Blue on Patching and Changes Post-Release


One of the design truisms of online games, especially MMORPGs, is that they cease to belong to their developers after release. Not in some legal sense, but in the way that the game worlds develop and progress and evolve over time. Developers have their own vision for the games during development, and they know how they expect things to work, but quite often that’s not what happens, and many an MMORPG has been ruined by a developer who couldn’t let go of his design theory, and who kept patching things to try to force fans to play the way he just knew they ought to be playing.

This principle of game design and support would come as news to Bloodfrenzy, the OP of this thread on the B.net forums, who hates nerfs and urges Blizzard not to make any of them, or in fact to make any game changes, post release, in response to fan requests. Here’s an excerpt from his long post, plus the blue replies it generated.

When you are done and release diablo 3 in all its glory… PLEASE stand firm with your masterpiece, do not nerf spells and change things to appease a crowd. Post release dont even take customers thoughts into consideration regarding systems and spells. You guys pour heart and soul into this, when you are done stand by what you have done. Blizz is like the cornerstone of online strategy games, i really doubt us customers are as educated and good at balancing as you. Please dont drop patches post release that reduce the damage of this spell, removes the effect of this spell. This spell now costs mana, this spell now has a casting time.

…I honestly believe 85% fanbase would agree. New patch containing content/items and spells AWESOME. New patch containing “CHANGES” not so cool.
There will undoubtedly be some extra tuning necessary once millions of players are progressing through the whole game, rather than just beta. It’s just not realistic to expect us not to touch any systems for balance purposes once the game is released.

Make no mistake about it. We’ll follow our heart and soul when it comes to current and future development of this game. But player feedback is and always will be an important component of the Blizzard approach to design.

Then how come you guys ignored us when you introduced the Attack/Precision stats and we were SCREAMING at you to change it back?
… The game’s not even out yet and we did change it back.

Though the OP is wrong about how games are developed post-release, he does have a point. While Blizzard not making any changes based on the actual state of the game would be a disaster, so would them rushing around and making constant changes based on whatever issue fans were making the most noise about that week.

Thankfully, they’ve shown no indication to bend with the wind in that way on their past titles, so it doesn’t seem like a real big concern for Diablo 3. But yes, nerfs are sometimes necessary to balance things. As are buffs, and every other sort of change and tweak and new feature.

If anyone wants to start up a real debate or worry-fest about bad potential post-D3 changes, I think the RMAH would be a more fertile field of concern. Say it’s 6 weeks past launch and the RMAH is hardly being used, while the gold AH is very busy. Bliz has quotas and profit margins to meet, and the toilets in Bobby’s guest mansion aren’t going to gold plate themselves… so what do they do? Patch some stuff to create more top level items to spur sales? Lower gold yields to decrease the gold Auction House action? I bet Azzure could make some interesting suggestions here.

I’m not saying those are big worries, but it’s certainly something conspiracy theorists could leap into, on a slow news day.

Comments

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  1. Fine tuning the game upon mass use is a must. Starcraft 2 (tho its an RTS, but the principle still applies) gets unbalanced al the time by sheer player creativity in the game. Diablo 3 is certainly going to be dynamic enough for player to be very creative in mixing and matching spells/skills/ect… I remember Diablo 2, pre patch 1.10. Things were massively unbalanced with Sorcs being drastically overpowered in everthing. Killing everything without even paying attention has a very limited entertainment value…

  2. About the use, or rather lack of use of the RMAH in the beta….

    Doesnt the beta take place in Act1 normal?
    Also, doesnt it just cover roughly the first third of the first act of the full game?

    With that said, but this is just an (un)educated guess feel free to flame away, wouldnt it be really really retarded to trade and buy items on the RMAH that correspond to roughly cLVL13 or thereabouts??? 😈

  3. To my oppinion the RMAH is only going to be fully utilized by players when they reach Max Level. Other trades will mainly revolve around the gold based AH. So I think you’re right… Otherwise you’ll spend money on items which you’re likely to only use for a small period of time, which is daft…

  4. I think he only ment nerfing, lets say you start with inferno mobs having 10000 hp, and people DO beat it, but most of the playerbase cant, so they whine that its hard, and Blizz nerfs Inferno by flat 20%, after a few months, people who havent beaten inferno yet, whine that its hard, and Blizz nerfs Inferno by another 20%.
    I’m sure that things wont happen in this manner, since when someone buys Diablo 3 , they already payed for it, you dont have to keep them engaged with all the new stuff ( and nerfing Raid content in WoW when only 5% of the total playerbase has beaten it, is nessesary to cater for the “less-skilled” ), so that they keep paying for a subscription.

    • It wouldn’t surprise me if they started ‘adjusting’ inferno. How awful would that be? a D3 full of welfare epic WoW players complaining about boss abilities.  A terrible thought.

  5. Then… release the game already dammit!

  6. “the toilets in Bobby’s guest mansion aren’t going to gold plate themselves…”
    This, is the reason I’ve been following you since 1999.

  7. That’s why i hate them making it online only. You can’t pick the patch you like, your class will always change like in warcraft. They will remove even spells, like in wow, change them. And one day you’ll understand that you are not playing the class you begined long time ago.

