Five Crackpot Theories on why the Tanking Change is a Hotfix and not a Patch

Ghostcrawler has an interesting post up today about some radical changes to threat that are going to be applied in two parts – first as a hotfix this week, and more substantial changes in the next patch.

I don’t have much to say about the change, given that I’ve yet to run a single Cataclysm dungeon, let alone heroics, and that my occasional forays into raiding have been as subs for people who have to leave or are no-shows. My opinion is generally favorable, but I’m by no means versed in the subject matter – therefore, this isn’t about whether it’s a good change or bad.

I do find it highly curious that they’re doing this as a hotfix, though.

Five theories why, some crackpotish, some not. I’ll let you decide.

Theory 1: School starts in the next 1-3 weeks. This move is to recapture players who have been away on break.

This should be pretty self-explanatory, but summer is almost over. It’s been so beastly hot that it’s easy to forget that, but – September is almost here. Dang.

If there’s a lot of players who have stepped away for the summer, making it easier for them to get back into the swing of things (gearing up for Firelands, etc.) will help keep them active and engaged.

Theory 2: Middle of the 3rd Quarter; Blizzard management says sub numbers HAVE to go up in Q3/Q4.

Pretty standard timing theory here. ATVI stock price is down a buck from their earnings call, and $1.40 from the high hit in July (I expect there was some selloff with insider knowledge there) DESPITE having posted solid numbers. My personal opinion is that the PR issue of subs leaving WoW is actually bigger than the financial one, but I could see management stepping in and saying that you need to fix the product to prevent it from being an issue again.

Given that there are only 6 weeks left in Q3, coupled with theory 1 above, there isn’t time for long patch cycles.

Theory 3: LFD is too brutal.

I think there’s a lot of focus on the heroic dungeon finder at Blizzard, as it’s something a lot of endgame players do (even moreso than raiding.) Fixing the tank shortage and making it fun for everyone affects a lot of the player base – not just tanks, but DPS and healers, too.

If done well, removing threat as an issue benefits everyone. DPS as a group don’t have to worry about throttling. DPS without aggro dumps don’t have to worry about substantially outgearing the tank. Tanks don’t have to worry about overzealous DPS. Healers don’t have to try to save DPS who screwed up on threat.

If done poorly, then it’s like nothing has really changed.

Theory 4: This was planned cover for another gaming industry announcement.

Blizzard’s PR department keeps tabs on the industry, and there was an EA press conference today. Some pretty substantial stuff got announced – more SW:TOR demos, ME3 trailers, a new MMO, FIFA 2012, lots of stuff.

Blizzard had two things in the can to keep WoW players focused on WoW today – RealID cross-server grouping to remain free, and massive tanking changes.

Guess what the WoW community is talking about today?

Theory 5: This is an easy change to make via hotfix, and gets them feedback NOW that they can’t simulate in the PTR.

The only change actually being made via hotfix is:

The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.

This is a relatively simple change – you’re adjusting the threat modifier on 4 abilities, nothing more. The Vengeance changes are more complicated, and may require reworking of several abilities. Blizzard wants the changes to go in quickly, both to make an impact (perhaps for the other reasons stated above), but also to start gathering real data about how it affects the LFD.

I suspect LFD testing is somewhat flawed in the PTR. I don’t have any evidence to really prove this, but I can imagine that the social changes they’re trying to effect are limited by the small, self-selected sample size of PTR testers.Notice how GC asks for feedback eleventy-million times in his post? They want to see what happens. This is the direction they want to go in, may as well start easy and see how it works out.

Okay, those are my theories about why this is a hotfix and not a patch – how about yours?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Five Crackpot Theories on why the Tanking Change is a Hotfix and not a Patch

  1. Rhoelyn

    Theory six: They’re excited about the changes, there isn’t a patch planned anytime soon, and it’s a simple change to hotfix in. So they’re tossing in there because Devs think it’s going to be COOL. And it’s easy. And they just want to see what happens.

  2. Sunnier

    You know, I was reading through this thinking “I bet it’s just because a blanket threat increase is a very easy change to make and this type of social change is difficult to test on the PTR”. And then I read your #5 and it basically said the same thing. :)

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