Acknowledging that their game has major problems especially in its endgame, the creators of the once-hot Division said in a livestream today that they will prioritise the release of an October patch to make their game better. "We want to go back to making The Division really fun in the end-game experience," community developer Hamish Bode, who works at the game's studio, Massive, said on Twitch. Raising a character in the military-style action-RPG from level one to 30 is still fun, he said. "Then you hit 30 and something changes. We need to fix that and obviously a few other things as well. There's bugs. There's some quality of life things."
The fixes are planned for a big patch, 1.4, that is slated for October for PS4, Xbox One and PC. That patch was originally supposed to be released alongside the game's next DLC, Survival, which is being delayed until later in the year.
The Division was one of the biggest releases of early 2016 and quickly attracted millions of players interested in its mix of co-op cover-based shooting and loot collection. It was a mix of Destiny, Gears of War and Diablo dressed up in Tom Clancy clothing.
It began to falter, though, as cheaters flooded into the game and as patches and expansions began to reveal flaws with the end-game. Like many multiplayer games, The Division is designed to be played well after players hit their maximum character level, offering all sorts of high-level co-op and pvp challenges. The game's first big expansion, Underground, is essentially all end-game activity. But Massive balanced their game in strange ways, making it difficult for players to get the best gear to level up. The game also proved buggy, with various optional character talents and skills glitching when players needed them.
Massive was light on specifics today, but said the 1.4 patch would address "core experience, bug-fixing, balancing and quality of life", according to community developer Yannick Banchereau.
Bode and Banchereau cited things like delays in character healing, skills that don't work, problems with mobile cover and stuttering issues on Xbox One. They recognised that the game's balance is off and that the game's loot needs to be, Bode said, "more relevant to you."
They also addressed the game's inherent catch-22, where it often requires a calibre of loot to complete a tough mission that you only receive as a reward for completing that mission. "We're trying to avoid the situation where you're in order to do Challenge Mode you need loot that drops in Challenge Mode," Banchereau said.
"Yeah," Bode said, "it doesn't make much sense."
They did rattle off a few specific "quality of life" things that will be part of the patch, including the ability to run from the game's Base of Operations and Terminal, the addition of a "craft all" button, a buyback option in case you accidentally sell great gear and a change so that weapon skins no longer take up inventory slots. In a sign of just how slow Massive has been to address fan complaints, the developers on the stream noted that players have been complaining about this since the game's pre-release alpha.
A post on the game's website also promises improvements to "enemy difficulty and time to kill" as well as the "solo player experience".
A snapshot of The Division's subreddit last month, a sure sign that changes needed to be made.
In some obvious overtures to their most dedicated and frustrated fans, Bode started citing recent threads he liked on r/thedivision and thanked fans for both cataloguing their complaints and making suggestions. Massive is offering to fly some players to their offices in Sweden for more feedback and is promising that future livestreams will cover more granular details.
The Division's launch elicited great chest-thumping by publisher Ubisoft, bullish on having built another new hit series. Obvious problems with the game, however, have dimmed the game's short-term prospects. Clearly aware that they are at a crossroads, Massive now must come through in October. Blizzard pulled off exactly this feat a few years ago as it patched and improved the initially underwhelming and infuriating Diablo III, turning it into one of the most satisfying and polished games out there. Over the course of a year, Bungie addressed many similar problems with Destiny. The Division borrows other things from those two games. We'll find out in October if they can also emulate that.