Console Patching 101
SMITE is enjoyed by countless Console players every day but there are still questions surrounding the Patch process. We want to take some time answering those questions.
What is Certification?
The first thing to consider when addressing the Console Patch process is Certification. What does this mean? The short answer is this: in order to deploy a Console Patch, Microsoft and Sony have to test and “approve” the Patch before we can send it out to the public. Microsoft usually takes 48 hours to turn around a Patch and Sony, now, can turn a Patch around in about half a day. While this seems pretty straightforward, there are always exceptions to these time frames. For instance, not too long ago with Patch 4.5, Sony had a one-time update that affected their Cert process which pushed our Certification to a 1 – 5 day approval time frame. Additionally, if we are unable to meet a submission deadline due to bugs, we have to reschedule our Certification date with Microsoft/Sony to their next available slot.
What happens before we submit to Certification?
Now that you know a little about Certification, we can talk about how we get there. With PC, Hi-Rez has the luxury to decide when we can Patch, with no time spent waiting on Certification. This is because everything PC is handled internally and we don’t have to go through an outside publisher such as Sony or Microsoft. When we are ready to Patch SMITE, we create a “build” to test. A “build” is the current file/Patch that will be tested and eventually deployed to players!
After PC has made a successful build for a Patch, Console then receives that build and can begin testing for a future Console release. One thing to consider here is that we can not create a new Console build when PC is building; creating a build is typically a 3-hour process, minimum. We have to carefully allocate our resources between future PC Patches and creating builds for Console.
Another thing to note here is that, if PC goes live with a Patch but then later hotfixes, Console has to create a new build with those hotfix updates – therefore, taking additional time.
Why can’t we just use the PC build for Console?
What might work perfectly on PC could very well not function properly on Console. For example, Console and PC have very different HUDs. With each new event or feature, we bring in many new HUD and UI additions that need tweaking in order to work right for Console. Most large changes such as HUD additions require completely separate resources to port from PC to Console. For example, when a UI programmer creates a HUD layout for PC they then have to create an entirely separate layout for Console. Another example is that Console navigation controls are specifically designed for controller input and are not a direct port from PC. This costs more time to test and build and can be a reason that a Patch might need to be pushed.
For SMITE, our Patch cycles have been rigorous and frequent which isn’t typically the “norm” for a Console game. With the curveballs of Certification and the demand for quickly patching after PC, we have plenty of Console initiatives to keep us busy! That’s not to say that Patches will always be two or more weeks after PC, but more so to demonstrate the efforts it takes to decrease that release gap. The future’s looking bright for Console SMITE as we look forward to many great improvements and additions to come later this year!
In summary, Console Patches historically have been moving targets due to various reasons. While many aspects of this process are out of our direct control, there are aspects that we are continuing to improve upon every day. We have a dynamic Console team dedicated to releasing the cleanest Patches with the best possible user experience and we are currently hiring to expand these efforts!