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T O P I C
Demos, test demos, and rose-coloured glasses
January 3rd 2001, 08:19 CET by Andy

Today's release of a Diablo II demo highlights a problem with PC gaming that we should have given exposure to in the past, but never have. That's going to change.

Over the past few years, it has become obvious that some developers are schizophrenic in their quality standards. They will release a game to retail, under the pretense that it is complete and properly tested, but will then hold back on the demo release until it really is finished, which is often several months later.

It has been six months since Diablo II was released. Since then it has been plagued by complaints of bugs, character imbalances and gameplay quirks. There have been petitions to fix the game, and countless complaints from irate players who feel Blizzard dropped the ball on quality control.

Are we supposed to believe that Blizzard has been too busy over the last six months to put a demo together? It's a somewhat plausible answer, but it's more likely that they wanted to wait until they tidied the game up a bit and could release a demo that wouldn't turn people away.

At 135Mb, the Diablo II demo will surely earn a guest appearance on magazine CDs, thus ensuring it is played by many people without Net connections. When those people play the demo, they'll actually be playing a demo of a game that has had months of extra work done on it. But if they decide to buy the game, they'll be getting the original version that hasn't benefitted from those months of extra testing, bug fixing and polish. And they won't have easy access to patches.

Blizzard is asking people to buy one game, based on the demo of another.

And they're not alone. Several other high-profile developers have pulled a similar stunt before, and they didn't have any excuses for doing so.


The classic examples

Quake 2 was notoriously rushed out in time for Christmas, but the demo wasn't released until Id had spent several more weeks on bug fixes and polishing.

Unreal, which was practically useless for some people on release and didn't get anywhere close to retail quality for several months, never had a demo. But of course, by the time Epic had finally got the game to work on most machines and provide a decent multiplayer experience, sales were already heading towards the one million mark, meaning the demo would have been a somewhat pointless exercise. Would the game have sold so well if a genuinely representative demo had been released on day one?

The release version of Quake III Arena was noticeably well polished and tested, so not surprisingly the demo came out at around the same time as the game.

But recently there was the curious decision by Id to pre-release a demo of the Q3A add-on, Team Arena, but not to show off the new terrain engine -- clearly the add-on's greatest selling point. Try-before-you-buy fans can only preview the terrain in a video file, giving them no idea how well it will perform on their own machine.

It has become apparent that decisions are being made not to release demos of games until they are in a fit state to be seen by the public, even though the games themselves may have been released months earlier.

Not releasing a demo before, or very soon after a game ships, should be seen in future as a developer admitting that they knowingly shipped a buggy product. Or at least one that they didn't have much confidence in.

So-called "good business sense" aside, it's morally reprehensible that some developers will release a game and expect us to hand over $40 for the pleasure of playing it, when they know full well it isn't good enough to risk putting out a demo that would be a definite turn-off.


Compatibility tests

Another side to this is a trend that seems to have only started in the last year, which is that of companies releasing so-called "compatibility tests". It's almost funny to watch how developers lap up praise for well-received test versions, while the ones that bomb are hurriedly written off as "just a test".

Wash away the marketing gloss and all we've got here is companies trying to play safe. They get to release a demo, but -- they hope -- not be badly judged by it. If it gets positive reviews, that's great. But if people hate it, well, it's just a test, and we shouldn't be judging the game based on a test version, should we?

Two examples of this that spring to mind are Monolith's No One Lives Forever and Croteam's Serious Sam. The NOLF "test demo" went down very badly, so Monolith just shrugged their shoulders and told us to stop being so silly -- it's only a test! And while Croteam insist that their Serious Sam demos are only tech tests, they seem to be spending a lot of time patching them to make sure they get good write-ups.


Return to shareware, of sorts?

Just a few years ago, it was quite a different story, thanks to shareware. If we were thinking of buying a game, we'd get hold of the shareware version and try it out. If we liked it, we bought it, thanks very much.

In those days, games would live and die by how good they were, which is exactly how it should be. Nowadays, the demo we get has been finely crafted and lovingly tweaked so we see the version of the game that the developer wants us to see. That isn't always representative of what we'll find when we buy the full version.

This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why some people resort to piracy. Warez is the new shareware. Some people will be genuinely looking to try a game before they buy it, while others are probably so sick of feeling ripped off that they pirate games out of spite -- a form of self-justifying theft, by people that aren't likely to stop.

While only a tiny percentage of the game-playing public will have turned to piracy so far, this should at least cause a blip on the industry's radar. As more games are released without demos, broadband Net access becomes more widely available and DVD recorders drop to within a reasonable domestic price range, game piracy is going to increase.

Faced with the offer of ten games-without-demos on a DVD for $15, or a $40 gamble on any one of them, can you honestly say you wouldn't be tempted? More and more people will be.

