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Sensuki

A Plea for better communication of changes/better patch notes

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Throughout the entire beta, there has been absolutely zero communication about balance changes. Obsidian does a passable job at communicating the implementation of new features and bug fixes, but there has almost never been anything stated in the new BB posts "Backer Beta XXX is now live!" about balance changes.

 

Every other beta, and released game that I have participated in the ongoing development of, has done a better job at communicating balance changes to the community. In my opinion, balance changes are the most important thing to communicate to the fanbase, after implementation of new features or fixes of critical bugs. It may be slightly more important in other game genres - for instance I am a DotA 2 player, and it would be completely unacceptable to change anything without informing the community.

 

I likely have the most logged hours of testing out of all of the beta backers, and even I find it difficult to thoroughly test lots of different encounters with different classes and abilities. So sometimes even I am unaware of various changes to abilities, and do not get the chance to give feedback on them. Whereas if I knew what was changed, I could actually go and test the change against my memory of the last version. It must be doubly difficult for others.

 

I was able to get this information from Josh Sawyer about the armor changes in the latest patch on his tumblr

 

The stat currently called DR (percentage damage reduction) is being removed.  Even though DR helped ameliorate big hits (which is why it was a part of the Fallout games along with DT), it was confusing for a lot of people, especially across six party members.

 

Damage Threshold itself is actually being renamed Damage Reduction (DR).  Tim and I used Damage Threshold because Fallout’s DT does most of what PoE’s DT does.  Many of PoE’s designers are also F:NV designers so they were familiar with DT and no one really questioned it.

 

We were surprised to find that a lot of people didn’t know what Damage Threshold was, didn’t recognize the abbreviation “DT”, and did not quickly determine that it was subtracted from incoming damage.  People seem to intuit DR/Damage Reduction more easily, so we just changed the strings over.

 

With these changes, the overall damage of weapons and many spells has also been reduced.

 

Tangentially related, but we’ve made a lot of changes to the character sheet and the creature tooltips that make them much easier to read.  The combat log is also in the process of being updated.  A few changes should be in the update tomorrow, but there are many more coming.

 

Let's have a look at what was posted in the official backer beta release post

 

You will notice quite a few combat balance changes in this build. Be on the lookout and let us know what you think.

 

Yes, I am aware this was a rushed patch and rushed patch notes due to being near the end of the year, but every build update post has been like this.

 

Now if you had not read about the DR changes on the official boards (because I posted them there), the RPGCodex or another forum that reports PE news, you mightn't have noticed it.

 

You also might not be aware that various abilities have been changed to per-encounter from per-rest and had their recovery time removed. You might not be aware that Priest and Wizard buffs are now much more viable. The game does not convey this information to the player very well in the first place, how is the average backer going to know about such changes, without paying keen attention to the details like I do ?

 

Obsidian might be taking the view that this creates 'innocent' feedback, where someone is reporting their 'feel' about something they do not truly understand. In my opinion this is a very bad way to go. An analogy - I was once talking to a sound engineer who said that he regularly gets asked to turn the volume up at gigs, and instead he tricks the crowd by increasing the clipping and slightly decreasing the volume and everyone is tricked into thinking it's louder.

However the most probable answer is simply because compiling a list of changes takes time, and they likely do not have a process that makes it easy to do.

 

Wouldn't it be easier to get people to keep a list of changes they make/bugs they fixed in between BB builds, and then when you go to release a new patch, everyone sends in their list of changes and Brandon Adler can just copy/pasta them? Only takes a few seconds to write a single line about a change you made into a text document, not like it would be that difficult. 

When I go to play a new version of DotA 2, I read the patch notes before I play and look at the changes, and then I can go hmm, I want to try this, and then play one of the heroes (or use one of the items) that has had changes to see how it is. Whereas in PE I have no idea what's been changed until I actually jump in the game and start going through characters. It would be much more efficient for me and others to give specific feedback on things if I knew beforehand what the changes were, and the easiet way to communicate that would be for team members to keep a record of changes they made.

 

As an example here is a patch update for Age of Decadence - this is a small team, and they list changes and combat balance changes. Easy to do, and very helpful for testers.

 

Thanks in advance if anything is done about this.

Edited by Sensuki
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I feel like being slightly honest tonight.  I swear Sen I don't know where you get the patience some days but I'm rather glad you have it.  For example, if I read between the lines of Obsidian basically never posting balance notes then I could extrapolate that they really don't care about high or even low level feedback of the beta backers because if they did care then they would post them.  I don't think my reasoning is unfounded either considering that as Sen stated above even small indie developers can post patch logs with extensive balance changes listed for the world to see (and for a beta no less!).  Obsidian Entertainment being at least a mid range studio most definitely does have the resources to do it however it is clearly not a priority.

