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General: Weathers: The Evolution of a Patch Note

DanaDana Member Posts: 2,415

How do they come to be? Why do they read like they do? This week, Sanya looks behind the curtain at Patch Notes in the MMO Underbelly. Her columns appear on MMORPG.com every Friday.

There was once this… patch note:

“Class adjustments have been made.”

This is a terrible patch note. What class? How many classes? Were the adjustments global for the class, or situational changes that only apply to dungeons or instances? Adjusted which way? Why was it adjusted? How much was it adjusted?

Read her full article here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

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Comments

  • Paragus1Paragus1 Member UncommonPosts: 1,741

    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?

    Example back in Age of Conan, my best friend was playing one of the classes and logged in after a patch to find out that one of his main attacks had its damage reduced by 50-70%.   It's almost like they want to make you think it is some sort of bug, a bug that mysteriously gets reported all over the forums and never gets fixed.   I don't think they have the heart to tell people that their class just had its balls cut off and is now effectively useless.

  • SanyaSanya Director of Community Undead LabsMember UncommonPosts: 50
    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?
    Example back in Age of Conan, my best friend was playing one of the classes and logged in after a patch to find out that one of his main attacks had its damage reduced by 50-70%.   It's almost like they want to make you think it is some sort of big, a but that mysteriously gets reported all over the forums and never gets fixed.   I don't think they have the heart to tell people that their class just had its balls cut off and is now effectively useless.

     

    I can't comment as to that particular change, being as I haven't worked on the game. And not documenting the change is inexcusable.

    BUT

    No developer, anywhere, at any time, would nerf an attack by 70% unless it's the opening move in a chain that eventually grows, or unless 30% of the original is still pretty damn good. If it was an intentional change, then "effectively useless" is only accurate if you are comparing the attack to its bloated original. If you had started out with the smaller version, you would almost certainly have taken it to be normal, not useless. If the change has rendered most of the players of the class "useless," then they were overly reliant on that one single attack, which is pretty much proof positive that the class was broken. A class shouldn't ever have an I WIN button.

    A 90K/year salary only sounds like chump change if you're used to making 200K/year, but there are millions of people who would take that 90K and cackle.

    And as I implied in my article - it's always better to do one big nerf than two little ones, because there's a real cost in lost subs when you spread out the pain.

    So, yeah, my only problem with the scene as you describe it is that it wasn't noted.

    Sanya M. Weathers
    Director of Community
    Undead Labs

  • PyrateLVPyrateLV Member CommonPosts: 1,096
    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?

     

    I find it ironic that Sanya is writing about this since DAoC was notorious for incomplete, vague and even undocumented (stealth nerf) patches.

    I guess she of all people would really know about this

    Tried: EQ2 - AC - EU - HZ - TR - MxO - TTO - WURM - SL - VG:SoH - PotBS - PS - AoC - WAR - DDO - SWTOR
    Played: UO - EQ1 - AO - DAoC - NC - CoH/CoV - SWG - WoW - EVE - AA - LotRO - DFO - STO - FE - MO - RIFT
    Playing: Skyrim
    Following: The Repopulation
    I want a Virtual World, not just a Game.
    ITS TOO HARD! - Matt Firor (ZeniMax)

  • Rommie10-284Rommie10-284 Member UncommonPosts: 265

    I have to agree that it's the undocumented changes that get people going off like train whistles.  After a while, the response of "Sorry!" starts to read like "Sorry, Charlie!" to folks, and they get wound up over the perceived sarcasm.

    I also find it interesting that I rarely see patch notes that make it to the last step, as described in this article.  When they do, the next patch will fail to do so.  Or, as insinuated, the "can't talk about details" excuse pops up, and the players get to go on an Easter Egg hunt to discover if they got the lollipop or the rock in this round of changes.

    Sadly, even if a game spelled out all the facts, every time, every patch, they will still get rabblerabbled  with those facts, instead of speculation.  It makes it easy to see why effort might be withheld on a process that will have the same results, at least at a superficial level.

     

     

    Avatars are people too

  • SanyaSanya Director of Community Undead LabsMember UncommonPosts: 50
    Originally posted by PyrateLV

    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?

