Thursday 21 January 2010

When testing on a live server, keep your disinfectant handy.

With the vast majority of fixes or changes to software it would be bloody mental to test them on a live server. The potential to crash your live system, destroy data, etc, is very real. At work right now I’m involved in a major software upgrade and there’s not a thing we’re going to allow on live that hasn’t been fully explored and rigorously tested. However not everything is like that. MMOs are strange beasts and allow their users a lot of personal freedom. As an MMO gamer you’re not always obliged to follow the rules and your personal taste will define how you play. As such there are some things you just can’t fully explore in a test server environment, because you can’t predict with 100% accuracy how the live gaming population will react and Public Test Servers do not in any way reflect the reality of a live server. The upcoming campaign changes in WAR’s 1.3.4 patch are a prime example of this problem.
When an under siege city is captured and the king is attackable, the campaign will in future “unlock” and the openRvR zones become available again. This means the defending faction could attempt a counter attack, or the attackers could even try to consolidate their position and push once more towards the already under siege city.
Mythic are perfectly able to test the mechanics of this change on their internal test servers. They can make sure when that city locks, the campaign then unlocks and everything works correctly. The problem is they can’t discover on a test server, be it public or internal, what us players will decide to do when this change hits live. Just like any of us thinking about this change, Mythic can take an educated guess at how we’ll react, but they can’t know for sure.
If Inevitable City is captured:
Will all Destruction stay in to defend?
Would some or ALL of the Destruction defenders counter attack?
Will Order all push for the King, or will some go back out and push the oRvR zones instead?
If one faction starts pushing the oRvR zones, will the other faction react or not?
There are all kinds of possibilities and combinations of the above, some of which could lead to people choosing to do the much frowned upon RvE (RvE=Realm vs Environment, hitting mobs to progress the Realm vs Realm campaign) and with it bring a decrease in actual player fighting, where as other situations would supply an increase in players fighting in oRvR. There’s only one way to find out what we will get and that’s to put it on a live server, sit back and watch the drama unfold.
I’m all for this kind of experimenting; it mixes things up and could lead to massive improvements. There is however a “but” of J-LO proportions, so here goes… BUT! If things don’t work out well, they must be dealt with quickly. Sticking rigidly to a patch timeline and leaving us with a shit situation for a month or two is unacceptable. It will drive existing players away and turn new players off. Mythic need to communicate regularly, keeping us informed and react promptly to problems. This time Mythic got away with the mess that removing forts put us in, more by luck than judgement to be honest. If the next batch of changes ruin the campaign further and it’s not remedied quickly, then it will fester like a batch of Nurgle’s finest pox.
As ever with WAR, it’s a delicate time. Many of us are very positive about the upcoming experiment on our live servers, but many others are decrying the removal of content (even if those scenarios are crap) and the potential for RvE. I know this change is the first stage of a range of planned campaign changes, it’s preparation for the following patch, but please Mythic… remember those fortresses. Removing the Fortresses and not replacing them was proven to be a poor decision, which was only emphasised by the lack of information on their future and the MONTHS of city ping pong we’ve had to put up with since, with no sign or word of a solution.
Mythic, please don’t make the same mistake twice. Keep talking, keep us feeling involved and if something goes smelly, get the disinfectant quick this time. Nurgle’s rot is a bugger to shift once it sets in.
Also as an aside and while I’ve got you here, this patch preview has prompted a lot of community grumbling about a lack of proper new content. Don’t give the maintenance mode crew any more ammunition please, you might want to announce something solid sooner rather than later.


  1. I would have liked to hear something about the stage2 changes they have planned, rather than the stuff they have now announced..but maybe those changes are too big for a x.x.4 patch.

    I guess it will still be a game of city ping pong after 1.3.4...

  2. The rather more interesting fact that can have been announced would be the the stage 2 planning rather than stage 1 which every one knows. Hope next time it is not the same.


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Half man half pixel. Music obsessive, likes a drink, occasional bastard.