Saturday, May 03, 2014

Chocolate Cake

I think it would be fair to say there's been a considerable amount of discussion around this Parish of late concerning the timing of content. Heck, when major news sites pile in with op-ed pieces I reckon we can be confident the issue is present in many people's minds. Therefore on Thursday, when CM Lore was asked by a player on Twitter if the suggestions the Wow Insider article put forward were feasible, it would not have been a surprise to have gotten nothing in response considering the current and contentious nature of the debate. However, that wasn't what happened: what Lore presented could be considered a pretty impressive yet beautifully succinct reply:

Wow. Just *wow*

So, there you have it. We may want the content faster, but Blizzard can't support it in Development. That much is abundantly apparent at present to boot, but that's not actually the issue. Point Four has a lot to do with it, I suspect: the perception of what matters is also significantly different between any two players (which takes us back quite nicely to yesterday's post, I suppose.) Point Two's also interesting: again, you then need to question the notion of what constitutes a 'reward' to players, and there are now so many of them to choose from. It has been suggested in certain quarters, for instance, that Blizzard is now 'catering to elites' with the LFR changes because it's deliberately pushing players into content many of them may simply not want. However when it is all said and done, we're back to the #1 Used Graphic in this Blog in Q4:

We Love You Graphic Representation!

I genuinely believe what Blizzard are attempting to do with Warlords is make people, for want of a better expression, 'less casual.' By that phrase I mean several things, not simply pushing people into Endgame by removing their ability to cheese tier from LFR. They need people putting in the hours to play the content properly because to justify the subscription price, so by extension there has to be further incentive to play. That means making all forms of the game as attractive as possible (looks at PvP) with many options to compliment PvE instanced content, and offering interesting and diverse alternatives to 'traditional' playstyles. With so many other MMO titles shuffling around Zombie style trying to infect players with their addictive qualities, Blizzard need to be able to fend them off with a large selection of defensive weaponry. Simply a baseball bat and good aim is no longer enough. EVERYTHING needs to be new, and shinier, and with a greater ability to suck players back into what might *feel* like more of the same, but actually needs to be something different in order for the game not only to evolve, but to survive. Most importantly of all, it needs a far greater cohesion, because that's something the current game is really suffering from a lack of. Once upon a time things fitted together far more logically, now it looks for some like a lot of different 'games' all shoehorned in together.

Not just me, then.

The Warcraft Movie won't be here UNTIL 2016, lets not forget. You've gotta assume Blizzard will want people playing therefore for at least this next Expansion. So, that's a fairly massive glob of forward planning required to attain that goal, quite apart from thinking about what people will want on a day-to-day basis. That's why Point One in that Tweet essay above actually matters far more than most people might choose to believe. Timing is incredibly relative as a concept for everyone in the player-base. The thing many players conveniently forget is that not everyone turns up at the start of an Expansion. After all, it is perhaps more about incentive at this point in the cycle than perhaps at any other.

Doughnuts. Is there anything they CAN'T do?

As a journalist, getting to a story first can be quite a coup, but as communication times have shortened, often not being first gives the vital time required to create the most newsworthy impact. In this game, owning content before anyone else used to be all about queuing up and having it in your hand, quite before you actually got home to install the damn thing. Now people can pre-order a game and stop playing, ready to come back when the Expansion's about to launch. The problem therefore for Blizzard is twofold: they will have to plan that everyone who bought a copy on Pre-Order will do just that, turn up on the day and expect to play on release. Then they have to make sure the game is still looking good four to six months down the line so when the first patch hits and a ton of people who didn't turn up for the start need to begin from the top, they can do so and still be an active part of the experience. This isn't about making sure everyone gets something exciting to do, it's ensuring that not only does it remain exciting and engaging, but that can be said in a year as well as a month. Planning everything in a two or three month window means the long term could very easily get left behind.

You only need to take a cursory glance at what's happened in Pandaria since November for a more than adequate demonstration of what happens when long-term planning is sacrificed for short term reward.

Blizzard aren't trying to dress anything up this time, no Photoshopping anything out of the picture or pretending it wasn't intended. We have EVERYTHING front and centre in blogs and videos and interviews, and however much people like me might like to sarcastically comment from time to time on Social Media it's all one huge distraction process, it is anything but. You distract people from stuff you don't want to see. I know, at least in the case of Garrisons from what I see in data-mining, that content's not even done yet. Sure, the opening zone might have existed since November and Blizzcon might have implied that everything was planned, but there's a world of difference between planning and actual product. There's no cake to eat if you're still working from the recipe. This Expansion is very much still in the kitchen, whatever we may have been led to believe in November.

Thanks to Lore, at least now we can understand what to expect going forward.

1 comment:

Brunold said...

I'm important enough to be in your blog post! I surely didn't expect that much impact from my little cascade of tweets yesterday.

I think, these are very good points, as always. Blizzard getting more in touch about what they want, etc. is a good thing. We people tend to be more forgiving if we have reasons for that.

And about "logically fitting together": It is caused by ignoring th RP-aspect a lot. And in WoD the split up agility and crit and give agility-based classes a buff. They're seperating even more and don't seem to have grasped that the combination of agility and crit-heavy builds in RPGs came from crit being integrated in agility. As far as I can see, for an avid RPG-player that's common knowledge and the dev team seems to be lacking this. Treating WoW as an RPG helps in keeping the system intuitive and comprehensible, which both are problems of WoW Blizzard has identified.

But of course this is part of a much greater scheme in which the assumption, that our characters should evolve and get stronger over time, plays no unimportant part.