Killing me softly with your expansion - by Julie Whitefeather
Aug 22, 2007 11:35:24

More is not always better. As gamers we sometimes resemble junkies always looking for the next big thrill - the next fix. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, at least in the sense that "more" can come too soon.

Consider a case in point, World of Warcraft. Before The Burning Crusade (TBC) came out, like many other players, I spent hour upon hour raiding Molten Core with my guild. There are many reasons why people raid. They may raid for the epic gear, to see the content, or just because everyone else in the guild is there. No matter what the reason for raiding, there is little doubt that when TBC came out it killed Molten Core (MC). Why, after all, would someone continue to run Molten Core when any of the epics that came from there would be obsolete by level 63? Once your guild made it all the way to "Rags" (the last boss in MC) you have seen the entire instance. In my case, by the time I hit level 64 my Finkle's Lava Dredger (an MC Epic) had been relegated to the bank as a memento of bygone days. In a recent Interview, Cory Stockton, WOW lead level designer, mentioned that Blizzard Entertainment was aware of this factor and did not intend to go back and try and rekindle interest in older content.

This brings us to a second case of more not being better. In TBC, Blizzard Entertainment gave us fantastic new content where the Blood Elf starting area was concerned. After level 20 however, it was more of the "same old, same old" as players that had re-rolled Blood Elf tried to rush through to level 60 and experience TBC as a Blood Elf. More than one guild mate I know got tired of trying to slug his way through old content and quit before reaching Outlands. At Blizzcon it was announced that Blizzard Entertainment would increase the rate at which players level between level 20 and level 60. However this doesn't solve the problem - it exacerbates it. It presents a situation where players are forced to rush through old content to get to the next big "push".

Now Blizzard has announced a new expansion, The Wrath of the Lich King. The word at Blizzard Entertainment is usually "it is done when it is ready". However, if Blizzard Entertainment sticks to their original "one release a year" proclamation there will be A LOT of TBC content that will simply have gone to waste. It is difficult enough to see the end game content in Outland considering how fond Blizzard Entertainment is of the attunement process and raid progression. Their recent lifting of some of the attunement process hasn't made it significantly easier for the average player to see all of the end game content in TBC. Can a player skip the WoW raid progression and jump ahead? Sure. But in the words of Jeffrey Kaplan, Blizz lead developer, in a post as Tigole, "have fun storming the castle."

Many of us will never see the inside of places like Mount Hyjal and The Black Temple. When The Wrath of the Lich King comes out all those hard earned epics from TBC instances will become obsolete by level 73. All of that content, all that time in development spent on fantastic end game instances will never be enjoyed by the majority of players. This is truly a case of more not being better.

But this is not the only way gamers are subjected to more not being better. There are times when, in an effort to be "all things to all people" a developer can ruin a good idea. Such is the case when Turbine decided to tack on player versus player content in Lord of the Rings Online (Lotro) and still remain true to the intellectual property. Result? Turbine produced PvP for Lotro that is a dismal failure. For those of you who have not played Lotro, at level 10 a player can go to an instance and play a "monster character" (commonly referred to as a "creep"). It is not until many levels later, when players have nearly reached the level cap, that non-monster players (Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits and Humans) can participate in PVP. From the first monster players were horribly underpowered. One person as a monster player has little hope of defeating a non-monster player in one on one combat. I still have a Lotro account, but in an effort to be all things to all people, turbine turned the PVP aspect into their game into a joke.

What more developers should do is take a lesson from the development notebook of the Icelandic Company CCP, developers of Eve Online. They do not try to be all things to all people. They have a niche market and they address it. And they do it VERY well.

Among the calls for "more" are gamers that call for more development in the MMO industry - something better, different, something revolutionary. There are many calls for revolutionary games. However, there rarely seems to be a case where the same people suggest what it is they are looking for that is "different".

Recently Brent here at Virgin Worlds had a post where he asked when MMOs where going to get movement such as we see in console games. Yet sometimes the improvements come in small steps and go unnoticed. When I played "Echoes of Faydwer", the new EQ2 expansion, the first time my Fae climbed vertically up a wall I thought "here it is!" - at least in a small way.

Sometimes the revolutionary development goes unnoticed. I never thought of perspective in art as an invention until I studied fine art in college. Developments in artwork don't always mean more detailed. Yes, there have been times when I have experienced artwork in an MMO that was very realistic. But more detailed does not always mean better. Consider Guild Wars versus Echoes of Faydwer. To me, at least the difference is like comparing Renaissance art to Impressionism.

