Transition, Ship, and Point Release - Game Developing

This chapter illustrates that shipping a game is not a single event in time where the gold master is handed over for duplication; rather it is a phase that starts as far back as first playable, through alpha and beta testing, through final candidate, and on into commercial release. For PC games there is often the compelling need to patch and balance your game post-release. The largest PC games in the industry, the massively multiplayer games, perform the greatest amounts of post-release work. That is why they have not only what are called transition plans to go from development to release, but they have transition teams to hand off the project to a live team.

Console games have had to live up to a much higher standard of quality in the late 1990s as compared to PC games, as there was no opportunity to patch a game after release. The strongest PC developers and publishers release games of the same or even higher quality standards of a console game and do not rely on post-release patching. Rather, companies like Blizzard and id Software use point releases as an opportunity to offer additional content, fine-tuned balance based on customer feedback, and the occasional bug fix for a particular piece of hardware incompatibility. Increasingly, as PC games incorporate more multiplayer and online gameplay, the postrelease patches are often required to perform critical cheat-prevention measures. Now that consoles such as the Xbox are shipping with hard drives, it will be interesting to see if publishers have the stamina to remain as rigorous as they have in the past or if they start to slip and offer post-release support that starts off with additional content and later degrades into mere patches.

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