C&C3 Support Apology

A post to the Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Website by EALA's Mike Verdu addresses the upcoming patch for the PC edition of the Kane's Wrath expansion for Command & Conquer 3 (thanks Voodoo Extreme), calling the update to fix desync issues (story) "long overdue." He says this and other post-release support issues have inspired the formation of a "live team" dedicated to RTS issues, and while it may take time for this to take effect, the intent is to serve their customers better going forward:
We are finally on the cusp of releasing a long overdue patch for the PC version of Kane's Wrath, the expansion pack for C&C3. This patch addresses desync and balance issues that should have been fixed months ago, and I apologize again to our customers for the long delay. The wait for the Kane’s Wrath patch has been a low point in our product support for the last few years, and I take full responsibility.

As General Manager of the studio that makes Command & Conquer games (as well as the Battle for Middle series), I care a great deal about our product quality and support.

I am very proud of our games and the teams that made them. From C&C Generals to the two Battle for Middle-earth games to C&C3, I feel like we have brought great RTS experiences to millions of people who have spent tens of millions of hours playing the games and having fun. That's what I live for… it's why I'm in this business. I can’t think of a better reward than to know that we have built games that people are spending time with and enjoying. I know that some in our community may dislike certain products or aspects or features of the games overall – and I'm humble enough to realize that we can always improve and do better – but in my heart I believe that we’ve made some good games that have delivered value to our customers.

I am not as proud of our record in supporting our games after launch. In fact, I'm downright unhappy with that aspect of our business. There have been some bright spots: For example, our community manager's passionate advocacy on behalf of our customers, the huge patch 1.05 for Battle for Middle-earth II that was a labor of love between our team and the community, and our fast response to some initial problems on C&C3. But overall, the level of support has been lacking. We tend to put out a limited number of patches for our products and in many cases those patches take longer than they should to finish, test, and release. It’s been a chronic issue for more than four years, and we need to fix it.

Our support woes are not the fault of the line developers who work here. We have some of the most talented people in the world on our RTS teams here at EA Los Angeles. The basic issue is the tension between developing new products and supporting our older products. Creating a patch requires hundreds – and in some cases thousands - of man-hours invested by an interdisciplinary team… as well as close coordination with our quality assurance department and other parts of our company. Our teams and leaders have the best of intentions and desperately want to continue supporting our games… but we find ourselves constantly trading off between new development and support. It’s very hard to juggle this work and there are often dependencies and complexities involved that wind up hurting both the new project and the patch efforts. Our issues with support are not a matter of being greedy; believe it or not we have actually spent seven figure sums supporting each of our products for the last few years (if you added up the effort invested and money spent on patches and support for Generals, the BFME games, C&C3, and their expansion packs, we could have built an entire new product). It actually boils down to a matter of logistics and management.

We've been wrestling with the logistics of support for a long time and we need a new approach. After all, some of our competitors have been providing a high level of post-launch support for years, so we know it can be done...and done well.

I’m happy to announce that we have established a live team for our RTS products. Its mission is simple: To protect and serve Command & Conquer – the C&C community, the individual C&C games, and the C&C universe. The live team is starting small, but over a period of many months it will be staffed with a number of developers who will be dedicated to support. Over the next year, more and more support activities will be carried out by the live team instead of by the teams that actually build the games. Red Alert 3 will start out supported by its development team and will transition to live team support a few months after release. The live team’s laser-sharp focus on support eliminates the inherent conflict between new development and patching/maintaining our legacy products.

I am not going to say that this initiative is going to instantly solve all of our support issues – and I don't think we have the credibility with our customers to make that claim anyway. In fact, it will take considerable time to get this effort spun up and working well. But over a period of months and years, I believe the benefits of this new approach will be evident. My hope is that the community will be able to look back on this period and say, "this was the low point – and then things started getting better".
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21.
 
Re: Long overdue?
Jul 6, 2008, 10:39
21.
Re: Long overdue? Jul 6, 2008, 10:39
Jul 6, 2008, 10:39
 
What's long overdue is some kind of standard industry-wide approach for supporting legacy code in general, not just recent releases.

Personally at this point in my career I'd -prefer- to work on existing Stable code instead of beating my brains out in yet another round of desperate crunchtime madness trying to get new code working at all.

Hire me!

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