Instead of having more content thrown at me, I would like to be able to enjoy what is there in the first place. I don't want a game developer to try and give me the world. I don't want a game developer who tries to be the "best of the best" and comes out with a half baked product like Vanguard was when it came out of the gate. I would rather have a developer who understands the concept "less is more" - doing fewer things but doing them really well. I think a big salute to CCP is in order at this point. Instead of another expansion like "Wrath of the Lich King" I would rather have a drastic reworking of the very way the game approaches character classes. I am not looking forward to yet another ten levels of content, reading "looking for healer and tank" in chat channels.

See you online,
-Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Aug 22, 2007 11:35:24 CST (comments: 9)


Comments:


'Even Blizzard isn't perfect.' by Scott
Submitted on 2007-08-22 12:54:48 CST
As much as we champion Blizzard and WoW for finally getting it "right", as I do agree with you more isn't necessarily better, Blizzard shows they're not perfect with each expansion. They seem to miss the mark and pulse of MMO gamers by just layering on more and more grindy content as the core content of the game rots away unused.

Most of my guildmates that gave up on raiding just got tired of repeating the same content over and over, grinding rep, keying up, only to be told come next year your efforts will be wiped and you'll go through the process again. Without serious raiding the BC quest content only lasted about 2 months at best for most players. At some point you wise up and just enjoy the game for a few months, mostly for the social aspect, before unsubscribing to hold out and wait for the next expansion in another 8+ months if you haven't found a new game giving an entirely unique and new experience in that time.

I do want to give Turbine some credit for their PvM system. I believe the whole point of the system was to avoid being labled a PvP game by their target market. Players who don't like PvP tend to do so because they don't like the malicious nature they percieve of other players or what they feel is an unfair advantage. I thought the PvM feature of Lotro was well thought out for this by giving newer players the ability to play a monster without the negative perception caused by PvP. I think it helps give the illusion of PvE type combat. Based on your feedback though it sounds like they went too far in limiting monster players favoring regular players and failed on the execution of the system.



'World of Grindcraft' by Talyn
Submitted on 2007-08-22 15:14:43 CST
Blizz lost me with TBC and I have no intention of picking up WoW again for the next expansion. I thoroughly enjoyed the leveling process, making friends, etc. and I even raided a few nights per week. But you start yearning for something "more" when those raids stop being entertaining and you begin to "see the Matrix" for the play-by-numbers game that it is. I honestly did do my best to see everything in TBC closed beta and report every little thing I could. But the day TBC launched, I logged into live, said my goodbyes, deleted every character and canceled my account. TBC brought nothing new to the table whatsoever, and just added more ridiculous grinding for reputation and attunements. No thanks, been there, done that. It's a shame, really. So much potential in Azeroth alone, so much that could have been done and improved upon by adding to existing content as well as new areas in Azeroth. Oh well, they lost me but there are millions more to take my place.

For LOTRO's Monster Play, I actually enjoy that very much. I consider it PvP in the sense that PvP means PLAYER vs. PLAYER. However, to most people, it means "my main character/avatar vs. your main character/avatar." You get access to a Creep early on. Sure, they're underpowered compared to Freeps (are they still after Book 10? I haven't read up on it yet), but guess what? Sometimes it's nice to play the underdog and actually have to coordinate teamwork to win rather than knowing ahead of time that My Gear Will Beat Your Gear, I Win.

For that matter, the Creep could be thought of as your "main PvP" character. Or your "main evil PvP" character if you're a flipper who PvPs with both Creeps and Freeps. Much like Guild Wars lets you create a PvP-only character that's already level-capped with a basic set of skills but it's up to you to get that character ranked up to gain new abilities and skills, LOTRO's Monster Play accomplishes the same thing. I find it a refreshing change of pace from "same old, same old" PvP in every other game.



'Poor design decision' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-08-23 02:31:19 CST
This is nothing to do with "more isn't better", it's simply a very odd design decision from Blizzard.

Let's presume Blizzard were always going to bring in Burning Crusade, when they launched the core game - they must have known that they were going to do an expansion and more or less what was going to be in it. What they didn't know was what their players felt was important in a new expansion. Put another way, what features of Burning Crusade would make it sell?

I have to say I think they misjudged it. I certainly felt awkward receiving loot from Outland, which was way better than what I had spent significant time earning previously. I also felt rather annoyed that places like Blackwing Lair and Molten Core were no longer going to be possible to adventure in, not because I didn't want to go there, but because no one else would want to.

I also think that upgrading Molten Core, BWL, Nax, AQ and ZG would be a good idea, as frankly more choice is better and these places are really fun to go to and the 60-70 range is adequately covered by the new Outland places. Balancing down loot from outland, so it blends with places like Scholomance would also be a good thing to expand the possibilities of replaying these instances.

