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Microsoft Deflects Responsibility Over Fez Patch Problems

The company issues a statement disputing Phil Fish's claims.

Fez won't be getting re-patched, and it was the developer's choice, says Microsoft.

Yesterday's news that indie developer Polytron wouldn't be patching its Xbox Live Arcade platformer Fez, due to prohibitive costs from Microsoft, sparked some rather heated debate from writers and commenters alike. Some, myself included, took studio head Phil Fish's claims at mostly face value, assigning the heaping helping of the blame to Microsoft, due to the company's policy of charging "tens of thousands of dollars" for updates via Xbox Live. Others noted that Polytron's long history of development on Fez, coupled with the fact that the agreement Polytron signed to release via Xbox 360 would have outlined any such costs, meant there was ample blame to be spread around for the issue.

Microsoft, it seems, doesn't want any part of the discussion. The console maker released a brief statement today disputing Fish's claims that it was the rigid costs of releasing a title update that prevented the patch from happening.

“Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for FEZ. Microsoft Studios chose to support this decision based on the belief that Polytron/Trapdoor were in the best position to determine what the acceptable quality level is for their game.

While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue.

We remain huge fans of Fez.”

Take that statement as you will. Fish never mentioned anything regarding attempts to alleviate the problem, though we also don't know exactly what level of assistance Microsoft was offering. All you can really say at this point is that neither party looks blameless. Microsoft's costs for updates, which developer Tim Schafer has quoted as being as high as $40,000, definitely seem prohibitive to smaller, independent developers. On the other hand, you've got a years-in-development game with a patch causing save corrupting bugs, and a contract explaining up front the costs associated with the company's update regulations.

According to Polytron, less than a 1% of Fez players are vulnerable to the bug in the original patch. The bug specifically affects saves from completed games, or near-completed games.

Alex Navarro on Google+
269 Comments
Posted by Alex
Fez won't be getting re-patched, and it was the developer's choice, says Microsoft.

Yesterday's news that indie developer Polytron wouldn't be patching its Xbox Live Arcade platformer Fez, due to prohibitive costs from Microsoft, sparked some rather heated debate from writers and commenters alike. Some, myself included, took studio head Phil Fish's claims at mostly face value, assigning the heaping helping of the blame to Microsoft, due to the company's policy of charging "tens of thousands of dollars" for updates via Xbox Live. Others noted that Polytron's long history of development on Fez, coupled with the fact that the agreement Polytron signed to release via Xbox 360 would have outlined any such costs, meant there was ample blame to be spread around for the issue.

Microsoft, it seems, doesn't want any part of the discussion. The console maker released a brief statement today disputing Fish's claims that it was the rigid costs of releasing a title update that prevented the patch from happening.

“Polytron and their investor, Trapdoor, made the decision not to work on an additional title update for FEZ. Microsoft Studios chose to support this decision based on the belief that Polytron/Trapdoor were in the best position to determine what the acceptable quality level is for their game.

While we do not disclose the cost of Title Updates, we did offer to work with Trapdoor to make sure that wasn’t a blocking issue.

We remain huge fans of Fez.”

Take that statement as you will. Fish never mentioned anything regarding attempts to alleviate the problem, though we also don't know exactly what level of assistance Microsoft was offering. All you can really say at this point is that neither party looks blameless. Microsoft's costs for updates, which developer Tim Schafer has quoted as being as high as $40,000, definitely seem prohibitive to smaller, independent developers. On the other hand, you've got a years-in-development game with a patch causing save corrupting bugs, and a contract explaining up front the costs associated with the company's update regulations.

According to Polytron, less than a 1% of Fez players are vulnerable to the bug in the original patch. The bug specifically affects saves from completed games, or near-completed games.

Staff
Edited by Grissefar

fuck yes, I did it

@TooWalrus said:

@Grissefar said:

first

Grats?

Thanks, man.

Anyway, while I can understand the wish for Microsoft to keep the quality control high so consoles don't brick, you have to wonder if the barrier to entry is too high. You often hear developers complain about useless TCR they have to conform to in order to put stuff out on the platform. Microsoft probably wants to avoid Apple Store type of garbage and clutter, but in the end these useless rules and long cert times really hurt the consumer. Have a little more faith in the developer, man.

@The_Nubster said:

@Grissefar said:

first

Did that count? I thought saying first stopped you from getting the quest. Or maybe your subsequent post counted.

Don't know, already had it.

Posted by Morningstar

Mr. Fish...

Posted by TooWalrus

@Grissefar said:

first

Grats?

Online
Posted by WJist

It's unfortunate that the parties can't seem to agree "who's on first" for blame, but regardless, less than 1% of Fez players losing save data to this patch is still less than 1% acceptable.

Posted by Superanos

What are Fez's sales numbers? If the game was a big success, they could afford the $40k easily.

