Friday with(out) Means - April 8th, 2011: In The Meantime
Kintaii is up with this week's Friday with(out) Means, with some tidbits from around the office and a story from the days of Anarchy yore!
Hey guys, it's me again - I know you're all thrilled and excited [insert snarky comment from Waldgeist here ;D]. ;) Seems like Means hasn't really had much time to breathe over the last few weeks; from tracking down exploits to interviewing interns to helping us in the trenches plot out the next phases of the rebalancing, the man's got his hands full across the board. Not too different from the rest of us, really, but his involves more talking to people wearing suits (which i am totally cool with letting him handle, yo).
Things on the team have been going really well this week, with our first official update from Montreal having hit the live servers this Thursday.
Not much in this one outside of a few small code things, an exploit fix, and some more awesome icons from Docaholic who is actually in the office today hanging with us. =D After all the amazing work Doc's done for us it's great to finally get the chance to meet up with him - With any luck he'll walk away from the experience mostly untraumatized.
Meanwhile, I continue work on the incoming Pandemonium update which is coming along swimmingly; the mechanics are almost completed and next up is attaching them to various mobs and getting the worldbuilding for the extension to the playfield taken care of. Hopefully you guys will find the new encounters fun - Means was behind the overall design of this one and there's some good stuff in there challenge-wise, so be prepared. ;)
Genele is continuing to crank through the rebalancing efforts, with Agents up next on the docket. During this time she's also been going back through a lot of the other, older nano documents as well, fixing and tweaking and polishing and so on. Before Too Long™ (the new Soon™) both Genele and I will be hijacking the weekly Friday post to talk a bit more about exactly what we're doing, why and how we're doing it, and what to expect in terms of the future plan. We're getting closer every day and I cannot *wait* to get these changes onto Testlive - Going to be really interesting watching everyone play and adapt to the new systems. =)
The Art Squad is still in Oslo but with good news - Their work papers have finally gone through and they should be here very, very soon; probably within the next two weeks, which is awesome. =D Have really missed Flaptoot and MstrBstrd since we left Oslo and it'll be great to have them back with us.
And that about does it for this week, really - As usual, lots of little stuff gettin' done and busy-ness all around. Before I go, though, I wanna leave you with a small story about the game we all play and love, and give you a little insight as to the... interesting... things we deal with on a day-to-day basis, and hopefully shed a little light on a very old issue that's left a lot of people scratching their head in the past
- Both players and devs alike. ;) So kick back, relax, grab a cup/glass/can of whatever tasty beverage you so prefer, and prepare for.... The Tale of The Secret Nerf Table.
So a good, long while back, in the 15.5 update series and way before my time working here (this is me relating the story as told by means), they decided to add in a new high-level SL calm for Traders - Something they pretty desperately needed since, for some unknown (at the time) reason, their calms just didn't really work in SL all that well.
Making stuff like this is, for us, relatively easy (assuming that everything works as intended; you're about to understand why i'm saying that in a minute) - Find an old calm in our items tool, hit the 'clone'
button, rename, change description, edit stats, hit "export"; go in-game and test. If it works? Tada! If it doesn't? Back to the drawing board.
But, really, some stuff is pretty universally simple - Create a new calm based off of an old one? Easy stuff.
... except it didn't work. By this I mean the nano did actually work - You cast it and it straight up calmed stuff... everywhere *except* in Shadowlands, which was kinda the entire point and purpose behind the thing in the first place. They did everything they could think of - Buffed the character, buffed the nano, nerfed the mobs, the whole nine yards. No matter what, though, they still just couldn't get it to actually land if they were inside of Shadowlands.
Continuing testing, they found out that it wasn't the monsters; spawn an SL monster on Rubi-Ka, cast the calm, bam - Calmed mob. Take the same mob, spawn it in Penumbra, cast the calm... nothin'. This apparently kept them confounded for a good, long while with absolutely no clue or hint as to why it was acting weird; they dug through code, studied the items for any oddball stats that might be doing it - There was nothing seemed to be the cause and no clues at all as to what it might be.
That is until they stumbled across.... The Secret Nerf Table.
(That's not what it's called in the system, mind you - It's actually called "DEFENSIVE_MODIFICATION". Pretty harmless-sounding, right? Far from it.)
To this day we have no idea why they made it. I mean, we've got some good theories, some somewhat reasonable explanations, but no real concrete answer. No one on the team (at the time of 15.5) knew anything about it - No one had ever really paid attention to the "DEFENSIVE_MODIFICATION" table nestled among countless others in our tools (and given how often things have a habit of going nuclear around here you learn after a while that clicking on random stuff in the tools is just really a bad idea); no one thought they needed to. But someone did open it, and what they found was very interesting.
The Secret Nerf Table is a table in our tools that apparently takes certain nanos/items/etc. and just makes them *not wanna work* in Shadowlands. It, as an example, automatically overrides the casting strength of a nano line (or even a singular nano) and makes it, say, 75% less effective. Or 30%. Or even 100%. It adds in extra taunts in SL to healing nanos, it makes roots less effective, it... it does an amazing amount of really bad things, and no one knew about it. At all. No clue who even made it at this point - It was just there, nerfing random stuff.
Needless to say, after the discovery of the table, they were able to work the calm nano in and get it working in SL... many, many moons after they had made the nano in the first place. The most 'logical' (and i use the term loosely) reason we can come up with for the existence of The Secret Nerf Table is that the designers on SL wanted some way to make people feel like they *had* to get the new nanos introduced in SL, but didn't want to do a lot of relative power-level raising (aaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha). So, instead of doing some number crunching and coming up with a sensible system that utilizes the natural gameplay methods of AO (such as IP restrictions and the like), they just decided to create a big table that might as well have been called "Dirty, Dirty Hack" . As an extra added bonus they didn't actually introduce stuff to make up for the toolsets they'd just gotten done nerfing, leaving a good number of professions not only b0rked but scratching their heads and wondering "wtf" while standing in Elysium.
The real cherry on top of all of this, though, is that the dev team at the time didn't think they needed to tell anyone about it or leave documentation laying around or any of that sorta good stuff, leaving their predecessors to find out about the little nugget of joy they'd left behind. ;P
I'm not going to go into a rant as to precisely *why* I (and the rest of us) think The Secret Nerf Table is a bad idea, because I'm sure you guys all already agree with me on pretty much any point I could make there - Hatred of The Secret Nerf Table is good thing, though, because as we go through the rebalancing process plans are to completely gut it and with any luck get rid of the whole thing because seriously. :P So if you guys have been looking at the nano documents released recently and wondered what the little "will now work in Shadowlands" text beside certain nanos meant, now you know. ;) Either way, I thought it made an amusing example of the various little landmines we have to wade through in your typical work day. Sometimes it feels like we're swimming upstream - The pitfalls and issues we stumble into each week can be... draining, particularly when you're just wanting to sit there and get stuff *done*. But this is the game that we work on - This is the game we love. And, for all of its issues, problems, faults and flaws, we keep plugging away, regardless of the never-ending frustration. Some days I wonder if anyone could actually make us stop, even if they tried.
And on that note we're gonna go grab some lunch here in a bit - Hope all of you have a great weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Edit: And remember, the Anarchy Online Tenth Anniversary Party is coming up soon! June 24th - 26th here in Montreal, Quebec, and it's shaping up to be an awesome, awesome time. If you haven't signed up yet head over to the official Anarchy Online 10th Anniversary Gathering Discussion and Information Station thread and find out how to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event! =D