Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Priorities

Last week, a player was complaining on the forums about the range on using a certain ability. Since he had given a very clear, concise yet detailed explanation of the issue, it took me no time at all to verify the issue and turns out he was absolutely right, the range was way too limited. It was an extremely easy problem to fix so I did it right away and replied to the thread acknowledging the problem and informing the player the fix would be in the next publish. Yay? Not quite.

So a few players responded to the thread very pleased about both the fix and the speed at which said fix was put in. But then came the PMs of a few very disgruntled players giving me hell about clearly having no sense of priorities, questioning my IQ and wondering which "talents" I used to get this job since I'm obviously clueless about what players need! I wish I had a camera when I read the nastiest of those PMs just so I could have seen the expression on my own face. I'm sure even I would have had a kick out of seeing my own shocked expression :P

While the wording of those players' question was way out of line, the question itself was quite valid. When it comes to bugs, balancing or wish lists, how is the priority set? It all depends. Obviously, bugs that are game stopping or that could have a significant negative impact on the game in the long run (such as duping) take precedence over everything else. For the rest, the main factors taken into account are:

1. Severity of the inconvenience they represent
2. What other systems/features may be impacted by the fix
3. Amount of time required to fix it
4. Resources available to allocate to it
5. Balancing considerations required
6. The number of people affected by this bug

In this specific instance, the inconvenience wasn't game stopping but significant enough. It didn't impact any other systems and in fact, I had already spent the past month working on the specific system the issue was a part of. I knew specifically which script contained the line of code to be adjusted and it simply involved increasing a number from 90 to 200. Granted, I had to give it a few more minutes reflecting on potential balancing/abuse issues, but they proved to be nil/negligible. So overall, less than 10 minutes to fix something fairly inconveniencing. In terms of bang per buck, I'd say it's worth it.

The question then is why are the most inconveniencing issues not addressed right away? Well they are. But it's not because you are looking into an issue that you can fix it immediately. More importantly, not every fix is a good fix. And when a fix does more damage than good, sometimes it's better to just deal with the bug until a better fix can be found. I do not believe in punishing the majority of legit players just to prevent a minority of cheaters/exploiters. Over the years, I've seen fixes (in various games, not just UO) that have done just that. But then, is doing nothing any better? Definitely not. That's when a temp fix, partial fix or at least some form of a deterrent is put in place until better tools to permanently fix those issues can be developed.

You'll ask but what about the bugs that really wouldn't take a whole lot of time to fix, that wouldn't create notable imbalances and that have been sitting around for years? Well, that's when you start looking at point 6: how many players are impacted by this issue. And unfortunately, the good of the many does outweigh the needs of the few. It's like going to the ER. You've been waiting for 10 hours, the whole time watching people that came long after you go right in long before you do. And you're like WTF?! You are no less important than the next guy. Your pain is no less real. Is it fair for you to suffer much longer than needed just because your injury isn't as critical? Absolutely not. But when push comes to shove, the critically wounded won't survive if made to wait, you will.

If given the choice to fix 10 bugs in 1 day that will benefit 85% of the player base, or fix 1 bug in the same amount of time that will benefit 20% of the player base, which would you take? Would knowing that these 20% have been waiting for a fix for 4 months longer than the 85% influence your decision? What about knowing that the fix for the 20% also has a risk of creating new issues that will impact a yet unknown percentage of the player base but likely in the 50%-70% range?

So in the greater scheme of things, there never is an easy answer. While logic dictates to put the brunt of your effort towards the majority, no one should be made to wait indefinitely. Just like the guy sitting in the ER, don't hate the patient who got rushed in while you're still waiting. The doctors may be fighting a losing battle giving him CPR. Yes, your fractured bone hurts and it sucks having to wait so darn long, but it's nothing a good cast isn't guaranteed to fix.

5 comments:

GreyPawn said...

A post in response.

Crysis on Cats said...

While I certainly know that you were a little stung by comments made that were negative, I just wanted you to know that there are many players like me that keep up with what you're doing and very much appreciate your open approach to dealing with our issues. I know that at the end of the day, you are here FOR us and only want the best for us. I enjoy this game as much as ever and delighted that someone like you is a dev, someone that is ONE OF US...
Thanks for all that you do!
Crysis of D|R* on Catskills

GreyPawn said...

Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing but praise for everything Sakkarah has done for the UO community since day one. I simply hoped to shed some light on the mentality of the jaded veteran player that seemed to elude.

Please, though, do keep up the magnificent work that you have been doing. To ancient crotchety cynics like myself it is a breath of fresh air.

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

Thanks for the good words. But I wasn't actually insulted by those nasty PMs. They (and especially one of them) were just so over the top it became laughable in a shocking kind of way. I just remember thinking "sheesh, that poor guy is about to pop a vein irl! Somebody dial 911!!" It just boggled my mind that some people could get so angry not because you did something bad to them but because you did something good for someone else.

I'm absolutely loving my job and I can tell you that the whole team is working hard trying to fix a lot of the old stuff that has been lying around too long. Hopefully you guys will stick around with us to see it all happen cuz I honestly believe this time we're headed in the right direction.

Crysis of D|R* on Cats said...

I'm with ya! Started in '99 and have no intentions of stopping! On my way with the replica collection, have 14 atm, and can't wait to see what else 2009 has in store for Ultima! Oh, sorry for the Canada-hating credit stuff, that stinks!