Friday, January 23, 2009

Did You Feel That? Yeah, You've Just Been Hotfixed.

I hope you enjoyed the immense power of the Glyph of Holy Light while it lasted. After a couple of evenings of Naxx/Sarth/Maggy-25 it's now down to an 8yrd radius, which is still a net buff from 3.0.3 but will have the same issue as '0.3's Glyph. Yes, large hitbox mobs causing even melee characters to be out of range will remain a bane of this Glyph.

Ghostcrawler:

This glyph is vastly overpowered. We are hotfixing the range from 20 yards down to 8 yards.


In its current form it has basically become "proc a Circle of Healing" in the same patch that we nerfed Circle of Healing. (Source)


The logic of the statement is sound: to make Holy Light an extremely powerful AoE heal without a cooldown in a patch which nerfed CoH and Wild Growth (?) sends the wrong message. My solution would be to keep the range and put an internal cooldown on it instead; right now it is still a "proc a Circle of Healing" effect but with a much smaller radius. In the long term, linking this to Holy Shock would be much more sensible. The debate will be endless though, and we'll come back to the reality of poor quality Glyphs and a lack of Paladin AoE heals for fights which require that particular mechanic. It also sheds light on an issue which will has tended to be overshadowed, that passive effects tacked on to active abilities have the potential to scale well beyond what you had in mind. That's a topic for another time however, perhaps when we get more Glyphs.

Still, yet again a hotfix has been applied, which got me thinking. Always dangerous...

In a different time overpowered abilities could go whole patches without being modified, with even the most gamebreaking imbalances waiting until 'the next content patch', especially if imbalances made the ability bad rather than simply 'too good' (old SoC and JoC being examples). It's possible that a change in the WoW game engine has allowed more flexibility in terms of timing, tying less functionality to the client or providing for much more subtle interaction between game client and server. Whatever the reason, hotfixing abilities will almost certainly continue and spike just after major patches.

What's the up-shot of this policy? On one hand it has meant that even minor bugfixes are more likely to be applied quickly where possible, and a more dynamic approach to correcting game bugs can never be a bad thing. None of us wanted to go through longer than necessary periods with obviously broken abilities such as Judgements of the Wise. Obviously overpowered abiities can also be nerfed as soon as they are exploited and without long-term harm to the gaming experience of others, a necessary feature in a game with so much competition and mutual antagonism between classes in given roles.

However, there are some unintended side-effects of this new found dynamism. For starters the game engine technology hasn't caught up yet in that you can hot-fix an ability but not the skill or talent description. Because of this no-one takes their talents and skills at face value any more, to learn how an ability really works you have to carry out empirical testing or rely on someone else's testing. Sometimes the differences between description and functionality are so significant that a developer post is required to understand what is going on. The Ret tree between 3.0.2 and 3.0.3 is a prime example, but I'm sure that every class can point to abilities which need to be heavily researched in order to be exploited properly. Such confusion in the player-base and a lack of consistency is a bad thing of course, and will only damage Blizzards continued aspirations for WoW to be recognised as a professional E-gaming tournament game.

More fixes are coming. Be vigilant.

7 comments:

Dradis 23/01/2009 05:38  

I was really excited for about the too. I was gonna glyph for that on my holy build once dual specs hit the scene. Oh well, still probably going to glyph it anyway. Pray they don't determine that Glyph of HoW is too good! When that button lights now, I get all warm and fuzzy knowing that I am about to see a really big number on my screen that was completely free!

Klepsacovic 23/01/2009 07:11  

The problem with tooltips seems to be that those are stored by your computer while actual effects are on the servers. Blizzard can easily enough change servers, but your computer would require a patch. Perhaps even now with the smaller patches we see more often (or is it just my memory that I only remember 1.x, never 1.x.1,2,3,4?) it's still not practical to throw out new patches for what are fairly small changes. Maybe they don't integrate properly and over time they'd completely ruin the game stability, who knows.

As for not trusting tooltips, I think I stopped trusting them the first time I noticed "increases healing by X" and then I didn't actually see an increase in healing of X.

Lance 23/01/2009 08:36  

The Glyph of Holy Light was indeed a tad to powerfull. I was glad seeing wispers of `how the hell are you that high on the meters'. It was kinda funny. But it did not last long.

Still 8yrds is better than 5.

Klepsacovic makes a valid point on what can be altered using hotfixes. Client content needs a patch, server conent can often be hotfixed. But bearing in mind that software is a mesh of functions, altering something might have unforweseen effects on something else. Thats why often ir requires testing. Now if the current testing and quality assurance is adequate... thats a different matter...

Khassad 23/01/2009 08:38  

If a paladin ability needs to be nerfed, an hotfix is released within hours... funny :)

Anyway... according to Blizz internal tests and PTR, 20 yards range were fine... probably because the didn't actually tested the glyph.

Dradis 23/01/2009 10:51  

makes you wonder a bit if the internal testers are playing WoW or Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 2 :P

My shock mainly comes from the fact that the patch was released and then Wintergrasp and Arenas are borked. I don't do either yet, but how could those get broken so badly? Oh well, I have no doubt they will fix the issues, but I think they need to work on their QA a bit so they can concentrate on balancing the game and creating new content, rather then fixing bug after bug after bug.

Suicidal Zebra 23/01/2009 13:39  

TBH, I'm aware of the stated limitations Blizzard have in hotfixing game issues. What I find most interesting is that the sheer volume of hotfixing since Wrath lauched is much greater now than it has been in the past. It seemingly indicates a change in design philosophy, or perhaps that the issues cropping up now are much greater in scope and potential for imbalance than the past.


@Klep

I think there is a difference between misleading nomenclature and spells or talents which functionally different from the tooltip (or are deliberately broken to not function at all). If nothing else the former are wrong but consistent, whereas the latter are just wrong ;).

You can see the patching history here. 2.0.x went through 12 major revisions before 2.1 hit, whereas early vanilla Wow tended to move much more quickly between content patches (1.x's). That said, I seem to recall many more mini-patches which didn't qualify as major revisions and were released on non-maintenance days.

Vaadren 24/01/2009 02:54  

I fail to understand these hotfixes. There has been internal testing, there has been PTR testing, and still they manage to find something that needs to be fixed. A bug that slipped through, I can understand, but not something major as the entire working of a glyph.

The false tooltips are something we'll never get rid of, I fear. Blizzard finally fixed the HoW tooltip (still said 35% even though it was brought back to 20% ages ago), but another one has slipped in. Blizzard may have come back on their decision to make Vengeance stack 5 times again, but they forgot to change the tooltip back accordingly.

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