How To Use a Known Issues List

Put something on it.

Seriously, game developers, it does no good for you to post a “known issues” page and then never update it. Have you not noticed any bugs or balance issues in the game? Are you aware of them but pretend they don’t exist? Are you just lying in case potential buyers are checking the web page first?

We know you know about them. A post on your official boards will run 200 posts, arguing about whether the bug actually exists, can we duplicate it, how it is functioning as intended, etc., and a quick “We are aware of this issue” post will appear under a blue/red name (or via PM/e-mail). The posting dev might even have a time frame on when the bug will be fixed (“That should go on the next test server patch”). But apparently no one thought it was worth the moment to post it to the official Known Issues page. Some two months from first reports to getting a fix in, and nowhere in the process is “post it to Known Issues”?

Sometimes it is a broken quest or NPC, maybe some misleading NPC dialogue. Mightn’t that be worth mentioning somewhere official other than the boards? Most of your players do not use the boards. Even those who do cannot be expected to check every developer post just in case the quest they’re running is broken. Oh, there is a workaround where you can access the room by jumping at the door while healing yourself? Just mention that as the 327th reply to an oddly-named post and I’m sure everyone will see it; you can put that bug fix on the back burner for another month since there is an easy way for players to get around it. (People always put up with that, and if someone complains in broadcast that a quest is broken, other players will call him a newb for not knowing the workaround.)

What’s that? You ban people for exploits? How is anyone supposed to know that this is a bannable exploit or even a bug? It is not on the Known Issues page, so it must be intended behavior. We know it must be intended because, even though we have reported it every time we have run the quest, it is still not on the Known Issues page. Or maybe no one reads those bug reports. Heck, that behavior was reported while the quest was still on test.

Exploits are important to fix. They should not hang around long before they become severely damaging to the game. There are obvious reasons not to advertise them. An exploit, however, is casually defined as any game bug that makes characters more effective than intended. Those bugs must be crushed as quickly as quietly as possible.

Bugs, however, can last a long time. Players will avoid them, so they will not harm the play experience much, and if it hurts someone who is not a forum reader, you will never hear from that poor sap anyway; if your first post to the forums is, “i keep hitting this bug and it sucks so I am quitting the game,” your post will be flamed until it is deleted or locked. Since the bug only affects one thing and few if any people will quit over it, it can safely be put on the back burner. And why advertise that the bug fix has been back-burnered for months by putting it on the Known Issues list?

An even more fun aspect of this approach is being able to smuggle in balance changes under the heading of bug fixes, even when such a claim is so absurd as to be stupid. Sure, why not claim that something has been bugged or otherwise “failing to work as intended” since the original beta for the game? Only you know what you intended, and there will be a group of players who will defend the change on the boards for you — this makes things much easier on the PR staff. With a small cadre rushing to defend you, you need not even worry about having a good justification for the change ahead of time; they will supply a half-dozen good ones, and you can update your post to edit one of them in. I mean, you could just come out and say that you think change x is good for the future of the game, but that argument has never seemed to stop complaints anyway.

Really, how many players are going to jump ship because of a few bugs? You released the game months early with hundreds of bugs, widely known, and you still had more pre-orders than printed copies of the game. Everyone adapts to bugs and quirks; the bigger oddities in the system are actually easier to adapt to than the little ones. Everyone knows these games are never complete, you can explain that it requires a lot of work on the backend, you are planning to overhaul that entire system in a few patches, etc.

People keep paying you to fail to deliver on promises, and it is so much easier to make new promises than to fix old problems. Just ignore the old problems and maybe they will go away.

: Zubon