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Call of Duty Creators Say Your Bugs Were "Edge Cases"

Illustration for article titled Call of Duty Creators Say Your Bugs Were Edge Cases

I have very publicly championed Call of Duty: Black Ops. I found the single player provoking, the multiplayer addictive. But was picky about which version of the game I like. That's because my choice for Game of the Year seemed packed with bugs when I played it on the computer and Playstation 3.


But why?

That's what I wanted Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia to explain to me. So when we had a chance to chat on the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences red carpet last week, that's what I asked.


"That's a very good question, but I also think it's often misunderstood," Lamia said, after I told him that there was a big difference between how the games played and were perceived on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC at launch.

"I would ask you to go on to the PS3 yourself, not just read the boards, and experience it yourself on both platforms," he said.

I did, I replied, but only at launch.

"You did," he said, sounding a bit surprised.

What I found when I played the game on the PS3 was a title with framerate issues and crashes and I heard about quite a few multiplayer bugs. When I played the game on PC it was completely unplayeable, freezing and dropping to a framerate that turned the game from a movie into a slideshow.


Initially, Lamia seemed to answer the questions I wasn't asking, explaining how two of the versions shouldn't have had bugs, the lengths that the developer went to to ensure there wouldn't be problems.

"The answer is that we have a huge team that is just committed to making sure that Black Ops, period, on whatever platform it is out on, that people have a great experience," he said. "We have our own internal test team that are the largest we've ever had. We don't even rely on Activision's test teams. We have Activision's test team support, but actually at Treyarch we've invested in testing to the point where we have full test teams testing all of these platforms and making sure we are doing all of this stuff."


He also explained the great lengths that the team went to once problems were discovered.

"We hear about something that bothers us and we make sure it's fixed and addressed," he said. "Which is why you've seen aggressively us addressing things we hear about. So when we hear about something, we actually reach out to players sometimes in the community to see if we can replicate it. If there is something out there that we've never seen, obviously we're going to work with players to see if we can work it out."


Lamia seemed to feel that the problems that were popping up for both PC and PS3 users weren't the typical experiences for a vast majority of the people playing his game.

"Here is what I will say: We know this for a fact, that the vast, vast majority don't have these sorts of experiences and they're out there playing this game," he said. "I really do encourage you to go online and play it.


"To the extent that there are issues we are unaware of, we are committed to trying to work to make sure the experience is good, that's the most important thing. We are making the game for everyone. The game is robust, huge, we want to make sure if there are any issues they are addressed."

Lamia added that he thinks that the game plays "really great" on all of the platforms now.


"That's not to say there aren't edge cases," he said. "When we do hear of something, we're not like not doing anything.

"We worked on the game for two years, we want nothing more than for people to like it, especially guys who invested in rigs to make sure they had a powerful enough system. Obviously we care about the PC community."


Lamia wrapped up by saying just how proud the team is of the game on all three systems.

"We think it's an awesome experience," he said. "I wish it wasn't just the 360 version you felt that way about because we feel like it's a great experience on all of the platforms."

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I understand what Mark Lamia is talking about when he refers to "edge cases." I work technical support for a reputable electronics manufacturer. My company's products are very well made and reliable. My company sells a lot of product, millions and millions of units.

The majority of my job is assisting people with using the product or components that they buy, but I also have to help them set up repairs when necessary. I hear the same song and dance every time that I determine a repair or replacement is necessary.

"I've heard you guys are havin' a lot problems with these. Yeah, I read about it online."

"Everyone online is having this issue."

I always remind them that the internet has a tendency to magnify problems, and make them seem worse. Millions of people have purchased the product and enjoy it without hindrance. They don't go online everyday and say, "Hey guys my product is working!" They just enjoy the product and go about their day. However, there is a very small percentage out there that does have issues with the product. This group of people do go online and bitch, and complain, they vent to the other thousand people that are having the same issue. A thousand people seems like a lot of people online, in a forum or on a blog. But is still a very small percentage. People have an issue seeing any further than what is right in front of them. When something bad happens, it's the worst thing ever. And if the product broke on them, then it's a piece of shit, and the entire assembly line is fucked. These people often ask me if there is going to be a recall. I tell them that we only initiate a recall when we have a real problem.

If we sell a million units, a small percentage will have issues. Manufacturer's defects are an unfortunate fact of life. Although there are millions of people enjoying the products we make, there is at least a thousand people who receive a defective unit or component. I can understand their frustration, because I've had products fail on me. I just call the manufacture and get it fixed. The real question here is if Activision is helping edge cases to the best of their abilities.

I don't like Call of Duty (Battlefield is a superior product, in my opinion), but I have tons of friends and co-workers who play it on the PS3. None them have reported issues. From their perspective, it's a perfect game.