10 February 2009

3.0.9: The Stealth Patch

Patching has been weird of late. Last week we had 3.0.8a, which didn't do much other than fix a few bugs and tooltips. Now, today we are getting a 3.0.9 patch. This hasn't been on the PTR at all but as usual MMO-Champion has the goods.

There are a handful of class changes. Some are significant, but for Druids this will be a quiet patch. There's only one Druid note and it's Feral:

Ferocious Bite: This ability now only uses up to 30 energy in addition to its base cost.
I won't try to analyze the change, but you can check out the EJ discussion if you're concerned.

Other classes have more changes, but they're roughly similar in impact. There's really only one that might be relevant for caster Druids. All cast time increase debuffs — Mind Numbing Poison (Rogue), Curse of Tongues (Warlock), and a couple Hunter pet abilities — are nerfed from up to 60% cast time increase to only 30%. So, you'll see that in PvP.

There are also some minor UI and raid changes. All in all, it's a clean-up patch, probably designed to fix some pressing Arena issues while limiting the impact on PvE.

So the patch itself doesn't represent a major change. What I'm taking from it though is some positive impressions that Blizzard is getting more nimble at deploying changes. This is not a trivial thing, and getting even a +0.0.1 patch out the door in two weeks is rather impressive. That speaks to their confidence in both design and implementation, as well as agility in QA.

This is a good thing because it makes it more likely to get quick fixes to problems, as well as allowing new stuff to come more quickly. The complaint of course is that "they're making too many mistakes," but that doesn't hold up to inspection. If you look back at Burning Crusade history, there were 9 patches within the first 4 months of the initial 2.0.1 patch. For WotLK, it's more like 6 patches over a comparable time, and most of the fixes have been for balance issues rather than crashing bugs. Blizzard deserves credit for the development and QA work that they've done on this expansion.

The more interesting question is when we will see patch 3.1 — and what it will contain. I'm not going to start speculating too early, but once it's up on the PTR I'll start adding my thoughts.

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