 

As well it is rather telling of the state of the backer beta when some of the listed bugs that "require verification" would quite literally take seconds to check to see if said bug was actually a bug.  It becomes even more ridiculous when a sharp backer realizes that some of the bugs listed have been in for quite a number of builds.  QA on the other hand seems to respond to bug threads through the roll of the dice.  Bumping long since outdated threads to reply with "Thanks! We're looking into it!" or some such.  It's bloody insulting to have to watch this happen to Sen and some of the other posters who were tirelessly tracking these things down and reporting them and i'm not even in their shoes!  Tack on the fact that none of the information relevant to understanding how some of these game systems actually work is ever really present on the forum designed to gather your chumps backers together and well... wouldn't you know it I can't seem to understand really any of the reasoning behind most of this outside the fact that we are simply along for the ride.

 

I suppose i'm just really tired of watching poster after poster vanish from these forums because the only thing it tells me is... they have better things to do then post on this forum.  To be honest... that does scare me a little.

 

I hope Obsidian fulfills at least this one wish of yours Sen... I really do.

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I agree wholeheartedly. When a backer like me tries to review a new patch I do it all on feels. My posts could be more helpful, if I had a better comparison than a beta version I played a month ago. Being a general optimist my feedback is probably not that useful, since I'm rather excited about the game I play. And not having the balance changes in writing, but only the general changes, makes it hard to contribute with any constructive feedback in that aspect.

 

Being a long time Dota/HON/Dota 2 and RTS player myself, I feel that balance is indeed very important. And to boil it down, Obsidian would help themselves by helping us. A larger portion of backers, could assist with useful feedback, so Sensuki won't have to lay in so many hours in a lonely crusade. 

Edited by TheisEjsing

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QA on the other hand seems to respond to bug threads through the roll of the dice.  Bumping long since outdated threads to reply with "Thanks! We're looking into it!" or some such.

 

I think that might be a little bit unfair. QA has been working late (as have others on the team, I imagine) quite a bit, and NCarver (and sometimes others) has been responding to a fair amount of the bug reports. There was one instance where one of the QA guys was bumping solved reports from the first beta, but it hasn't happened since (and he also hasn't posted since).

 

Many of the things I've mentioned in Version Reviews and videos haven't been addressed, but I've started reporting them as issues in the bug forum, which seems to get them more reliably acknowledged.

Edited by Sensuki

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I could extrapolate that they really don't care about high or even low level feedback of the beta backers because if they did care then they would post them.

 

As we have seen, the Backer Beta is a derived product from the main development branch, where most of the actual effort goes. This BB was promised on Kickstarter and it was delivered. It's a nice to have, but it's not the main thing.

 

IMO, given the project budget and resources, the developement overhead needed to release this beta should be close to zero, so that devs can ship and fix more things. It looks like it is the case at the moment, with QA and communication doing the main beta work. So I guess it's good. If no dev overhead is needed for better communication or patch notes, I am all for it.

 

If on the other hand significant effort is needed whenever a Beta patch is released, I would prefer things to stay the same. If there is already significant effort right now, then I think Beta releases should just stop until further notice.

Edited by Rumsteak
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>I think Beta releases should just stop until further notice.

 

Nice trolling there, dude.

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IE Mod for Pillars of Eternity: link

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Typically I couldn't care less about the numbers being adjusted for balance, but as I play the beta more I find myself paying a lot more attention to that stuff (despite the fact that my original intention was not to get into the math). I agree with Sensuki that it would be a tremendous help in understanding BEFORE I start playing how my party's effectiveness will change so I don't spend the first hour or so utterly frustrated.

 

Backers vs devs have very different perspectives on the game's development. Whereas you (the devs) see the changes as they're made, our only points of comparison are previous builds and our perspective has a much more radical change due to that. Giving us the details of the changes would help some of us see much more clearly how things were changed. I can only speak for myself, but it would help greatly for me to have less emotional reactions to things if I knew ahead of time how the formulas changed. I've been struggling to give feedback on this build because I don't actually know where my issues are stemming from.

 

@Bester

Rumsteak is no troll. I understood what he said as that he's concerned if too many resources are diverted to beta releases the overall quality of the final release will be lesser. If that be the case, then he'd just as rather not have further beta updates so-as to divert those resources into making the final product better.

 

@Rumsteak

Based on what I've seen from the devs, I get the distinct impression that these guys are spending a lot of their personal time getting the beta updates out to us. I may be wrong, but I doubt Adam's work schedule is 2pm-10pm. I daresay they put in as many hours as most medical doctors. I doubt they're sacrificing development time to get the betas to us (more than what they planned, anyway), they're just sacrificing their sanity.

