Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gone Til November

Read that tweet again. Carefully.

I am not here to make a comment on the delay of the Blood Elf redesign, because frankly I reckon they look far too good already and being made to wait a bit while the rest of us catch up to their standard is no bad idea. I saw this Tweet and the only thing I read were the first seven words, and was glad to see that finally someone inside Blizzard's actually admitted the work is done, and stuff is actually being planned for after the Expansion.

Look, someone actually went on record and told us this is the end of the Development Process.

This immediately begs the question: when is this actually going live, then?

Important dates incoming

Tomorrow, rather worryingly, is August. That means Gamescon is two weeks away and there are a number of people tipping it will be here that Blizzard could showcase something significant like, for instance, Warlords Opening Cinematic. As if to emphasise this point, Blizzard have even created their own dedicated Gamescon page. I reckon there's a better than average chance of the Cinematic in a fortnight, but as I type the Beta isn't exactly ready to go in terms of content. I've got Twitter confirmation of that as well:

Not done yet ^^

But this gets us no closer to answering the question, does it? Well, there are some practical considerations we can now bring to the table. This product will need to be physically shipped to places, because not everyone gets their gaming digitally delivered. That manufacturing process is going to take time to complete: let's give that an eight week window, because that is probably an exact science by now, especially when the key data has to be burnt to CD. Then there is the understanding that everyone will need a bit of time with the new abilities and changes to get used to them, so we've been promised a pre-Expansion patch, and there's not even been a sniff of movement for that on the PTR realms. One assumes they'd have to come down and be re-patched, and as Siege will be appearing on that in Mythic Mode for people to play with (presumably) one assumes they'll want to give us all a bit of playtime on that front too.

Would a month be enough? Hard to say, but even if the PTR was patched next week and we got the PTR live early August, physical product creation means that September is now pretty much out of the question, and the closer we get the Blizzcon, the more likely Blizzard won't want to release anyway. Why? Because there's the matter of the race for World First to consider, and we already know raid content will not be available immediately on release.

Important enough for a Documentary.

There's an overriding practical consideration here too: many of the people who'd be racing for World First are likely to be at Blizzcon, with tickets and accommodation already booked. I doubt the last thing Blizzard will want is their content out while the event is live, because most would probably be at home wanting to play it, and this means that the Warcraft portion of the event can be used as a massive advertisement for what is coming, and how if we all buy Warlords Blizzard will promise a bunch of incredibly cool stuff in upcoming patches to absolutely make it worth our while staying around until the end.

That means it is mid Novemeber and we have nothing new. However, most significantly of all, November is when Warcraft celebrates its 10th Birthday. Even though there are new items for Hallows End, I reckon it'll be Pilgrim's Bounty you'll get as your first new Holiday event for Warlords. My heart wants September so we get Brewfest and Hallows End, but looking at the item levels my head is saying that Blizzard are going to play their Joker and we'll get mid-November with World First happening over Christmas because... well, just because. I know it isn't what anyone actually wanted, but this is is how it will end, because Blizzard launches when it's ready (TM) and that means in the month they began.

Warcraft launched in the US in November 2004. The 10th Anniversary Expansion will do the same in November of 2014.

However, I'd not listen to a word I say. I've been making inaccurate predictions for almost a year now ^^


dobablo said...

I expected a screenshot of the predictions made by everyone last year.

Timing are getting interesting.

Is the blood elves actually a delay? At Blizzcon I'm sure we were promised some of the original 8 models to be updated for release with the rest done in subsequent patches. Then they pulled Draenei forward because they are prominent in WoD. To me the "Belfgate" looks less like Blizzard releasing half done content with Blizzard delivering 9/8 when they originally said 4ish/8.

Of course for Blizzard to be able to do an extra 4 races kind of makes you wonder what release date they were expecting last October and what went to massively wrong. That's a story I'd pay to hear.

marathalbt said...

as for the software, CD manufacturing, I would suspect that the programing for what is required there is complete, I don't believe the entire game can be installed from 1 disk anymore, most that have played for even the last few months have probably already downloaded a good bit of info in the background down loader, maybe nothing that could be analyzed but core system stuff. Once they release 6.0 to us the down loader will be active updating those with the game installed. Anyone that purchases a physical copy will probably install 20% of info, then will start the game and download the rest.

I do feel Sept. 30 may be a target date for them, perhaps even a week sooner. I do agree, cinematic for Gamescon is highly probable

Blackdemon said...

My bet is early/mid September for 6.0, and mid/late October for WoD release. I don't think World First races will have any bearing on release date. It would be insane to base the release date on a time convenient to a few hundred players. And I don't think they worry too much about physical releases. The DVDs in the box are pretty much always going to be out of date and require some patching. I would hope that they have it released before Blizzcon but I'm not sure what WoW news they'll have for us otherwise (I'm hoping for something off the wall that nobody sees coming).
The content in Beta is coming along quickly. The class ability changes are key to getting 6.0 released. The pre-expac event has been planned for months so I expect that is pretty much ready to go with minimal testing.

Bob Flintston said...

How about a midnight release on 31st December?

Grimmtooth said...

@Dobablo - my predictions remain at November-December. For reasons. :) If you wanna get jiggy with the 6.0.x drop, I'll say that's November, and the expansion around the first week of December.

To the wider point "Development is ended" is usually engineering jargon for "Development PHASE has ended", which is an ENTIRELY different thing. That means that they have reached the end of the time formally allotted for new development and "officially" in the main QA pass.

What that does NOT mean is that changes are not forthcoming. Scope creep, design errors, all sorts of stuff can change the actual shape of the code. And that's not even mentioning bug fixes.

Sorry to be a wet blanket on that fire, but that phrase really signifies nothing in terms of readiness to ship.

The only HARD deadline is Dec 21, 2014. They made a commitment that that was the final acceptable ship date - if not, you get a refund if you pre-ordered. I strongly suspect that Bobby Kotick and his bean counters won't allow a mass refund to go down that close to end of quarter (or if it does, expect the blame to be placed squarely on Pardo's shoulders). But it's important to remember that Blizz has taken that hit before. It will actually be interesting to see if they ship a game that falls well below Blizzard's past performance for actual bugs, or it ships late in the month "for reasons" and has loads of actual code buggage. Or if they announce it's slipping to 1Q 2015. THAT will bugger the numbers, I bet!

Grimmtooth said...

Additional comment RE the burning of media.

What goes on the shipped DVD / CD for products like this are often irrelevant to what the finals shipping product is, and hasn't needed to be for quite some time. Even non-MMO products are largely understood to need a patch on release day; it has become widely accepted (didn't say that was a good idea).

For WoW and other MMOs it's even less critical. Day 1, you'll probably have a patch pre-staged anyway. All the shipping CD/DVD has to have on it is something that'll come up and go get the updates.

Hell, I didn't even buy the media last time.