Yesterday, 1.1.6 was released for Smash for Wii U. The update addressed several balancing issues with Bayonetta. Within the update there was another change — one a bit more peculiar.
Please note, this article contains A LOT of speculation. Please do not take this as 100% fact, or confirmation of something. Take the time to read the full article, and make your own decision. Personally, I’m not comfortable with saying this confirms something, but I still felt like it was important enough to report. At this time, I’m not sure if the changes were made on the 3DS. Special thanks to RandomTalkingBush for his help when researching and writing this article.
The change that I’m talking about is the compiling path for several of the XTAL files. The compiling path is the original location of where the files were located. This tells us the folder structure that the game was made with. The compile path changing was originally pointed out by RandomTalkingBush on Twitter. After seeing his tweet, I contacted him for additional information. He told me the following:
The compiling path has in fact changed several times over the course of Smash for Wii U’s lifetime. Here’s a summary of when the .XTAL files were updated:
There are of course additional updates, but these are the only times the XTAL files were updated. In cases where the XTAL file wasn’t updated, it would use the previous version. For example, 1.0.7 would use 1.0.0’s version.
The first major change is the drive that the paths were located in. For 1.0.0 and 1.1.4 the files were located on the Y drive. For the rest of the patches, they were done on the X drive. This could indicate that the Y drive was only for stable versions, like a backup drive. More information about this in a bit.
The second major change was the addition, or subtraction, of “branche” and “patch”. Patch is pretty self explanatory as it exists with every version after 1.0.0. Branche might be short for branching.
Branching is a technique used in software development. This is where certain parts of a software can be worked on by multiple people at the same time. Branching allows multiple versions of the same file to eventually be integrated back into the base software.
…Anyway, let’s quickly review what each of the updates brought (the ones that included updated .XTAL files):
1.0.0 is the unpatched version of the game.
1.0.8 is the June update. It adds Roy, Ryu and Lucas.
1.1.0 is the Tourney update and replays.
1.1.4 adds Corrin, and Bayonetta.
1.1.6 is the newest update and provides minor balance updates.
1.1.4 is the only version that does not have “branche”. This could indicate that 1.1.4 was intended to be the last version of the game, the final “patch build”. This would line up with Sakurai’s statement from his bi-weekly Famitsu column:
The last two DLC fighters for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U, Corrin and Bayonetta, are now available. At long last, development on Smash for 3DS/ Wii U has ended!! To all of the staff who were involved in this project, thank you for all your hard work. To all who supported and followed the game and its development, thank you so very much. Personally, I’m happy I can finally take an extended vacation. —Exhaustion and Excitement (emphasis mine)
Sakurai clearly stated that development was finished. However, since then we have since received two balance updates: 1.1.5 (March 2016) and 1.1.6 (May 2016).
More Questions Than Answers:
- So there are a couple of questions that we simply don’t have the answer to.
- Why wasn’t the build path adjusted in 1.1.5 or even 1.0.1?
- Between 1.1.4 and 1.1.6 the only discernable change to the XTAL files is the compile path. Why was this change made?
- Why has the game received further updates after 1.1.4?
- Is the compile path even worth paying attention to?
The way that I see it, there are several possible explanations.
Based on the compile path name, it might indicate that we might get further patches as the developers are still using branching. This is an assumption that I’m far more comfortable making. Especially when coupled with Sakurai’s statement that 1.1.4 signaled the end of Smash development. Yet, it’s very important to point out that it’s an assumption and we are not guaranteed any further patches.
A much bigger leap would be that some sort of development for the rumored Smash for NX has started, and they are using the Wii U data. It’s not something I’m exactly comfortable claiming, but ignoring that possibility would be a disservice. There has been a lot of talk and rumors of Bandai-Namco potentially porting over Smash for Wii U and/or 3DS to the NX. Nothing is confirmed, but further balance patches to the Wii U and 3DS versions of the games could indicate that Bandai-Namco is planning on still using the data in some way.
Of course, It could just mean that the game is just receiving fantastic support from Bandai-Namco and/or Nintendo. A lot of people pointed out that it wouldn’t make sense for a fighting game to release new content and not have a balance patch. With Bayonetta being the only character adjusted, it might signal that 1.1.6 (or perhaps the next one) will be the end of balance updates. Tekken Card Tournament, released in 2013 has received balance updates for three years. If Smash continues to have a large online community, then Bandai-Namco might continue to update it for the benefit of the players.
Sakurai’s comments in the February 2016 issue of Nintendo Dream could indicate that Sakurai has not been involved with balancing post 1.1.4:
—Since release, you’ve watched trends among online battles shift over time, and seen a number of tournaments take place. Looking back, how do you feel?
Sakurai: I’ve checked the results from online matches, but I left all the finer details and research to the monitoring team, so I didn’t really go out of my way to watch things that closely. (emphasis mine)
…It’s difficult to fully conclude anything.
Either way, 1.1.4 was not the end of Smash and someone has been working on the game. For what purpose, or for how long is unknown. It’s not that uncommon for software to be supported after main development has ended. Balance and maintenance is a relatively light workload, and wouldn’t require that much investment.
Here’s a comment by Timji Saeki (Original comment is below), which offers an alternative explanation:
Just want to leave this info here:
I’m a programmer working on some F2P Browsergames – so it can’t really be compared with Smash. But Branching is something that is happening in every “big” project. As soon as you need more than 1 programmer, versioning&branching will usually be used.
But I wouldn’t read too much into the compiling path. In our games, the person who is creating the update files will compile his own folder path into the finished game files. That means that when I do the update, the path looks different than when my coworker is doing it.
Maybe it’s similar here, and the folder names are just different, because different people set it up with different names on their computers. Please don’t read too much into this.
Of course, different technologies are doing it differently, so maybe I’m completely off 😉
Like I stated in the introduction, I don’t think any of this “confirms” anything. I just figured it was worth pointing out/ discussing/ exploring. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below, or on Twitter.
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Special thanks to RandomTalkingBush for his insight when making this post. Follow him on Twitter for more data mining!