Reading this column made me realize that I used to be “that” person for a really long time… but now I’m too lazy to read the patch notes too, so I just skim Reddit comments ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
#55: “3 p.m. on a Weekday”
Published in 2016/03/17 issue
MMORPGs are online games, so they receive updates. These updates come in all shapes and sizes, adding things like new dungeons or equipment. Online games endeavour to provide their players with new content in order to keep them engaged for a long period of time. FFXIV’s updates are categorized as follows: “major patches” which contain big updates like new dungeons, raids, main story, and job adjustments; “minor patches” which contain smaller-scale content updates; and “hotfixes” which contain bug fixes and minor balance changes.
All of these updates require patch notes, which provide an overview of everything that was implemented. Among the myriad of MMORPGs out there, you could say that patch note formatting is the most inconsistent element of them all. For example, if two new dungeons were added in a major patch, one game’s patch notes might say “Multiple new dungeons have been added”, while another might go into detail about the map coordinates of the dungeons, where the unlock quests are, and even the background lore. FFXIV falls under the latter—our policy is to write thorough explanations.
My reasoning for including thorough explanations was that they act as a user’s manual for the update while also being useful for PR. However, when you’re describing everything in detail, it turns into a wall of text, and people who don’t like to read will only skim through it.
Back when I was just an ordinary MMORPG player, I often found that people had a hard time reading the patch notes. When I was guild master in a certain game, I would read the preliminary patch notes and say in guild chat, “OK everyone, we’re starting with _____ on patch day, so make your preparations!” and the response was often “Wait, they’re adding that?” Of course, I didn’t expect everyone to read the patch notes—it was good enough if I read them and then told them what was coming. Basically, as long as someone in the community reads through everything, they can relay to everyone else what they need to know.
After taking over the reins for FFXIV, my first thoughts were “We’re putting so much work into these updates; it’d be a shame if we didn’t convey their contents to the players correctly” and “It’ll be reassuring if there are at least some people who really understand the patch note contents—it doesn’t have to be everyone.” That’s why FFXIV’s patch notes are so long now.
On the other hand, ever since the release of ARR in 2013, all of the major updates have been huge, and the length of the patch notes has ballooned as a result. We try our best to explain everything properly, but it takes a lot of time for the development team to check everything. It’s also a lot of work for the community team to put it all together (and in four languages at the same time… Thank you for your hard work!). On top of that, when we add things like detailed UI-related functionality, the patch notes stretch even longer and many things get overlooked, including useful features. In response to that, we devised an uncreatively-titled live stream: the “Patch Notes Reading”.
When the game initially launched, major updates were usually accompanied by major server maintenances that would last 24 hours. Since the game would be unplayable for so long, we figured we’d kill two birds with one stone by holding the Patch Notes Reading during the maintenance, passing the time with the players who were eagerly awaiting the patch. At first, we did the stream on the night before the update, coinciding with the server maintenance. However, thanks to the efforts of the FFXIV server team, the maintenance got shorter and shorter each time. For our most recent major update, Patch 3.2, the stream began at 3 p.m. on a weekday, the day of the patch… Who would be watching at that hour? *laughs*
Nevertheless, we had to wait until then to start the stream, because if we did it while the servers were still up, we wouldn’t be able to say anything that would affect the in-game markets. At that point, there wouldn’t be much use in having Producer/Director Yoshida reading out the patch notes. The whole point of the stream is for me and Toshio Murouchi (from the community team, nicknamed “Morbol”) to go into all of the little details of the update. The stream gains further significance when knowledgeable players summarize everything nicely and spread the information to all of the community websites. So, even if it ends up being in the middle of the day on a weekday, our stance for this stream does not change.
When you include the lists of new items, the patch notes end up being 100,000 characters each time. Despite how long they are, we still have fun streaming them for everyone that’s excited for the new patch, and I’d like to keep this tradition going. Right now it’s February 23rd, and we just finished the Patch Notes Reading for Patch 3.2. On a side note, even on Niconico alone, the stream had 60,000 viewers. Wait, what? I thought it was at 3 p.m. on a weekday… *laughs*
 Raid dungeons originated in EverQuest, where they denoted large-scale dungeons that would be tackled by multiple parties of players. However, from World of Warcraft and onwards, the term was used for high-difficulty dungeons with a variable number of participants. In FFXIV, the term is even more ambiguous. At this point, it basically refers to anything that isn’t a standard dungeon.
 A portion of the patch notes that are released several days before the update itself. When the patch notes are very long, preliminary notes are released in advance because it can be difficult for users to read all of them on release day. However, parts that can influence the post-patch economy or are potentially misleading are left out. Also, not all MMORPGs release preliminary patch notes.