How Do We Extend or Patch EVE?
Following up on the previous forum post, which I copied to a dev blog here below, I'm going to give a little bit of insight in to patch types and how they are deployed. I hope this will get a clearer view of what we can fix and how fast we can deploy them while other thing can take more time to deploy, such as content or new features.
This is the biggest form of addition to the game, that consist of new major features, major content additions, and have major rewrites of systems which are needed to either fix fundamental system problems which can't fit within our development cycle of smaller patch deployments or they are optimizations to decrease server or client load. Our aim is to do these once a year. EXODUS is an example of an Expansion.
This is our second biggest form of extending EVE. They might include some new features, or major balancing, but will be more focused adding new content. The CASTOR patch would be similar in size to a Content Patch, except there the focus was more on smaller system rewrites and balancing than new content. Our aim is to do these also once a year and require the least amount of programming resources to minimize bugs.
These are patches for maintenance of EVE, and are usually on a roughly monthly schedule, deployed on our patch day, Tuesday. These contains mostly fixes done by the programmers and also contain smaller content additions done by the Content division (See previous blog). An example would be the last patch, where we had tons of fixes in addition to Tech Level 2 Industrials and Improvements to Projectile turrets. The timeslot to get something into the next monthly patch would need to be done over the next 2-3 weeks, after which testing commences, which usually take from 1-3 weeks.
These are our smallest form of fixes. These are fixes that can be done server side and are deployed in scheduled downtime. They do not require a client patch, while all the other patches do require a client patch. Anything involving a client update takes far more time to prepare and is usually only done in Patches on Tuesdays, since the risk is far greater than with Hotfixes. The reason for this is that Hotfixes can be reverted on a minutes notice while 50 thousand customers with a faulty client can be devastating. We usually deploy a couple of Hotfixes to the server each week, but after Patches we can go up to deploying a Hotfix daily (A single Hotfix usually consists of a number of fixes).
I hope this helps a bit understanding how we work. All of this is included in your subscription (as you might have noticed) and we will continue to provide free Expansions to EVE Online. We consider this being part of what you pay for with your subscription. Why? We're gamers and we hate it as much as the next guy having to buy a box in a store to get new stuff from someone you have been paying for 2 years.
We have the whole development team working on EVE the whole year, and can - amazingly enough - have programmers fixing bugs, while our content people work with the tools they already have to add content.
We're still fighting the Exodus bugs and have recently started major optimizations to core systems to improve server performance, focusing on combat performance such as in combat and larger fleet battles.
You won't see the full fruits of that labour until some months down the road, these systems are extensive and take tons of manhours to do, in addition to the extensive testing required.
Optimizations to other system will benefit all aspects of gameplay, since low load servers always perform SPIFFEH. Well, that's it for now, I think I might go troll the forums today and perhaps grab some topics that I can cover in a dev blog.