Forums » Developer's Journal

Fixes, Patches and Balancing vs New Content

    • 570 posts
    January 6, 2017 6:24 PM PST

    I'm asking all the VR developers about their opinion on which is more important to them:  Fixing known bugs and exploits and balancing broken items and content or creating new content.  I ask because historical analysis through EQ1 and 2 and games like Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online, etc there was a clear focus on more content, new expansions.  Once an expansion was 'old', SOE would basically stop doing anything related to that expansion.  Bugs went unfixed, broken content stayed broken..but who cared because a new expansion was coming!  Shiny!  Mythic, even when acknowledging obvious bugs and exploits would wait months or more to introduce the fix, preferring to wait until the new content expansion was ready.  Half the dungeons in Midguard were not itemized at release.  It took Mythic 6 months to fix that..when the next expansion came out. 

    At the opposite end is CCP Games with their EVE Online.  CCP had to rewrite every line of code in their game just to fix some bugs.  Their systems were redesigned several times just so they could fix bugs and keep everything balanced.  Yet still new content and changed mechanics were continually introduced in a very stable and quick pace.

    VR Developers, how do you see these two sides?  Which is more important to you?  Do you prefer scheduled patches where you wait to inject the completed code fixes on a given schedule or a more organic put it in when it is ready?

    For me I want a game that works the way it is supposed to work.  I don't want to see bugs that eat my quest items.  I don't want to see overpowered items or skills ruining the game for months on end.  I don't want exploits that ruin the economy.  I'd rather see all that fixed before that new content (which will have its own set of bugs, overpowered items/skills and exploits) added to the pile.

    • 1329 posts
    January 6, 2017 6:42 PM PST

    Along these same lines, I would like to see a commitment to serious testing beforehand to minimize bugs in the first place. That seems to be REALLY missing in MMOs these days.

    Games for XBox and PlayStation release with far less bugs, due to stringent testing standards. Of course with both being online all the time, some developers are getting lazy and patching often, even on those systems.

    • 570 posts
    January 6, 2017 7:14 PM PST

    Beefcake said:

    Along these same lines, I would like to see a commitment to serious testing beforehand to minimize bugs in the first place. That seems to be REALLY missing in MMOs these days.

    I agree completely and I hope that VR keeps a very close eye on those who are in the alpha and remove those who are clearly just there 'to play'. Playing is for after the game is released. Alpha is for testing.

    • 340 posts
    January 30, 2017 11:32 AM PST

    Being a developer myself, I can see the problem. First off, the live team of a MMO is usually much smaller than the development team. Of course, once the big work is done, you don't need that much manpower anymore. The remaining developers then need to prioritize their time. And in the economic world we live in, it is natural to focus on things that pay. As a developer, you (should) feel the itch to "clean up" your old code, review things, improve them...but usually the customer doesn't pay for that. Especially if your changes might introduce other unwanted side effects. Instead you focus on things that pay...like new features (or in the case of a MMO, content).

    So, I totally agree with Beefcake above...testing (and especially, automated testing) is very important so changes can be made without having to worry too much about introducing new unwanted "features". But I think it is also very important that we players (can) make our voice heared: Reported bugs shouldn't disappear in some bug database, they should be acknowledged openly and dealt with.

    • 186 posts
    February 1, 2017 11:53 AM PST

    Vandraad said:

    VR Developers, how do you see these two sides?  Which is more important to you?  Do you prefer scheduled patches where you wait to inject the completed code fixes on a given schedule or a more organic put it in when it is ready?

    For me I want a game that works the way it is supposed to work.  I don't want to see bugs that eat my quest items.  I don't want to see overpowered items or skills ruining the game for months on end.  I don't want exploits that ruin the economy.  I'd rather see all that fixed before that new content (which will have its own set of bugs, overpowered items/skills and exploits) added to the pile.

    So, maybe i'm reading this wrong but, are you saying you want to have the game taken down and patched 2-3 times a week as bugs get fixed? Instead of weekly or bi-weekly scheduled maintenance to lessen the service outages?

