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The disaster of patch 3.0.8

Mike Schramm

Bugs plague any developer of computer software -- even when you think your code is perfect and it's been seen as such by everyone in the company, you'll still have your users find bugs faster and more frequently than you ever thought possible. And Blizzard is no stranger to bugs -- though they have a reputation for quality releases, they've always had a few bugs sneak through. As big a game as World of Warcraft is, there's always bound to be something not working quite right.

But patch 3.0.8 goes above and beyond the bounds of normal mistakes. Adam put together a terrific roundup last night of bugs found so far, and the list goes on and on: Wintergrasp (one of the biggest promoted features of Wrath) shut down. Unbearable lag on the realms and in instances (and this patch was supposed to fix that). Blizzard even went live with the patch knowing that major bugs (the Warlock summoning and animation and clipping errors) were in there, and, perhaps worst of all, bugs that have been in the game so long they seem to belong there (we're looking at you, Pet Cower bug) didn't even bother showing up in the patch notes, and haven't been fixed.

In short, patch 3.0.8 has been a disaster. If Blizzard feels that this patch lives up to the quality of content they released in Northrend (or if they, unbelievably, somehow though this was meant to be a bugfix patch for Northend, that ended up screwing up more things than it fixed), then they need to take a long, hard look at their quality assurance system again.

To be fair, we'll spread the blame around a bit. Blizzard got pressure from all sorts of places here -- over on the podcast, I've been asking for weeks when we're going to see this patch (even as BRK told me he'd rather see it done right than sooner -- and he was right as usual), and lots of other people in the community have been pushing for a release as well, from the forums to other WoW blogs. And Blizzard may have pushed themselves to get the patch out before it was ready also -- they hit unprecedented numbers with Wrath's release, and they may have felt like they needed to keep the patch releases coming rather than let that big crowd wait much longer.

And we'll even give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt on the PTR -- while we don't have actual numbers on how many people tested this patch, we're guessing they were lower than usual, considering that this wasn't a content patch and that a lot of people haven't hit 80 on the live realms yet (and thus weren't very inclined to leave those characters for the test realm). We don't know what the numbers were like on the PTR, but we'll guess, to Blizzard's benefit, that this patch wasn't well tested by players (of course it's up to you to decide whether that's our responsibility or not).

But even making those assumptions, this patch is still a disaster. It's broken more issues than it was even supposed to fix, and bugs that existed before the patch haven't even gotten a mention, as Blizzard is scrambling to re-do all of the changes that were supposed to go live with 3.0.8. And lots of these aren't mere oversights, though there are some typos in tooltips and problems like that. The Wintergrasp buff crashes realms. How did Blizzard not see that coming?

So where do we go from here? Almost all of the bugs Adam listed the other day are scheduled to be fixed very soon, so Blizzard is already working to make the rolling restarts and hotfixes that they need to to get it right. And while they're at it, Blizzard needs to go out of their way to make sure that everything's fixed ASAP -- longtime bugs like the Cower bug need to be looked at, as Adam put it, "nao," while their coders are sifting through the files and making sure everything is how it should be.

And as we said before, Blizzard needs to re-examine their QA process if it failed them here. If they don't have enough player testers on the realms, they need to give us a reason to go there, like time credits for playing on the PTR or premades to play around with. If the issue is internal, they need to re-examine their bugtracking system and make sure that bugs are getting fixed regularly, not just when the developers don't have current content to work on (it's unbelievable that they wouldn't already have some sort of internal bug tracker putting the highest priority on longstanding bugs, but how else would you explain issues like the Cower bug not getting priority in a fixing patch like this one?).

And though people might not like to hear us say it (and even we shudder slightly to speak the words), Blizzard needs to stick to "soon." Not in terms of communicating to their customers -- we still think that they need a better system of getting news and updates out to their players -- but in terms of not releasing content (be it bugfixes or a brand new raid instance) until it's ready.

I wanted this patch to come along as much as anyone else (well, maybe not some Hunters I know). But I'd rather have a patch late than have a patch as buggy as this one was. If this patch was a meal at a fine restaurant, we'd send it back.

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