Monday, January 19, 2009

Blizzard Discusses the 800lb Content Gorilla

Ghostcrawler has some forum posts up discussing the 800 lb gorilla of the Wrath endgame - lack of content. There are two points where he is certainly correct:

- "We know some players can chew through content pretty quickly. It is one of the biggest challenges of MMO development to provide enough content. Players always want more. Always."

- TBC did technically launch with much more raid content, but it was in much worse shape. Kara was tuned a bit hard for an entry level zone, forcing a transition from 10-man to 25-man was a logistical nightmare, Mags and Gruul added to the difficulty of that transition, SSC and TK were a buggy, unpolished mess, and no one was even able to tell how badly Hyjal was broken until they saw it on the 2.1 PTR. No one seems to be complaining that the raids in the game now are buggy, just that there aren't enough of them.

(In other news, GC insulted the poor SSC "Equally interesting yet non-epic-dropping non-bosses" by calling them "trash", though one supposes that the name is what the community likes to call it.)

GC also makes a relatively candid admission of a criticism I have leveled against the TBC era:
" I think the concern is because we were slow to fix some balance problems in the past so players are concerned that if we don't fix the problem now that they will be dealing with it for many tiers to come.

It is a totally valid response given our history, but we are making a big effort to make changes in a more timely manner."

This is slightly idle speculation on my part, but I do think Blizzard has set up the current expansion with future progression in mind. It is encouraging that they were prepared to talk broadly about plans for Wrath's three major planned content patches as early as Blizzcon (before the expansion's launch).

I'm less convinced that Blizzard can actually deliver these new patches at a faster rate than they've managed in the past, given, for instance, the lengthy PTR cycle for the minor 3.0.8 patch. I think Blizzard is making the right call by going for high quality over frequent quantity. Still, I'll believe that Blizzard is going to address problems - especially that 800 lb content gorilla - in a more timely manner when I see it.


Harde said...

Good Article, when I bought WotlK and counted the raid instances and compared them with TBC raids, I also noted that WotlK featured less raids. In TBC you had those Hellfire Citadel and then Coilfang and the Auchindoun. You don't have those in WotlK yet.

Klepsacovic said...

I'd venture that most raiders have at least cleared all of Naxx 10 and are well on their way towards clearing 25. However I don't think people are really done with naxx yet; they don't have all or most of the gear they're after and they're not sick of running it. There are other raids too. I'd say the pace of content is actually fine for the majority of raiders and probably the majority of non-raiders as well.

Higher quality should take priority over speed. Lack of content may cause people to quit, but they quickly come back when something new comes. Low quality would make people quit and not return for a much longer time, after they've seen a trend of good quality.

Green Armadillo said...

@ Harde: Yeah, I suspect that they WILL add more 5-man instances in future content patches, given the popularity of Magister's Terrace.

@Klep: You're absolutely correct, quality rules over quantity, and Blizzard can still turn a profit on players who suspend their subscriptions for a few months every other content patch. I'm just not expecting more frequent content patches than we got last expansion - to the extent that Blizzard has extra resources, the best places to put them are A) getting the next expansion done more quickly and B) the mystery fourth project.

Cassini said...

But given the sheer amount of capital Blizzard must surely generate, my question would be why can't we have both quality and quantity instead of one over the other?

Green Armadillo said...

My guess is that they can't just double the size of the dev team and release twice as much content without losing quality. Blizzard has a department of 80 CGI animators responsible for that opening cinematic that most of us watch once, so I doubt money is an issue.

From what I've heard of the dev process at Blizzard, the quality comes in part because they have an atmosphere where you can bring in the whole team and toss ideas around the table. If you're doubling the size of the team then either there will be too many ideas to handle or you'll have a bunch of JV guys who aren't contributing as much.