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Understanding the Industry – Patch Notes, Nerfs and Buffs


13 Sep 2020

Gabriel Sciberras

In the esports industry, variety and change is essential – it keeps competitors on their toes and allows for a more engaging viewing experience. Accordingly, one way to do so is by literally changing the game. Indeed, in this episode of Understanding the Industry, we’re taking a look at Patch Notes.

What Exactly are Patch Notes?

Any in-game change made by the developers of a title is usually referred to by the community as a ‘patch‘. The term ‘patch‘ carries the idea of fixing a current problem within the game.

Items e
Credits: Riot Games

However, problems in the game aren’t usually due to the game itself. Some are caused by the community. Indeed, if players are abusing an element, this needs to be changed.

In MOBAs for example, developers want to keep a variety of viable champion/hero options. If one champion is being overused for whatever reason, it’s likely that a change will come.

Chiefly, patch notes come in multiple forms – here are some examples:

  • Changes to map structures for tactical shooters
  • Modification to item usage if present
  • Changing character abilities, traits and base stats in MOBAs
  • Tweaking the characteristics of weapons
  • Fixing in-game glitches, bugs or cheats
Credits: ESL

These changes affect competition at the highest level – the entire esports scene behind the title.

The Difference Between Nerfs and Buffs

The community simplifies changes into two categories. Namely, they’re either ‘nerfs’ or ‘buffs’:

  • ‘Buffs’ – the developer makes a in-game change where the subject is made stronger or more effective
  • ‘Nerfs’ – the in-game mechanic or subject is now weaker and less viable than it used to be

Accordingly, the community tends to shift to the buffed changes while abandoning the nerfed guns/maps/champions.

Here is an example:

Credits: Riot Games

Overall, developers such as Riot Games announce their game patches through press releases. Respectively, they themselves clarify what’s being buffed and nerfed, through their own patch notes.

In this sense, the champions on the left have become weaker and those on the right, stronger. Changes are introduced through a new game version. For the most part, this is done through numbers. For example, Patch 10.10 comes directly after Patch 10.09 and is more recent.

Image of Clayster Credits Blizzad
Credits: Blizzard (Ben Pursell)

In some events, organizers offer the game strictly on one version. This is done so if a patch is released during the event, players don’t have to worry about having to adapt to it. Specifically, players prepare for the meta.

Shifting the Meta

What is a meta within a game?

Any game, competitive or not, has a meta. The term itself refers to what in-game choices are being made most commonly at that point in time. Examples include which weapons, champions and items the community is using most and are hence, considered the best to use.

Game Patch Notes play a massive role here. Any slight in-game change can shift a meta in any direction. Professional players need to ensure that they’re making the best decisions possible in-game. Indeed, using the most powerful weapons, champions or items is a part of this process.

COREJJ Riot Games e
Credits: Riot Games

However, it may be very difficult for players to adapt to a meta shift. A change may either suit your natural play style or play against you.

It’s for this reason that players or teams may improve or decline due to a patch. Patch notes may play a role in forcing esports roster changes for this reason.

In competitive Call of Duty, player roles may affect rosters due to weapons. Namely, whether longer or shorter distance weapons are tweaked.

Maintaining a Balance For Patch Notes

Credits: LGD.PSG

As stated, patch notes may have serious effects on the esports scene. Change is great and healthy for the industry. However, it’s important to maintain a balance. Either extreme may harm the community:

  • Too frequent – too much change is bad for the community and will frustrate professionals players who need to adapt
  • Sparsely – a lack of change may result in a stale title and boring competition

In conclusion, patch notes may seem slight, but have massive implications. Here at esportsguide, we aim to keep you updated on them.

For our last episode of Understanding the Industry, visit: https://www.esportsguide.com/news/understanding-the-industry-esports-player-statistics.

For more esports news, visit: https://www.esportsguide.com/news.

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