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I agree with your for the most part Sen, it's a little tricky to know what you're trying to test for sometimes when there isn't communication and we're not mind readers. I'm not in the BB and I come to the forums to see how thing's are progressing, and I get confused by the patch notes too. I think part of the issue is there are a dozen people working on this game, and that's hundreds and hundreds of man hours and changes that get put in per release. From Brandon's standpoint, it's probably a bit overwhelming to decypher what is relevant to this patch. Changes today may have been changed internally 12 times in the past week. Keep in mind, this is only a snippet of the much larger game, he probably has to filter that out cognitively what's relevant in the BB. There certainly could be better feedback about the changes given. This is still a work in progress, sort of like cookies being baked in the oven, and they sent the patch out early like it would be as if you pulled the cookies out early to eat them. 

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I find it hard to believe that changes are being made to the game and nobody is writing this stuff down. it's got to be somewhere. just not in our hands.

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My blog is where I'm keeping a record of all of my suggestions and bug mentions.

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/  UPDATED 9/26/2014

My DXdiag:

http://hormalakh.blogspot.com/2014/08/beta-begins-v257.html

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I find it hard to believe that changes are being made to the game and nobody is writing this stuff down. it's got to be somewhere. just not in our hands.

 

They probably keep a running log of some kind, but even that can be pretty hard to keep track of, nevermind minute changes that may change several times in a day, and then the act of cleaning up that log for ever build release so only the relevant changes are listed.

 

I don't know for a fact, but I have the feeling that it's not "someone" writing it down, but *everyone* to one degree or another. It's probably quite messy.


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Patch notes are a lot of work to write. I've done a few myself. You don't just dump whatever's in the issue tracker and go with that. I'm sure it took @BAdler a while to do the ones for 392, with links to the relevant threads and all.

 

That said, at least I would be more interested in mechanics/balance changes than which bugs have or have not been fixed. Because that would give direction to what to try next, and certainly make feedback more to the point.


I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Patch notes are a lot of work to write. I've done a few myself. You don't just dump whatever's in the issue tracker and go with that. I'm sure it took @BAdler a while to do the ones for 392, with links to the relevant threads and all.

 

That said, at least I would be more interested in mechanics/balance changes than which bugs have or have not been fixed. Because that would give direction to what to try next, and certainly make feedback more to the point.

 

That's true - patch notes do take some time to write, but in my experience not that much time. Then again, I don't know how Obsidian (or Your company) is organized, because when I was writing release notes as a lead QA I actually could (and did) take whatever has been resolved in the issue tracker since the last release and sumarized each resolved issue in a line.

I also think, that taking a couple of hours more to write comprehensive notes is well worth it, if you want to get quality feedback on changes that are not yet final.

Edited by Jajo

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At least our issue tracker always collects a significant amount of cruft between releases. There are invalid and duplicate issues, many have summaries or descriptions that are highly technical and only make sense to the devs, and so on. Even after cleaning them up in the tracker, it's a significant amount of work to get from that to something customers can understand and use. That's why we always also write a free-form summary of the significant changes -- something I'd like to see here too.

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I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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Time and Effort to Do So + Benefits of "Innocent" Feedback = Current Situation

 

I can understand why people like Sensuki, who test the game in the manner in which they do, would desperately want to get their hands on some more comprehensive patch notes. I can also see why making all of the details, particularly those pertaining to balance, clear to beta players might not be desirable. Since Sensuki, and I assume others, seem able to get the specifics with a little bit of digging, doesn't that provide a solution for both testing groups?

 

Separate issue, but I don't think that the DotA comparison is even remotely fair. The PoE beta is not a released competitive PvP game.

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Time and Effort to Do So + Benefits of "Innocent" Feedback = Current Situation

 

I can understand why people like Sensuki, who test the game in the manner in which they do, would desperately want to get their hands on some more comprehensive patch notes. I can also see why making all of the details, particularly those pertaining to balance, clear to beta players might not be desirable. Since Sensuki, and I assume others, seem able to get the specifics with a little bit of digging, doesn't that provide a solution for both testing groups?

 

Separate issue, but I don't think that the DotA comparison is even remotely fair. The PoE beta is not a released competitive PvP game.

It's not that uncommon that there's two sets of patch notes, one with highlights and one with more in-depth information. That might be an idea. After all, if you start with detailed patch notes, all you need to do is cut out the very specific information, and suddenly you have two sets of pertinent information.

 

That being said, although not being a tester, I can totally see why it's not happening. I mean, it'd be neat, I love detailed patch notes regardless of the game and it's state, but it simply might not be as simple to keep track of everything at the most detailed, day-to-day or hour-to-hour level of things.


