Monday, December 7, 2015

What's In A Patch Name?

One of the more unusual decisions CCP made over the past two years is retaining the practice of naming every point release following the decision to move to a 5-6 week release cycle in June 2014. I always thought that naming each point release needlessly raised expectations. No matter how much CCP stated that these were not expansions, some people didn't care and complained loudly when a release was not chock-full of content.

Perhaps my background before playing EVE gave me an understanding on what CCP was doing with the faster release cycle. I played Everquest 2 for over 3 years before playing EVE. When I started playing, we received a content patch, called a Live Update (later, Game Update) every month. That lasted for 2 years or so. Sometimes the updates were major, sometimes little more than bug fixes. For example, Game Update 41 was the Frostfell, or Christmas holiday, patch for 2007.

The numbering system for updates did not halt when SOE released an expansion for EQ2. For example, the 2007 expansion, Rise of Kunark, was Game Update 40 while The Shadow Odyssey, the 2008 expansion, was Game Update 50. I think the numbering system stopped a few years ago, but I think I made my point. Use a numbering system for all updates and give expansions names.

Apparently, CCP is thinking along those same lines. Looking at the patch notes for tomorrow's point release, the description only states "Patch Notes For December Release." What a dull name. Okay, using a number isn't really much better. But what should CCP do instead?

First, bringing back named expansions, announced back in September, is a good move. I also like the plan for releasing expansions, listed in the dev blog:
"But we will also bring back expansions. What's then the difference between a release and an expansion in this hybrid form? First, an expansion will be a set of big, connected features that both make impactful change on EVE, and make a statement about what kind of game EVE is. Second, there won't be a fixed number of them per year, but rather we will announce when we have one in the making and what the main features are. While we will have a timeframe in mind for the release of the expansion and tell you about it, the exact date won’t be pinned down until we are confident that the state of all the connected features are in a good place."
What about the point releases? CCP never used a numbering system before, always relying on the names of the expansions. I think that is part of the reason the point releases continued to receive names: simple inertia. So why not use a combination of the year and the number of the point release for the year? But, don't use the real world year. Use the in-game year. So the first point release of 2016 would be either YC118.1.0 or just 118.1.0. An alternate naming convention might include the month instead of a counter, so a point release in June would have the designation YC118.06.00. I actually prefer the alternate naming scheme, but figure some would not like to see gaps when months skip.

I realize that a naming convention for a game's point releases seems like a minor thing. But I was so tired of listening to people complaining about "expansions" that didn't have any content I just wanted to turn off all social media, podcasts, and blogs. Maybe if CCP uses a naming convention that people understand some of the whining will go away.

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