Monday, April 28, 2008

The lifecycle of an EverQuest 2 hotfix

EverQuest 2 Associate Producer Jennifer Gerull posted an entry on the official EQ2 developer's blog the other day, discussing the process involved in pushing out a hotfix to the game. Though she equates herself to 'George Jetson with longer hours', endlessly pushing buttons all day, it's an interesting look into Sony Online Entertainment's revision process.

As Gerull describes it, code fixes are pushed to an internal server, where the QA department can take a look at them. If the build of the game compiles nicely, it's reviewed by Quality Assurance to ensure the changes are working as intended. If the build doesn't compile nicely, some poor developer gets saddled with "a really ugly doll named 'BoB' that gets to sit on their desk until the next coder gets the "Breaker of the Build" title."

While most of the time the team waits patiently for QA to do its work, important hotfixes result in rushed phone calls and nervous waiting. Inelegantly applied solutions can have the QA team sending one or two of the items on the hotfix list back to the coding team, which in turn requires Jennifer to start a new internal update. She notes that each internal update is labeled with a letter, starting with A and working down. "A few times I've gotten all the way to L, M and N builds, but that is usually the exception rather than the rule on the number of iterations in one day. By the time we get to N, its usually time to go home and try again the next day." Make sure to read on for the full view of this process, and hints of future developer updates to come.

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