ALL: I just want to say a massive thank you to all of you who have helped make this the biggest and most successful thread so far. Together we've ensured a response from CA not only in this thread (you can see it below mine, they pasted it in), but it directly led to a sticky where we get an apology. This is real progress from the community and shows that when we unify and post in such numbers we cannot be ignored. Trolling and flaming get ignored....this initiative worked. Well done us, and thank you again. My post now follows below.
This has now made it to the press, read here.
Good Evening All,
Let me start by saying that this comes from a veteran and lifetime customer of this series first, and as a customer I have an opinion to share with this community. My experience as a developer is solely to substantiate and back up my opinions with industry knowledge and experience. Any attempt to delete, lock, or otherwise hamper this post goes against the community spirit of honest feedback and customer responsibility. If any moderator wishes to see my purchase receipt I am more than happy to provide it but I am exercising my right as a paid customer to express my opinion. Thank you.
Let me also state that I was part of, and still am part of a development team that has recently released a PC game in the Military genre. I will not give specifics however the level of complexity was not as high, and the team was smaller than the current CA team.
I will attempt to as brief as possible explain in layman terms what sort of things crop up as a developer, what those issues can be, and what should be done about them. Hopeful it will be more clear what CA's failings are and what just...happens.
In summary there are generally 3 groups of issues a game will have at launch, and although these granted are simplifications (I just don't have the time to go into more detail), it suits the general purpose of this post.
1. Community system diversity
Symptoms: Bugs/glitches/graphical issues/crashes/etc.
These are essentially things that happen...just happen. This is what CA is talking about when they say that "due to so many different end user configurations and systems, there are issues caused by some people". These issues are common, wide ranging, and various, not to mention they take up the majority of the developers time early after release to fix. Let me be clear, it is widely known and accepted in the developer world that this happens. It can take between a month and three months for the most common issues to rise, peak, get fixed and trough.
The common graphical issues? That belongs here, and don't be too upset this is normal. CA will fix it.
Battles lag? That probably belongs here, don't worry it will be fixed
That weird crash? This likely belongs here, don't worry it will be fixed.
The graphical issues seem to lie with CA, however to be fair a game of this level will definitely have the issues you have all reported.
Symptoms: Game play issues/Battle and Campaign AI/content/etc.
These are entirely a different issue and almost exclusively the responsibility of the developers and the testing cycle. A robust, wide spread, detailed, and non marketing/sales driven testing cycle is imperative to the successful public launch and initial feedback. Note I didn't talk about financial success; poor games can have financial success early on with excellent marketing.
A successful testing cycle normally irons out the nature of the AI, some of the mechanics that affect various aspects of the game, the content both lore/events/historical/general immersion, and other gameplay issues. Note a comprehensive testing cycle may not affect the first grouping related to bugs, but I can tell you clearly...they do stop a number of the issues you people have with this game.
A good developer in my professional opinion should include lengthy in-house testing, outside independent professional testing, semi public testing and a demo is a good idea. I'd guess that CA in-house tested it but nothing else. Allowing your customers to help you make your game great is simply the way forward.
Battles lasting 5mins? That belongs here and will have been picked up in a robust testing cycle
Passive Battle AI? Units rushing your troops then breaking off last second? That belongs here and will have been picked up in a robust testing cycle
Passive Campaign AI? That belongs here and will have been picked up in a robust testing cycle
CA have clearly fundamentally and comprehensively failed to test this game properly. This isn't the first time as many of you know, and I simply do not understand how or why CA have not improved their testing cycle. CA will have certainly known battles are over within minutes, they would have seen campaign AI passive, and will absolutely have seen battle AI rushing and retreating multiple times. If they missed it they have the worst testing team I've ever seen, or if they knew about it...well I'll leave that up to you guys to judge. Either way this is in my professional opinion the worst failing any developer can do. If we are charging you for a game, it is our responsibility to test it adequately.
3. Developer Choices
Symptoms: Gameplay mechanics/content/lore/historical accuracy
These are entirely the choices made specifically by the developers. They are put in, developed and are specifically meant to be there. This covers things like the capture the flag on open battles, the restricted building options, the various historical inaccuracies or....historical tweaks perhaps. This covers things like the lack of events, or the new family/house system.