PlanetCrap really should have given more prominence to these issues in the past, so from now on, expect regular updates, especially about companies that are releasing demos long after the game itself has shipped. Hopefully those updates won't be too regular.
C O M M E N T S
Home » Topic: Demos, test demos, and rose-coloured glasses

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#1 by "GhostinmyShell"
2001-01-03 08:26:36
ghostinmyshell@triad.rr.com
nice article
#2 by "toadwarrior"
2001-01-03 08:34:19
toadw@uplink.net
I remember how the Q3 fanboys would always point out "it's just a test! Wait for the demo" as an excuse to Q3's problems. Of course the demo was virtually the same. So much for place holder art. :)

Test = a demo that may be ass so they call it a test to convice people it'll get better. It's pretty much always a sign of poor work too.<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#3 by "the_reformed_pianist"
2001-01-03 08:49:48
pianist@canada.com
THIRD.

*N U K E D*
#4 by "the_reformed_pianist"
2001-01-03 08:50:15
pianist@canada.com
I don't know what that means, I saw it on Shugashack.
#5 by "Kelster"
2001-01-03 08:54:29
kelster@planetstarsiege.com
Awesome article Andy.

-Kel
#6 by "GeorgeBroussard"
2001-01-03 08:54:44
georgeb@3drealms.com
<quote>Are we supposed to believe that Blizzard has been too busy over the last six months to put a demo together? </quote>

You're supposed to believe the real answer.  Why put out a demo when everyone was going to buy the game anyway?  Why give people and excuse to not buy it.  Now that sales are slowing....it's time for a demo.  Actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Lack of a demo prior to release probably sold a TON more Diablo 2's.
#7 by "WarrenMarshall"
2001-01-03 08:57:18
warren@epicgames.com
Andy (#0):
Unreal, which was practically useless for some people on release and didn't get anywhere close to retail quality for several months, never had a demo. But of course, by the time Epic had finally got the game to work on most machines and provide a decent multiplayer experience, sales were already heading towards the one million mark, meaning the demo would have been a somewhat pointless exercise. Would the game have sold so well if a genuinely representative demo had been released on day one?

I have to say this because, honestly, my memory is cloudy ...  from what I remember Unreal shipped with terrible netcode, but the game itself was intact.  It ran in software/Glide/MeTaL only (no OpenGL or Direct3D when it first shipped), which covered the majority of machines out there (almost all harcore gamers had a glide card back then).

I don't remember the SP game being buggy so that you couldn't finish it ...

What were the major problems with Unreal at release?

I'm seriously asking .. not trying to be an ass ... I honestly don't remember any major problems (aside from netcode) and if this IS the case, I want to have my facts straight.

---

Warren Marshall
Level Designer/Programmer/Corporate Shill
Epic Games (www.epicgames.com)<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#8 by "Apache"
2001-01-03 09:01:36
apache@stomped.com
I have to say this because, honestly, my memory is cloudy ... from what I remember Unreal shipped with terrible netcode, but the game itself was intact. It ran in software/Glide/MeTaL only (no OpenGL or Direct3D when it first shipped), which covered the majority of machines out there (almost all harcore gamers had a glide card back then).

I don't remember the SP game being buggy so that you couldn't finish it ...

What were the major problems with Unreal at release?

I'm seriously asking .. not trying to be an ass ... I honestly don't remember any major problems (aside from netcode) and if this IS the case, I want to have my facts straight.


Hah, it seems I have one-up on WM.

No, when Unreal shipped it was in 100% playable code and I finished the game. The net code, was in THEORY good, but you needed a VERY low packet loss connection to play a good game on-line. WON.NET, of all places was the ONLY good place to enjoy Unreal online, and for people with GOOD connections, the performance was FINE.
#9 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 09:04:48
andy@meejahor.com
<b>WarrenMarshall</b> (#7):
<quote>
What were the major problems with Unreal at release?
</quote>
From my own experience, it simply wouldn't run. Start the game, disk access, error box, end. It wasn't until the patch that was mainly supposed to fix netcode, six months after release, that I could get as far as the title screen. And then the game worked fine.

And the irony, remember, was that I bought this machine specifically for Unreal, when I was working (or trying to) on WoT. The beta worked fine, and then the full game wouldn't run at all!
#10 by "WarrenMarshall"
2001-01-03 09:10:39
warren@epicgames.com
Andy (#9):
From my own experience, it simply wouldn't run. Start the game, disk access, error box, end. It wasn't until the patch that was mainly supposed to fix netcode, six months after release, that I could get as far as the title screen. And then the game worked fine.

And the irony, remember, was that I bought this machine specifically for Unreal, when I was working (or trying to) on WoT. The beta worked fine, and then the full game wouldn't run at all!

So are you basing your assertation on your own experience, or do you know other people who experienced the same thing?  Just wondering if this was specific to you ...

