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The "readme.txt" and the refund


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This forum (and Google) is filled with posts from people who are having crashes after playing the game for half an hour or so. You DID read the "readme.txt" from the game, right?

 

From the readme.txt:

 

"Intermittent Crashes"

 

"The game may freeze or crash to a blank screen if you play

in one level for extended periods of time. This was typically

seen when playing the game between thirty and forty minutes

without transitioning to a new level or movie. We recommend

that you save the game often to avoid losing progress if you

encounter this issue."

 

I'm in my forties and have played literally hundreds of games in my life. I'm well aware that people aren't perfect, so anything made by people may not be perfect. This is not the case here. Everyone who purchased the PC version of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords was sold a game by people who absolutely knew that the game was unplayable and STILL sold it to us anyway. I honestly couldn't believe what I was reading. Because the game was now installed, I figured I'd give it a try in hopes that my system wouldn't have any problems. No such luck. Endless crashes. I'd played Knights of the Old Republic and only had to enable vsync to ensure a perfect playing experience. I've owned every Bioware game produced and they all reek of quality. There were three patches released for Knights of the Old Republic to address problems in the game, none of which was to remedy a game that was expected to crash when it it was shipped. And I don't buy any of the "blame-it-on-the-publisher-'cause-they-made-the-developer-ship-the-game-like-that" bullcrap that is often bandied about. Bioware didn't ship the PC version until months after the XBox release of the first game. Certainly anyone with more than a passing knowledge of that game didn't expect anything different from a new developer on the sequel. I would have waited a couple of more months.

 

Let's face it, most people don't seek out the readme.txt on the install CD/DVD prior to installing the game to see what it has to say. We read it after the game is installed, either on our own, or when the game inevitably asks: "do you want to read the readme.txt". I have never, and I mean NEVER had an instance when a game told me outright that (and I'm paraphrasing here), "If you play a level for more than thirty to forty-five minutes for whatever reason, (be it because you enjoy taking your time, or you find the game difficult or because you want to explore every nook and cranny), without your playing time leading to a cut-scene or level change... the game may crash. So save often to avoid our mistake from causing you to loose your progress, in addition to your patience."

 

This is beyond inexcusable. I brought the game, and the strategy guide back to the EB where I'd purchased it and politely described why I wanted my money back. Within five minutes the manager had reinbursed my $69.98 ($49.99 + $24.99 minus game+guide discount). No more Obsidian developed games for me. I own an XBox, but won't buy the game in that form either.

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The fact that the publisher managed and supplied the 60-man Quality Assurance team, and released an extremely faulty product is indicative that the blame rests with the publishers. You can blame the developer if you don't assume good faith though. Blaming the developer is what those who are ignorant of the game development industry do. Just remember: LucasArts has a tendency to release games at the wrong time to meet deadlines, but that's true of most publishers... especially JoWooD. The only exception to the "rule" is Blizzard Entertainment, which is why most industry folk idolize Blizzard.

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The Big problem for all video games now is the giant corporate publishers. Unfortunately gaming companies are no longer run by people who love games, they're run by execs that have to make q1 profit projections. So things get rushed to market before they're actually ready. This is the same business model that has ruined the music industry.

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Adraeus,

 

yes, I agree with you. Lucasarts doesn't care about the quality of their games (and characters) anymore. It's all about profit now.

 

Obsidian apparently created a beautiful story with complex character subplots, something which is definitely their biggest strength, given their RPG legacy. Lucasarts forced them to wrap up the development prematurely and push the product out of the door. The final product falls short of the vision and design that Obsidian had for it. This is regarding the XBox version.

 

But what I blame Obsidian for is that for the PC version they had some extra months until release. They were given the luxury of time (!) to polish the game and add all those things (missing plots, quests, NPC subplots, proper ending) that they had to omit for the Xbox version's premature Xmas release. And they did nothing... nada! :rolleyes:

 

Gamespy has just released a very interesting article about this controversy. Check the link:

 

KotOR II and the continuing tradition of rushing games out the door

 

What does that tell you about Obsidian? If they truly cared about their game and if the writers really cared about their story and characters, they should have used that chance to release the PC version of KOTOR2 with the properly intact and full endgame as it was always planned (and buried within the game code). Instead we PC users get the same rushed endgame levels from the Xbox with half of the story threads not finished. Not only is their gamecode buggy and broken (crashes) but also their story is still broken!

 

Now, do you think that if Obsidian really loved and stood behind their 1st game, a maiden project which builds their fledgling reputation, they would just waste those extra months and stand by idly?

 

Even Bioware extended the original KOTOR's story for the PC with the extra stuff they had to omit due to time pressure. I really don't know what to think about Obsidian. Their action (or inaction) speaks so loud, I can only feel very disappointed about this developer.

 

I'm certainly not keen on any other Obsidian games. I'll look elsewhere.

 

Oh, and I almost forgot to add:

 

Adraeus, it's not just Blizzard left that releases polished games. We shouldn't forget id-Software. You can always count on their games being polished. Look at RTCW: Enemy Territory, which they even released for free. These games from 'id' (and their co-partners) are so polished, they shine like bright stars.

