Post-release balance tweaks and fixes can be a hassle for Xbox 360 developers. But Uber Entertainment, creators of Summer of Arcade release Monday Night Combat, is hoping to skirt the logjams that tend to develop by an interesting use of server-side storage that will, ultimately, allow it push out fixes on the fly.
Each potential Title Update that a developer wants to put out requires time, effort, and a Microsoft-side certification pass. In general, this is why it takes so long while for a patch to arrive. But this will not be the case for MNC when it comes to smaller things like balance or XP tweaks. Uber has dropped the class-based shooter's balance numbers in Title Managed Storage, Xbox Live's server-side developer storage. All Uber has to do in order to change a character or fiddle with XP earnings is re-write the file. No patch, no screen, no wait, no worries.
== TEASER ==Uber's John Comes explained this to Penny-Arcade, after Joystiq brought up this little factoid in its review of MNC.
"…So what we did is put a text file with all of our balance numbers [in TMS] and when the game starts up it overwrites the balance numbers with any numbers it pulled down off of TMS," he said. "Unfortunately, late in the process we found a bug that made about 80% of the numbers not work and were unable to fix it. But that other 20% is total fair game. [It] enables us to do things like double earnings nights, extra bacon nights and a few game play balance tweaks. When we found the bug, part of our second certification patch contained some global knobs to tune the power of various things 'on the fly.'"
The first certification pass for Monday Night Combat went as planned. It aced the Microsoft test like every other Summer of Arcade release before it. But Uber spotted some errors that it wanted to correct late, and thus a second pass was needed, according to an earlier Kotaku report.
Comes later gave an example of what can be changed via TMS.
"For example, if I found that Snipers earn juice way to fast, which is actually a concern of mine, I can make the change to the over all speed in which Snipers earn juice, upload it to TMS and the next time everyone boots the game, they'll get the new number. Now granted, if someone never boots the game and is always the host of their online sessions they won't get the change. But, that's going to be few and far between."
It's doubtful substantial updates to the game can be rolled out via TMS, but at least character balance, so crucial in class-based shooters, is something that can be addressed in a much more efficient manner.