Game Development Reference
This is not a phase where you take your master disk outside in Seattle in the middle
of January. Rather, at the end of Beta you are likely to be in a code freeze , when all the
work is done and the preparation of candidate master disks begins. Each of these disks
is sent to testing. The only changes allowed to the code base are those that specifical-
ly address showstopper bugs that turn up.
The game is released to manufacture when a candidate release has been thoroughly
tested and found to be acceptable. You can finally celebrate.
On the PC side of the house, it has become almost inevitable that a game gets patched
after its release. Contrary to opinions expressed on Internet message boards, this is not
necessarily because the developer has rushed a poorly tested product out the door. In
a world where literally thousands of hardware combinations exist, it is just as literally
impossible to test all of them. When a customer finds that his particular combination
of BIOS, graphics card, sound card, monitor, CPU, operating system, keyboard,
mouse, and joystick causes problems in the game, most developers will work with him
to figure out the source of the problem. If the problem is pervasive enough, the devel-
oper issues a patch.
Patches can also be applied to games running on consoles that have hard disk drives
and Internet connections, such as the Xbox. At the present time, these patches focus
on repairs to online/multiplayer-specific issues and updating content such as maps
An upgrade is different from a patch. It represents additional content created to
enhance the original game. Companies create upgrades for a number of reasons. In
some cases, it is simply to extend the life of the original game. If add-ons appear,
retailers are more likely to keep the original on the shelves. In other cases, it's an effec-
tive strategy to keep part of the team gainfully employed while a smaller group goes
on to the early stages of their next project.
Fresh content is an important issue for multiplayer online gamers who are paying
monthly subscription fees. They expect that as they level-up and explore their online
world there will always be new places to go and interesting things to experience.