‘Bad coding leaves developers patching up damaged reputations’

‘Bad coding leaves developers patching 
up damaged reputations’

A new Government-funded organisation has been set-up to help developers stamp out bugs and online issues in their games. Tony Dyhouse, director of the Trustworthy Software Initiative, explains

Is the pressure on developers to rush new games to market causing more to be released before they are truly ready?

Recent reports on major vulnerabilities following the launch of some of the world's most anticipated new titles and upgrades suggests so.

Now that developers can send out updates and patches following purchase, the pressure to ensure a game is entirely secure before release is reduced.

But if companies maintain this reactive position they will soon find themselves losing customers and revenue.

Against a depressing economic backdrop, the UK games sector has provided an exciting area of growth.But if this is to continue the industry cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Customer loyalty takes a lifetime to build but can be lost in the time it takes to load one poor game.

To support industries such as gaming, the UK Government has set up the Trustworthy Software Initiative (TSI) to make it easier to build better, higher performance software.

The rationale for a rethink around software quality has never been clearer.

Last year Ubisoft was forced to email Assassin's Creed Unity fans to apologise for glitches in the game and offering compensation.

A few days earlier, Bonnie Ross, the head of Microsoft's 343 Industries studio, offered her own ‘heartfelt apology' for delays in fixing problems with the multiplayer in Halo: The Master Chief Collection (offering customers a remastered version of Halo: ODST as compensation).

These examples show the risks the industry faces if it is slow to address software issues. Any changes or system upgrade must be accompanied by extensive trialling under conditions that accurately replicate its expected use.If the pressure to meet deadlines gets in the way of this, the results are a loss of customer satisfaction and risks to the company's commercial future.

The excuse of a ‘glitch' has worn thin, and it's where the TSI aims to help.

The TSI was established in 2013 and aims to improve the usability and performance of new platforms and titles.

We aim to help developers embed a standard approach around reliability and availability that gives paying customers the level of trust in software they expect from day one.

FEELING SECURE

There is also a rationale around data security and consumer privacy.

Up to 90 per cent of today's data breaches are caused by software vulnerabilities, of particular concern at a time of increasingly immersive gaming, where players are often required to provide personal information in order to enjoy the full experience.

Whether creating a safer environment for players, or simply improving the experience, the change required is far less radical, time-consuming or expensive than one might imagine.

The TSI has collated all existing guidance, relevant standards and best practice into its Trustworthy Software Framework (TSF), providing those concerned with the information they need to build trustworthy software.

With the collaboration of the British Standards Institution, the concepts from the framework have also been formalised into a Publicly Available Specification PAS 754:2014 Software trustworthiness – Governance and management – Specification. The standard includes technical, physical and cultural measures alongside effective leadership and governance techniques to address trustworthiness.

The time for mass apologies, compensatory emails and vague excuses is over. In gaming as in many other service-based industries, consumer confidence is the most valuable form of currency, and in recent months some big names have taken some big hits.

The rebuilding process requires a recalibration of priorities, and a greater focus on quality over the marketability of a new title if gamers are to get more of what they value most highly – high performance products that work as they want them to each and every time.

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