The Process of Update Notes and More!
We were asked by one of our players to explain how much work goes into the writing Update Notes, creating Producer’s Letters, and composing our newsletters. The easy answer is that the bulk of these responsibilities falls upon the shoulders of the Producer (for the Producer’s Letters), the Community Manager and the Website Administrator (for composing Update Notes and Newsletters and writing HTML, editing, and publishing everything to our website). These can take anywhere from an hour or two to several hours stretching over many weeks.
It’s hard to give a direct answer here because the time spent creating these essential web pages is not tracked day-to-day, and while there is no time tracking, we do know exactly how important these pieces of communication are to our players . . . and to ourselves! Producer’s Letters, Update Notes, and Newsletters are the closest we have to an easily digestible, historical record of things that happen in and around our games. What I mean by that is, we have extensive databases for tracking bugs, new features, and changes, but they are so large, that hunting for information can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
That said, of the three, the most time-consuming to prepare would be Update Notes. Basically, we scour through all the changes that will be made to the next update, including new content, bug fixes, and even those nasty spelling errors, and make a huge list of everything the players will encounter. For example, something as “behind the scenes” as an alpha issue on a creature’s robe doesn’t usually make it into the update notes–these are minor cosmetic polish issues that do not impact gameplay.
It takes a lot of experience and intimate game knowledge to be able to sift through thousands and thousands of changes and pull out the ones that the players will notice, will need to know and will want to know. We also have to translate them into something that the players will understand, and gauge the impact of this change. For example, what we see is “fix prep message for patching blocked message” and what we communicate is “Players will no longer encounter an error message when transitioning into Caliburn.”
Next on the time scale would be the Newsletters. The responsibility of composing a Newsletter falls upon the Community Manager; however, Newsletters definitely also involve many people. For example, one aspect people seem to have enjoyed with the Pirate101 newsletters are the Rogue’s Gallery Segments. To pull these together requires coordination between writers, concept artists and a videographer, and these are slowly created over the course of the month. In the end, about five or six people have been involved to produce one video.
Producer’s Letters are a great opportunity for our producers to get in touch with the players of the game, review the past, and predict the future . . . without giving too much away . . . but a fun hint or two of new content to come can be exciting stuff! Because of this, they are reviewed and critiqued by a number of people before publication to the website.
All of this takes time from many employees, and we hope you enjoy them! Thank you for this question and your passion for playing our games!