Not updating for several months generally means I’ve been doing something amusing and having fun with it. This is mostly true… SWG is still the best MMOG in production at the moment. At least on paper. By "on paper" I basically mean that the overall design and potential (I hate that word) of the system are really good, and the level of complexity is enough to keep even nitpicky curmudgeons like myself interested for a while. My level of enjoyment (and play-time) recently has dramatically decreased, mostly because of problems stemming from bad balance decisions and absolutely terrible QA. (Note that I’m not including the customer service system here… like most players, most of my CS issued went unanswered for so long that I just stopped trying.)

The 8th was the BIG PATCH DAY™. This is, in theory, a day when all players look forward to new content, fixes, new stuff, basically a lot of changes to enjoy and explore To the experienced MMOG player, patch day reads "good day to not bother logging in." In this case, this interpretation was more or less forced, as the process of patching, scheduled to happen between about 6AM to 10AM CST, destroyed all servers pretty much all day. When people were finally able to log in, they were greeted by a huge slew of bugs and stability issues. Some of these players were not all that shocked, as the bugs had been on Test Center for weeks and had been dutifully reported by the players there over and over.

As my server is now once again stuck in "loading" after the client crashed on me 6 times in 10 minutes, I’m working from memory, but here are some of the exciting issues that popped up:

  • Harvester Power Requirements Doubled. Harvester maintenance and power consumption rates were never really labeled clearly, insofar as what time unit consumed X credits or power. They were listed in half-hour blocks, which isn’t too intuitive, but you manage a harvester, you get to know what it eats. To try and make it… I don’t know, intuitive… they listed credit and power requirements by the hour. Fine and dandy, except someone forgot the little line in the harvester timer code where the power consumption is calculated on the half hour, so not all harvesters (and I suspect manufacturing facilities) consume their hourly rate, every half-hour.
  • Harvester Hopper/Efficiency Changes. This was one of those things they proposed and tried on Test, and said they wouldn’t do, and did anyway. A typical nonexperimented harvester (heavy) had its hopper size reduced… by as much as 60%. This means that you may have to go visit your harvester every 12 hours if you don’t want it to filly up. This ties in nicely with the power bug, since you will now have to visit your harvesters a lot more often just to feed them. Although architecture has many many problems, nonexperimentation being one of them, I still cannot see architects blowing literally millions of resource units in order to try and experiment up a more efficient harvester, suffering massive losses to critical failures, since ore has a typically low malleability and doesn’t like to be experimented on. It’s also hard to conceive of the playerbase thinking that paying 500,000 credits for a harvester would be a good idea, which is about what they logically should cost if the poor architect is forced to experiment everything, especially since the ore requirements on structures would pretty much rule out any sort of factory schematic. Nobody has 20 million units of the same type of carbonate ore lying around.
  • Armor and AP Factor Weapons Broken. Previous to this patch, AR roughly worked like this: If you had an inferior AP weapon relative to the target’s armor, you took a 50% hit in damage, then the target’s resistance to your attack type. Superior AP weapon, you gained a cumulative 25% bonus per level ver the target, unless the target had a vulnerability to your attack, in which case you just do listed damage. (You also got no bonus in PvP.) It didn’t make much sense, but it sorta worked. Then the combat developer made some insane post about the way he thought AR worked, which had utterly no connection to the way it worked in practice. After seeing evidence that this quote was totally off base, the devs apparently got very confused, and then apparently tried to fix things. Now the way it works is this: AR level has no effect at all, except that if you use a superior weapon, you get double resists, whereas if you use an inferior one, you get half. This of course meant that player armor, and any weapon with higher than AP 0, was rendered totally useless.
  • More Frequent Crashing. Idunno. Maybe the umpteen million crash logs I’ve autosent can help resolve this, though I suspect these get about as much attention as the bug reports from test center.
