Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To Release With or Without Bugs?

Rant/Editorial. I’ve been sitting here pondering an increasingly relevant topic regarding flight simulation add-ons. That topic being, is it okay to release products with known bugs or deficiencies? My initial reaction is no, absolutely not! However, the more I think about the topic the more I am conflicted. Read more for my rant/editorial.

The idea of releasing something that has outstanding bugs is by definition releasing something that is flawed.  However, the word flawed may be somewhat dramatic in relation to this topic. The word implies that something is mostly unusable or at least very poorly put together. This of course is not always the case. Several developers have openly released products with outstanding bugs, some of which have been extremely usable and just as importantly, been patched at a later date. Alternatively, some have released products that were hardly usable without ever truly correcting the outstanding deficiencies.
So, what are the advantages of releasing a product with known bugs from the perspective of the developer? Firstly, the product hits the market sooner and subsequently, starts to generate revenue. Next, the release puts both the product and developer in the spotlight, even if for a short while. Lastly, it allows the developer to pursue another project and another potential income source. Clearly, there are significant advantages to releasing products with bugs.

These advantages leave me with one question… when does the developer find time to address the issues that weren’t manageable the first time around? If they weren’t easily correctable before release, surely they won’t be after release. All the above noted advantages lead the developer in one direction, to pursue future endeavors and income streams. Now let’s think about this, it’s almost completely illogical. First, release a product, then get paid for the product, and finally, spend significant amounts of time after being paid fixing bugs that weren’t easily fixable before release forgoing the opportunity to focus on the next project. Where’s the motivation for that? I don’t get it?
Let’s not forget, once released new bugs will likely be discovered and there will be a further expectation to fix those as well.

So has this strategy been done successfully, absolutely! Some of the most respected and well known developers have done this and done it well. I see very little harm in developers pursuing this business practice given certain conditions.
Firstly, ensure the product is completely usable as advertized. This means, if you are releasing a complex “tubeliner”, the FMS better integrate correctly. If you are releasing airport scenery, the runway better not cause the aircraft to crash. Any deficiencies must not impede the user’s ability to properly use and enjoy the product.
Next, warn potential customers not only that there are bugs but exactly what those bugs are. Developers should be very transparent in this regard.
Lastly, the developer must actually correct the preexisting bugs, no matter how small. This means the developer must fully accept there will be a significant but mandatory unpaid time commitment after release. 
If developers are willing to accept these terms, release away!
What did we learn from this rant, likely nothing - just thinking out load.    


Anonymous said...

I don't think the CS method of releasing, essentially, beta products is a good idea. When you buy something, even if you know it has bugs, you still expect it to perform or operate at a certain level, and when it doesn't, even though you've been warned, you know grow very frustrated with the product and developer and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

I think it is always, *ALWAYS* best to release with as few bugs as possible. There will always be bugs, no doubt, but it's better business to fix everything you can and everything you are aware of before letting your product go to market.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that we're a VERY DEMANDING bunch at times (I mean us, flightsimmers), that puts significant pressure on the developers at times. Asking for release dates on forums 2 times a day, posting whish-lists, demanding more all the time. There are 2 approaches I see (in a very simplified way):

1.) Don't give out any details, ignore all queries about future projects, spend a year or more on each project to make sure they're bug free (eg PMDG).

2.) Trying your best to keep users updated on every single detail, give out Beta versions, then get frustrated and say: "Let's just release it now, we'll sort out the bugs later..." (eg Justflight, CS)

I can also see some well-balanced examples like ORBX.

I prefer the "keep-it-secret" way, as I know that the time spent with marketing, COMMS on forums, and organizing pre-sales was reduced and used for development instead.

This is a simplified version of my personal view.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. There is no way that developers are going to change the way they release products with bugs or not. Why should developers change the way they release addons just to suit users?

Anonymous said...

Shall I remind you of Airsimmer and his infamous A320?

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Once a developer has our money there is no longer an incentive to continue development on a particular product - NO MATTER WHAT PROMISES OR ASSURANCES THEY MAKE.

