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Supreme Cmdr

UC Dev Status - Ship it or give it another month?

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I know this is unconventional, but then again, this is me we're talking about.

Hopefully, DC won't get too pissed. Its like this...

The game was supposed to go Gold on 11/10/03. It didn't, simply because I felt that it wasn't ready. Under normal circumstances, the average publisher won't give a toss and since they usually either (a) own the rights to their games (B) rule their third-party devs with an iron fist, they would have put a game like this in a box, shipped it, then released a patch shortely thereafter.

Lucky for me, DC are not the average publisher and whether or not they are throwing darts at a picture of me back at the ranch, while supporting my stance of releasing a game that is as bug free as possible, is irrelevant at this point.

Given my history for taking the fall for the silly things that publishers do, since the Take 2 fiasco of 1996, I have always maintained ownership to my IP and strict control over my products. In other words, it won't ship unless I ship it. This has been the case with Interplay's BC3K v2.0 in 1998, the EB exclusive of BCM in 2000 and the subsequent BCM Gold released by Dreamcatcher in March this year. The release of UC is no different.

During the weeks leading to 11/10/03, I advised DC that the game wasn't ready to ship and that I wasn't going to burn a final GM, nor did I have any intentions of shipping it. Naturally, they weren't very pleased about it, especially since we subsequently lost a substantial retail order by missing the Christmas ship period. According to DC, this game is highly anticipated by the retailers.

As you all know, the PC gaming industry is shrinking and it is becoming more and more difficult to fund and develop these games, let alone compete for shelf space. The refocus and rebranding of BCG to UC is one such indication.

When you find good niche offerings like the recently released X2 being scarse in the channel, you know something's very, very wrong and its not going to get better, regardless of whether or not Doom3 or HL2 ship in our lifetime. OK, no DNF jokes this time.

Bearing this in mind and given the substantial amount of money that I have invested in this game, releasing it with known issues would be a death knell and all the 2+ months of additional work which went into diverging from BCG to UC, would be for nought.

As it stands, the game is not GM ready. It is very, very close, but not as close as I'd like it to be. For this reason, I am still not at GM (Gold Master) status yet - though, depending on the decisions made before Christmas, GM could be a reality within the next 7-10 days.

I know for a fact that DC - like another publisher - aren't very happy about slippage. But as always, while I do sympathize, this product is critical for my company and too much time, effort, resources and energy have been buried into it at this point. If my company is ever going to deliver on the plans I had for this game, recoup its development costs for almost two years worth of development, let alone recoup DC's production and development investment, the out-of-box experience for this game has to scream out things like polished!, come play me!, dayummm!, whoa!!! when is the sequel coming out?!? when you install and play it. Not stuff like Derek, you b*tch!! or Damn, if only they had another month and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, let me assure you of one thing, the publisher doesn't stand a chance of losing a single penny on this game, if I shipped it tomorrow, next week or next quarter.

Its all on me and I have risked alienating my publisher with my stubborn stance in this regard. Publishers don't like developers calling the shots, but again I am lucky in that DC has allowed me to do what I feel is in the best interests of the game and both our companies - whether or not they are entirely happy or not, is another matter entirely - and one which is totally irrelevant to me. I don't thrive on promises and goodwill. I have always thrived on results and payment for my work - thats why I do what I do. Remember also that we signed this deal in December '02, which means that DC would have received a game of this calibre, in under 12 months (we started working on it a year earlier). This, unless you are doing the next rubbish value title, is unheard of in the industry. And the switch from BCG to UC, added 2+ months of additional development time.

So, since you are the core audience, I am going to pose to you a question. The results of this poll will determine whether or not this game goes Gold in its current state or does so in around mid to end of January 2004. Either way, I want to hear your feedback and lets go from there. I will make my final decision by Monday.

The question is simple, given what you see in the RC version control file, would you like the game to be declared GM ready or would you rather wait for the critical issues outlined in the pending sections, resolved.

Remember one thing, regardless of what happens, I can still declare the game GM, but it will be up to DC to actually release it.

And while reading that file, think about this, in addition to those entries you see there, 29 other issues were resolved since 11-10-03. Meaning that had the game been declared GM for Christmas, everything in the Beta list and indeed this RC candidate list, would have been in a patch. And yes, there were several show stopping bugs in recent Beta builds. And the one you see in the RC (related to rebuild objects) was a definite show stopper when playing on the planet.

That is all

EDIT: Earlier today - funny enough shortly after I posted this poll - I got word from DC that the build they had [RC1] was good enough to go Gold, once they received my RC2 patch. Naturally, that was a surprise to me. As soon as I had gotten over my surprise (I remember laughing at one point), I contacted them. Let me say this again. The game [uC] is not GM ready as of this minute. Hopefully next week, once - with DC's co-operation - I make my final decision before going on vacation.

ps: The next person who posts any publisher bashing rhetoric in this thread - or ANYWHERE on this site - is getting banned forever. NO EXCEPTIONS!

