May 18, 2009

...Learn TDD with Codemanship

EU Proposes Consumer Protection Against Buggy Games

If this story is accurate, then this is a very interesting development indeed.

It seems the EU Commission now feel that bugs in game software constitute a faulty product, and as such should be covered by the same kind of consumer protection laws that cover is when we buy a faulty toaster or a faulty lawnmower.

This is a radical step forward in their thinking. Historically, software license agreements have provided developers with a "get out of jail free" card they can play that says that just because the product you paid good money for doesn't necessarily work as advertised that doesn't mean you're entitled to a refund.

If this law came into effect, it would mean games developers could no longer fob us off with the "we'll fix it in the upgrade" excuse, which often requires us to actually pay to get the fix in many kinds of software (along with a whole bunch of new bugs, of course.)

This would require games developers to seriously up their game - if you'll excuse the pun - as far as reliability is concerned.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I'd like to see this law come into force, and to see it extended to cover all commercial software - especially bespoke.

Is it enforceable, though? Well, perhaps with a few simple standards regarding product delivery, then yes, it might just be. A software product is essentially just a set of files that are built from the source and other artefacts. If that product is created using an automated build proess, and if both the source files and the build scripts are strictly managed - in both the practical SCM sense and in the legal sense that a copy is kept as part of the developers' records - just as a civil engineering project will have to keep records of plans and engineering calculations and wotnot just in case the bridge falls down or something - then it should be possible in a dispute to trace a shipped product directly back to the source it was built from. Any attempts at shenanigans on the part of the developers could be rebuked simply by running the build and comparing the resulting set of outputs against what was shipped/downloaded.

Anyway, hurrah for the EU (for once) and let's keep our fingers crossed for the best outcome.

Posted 3 weeks, 3 days ago on May 18, 2009