Sunday we reported that Monday Night Combat passed certification twice when Uber Entertainment found some things not up to snuff after it went gold. Penny Arcade learned it's because of the game's ability to tune itself without a patch.
Jerry Holkins was intrigued by the claim that Monday Night Combat can make balance adjustments "on the fly without needing to do a patch," and pinged John Comes of Uber Entertainment about it. Comes' explanation revealed something called "TMS," the secret sauce that allows this kind of tuning update to work.
Comes' full explanation, as reported by Holkins:
"Microsoft has storage space on the LIVE servers that allows for what they call 'Title Managed Storage', or TMS. TMS is just a place where you can put any file you want up there. So what we did is put a text file with all of our balance numbers up there and when the game starts up it overwrites the balance numbers with any numbers it pulled down off of TMS. Unfortunately, late in the process we found a bug that made about 80 percent of the numbers not work and were unable to fix it. But that other 20 percent is total fair game. Which 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." 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."
I don't know if it's the same thing, but Monday Night Combat's use of TMS to fine-tune without a patch somewhat echoes that of another game with neverending balance-and-tweak issues, NCAA Football 11, which recently released its first-ever tuning update.
If the resource is available, I hope to see this becoming a trend, with more devs taking advantage of it.
In Too Deep [Penny Arcade]