And what was the error BTW?

---

Warren Marshall
Level Designer/Programmer/Corporate Shill
Epic Games (www.epicgames.com)<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#11 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 09:28:51
andy@meejahor.com
<b>WarrenMarshall</b> (#10):
<quote>
So are you basing your assertation on your own experience, or do you know other people who experienced the same thing?
</quote>
Both. Anecdotal evidence from other people, who I believe because I experienced the same thing myself, and I also spoke to GT tech support people at the time who were familiar with the problem. (And just for a laugh, any guesses what their advice was? Go on, go wild.)
<quote>
And what was the error BTW?
</quote>
Can't remember. One of those typical Unreal error messages with dozens of function names and pointer -> symbols to indicate where the failure occurred.
#12 by "CliffyB_EPIC"
2001-01-03 09:40:08
cliff@epicgames.com
Unreal, which was practically useless for some people on release and didn't get anywhere close to retail quality for several months, never had a demo. But of course, by the time Epic had finally got

99% of PC games NEVER run perfectly on EVERY PC out there. It's the curse of the PC and part of the risk you take. PC's are a pain to develop for. You never know what weird configuration the user might have, or what he may have done to his system. From a QA standpoint it's a nightmare. You want to innovate with tech, but the more you innovate the higher the risk is with compatability.

FACT: Unreal 1's netcode was ass for a while. This was patched within a few months - and a free map pack was released to help soften the blow. That was a screw up, and we're sorry for that.

Show me a PC developer that has released a bug-free game and I'll show you a company that has failed to innovate. It sucks, but it's the truth.

Cliff
#13 by "EvilivE"
2001-01-03 09:41:17
satanas@worldmailer.com
A corporate shill from 3D Realms wrote:
You're supposed to believe the real answer. Why put out a demo when everyone was going to buy the game anyway? Why give people and excuse to not buy it. Now that sales are slowing....it's time for a demo. Actually makes a lot of sense to me.

Lack of a demo prior to release probably sold a TON more Diablo 2's.


So is that the twisted logic you'll be using for Duke Forever?
#14 by "Johan"
2001-01-03 09:46:30
johan@innerloop.no
Main text:

It has been six months since Diablo II was released. Since then it has been plagued by complaints of bugs, character imbalances and gameplay quirks.

It has been "plagued by complaints?" Well duh. Name a high-profile game that hasn't.

I played through the game just fine on version 1.00, and so did two friends of mine.


Peace,

-Johan
#15 by "arasmus"
2001-01-03 10:31:01
arasmus@mad.scientist.com
I don't really have a problem with companies doing this.  If they want to wait until after a game is released to issue a demo, fine by me.  So long as they know that there is a very good chance that I won't buy that game until I've either played the demo or said game is in the bargain bin.  As far as tweaked demos go, I haven't seen it myself yet, and I hope not to.  This, I think would be the worst thing for a company to do, and would cause me not to buy from them again.  Even if it were to happen, I'm lucky in that the store where I buy has a very good return policy, so I don't get burned any longer.
  On the subject of tests, if the companies site says that it's a test, and lists things that maybe wrong or missing, I take that into account when I play it.  I have no reason to believe they're lying or trying to mislead me.  I played the first Q3A test, and it felt like one.  The demo however, imho, played much better.
  I guess what it comes down to for me is that I trust a company/developer until I'm given a reason not to.  I don't have a great deal of money to spend on games, so I take the time to play the demos/tests, read reviews, and ask friends that I trust about a game before I buy.  Doing that, coupled with a store with a good return policy, and customers shouldn't get burned as often.  After all, you make the final decision to buy that game.
#16 by "the_reformed_pianist"
2001-01-03 11:37:29
pianist@canada.com
It has been six months since Diablo II was released. Since then it has been plagued by complaints of bugs, character imbalances and gameplay quirks.


Like the quirk where hax0rizers could play as anyone's character, leading to much virtual killing and stealing. That was quirky.
#17 by "Finn"
2001-01-03 11:40:24
finnberry@hotmail.com
Not a bad article.
I wish all game were released when they are truly done. But that is rarely the case. Besides who want to release a buggy demo in the hope people will say "it's only a demo the full game will work". I think not a buggy demo mean people play, crash then uninstall.
I hope the phrase "when it's done" means what it says :)


Finn..
#18 by "WarrenMarshall"
2001-01-03 11:51:15
warren@epicgames.com
Finn (#17):
I wish all game were released when they are truly done.

Not to be a stick in the mud ... but what qualifies as "truly done"?  When it runs on 75% of all possible hardware/software/etc configurations in the world?  80%?  90%?

