example they can easily afford to but they chose not to.

EA's revenue is : $4.143 billion. The interest on that sitting in the bank is more than enough to fund game projects indefinitely. They only have 9000 odd employees. 

More often than not, they release too early to get sales, if they just wait about 6 months or so to polish the game properly the game would be a lot more popular and in fact might more than the earlier version.

Some times patience pays off. So it is entirely realistic.

Freedomination
Freedomination

@rarson @UKFX  Dont you know their handcoding every copy of the game from scratch? They give the best copies to journalists. The ones released to the public are coded by child labourers in Taiwan

games100
games100

@Zeeksie @games100  @josevalerio @Fenixx


I work as a tester for a digital agency; we have developed a number of games that are currently live and performing very well. In addition we are currently developing and testing a game that will be on a next-gen console near you soon, so as far as experience goes, I would say that I am pretty experienced. 


Josevalerio is spot on, as games become more and more complex and the user expects more functionality, the opportunity for bugs and glitches grows massively.  It is simply impossible to expect a developer to try and cover every possible scenario that could take place within a game.  Developers are only human after all.


The testing time that is put into testing a title is already huge and extremely costly, trying to catch everything would be completely unfeasible.


You will never know if a game has no bugs when it’s released, this is exactly why we build in a system that allows games to be quickly an efficiently updated with minimal impact to the user.  If a bug is found we can continuously inspect and adapt our code, bugs get fixed and the code becomes better.  


Games are also independently tested by the publisher, any known bugs are prioritised and a decision is made as to whether the title can be published with some bugs as some times it makes financial sense.  The ‘Lazy developer’ does not make this decision.

quakke
quakke

@Boogy32 @Zeeksie@games100 

Ignorant. Really? In these times when 70% of AAA games are being released with bugs because of just rushing stuff out as quickly as possible. Arkham Origins devs even admitted that the game has game-breaking-bugs but they instead keep developing DLC (greed) for the game, than fixing the bugs. BF4 launched how it launched etc..


You sir should not have an voice on this matter, since you are the reason we are in this situation in the first place. People like you kept accepting EA's microtransactions and microbugs. You are the thing that has ruined stuff.


People, do like i do. You love gaming, or a specific genre? Then start developing your own game of that specific genre. In my case it's true old school FPS. This the only way stuffs gonna change. We have to show how we alone have more talent and creative visions than these big AAA studios even combined together.

Boogy32
Boogy32

@Zeeksie @games100  Well it's not like Fenixx is much better... His statement seems completely ignorant. Still you should try to offer an explanation when you are trying to enlighten the masses.

josevalerio
josevalerio

@Zeeksie @games100  i agree with games100... such a complex piece of code like a videogame can have bugs that only appear in some specific "corner-cases" (for example, if your character gets killed at the same moment the mission goal is achieved, or if you make your character go to some "forbidden place" in an open-world environment).


the developers cannot try to reproduce all the possible scenarios that could produce bugs, because, they are infinite in theory... so, that's why there are the alpha and beta phases, where the game (the software, in general), gets used by real people, so the most common bugs are detected. There will almost always be some bugs that are not caught by these phases and manage to be in the final product.


of course, the more extensive these test phases, the less bugs will go undetected, and there's when money and time play a role.