Getting some perspective on the games we play - Warbuff Blog -
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Getting some perspective on the games we play

Gamers are a scrupulous bunch when it comes to the software we purchase.  Before a title's release we analyze trailers and assume games ship with unannounced features.  (Is there any multiplayer spaceship combat in Reach?)  We are also prone to nitpick and scrutinize even the most trivial of graphical flaws in new releases.

Why shouldn't we?  It costs anywhere between $150 to several thousand dollars to buy just the hardware.  You could spend the same or more yearly buying new games to play.  For all the cash we hand over there must be more than satisfaction that comes with a game; but perfection and innovation as well.  When our hard earned dollars have been put down for a product that is less than entertaining, has bugs or feels incomplete it is perfectly reasonable to be upset.  Questions are raised that developers and publishers aren't so forthcoming to answer.  But I assure you there is always an explanation.  Before I can give you this explanation I feel I must first give you some perspective.

Call of Duty Black Ops is the best selling game of all time in the U.S and U.K. across 360, PS3 and PC.  In the first 24 hours Black Ops was for sale, 5.6 million units were sold.  The last time Activision released sales figures at the end of Q1 for 2011, they estimated 25 million copies had been sold.

Despite the record breaking sales and critical acclaim the game was not without its flaws.  PS3 and PC players complained Black Ops was unplayable.  Reports included freezing on map load, low frame rate during multiplayer and frequent disconnects mid game.  Across all skus players had discovered an infinite care package glitch.  I personally remember trying to play with a group of friends and everyone would be dropped as the party leader entered a match.  These bugs had most of the gaming community asking, "How could this game have shipped?"  Let's dig a little deeper.

In May 2009 the public first caught rumors of a possible Vietnam era Call of Duty game.  Black Ops hit the market on November 9th 2010 roughly 18 months later.

Day one sales on Black Ops were estimated at 5.6 million units.  If all 5,600,000 consumers played the game for 1 hour on launch day that would equal 5.6 million man hours played.  Reading the credits in the owner’s manual I counted about 393 QA testers; not counting QA managers.

Even though I don't have physical proof for this next statement, I can say with upmost confidence that Treyarch and Activision did not have 393 testers working on Black Ops for 18 months.  For the purpose of this article let’s pretend they did.  From May 2009 to Nov 9th 2010 there were 586 days.  If all 393 people worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 18 months they would accrue 3,125,135 man hours of testing.  On November 9th, if all 5.6 million customers played black ops for only 1 hour, they would have played the game 2,474,866 hours MORE than our 393 people who worked 98 hours a week for 18 months and no days off.

Despite knowing that no amount of testing can ever fully prepare a game for release, the consumer is still left wondering, "Why did the game ship with these bugs?"  Hopefully you've learned the answers are simple but never satisfying.  There wasn't enough man hours put into testing to find those bugs.  Or, those bugs were found but there wasn't enough man hours left in the project to fix them.  To which the consumer inevitably replies, "Well why wasn't the game release pushed back?"  To this there one simple answer, "There wasn't enough money left." 

Do you know how expensive it is just to test a game?  In today's market it costs millions to develop a single title and often millions more to market it.  Games are created according to a strict schedule and budget.  There comes a time when a company, I can't stress this next part enough, cannot afford to work on the game any longer.  They need to put their pencils down and put it on store shelves or shut their doors and go home jobless.  Nobody wants that to happen.

So the next time you look at a $60 dollar game on a shelf I'd like you to think of one thing, "a lot". 
A lot of money was spent making that game, a lot of people worked on it and they spent a lot of time getting it on that shelf.

For those that don't know I am employed in the games industry; going on 6 years now.  I've worked as a designer of DS games as well as testing for both developers and publishers.