Timing and content

I read an item in MMO-C a couple of days ago, basically a short summary of a conversation someone had with Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas at Gamescom. The original had been a Twitch live stream, and I couldn’t find anywhere that it had been preserved in its original form, so all I have to go on is the MMO-C summary reporting of Hazzikostas’s comments:

Game Development

  • There was a period where the team focused on faster expansions, sacrificing things that they shouldn’t have. This made the experience worse.
  • The focus going forward is a steady stream of content.
  • Priority #1 is making sure that you don’t run out of things to do.
  • The team is never going to rush an expansion, they will be released when they are done.
  • Ensuring there is always content in the live game while working on the expansions is important.
  • Raid tiers should last around 4 to 5 months.
  • This time around there won’t be a content drought – “Don’t worry, we got you!”

As Blizzard has stopped — whether for good or temporarily is unknown — its “weekly” developer Q&A sessions, and as we rarely get any meaningful communication from them in any other format, we are back to having to carefully dissect and parse the words of a lawyer, always a chancy endeavor. Still, there were a couple of things to be gleaned from Watcher’s comments.

Timing. We now have a Blizzard policy on raid tiers — they should “last around 4 to 5 months”. Personally, I do not worry overmuch about timing of new raid tier releases. I raid with a semi-casual raid team, we do not speed through new raids, and usually by the time we get through a Heroic level tier, we are ready for a break anyway before tackling the next one. If anything, 4 to 5 months seems a little short for most raid teams to get through both normal and heroic for a tier. Still, I take Hazzikostas at his word — he is, after all, Assistant Game Director and presumably not only knows but has a role in setting game development goals and policies. So 5-month tiers it is.

But there is a timing inconsistency here: assuming a 5-month raid tier release cycle, that means over the course of a 2-year expansion (Blizz’s other stated goal) there should be at least 4 tiers. Thus far, Blizz has announced only 3 for Legion (although I think the first tier includes two raids).

“The team is never going to rush an expansion, they will be released when they are done.” As I have said before, despite Blizz’s 2-year expansion goal, I am fully expecting to see Legion stretch out for 3 years, and this statement seems designed to lay the foundation for a longer-than 2 year expansion. Should this be the case, it will be interesting to see if in fact Blizz sticks with the “4 to 5 months” policy for raid tiers, because a three-year expansion would mean at least 7 (!!) raid tiers in Legion. Even if the follow on to Legion is delayed by a mere six months, that would imply — if Watcher is to be believed — 6 raid tiers. Mmmmmmm-hmmmm.

Content. Every time I read about content in WoW, I feel like everyone defines the term differently. I think what most people mean by new “content” is a new raid tier, new PvP season, new zone, or new group mechanic (like scenarios in Mists), or some combination of these. Judging by forum comments, though, it does seem like some players have a very strict personal definition of content in WoW, and if that specific definition is not met, then they will immediately charge Blizz with failing to provide any new content.

My own definition of content is much looser, more along the lines of “stuff to do”. If I can develop professions, or go back and run old dungeons for  a few achievements/mounts/pets/transmog gear, or level and gear up an alt, or just farm for mats and sell stuff on the AH, I consider that to be content as much as new raids or world quests or zones. Basically, anything I can do that will provide me with some kind of tangible, meaningful reward — or even something that is just pure unadulterated fun — is fine with me. Still, I know that my personal definition is not what the majority of players have in mind when they talk about content.

I would actually be interested to know what Blizz means by “content”. (Even though I know if they attempted to define the term, they would be accused of taking control away from players…) It would be instructive to know what categories to expect when devs like Hazzikostas say things like, “The focus going forward is a steady stream of content.”

No doubt there will be a lot of discussion, as we go forward, about Legion’s content. Thus, for my own purposes of clarity, and to reflect what I think most people mean when they talk about content, I will consider the following to be included in the term:

  • Any game feature that offers new opportunities for exploration and questing. Example: A new zone or pseudo-zone such as Timeless Isle.
  • Any game feature that is repeatable for realistic and worthwhile rewards for players at all gear levels. Example: World bosses that dynamically award gear above what the player currently has, or that have a reasonable chance to drop mounts, significant gold, large number of rare mats, valuable currency such as valor, etc.
  • Any new group activity. Examples: New raid tier, new instance, new variations on old tiers or instances, new world bosses, new world group activity such as the Northern Barrens scenario prior to Patch 5.4, etc.
  • Minor content only: Whimsical items or activities, or new quest lines in current zones. Examples: Pepe (ok, I hated Pepe, but it was a tiny bit of new content), jukeboxes and music, a new faction offering new quests in an existing zone, and so forth.

I would expect any major patch to include at least three of these four types of new content, and I would expect minor patches to include at least one of them (two if one of them falls into my definition of “minor content”). Moreover, I expect the new content to retain its challenge or fun for the duration of the patch. If it is something players can knock out in a day or a week, it does not in my opinion count as content, if that is all there is.

We will see if Blizz can deliver on Hazzikostas’s promise of an expansion packed with content. They have shown that they can talk the talk, let us see if they can also walk the walk.

And now it is time for me to explore the content of my weekend.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

4 Responses to Timing and content

  1. gnomecore says:

    Yes, when you think about it, we all have different content definitions 🙂

    My undertanding is that content should be lore-bound, moving the plot forward. That is: not only giving us something to do, but also the reason WHY are we doing this. Whether it extends the existing storylines or creates a new cool one.

    Thunder Isle was an excellent extension, wrapping up zandalari and mogu stories we started in the open world and Mogu’shan raid. And it had its climax at Throne of Thunder raid.

    Tanaan was effectively played as a last bastion of the Iron Horde, and the final raid seemed very logical.

    Timeless Isle was not. Of course there was this Wrathion part, but it was well hidden behind the grindfest in the Siege raid. Yaungol as Timeless Isle nemesis were like: hey, these guys live at the other side of the continent – wtf are they doing here? So the island was all about killing frogs in scales. For items, but not for purpose.

    Lacking to add a convincing purpose to repeatable tasks means a bad content job imo.

    • mano says:

      “Yes, when you think about it, we all have different content definitions:)”

      This I agree with. Since Timeless Isle was the best bit of the entire expansion for me. Learning the mob abilities and then taking on larger and larger numbers of them at once all the while looking out for the guys with the pink(ordos?) buff to either kill/escape or be killed by. It was great. Better than anything I experienced in the rest of MoP or WoD and probably better than anything I expect to experience in Legion. I think It must have been a mistake. They probably fired the intern responsible for it.

  2. Pingback: Legion Content – Coffee Cakes and Crits

  3. I wonder if Achievements are considered “content”? Rewarding a title or a mount for something done in the game can’t really be content, more like a different flavor of the same content.
    There must be a term for chasing something that constantly vanishes when just within reach.

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