Today’s topic is gating in WoW. Up front, let me say I really don’t have any strong feelings about it one way or another, although in general I tend to come down on the side of letting players set their own pace. But it’s not a big thing with me.
I started thinking about the practice while reading some of the 7.3 PTR notes, and it strikes me that in Legion Blizz has moved in a big way from what I would call “soft” gating to hard gating for most major content.
I define soft gating as setting up a series of quest lines (actual quests, collecting currency of some sort, achieving rep, etc.) as prerequisites for some goal, but — and here’s the key — players are free to pursue these as intensively as they wish. Someone willing to devote 16 hours a day to the game would be able to achieve the goal much more quickly than, say, someone who only plays a few hours on a weekend. From time to time Blizz does put some brakes on the progression, as for example when they gated Mists reputation behind dailies and weeklies, but the idea is that a soft gate implies no direct timed release of progression steps.
I define hard gating as Bliz actually withholding any chance of players progressing towards the goal, releasing a snippet at a time. Prime examples of this are the Suramar final series of quests and the Broken Shore content. It appears that the Argus content will also be hard gated. No matter how many hours you wish to play, you simply will not be able to see all of Argus until Blizz says you can.
Hard gating is not new to Legion, but it seems to me that in Legion Blizz has adopted it as their preferred way to control end game content, and they have introduced it within patches instead of primarily as a cross-patch mechanism. What do I mean? Well, look at the legendary ring quest line in WoD. This was basically a multi-patch gate. You could go to a certain point initially, then the next progression series was introduced in the next patch, and so on. So this was hard gating, but pegged to each new patch. Contrast that with Legion, where quest lines and even (in 7.3) action areas are hard gated within the patch. It is now almost standard operating procedure.
Hard gating content within as well as across patches helps Blizz to continue to brag about the HUGE amount of content they have in Legion — always something new! Well, of course, if instead of implementing an entire patch you piecemeal it into the game, there will in fact be something new every couple of weeks. It does not necessarily mean there is any more content than in previous expansions, just that it take longer to experience it.
Add to this practice the introduction of a never-ending grind for something (like AP in Legion), along with a buttload of
dailies world quests and a gimmick to keep people running dungeons, and voila! Lots more content!
I am not criticizing Blizz’s Legion approach to content, just pointing out the man behind the curtain gives us a big hint that the Great And Powerful Oz is possibly pretty ordinary. Legion is more minor reconstruction combined with a lot of hype than it is actual additional content. It works, don’t get me wrong, but I see it for what it is.
Anyway, as I said at the beginning, I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another on Blizz’s stepping up of hard gating. It is just another part of Legion’s content curtain.