If you're going to say 100%, then what you're saying is you don't want any game to ever ship.  :-/

---

Warren Marshall
Level Designer/Programmer/Corporate Shill
Epic Games (www.epicgames.com)<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#19 by "the_reformed_pianist"
2001-01-03 12:07:19
pianist@canada.com
That'd be neat.

It would be cool if everyone just stopped shipping games for a whole year. I'm sick of them, just... just stop. We have enough. It wouldn't even disrupt Valve, Lionhead or 3drealms.
#20 by "PHroot"
2001-01-03 13:03:04
david.h.hanratty@alcatel.com
I rushed out and bought Unreal the day it was released in the UK, got it home and found that as I had a Cyrix processor, (at the time, ughh) the game wouldn't run at all.  It would run on my mates Intel 200 but he had no 3d acceleration so it ran like pants.

To say I was a little let down, well......
#21 by "Ozymandis"
2001-01-03 13:28:51
rcrisl1@gl.umbc.edu
Warren:
I think that Unreal 1 had Software, Glide, and PowerSGL support, not Metal.  But I'm too lazy to dig out my Unreal CD and see.  I had a Matrox M3d, and I think it was supported.  I could be wrong.

Good article Andy, except Quake3 was quite buggy when it was released I think.
#22 by "BloodKnight"
2001-01-03 14:52:17
bloodknight@somethingawful.com
<b>GeorgeBroussard</b> (#6):
<quote>Lack of a demo prior to release probably sold a TON more Diablo 2's.</quote>

Diablo already has a rabid fanbase, wouldn't be suprised if the 2nd one was popular.  Same with Quake, who cares about the quality of the game, its just the name it counts

You think a lot of people would give a damn about DNF if Duke Nukem 3d was never made :)
<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#23 by "BloodKnight"
2001-01-03 14:54:31
bloodknight@somethingawful.com
<b>CliffyB_EPIC</b> (#12):
<quote>Show me a PC developer that has released a bug-free game and I'll show you a company that has failed to innovate. It sucks, but it's the truth.
</quote>

Not bug free but I wouldn't really needed a patch to play this game = Heroes of Might and Magic 3.

<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#24 by "AshRain"
2001-01-03 15:26:24
ikhier@wish.net
I wouldn't call HoMM3 innovative. In fact it was almost an exact copy of the second part. Just different/more monsters and some small interface/gameplay improvements.
#25 by "BloodKnight"
2001-01-03 15:38:27
bloodknight@somethingawful.com
It got me into the turn based genre, and I hated those types of games before :)
<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#26 by "BloodKnight"
2001-01-03 15:38:48
bloodknight@somethingawful.com
Probably a matter of taste, some people like Unreal better then Q3, some people don't
<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#27 by "Durzel"
2001-01-03 15:56:05
durzel@barrysworld.com
The only game I personally remember being so bug-ridden that you were unable to even play it in single-player mode was Sin.  You can play through Diablo 2 from start to finish in single-player mode without experiencing any of the so-called show-stopping bugs and exploits that await you when you enter the multiplayer arena.  Likewise back in the days when I didn't even have a 'Net connection, I played Unreal single-player through to the finish - oblivious to the netcode being allegedly "bad".  And do you know what?.. it didn't crash once.

Nowadays I would consider the multiplayer component of most games as almost an entirely seperate entity to the single-player element, and since the vast majority of people playing the multiplayer aspect of the game will have 'Net access of some sort - it naturally makes sense that the focus of the development go on ensuring the single-player side of things are running smoothly, before worrying about every little nuance of the netcode (which can be fixed in patches at a later date).
#28 by "Vengeance"
2001-01-03 16:11:56
rhiggi@home.com
<b>#18</b> "WarrenMarshall" wrote...
<quote><B>Finn</B> (#17):

<quote>I wish all game were released when they are truly done. </quote>
Not to be a stick in the mud ... but what qualifies as "truly done"? When it runs on 75% of all possible hardware/software/etc configurations in the world? 80%? 90%?

If you're going to say 100%, then what you're saying is you don't want any game to ever ship. :-/

---

Warren Marshall
Level Designer/Programmer/Corporate Shill
Epic Games (www.epicgames.com)</quote>

Ahh, The Great Excuse, we meet again.

The big question is what are you as a developer satisfied with?  40%,  50%, 75%, going once....  And how do you know thats right?  Do you shake the CD case and say "Hmmm, this here feels like its about an 80 per, runs real good on my machine too"?  Or "it occasionally crashes on my system, I've developed an algorithm based on playing time versus lockups, that say occasional crashes equals <b>running</b> on about 90% of machines most of the time".  Or... do you just guess and then after the fact determine how succesfull it was?

OR
Do you release when you <i>think</i> its good enough to generate the profits you want, buggy or not, and then repeat The Great Excuse mantra so you can sleep better at night?