Surely refreshing these places will happen, but perhaps only when TBC is sold as part of the original game and this is unlikely to happen until the NEXT expansion. I can see Blizzard's problem, as they have to offer gameplay to people who don't buy the expansions, but really is it worth losing all this content for players, just for the income for selling a new expansion, bearing in mind, if a game has too little content, then people will get bored and won't subscribe any more.





'WoW' by Token
Submitted on 2007-08-23 09:14:33 CST
You are getting more of the same because that is the only thing you can do with PvE. There is no room for maneuver for Blizzard when they simply cater to the whims of people who think they don't like PvP. I gaurantee you if they brought out a dedicated PvP expansion, capped the best gear at 10 mans and gave us RvR it would fix the game in every way. ( By RvR I mean national pride, factional warfare, guilds capturing castles and hiring guards etc etc )

-It would fix imbalance because everyone could easily get gear on par with the best, if only one variation of it.

-It would make raiding easier because people who still want to kill Illidan for the guild name will still go, rather than half the raid being made up of freeloaders just there for loot. If after the loot isn't overpowered you find you don't have enough people wanting to raid you need to ask yourself why.

-The ( in development terms ) content shallow expansion leaves tons of free time to put in all those things we've been waiting 3 years for. Player housing, real professions, new classes, mentoring system.

-Unlimited RvR game play entertains for years to come. Women and Men throw themselves into sieges and patriotic defensive positions every night knowing that it's different every time, instead of farming consumables and wiping for 5 hours to a time sink instance.

-The World of Warcraft lives upto it's name and isn't known as Warhammer for Carebears.


Token - Gladiator



'I Couldn't Disagree More -- Why Does this industry have the most closed minded, expectant people?' by kamolahy
Submitted on 2007-08-23 14:31:12 CST
This is a long-standing beef I have with WoW haters.

First of all, to the OP: You ask for too much. Every game, at some time or another, has to become a "type". No game can be the end-all, be-all game... unless its your favorite game.. in which it becomes that to you.

It sounds like you're an EQ2 fan... I've played a LOT of EQ2 and to me... there's just something missing. It's got content and grind fest stuff... but it lacks personality and creative incentive. But that's my opinion.

Second of all: We boast and boast about how other games are mature and that WoW is loaded with kids and immaturity. The truth is that WoW is the only game I've played where I haven't had to hear people sit there and bash another game all the time. What is that? I even see it in EVE.. who would even compare the two.. they're different.

Third, the numbers don't lie.. and until someone manages to prove to me that WoW really truly sucks and people aren't playing it anymore... then i'm just gonna believe that everyone is busy trying to get their 2 cents in. Lets face it... even Bioshock.. which is an amazing game that's hyped right now, has those punks that are making a point to dis it. It's like they just want attention.

Fourth, and most importantly: Why do MMO players get upset then more content gets added to the top end and gives them better gear, etc.? Isn't that why you play a game that doesn't end? If you want to reach a goal and have that last.. .play a console game. Play a game with an end but has an online component so you can keep the obsession alive. You can probably get through 20 console games in the time you put into WoW.. have a deeper experience with stories and environments, achieve the best of the best goals, and go home knowing that you were awesome.

You're just simply playing the wrong games if you are upset at new content. Call it more of the same, call it repetitive, call it a joke. Whatever you call it, you're just prejudging something that hasn't even happened yet. Everyone was freaked out when TBC was about to come out because they knew that their MC epicz were gonna be "lol suxxor"... guess what.. everyone shut up when the game hit shelves and the numbers flew. I dunno, were you the one person who didn't buy the expansion, sat in IF spamming "LFG ZG", and prancing on your epic mount that you worked so hard for to show off? Doesn't sound like it.

Everyone wants to be mad at Blizzard for not making the perfect game. Who ever said it would be? Who ever said it would cover all the good points of every game out there? Jack of all trades, master of none?? NO.. it's just a great game that's doing what it does best and the people keep coming.

If you don't like it, don't play it. Keep playing another game. No one really is bothered by that.

I don't play WoW anymore. I'm subbed to EQ2, but not really playing cuz I can't get into it at the moment. The truth be known, I'm playing Guild Wars and thinking its the best thing ever. But, that will change as I get (naturally) bored with something I've done over and over. Then I'll play my PS3. Then I'll likely go back to another game I've played, but got an itch for since it's been so long.



'Thanks for the comments' by Julie
Submitted on 2007-08-23 15:18:42 CST
Thank you all for the in depth comments. I read and appreciate all of them. Scytale2’s response had me worried for a moment. Until I re-read it I thought he had agreed with me. No matter what the response, if the article engendered discussion it was worth writing.