     

    I find it ironic that Sanya is writing about this since DAoC was notorious for incomplete, vague and even undocumented (stealth nerf) patches.

    I guess she of all people would really know about this

     

    Well, I was trying to illustrate that whether the company is really good at it or really bad at it, it's a group process consisting of multiple departments and user feedback.

    Everyone has to be on the same page for the process to work.

    Though for the record, there was never a stealth nerf in my time. There were some things that weren't documented, but that was a failure of documentation, never an attempt to sneak things in.

    EDIT: Okay, there was one attempt at sneaking, but neither I nor the producer was told about it, or it wouldn't have happened, and it certainly never happened again :)

    Sanya M. Weathers
    Director of Community
    Undead Labs

  • SanyaSanya Director of Community Undead LabsMember UncommonPosts: 50
    Originally posted by Rommie10-284


    I have to agree that it's the undocumented changes that get people going off like train whistles.  After a while, the response of "Sorry!" starts to read like "Sorry, Charlie!" to folks, and they get wound up over the perceived sarcasm.
    (snip)
    Sadly, even if a game spelled out all the facts, every time, every patch, they will still get rabblerabbled  with those facts, instead of speculation.  It makes it easy to see why effort might be withheld on a process that will have the same results, at least at a superficial level.
     
     

     

    The first was one of those things I never satisfactorily solved. I *always* cared and I was *always* truly regretful, but the 400th time does ring a bit hollow. But the front line people can't do anything about that. All the front line people can do is keep being sincere even if no one believes it.

    The last is pretty much the main argument faced by everyone who advocates transparency.

    I'm going to stop posting now :) Can you tell this is something I care about?

    Sanya M. Weathers
    Director of Community
    Undead Labs

  • weblinkz2002weblinkz2002 Member Posts: 112
    Originally posted by PyrateLV

    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?

     

    I find it ironic that Sanya is writing about this since DAoC was notorious for incomplete, vague and even undocumented (stealth nerf) patches.

    I guess she of all people would really know about this

     

    Knowing Sanya and her experience with Community Management, I am pretty sure she wouldn't have allowed stealth nerfs, unless unbeknownst to her.

    This post was mainly to reflect on how communication and honesty is vital for the healthy growth and sustainability for a community in an online game.

    I also would have to agree with the fact that when something is patched there needs to be enough information to inform players of the changes, leaving little room for misunderstandings. But even then there will always be those who don't read things fully and end up with wrong conclusions.

    ~Webby "This MMO needs more dead bird."
    image

  • LordDmasterLordDmaster Member UncommonPosts: 130

    Thank you Sanya

    Again with your type of dry humor (that I like) you have written a great article about things that should be looked at by both players and devs.

     

    …..it’s a guideline, not a rule, as players we must remember: “It’s a Game”.

  • ZkilfinGZkilfinG Member Posts: 30
    Originally posted by LordDmaster


    Thank you Sanya

    Again with your type of dry humor (that I like) you have written a great article about things that should be looked at by both players and devs.

     

     

    That's pretty much what I felt after reading this article. I really enjoyed the dry humor and at the same time it was interesting reading about it from someone on "the other side". Thanks.

    Playing: Xbox360.
    Played: NC, WoW, EvE, WAR, LOTRO.
    Waiting: Dust 514, SW:TOR, Infinity:TQFE, et al.

  • haratuharatu Member UncommonPosts: 409

    Personally I have always been happy with simplistic and non numerical description.

    Just telling me that "aggro has been changed" is fine. I do however want to know if skills have been changed "firebolt damage increased" is enough for me, I dont need to know the numbers, i can see that in game.

    I think the reason I prefer not to see the numbers is that surfing through long lengthy patch notes just gets frustrating and keeping it short is essential to get the idea across without hassle.

     

    Perhaps developers could make 2 sets of notes, one for the simple statements that goes with the patch, and a lengthy one on their website for those that want to know?

  • TsukieUTsukieU Member Posts: 559
    Originally posted by Sanya

    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?
    Example back in Age of Conan, my best friend was playing one of the classes and logged in after a patch to find out that one of his main attacks had its damage reduced by 50-70%.   It's almost like they want to make you think it is some sort of big, a but that mysteriously gets reported all over the forums and never gets fixed.   I don't think they have the heart to tell people that their class just had its balls cut off and is now effectively useless.