[ 12-17-2003, 08:48 PM: Message edited by: Supreme Cmdr ]

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Guest rtoolooze

I think you know how we, the core audience, feels about this S.C. We want it released only when you are satisfied with releasing it. We have come to respect your decision on this matter.

I say release it when YOU feel its ready, and if right now it "aint ready", then wait till it is. Whats a few weeks anyway.

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As was already stated I think you know our stance on the matter, Derek. I would rather wait a month for you to release a polished product than have one that isn't up to your standards.

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Quite a dilemma.

Working on your side is the fact many other high-quality PC games are also pushing back their release dates. So you won't be in the penalty box all by yourself. You also have a core group of BC gamers who will stand by you and buy Universal Combat whenever it comes out.

I'm not in Marketing so I won't even try to guess how much revenue will be lost by skipping a Christmas delivery date. By now, it probably doesn't matter anyway; you'd only be selling to last-minute shoppers.

I can't think of many games I've bought, over the last couple of years, that wasn't buggy when it was first released. But, by the time I'd installed most any of them, patches were already available for download (Silent Hunter being the ugly exception). Of course, if an Internet connection isn't available to the purchaser....

And the bugs in UC are known problems. Granted, most bugs in other games are probably also known ... but you've already confessed ... admitted to the bugs. Which really puts you on the spot.

Even if you could build a patch and have it out before the end of the year, you must still consider those buyers who don't have access to the Net. And, since many of the bugs are single-player related, the impact (and resulting dissatisfaction) would be great.

This game could be the greatest thing since the refrigerator. I'd wait until everyone is tired of X-2, go balls to the wall, and work out the last few kinks. If Dreamcatcher gets fidgety, tell 'em to use their time to properly advertise your product.

Good luck.

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Yes, I know I'm never seen, but I am still a lurker. And I've been looking forward to this game since it was announced. But I'm sick and tired of companies releasing their games before they're done. MOO3 was delayed way too many times, and when they released it, it was obvious that it was released because of popular demand. and it sucked. Then there's Star wars Galaxies, released without MAJOR features. I think the only reason anyone still plays SWG is because it's Star wars.

Every time I read one of SC's posts, I usually muter to myself, "This is how developers should act." If you can perfect this game, perfect it. I'll wait, I'll buy it once it hits the shelves. It's worth it to receive a perfect game later, rather than a bug riddled game now.

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Hi,

i've voted for release ASAP. The way I see it the pending issues are not that bad. Also even a slightly buggy BC game is gazillion times better than the average game. I'm now tired of X2 (and it's forced failure scenarios) and really need something else to get myself into. and after losing my long time crew in BCMG to a nasty moon crash!

Any pending issues can be sorted by patch!

Peter

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I'll keep it short.

Derek, as a member of the "core players" of the BC series, I appreciate you presenting this question to the community and asking for our opinions.

With that said, I voted to give it another month. I've learned to trust what you say and I know that with another month of time you can make a good thing great.

Thats all from me.

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Guest Remo Williams

I like the rest say give it a month to work out what few remaining issues there are in the VCF. A month will fly by considering all the other software most of us are going to get at Christmas to mess with.

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Well, I think I am in line w/ the majority of your other players, though I rarely post (I'm more of a troll than a poster)

I would like to quote something from the Master of Orion 3 Forum. Source can be found here.

quote:

First off, to make certain this thread is legal and on topic, I want to say that I for the most part am a supporter of MOO3, and that aside from some really bad choices and customer support on the part of Infogrammes/atari that it is at the very least a decent game. Post patch, most everything in MOO3 works as intended, and if you don't like the game at this point, it is probably more of a personal taste issue than a faulty product thing.


Wow, that about took me outa my chair to read that on their official board!!!

I would understand if you released it for the Christmas rush, I mean, developing software is your job and you do a fine job (love my Questar If we have to download a patch, so be it. Annoying but from your perspective, not terribly bad, though I would prefer to get my game out of the box, put it into my non-networked computer and start playing

One thing that's worth mentioning is that some websites that preview/review UC may or may not download the patches... Just a thought

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I'm not a "loyal" supporter and I have been a sometimes critic. On the otherside I bought and own every BC game. This game WILL NEVER BE FLAWLESS. It's too sophisticated and complex. Even if you wait a year you, I, and the world KNOW you will issue patches and enhancements. [care to bet?] It is your nature. The current bugs are minor. Trees are for hiding! Fix the "drive through" bug later. etc. etc.

I realize that i'll be in the minority around here but like you "SC" I'll survive. If you're accurate in what you say i.e. that you spent a lot of money and the bugs, while annoying, will cause you to miss the best market time. Either way i'll buy it but IMHO you are "less than wise" to hold it now.

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See itÔÇÖs very tough. Based on the few bugs that are left, instinctively i would say release it, and work on a patch. Living with Dumb AI, and non crash detection for ground vehicles is more than livable until Late January.

But by the same token, since it wouldn't make it to shelves by Christmas i could see why you want to wait.

As always the final decision is yours Derek, but consider that in the RC listing you already stated that the 4th and 5th problem was going to be sent in a post release patch, so thatÔÇÖs not going to go into the CD if it were fixed. Also, the 2nd "bug" is only an annoyance, its not like it has a real effect on game play.