Allow me to explain. If you really want a 777 RIGHT NOW you will have bought the CS model, warts and all. What incentive do CS have to actually properly fix the 777 now they've got a wad of cash from the eager beavers? With the PMDG 777 just round the corner why would CS continue work on their model when they know everyone who hasn't already bought their one is waiting for the PMDG one which they don't have a hope in hell of competing with in terms of function and features? CS are laughing all the way to the bank whilst the rather foolish customer (who let's face it, by this time should know how CS works) is left with what amounts to nothing more than a high polygon count polished turd with very nice high definition textures. Not long later CS release pretty screenshots of the next highly polished turd and the mugs are once again falling over themselves to hand over their credit card numbers.

As a business model it's quite shrewd, in a very cynical sort of way and is designed to take advantage of the overly eager customer who is seduced by pretty screenshots and has a very short memory.

Companies like CS, BBS (PSS in disguise), Iris etc will keep pulling this stunt because quite frankly, there are enough idiots out there to make this business model feasible.

Anonymous said...

captain who?...
Ive owned alot of CS planes, and quite frankly there all POO! (ok the models are nice)

But there skill in the sound department suck bigtime.The C130 in VC sounds like your in a tunnel or a bucket..very odd sound.

The 707....known as one of the loudest planes ever to grace the skies...CS version, on take off for example...cant even hear the''hello?????????'' about LACK of detail.

Back on topic, i agree 150% with the above many IDIOTS in the sim comunity.Goin back to CS 777...they want 80 euro's.....sorry fell of chair laffing, im back...yeh 80 euros for that crap. Now, if these IDIOTS didnt buy it, not 1 of them, then that sends a message to CS, loud and clear...But instead, they go ahead and buy it thinkin somethings changed from the last development comedy act.( yes, i laff my ass off at the fools who buy trash, from a trash developer, and then moan about it being trash, like they expected anything diffrent) AND THEN! they go and buy the expansion to a base models that isnt even finished!!
Are we starting to see the 'moron' trade?...these morons that buy v00.0.1 just encourage this crap.If the developers can makes and sell 'crap'...wheres the motivation to better themselves???????...yeh exactly there is none, and aslong as the IDIOTS within our community keep on buyin, it is sending a message that we are happy, as regardsless to forum posts moanin about the plane, the money is in the pot.

For crysake guys!...make them work to fill there pot with our hard ernt money.

Anonymous said...

Um, because the 'users' are their customer base!

Martin said...

You can't be more right about it!..

Anonymous said...

The more I think about it the more examples I remember...

Digital Aviation never made the virtual cockpit for the Fokker 70/100 package they promised. By the way, I'd also be most surprised if Qualitywings ever release the BAe146 expansion for their Avro RJ they've promised.

Vertigo never fixed the bugs in the Bearcat despite promise after promise they would. Eventually they admitted the bugs would never get fixed and gave a pretty lame excuse. No apology to customers who were waiting for the patch. They still sell that Bearcat...

Most of Iris' aircraft still have outstanding bugs. The C-27 was released with *glaring* showstopping flight model problems that took far too long to get fixed. The funny thing was the corrected flight model was sent to Iris by the person subcontracted to make it and Iris took their sweet time (*months* during which time they released their F-15E) getting it out to the customers.

Back in 2005 and 2006 PSS made a complete arse of the releases of the 777 and 757 - released with major, glaring very comprimising bugs and missing advertised features. All of which took months to get fixed. Good luck to anyone who was brave (or stupid) enough to buy their new BBS A320 "Prologue" now they've shifted onto making money from the new A330.

I believe the Airsimmer debacle has been mentioned - another "buy an imcomplete version now and we'll finish it later" pitch that of course turned into vapourware.

Anyone remember the SSW A310? Quite probably one of the most promising complex airliners released - but with glaring bugs that never got fixed. The devs had our money and promptly forgot about fixing their product.

Pretty much everything Wilco/FeelThere ever released...

And then of course the undisputed masters of releasing bug ridden, incomplete, *expensive* addons and then never fixing them... the mighty Captain Sim.

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