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Review from an Anonymous Developer [CA response]

AnnonDevAnnonDev Senior MemberPosts: 144Registered Users
edited September 2013 in Total War: ROME II
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.
http://www.gamefront.com/anon-dev-creative-assembly-comprehensively-failed-to-test-rome-2/

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.

Example 1: The common graphical issues? That belongs here, and don't be too upset this is normal. CA will fix it.
Example 2: Battles lag? That probably belongs here, don't worry it will be fixed
Example 3: That weird crash? This likely belongs here, don't worry it will be fixed.

CA Summary

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.

2. Testing
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.

Example: Battles lasting 5mins? That belongs here and will have been picked up in a robust testing cycle
Example: 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
Example: Passive Campaign AI? That belongs here and will have been picked up in a robust testing cycle

CA Summary

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.

Example: Capture the flag on open battles? That belongs here and was chosen by CA
Example: Can only build 4-6 types of buildings in your city? That belongs here and was chosen by CA
Example: 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 future

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...


Lastly SEGA

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.


Anon

(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.
Post edited by AnnonDev on
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Comments

  • Sulieman the MagnficentSulieman the Magnficent Senior Member Posts: 1,830Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Now that post was excellent. At least someone from the industry is responding and it certainly opens a lot of eyes.
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  • willyum32willyum32 Senior Member Posts: 545Registered Users
    edited September 2013
  • CoggleszCogglesz Member Posts: 45Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    This is a good review, i particulary agree with you with SEGA, They've obviously pushed this out the door before it was ready and it dissapoints me really, CA don't deserve the negative comments, they have made some amazing games, some of my favourites but for this to have been released in the state it is now is proof that it was rushed out the door and i doubt CA were rushing themselves to release but by SEGA, its an unfinished product sold for full price with paid DLC already on the way, Things have already improved for me with the Beta Patch, its still not what i'd call finished but its in the right direction, i'm confident given enough time they'll manage to get this game released the way it was supposed to have been, which is a shame really, i feel its terrible having games release in unfinished states for a full price, especially when its not even the developers fault for it being released like that in the first place, thanks for the insight Annondev.
  • aznpwnstaraznpwnstar Senior Member Posts: 657Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    I agree with most if this.

    I disagree about TW having a demo. It's not worth it for them unless the game totally stinks.
    Professional testers would have been too expensive. Each campaign for each faction multiple times is no small feat. Mass beta testing cheapest fastest, but you just released the game out. This isn't really the same to a FPS in this area.

    But what I do agree with the most is SEGA. When you sell your soul to the devil... I kid. But corporate deadlines are ridiculous. They push and push. They create simple graphs that show, "look, if we release at this point of the graph, we make $$$$$$". Execs reply "hell yea! Call CA and tell them we just bumped their release date up 4 months".

    Just thoight of this too. I don't mind the generalization of things so much (I live a busy life), but it is undeniable that CA has strayed from their core fans. But they did that for Sega. They agreed because they have to. They took the $$$. It's like the new really hot girlfriend. She doesn't like your beer gutted, crass friends. So she's like. "You want these goodies? Then you gotta hang out with MY friends. And I'm a lot more popular than you."

    And I bet most of you would do that for the hot girlfriend. At least for a bit. I mean. Ya gotta have a taste. Adrianna Lima? Miranda Kerr? Sorry BFF that I met in 5th grade. I'll holler at you in a year.

