Pre-Patch is the Worst Kind of Patch

WoW patched to 8.0 on Tuesday.  It did not go well.

And I mean this from nearly all sides, from developers to consumers.  Pre-patch should be renamed to client testing.  That’s what I call it at work.  We do all the tests we can internally (alpha), stage it in a test environment for clients to poke (beta), then have an initial small release in production (client testing) to a select group of users who know things can still go awry.  Blizzard does the same, they just happen to have a slightly larger scale.

And all developers dread the notorious X.0 patch.  Most people who spend time in IT will wait until at least a full sub release, if not two.  The larger the X gets, the worse the patches get.  Plain and simple, they need to take into consideration years of previous code.  Example – Internet Explorer.  If you ever had the chance to see that source code, you would find stuff from the 90s in there.  They had to dump most of it away, and rewrite Edge from the basics (also why W3 testing seems to finally work).

So, yeah.  Context on the post.  I get what Blizzard was trying to do, I get the challenges.  What I am most curious about is the level of failure this patch brought about, and the optics around that.  From the outside, it seems two things happened.  One, they made some new global variables to put in “big wheels” to adjust numbers across the board to save time.  Second, they don’t have black box testing.  The first one, I can see how it can make things go sideways.  I’ve had that happen.  But the black box testing always found it – especially when it took a larger scale.

What is black box testing?  The general idea is that you apply inputs on one end, and look at the outputs, without knowing how the insides of that box work.  If you look at how the code executes, then you’re too far in to see the larger bugs.  For example.  Enemies that are in the 80-90 range have 2x more hit points than enemies at 110.  Looking at the code won’t show you that, but testing against set use cases and analytics will.  It will not find the specific use case of sub boss X from 3 patches ago, that does the moonwalk instead of normal pathing (at least, it’s not likely).

It also appears that they didn’t stress test their login servers for pre-patch code.  Which again, seems a ridiculous thing after so many years of server meltdowns on every X.0 patch, and every expansion release day.

As for the actual content, I found numerous bugs.  Most in WoD (faction running and Tanaan).  All my characters appear to be 25% weaker at max level, and leveling is like hitting a meat wall.  The numbers need tweaking, and that’s doable in the short term.  Losing artifacts and their bonuses however, that is quite painful.  My monk is so much less fun to play, and has lost nearly all self-sustain ability.  As a tank, he could solo pretty much anything without much trouble – in particular invasion bosses on Argus.  Now, it’s 3-4 deaths per, unless I have someone healing me.

 

As much empathy as I have for the Blizz developers, considering the sheer amount of money they have, as well as a reputation for quality delivery, this entire event makes it seem that WoW has been delegated to the C team.  It certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the actual release of the expansion.  I’m sure the large scale items will get fixed (squish related), but the fun aspect of classes we had in Legion is seriously diminished.  Not sure how that will work out.

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