     

    I can't comment as to that particular change, being as I haven't worked on the game. And not documenting the change is inexcusable.

    BUT

    No developer, anywhere, at any time, would nerf an attack by 70% unless it's the opening move in a chain that eventually grows, or unless 30% of the original is still pretty damn good. If it was an intentional change, then "effectively useless" is only accurate if you are comparing the attack to its bloated original. If you had started out with the smaller version, you would almost certainly have taken it to be normal, not useless. If the change has rendered most of the players of the class "useless," then they were overly reliant on that one single attack, which is pretty much proof positive that the class was broken. A class shouldn't ever have an I WIN button.

    A 90K/year salary only sounds like chump change if you're used to making 200K/year, but there are millions of people who would take that 90K and cackle.

    And as I implied in my article - it's always better to do one big nerf than two little ones, because there's a real cost in lost subs when you spread out the pain.

    So, yeah, my only problem with the scene as you describe it is that it wasn't noted.

     

    Actually under whatshisname's reign (Gaute Godager), the game was notorious for swathing, debilitating changes being made to the game and never being documented.

     

    At all.

     

    For a good long time, patch day meant for a good number of players, that it was time to test and document the changes that never made it to the notes.

     

    One specific iteration of that was the Bear Shaman's Internal Bleed talent, Gaute felt that a bleed effect combo was too powerful with an opener that did damage.  And maybe he was right, but by reducing the opener's damage to 0...he nullified a talent (a 5 point one at that) that increased the opening damage of the combo by an incremental amount based on points invested.

     

    None of this was documented.

     

    Or even changed until recently.  When the new game director was made aware of the change, I doubt he'd admit it, but I am fairly sure he had no idea of such a glaring issue.  He certainly seemed surprised by it.

     

    This all took almost a year, from beginning to end, to be fixed.  Because a game director felt it unnecesary to document what he felt was a minor change.

     

    Anyway, that is just one game, and it's tale of being mishandled grossly.

    Mne eto nado kak zuby v zadnitse.

  • nekollxnekollx Member Posts: 570

     i complety agree that we need more transparency. Take City of Heroes for a moment. Sometimes the patchnotes and nerfs were massive, game changing things. They felt the could get away with it and well the players caught them on day one. They wised up eventually bu their were same major exodoses in the game because of outright lies or vage notes that changed the nature of the game.

     

    Controler pet nerf comes to mind "ficed controlers to only summon one pet, as intended"

    except that in their own game manual they specificaly talk about multiple pets. 

    or the agro cap nerf which put tanker tants to 5 but blaster AOEs to 16, and then haved every tanker defense across the board, then then halved all enhacments across the board. whichthey argued was a balance issue for a addition comming (invention sets) but it took months for that addition to come in leaving players will litterly crippled players.

     

    Or the fact that the players reported that invunerability was broken, having paperthin defenses to anythignthat wasnt smash/lethal.

     

    The devs really need to understand players will disect your game and then post the exact details on the notes on the forums

  • adarshakbadarshakb Member Posts: 35
    Originally posted by ZkilfinG

    Originally posted by LordDmaster


    Thank you Sanya

    Again with your type of dry humor (that I like) you have written a great article about things that should be looked at by both players and devs.

     

     

    That's pretty much what I felt after reading this article. I really enjoyed the dry humor and at the same time it was interesting reading about it from someone on "the other side". Thanks.

    lol.. felt same :P

     

  • blotzblotz Member UncommonPosts: 99

    the reverse engeneering of formulas reminds me of old swg

     

    some players reported that  some specials did not work 

    pages of testing the specials and the resulting numbers were posted

    after a while more and more players did that to show and proof that some professions were completly buged

     

    sonys reaction ?

     

    they removed the combat log  and said " it is to confusing for players " .............

  • adarshakbadarshakb Member Posts: 35
    Originally posted by blotz


    they removed the combat log  and said " it is to confusing for players " .............

    Hahahahaa

     

  • nekollxnekollx Member Posts: 570
    Originally posted by adarshakb

    Originally posted by blotz


    they removed the combat log  and said " it is to confusing for players " .............

