We’ve all been there: Your favourite game drops a big update, and you’re desperate to find out what’s changed. Then you slam face-first into the wall of text that is the patch notes, and your enthusiasm deflates like a punctured whoopee cushion. Reading is a lot of work. What if someone could just read the patch notes for you?
That’s the approach Supergiant Games’ narrative-driven roguelite Hades has been taking with its big updates, bolstered by a suitably story-centric twist. The game’s patch notes include a video of its disembodied narrator reading each and every word in a deliberate yet still dramatic tone. It makes for an almost ASMR-like experience that nonetheless feels like it belongs in Hades’ universe. Very few people can make phrases like “reduced power scaling from improved rarity” feel like gateways to adventure, and yet, he finds a way. Today, I listened to him read the patch notes for the game’s new “Superstar” update for more than 16 minutes. I do not regret having spent my time that way.
Contrast this with other games’ patch notes, which unceremoniously bombard you with de-contextualised stats and other granular details in a way that feels divorced from the larger experience of being immersed in the game. Patch notes are necessary in this age of constantly updating “live” games, but they’re almost unanimously dull and unappealing. They are a slog. Instead of reading them, maybe you go to a news site or Reddit and try to suss out the highlights. Or maybe you just jump into the game and hope for the best. Or maybe you’re a lapsed player hoping to dive back in, but the looming specter of information overload convinces you to continue keeping your distance.
I’d love to see more developers take a crack at making patch notes feel fun — or, at least, momentous. I think the latter is what Hades does especially well. Major updates are capital-E Events, and even in its patch notes, Hades pulls out all the stops. Will patch notes ever be a rollicking great time? Probably not; they include phrases like “reduced power scaling from improved rarity,” after all. But video games are an entertainment medium, and game designers are clever people. Punch them up a little! Or at least find somebody with a cool voice to read them for you.
Nintendo’s patch notes are notorious for saying pretty much nothing. So the latest Smash Ultimate update contains a nice surprise: a lengthy and detailed breakdown of everything that’s changing, down to each fighter’s specific tweaks.