I was going to lay off of "Lord of the Rings Online" and Turbine for a while, because you can only kick a dog so long before it just gets pathetic, but today came some news out of LOTRO that I simply have to address. You see, LOTRO players have been reporting an annoying little bug for some time that puts up a message stating "The target you are tracking no longer exists", or something to that effect. This has been reported multiple times over the last couple of years, and it seems whenever there is a major change to the code (such as when an expansion or a big update is released), it comes back.
Well, today Seraphina Brennan (Community Manager "Celestrata" on the LOTRO forums) addressed this issue with the following statement:
While we were unable to fully reproduce the issue on our side, we have checked in a fix in 8.1 that is designed to eliminate the spam. We think we found the problematic strings of code and have appropriately written around them to stop this from happening. However, should it continue, please let us know and we'll continue to look into it."
Okay, I'm no developer, but I did take basic Computer Science class in high school, and this "fix" would have made my teacher's head explode! Let's just say that this "fix" is not exactly following Best Practices. Let's look at this bit by bit, shall we?
"While we were unable to fully reproduce the issue on our side, we have checked in a fix in 8.1 that is designed to eliminate the spam."
Why not? If your QA can't reproduce the problem, then you need new QA, more QA, or maybe there isn't a problem at all here. Maybe the folks reporting the issue are mistaken, and the message is popping up correctly? That isn't likely considering the circumstances, so it appears your QA crew is lacking in some manner, either in staff or expertise.
"We think we found the problematic strings of code and have appropriately written around them to stop this from happening."
Wait, what? You think you have found the problematic strings of code, and you have "appropriately" written around them to stop the problem? Yep, I just heard it, that faint popping sound was my computer science teacher's head exploding. Too bad, he was a nice guy.
This simple statement is so fraught with problems I'm not sure how Seraphina was allowed to state it publicly. First, you think you found the problem code? Since you can't reproduce the problem, how do you know for sure? Secondly, writing around code that might be a problem is never an answer, especially not an appropriate one! Let's see, we think these strings of code might be the cause of a bug we can't even reproduce, so let's just put in new code that skip over this old code, rather than reproduce the bug then find and fix the broken code involved.
Again, I'm not a developer, but even I can see this is a bad idea. You have some code that may or may not be a problem, so you write new code to skip the old code. One has to assume the old code was there for a reason, and by skipping over it, new bugs may be introduced into the program. Or later still, the code added to skip over the old, possibly buggy code may conflict with even newer code, causing other bugs.
LOTRO is not a quilt, it is software! You do not literally patch software, you fix it. You recreate the bug, find the bad code, and fix it. Period. If QA can't reproduce the bug, then QA needs to keep working on it, and when/if they find it, hand it off to the developers to track down the actual, confirmed issue. Patching over the problem (likely by skipping the code that produces this message, in effect muting the bug without fixing it) says Management just wants this to 'go away', rather than actually address the issue at all.
And that is Turbine in a post-WB buyout world, in a nutshell. Doing the least possible work to cover up a problem, rather than actually fixing it, so they can still look like a competent gaming company. Meanwhile the code for the game is looking like an old tire that is covered in patches to stop up all the holes it has developed over the years.
This is so ridiculous it is on the verge of ludicrous.