WoW Factor: Draenor’s imminent content drought

    
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Oh boy, not ready.

We know that Hellfire Citadel is going to be the last raid in World of Warcraft‘s current expansion. We know that the expansion wasn’t going to even have flying, but it was added in due to popular insistence. We know that there aren’t going to be any new areas such as Farahlon added into the game for this expansion cycle.

You could be forgiven for looking out at the landscape of patch 6.2 and asking “is this really it?” And you would really be right to ask whether or not this is something with any sustainability.

While the official word from the top is that the designers are keeping a close eye on content consumption and what that will mean for future content releases, but the fact is that the current patch is clearly meant as a final patch for the cycle. And here we are with no news about the next expansion or even what comes next.

Sure, we wrapped up all the reasons to still play for the next several months, but we've got stuff coming, we promise!Whether or not Tanaan Jungle is the answer to all of your complaints about this expansion isn’t really the issue, although I’m rather fond of it. It’s not a magical solution to the many problems this particular cycle has had, but it’s fun stuff to play through on a whole. But it’s also the only new thing that I’ve really had to do in the game in a meaningful sense since the expansion launched. Hellfire Citadel would be super satisfying if I were interested in raiding as a full-time hobby, but I’m not, so it isn’t.

The stated goal of Blizzard, of course, has been that the huge content gap between the last patch of Mists of Pandaria and the launch of Warlords of Draenor should not happen again. That means, at most, we have 13 months now before the next expansion, placing its launch in July of 2016. And we haven’t heard anything about it yet, placing the actual announcement around the time of BlizzCon – not unexpected, but still a bit worrisome, since it’s likely if not certain that the announcement will precede the actual release by a reasonable margin.

What’s even more… baffling, for lack of a better term, is the fact that this expansion is so small. Previous releases have covered a wider space, found more things to do between launch and the ultimate conclusion. Not only does this release end without having done much beyond faffing around on the same single plotline, but we never even face the central villain of the expansion. Grom Hellscream gets completely sidelined for a different villain altogether, and so the entire exercise winds up as an anticlimax, with our expected enemies turning out to just be red herrings.

It really feels as if the designers themselves aren’t sure where they’re going at this point.

All of that could be forgiven if the longstanding Blizzard mantra of gameplay over story had held up, but instead, this expansion hasn’t even offered much of that unless you’ve been taking part in the raids. Mythic difficulty and Timewalking dungeons are nice on one level, but a more cynical part of me with less inclination toward charity notes that they are, fundamentally, a way to repackage existing content instead of developing any new content. All of the money and energy and narrative goes into designing bigger and better raids, and the game feels much smaller as a result. We’re locked away in our Garrisons, and while the stated problem with Garrisons from the official sources is that they were “too rewarding,” I think a more fundamental problem is that they weren’t enjoyable to play through.

There’s even an element of weaseling out with the game’s stated potential interim patch. We know that there will be no more raids and no new zones, and the expansion is essentially finished with this patch. While there’s more that can be done to bridge the gap between here and the next expansion, the question becomes how meaty any of it could be with those restrictions. Actual new dungeons or new battlegrounds or the like seem roughly as probable as a free-to-play model switch mid-expansion.

What we needed for a last patch was a crescendo. After only two patches, one of them remarkably lackluster, there was no time to build anything but a mild sound. I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted to see where the developers were going with the expansion before writing it off altogether, but with our current placement, there’s not much good to say about where it started or where it finished.

While the idea of near-yearly expansions would be a pleasant one (although the price is another matter), I honestly don’t believe it’ll happen. There’s a lot of talk from the development team at this point that doesn’t seem to match what’s actually being done. While the company has produced expansions on a faster turnaround, that’s not how things have been trending, and to really keep up the pace with the game we’d need to see a major release before that 13-month gap was up. Ideally, we’d be getting a new expansion… well, around the time BlizzCon takes place, since that’ll be nearly half a year between major updates.

Oh, well, boats. That makes everything all right, then.

I don’t see that happening, and I don’t see any other stopgap solutions really working in the long run. Blizzard learned its lessons about things like the Ruby Sanctum, but the studio doesn’t seem to have learned any associated lessons about release schedules and pacing.

Yes, I understand why the focus right now is on talking about the current patch and expansion rather than talking about what will be coming out or what the team might do for interim releases. But that’s also neglecting the fact that player confidence, by and large, is at a low point. Between subscription losses, the flying debate, existing expansion complaints, and a slightly buggy launch for the patch, players really need to be shown signs that things are going to be on the up swing from here on out.

This may be the time to just settle in for the long haul without content because I honestly don’t see that changing – and with very few exceptions, I don’t think this patch really does much to address what it is people have found lackluster about the expansion to this point. It’s a better patch than 6.1, certainly, and I’d even call it a good patch. But it’s a good patch in the middle of a bad cycle, and the idea that this is the note the expansion ends on means that at best, we’re looking at a long gap on a sort of sour note.

At worst, well… let’s not even contemplate that. I like saying good things about games, and those already lie thin upon the ground of Azeroth.