If someone says 75%, how could you possibly test 75% of all possibile configurations?  You might come close with a public beta but theres no easy way to know if its 75% of <b>all</b> possible configurations.  Whos going to spend the money on that testing?  No one.

It just a justification.  I'll grant you there are some merits there, it really would be inpossible to test for 100% (or any %) of configurations, but its not like if everyone agreed on a particular percentage you'd give the QA guys the green light to buy XX% of all hardware/software on the market and run it all randomly and yet cover every scenerio while testing.  You're not really asking for a goal are you.

Nope, you'll test until you get to the point where you think you can generate a profit, possibly the highest profit possible (can I get an Amen), and then through that puppy out the door.  That will mean a polished product for one developer and a virus for another.

Maybe QA has progressed far beyond my understanding, and you can test 83.5% of all configurations.  Or some close approximation.  Maybe companies do this ... but I doubt it.  I certainly haven't seen it, otherwise there wouldn't be show stoppers (that effect nearly 100% of all configurations, woo hoo).  

I haven't seen it mentioned on a box anywhere either.  Right under recomended hardware "Using the above recomended hardware, we've calculated: 15.68% chance that our software will work <i>near</i> perfect TM for you,  87.43% chance that you will experience occasional crashes that loose data and never go away, 94.67% chance that you will experience minor difficulties (minor crashes, no loss of data) that never go away but will spend on average 6 hours trying to correct the problem (tech support and downloading drivers, patches, etc.)"

Now <b>that</b> would be hilarious.

V<i><b></b></i><i></i><i></i>
#29 by "godZero"
2001-01-03 16:34:35
godzero@gmx.de
#7  Warren:

I remember some bugs. The game wouldn't run on Cyrix CPU's, so there was a patch. It had some memory leaks, too. There was no Metal support there, it was PowerVR. It wasn't compatible to PowerVR2, though. Glide worked for V1/2 only, not for V3/Banshee. After a few patches, PVR was completely broken and Metal, D3D, OGL and the cracked Matrox D3D patch came in. There was more that I could think of.

I believe the biggest problem was that the game needed better hardware, which wasn't there yet when the game came out. Most machines had 16-32 MB RAM, only the hardcore bunch had 64. The machines were simply too weak back then.

It is still one of the best games ever and despite all the bugs I really enjoyed it. If a game is that good, things can be forgiven.

And now stop wasting your time on PlanetCrap. You should finish Unreal2/next-gen-whatever, yesterday if possible,  so we can finally play a REAL game again instead of drooling over some cheap redhad with "funky" clothing :-)
#30 by "PainKilleR"
2001-01-03 16:34:41
painkiller@planetfortress.com
<b>Durzel</b> (#27):
<quote>The only game I personally remember being so bug-ridden that you were unable to even play it in single-player mode was Sin. You can play through Diablo 2 from start to finish in single-player mode without experiencing any of the so-called show-stopping bugs and exploits that await you when you enter the multiplayer arena. </quote>

Show-stopping bugs are just that when they do effect you. The first time I tried to run Diablo 2 it crashed back to desktop before displaying the first Blizzard animation. Nevermind the complete ass that was (and probably still is) the Diablo 2 realms. Note that both problems (the crash was caused by running the game in Direct3d on a 64MB video card) were well noted to Blizzard during the beta tests, and neither problem was fixed before release (and I wouldn't be surprised if many of the problems with the Realms not being able to handle traffic still haven't been fixed either). The betas were specifically to test the Realms, so I can somewhat understand them ignoring reports of actual game bugs, but I can't understand in the least how they didn't see the problems with Realm traffic coming. In any case, there's probably a good chance the latest Diablo 2 patch will be on the same magazine CD that includes the Diablo 2 demo.

As for Quake 2, it had a test version long before the game came out, and it didn't run very well on my machine, so I was one of the lucky ones that bought Quake 2 right before they released the final patch.

It's a good article, but I think Andy's caught with the Unreal thing. Andy, remember how many times you've said a game wasn't THAT buggy on release if YOU could run it through single player on release, now realize there're a lot of people around here that ran Unreal just fine on release, but we all know the netcode sucked for people with dial-up.

Oh, and the Half-life demo came out quite a bit after release, with no multiplayer portion that I remember (and remember the multiplayer was probably the worst part of Half-life on it's release), comprised of a level that wasn't even finished when Half-life was released (and therefore was not included in the game, there's even a downloadable version of the demo for players that own the game already). Does this mean that Half-life's single player had something they were trying to hide so much that they didn't even use a level from the shipped game and they waited until the bugs were fixed, or does it just mean something else entirely? Oh, and I know that Half-life still has bugs to this day, but I also know that most of them can be worked around, and that Valve's still working on the game ;)

-PainKilleR-[CE]
#31 by "godZero"
2001-01-03 16:42:42
godzero@gmx.de
Let's be honest: all cards except 3dfx were crap back then. It's perfectly normal they had problems. By the time nVidia and ATI had good cards out there, Unreal was over one year old. You wouldn't honestly expect any company to rewrite an one year old game so it will work with two new (and still a bit crappy) pieces of hardware just for the sake of it...

