I said a little while ago that I’d write a longer post about Fez. This isn’t what I had in mind.
The buggy, broken nature of Fez is fairly widely known. For a major console release it’s pretty damning: Among a host of minor issues, there’s this one: Save-games sometimes become corrupted in such a way that the game will crash back to the Xbox menu after a minute of play. This is utterly game-breaking, and until now there’s been no fix.
Today the fix was finally unveiled. After a typically protracted journey through the legendarily strict Microsoft approvals process, the patch designed to fix the numerous existing bugs was released. And it promptly failed. Badly. Reports started coming in of even worse errors: Instead of crashing after a minute or so, the game simply refused to load the savegames at all. Absurdly, the patch designed to fix the bug that caused players’ savegames to become corrupted, in turn corrupted players’ savegames.
My first game (before the patch,) corrupted at 61/64 cubes, so I started another one on my girlfriend’s profile, on which I’ve got to 63/64. I very narrowly avoided installing the patch today – weirdly, after having not fired up my xbox for almost a month I did today, with the express purpose of finally solving that frickin’ black obelisk puzzle. But there were a bunch of Microsoft patches to install, and while I waited for them I read a few blogs – which first told me the Fez patch was finally ready, then shortly afterwards that it was fatally broken. I feel lucky – if my xbox hadn’t needed to update itself I’d have patched Fez without a second thought. And if I’d had to start the game again for the third time I think I would have suffered some sort of catastrophic mental collapse.
It’s a bit of a farce, really. I’m torn between feeling utter sympathy for the tiny Fez development team – it must be a horrible experience for them, having spent such a long time in development, only for the release to be so plagued with problems, and shaking my head at their clearly inadequate playtesting procedure. But what’s more baffling is that these problems managed to sneak past the Microsoft approval process. I’ve heard so many horror stories of how protracted and draconian Microsoft can be with the functionality of the games they release that the fact that such obvious, widespread problems – both with the original release and the patch – could go unnoticed, seems bizarre. Even if, as I suspect, the problem only appears in savegames that have progressed past a certain point in the game, you’d think it’s the sort of thing that would flag up in testing. Surely Microsoft would have tested the patch on a bunch of savegames that had suffered the problems it was designed to fix? Apparently not.
The really galling thing, and I suppose the only reason I really care about the whole debacle, is that Fez is a genuinely amazing game. I haven’t felt such a sense of wonder and discovery in any game for a very long time, which makes the problems it’s been plagued with all the more sad. It’s the best game I’ve played all year, but also the most broken. I wish I didn’t have to qualify that statement.