 

Unfortunately, except for those two, there aren't many more developers left in this industry that have the clout to tell the publisher: "No! We won't be bullied into abandoning our games. It's done when we say it's done!".

 

Hats off to these old-timers, who have become legends in the gaming industry...

 

Rightfully so!

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I wouldn't be too quick to judge Obsidian. There are many factors which you seem to be ignoring such as schedules, publisher deadlines, funding, management, etc. We don't know what happened and perhaps we never will. Regardless, it's not important to us. (Jeez! Aren't you trained in the Force!? *sigh*) It will be Obsidian who releases further updates and it will be LucasArts who commands them to do so. Game development is a business and it is treated as such. Would you tell your boss "no" if he ordered you to finish an ad concept? You'd be fired. The game industry is rough. If you don't do things right, you have no chance of staying in. "Right" doesn't mean shipping a perfect product. The product merely has to work and be successful, and technically KotOR2 does work despite its many flaws and it will probably be successful due to the license.

 

By the way, I could barely classify any id Software "game" an actual game since most of their latest productions seem to be more like 3D engine showcase applications. After all, 3D revolution is what Carmack is famous for... not developing great games.

 

One more thing... I think it's funny when a few people claim they won't buy any future products from some company. While at some level, business development may care; that fact is, a few extremists are unlikely to cause an upset in Obsidian's lifecycle.

 

Excuse me if I've offended anyone. I've been talking to Kreia too much.

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A good 90% of the time it IS the publisher(s) to blame for why a game ships in what amounts to a post-alpha/pre-beta state.

 

As others have illustrated and the article confirms... Game devs are given impossible deadlines with very little resources to reach that deadline and are under contract to fulfil that deadline and deliver a product or face legal (and financial) consequences.

 

It is only going to get worse with big publishers like EA and UBISoft gobbling up smaller dev houses in an effort to monopolize and "dumb down" the market.

 

This is not the 1990s anymore where it was "Games by Gamers for Gamers". It's all about the profits and "Greed is good" menality that is hurtling us toward what I fear will be a catastrophic financial failure thanks to the idiots in charge (of the country and business).

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I hate situations like this where you have a good developer and a poor publisher lumped together in one game. There's so much that's good in KotOR2 I'd like to encourage, but so many problems I'd like to discourage, but the only real choice is whether to buy the game or not (and for most of us that choice has already been made). Too bad we can't separate our payment between developer and publisher to properly show our approval.

 

Obsidian did a great job as far as they went. I've been impressed by the level of content, though I haven't gotten far enough to see if I'm disappointed by the endgame. I was torn with the original KotOR too, because I loved the game overall but disliked the excessive X-Box carryover (Inventory scaling, etc.) and had some minor graphics problems.

 

Incidentally, since I updated to Catalyst 5.2 (I have a Radeon 9800 Pro) and reinstalled DirectX9c and added "Disable Vertex Buffer Objects=1" to the ini file I haven't had any crashes or lag problems. (Would've crossed my fingers writing that, but hard to type that way.)

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But what I blame Obsidian for is that for the PC version they had some extra months until release. They were given the luxury of time (!) to polish the game and add all those things (missing plots, quests, NPC subplots, proper ending) that they had to omit for the Xbox version's premature Xmas release. And they did nothing... nada!  :thumbsup:

 

You are aking Obsidian's employees to work for free. If LA does not care about the PC version and are not funding the changes that would make it a different game from the XBox version, OE can't do it. And LA has to approve everything. I doubt his buddy from MS would be happy if the ending of the PC version was so much better.

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Adraeus,

 

thanks for reminding us of the hard realities of the game industry. I can see your point, and there is much truth in it.

 

However, you're being a bit unfair in regards to id-soft, jumping on the bandwagon of the popular cynicism that id's games are mere "3D engine showcase applications".

 

Yes, id's games don't necessarily offer super-deep statistical/tactical gameplay (as in RPGs/RTSs) as we have grown to expect in recent years even from 1st person shooters (NOLF, Far Cry, Tron etc.). But that is just a trend from recent years and there is nothing wrong with designing games that are more visceral than cerebral.

 

Don't forget what 'id' stands for in psychological terms and why id-soft has made that a philosophy for their game-designs.

 

From the Doom-series, through Quake, all the way to their recent efforts, id's games have always had great/fun gameplay, as well as breakthrough technology.

 

But instead of having "deep" gameplay, they have something else in spades: ATMOSPHERE. And that creates fun gameplay, too. Great game-design doesn't always have to have a cerebral paradigm.

 

I will never forget the experience of playing Quake1 and its atmosphere which has since been etched into my mind forever (I still sometimes dream about that dark and bizzare world).

 

Calling John Carmack a game developer/designer is a bit off. He's always been in the role of technical director. He likes mathematical challenges. He doesn't design games. It was always guys like Tim Willits, John Romero, American McGee, who did the game design and map creating. These guys come to him and tell him what kind of experience they want to achieve, and it's John's job to write an engine that enables them to do so. He has never been known as a game designer. It's not a one-man team after all... :(

 

Doom3 is their most balanced effort so far -- balanced between cutting-edge technology and cutting-edge artistry and design. I'm not an id-fanboy, but I appreciate that what they do, they do right.

