In our line of work here at Kotaku we see games early, before they come out. Sometimes these games change, before you play them the first time.
Who is to say that a change is for the better? The developers, probably, who are among the only people participating obsessively with — playing — the game before it is released.
Take Blur, a pretty neon-lit racing game with realistic cars and unrealistic Mario Kart-inspired weapons. It was going to be released last year. Now it is a May 2010 game, and if you're playing the beta and cross-referencing it with articles outlets such as Kotaku wrote about it in 2009, you might notice something is different in how its cars fight.
Specifically: In the 2009 work-in-progress Blur, the power-ups stacked. Now they don't. Now they, instead, have alternative fire modes.
In the 2009 Blur, you would rewarded for hoarding power-ups of any one kind that are littered across the track. Grab one Shunt and you could fire a beam of force forward at a car ahead of you in the race. Grab two or three Shunts and the shot would be more powerful.
In the 2010 Blur, the one with the beta on Xbox 360 and that will be in stores in a little more than a month, one Shunt is as powerful as three. But that Shunt can be fired, if so desired, backwards. Most of
the power-ups now have alt fire modes. Mines can be tossed ahead instead of just laid behind. A Nitro boost can be used as an Air Brake, letting a car stop on a dime and rotate before resuming.
An Activision producer showing Kotaku a recent build of Blur explained that this change balanced the game better. Weapons can now cancel each other out, my reverse Shunt canceling your forward one, for example.
This tweak below Blur's hood is the kind of pre-release change in game mechanics about which we are seldom shown even in the barely-public forum of games being demonstrated for the press.
A small thing or a big thing? It depends on how much it matters, the manner of how cars fight.