Feedback is welcome down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com, as often is the case. Always, in fact. Next time around, yes, I really do want to talk about horizontal progression rather than just tagging on another batch of levels. For that matter, would it even be worthwhile to add at this point?

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Doran7
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Doran7

milosanx I really don’t agree.  I was a hard core wow player and lover.. but the changes as I saw them got worse and worse til I could not stand it anymore and I had to stop playing..  The expansions all the way into Wrath were wonderful.  I noticed disturbing trends in Cata… they continued to deepen in Pandaria when I stop playing (not because of pandas btw)… til today I don’t play anymore.. it’s just too sad.  I had serious time invested in my characters..  I was even attached to them.. but too much change to things I used to like ended that.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

DrowNoble milosanx “WoW also made for “lazy” gamers.  Often someone tries a new MMO and it’s
harder relative to WoW, so they get frustrated and come back to the
easier game.”
While this is true, its not the only reason, the laziness that is. 
Annodotal, but I was enjoying Wildstar for the most part until I got to the first dungeon, and then “WTF is going on?” hit me like a ton of bricks.  I’m someone who enjoyed WoW’s WotLK level difficulty, but doesn’t enjoy end-game raiding (its artificially hard to slow down the player base as a gating mechanism because there’s nothing else for them to experience after that; waste of time recreationally), and for me, this was just way to hard to enjoy, wipe after wipe after wipe.
I could write it off to “being older” and dexterity/health of hands if it was just me, but I was playing with my LoL playing 22 year old son and his girlfriend, and we all decided to quit Wildstar after that, and he’s a really good gamer who enjoys hard content as well.
So, its not always about being lazy, sometimes, its about the devs over-tuning their gameplay to the point that they exclude customers from their game.
P.S. The dense pack of trash mobs while questing in Wildstar was no fun either.

DrowNoble
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DrowNoble

milosanx That’s true, your first MMO is usually the hardest to leave if you’ve invested any time in it.  The familiarity and friendships you’ve formed are a hard bond to break.  I think that’s why WoW’s subs stayed at a plateau for so long, plus there really wasn’t anything really different to draw people away.

Then Trion did the brilliant (or risky?) PR scheme aimed directly at these same disgruntled WoW players.  The “You’re not in Azeroth anymore” ads were all over the place and when Rift hit in March 2011, WoW’s subs took their 1st huge hit a month later.  You could tell that Blizzard wasn’t concerned, almost to the point of arrogance, when they said “well we lose some when a new MMO comes out but they always come back”.

They didn’t.

Add to that two lackluster expansions (Cataclysm and Mists) and the sub-bleeding continued.  WoD had potential, but they botched the post-release content and people are leaving again.  They spiked to 10 million subs in December 2014 only to lose 3 million a few months later.

WoW also made for “lazy” gamers.  Often someone tries a new MMO and it’s harder relative to WoW, so they get frustrated and come back to the easier game.

Quicknthedead
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Quicknthedead

@milosanx This is very true for myself.
I will always play at the beginning of every expansion to see if I like where the game is headed and also to keep my rogue updated with the current expansion, which I have been playing since WotLK
But once I start to find the game shallow and not fun,
I just unsub and find another game to play.
But it also could be because I’m getting sick of MMO”s, not sure.

milosanx
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milosanx

The problem with WoW players is, they may even be over playing it, but they have so much time invested in it which goes along with some addiction, that they cant and won’t give it up. I used to have that with mmo’s, but these days apart from one, I drop one and try another again. When get a bit bored I try another and see where they have come.

One of the problems with WoW player too is that it was probably their first mmo, WoW did bring the common human to mmo’s. A lot don’t know there is a lot of mmo’s out there doing different and better things.

brelic
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brelic

cant say I didn’t see the one coming…expan is less than year old and they are already out of content. what  a joke. I really do enjoy WoW but the management of the game is lackluster at best. Garrisonville was cool for like the first 5 mins but it definitely segmented the community more than it was already. Oh well at least I have FF14 which still churns out content on the regular even with an expansion they just launched….

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

Cosmic Cleric SwobyJ MikeMinier I’ve got lots of time and other shows and activities. Several months of break are in fact appreciated by me. Anyway.

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

SwobyJ Cosmic Cleric MikeMinier I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on how much ‘filler’ episoides exist in 20+ episode seasons.  I seem to find series that has a small percentage of those episodes, while you seem to find series that had a large amount of them; maybe we just see ‘filler’ in different ways.
In either case, I rather get more than less, even if the more I get isn’t 100% perfect.  At least so much time would not have passed that I can’t remember WTF was going on in the last season when the new one starts.  Waiting 9+ months between seasons is just ridiculous to me, its the filming industry just trying to save money.

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

Cosmic Cleric SwobyJ MikeMinier I love a lot of shows. I just think that the nature of long seasons forces writers to make what I (and I know I’m not alone on this) consider mostly filler content. Filler has its purpose, but personally, it only annoys me unless I’m COMPLETELY sucked into the fictional world.

Leviathonlx
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Leviathonlx

Drewbob On the other hand going from one of my level 60 rotations to what’s left of the class rotations of WoW makes me realize how simplistic WoW has become.