Friday, October 9, 2009

What Does Dual Faction Content Mean For Cataclysm?

Tobold has written a five year re-review of WoW, and has this to say on content:
While there are certainly some bottlenecks, you can play at least 4 different characters (2 Alliance, 2 Horde) from level 1 to the level cap while repeating only very little content.

What Is New Content?
WoW currently offers eight starting areas (1-10/12ish) and probably seven paths to level 20 (both Mulgore and Durotar feed into The Barrens and Stonetalon, and I'm not sure there's enough content there to reach level 20 twice without repeating anything).

The bottlenecks Tobold is talking about start to kick in during the dreaded level 21-58 range. Some of the content is offered by neutral faction NPC's, like the Steamwheedle Cartel, the Thorium Brotherhood, the Argent Dawn, and the Cenarion Circle. In particular, around level 50 I suspect that the Tobold Challenge starts to run into real issues because so many of the traditional zones - Ungoro, the Plaguelands, and Silithus - are populated almost entirely with neutral faction NPC's.

Once you get through to Outland and Northrend, you can get a bit closer to the Tobold challenge; I'm pretty sure you could get through three characters relatively easily, since I'm advancing my Tauren through Outland currently doing almost exclusively Horde-factioned quests. Character number three could really focus on the neutral faction stuff, but I'm not sure that there'd be much of anything left for the fourth guy.

Then again, what exactly are we counting as "new" content? The Alliance guy wants you to kill Old Ironjaw for fur trim on a cloak, while the Horde guy wants you to kill the same wolf to contact the ancestral wolf spirits, but both quests are functionally identical - go hunting for the wolf in question in Terokkar and kill him.

Each faction does have its own signature quest lines (e.g. Thrall and the Mag'har, the Alliance reuniting Muradin and Brann Bronzebeard), but Blizzard has been going out of their way to have more and more content shared between the factions; either you're working for a neutral third party, or the two factions will have identical quests with different flavor text.

Why does this matter?
The big advantage to shared content is that more players will see it, allowing Blizzard to spend more time on it. A random quest in the corner of one zone that is only used by one faction really can't eat too much dev time, because so few players will use it. By contrast, if you're sending everyone from both factions through the same area, you can afford to spend more time fleshing things out. If you're only going to play one character ever, shared content means more, higher quality choices. If you're going to play a second or a third, you can repeat your favorites while still having some new stuff to shake things up with.

The problem arises if, as in Cataclysm, Blizzard is counting on players to re-roll repeatedly. In the short run, the plan of literally blowing up and revamping large chunks of the old world will certainly freshen things up for longtime veterans. In the long run, though, the question is whether we will see more content that, as with Outland and Northrend, is designed to be used by both factions. When Blizzard revamped Dustwallow Marsh, the answer to this question was indeed a lot of high quality but almost entirely shared content.

That's a trend that could ultimately hurt WoW's touted replayability in the long run.


Anonymous said...

I've played wow since july, after skipping WOTLK launch.

while working full time and attending college I've:

got loremaster
need to finish off northrend dungeons for The Exalted.

i have not beaten a single raid. and still need to finish my northrend dungeon master.

I'm putting off exalted title until 3.3 ups the heoric badges to triumph ones.

don't you feel sorry for those that farm the new tier of badges every 3 months?

i digress, my point is, besides doing the AQ chain and the dungeon set 1 chain, and weekend arena,I don't have the evening time to raid,

besides holidays, anything else you would recommend to hit up before I cancel until a year after cataclysm launch?

Yeebo said...

You see a very similar issue in LoTRO. The game is wide in the beginning and in the end. There are 3.5 tracks from 1 to 15 or so, and more quests post 45 than any two toons could reasonable expect to get XP from. However you have this thin area in the middle where you have maybe 1.5 tracks of solo content (at best) and another track of group content. It makes levelling alts painful in the mid 30s. The devs have indicated that they plan to work on those zones so that you have at least two entirely independent solo tracks, but even two isn't a ton. And that won't help much with the fact that the Lonelands and the North Downs are perhaps the least inspired zones in the game.

I have the exact same problem in WoW. There is this doldrums once I get past the 1-20 areas where I'm bored to tears with all the quests on offer. Tobold is high as a kite if he really thinks there are 4 non-overlapping quest tracks through those mid levels. I'm right there with you, doing the same quest with different flavor text does not count.

I've only been able to make it past 60 twice. My other toons are all stalled out somewhere between 25 and 48. It doesn't help that the content in that level range tends to be some of the least inspired in the game. SV was torture the first time I did it, going it through it my third or 4th time made me want to /wrists.

At least in WoW you can bypass a lot of that by starting a Death Knight. The problem is that you have to enjoy playing a Death Knight, which so far I don't. Most classes in WoW have well thought out and engaging designs. It's one of the core strengths of the game, imo. To me personally, the Death Knight isn't quite up to par.

Anonymous said...

When did they revamp dust wollow marsh?