Alert! Alert!

Posted: October 1, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.

-William Butler Yeats

MMO’s require a lot of patching.  These games require constant ongoing design attention, due in large part to the nature of the constantly evolving worlds.  Thousands of players inhabit the servers, which require regular upgrades and maintenence.  There’s no way around it – where there’s an MMO, there’s bound to be patching.

With these patches, come change.  Sometimes, these changes are fairly innoculous.  Other times, they can be earth shaking.  Unless a player happens to be one of those relatively few who regularly keeps up with forums and news sites, many of these changes are going to slip under the radar.   

So knowing this, why is it sometimes harder than it needs to be to find the patch notes? 

At some point early on, SOE made the choice to remove patch notes from the main patcher window and to instead include a list of characters from the account.  Forgive me for sounding a bit piqued here, but shouldn’t I already know which characters are on my account? 

What I don’t immediately know are the patch notes.  And unless I remember to hit the patch notes button (which isn’t even available untill the patcher finishes its business), I’m not going to know what’s happened to the game once I actually log in.  For the average player (read:  most players) they might never know anything’s changed till they hear about it from other players.  Unless I alt-tab out of the game to check the official forums, I’m unable to find notes on the latest patch once I’m actually in the game world itself. 

Let me try to rephrase the previous few paragraphs in a way that really conveys my frustration:  SOE has conciously chosen to make it harder to find patch notes for average players, instead relying on other members of their own playerbase to communicate game changes to each other. 

Does this make sense to anyone? 

I realize that SOE is working on Launchpad 2.0.  I also realize they’ve been working on it for the better part of 2 years now.  In the meantime, SOE’s launchpad – specifically for Everquest II – has stagnated. 

What really needs to be shown in the patcher are…well, patch notes.  If that’s outside of the range of possibility, then the ability to pull patch notes while within the game itself should be considered.  I’d love to be able to just log in and start interacting with guild mates before sitting around looking up patch notes.  I wouldn’t mind a pop-up window indicating that changes have occured within the game – and asking if I’d like to read the latest patch notes.

Even a simple subtle ability to view patch notes from the drop down “EQII” menu button would be fine.  Attach it to a text command for “/patchnotes” or something similar. 

These are basic ideas which could and really should be considered right now.  But what about more advanced ideas?

What if you could opt in to a text messaging feed for your cell phone or email that automatically kept you up to date on patch notes?  What if that opt-in service included check boxes for specific notes you wanted to be notified on in this way?

Why, if I didn’t care about tradeskill notes that much, I might not opt in for that particular alert.  However, I’m very interested in Templars or Raid content, so I would definately want to be alerted specifically on notes which affected those areas of gameplay. 

What if the alerts could be similarly set to show that in-game pop up window I’d mentioned earlier?  What if you didn’t get an in-game alert unless it was regarding an area you cared about?  Wouldn’t that be a nice feature?

SOE could even use the system for alerts outside of just patch notes.  After all, if the alerts are set up only to show what you want to see, then you could use the system to help you track Legends of Norrath tournaments (as opposed to having SOE spam several channels with serverwide messages whenever they’re load testing the LoN servers).  You could use the system to alert you to when beta sign-ups are available.  Use it to let you know when there are GM events planned on your server.

Today’s MMO customers are largely tech saavy.  The upcoming generation is even more so.  They’ve been raised on so much “Web 2.0”, they have IM’s and texting coming out of their ears (IDK?  My BFF Jill?).  Email/Text alerts aren’t some foreign, scary subject for these customers.  It’s as natural as picking up a phone or turning on a computer for most of today’s potential playerbase.

The possibilities for an opt-in alert system are fairly far ranging.  Even if SOE doesn’t get on the ball for something like this…someone should. 

  1. stargrace says:

    Well, you don’t have to alt tab out. There’s a built in /browser command in game (yes, it lags when you first start it up) so you could technically check the official forums from in game.

    I completely agree though about having the notes at a more readily available method for people. While I’ve finally ground it into my head to check the notes myself after a patch, I can’t recall the number of times people have been absolutely clueless about . Like the dressing rooms.

  2. jeez, i was halfway through this when it hit me about the email patch notes too! I think it would be great to be able to get these while I am at work or on my lunch break. I would be nice and prepared for the login at home.

    RSS feeds for class and realm updates please!

  3. Ogrebears says:

    Ya i agree, when a major patch comes out there should be update notes on the patch. SO while people wait the 5-how ever long minutes to patch, they can read them and know whats going on.

    Since i’m normally at school when the patch comes out i normally read about it in my time between classes

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