Every game which is a bit ahead of its time will suffer the same problems. With 3dfx disappearing, the manufacturers have only nVidia and ATI in sight. These two are pretty much the same, I mean feature-wise, so it will get better.
#32 by "SteveBauman"
2001-01-03 17:01:24
steve@manic-pop-thrills.com
But if they decide to buy the game, they'll be getting the incomplete, buggy version that was released six months ago. And they won't have easy access to patches.

Saying Diablo II is "incomplete and buggy" is the worst sort of tabloid journalism. How is it incomplete? What levels could not be finished? What features did not work?

And have you read the bug lists? They're mostly very, very difficult to reproduce combinations that would likely never be found until hundreds of thousands of people played the game. And most of the patches have been for battle.net games; those people have a right to complain about a buggy game, but your basic assertion is based on people who don't have net connections and cannot update their game. So your statement about it being buggy is flawed.

Also did you check with Blizzard that all copies of Diablo II are indeed the 1.0 version? Do you know for a fact that Blizzard has not done a single reprint of the game with an updated version?
#33 by "Xerxes"
2001-01-03 17:40:21
becker_jason@yahoo.com
This is another aspect where the Internet leads to more false assertaions I think. Yes, no game(especially a complicated 3D based one ) is bug free these days. It's just a fact of the PC, and the one advantage conosles will probably always have over them. But people take one small part game, or some people have a complaint and then it gets posted on a hundred gameing/hardware related sites and then its all of a sudden a crisis. For example Diablo 2, wasn't perfect, but its only WIDESPREAD problem was crappy b.net play, but the single player game was perfectly fine for the VAST majority of people. When you get a million plus copies out there guess what? some people will have problems. This isn't an excuse for developers/publishers becase there have been many times when bugs that are so obvious, but where just simply let go for the time being to get a game out the door for Christmas or some dealine and then gamers paid the price for it. Sin was mentioned before as one. This game was horrid on release and was just pathetic that the publishers just put it out in the state it was in.

For me I ususally wait until after a game has been out for a month or so myself(except for a few titles) since I know at least one patch if not more will be released for it. My pattern when purchasing a game is bring it home, and while opening up the package to browse the manual I'll be downoading the patch for it. Wish it wasn;t this way but it is, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.
#34 by "Therac"
2001-01-03 17:47:42
zenfnord@hotmail.com
BTW, LAN play with Diablo II was also broken.  Not that anyone cares about that anymore, though.  (Speaking only from personal experience, of course, but we had 3 Tiny God systems and couldn't get it working crash free together.)
#35 by "Sgt_Hulka"
2001-01-03 17:54:34
rwaring@ameritech.net
I can't get Unreal Tournament to run on my system, I suck.
Unreal SP was mega cool and did run
I like cheese.

BTW: CNet is shuting it's doors on it's gaming alliance.  That means I have no banner ads again, 2nd time in a year!  First FGN, now CNET.  From what I hear, UGO and GSI are having a hard time selling ads too.

I guess I'll have to wait on my new car for another year.
#36 by "webrunner"
2001-01-03 17:56:52
046105s@acadiau.ca
Getting a demo before the game helps quell the wait... take, for example, the Homeworld demo- it came out a full month before the game..and there weren't any 'widespread' showstopper bugs in the Multiplayer beta either (which I Was gladly a part... they sent me 2 CDs though, I never quite figured that out)
Getting to try the single player was great.. seeing the scripted sequences for the first time was breathtaking.
#37 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 18:05:09
andy@meejahor.com
<b>SteveBauman</b> (#32):
<quote>
Saying Diablo II is "incomplete and buggy" is the worst sort of tabloid journalism.
</quote>
You're right, I got a bit carried away.
#38 by "BabiG"
2001-01-03 19:49:33
yankeebabu@india.com

but I can't understand in the least how they didn't see the problems with Realm traffic coming.


I can. I mean they had a 100,000 person beta test, and on the last day they sent out an email to everyone to get on all at once, and I'd say a large majority did. To put it in perspective, Quake3 and UT each have about 3000-4000 people playing at any one time according to gamespy, and that traffic is spread across 2000 or so servers for each game. Quake3 and UT weren't sales-slouches either, yet they were testing for about 25x their player capacity on only a few servers...and it went relatively smoothly, at least from what I could tell. Even Counterstrike, the king of online popularity it would seem, gets about 20,000 people at once (spread across 4000ish servers of course)...I don't think many people predicted diablo 2 would have more then 5x that number of people playing it online the first week...most people who bought it never tried out the multiplayer part of diablo1, ever.
#39 by "BabiG"
2001-01-03 19:52:22
yankeebabu@india.com

...most people who bought it never tried out the multiplayer part of diablo1, ever.