Posted by Zaapp1

I haven't bought this yet. Let's say I did, would the game automatically corrupt once I got near the end, or is this only for people who were already at the end when the Title Update was issued?

Posted by morrelloman

It's 99.9% acceptable in my opinion.

Posted by The_Nubster

@Grissefar said:

first

Did that count? I thought saying first stopped you from getting the quest. Or maybe your subsequent post counted.

Posted by august

This dosen't really seem like a refutation. Nothing they said outrightly contridicts Phill's claim that updates cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Posted by beepmachine

That statement from Microsoft is nonsense. "They decided not to patch the game, they could have but they didn't want to." Yeah, right. And just because Fish knew going in what the cost would be to update the game, it doesn't make the price fair, especially not for a really small company. What was he supposed to do? You just have to release it and hope everything works. And if you can't afford the 80k bill of two patches then I guess you're F'd in the A.

Edited by Peanut

Make your dumb fucking game work the first time out. How do devs think this shit worked before you could instantly patch a game? And honestly, I prefer the small quick Live updates to the absolutely brutal PSN updates. I bought Modnation Racers a couple months ago, put it in and seriously spent over an HOUR downloading an absolutely ridiculous amount of patches, and if Microsoft's bullshit iron grip on the way patching works for their console is the reason for it, I don't give a shit how draconian their process is.

Posted by Verlin

Sounds like Phil Fish might have burned some bridges in the game development community. I don't think his comments were in any way productive. Maybe he doesn't care, though, as an indie developer.

Posted by hollitz

You'd think these are the kind of costs that Microsoft would eat, at least for exclusives. Seems a little predatory.

Posted by mbkish

Doesn't seem like they refute it because they still have to pay for it. Microsoft is basically saying "It's not our fault they can't pay for it! We said we would work with them about the price." Microsoft probably said they would cut the cost in half, which is still thousands of dollars for a damn patch.

Posted by KoolAid

@august:

I don't think that's the issue. I think what they are trying to say is

a) that it isn't their fault.

b) It costs money not because we are trying to squeeze Phil Fish, but because it costs money because it a worldwide digital marketplace and that costs money to run

c) I think that are also saying to say is that P. Fish is painting an unfair picture and can be difficult to work with.

Posted by TEHMAXXORZ

I don't know who I don't like more, Microsoft or Phil Fish...

Posted by Viking_Funeral

Phil Fish continues to make friends. More news at 11.

Posted by Alex

@mbkish: I said "refute" when I meant to say "dispute." Big difference. I corrected it in the story.

Staff
Posted by Jazzycola

@dennisthemennis: Or Fish could've done more testing and QA to make sure it didn't break people's game saves then he'd only need to do one patch. This isn't a matter of who's more to blame. They both equally are to blame. Microsoft's quality assurance should allow for some leeway. As for the cost, I don't know how much it takes to maintain a server but I'm sure it's not free. Microsoft is hosting the server and bandwidth to download the patch. Not to mention the certification process is also not expense free. Now whether or not those expenses equal "tens of thousands of dollars", I don't know but there is some cost associated. And this is business we're talking about so they do want to make money on that side too.

Posted by mbkish

@Alex: Makes sense and a fairly easy mistake to make. Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by KoolAid

My thoughts are that there is enough "blame" to go around. Basically, while I think that Fish made the right choice, he should be held to the same standards that Mircosoft, EA, Blizzard, etc should be held to.

Fish said that it was a shitty numbers game. The fact of the matter is all of business is a shitty numbers game. All the other companies have to deal with the same shitty numbers game, but on a bigger scale. People take big companies to task for doing the same thing Fish did. He is discovering what these businesses figured out a long time ago.

Again... I personally don't think he made the wrong choice. But he should be held to the same standards as everyone else. If you are the kind of duder who takes studios to task for doing this kind of thing and you give Fish a pass you are a hypocrite.

Posted by Salarn

http://kevin-zhdcp.posterous.com/an-open-letter-to-polytron

Kevin Durst had a good post on this.

Posted by JDillinger

Phil Fish is a scumbag and Microsoft is a scumbag company. Good to know.

Edited by bkbroiler

"We remain huge fans of Fez" sitting alone at the bottom of that statement really makes me laugh. Not really sure why.

Posted by Talis12

is it less than 1% because only 1% has finished it? or is it that 1% of a lot more that have finished it has problems?

Edited by TheMasterDS

Microsoft needs to fix those policies, full stop. Especially if their plan is to court Free To Play games next generation. Free To Play games thrive on timely updates and additions.

Honestly, cert seems incredibly silly to me. Consider the fact that Fallout New Vegas made it through cert and tell me it's a credible thing. In fact, realize that the first Fez and the broken Fez patch both made it through unscathed. Not only is cert horribly overpriced, it's also hilariously ineffective! Not to mention self defeating considering that it doesn't actually stop buggy patches, it just makes it so when bugs pop up there's nothing the developer can do about it for a few weeks.