Beyond that, not only do I not hate Blizzard Entertainment, I still play WOW and I am a staff writer for a WOW podcast. In fact, I will buy the Wrath of the Lich King. I am especially looking forward to the changes in pvp – they seem to have some real possibilities. No, I was not the only person in Ironforge spamming LFG ZG on an epic mount. In fact I was the troll hunter riding through Hellfire Peninsula on the white wolf I had earned in Alterac Valley. You know, from back in the days when I got the title “Blood Guard” that hangs over the troll’s head.

Yes, I do indeed play other games. My latest two are indeed EQ2 and Lotro. As far as the PvM idea in Lotro is concerned, I think it was a good concept, just poorly delivered. But it is not too late to fix it.

As far as Realm vs. Realm competition, I have heard more than one podcaster say good things about it, but I have never tried it myself. It definitely would bring some interesting changes to WOW. I don’t think that WOW has ever been known as Warhammer for carebears however, especially as it isn’t even out yet. Personally I think far too much emphasis is placed on what Warhammer Online will or will not be – even considering that I was a Warhammer Fan long before the “online” tag was applied to it.

In conclusion (OMG I agree with Scytale2) I hope Scytale2 is right about the future of the “old world” of Azeroth. There was some great content back before TBC that shouldn’t all be left by the wayside. There are still people playing who have never seen Molten Core and may never see it. Although Blizzard has publicly admitted the mistake they made with some of the TBC content, they have also said they will not go back and try and create new interest in old content. I hope that one day they change their collective minds.




'Interesting' by Cryptor
Submitted on 2007-08-28 12:57:15 CST
I see alot of valid points about Burning Crusade, even more ones that makes no sense to me at all. Personally, after playing every mmo other than Lineage out there I went back to WoW relizing that its by far the best for for me.

hoever, I didnt make this post to comment on the actual article but rather on overall change in attitudes. Until about 6 months ago it was "trendy" to basically put a smackdown on SOE for anything and everything, now though it seems that right about the announcement of the new EQ2 expansion and announcement of The Agency the tide started turning a bit where now it seems that allot of people have a negative attitute towards Blizzard. Its actually starting to be trendy to dislike Blizzard and what they do.

Makes you wonder who will be the next target of the collective negative blogging carma, for now it looks like Blizz will take the torch from SOE for the next year or so.



'Nothing Trendy About It' by Scott
Submitted on 2007-08-28 13:38:02 CST
The reason why SOE no longer has the ire of bloggers is the SWG NGE Is old news, and the past is the past. We've also seen Sony admit and correct their missteps as much as they possibly could with EQ2 to bring it up to par with WoW and even go a little further to improve what could have been a dismal failure, yet now is a respectable MMO for its target audience.

Blizzard has become the IBM of the MMO world, huge, bloated, and slow to move. They're not getting any love because after 2 years staffing up to 80 developers they're not getting Expansions out in any reasonable amount of time or with any respectable amount of content or features, nor do their monthly patches show much in any significant work over the last couple years.

MMO's are only in their prime for 3-5 years and Blizzard is squandering that time in a marketplace that's getting much more competitive. The most depressing thing is their lack of recognition. Adding a 1-2 months of quest content, 10 zones, and a handful of Raid dungeons, new lvl80 cap, and some new trinkets or classes is a pretty good indicator they're just adding more of the same after Burning Crusades failure.

Honestly, what did the BC expansion add to WoW with any significance to improve upon the game? Much of what it did was only to extend the entertainment value for a couple months (nothing wrong with that), but what was lost for what little was gained?

WoW will hold on for some time as the MySpace of MMORPG's where players still congregate en masse to hang out with friends and guildmates, or for the standard MMO faire, but there's a lot more out there when people outgrow it and their social base moves on.

Its great you enjoy WoW and continue to do so, perhaps it’s a good fit for you as-is. Those of us who do criticize, do so having wanted to see a better effort on Blizzard's part after such an amazing ride - perhaps we just put a little too much faith in them as a company.



'...' by Token
Submitted on 2007-08-28 17:59:55 CST
Julie- ' I don’t think that WOW has ever been known as Warhammer for carebears however, especially as it isn’t even out yet.'

I'm sorry I meant to say that I believe this is what may happen when we see Warhammer's RvR goes head to head with the Lich King's Outdoor battleground. WoW is the only MMO that's ever truly lived up to expectations in the first couple of years of it's life. I had enormous expectations for WoW and it exceeded them on release and my PvP brothers and I felt that we had a place in the future of WoW. We were wrong it seems, the constant PvE raiding focus and tying PvP into item grinds has killed off so much of the love we had for the game. We wait for the game that will take us more seriously.

scott- Great reply there, I wish they would be more inventive but it's not going to happen is it ?




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