Thursday, April 10, 2014

ALPHA :: I Get a Kick Out of You


Okay then. We have had a couple of days where everyone has had a turn in the sandbox, a few people have been unceremoniously thrown out for not playing nice (don't hit ANYONE with a plastic spade, goes without saying) and we're now back to a position where everyone should at least understand the lay of the land when it comes to what is and isn't acceptable to do with the Alpha Client. There's a downloadable Beta client on the site that doesn't go anywhere, we've had a couple of model upgrades for classes from Blizzard and... actually, that's it. There's been no obvious momentum out here, but I can absolutely guarantee that isn't the case inside Blizzard HQ. The volume of Dev Tweets is down in certain departments, and I'd expect, as it's been a week since the Client was released, to see some movement this week. In fact, I think Thursdays are about to become my NEW FAVOURITE DAY. I've also made an assumption on Twitter this morning that I'm feeling quite confident about, especially in reference to when more than just Blizzard's Friends and Family get to poke at new content:

Citing YOURSELF in a Blog post? Oh COME ON.

See, there's that line in the patch notes that keeps coming back to haunt me:

In order to stand a chance, you will need to build an army of your own.

That sentiment's been there since Blizzcon, and it hasn't changed, and to me that is saying that your Garrison really is an integral part of the ENTIRE game experience. Those who'll be playing the opening Zones at PAX this weekend could well be playing the ONLY bit of the Expansion that isn't intrinsically tied to the Garrison 'scenario' (and I use the word advisedly because by the looks of this thing it could well be considered as an 'instance' in terms of detail and interactivity) and if that is the case, then I'd say there's a better than average chance we won't get to do anything significant until this part of the equation is considerably more advanced in the Alpha Client than it stands. The lovely El of @elsanglin was good enough to slip me a datamined screenshot of a 'proposed' layout of the Garrison building space and frankly, that alone is enough to make me realise that things need some work (though I can take a decent guess you'll have no choice as to where you place your Mine and your Town Hall :P)

This could also go quite some way as to explaining where the perceived 'delay' has come from between people thinking we were ready for a Beta in January, plus the surprise at the amount of data that exists in the Alpha Client and it not being Beta, and where we are right now.

Jobs for the Orcs. Eventually.

So, we now have the situation, quite interestingly, where there's a massive pile of data that the world can look at but do very little else with, and how Blizzard now begins the process of managing expectations based on this. It would be logical to assume that there will now be a period where Blizzard reacts to class concerns simply based on the proposed data and nothing else, which will (I suspect) make the initial process of testing and balancing considerably easier because the number of people playing is so small. Picking out play and environment bugs, quest issues, all this sort of stuff will also be done with a far smaller testing sample this time around, and although this is clearly going to be beneficial in the short term, it won't highlight potential exploits or loopholes perhaps as fast as would be the case with a far larger testing pool. There is also the issue of explanation to be considered, that we KNOW there are going to be Garrison Blogs to explain what's going on, and they will be many in number. This says to me that you will NEED TO KNOW HOW IT WORKS to progress in the Game. That also says that without it, there is no progress on testing.

Don't get me wrong, this gives me a massive sense of anticipation as to what's coming. On the other side of the coin, it also means the pressure is most definitely on Blizzard right now to come up with the goods, and to do so in a way that take's people's breath away. I'm waiting to see what people report back from PAX with, but the game you'll be playing is the SAME CONTENT [*] in quest and zone terms as was available to press in January. It's now April. Time is moving on, and I'm sure nowhere is that more keenly felt than in the Irvine Campus. One of my favourite Chinese proverbs states:

The Journey IS the Reward.

After a decade, I wonder if Warcraft has finally grasped the wisdom that good things DO take time, that jokes about Soon (TM) and 'when its ready' actually do matter when your audience has such high demands. Rushing Pandaria because of other MMO's demands when the NPC's kept telling players to 'slow down' is ironic, but not unexpected. We should all learn the lesson that actually, if we want something to be good, then waiting for it shouldn't be an unrealistic mindset. It is as much about how we get there as it is about what happens when we arrive.

The problem, of course, is not everyone is prepared to travel at the same speed.

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