    I'd rather see a bug fix added to the game on a schedule on regular maintenance. Unless it is a bug that in itself causes a service outage or some major game breaking issue. Dungeon itemization isn't game breaking and isn't a service outage. Fix the code, test the code, and release it on maintenance. Even a slightly buggy service with great up time is better than a service with no bugs that has poor up time.

    As for content before bug fixes, I would think this would be handled by serperate dev teams. 

    • 570 posts
    February 4, 2017 9:27 AM PST

    kellindil said:

    Vandraad said:

    VR Developers, how do you see these two sides?  Which is more important to you?  Do you prefer scheduled patches where you wait to inject the completed code fixes on a given schedule or a more organic put it in when it is ready?

    For me I want a game that works the way it is supposed to work.  I don't want to see bugs that eat my quest items.  I don't want to see overpowered items or skills ruining the game for months on end.  I don't want exploits that ruin the economy.  I'd rather see all that fixed before that new content (which will have its own set of bugs, overpowered items/skills and exploits) added to the pile.

    So, maybe i'm reading this wrong but, are you saying you want to have the game taken down and patched 2-3 times a week as bugs get fixed? Instead of weekly or bi-weekly scheduled maintenance to lessen the service outages?

    I'd rather see a bug fix added to the game on a schedule on regular maintenance. Unless it is a bug that in itself causes a service outage or some major game breaking issue. Dungeon itemization isn't game breaking and isn't a service outage. Fix the code, test the code, and release it on maintenance. Even a slightly buggy service with great up time is better than a service with no bugs that has poor up time.

    As for content before bug fixes, I would think this would be handled by serperate dev teams. 

    If the bug is of significant scope and scale, yes, absolutely take the servers down to patch it right away.  EVE Online brought their servers down for 1 hour each and every day for quite a few years for just such a purpose. One might think development and bug fixing would be separate teams but you never know and as we saw with EQ1 and in many other games, bug fixing was consistently overshadowed by new content...which brought in yet more bugs and problems.  Fix first, introduce new stuff second.

    • 166 posts
    February 9, 2017 8:40 AM PST

    One thing I had always wished they would have done in Classic EverQuest was go back through the earlier zones and rearrange the NPC"s or change them in some way to introduce the concept of an evolving zone concept for patches. It wouldn't have been a huge load on development if you're just rearranging them and maybe adding a stored structure asset here or moving one there. But it would have lent a ton to the feeling of a more alive world. Especially back in 1999. I felt going just the straight expansion route was always a bad move - especially at the rapid pace they did it.

    • 12 posts
    February 11, 2017 10:35 PM PST

    I left EQ1 because of the expansion rate. Content is very important to keep the player base active and wanting to return the next day, but a new expansion costing $30-60 every 6 months plus the sub fees and ignoring the now obsolete zones killed it for me. Drip the content when it's ready to us. Every expansion should come with at least 1-2 raid encounters on release or it is simply not a release. Call it Tier 1. Then drip 1-2 more encounters every 2-3 months adding to the current Tier system. That'll give the raiding based players a reason to log in. Having the Crafting and perception systems on the same Tier schedule keeps every player, regardless of their in-game focus, looking forward to logging in as soon as they can. When a new X-Pac is dropped, use the forward thinking you've expressed and drop mobs of the new X-Pack levels into the old zones based on their own lore. It's not hard to do something like, "With the exploration of Terminus, it seems all that reside within her lands are growing in strength. The Orcs of West Haven have improved their power with the addition of their most elite defenders, the Warhammers. The Warblades were powerful (lvl 50), but the Warhammers (lvl 55) set up camps deeper into their lands as a last line of defence. To enter their land, you now have a new line to break. Good luck!" Then use that open space you had Patrols roaming to set up a new line of Orc camps, raise the level of the orcs in the city, remove that door leading deeper into the underground chambers where you stashed your new raid encounter.

