Patches – The Bane of Call of Duty ?

For my second blog I thought I’d comment on patches. These are the updates released to fix bugs or add features once the game has been commercially released. Patches are often released for all games so the Call of Duty series is no different there.

Even with the original Call of Duty, patches were issued though stopped at 1.5. The same was true of Call of Duty : United Offensive (patched to 1.51 or 1.51b or 1.52 depending what/where you read !), and Call of Duty 2 (patched to 1.3).

So what about Call of Duty 4 (CoD4) ? Well, we’re currently at patch 1.5 with patch 1.6 due (apparently withdrawn at the last moment as the developer, InfinityWard, “… found a critical bug during QA which broke kill cams when playing with mods among other things which put a hold on it and put it back in development”). So what do these patches actually do for the gamer and do you need them ?

The short answer is yes, you do need them. It would be sensible to keep a folder with all the patches for all your games so that you can easily re-patch if you have to re-install (sometimes you can get away with just the last patch, sometimes you have to apply all or several). Virtually all server admins will ensure their gameservers are patched to the latest and so if you don’t patch your own game then you won’t be able to join the server (and probably won’t even see it listed in the in-game server browser).

Shouldn’t these bugs have been fixed before a game is released ? Well it’s very easy to say that. In practical terms it is always impossible to test for all possible situations, especially with multiplayer, so the patches are a good way to fine tune the game. InfinityWard have been very pro-active with CoD4 to get patches out within a relatively short period to deal with major bug fixes and with patch 1.4 even added a bonus map for the festive season (Note : this means you will need to patch 1.4 to have access to the Xmas Crash map). Even this had been repeated with the original Call of Duty which added multiplayer maps with patches.

So what of the next patch 1.6 ? Well the wish list from players is very long and perhaps some of the suggestions are impractical. However, for most gaming Clans the two pressing issues are being able to use colored player tags with longer names and having the in-game server browser detect more servers. The latter has received much criticism since the launch of the game and it is hoped they (IW) have found a way to improve this. Whether these things will be fixed in Patch 1.6 remains to be seen.

After the PC Map Competition debacle (see previous blog), it is of note that the IW spokesperson “fourzerotwo” has said of Patch 1.6 “We’re continuing to evaluate it and looking into releasing it when the map pack potentially hits PC”. With all the confusion over the competition for mappers I sincerely hope they get on with releasing the patch and don’t delay it for months to decide on the release of a map-pack.

So, are patches a bane? Yes, it is annoying to have to patch, wait for servers to be updated and keep copies. Overall though, they do improve gameplay and add features so I suppose they are a necessary “evil”. What’s your view ?

- UKDarkstar

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One Response to Patches – The Bane of Call of Duty ?

  1. John says:

    I think that you hit the nail on the head here – patches are necessary to both correct bugs and to make the game more balanced to play. While bug hunting and balancing can be done internally to a certain extent it’s also important to iteratively do it after the game’s release and Infinity Ward have been doing a good job of retrospectively improving their game which shows an increasingly rare dedication to the consumers.