And the 3rd bug eventually corrects it self, seeing as how it is not a forever loop of NPCs walking into trees, I don't see it causing a big problem.

The 1st bug, sure itÔÇÖs a problem, but since the player isn't prevented from re-entering the server, itÔÇÖs not something that needs to be redone before going GM.

I hope our comments help your decision

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I'll say what I think most are saying here. Personally, I'd love to have the game released now, with the existing issues because I know you'll support the product post-release and I could give a damn that some features may not be ready. So for me, there's no downside to getting it now.

But then there's the "whats best for the franchise", and thats where I defer to your better judgement because only you know whether UC is better off releasing "out of the box" more polished with additional development time.

Thanks for asking your fans!

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Take the xtra dev time playa... The kids at the pub-firm will like it better if the fans are happy with the product.

peace!

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Personally, I think SC should wait. Not only is UC's purpose to sell to the core audience, but it also is a great opportunity to attract new customers. That said, we all know how much people love to smash SC, and if UC has ANY bugs in it, I have no doubt that game reviewers and such will throw his ass on the fire for it, which will naturally repel anyone else from getting the game. Now, perhaps its just me, but it seems that very few people are fans of the Battlecruiser series. It seems UC's big draw that a lot of us are looking forward to is the multiplayer. Don't get me wrong, I like this community and all, but it's going to get mighty boring playing with the same 10 people.

So in summary, wait and make the game as bugfree as you can in a realistic period of time.

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I also vote to release in Jan 04. I'd like for the game to be as polished as possible! I believe this will be the Crown Jewel of the Battlecruiser series( up to this point!!!), and want the game to reflect that!

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I know I am going against the grain here, but I think you should release it now. The VCF does not look that drastic, nor do I see any show stoppers. If the game is fun to play right now then get the XMAS business. Release a patch in four weeks to address the remaining items on the VCF. Everyone knows that you will fix any problems with the game and have a good reputation for support. However, you may get a lower rating in CGW if they have problems with the unresolved items...

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Guest BaBaBooey

The critics are going to be there regardless of whether or not this game comes out in two weeks or two months. That said, I don't think you need to hand them the brush so that they can readily paint that target on your back. I would hate to see reviewers and more importantly critics of the franchise finding vindication in petty little bugs that they can exploit to the nth degree as par for the course. Even if you went gold today the likelihood that the game ships by Xmas is nil. So, do what you have to in order to make the game work out of the box with minimal problems and rake in all of the giftcard and certificate dough post holiday.

I am being selfish here because I want this game to be well received so that the community grows and there is a lot of online action. It is better to look a little bit down the road at a payoff for the whole community as well as the developer rather than thinking of my time off during the next two weeks and how I would have loved to have been playing the game rather than reading this board. Yeah its a bummer... but life goes on.

BaBa

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Doesn't matter to me either way. It's entirely your choice SC.

DC shouldn't gripe about the delay because it was they that decided to make the left turn at Alburqurque with the name change

*snip*

No publisher bashing here please. Thank you

[ 12-17-2003, 08:12 PM: Message edited by: Supreme Cmdr ]

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Give it all the time it needs to meet your standards SC. Being around since the begining, I firmly believe that only you can determine when its ready for Prime Time.

Do it your way.

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I didn't vote, but after debating with myself a while, i came to the conclusion that i would like a release now because i could live with the bugs i read on the RC1.

However that being said, i also read that you strongly believe, as do i and most here that the game will do well anyway when released in the new and wont take too much of a hit not being released at christmas. with this in mind then i also say to wait...

but next years release will definitely better your reputation all around (keep it intact)...so thats all that matters now.

but we know that those who want to ***** will ***** anyway from here till neverland.

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quote:

Originally posted by Bandus:

...I appreciate you presenting this question to the community and asking for our opinions.


I second that. If you're not satisfied with the product as it is then give it another month. We can wait. I voted for another month.

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Whether UC is released now or in a month or two is not of primary importance to me.

What is of greatest importance is the continued support from Derek and his devteam in the long term. If UC development is anything like my projects, burnout is just something to be managed because it's going to happen...repeatedly. I would much rather see Derek and Co. wrapup whatever they deem "must fix" issues and then go off and decompress and renew (vacation, read, vegetate, family time, etc.) before addressing the VCF issues.

There will always be issues with any product of sufficient complexity, especially one that is constantly being enhanced like the BC/UC franchise. I like to think of it as a journey rather than a destination, and if Derek gets too burned out and stops enjoying his journey, it's going stop for the rest of us too. And I definitely do not want that!

So cut Derek some slack folks - I don't think we're helping him by saying "take another month" because the guy is a perfectionist; at the end of that extra month, he'll find something else to fix or enhance and be that much more burned out!

Derek, since you are soliciting input, do whatever is best from a personal and financial standpoint that will keep the BC/UC franchise alive and well. Without knowing the nitty-gritty details, I'd guess it would be better personally to release before the holidays so you can enjoy them outside of your office and more importantly create great holiday memories for your daughter.

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