I should say, most people who bought Diablo1 never tried the multiplayer portion of it, ever.
#40 by "VictimsWrongs"
2001-01-03 19:54:49
victimswrongs@hotmail.com
I think the basic premise of this thread, that developers manipulate demo releases by naming or timing to best show off their product, is accurate. Do I think this is a bad thing? NO. Caveat Emptor holds whether you're a game community junkie that visits the ShugaShack five times a day and has Carmack's email address memorized, or Joe Six Pack with your Gateway heading off to CompUSA to pick up that one game that you saw on TV. YOU are responsible for knowing about what you're buying.

Heh I can just picture an Andy clone over on his PlanetCrap clone site in the "home electronics" online community ranting about how RCA is fucking people by saying their MM36100 TV "is great for watching DVDs" even though it doesn't support anamorphic playback. Guess what, Andy clone... I DON'T NEED YOU. I researched the TV, found out what I needed to know, and didn't buy it. And I don't even visit the HomeElectronicsShack ten times a day.

I'd also like to point out that I've bought an ENORMOUS amount of games in the last couple years, and can't think of a single one that I was so pissed at that I took it back or whatever. This nonstop ranting amuses me... it must suck to not enjoy games.
#41 by "SteveBauman"
2001-01-03 20:01:43
steve@manic-pop-thrills.com
As more games are released without demos, broadband Net access becomes more widely available and DVD recorders drop to within a reasonable domestic price range, game piracy is going to increase.

Since you've made an absolute statement ("game piracy is going to increase"), where are your facts to back this up? Do you have stats? Hell, even a few anecdotes?

More tabloid journalism... tsk tsk...
#42 by "PainKilleR"
2001-01-03 20:04:39
painkiller@planetfortress.com
<b>BabiG</b> (#38):
<quote>I can. I mean they had a 100,000 person beta test, and on the last day they sent out an email to everyone to get on all at once, and I'd say a large majority did. To put it in perspective, Quake3 and UT each have about 3000-4000 people playing at any one time according to gamespy, and that traffic is spread across 2000 or so servers for each game. Quake3 and UT weren't sales-slouches either, yet they were testing for about <B>25x</B> their player capacity on only a few servers...and it went relatively smoothly, at least from what I could tell. Even Counterstrike, the king of online popularity it would seem, gets about 20,000 people at once (spread across 4000ish servers of course)...I don't think many people predicted diablo 2 would have more then 5x that number of people playing it online the first week...most people who bought it never tried out the multiplayer part of diablo1, ever.</quote>

Several people I know were on the first semi-public beta, and a couple of them reported constant problems with access to the Realms. I was on the final semi-public beta, and had a few problems with access to the Realms. I also never received an email asking me to be on the Realms at any particular time. Everyone I knew that tested the thing expressed concern that there would be problems unless they expanded the number of servers in a ratio fairly close to the ratio of the number of testers to the number of pre-orders for the game, simply because battle.net, from the day it was opened with Diablo 1's release, has had more players than almost any other multiplayer service/game (and the numbers far exceeded Counterstrike, even then).

100,000 is a lot of testers, double the number of people that play Counterstrike on a given day, but everyone was aware that they'd be looking at more than 10x that amount when the game shipped. I guess Blizzard didn't see it coming, though. Diablo 1's success was in a large part in thanks to the battle.net portion of the game, which was also responsible for it being delayed past Christmas of that particular year. Blizzard knows what their sales figures are like, and they should have a good idea of what their battle.net traffic is like (I understand the StarCraft incidents with Korean sales, there's no way they could've been prepared for that, but that should've been something they learned from and that directly applied to this).

One thing, though, is that I hope they can learn from their mistake this time and that they not only improve the battle.net performance (it was horrible the last time I played Diablo 2, I hope they've improved it in the last month), but that they don't make the same mistakes with Warcraft 3 and whatever Blizzard North will be working on after the Diablo 2 expansion. They can afford to make a few mistakes here, but I don't think they can afford to continue making these kinds of mistakes.

-PainKilleR-[CE]
#43 by "Monkey_Butler"
2001-01-03 20:11:01
wash@sirius.com
Quake 3 also had a test months before the retail game.  To say it showed up on shelves outta nowhere, squeaky clean, would be incorrect.
#44 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 20:13:02
andy@meejahor.com
<b>SteveBauman</b> (#41):
<quote>
Since you've made an absolute statement ("game piracy is going to increase"), where are your facts to back this up? Do you have stats? Hell, even a few anecdotes?
</quote>
It's an assumption, and a perfectly valid one.