Capture the flag on open battles? That belongs here and was chosen by CA
Can only build 4-6 types of buildings in your city? That belongs here and was chosen by CA
No family tree? No events? Praetorians having 100 damage? That's all here and was chosen by CA
It is my professional opinion that CA have taken what was an immersive, detailed, tactical, and market leading series and have turned it into a better looking but fundamentally simplified and dumbed down version of its formal self. They have seriously damaged the tactical element to this game, taken out tried and tested elements and have replaced them with arcade elements.
Summary of CA's performance
As a fellow professional, that came up from testing to being part of a small but fairly successful developer I can say from a position of knowledge, experience, and strength...that CA's performance has been average to poor. This is because they essentially have failed on all 3 grouped issues. They released a game with serious bugs and graphical issues, they released a game with extremely poor AI and multiple gameplay issues which clearly shows a fundamental testing failure, and lastly they seriously reduced the immersion, detail, and complexity to make this feel more like an arcade version not what it was supposed to be.
Just to be fair, how did we fare when we launched our game?
We failed at number one as many do, there were lots of bugs, glitches, and graphical issues and crashed reported in the community.
We somewhat succeeded in releasing a game where the AI worked, and general game play worked. Many customers enjoyed it and many customers didn't but essentially we released a working game where the elements we marketing worked as they were supposed to. Testing was a huge priority for us and we felt contributed to it being released generally working ok.
We succeeded in one of the largest choices we made....Sticking with what was done well with our first game and improving on it. We listened to our base, and we judged that our first game was good, but needed to be improved so we did just that. We didn't go in a different direction. We released "improved previous game 2", and CA should have released "Massively improved Rome1" as it was such a success.
The likelihood is this game will be both a commercial, critical, and community success but it will be a 3 staged effort. CA will likely fix the first grouped issues, and will likely contribute the second grouped issues, but it will be the Modder's who will really fix this game. They will turn the ok vanilla version into something really good.
It's a sad day for CA when many, many TW gamers know in their heart that it will take people like DarthMod and others to fix this game...
I need to be very careful here for obvious reasons but I want to touch on the impact SEGA have here. Firstly I have experience with them, and we decided NOT to work with them/for them. It was clear to us that SEGA's influence, controls, expectations and business model was fundamentally at odds with our philosophies. We knew that if we went down that path we would be contracted to release X amount of games at Y timeline, with Z budget, and we took a long hard look at it and decided that we essentially would not really control the destiny of our games, SEGA would. Also worth noting that we concluded we would not have the time to test our game properly...
I'm not going to comment on SEGA's influence of CA here today but I will ask that the true veterans amongst you that remember what it was like before, and what it was like after and make your own minds up.
I'll check on this post to respond if I can, and will likely see the mix of arrogant fans, ignorant haters, but hopefully some enlightened thinkers.
(CA reponse below)
Thanks for signing up to the Total War forums. We’re pleased that you’re a fan of the series, and we’re working hard to make sure that everyone who is, and everyone who bought our game, is happy with it.
Right now, we’re on 24/7 support on ROME II, and we’re working around the clock from both a development and support stance to make sure we’re well aware of any issues that are cropping up.
I just wanted to pick up on a couple of points, as I think there’s a temptation to take everything in your post as gospel if you are who you claim to be and, while we respect your opinions, there are a couple of areas naturally where our experience and your opinions differ.
Firstly, if you are a developer, you’ll know there’s no way that you can be sure how our internal processes work. If you have worked on games, you’ll also know that processes vary wildly between studios, from production all the way through to testing.
Also, one point worth mentioning is that there is a significant difference between having a hundred and hundreds of thousands of people play your game, and while you’re correct in identifying that as an issue that can throw up graphics problems, it can also throw up an exponential amount of varied scenarios facing our AI and other systems. No reason for us not to work hard to correct those issues.
Just wanted to add a couple of things up from our perspective. Thanks again for your post.