This week, digital storefront GOG.com pushed out an update for the classic 2004 first-person shooter Far Cry. The update—the first in over two years for the 15-year-old game—was as small as it was random: "added a small fix to prevent AI bots from shooting through tents." This bug has been a long-standing annoyance for players, who have been complaining about it on various forums for the last 13 years. But why now? It started with a fan-made mod to fix the bug and a support ticket.
"[Ubisoft] changed a canvas material definition file and accidentally broke this," community modder FarOutWidescreen told VICE over email. According to FarOutWidescreen, Ubisoft was trying to allow players to shoot through tents in multiplayer. Instead of changing the tent material to just be permeable to bullets, the change gave enemy AI the ability to see through tents as well. This patch was one of the last pieces of support for the game after over two years, and it was never officially fixed.
FarOutWidescreen, who describes himself as a "self-taught programmer," figured out a fix for the problem and published it as a mod earlier this year. Then, he decided to contact GOG. "I opened a support ticket noting that the game ships in a broken state and carefully explained the issue, and how trivial the fix was, and it escalated from there."
GOG's programmers made the change themselves after FarOutWidescreen described the bug and how to fix it. For GOG, making a change to game files owned by another publisher isn't as unusual as it first appears. "We're pretty experienced in updating classic games and making them compatible with modern systems," Marcin Traczyk, global communications manager at GOG, said. "This idea of games preservation has been one of the main pillars of the GOG.com identity for over 10 years now."
In addition to being an unusually random update to an old game, this change could also be seen as a bit misguided—at least as an act of preservation in the historical or curatorial sense. For 13 of the last 15 years, Ubisoft has proudly maintained and sold version 1.4 as the canonical version of Far Cry, a game where the AI can see and shoot at players through opaque walls. GOG is altering an old, established piece of software to make it different from the version that most people experienced.
Then again, this new GOG-improved version is closer to the original 1.0 version that launched in 2004. Plus, it just isn't much fun to get shot in a video game by broken, all-seeing AI.
Whatever its philosophical motivations, GOG handles changes like this on a case-by-case basis, and some publishers are more hands-on than others. Ubisoft, apparently, trusts GOG to handle things. "We've already added several tweaks to various Ubisoft games," Traczyk said, "and we really appreciate their open approach in this matter." Players who own the classic Far Cry through GOG will already have the fix included with the game. Everyone else will have to download and install the mod separately.