Earlier this week, what should’ve been the second-biggest event of World of Warcraft’s calendar year landed with a dull, wet thud. The big 8.0 patch, which lays the foundation for the upcoming expansion Battle For Azeroth, sailed into players’ lives aboard a raft of bugs and tedium.
Now Blizzard has apologised and vowed to improve it in the coming days.
Patch 8.0's laundry list of issues is best summed up by WoW subreddit poster Solacespecs. While busted quests, items and achievements are annoying — not to mention the sudden baldness on the part of raid boss Kael’thas — the biggest issues stem from changes to the levelling and scaling systems.
Basically, the dev team decided to “squish” all of the game’s stats down, because between 110 levels’ worth of content and special Artifact Weapons, players and enemies were dealing and receiving damage in absolutely ludicrous numbers.
Post-squish, though, a bunch of bosses are suddenly overpowered, and fighting enemies while levelling takes even longer than it already did. It’s become a demoralising grind, say players.
As part of a Q&A stream today, WoW game director Ion Hazzikostas repeatedly stressed that none of this was intended.
“It’s been an eventful couple days,” he said. “Not the smoothest of pre-patch launches. Not the experience we wanted to deliver or hoped to deliver. Not the experience you deserve, frankly.”
He explained that The Big Squish was in large part to blame for the issues players were experiencing — specifically, the way it was implemented. The last time Blizzard squished WoW’s stats, during the Warlords Of Draenor days, the team did it all manually. This allowed for a lot of precision, but it was also a pain.
“It was hand-editing literally tens of thousands of spells, creatures, dividing it by 25, multiplying, whatever,” said Hazzikostas.
So this time, the team tried to overhaul WoW’s underlying systems such that it’d be easier for them to rescale the game in the future, too. They’d just have to “turn a knob,” as Hazzikostas put it.
That had a few unintended side effects. And by a few, I mean a whole wriggly heap of them across 250,000 spells, 150,000 creatures, and tens of thousands of quests, by Hazzikostas’ estimate. This, he explained, woke up a bunch of dormant bugs.
“When we make a code change that affects mob pathing, when we fix a bug that is causing some AI actions to not occur correctly, that can have ripple effects on basically seven past games’ worth of content,” he said.
“Something that in 2008 has worked fine for nine years, turns out there was actually some subtle bug there that just wasn’t manifesting itself because of a separate issue we fixed that now causes that thing from way back then to break.”
As of now, Hazzikostas said the WoW team is bending over backward to revert levelling and enemy scaling back to how they felt before while keeping the newly squished stats in a non-absurd place.
“Hopefully all aspects of the experience — whether it’s doing Legion raids and dungeons, whether it’s just levelling up — will be smooth and as you’ve known and expect and deserve,” he said.
Community manager Josh Allen added that while this whole situation is obviously far from ideal, pre-expansion patches exist so that this kind of thing doesn’t rain on the parade of the actual expansion’s launch. “It sucks that it happened, but at least it happened the way that it did,” he said.
Hazzikostas expects things to be significantly better in a few days’ time.
“We’re in the process of following up on every bit of community feedback we’re getting,” he said. “We’re literally fixing hundreds a day at this point. All I can ask, really, is for your patience just for the next day or two. I think what you experienced yesterday is the worst it will ever be. Tomorrow will be better.”