Certification seems like a system designed under the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong. And as Douglas Adams put it "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair."

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@mbkish said:

Doesn't seem like they refute it because they still have to pay for it. Microsoft is basically saying "It's not our fault they can't pay for it! We said we would work with them about the price." Microsoft probably said they would cut the cost in half, which is still thousands of dollars for a damn patch.

A patch they have to deliver to a whole hell of a lot of people, as I'm sure that game sold gangbusters, and from what I've heard Microsoft often works closely with developers. Sounds to me like Fish just googled for a number someone said it cost them for a patch and claimed it as his own, without ever working with MS to find out if his folks could get a better deal, which they probably could have.

@Superanos said:

What are Fez's sales numbers? If the game was a big success, they could afford the $40k easily.

I would like to disagree. $40,000 is still a lot of money. That's enough to support a couple of kids as a single parent. For a year. The game also had a long development so costs must have been higher than they otherwise would have been.

Posted by SmilingPig

So if I buy Fez my save might just get corrupt... Then I won’t buy Fez, problem solved.

Posted by Fobwashed

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. First patch is free, 40K is the price for fucking up twice. It sucks that devs have to pay a price for patches after the first one but this shit costs money and ive gotta assume 40k isn't that bad if you consider the amount of people the patch is going out to and the man hours involved with its implementation. Everyone wants shit for free. The Internet is a weird place...

Posted by Pixeldemon

Microsoft charges thousands of dollars for their content providers to release patches and improve their games? MS is the textbook example of a bloated, greedy, bureaucratically hobbled business. Success has continued to make them lazy and unwilling to improve. When will anyone learn anything from Valve? You can be successful while providing your customers and business partners with an amazing experience. Or you can be a garbage experience and rely on your marketshare and lack of competition to carry you.

Posted by IrrelevantJohn

I kind of missed the days where games came unbroken

Posted by Jazzycola

@Salarn said:

http://kevin-zhdcp.posterous.com/an-open-letter-to-polytron

Kevin Durst had a good post on this.

Imma be honest that post was not very good at all. For one, hitting enter after every freaking sentence is so annoying. There's more fluff there than actual substance.

Posted by dvorak

@IrrelevantJohn said:

I kind of missed the days where games came unbroken

They never really did. The problems just went largely unfixed. But patches have been pushed for PC games for decades now.

Edited by mlarrabee

The cost of patching games on the Xbox 360 is prohibitively excessive, I think.

But part of the reason the cost is so high is to ensure that game patches work the first time. When every update costs $40,000, you've an incentive to make positively sure that your update isn't going to ruin the experience of "less than 1%" of the player base.

Microsoft may be playing Scrooge, but the developer is entirely at fault for the game-destroying patch.

@TheMasterDS said:

Microsoft needs to fix those policies, full stop. Especially if their plan is to court Free To Play games next generation. Free To Play games thrive on timely updates and additions.

Honestly, cert seems incredibly silly to me. Consider the fact that Fallout New Vegas made it through cert and tell me it's a credible thing. In fact, realize that the first Fez and the broken Fez patch both made it through unscathed. Not only is cert horribly overpriced, it's also hilariously ineffective! Not to mention self defeating considering that it doesn't actually stop buggy patches, it just makes it so when bugs pop up there's nothing the developer can do about it for a few weeks.

Certification seems like a system designed under the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong. And as Douglas Adams put it "The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair."

This to some degree. Although certification seems more about filtering game crashing bugs (still there in Fallout, as you said), ensuring standards (box art and leaderboard integration, achievements, ease of access), and all that. I'm not sure how much bug testing is reviewed by Microsoft, but I'm fairy certain they only examine the results of testing done by the developer. And as someone with a 360 and a PS3, there are a few games in which Microsoft's cert process shines much brighter than Sony's (Skyrim, for one).

Posted by iAmJohn

@Talis12 said:

is it less than 1% because only 1% has finished it? or is it that 1% of a lot more that have finished it has problems?

@SmilingPig said:

So if I buy Fez my save might just get corrupt... Then I won’t buy Fez, problem solved.

It's that less than 1% of people who have downloaded the patch have had their pre-patch save files corrupted.

@TheMasterDS said:

Microsoft needs to fix those policies, full stop. Especially if their plan is to court Free To Play games next generation. Free To Play games thrive on timely updates and additions.

Honestly, cert seems incredibly silly to me. Consider the fact that Fallout New Vegas made it through cert and tell me it's a credible thing. In fact, realize that the first Fez and the broken Fez patch both made it through unscathed. Not only is cert horribly overpriced, it's also hilariously ineffective! Not to mention self defeating considering that it doesn't actually stop buggy patches, it just makes it so when bugs pop up there's nothing the developer can do about it for a few weeks.

