No matter how diligent the QA engineers, bugs often find their way into software. Many of these bugs are small, and quickly “swatted” with a quick patch. Others can cripple functionality, which sends the developer into full-on panic mode.
It’s (relatively) rare, however, for software to hit the market riddled with so many errors that it attracts international news, a feat that the new Assassin’s Creed: Unity game managed to pull off this week.
While some of those glitches are pretty standard—a slow-to-load screen here, a problem with player collisions there—others are spectacular, including one that improperly renders the human characters’ faces, transforming them into something out of a Body Worlds exhibit (as in the image above). Other, less gruesome bugs include frame-rate issues, delays in reaching the main menu screen, in-game characters getting stuck inside of carts or falling through solid ground, and the game crashing during co-op sessions.
“We will be providing additional details [about fixes] in the coming days, so check back for updates,” read a posting on Ubisoft’s official blog. “In the meantime, please continue to send us your feedback, and leave a comment if you have any questions for us.” As of Nov. 13, nearly 1,300 players had taken the company up on that offer, with many of the comments rather irate.
Ubisoft insisted that gaming publications wait until noon on the game’s release day to publish their reviews, opening the company to accusations that it knew the software was buggy. “There’s no valid reason for a review embargo such as this,” wrote gaming Website Polygon. “It’s blatantly anti-consumer and likely designed to get the first rush of hardcore fans into the stores to buy their copies of the game before the reviews hit.”
But in a statement released to the BBC, Ubisoft claimed the embargo stemmed from a desire on the company’s part for reviewers to experience the game only after the online elements were activated on launch day: “Having the online elements available and having populated worlds is essential to creating a representative and complete experience for reviewers.”
No matter what the reason behind the embargo, however, Assassin’s Creed: Unity stands as a cautionary tale for developers: try to avoid releasing software before it’s done. Of course, outside pressures sometimes make that difficult: no company wants to face the very public embarrassment of missing a release date, particularly if the software in question stands to make millions of dollars. But if Ubisoft had issued the game without the bugs, it would have earned better reviews, less customer pushback—and even more money.
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