    And that's the thing. CA is the buddy that got some awesome ******** and has gone astray. He'll always be our buddy. Even if he marries Sega, I mean the girl. And he knows that when shiet goes down and they get a divorce, his buddies will be there. Of course we'd make fun of him too.
    I beat everyone at everything. I am the Master Beater!
  • darknessjwdarknessjw Banned Posts: 155Banned Users
    edited September 2013
    Really well written post which sums up problems within game and in CA/SEGA
  • CyclopsisCyclopsis Senior Member Posts: 223Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Cogglesz wrote: »
    This is a good review, i particulary agree with you with SEGA, They've obviously pushed this out the door before it was ready and it dissapoints me really, CA don't deserve the negative comments, they have made some amazing games, some of my favourites but for this to have been released in the state it is now is proof that it was rushed out the door and i doubt CA were rushing themselves to release but by SEGA, its an unfinished product sold for full price with paid DLC already on the way, Things have already improved for me with the Beta Patch, its still not what i'd call finished but its in the right direction, i'm confident given enough time they'll manage to get this game released the way it was supposed to have been, which is a shame really, i feel its terrible having games release in unfinished states for a full price, especially when its not even the developers fault for it being released like that in the first place, thanks for the insight Annondev.

    Reminds me of Legends of Pegasus. Kalypso did the same thing, and the game ended up being a huge fail.
  • svehlic25svehlic25 Senior Member Posts: 1,173Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Awesome. Agree with 100% that was said here.
    Especially SEGA, their influence over the TW genre has been visible for some time. And now it near destroyed Rome 2:
    As the OP, i do believe the game can be fixed. Whether or not CA can sack up, and do what needs to be done is still questionable.
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  • AstroCatAstroCat Senior Member Posts: 368Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Really good read on several levels.
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  • CrackfoxCrackfox Senior Member Posts: 118Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    inb4thelockandbanhammerswing :P

    Thought seriously, nice intelligent post.
    CA: Shameful Display!
  • drachenmauldrachenmaul Senior Member Posts: 275Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Well written post, I hope many people read it
  • tybad1tybad1 Senior Member Posts: 714Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Nice to see a well constructed post for once. Good job, OP.
    "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives."-Eddard Stark

    "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died."-Jorah Mormont
  • heavyounceheavyounce Senior Member Posts: 454Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Woah~ Good read. You sound more like a pro PR than a dev.
    My issues are mostly on number 3. Developer's Choice. I really feel they've put too much focus on incremental city management, rather than taking advantage of this grand land characteristics and politics. hmmmmmm..

    Really good read though!
  • NelecNelec Senior Member Posts: 417Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Very interesting, nice to see a different kind of perspective on the whole situation. This also give me hope for the future of Rome II, thank you a lot for posting this.
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  • jamest91jamest91 Junior Member Posts: 12Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    This was a good read. I was actually complaining just the other night while playing with my buddy about how I feel like this game is nothing like the "Highly improved Rome: Total War" game I thought it was going to be.

    I have been enjoying the game thus far as I have not had my experience with many of the issues others are posting about, but I was slightly disappointed to see for example, the campaign consists of about 4 major factions and tons and tons and tons of little itty bitty provincial factions I have never heard of.

    We must all remember that this is a game. Everyone knows that 99% of all game releases consist of tons of bugs and errors that generally get mostly fixed the first month or 2 after release. It really is something we, as gamers, should know will happen and simply accept.

    Also, like mostly all other Total War games, we must all realize by now that where Total War is a pretty cool game, the best games are those that are released as a Total War mod. That is unfortunately the sad truth.
  • maxxcreatormaxxcreator Member Posts: 76Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Thank you sir.
  • db_zerodb_zero Junior Member Posts: 25Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Good post. I mentioned some things myself based on my 20 years in the industry. Probably deleted. The industry is changing and with the continuing consolidation with bigger companies gobbling up smaller ones the trend is going to continue. Fortunately there are still smaller independent "boutique" developers out there that put out good products I still enjoy.

    I don't have the performance issues, but as I mentioned before the game feels flat and the AI issues is appaling. I agree it had to be known that in siege warfare units do nothing. I can't see how that got overlooked.

    I haven't given up and we'll see how it eventually pans out, but for now there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

    For now I have my h2h games from one of those excellent 'boutique' companies who have the passion for perfection to keep me happy.
  • Chris-919Chris-919 Senior Member Posts: 366Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    The OP makes some very good points.