If you don't agree, go and write an article about how broadband and DVD recorders are going to reduce piracy. Is that what you believe?
#45 by "SteveBauman"
2001-01-03 20:13:10
steve@manic-pop-thrills.com
By the way, I'm pointing out the tabloid-y qualities because this is effectively the same sort of scare story Andy has accused others of doing. It's essentially a threat that if companies don't release demos ahead of a game's release, or if they don't exactly represent the final boxed product (whether patched or not), they will pay.

Telling gamers to expect a buggy game if a demo isn't released ahead of time is ludicrous; just as you're not obligated to buy a game, they're not obligated to produce a demo, and the lack of a demo is no indication of a game's quality, or lack thereof. If you require a game have a demo before purchasing it, don't buy the game. It's as simple as that. Sheesh, people act like they don't have a choice here... "Wahh, I can't try out Diablo II, Blizzard is trying to hide it from me..." Just like they did with StarCraft and Diablo. And Westwood has always done. (The Sims didn't have a demo either... funny how Diablo II, The Sims and Red Alert 2 are top-sellers...)

These are company policies. They produce the demo after the game has been released; it re-energizes the title at retail somewhat, though the vast majority of a game's sales still comes in the first month or so. And it doesn't cut into development time of trying to produce a solid and as bug-free as possible retail product, which is probably more important than a demo.
#46 by "SteveBauman"
2001-01-03 20:18:31
steve@manic-pop-thrills.com
It's an assumption, and a perfectly valid one.

It is a perfectly valid assumption worded as a statement of absolute fact. "Game piracy IS going to increase," as opposed to "Game piracy is likely to increase."

Game piracy IS likely to increase with increased broadband, but it has nothing to do with the release, or non-release, of demos. To try to link the two is a stretch, or its taking the pirate's justification at face value. It ignores one thing: If people can download free games quickly, they'll download free games, regardless of the availability of a demo or its quality.
#47 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 20:22:03
andy@meejahor.com
<b>SteveBauman</b> (#45):
<quote>
Telling gamers to expect a buggy game if a demo isn't released ahead of time is ludicrous; just as you're not obligated to buy a game, they're not obligated to produce a demo, and the lack of a demo is no indication of a game's quality, or lack thereof. If you require a game have a demo before purchasing it, don't buy the game. It's as simple as that. Sheesh, people act like they don't have a choice here... "Wahh, I can't try out Diablo II, Blizzard is trying to hide it from me..." Just like they did with StarCraft and Diablo. And Westwood has always done. (The Sims didn't have a demo either... funny how Diablo II, The Sims and Red Alert 2 are top-sellers...)

These are company policies. They produce the demo after the game has been released; it re-energizes the title at retail somewhat, though the vast majority of a game's sales still comes in the first month or so. And it doesn't cut into development time of trying to produce a solid and as bug-free as possible retail product, which is probably more important than a demo.
</quote>
This quoted text is one viewpoint.

The article I posted is the other viewpoint.

Just as you're entitled to present your viewpoint as fact in your magazine, I'm entitled to present mine as fact here. You believe yours, and I believe mine.

Oh, but that means my view is "tabloid" and a "scare story", doesn't it? Whereas yours is the gospel truth and nobody should challenge it. Yes?
#48 by "Andy"
2001-01-03 20:31:50
andy@meejahor.com
<b>SteveBauman</b> (#46):
<quote>
It is a perfectly valid assumption worded as a statement of absolute fact. "Game piracy IS going to increase," as opposed to "Game piracy is likely to increase."
</quote>
That's how I'd have written it for a paper/magazine or a more mainstream site, but this is a grass-roots site and I wanted to write in the way that I would talk to people. No apologies if that doesn't fit a particular journalistic standard.
#49 by "PainKilleR"
2001-01-03 20:38:07
painkiller@planetfortress.com
<b>SteveBauman</b> (#45):
<quote>Sheesh, people act like they don't have a choice here... "Wahh, I can't try out Diablo II, Blizzard is trying to hide it from me..." Just like they did with StarCraft and Diablo.</quote>

Actually, Blizzard had a demo out for Diablo before it's release. The difference between the interfaces is notable, too, because they did change the game slightly between release of the demo and the retail version. I don't really remember if Starcraft has a demo and whether or not it was released before the full game, but I wouldn't be surprised if both were true. They most likely aren't trying to hide anything, it's just not what they've always done.

-PainKilleR-[CE]
#50 by "webrunner"
2001-01-03 20:51:11
046105s@acadiau.ca
I beleive the starcraft demo came out after, but it had levels that weren't in the full game (a few terran missions set on Mar Sara, before the protoss burned it)
you can download them from Blizzard, they're called the "Precursor Campaign"

Anyway, I yearn for the days to return that getting a demo meant getting a full quarter of the entire game, only without editing support.  Remember Quake?  Doom?
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