This sounds about right to me. If Cert is charging obscene amounts of money to test games and patches to make sure they work and they don't, they're not doing their job and the expectation that developers need to pay Microsoft for this service is broken, especially when Steam doesn't charge for patches and PSN is allegedly a lot more fair about how they handle it. I understand the stance that Fish should've gotten it right the first time, but asking an indie developer to pay $40k to patch his small game that didn't sell that many copies anyway is not the right solution either.

Posted by heatDrive88

@IrrelevantJohn said:

I kind of missed the days where games came unbroken

Games used to be a lot simpler with far less moving parts, mind you.

Edited by AuthenticM

This is the first time I've read a story on Giant Bomb and was wrong about the identity of its author. Alex, stop being so neutral! You are not Patrick, but his evil twin. You're supposed to be snarky.

Posted by Vexxan

Considering how well-received Fez has been, isn't 1% of it's user base a pretty large amount of people?

Posted by vogon

@iAmJohn said:

This sounds about right to me. If Cert is charging obscene amounts of money to test games and patches to make sure they work and they don't, they're not doing their job and the expectation that developers need to pay Microsoft for this service is broken, especially when Steam doesn't charge for patches and PSN is allegedly a lot more fair about how they handle it. I understand the stance that Fish should've gotten it right the first time, but asking an indie developer to pay $40k to patch his small game that didn't sell that many copies anyway is not the right solution either.

cert is about verifying that the game doesn't break the Xbox device or the Live service, and that it doesn't behave improperly in obvious ways, not that it's 100% foolproof.

if cert was about outsourced QA, it would cost way more than $40,000 and nobody would ever ship an Xbox game with bugs.

Posted by Ohvee

@SmilingPig said:

So if I buy Fez my save might just get corrupt... Then I won’t buy Fez, problem solved.

I'm not totally positive, but I think that the issue only potentially affects save files that were created before the patch.

Posted by Demoskinos

For everyone throwing Microsoft under the bus realize that Sony does the same thing.

Posted by Sword5

Phil Fish wants to move on from Fez and doesn't have a clue how to fix the bugs. Shits on MS and everyone makes him a martyr.

I guess anyone can be a hero if they blame the right people when they can't do their job.

Posted by pw2566ch

@Superanos said:

What are Fez's sales numbers? If the game was a big success, they could afford the $40k easily.

That's not the point. I understand $40k chump change to a high selling game, but no company should have to dish out that much just to upload a patch. Not even EA and Activision.

I wonder if it's the same amount to upload a patch on PSN and Steam.

Posted by Ravenlight

@Jazzycola said:

@Salarn said:

http://kevin-zhdcp.posterous.com/an-open-letter-to-polytron

Kevin Durst had a good post on this.

Imma be honest that post was not very good at all. For one, hitting enter after every freaking sentence is so annoying. There's more fluff there than actual substance.

While I agree that it's not the best piece of journalism, I think it touches on some important points. Namely, it calls Fish out for being a twat.

Posted by KoolAid

@IrrelevantJohn said:

I kind of missed the days where games came unbroken

When is this time you spoke of? I seem to remember some save files getting corrupted in my SNES and NES days.

Posted by EricW
@Superanos The sales numbers may have been decent, but there are still te development costs that may have been fronted by the investor that need to be repaid. Considering how long it took to make, I'm sure that cost is really high.
Posted by Krakn3Dfx

@Demoskinos said:

For everyone throwing Microsoft under the bus realize that Sony does the same thing.

Is this something with facts to back it up, or is it just an assumption? Just curious, because I don't know.

Edited by iAmJohn

@vogon said:

@iAmJohn said:

This sounds about right to me. If Cert is charging obscene amounts of money to test games and patches to make sure they work and they don't, they're not doing their job and the expectation that developers need to pay Microsoft for this service is broken, especially when Steam doesn't charge for patches and PSN is allegedly a lot more fair about how they handle it. I understand the stance that Fish should've gotten it right the first time, but asking an indie developer to pay $40k to patch his small game that didn't sell that many copies anyway is not the right solution either.

cert is about verifying that the game doesn't break the Xbox device or the Live service, and that it doesn't behave improperly in obvious ways, not that it's 100% foolproof.

if cert was about outsourced QA, it would cost way more than $40,000 and nobody would ever ship an Xbox game with bugs.

I'd say that making sure the game doesn't freak out when running on one of the various permutations of the different 360 hardwares (and from what I've understood and I could be wrong, but it sounds like the Fez patch is only affects one specific model of 360 using a particular chipset) is very much in line with Cert's job description. That's not QA; that's making sure your developer partners are covered by the fact that you've changed your hardware several times over the years while having said partners use the same basic tools since 2005.

Posted by aurahack

Great, because turning this into a finger-pointing match is the solution. Ugh, Microsoft.