Thursday, October 1, 2009

Patch Me Up Scotty

Patching is great, I love patching, no seriously, I do. In fact, just the mere thought of some new content in an enjoyable game makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And before anyone reading this objects to my disproportionate attitude toward patches, and as understandable as these objections may be, considering that they can usually signify a lazy programmer or tester. It is often at times all that’s needed in resuscitating a broken but potentially great game; let us not forget the introduction of inspired content or some desperately needed stability that a patch may promise. I’d say that as much as a patch can indicate laziness, it can equally indicate a dedicated and passionate team.

In the land of patches; there are the good, the bad and the ugly. The good introduce inspired content (either through a developers own devices or just as often it may be inspired by a true fan ranting on a forum), improve performance and features, offer compatibility, modding and a number of other great aspects. An example of a patch would be the COD 5 patches, famous for their new zombie mod maps which I especially love so very much. A good patch may also fix bugs, now I know what you may be thinking, how can a patch that counteracts bad programming be classified as a good patch? Well its simple really, no one is perfect and as such, people make mistakes in game design and creation. It’s just the nature of coding, there are too many variables to completely account for, and in fact, if a developer had to attempt to find and fix every bug that existed in a fairly complex game, it would not only never get released but would put our favourite companies out of business. And sometimes, through mostly unfortunate and unexpected circumstances, a developer may go under. When (and if) a new developer takes over, they then may find and fix bugs; alternatively however, they may also add content that the old developer may have never even considered. On the top of modding, without the developers constant reworking of a gaming engine through patches, we may never have seen some of the many great patches that now exist.

The faculties of a bad patch are often far less a reason to get overjoyed, yet they aren’t without their gains. Yes some of these patches are annoyingly large, and yes, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many of these patches could have been avoided with a little more work on the developer’s side. But I for one completely embrace and relish their existence; for one thing, without these annoying patches, there would be far more annoying bugs in one of my absolute favourite pc games, Fallout 3. Another thing that constitutes a bad patch, and I’m sure you’ll all agree; is the patches that change or remove features or tech that we otherwise wanted or enjoyed. A great example of this would be found in the game Assassin’s Creed, you see were I’m going with this don’t you? Let me explain, Assassin’s Creed originally shipped with DirectX 10.1 support, something that at the time could only be utilised by ATI graphics cards. Unfortunately, and to the annoyance of ATI (and especially HD4xxx series card owners) supporters, through bribery from the ever so greedy Nvidia, DX10.1 support was removed. But what constitutes these patches as bad and not ugly I here you say? Because as troubling as they are, I move on, by that I mean; while I may throw a bit of slander around, express something on a forum or heckle a supporter of the patch. Over time I get over it, start embracing the changes and attempt to enjoy the somewhat new experience. What we find in the belly of an ugly patch is far more deranged and demonic.

These patches are the stuff of nightmares, not only do they strike fear in the hearts of gamers, but they cause me so much pain in speaking about them that I’m going to make this as brief as possible. Ugly patches barely work; in that they never correctly detect games, registries, executables and the like. And when they do work they do nothing but make the game worse. Ok, granted that not all patches make a game worse, but they don’t do what you want either. Here is an example; you’re playing a game that is way to buggy for words, this of course indicates the pure money grubbing laziness of the developers and/or its publishers. So you decide to search online for a patch or two, fair enough, only to discover however, a multiple of ridiculously large patches which would destroy your cap in any vain attempt to download them. Fortunately you’re an avid reader of a pc gaming magazine and they have generously answered your call by supplying the patches on disc. Hooray, great, ready for a new shot at the game. Wait, hold on, something’s wrong. Because of course the patch fixes almost nothing and you’re still encountering the same stupid bugs you are originally. That is what I call an ugly patch.

Whether you decide to disagree or agree, that is up to you. But patches are here to stay; I just hope it’s a lot more of the good, rather than the bad and the ugly. From my first two posts you may assume I’m an angry gamer. I’m really not, I just get frustrated when things tamper with my most favourite of past times, and this my friends is seeming goal of most quintessential patches. gr33n_FIEND


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