Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not Ready Yet... ^^

Lack of New Content

Where has all of the updates gone. I can't remember the last time anything was added to this game. I know blizard is busy and blah blah, but nothing?? really? where does that 15 bucks a month go. I know most of you will say "Just quit" and I probably will, but I miss enjoying the game. The raids are easy and the content is old.

We're working on the next expansion. We understand that people want new content and are hungry for it, but we have to also be able to recognize when we need to put our efforts into the next expansion rather than trying to divide up our focus too much.

'Divide up our focus' eh?

If Diablo 3 has shown one thing, it is that people can be incredibly patient, if the payoff is strong enough. Yes, we waited a DECADE for that, and ironically that game is doing the job of new content for a large number of people, a fact that won't be lost on Blizzard. In fact, I find myself wondering that perhaps Diablo 3 was released a little earlier than maybe it would have been. After all, the RMAH wasn't ready in time, and this game doesn't hold nearly as much significance in the 'Long Term Development' department... but acts as a fairly potent distraction.

Now is clearly the time for Blizzard to 'manage' expectations. They're not ready yet.

Addons will finally be playable in the next version of the Beta, which is our biggest indicator yet that there is a distinct push towards release. Developers are being positively encouraged to pick up beta keys and are being moved towards the game (which is interesting, as this assumes many wouldn't have an Annual Pass and be already playing) However, as was pointed out to me in my last 'when is the Expansion coming' post, there's still not a sign of Pet Battles being playable. Everyone is assuming we'll get to test this aspect of the Expansion, but is it really necessary? Would Blizzard take the chance of releasing Pandaria without the general public having been able to digest ALL of the content beforehand?

Why do we now automatically assume that things need a 'public' test before release anyway?

Matticus has already floated the idea of launching the Expansion without raids. I doubt it would ever happen, simply because of the number of addons that now are almost 'as standard' to any raid encounter. There are huge changes in UI to consider, perhaps significant enough to delay the expansion itself if people can't adapt their addons to accommodate the changes. However, features like the Tillers Farm and Pet Battles are brand new, and Blizzard might deliberately eschew addons for these features initially. After all, the way we learnt how to raid in Vanilla wasn't with a bunch of bolt ons to assist us, it was trial and error.

Is it possible Blizzard might favour a return to this way of learning new game features?

This next beta release, whenever it happens (and I'm assuming it will be either today or tomorrow) could be very interesting indeed. Blizzard deliberately aren't giving anything away, but there's no faulting the logic of the progression.

When they're ready, you can bet everyone will know.


Mashi said...

I agree totally with the lanch of D3, sure it has taken 12 years for them and includes 2 versions that has been canceled and re-done.

First they annonced MoP, they canceled BlizzCon, they lanched D3.. Something isnt right. Im still going to say that we will get the offical release date late October and then a release in December.

Jonathan said...

"Why do we now automatically assume that things need a 'public' test before release anyway?"

Because that's what Blizzard does with every patch, let alone a whole expansion. They test internally in a controlled environment, then they test in a less-controlled public environment to see if the biggest variable of all, namely how people play, breaks the game.

And why do they do that? Risk management. Any successful organisation puts risk management at the heart of what it does, and you can bet every last copper piece that Blizzard will have worked out the risks for everything it does (aka a risk register). One of the risks on the MoP risk register will be that a new feature doesn't work, or even worse breaks the game. For every risk there will be an estimation of its impact and its chances of happening, and what mitigation is in place to try and prevent it occurring. An obvious mitigation for the risk of 'game doesn't work' is to test thoroughly internally and externally. The risk of reputational or financial damage is too great to skip that - recall the bile and anger at the D3 servers crashing at launch, now multiply that by many orders of magnitude if Blizz released MoP without a public test of a feature that ended up crashing the whole game.

I can't read the blog you linked as I'm at work, but the idea of launching MoP without raids is on the face of it laughable. Blizz has created the expectation that each expansion will launch with a levelling experience, end-game heroics and end-game raids. I can't think of a single reason why they would leave out a whole chunk of game just to get it out the door a month or so earlier, given the amount of aforementioned bile and anger it would engender.

For the new features like Pet Battles, addons aren't an issue as long as Blizz gets the basic UI to a point where it works and is usable. Any addon features will come later as developers play with the UI and find ways to improve it, as they did with raids, unit frames and the like.

I made my prediction a long while ago for a late September/early October release, and I've seen nothing in the intervening time to alter that view.

The Godmother said...

Hmmm. You know what, I miss the days when stuff broke and it made things interesting. I miss the possibility stuff might go wrong. I find it sad that everything has to be tested to the pojnt where (if you're not careful) the fun can be beaten out of it all in the name of not upsetting people or being sued because the 'risks' weren't clearly stated.

It might be fun if we didn't assume everything had to work.

Jonathan said...

The possibility of stuff going wrong is always there, that's why risk is managed. Managing risk doesn't eradicate it; ask NatWest Bank's software engineers. If the possibility of stuff going wrong excites you, you get it every time there's a patch, so 5.0 ought to be a whole barrel full of excitement. :-)

Besides, you and I both know that a broken game experience isn't fun, and that testing a game thoroughly doesn't somehow magically suck the fun out of it (Diablo III, for example).

The Godmother said...

I dunno, I think it depends on the definition of 'broken' ^^

D3 took ten years to make and it shows. If all this effort is being focussed on the Expansion at the expense of new content, you'd think they could get it right quicker...

Jonathan said...

There is no evidence to suggest that things are going slowly, or quickly, or somewhere in the middle. Merely that there have been three months of beta with some stuff done and some not. That is all. :-)