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Can we blame Mr. Josh for this one too ?

 

If thats the case i'm with Sensuki :AKA: The Pillar 

Edited by morrow1nd

Never say no to Panda!

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Why do we need to blame anyone?  I think that even in humour is counter productive.  Disagreeing is one thing, blaming is another.

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 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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I am an avid Dota 2 player as well (6 years) and having patch notes is just a feature we all expect when balance changes occur.

 

A singleplayer RPG should be no less the same, especially when we the backers made it happen. We should be given the opportunity to see detailed patch notes. Larian Studios released detailed patch notes during steam early access for Divinity Original Sin. Why can't Obsidian do this? 

Edited by TrueMenace

Calibrating...

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I can also see why making all of the details, particularly those pertaining to balance, clear to beta players might not be desirable.

I can't - not really. I'm not trying to provoke or attack or anything, but could You elaborate?

 

Since Sensuki, and I assume others, seem able to get the specifics with a little bit of digging, doesn't that provide a solution for both testing groups?

Never was it said, that it's "a little bit of digging". Quite the opposite. As stated in OP, it's a lot of digging - basically full regression testing of mechanics by the sound of it. So no, this does not provide solution for both parties but quite a big problem for (the more thorough) one.

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Why do we need to blame anyone?  I think that even in humour is counter productive.  Disagreeing is one thing, blaming is another.

 

I aggree we should be more productive when criticising. May be overreaction causes them to be more careful when explaining the recent changes

Edited by morrow1nd

Never say no to Panda!

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Can we blame Mr. Josh for this one too ?

 

If thats the case i'm with Sensuki :AKA: The Pillar 

 

We can always blame Mr. Josh. It's part of his job description.

 

(But then we can also thank him if this turns out good, and I at least am liking 392 a lot.)

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I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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:biggrin:  Point taken.


 I have but one enemy: myself  - Drow saying


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I believe that the backer level of 'beta tester' was something of a misnomer when it was created.  I believe what we have, as backers, is an early demo of the game.  We serve as additional debuggers and that is about it.  The functionality of the game is modified in house for the most part and that is how the process works.

 

Sensuki, you should be commended for the work you have done for this game.  I'm stunned at the level of detail in your postings, your concise way of reporting things and the way you think about issues.  I can but hope the folks at Obsidian realize how difficult it is to find a resource such as yourself in testing.  You have created excellent dialogue about game concepts and balance.  Dialog is always of value in my opinion, and logical arguments often improve or reinforce systems design.  Flame wars do not, but those seem to arise from the frustrations of those less knowledgeable about the details of the constructs but still passionate about the side they feel they are on.  Needless to say, they happen along with the s*it.

 

I hope you see this through, regardless of the outcome of the functional balance WRT the game system.

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I can also see why making all of the details, particularly those pertaining to balance, clear to beta players might not be desirable.

 

I can't - not really. I'm not trying to provoke or attack or anything, but could You elaborate?

 

If the assumption is that most people who pick up and play Pillars of Eternity will not have studied the details of the mechanics (which is not an unreasonable assumption), then you want people's experience of the beta to reflect that. It is what Sensuki referred to in his original post as "innocent" testing; playing through the beta as a game rather than following changes. Advertising the mechanic changes encourages exploration of those mechanics, and is less likely to replicate the "natural" playthrough of a virgin PoE player, which will be most of players come release (no pun intended). It runs of the risk of 'Not seeing the wood for the trees', which, frankly, has already become endemic in this sub-forum.

 

Obsidian have made it clear from the start that the main thing they hope to gain from the beta is people's thoughts on balance and their gameplay experience. That Sensuki and others have spent so much time ironing out bugs is both of help and to their credit, but that was not the primary stated goal of the beta.

 

 

Never was it said, that it's "a little bit of digging". Quite the opposite. As stated in OP, it's a lot of digging - basically full regression testing of mechanics by the sound of it. So no, this does not provide solution for both parties but quite a big problem for (the more thorough) one.

 

Sensuki found out the last changes from Josh on his tumblr, and points out that these details were made available on RPG-Codex (from his words I took it that this information did not, in this instance, come from Sensuki himself).

 

People like Sensuki tend to find out the information by asking those in the know, and they then swiftly disseminate the knowledge. The time between the patch coming out and the information being widespread, despite the holiday season, is testament to this. It is not regression testing.

 

 

I am an avid Dota 2 player as well (6 years) and having patch notes is just a feature we all expect when balance changes occur.

 

A singleplayer RPG should be no less the same,

 

Single-player beta patch notes have a totally different target audience and goal to released competitive multiplayer patch notes, particularly if the latter is subscription based.

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