    VR was very clear that they wanted all levels to populate all zones while the more remote the areas would be focused on the higher level content. Give cap level players a reason to be in the same zones you worked so hard on. I never understood why these games basically throw away years of hard work invested into original zones and attempt to create a new game within a game from scratch when they can simply evolve the current zones, tweak the loot tables and camp locations, and keep the zones from scratch to a minimum  so they can focus on getting them right vs going after a money grab. We are supposed to combat the mobs AND the environment. So evolve the environment, focus on the coding, and keep the game clean. A majority of gamers will tell you that, while we are wanting to get our hands on this game as quickly as we can but, nothing will make us leave faster than poor coding. A quick second is lack of content. The double edge sword is fairly easy to dull if you're not creating a completely new environment from scratch, and you're focusing on evolving what you already have implemented.

    Hell, Keep the hard zone lines and piss off a few of the vocal minority. Then, for an X-pac, remove that giant rock from the middle of the desert, or a tree line in the undead forest, or a portion of the mountain in the foothills of lava land, and poof! You have a whole new area to use as a new zone. The size proportions mean nothing if the player base has something to do. You will always have people that will complain about these tiny issues, but you know better than we do, that these people represent a tiny fraction of the player base and they seem to live their sad little lives looking for something to whine about.

    I have zero problems with a giant white tree being dropped into the middle of a "noobie" zone where, if I happen to walk up and poke it, I'm teleported to the EXACT same map but the mobs level and difficulty are increased to cap and the original zone outs are blocked with untargetable, impassable orbs of insta death requiring you to leave via the same tree you poked to get in there.

    The short of this post, I guess, is that current content and future content should've always had the same value. Evolving the game as a whole vs some new shiny continent has always been a waste of time and energy in my eyes. EQ1 should've stopped with Planes of Power and used the current areas to drop additional content. Rift (the last MMO I played) was pretty much a ghost town in their original zones from the first expansion they released. Halflings should be able to kill Wraiths up to cap level and never leave their little corner of the world.  Their gear, abilities, and tradeskills should be severely penalized for doing it, but it's not a bad thing if you want to run the story line of "I became a great Ranger within my homeland of Wild's Edge, but once I ventured beyond our borders, I realized I was unprepared for the harsh world that lay before me." If the game is good, the subs will come. If a store is available, people will spend more money. But that will come to an end if they have no desire to log in due to lack of content and challange.

     

    • 38 posts
    February 16, 2017 6:56 AM PST

    +1 to building upon existing content so new players in a year jump into the story and not start from the beggining.  I would love to log in after a week of absence and have to relearn how to make it through a zone again over new zones that just concentrate high level players and make the rest of the world look empty

    +1 to the original posters example of Eve's Mindset towards the Live game. Havent played it but i've heard great things.


    This post was edited by Fwick at February 16, 2017 6:59 AM PST
    • 6 posts
    February 27, 2017 6:38 AM PST

    Vandraad said:

    I agree completely and I hope that VR keeps a very close eye on those who are in the alpha and remove those who are clearly just there 'to play'. Playing is for after the game is released. Alpha is for testing.

    Have to take issue with this. Playing the game IS testing, without playing it you're never going to test it fully are you? It's the same with all testing, whether it's a website or an application, give it to all the users from all walks of life to break and get a broad spectrum of feedback. 

    With games it's often the gamers themselves who'll find the exploits, broken code etc so I see no real issue in using the gameplayers as well as the pure 'testers' to carry out alpha testing.

     

    • 327 posts
    March 7, 2017 12:58 PM PST

    Smallchange said:

    Drip the content when it's ready to us. Every expansion should come with at least 1-2 raid encounters on release or it is simply not a release. Call it Tier 1. Then drip 1-2 more encounters every 2-3 months adding to the current Tier system. That'll give the raiding based players a reason to log in..

