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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Listen to What the Man Said

I've only recently pushed myself into Reddit, but it appears that I've picked the right moment to start paying attention. Some very interesting things are popping out of the social media network at present, not least this conversation on the back of the continuing discussion concerning just how long we're going to have to wait for Warlords. MMO this morning reference two notable quotes by Bashiok on their front page, one of which I feel has a personal resonance:


There is disparity, that much is certain.

Our Reddit poster here committed the cardinal sin with his comment: no actual facts. Blizzard are not dumb enough to stick a date in the sand unless they can absolutely commit to it, and they never have been. This means, I believe everyone will find that at no point there were any promises or assertions that we'd pitch up with a release date before Blizzard were ready. However, if you go look at the #WarlordsReleaseDate Contest Matrix you'll see that a lot of people genuinely believed we'd have the Beta before we actually will, based not on a promise by Blizzard, but by the pace of progression in the Expansion itself. Let me demonstrate this with one of the graphs Bashiok threw up as evidence:

Other people are better at maths than me.

You don't need to understand the numbers here: each coloured section is a patch. Vanilla stuck loads in a short space, Cataclysm was actually shorter than Wrath, but crucially the patches in Pandaria have created the feeling of pretty swift progress. If you look at that in comparison to what has preceded it, Blizzard shouldn't really be surprised that people are a tad exasperated. The key however is, that even with the extra timespan fitted into this equation, Pandaria could still end up as the shortest Expansion on record. In that case, you could argue that this is progress.

I suspect however that's not actually the issue for many.


Not strictly 100% accurate, but makes the point.

If we're looking for crucial points where the game is not adequately catering to its audience (and some may argue the Beta isn't to be counted anyway because that will target only a fraction of the subscribers to begin with) then Mr Holisky has provided that for us (although his assertion pre-graphic isn't entirely valid.) It has however been 192 days since any new major content. Blizzard publicly announced they'd not do another tier and they'd push everyone instead to the Expansion, and that decision is proving to be at least part of the problem. 'Engaging the player-base' is popping up in conversations almost as much as the 'ability bloat' phrase did several months ago: the fact remains that you then have to define exactly what that means. For some of us, that does mean we now get to go back and interact with features that was current months ago but we didn't have time to actually finish because patches got pushed out so fast. You can add that one onto the list of stuff you need to look at for next time, but the fact remains that if we'd been given an extra month for every patch we were given since Launch, all these conversations simply wouldn't be happening.

After careful consideration, I don't think people should be critical of Blizzard for promising something they never did. They should be asking who decided the patches where going to be thrown out this fast to begin with, and then why the decision was made to stick the brakes on and cut off new content so abruptly.

Localised Zombie Invasions? YES PLEASE.

There is one other factor not being factored as yet in all of this, which I suspect could silence a lot of critical issues ahead of a Beta, and that's the Pre-Expansion 'event' that traditionally accompanies the arrival of new content. However, the PTR remains steadfastly silent and there is no indicator at all of any movement on that front either. It's fair to say that Blizzard probably have other things on their mind with the Diablo Expansion front and centre next week, and with extra XP bonuses being thrown at players this weekend in that game I cannot help but thinking the Devs would be far happier if we all went and spent the weekend in Tristram instead of Azeroth. I'm not sure I agree with this, however, although I understand the mentality around tying your player base to your 'family' of games. There's been no Dev Watercooler for a while either, and there's an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that even though Blizzard may continue to assert they're happy with things as they are, the clock really is ticking. Having been so speedy with patches, to continue at this pace has undoubted risks attached. As Blizzard seem fairly confident they have nothing to worry about, maybe we should all assume we're in safe hands and let them just get on with it. Everyone will just turn up again when they release: after all, they've pre-ordered their Expansions already.

Nothing can go wrong, right?

4 comments:

OldRolandGuy said...

Adam Holisky is wrong and now backpedalling frantically on twitter. This patch is merely the 5th longest-lived, and soon to be the 4th. 3.3, however, lasted a mighty meaty 308 days.

Besides which, the sun's out. Take the opportunity to restore some WoW-life balance. It'll still be here when it's ready.

3.3 : 308 days
4.3 : 273 days
2.4 : 203 days
4.0 : 196 days
5.4 : 193 days and counting

Or, alternatively, pressurise them to rush the game out, so we can moan about it looking rushed...

Jim Younkin said...

Surely nothing can go wr… WildStarSquirrel!!!

ep said...

"For some of us, that does mean we now get to go back and interact with features that was current months ago but we didn't have time to actually finish because patches got pushed out so fast. You can add that one onto the list of stuff you need to look at for next time, but the fact remains that if we'd been given an extra month for every patch we were given since Launch, all these conversations simply wouldn't be happening."
A thousand times this. I've been saying this for months (mostly to myself and BF :P)... I managed to stay pretty current, but for guilds like mine that raid normal level content and rarely get into heroics, the new raids came out way too fast. We barely managed to get Lei Shen down in time for the Feat of Strength. I understand for guilds that expect to clear heroics, all the patches were too long... but for the majority of us, there was more content than could be reasonably played - even for people like me who play way more than they should.

R said...

It's an MMO, ultimately at least some (if not most) of the responsibility of fun-making lies on the player, not on the corporate overlord. It doesn't mean that a year-long span between patches is acceptable, it isn't, but chances are that anyone who can't find anything to do now wouldn't get any long-term benefit out of a transition patch... Ruby Sanctum lasted, roughly, two weeks before it was dated. That they haven't given us another one of those is a good thing, not a bad thing.

My assumption, strong at this point, is that they just ran into delays with WoD, either technical, feature creep or some combination of the two. I believe they did want to get WoD out sometime mid-year... they're just failing at it. Games release late all the time (when they release at all, the current trend of long-term alpha and beta games isn't a good one), Blizzard did actually have a positive (minor, but positive) trend of releasing content more quickly and now they've hit a snag at the worst possible time for them (and for us). I hope they pick things up, learn from the experience and do better next time. It's not like they aren't aware that this is going to be a significant punch to the wallet.