Going gold

If you’re an observer of the game development industry, follow game developers or have seen my recent tweet, you may have heard the term “gone gold“. Now you may infer what that means, but why do we use this term? It’s not akin to me still using a floppy disc icon to show when Piczle Cross Adventure is saving data; it’s based a technology that presumably won’t be around for much longer. In fact, it’s not used in the case of Piczle Cross Adventure at all.

When games were released on optical disc, when a final version of the game was ready, the developer would burn it onto a gold-based CD that was of a higher quality than your usual writable CD-ROMs. This disc would then be used as the master from which every copy of the game was printed and distributed to stores.

This was always a massive step. Once that disc was sent out by secure courier there was no going back! Once copies started getting printed the cost of a redo would be prohibitive for most publishers. This is why QA (quality assurance – testing) was, and remains, so very important. Any bug that was on that golden disc was going to be in the retail copy.

There are examples of big games that were shipped with fatal bugs in them, of course, as well as games being yanked from production in favour of a fixed gold master. But generally, once a game had “gone gold”, that was it. It was done!

These days, of course, most of this stays digital. Masters are uploaded onto servers, or dumped directly onto e-stores. The idea of burning a master onto a gold CD is going to go the way of the floppy, but the term will probably remain in game development to mark a “releasable” build of your game, to dust off your hands and say “this is it, it is finished!”

Piczle Cross Adventure is still to go through the platform holder’s own checks, and may come back with a couple of issues that need addressing. This is usually the case, though I remain unreasonably proud that my previous game, Piczle Colors, passed this check on the first try. Fingers crossed Piczle Cross Adventure will fare as well!

Then, to put the nail even further in the coffin of gold CDs, there are patches. We live in a world where it is super easy for developers and publishers to push out a fix, should an issue arise after the game has been released. Sometimes this is abused, by sending a knowingly broken game into production and relying on, what is known as, a “day 1 patch”. Sometimes these day 1 patches can be as big as the game itself, so it can be a real bummer for customers. Or the developer removes features with a patch and alters the game to be less than what you knew it to be when you purchased it.

Generally, patches are a good thing, though. Bug fixes, the perennial “performance enhancements” and of course extra content, like what I did with Piczle Lines DX. I will be keeping a close eye on Piczle Cross Adventure once it is released “into the wild”, so to speak, and try to address as many issues that might crop up as I can.

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