 

And that doesn't happen a lot in this industry.

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Reinoc,

 

yes, I think you're right and I was assuming too much. Obsidian after all was just contracted to do this game and it's LucasArts who decides what goes in and what goes out. They own the IP. And they provide the funds to make Obsidian work.

 

But I just expected more out of the relationship of these two companies. I always thought that Mike Gallo from LucasArts is a reasonable and affable guy, a person who is approachable and who will listen. And given the clout that Obsidian should have in the industry (being comprised of so many esteemed veterans with proven track records), I would have expected a much closer relationship of mutual respect and equality between Obsidian and LucasArts.

 

I can't believe that Obsidian was perfectly happy with the end result, probably in agony over abandoning several aspects of their design for KotOR2. It seems to me they really put their heart into it, and any developer who does so wants their product to shine in the end. Which means, they were likely eager to finish and polish certain things which they had to abandon for the rushed holiday release.

 

No, I don't want Obsidian to work for free. But I think they were still under contract and pay since they released the Xbox version, leading all the way up to the PC release... all those months. And right now, they still seem to be paid by LucasArts, since they just announced they're working on a patch.

 

THAT is what puzzles me... what happened in all those 3 months between Xbox and PC release? They obviously were paid. But it seems nothing much has happened to polish and improve the game.

 

And that's why I don't know who to blame for this. Either Obsidian doesn't truly care for their game (which is hard to believe, but I don't know for sure now), or they got bullied into submission by LucasArts to not do anything to improve the game (which is hard to believe, too, since it's counter-productive).

 

All I know is, that I would have expected much more action from Obsidian, given their history. They should have influence enough to convince LucasArts's Mike Gallo that some aspects of the game are unfinished and that they want to complete them for the PC version.

 

They're not some start-up garage developer who has no say, for crying out loud.

 

At the end, whatever petty politics are behind those inactions, it surely rubs off on Obsidian's fledgling reputation as a new company in the public eye. Gamers are a very vocal bunch and reputations spread quickly through word-of-mouth. This is the age of the internet, both a curse and a bliss, depending on how you look at it.

 

I just wish it had worked out differently for KotOR2, both for our sake (as gamers) and Obsidian's sake (as a developer with potential).

 

Of course, a lot can change in a patch or two. I just don't expect it to happen after what I have (or haven't) seen from this LucasArts/Obsidian relationship. But I'd love to be proven wrong, of course. :)

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THAT is what puzzles me... what happened in all those 3 months between Xbox and PC release? They obviously were paid. But it seems nothing much has happened to polish and improve the game.

Not a big mystery. IIRC Akari (at least I think it was) said something to the effect of the resources being moved to NWN2 after the xbox release. Just a few guys left to do localisation and pc specific tweaks to the code in the two months between the releases.

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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February 4, 2005 Gamespy Developer Notes: Chris Parker, producer at Obsidian

http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/star-wars-knights...2/584907p1.html

 

We all worked hard to get the Xbox version out in time for the holidays, but the important part is that the vast majority of folks are enjoying it, and we've even been nominated for several awards. That's not the topic on the table, however. This diary is about the last days of the project and the completion of the PC version.

 

The Windows version was essentially developed in conjunction with the Xbox version. We spent a good chunk of time at the beginning of the project syncing up assets and figuring out a build process that produced a new Xbox and PC version of the game every morning. We had the opportunity to ship the Xbox version in December (but keep the PC release until February as we originally announced), so we focused our efforts on the Xbox. The fellas who made this game used the PC version to test changes, so in many ways as we debugged the Xbox version, we were also fixing most of the bugs in the PC version which made the PC completion process post-December much easier.

 

When we finally finished up the Xbox version in November, we needed a short break.

 

(break)

 

By the end of December the PC version was working pretty well, but we had to shift focus to the international versions. Somewhere in our localization loop, there was a hole, and a number of strings (chunks of text) weren't translated -- that's bad news. KotOR II has over 500,000 words and thousands and thousands of strings. We had to go about finding hundreds of these 'lost strings' by hand, a job that primarily fell to me and John Morgan, the assistant producer. On one hand it was good, since we figured out the problem so it'll never happen to us again, but on the other hand, it caused issues all the way up to the end and removed any hope of my own time off over the holiday.

 

(break)

 

We finished fixing stuff in the second week of January and began finalizing the project. There were more late nights, a couple of manageable disasters, but overall completing the PC version went smoothly.

 

It's seems like it's been a long road, but it wasn't too long. And Obsidian had a lot of fun developing KotOR II along the way -- build a company and build a project at the same time. Fun! The project would never have been finished without the extremely dedicated efforts of everybody working on the team and the support and hard work of the folks at LucasArts. I'm heading off for vacation, this is literally the last bit of work I'm doing before a little R&R. I hope you all like this game. I'm already looking forward to the next project.

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