Damning words from Team Polytron tonight. The good news: Fez is patched again, and devoid of game-breaking bugs. The bad news: For a small percentage of players already deep into the game, it may devour your save and progress to date. The reason this hasn’t been fixed? Microsoft certification policy, it seems, and the limited resources of a small indie developer.
In this lengthy letter to fans, Polytron spell it out, plain as day. It’s harsh, but I think this is something that really needs to be brought to light. Here’s the important bit:
“We’re bringing the first FEZ patch online.
It’s the same patch.
We’re not going to patch the patch.
Why not? Because microsoft would charge us tens of thousands of dollars to re-certify the game.
And because as it turns out, the save file delete bug only happens to less than a percent of players. It’s a shitty numbers game to be playing for sure, but as a small independent, paying so much money for patches makes NO SENSE AT ALL. especially when you consider the alternative. Had FEZ been released on steam instead of XBLA, the game would have been fixed two weeks after release, at no cost to us. And if there was an issue with that patch, we could have fixed that right away too!”
This is backed up by statements made by Tim Schafer of Double Fine not long ago, suggesting that the price of certification for even a tiny hotfix patch (the kind of stuff a developer can produce in a day or two, and roll out on Steam in hours) is in the tens of thousands of dollars for a small XBLA release. From what I can gather, Sony do have a vaguely similar certification process, but it’s much cheaper – developers seem far more willing to roll out smaller updates for PS3 games.
Naturally, Steam, Desura and all the other PC equivalents have no such certification fees attached to updates. Bugs can be fixed as and when they surface, and patches rolled out literally within hours of issues being detected, if the developers are fast enough on the draw. There’s a definite note of frustration in the press release here, and no doubt this’ll be burning some bridges between Polytron and Microsoft, but given the resurgence of smaller-scale PC development, that doesn’t seem so bad.
As I write this, Tim Schafer actually chimed in via Twitter, in support of Polytron. Hopefully if enough people make a noise, Microsoft might just consider changing their oppressive policies. It might be a good idea to do it sooner rather than later, as sales of XBLA games have been dropping sharply in recent months, and a lot of this seems to be due to indie developers jumping ship to other, less problematic platforms.
Still, for those who just want to play Fez, this is bittersweet news. While a small percentage of players might lose their progress to date, the game is at least stable and reliable now. I’d been holding off on fully completing it until a new patch was released, so I suppose I’ll have to make do with this one. As much as I should be frustrated at Polytron for letting a bug like this slip through, I can’t help but feel that the ball is firmly in Microsoft’s court on this one – their horrendously expensive certification process somehow missed this bug first time through, and they want to charge full price again so they can just wave it through?
Ah well – the silver lining to this big, unpleasant cloud is that Fez is finally patched. It’s Adventure Time, Gomez! You can buy the game via XBLA for 800 MS Points ($10) or equivalent, and it’s a damn fine game. Such a shame that it’ll be forever tarnished by this sad story.
Update: More support, this time from Team Meat – another studio notoriously burnt when working with Microsoft. And Polytron drop an interesting ray of hope here:
Fez coming to PC? Maybe.
Source: The Indie Game Magazine – Save-Devouring ‘Fez’ Patch Returns Unfixed – ‘Blame Microsoft’, Say Devs