    They tried that with the Rain of Fear expansion.  There was the initial release which had two tiers of gear with nine zones with eight raids (plus all the revamped NTOV dragons which were less the than tier one and weren't considered as part of the progression).  Five months later they released the first Rain of Fear extension which included two new zones and raids.  Three months after that they released the third extension with three more zones and raids.  The player based overwhemlingly hated it so they decided not to continue that paradigm and went back to launching an annual expansion all at once.

    • 12 posts
    March 12, 2017 8:45 AM PDT

    Reht said:

    They tried that with the Rain of Fear expansion.  There was the initial release which had two tiers of gear with nine zones with eight raids (plus all the revamped NTOV dragons which were less the than tier one and weren't considered as part of the progression).  Five months later they released the first Rain of Fear extension which included two new zones and raids.  Three months after that they released the third extension with three more zones and raids.  The player based overwhemlingly hated it so they decided not to continue that paradigm and went back to launching an annual expansion all at once.

    You missed what I was saying. If the endgame content is not ready on release, then drip the second tier raid content in stages to give them time to work out the bugs but still give us things to do. The zones for leveling and exploration should come out in full no more than annually or the player base will feel ripped off and leave what they quickly consider to be a money sink. Pantheon's "open world" consept is pretty much like EQ up till PoP. Release the open world areas, but close the doors or put up trees to block the dungeons and raid areas that are simply not ready. Maybe make the opening of the dungeon or raid area a community event where people have to collect items for the team of NPC's that are clearing out the rocks from an avolanch knowing it'll be a time and resource sink to give the dev's time. Rift had one thing right. They released T1 raids on launch (up till this last one) and released more raid content as they got it half ass ready. But those were instanced areas and they had a lot of control over them. Open world raiding is a lot more intence, and fixing bugs on the fly is a lot harder in that consept. Keep in mind, I"m thinking about end game raid boss grinding, not general population casuals.

    • 56 posts
    March 18, 2017 9:01 AM PDT

    Sometimes the best changes are those no one realized. I'm sure the biggest deterrant is that make a change can have a negative effect somewhere else. 

    But this game is going to be a paid subscription so as long as people are playing the money is rolling in. Mine as well make sure the game is as polished as reasonably possible first before making it bigger.

     

    After some buffer time, I'd like to see a big patch once a month on a set weekday(same weekday every month). This way everyone knows when and can prepare for it. I hate random patches, unless it's a hot fix and it's a little download.


    This post was edited by Makinelly at March 18, 2017 9:06 AM PDT
    • 7 posts
    April 18, 2017 8:31 AM PDT

    Seems like everyone regardless of how they think content should be release, they want substance over content.

     

    I would personally like to see a Dev team and maybe a player based team to help keep "older" zones/areas alive and refreshed. That would also help the longer standing players to mentor down and help new people if it wasn't the same content for the lower lvl zones. But with what I've read and heard from VR is that these are all things they want to do atleast in some small form. 

     

    If we are paying to get alpha or beta or even the game itself, play how you want. I will report any issues I find in alpha but if they just want in to see the game, then its their choice. 

    • 15 posts
    April 21, 2017 5:40 AM PDT
    I have some experience in making game assets. I'm a total noob compared to the VR team, but understand that there is a lot that goes into it. My degree was in game art.

    My point is that I can see both sides of the coin here and am amazed at how easily old, hard earned game development is abandoned in the pursuit of more money.

    I remember watching a podcast with our illustrious VR team lead Brad McQuade. In it he gives a very honest and sobering look into the process of big business in the game world. You see these games cost a lot. Investors not only hand you the money to get the job done... they hold the reigns on the decisions that bring the money back their direction.

    Brad goes on to tell how this process hurt his marriage and faith in the system. You see... the decisions to be a crowd funded game, void of big dollar influence was intentional. The VR team had the same personal reason to make something great, as we do for wanting something great.

    Your concerns are warranted. From what I can tell, these concerns are not falling on deaf eyes.

    Feel free to chime in Brad, if I left anything out.