  • Crates Broken, Again. Someone though it might be really cool if you could split crates into smaller crates by double clicking. Besides the fact that this now means you have to radial menu everything out of a crate insted of double clicking it, splitting a crate means that you lose items from them, never to be retrieved. An unnecessary "tweak" resulting in more bugs.
  • Droid Deeds Not Tamable. Ah good, everyone was worried that Droid Engineers were becoming too powerful.
  • Humanoid Faction Pets Not Healable, ATST’s Autohealing Every Tick. Another useful change. Everyone knows those ATST’s were just underpowered.
  • Panic Shot Uber. This is one that really amuses me. Panic Shot was nerfed less than a month ago, because it basically allowed you to render a monster or player unable to do anything at all for extended periods of time. In the test for the Panic Shot change, it was pretty obvious that it was returned to its previous state, and made area effect as well. Now in the hurried notes for "stuff we’re trying to fix desperately," one of the listed issues is the fact that Panic Shot allows you to kill anything without retaliation. Uh, you didn’t even need to playtest this one. Reading one’s own goddamn update notes would have made this obvious.
  • Knockdown Uber in PvE. Monsters never get up after a knockdown. Never. I imagine all my friends who took a good combat class unlike me are out soloing Krayt Dragons right now with scout blasters.
  • PvP Damage Reduced Again. It used to be 25% of normal. Now it’s 25% of 25%. Some sleepy jackass must have plugged in the function call a second time. Fortunately this doesn’t affect any damage over time effects, so PvP is even more of a flamethrower burn roast than it was before. At least this takes out the guesswork for riflemen: before, they had about a 1 in 4 chance of hurting themselves more than their enemy with a special attack. Now it’s a certainty.
  • Combat Experience Formula Broken. If you are incapable of gaining any more experience with the weapon you use, you will gain exactly one combat XP from any kill. Somewhere in the patch notes it claimed that combat XP would now more accurately reflect the 10% of normal weapon Xp rate. I didn’t realize it was broken to begin with. So, in order to gain combat experience after you master and max out your weapon, I suppose you have to use a weapon you are unqualified on, or surrender your master skills and rebuild them. I bet this "fix" was to plug in the "INT CbtXP=XP/10;" line in after the weapon XP had been truncated by capping. Way to go. This also means that aside from exploiting bleed/grenades, it may be impossible for anyone to master a weapon skill that has a combat experience line.
  • Spices Incapacitating On Downer. Spice downers previously had the effect of drastically lowering your statistics for a while and causing you to puke, forcing you to find a place to retreat until you get over the shakes. Now they just drop you on the ground.
  • Food Downers. On the other hand, food never had any sort of ill effects, which was one reason you might choose food over spice despite higher expense and worse effectiveness. No more. At the end of a food cycle (which you get no warning for, unlike spice) suddenly your affected stats are dropped by the amount of the food buff, which can incapacitate you, or lower your affected secondary/tertiary stats until you die or get similarly bugged again. Yahoo.

Since I started this page, there has been a patch hotfix to attempt to deal with some of these issues that mysteriously made it past the rigorous QA cycle. The most glaring error is listed in the patch notes as being fixed, armor being totally ineffective, although forum reports say this is just not true. I think I know which version of the facts I’ll be relying on.

It’s been obvious for about two months that the development team is not playing the same game as the rest of us, just going by some of their bizarre, inaccurate statements on how they think things work. It’s completely obvious now that the QA process is horribly broken somewhere along the managerial path… bugs are being reported, data given out, etc., by the players, in every conceivable form with supporting evidence, but somehow none of this information makes it to any point where it actually has some sort of impact. This patch was about five times worse than the 8/13 debacle, which is really saying something as 8/13 broke many systems for upwards of three weeks without fixes. We were are pretty sure that after that one, the process would have been re-evaluated, heads rolled, systems improved, you know the normal sort of thing that happens when a disaster strikes. I can’t wait to drop all my crafting skills so I can afford to not log in for two weeks after the next patch.

 

 

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