    Hahahahaa

     

    i seriously wonder what goes though sony's heads.

     

    They make some king ass hardwere, heck you can turn a PSP int a free skyphone with the latest firmware update. The PS3 is pratically a super cmputer...

     

    then you have SWG

  • bumfmanbumfman Member Posts: 276

    Thank you Sanya. You are a true talent and you never fail to make me laugh when reading your articles. I look forward to your future writings and ridirik :)     

    Work hard Play Harder

  • Nice article as always Sanya. In fact it kind of hits on the same subjects the AoC director was blogging about last week (linky)- a general fear of saying the wrong thing affecting what you do say, and that developers need to get over it and try and improve there. Not because they are bad people, they are just people with all the same thought processes as we all have :p

    I wish more people thought like that and patch notes could be by and large less cryptic...

  • BhagpussBhagpuss Member Posts: 58
    Originally posted by haratu


    Personally I have always been happy with simplistic and non numerical description.
    Just telling me that "aggro has been changed" is fine. I do however want to know if skills have been changed "firebolt damage increased" is enough for me, I dont need to know the numbers, i can see that in game.
    I think the reason I prefer not to see the numbers is that surfing through long lengthy patch notes just gets frustrating and keeping it short is essential to get the idea across without hassle.
     
    Perhaps developers could make 2 sets of notes, one for the simple statements that goes with the patch, and a lengthy one on their website for those that want to know?

     

    I very much agree with this, although I would go a lot further in restricting details.

    I really don't want to know the statistical information. It's offputting. I do realise that many MMO players come from a tech background, but plenty don't. While I am perfectly capable of understanding the technical details, they don't interest me much and unless something has been changed so very much that I will no longer be able to play at all (happened in EQ2 at least twice that i can recall), a very general description is entirely fine.

    I'd actually prefer to play an MMO that didn't provide any numbers to players at all. Not even basic stats on gear or basic damage numbers on attacks. I'd be fine just experimenting in-game to see which sword seemed to kill creatures faster or which shield I seemed to die less using.  I actually like it much better when no-one really knows what's going on.

     

     

  • jcpillarjcpillar Member Posts: 2

    Sanya, I think your the best commentator on mmorpgs that there is right now. But that being said....

     

    I think your dead wrong on this. The type of detail demanded by the very small percentage of people who "reverse program" has serious consequences on  the game. WIthout a doubt, the detailed responses of the final patch note in your hypothetical scenario would make life a lot easier for a community manager, but really isn't that why you have a community manager? To make his/her life miserable (just kidding, but not really!) ??

    Community Managers whole existence is to shield the developers from the community. (which is reverse from what they say they do, which is provide feedback from the community to the developers) Let's be realistic. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, it's an important thing. It's like the press secretary for the president. As much as we complain about transparency, we really don't want to know how the sausage is made. (confused metaphor for the win!!)

    What happens when you give so much info out, is that you LOSE IMMERSION! You have people like Elitist Jerk reverse program everything, and create the most optimal way to play the game, and since this genre is built around competition, you have everyone playing their class one specific way instead of having people develop different styles and different solutions to the same problem. Albeit some will work better than others, but no one will no for sure why. That is a good thing!!!

    By keeping the community in the dark, you have them testing what works and what doesn't by actually PLAYING THE GAME!! And not doing searches on whoever has the best spreadsheets.

    My theory on patch notes should be taken from that line in the Departed.

    What's your theory on patch notes to the community, Detective Dingham?

    "They're like mushrooms. Feed them shit and keep them in the dark."

    platinumpillars.blogspot.com for my video game blog.

  • EricDanieEricDanie Member UncommonPosts: 2,238
    Originally posted by LordDmaster


    Thank you Sanya

    Again with your type of dry humor (that I like) you have written a great article about things that should be looked at by both players and devs.

     

    This is the reason this, in my opinion, is the best column at MMORPG.com.

    That said, I think that mentioning "great read" now would be redundant :P

  • ZorvanZorvan Member CommonPosts: 8,912
    Originally posted by weblinkz2002

    Originally posted by PyrateLV

    Originally posted by Paragus1


    The only thing worse than vague patch notes are undocumented patch notes.  Do the devs really think that because they didn't list it, that people won't notice something?