  8. I don’t see that happening,… Why do you chose Barbarian? Because you like to smash things with sheer brute force, why a wizard? Because you wanna Spell them all to death,…. I think the fundamental character core is unchangeble and tweaking any given spell or attack move to having 20sec cooldown instead of 15 sec cooldown isn’t going to change whether you play/preffer one class over the other…

  9. They’ll change things to make them “fair” once the complainers hit the forums. I have a feeling this blue post is one of the many reasons this game is taking so long. There’s to much fan influence. It would drive me crazy to try and paint a masterpiece with people in the back going that part sucks, change it! I like that blizzard wants feedback from fans, but I think they allow to many decisions to be made by them. I’m all about them not nerfing a character 100%. When a class starts to consistently kill me I’m not going to whine to them and say that class is overpowered.

  10. “Thankfully, they’ve shown no indication to bend with the wind in that way on their past titles, so it doesn’t seem like a real big concern for Diablo 3.”
     
    Is this sarcasm or am I missing something. Skills change in WoW more than the average fan changes underwear. The majority of the changes are due to which class forum is doing the most bitching at the time. Constant nerfs, buffs, and even removal of abilities altogether many times left me logging in and playing what felt like a different character from the night before. Tweaks and balancing is one thing, but I hope D3 never reaches the point that WoW did.

  11. I got man hands on the Beta yesterday and the game servers went down a few minutes, but the AH remained operational so I got to try it. I tried buying golds for Beta bucks and the issue of Blizzard intervening in the AH business was really something that was bothering me at that point. I tried buying an insane amount of golds and realized that if those 500 million golds I’m trying to buy aren’t actually sold by players ATM, what would prevent Blizzard for “creating” fake virtual money to sell me the golds I’m requesting (with real money) ? And then what will happen ? Will they create additional fake golds so that there are still golds available for others to purchase ?

  12. A friend of mine reminded me about the WoW style nerfing, which does make me nerf nervous. He claimed that specific classes would be nerfed and buffed, but not based on balance (the changes would be too extreme). The patches were to get players to switch classes, causing the content to be extended by an amount equal to each class Blizzard could get you to play. Could a specific class be buffed by adding in new items targeting it? Would this type of stealth buff slide a little easier?

    Imagine now, that we’ve gone back to the old stat system, where each class will have something particular that is best for them, rather than the generic system where every stat is good for every class. So, if you wanted to re-roll a new class, the gear you’ve “collected” probably won’t be a good match (especially in the case of skill specific modifiers, nerfs and buffs here would have you buying new gear for new builds).

    Consider also, if Diablo II is any indication, some items have drop rates that defy the odds of winning the lottery. Chances are (because you’re never going to find it all yourself), many will be using the auction house to procure their gear. My guess is also that the rarer the drop the less likely it will be featured on the gold auction house (unless the virtual gold holds a good real world value).

    In effect, if Blizzard decided to pursue this tactic, they would not only increase the breadth of the content, but also likely increase usage of the RMAH where they get a cut.

    Blizzard has other avenues to increase gear recycling, either by nerfing and buffing gear or through the introduction of consistently better items. The later, without new content challenges, would probably eventually require a retooling of the max difficulty and lower the price on inferior goods/items (though the value of the item doesn’t affect the flat listing fee). With the former, Blizzard introduces uncertainty in the market of item values, which still may not impact the bottom line due to the nature of flat fees (it would only hurt business if the quantity of listings/purchases were reduced).

    I actually doubt that Blizzard will change inferno difficulty to make it easier. Everyone on here has it in their minds that they want it harder and harder, and I see Blizzard obliging this desire because it works in the favor of the business. Inferno will continue to require the best items and the best items will make their way to the RMAH. If anything, making sure this barrier remains is detrimental to Blizzard’s profit through the RMAH.

    I think they’ll find their best avenue for profit maximization much the same way players find the route of least resistance. I actually have a great appreciation for the design. I just doubt that it is as much a benefit to the player as it is to the business. How much can you trust a business that has so much control over the market?

    I can already imagine what the “slipped” rumours of class, item, or modifier buffs and nerfs might accomplish.

    • “The patches were to get players to switch classes”

      I stopped reading right there.  You’re an idiot if you believe that, so I didn’t even bother reading the rest because of that tinfoil hat on your head.

      • I suppose if I had written that as “patches provided incentive to try new classes” you might’ve bothered to read more. I also agree that it is harsh to imply that the developer cares more about extending game life through incentivising the replaying of content than balance. Shame on me.

        Why do you think a developer wouldn’t create incentives to get a player to go through content again? It’s in their best interest to increase the life of the game. To me it’s kind of funny that you won’t even entertain the thought. You will already be playing the same content at least four times (normal, nightmare, hell, inferno) with the same character. Are new difficulty levels not a cheap way to extend the life of the game by replaying the same content? There are actually relevant articles about it and besides that, it’s been shown in past data.

        Several major patches changed the ratio of classes. It may not be intentional, but I think Blizzard knows very well what the outcomes will be (they are very iterative with the testing after all). The maximizers will perceive one class as better than the rest, or see one class as less useful than another. Patches attempt to change this in the name of balance, but often, and you can read the complaints for almost any patch, go way overboard. I wonder why that is? It always ultimately leads to a new best and worst class. So players jump ship for the new best and this is all tightly monitored. It’s no conspiracy and I didn’t mean to make it seem that way, but it will happen.

        Of course, the type of player that would switch to the next best thing over sticking with the style they prefer may not be a majority. Although, those who are will likely be the ones searching the auction house to maximize their characters.

  13. I’d prefer they follow their head rather than their ‘heart + soul’.

  14. Then how come you guys ignored us when you introduced the Attack/Precision stats and we were SCREAMING at you to change it back? —> Its either a woman posting this, or the OP is a very dramatic (and hence girly) guy lol. I laughed hard at ‘SCREAMING’ lollll

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