    The point is many fans enjoyed the detail within these games and having that suddenly taken away or streamlined is not the best of ideas. To be fair to CA, what I think was their original intent was to reach as wide an audience as possible including the more casual gamers.

    Their major mistake was not making that casual game entirely optional and leaving the original core intact for those who want the depth and advanced commands. They could have easily satisfied both types of players.
    "Theatricality and deception are powerful agents."

    "Gentlemen, it is time to spread the word. And the word is... panic!"
  • El MatadorEl Matador Senior Member Posts: 153Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Very good post, it puts this release into perspective and groups the issues logically.

    To posters who are still not able to comprehend why a good portion of the community has issues with the game, please refer to the latter two groupings in the OP. We're not talking about the first one, which we fully realize can be fixed through patching over the next month.

    Hopefully this insightful post is not closed or deleted. CA (and Sega, if they're bothering to look) need to see this.
    My Review
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  • MacklesMackles Senior Member UKPosts: 5,348Registered Users, Cakes!
    edited September 2013
    A good testing program is essential for any game to be fairly successful at launch. The more I play of Rome II, the more it becomes clear that the testing cycle was woefully inadequate and forced to focus on the biggest game-breaking bugs. Even then it failed on some points, although that is to be expected in most cases. A large public beta program would have avoided a lot of issues, but I think the release deadline itself was several months too early.
    "Conquer, Punish, Enslave" - Words for the would-be Imperialists to live by!

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  • felixlulzfelixlulz Senior Member Posts: 219Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    i agree fully with the OP.
    thats just how you get rid of your long time supporters from the total war series. well done ca and sega.
  • appollonianappollonian Member Posts: 54Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Thank you very much. Lets stay positive that CA will correct gross bugs and the community will release some solid mods.
  • SporeduckSporeduck Senior Member Posts: 767Registered Users
    edited September 2013
  • scfs123scfs123 Senior Member Posts: 845Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Wargame airland battle?
  • ironman3112ironman3112 Senior Member Posts: 1,157Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    good post. thanks for taking the time to put this together!
  • ConorChaosConorChaos Junior Member Posts: 14Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    I don't know whether anyone else feels like this but Rome II feels like it's been developed for console in some ways, really dumbed down. Anyone else feel like this because the idea of my favorite strategy series going the way of the console/dodo terrifies me. Just look at the new implementations.. Like it can all be done on a control pad. I feel like this is obviously SEGAs idea.. CA please get some balls and tell them where to go. Try and get another publisher.
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  • RiithiRiithi Member Posts: 51Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    scfs123 wrote: »
    Wargame airland battle?
    Pretty much sounded like that yea.
  • OsredOsred Senior Member Posts: 108Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    A fantastic post. Excellent read.
  • heavyounceheavyounce Senior Member Posts: 454Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    Sporeduck wrote: »
    Sure... anonymous developer. *shrug*

    He might not be a real developer, but its hell well written points and more knowledgeable than 99% on the forum.
    At least it worked for my simple brain.
  • A_Parked_CarA_Parked_Car Member Posts: 85Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    scfs123 wrote: »
    Wargame airland battle?

    I got that vibe as well from the way the OP was describing himself.

    Anyway, I agree with what the OP says.
    "The historian without his facts is rootless and futile; the facts without their historian are dead and meaningless." - E. H. Carr

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  • FrontlinerDeltaFrontlinerDelta Senior Member Posts: 2,287Registered Users
    edited September 2013
    AnnonDev wrote: »
    and CA should have released "Massively improved Rome1" as it was such a success.

    I just want to disagree with this. If I want to play Rome 1, it aged pretty well, it still looks and plays decently. I wanted the changes that Empire and Shogun 2 brought and the changes that Rome 2 brought. Other than the faster paced battles, I don't agree at all that the game was "dumbed" down.
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