     

    I find it ironic that Sanya is writing about this since DAoC was notorious for incomplete, vague and even undocumented (stealth nerf) patches.

    I guess she of all people would really know about this

     

    Knowing Sanya and her experience with Community Management, I am pretty sure she wouldn't have allowed stealth nerfs, unless unbeknownst to her.

    This post was mainly to reflect on how communication and honesty is vital for the healthy growth and sustainability for a community in an online game.

    I also would have to agree with the fact that when something is patched there needs to be enough information to inform players of the changes, leaving little room for misunderstandings. But even then there will always be those who don't read things fully and end up with wrong conclusions.



     

    I'm curious. When did "community managers" become developers and/or in charge? A community manager manages the community for the benefit of the developer, not the customer.

    Regardless how some may try to make their job seem like more than it is, a community manager boils down to two functions: provide a firewall between the devs and the customers and act as a mouthpiece for those same developers. A community manager doesn't tell you anything the company doesn't authorize them to, unless they like being unemployed.

    So to say a community manager would "never allow" something is pretty presumptuous, unless you know for a fact that cm enjoys eating ramen while looking for another job.

  • sapphensapphen Member UncommonPosts: 911
    Originally posted by Zorvan



    I'm curious. When did "community managers" become developers and/or in charge? A community manager manages the community for the benefit of the developer, not the customer.
    Regardless how some may try to make their job seem like more than it is, a community manager boils down to two functions: provide a firewall between the devs and the customers and act as a mouthpiece for those same developers. A community manager doesn't tell you anything the company doesn't authorize them to, unless they like being unemployed.
    So to say a community manager would "never allow" something is pretty presumptuous, unless you know for a fact that cm enjoys eating ramen while looking for another job.

     

    Sanya pretty much redefined the job of community manager.  I'm sure if it was anyone else then they probably wouldn't have a say in the matter... her job was a lot more than was it is.  Good communication between the two is of great importance in this genre and it would be asinine to underestimate that.   Customers measure the success of a MMO, so I would think that a CM's job is kind of important.

    I've been an Art Director for 3 different companies and each time my responsibilities have been different.  It's a little hasty to say that a community manager is only to play a certain role, it depends on the company to define the job title.  If you are good at your job the company will listen, if not it's time to move on.  Who's to say it was your loss or the companies?  I'm pretty sure Sanya isn't eating ramens... unless she likes them.  There is always something comforting about a good bowl of ramen noodles.

    Sanya wrote a great article about what goes on behind that firewall you where talking about.  I'd take the article for what it is.

  • SanyaSanya Director of Community Undead LabsMember UncommonPosts: 50
    Originally posted by Zorvan


     
    I'm curious. When did "community managers" become developers and/or in charge? A community manager manages the community for the benefit of the developer, not the customer.
    Regardless how some may try to make their job seem like more than it is, a community manager boils down to two functions: provide a firewall between the devs and the customers and act as a mouthpiece for those same developers. A community manager doesn't tell you anything the company doesn't authorize them to, unless they like being unemployed.
    So to say a community manager would "never allow" something is pretty presumptuous, unless you know for a fact that cm enjoys eating ramen while looking for another job.

     

    Certainly that is true at some companies. It is not true at all of them.

    Some community people are mouthpieces, and they get paid accordingly. Other CMs have specialized communication skills that have value, skills the rest of the team does not necessarily have (because they have other skills like "game design" and "knowledge of programming languages").

    Companies that hire the latter are looking to build long term relationships with their players.

    Companies that hire mouthpieces are betting that their product alone is enough to hook you, such that they don't need to form a relationship.

    Both kinds of companies can be successful.

     

    Sanya M. Weathers
    Director of Community
    Undead Labs

  • ColdrenColdren Member UncommonPosts: 493

    TankTester: I’d have said something sooner, but the note didn’t say how much of a bonus…

    CP: serghjklgeshdthui

    (The community person goes AFK with the imprint of his keyboard still on his forehead.)







    Hahahahahaa! Excellent.



    Very nice article.

     

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