Friday, June 13, 2008

Holding Back Content

One true fact of MMOs is that developers will never be able to produce content as fast as players are able to consume it. It's a major problem for most games since the most dedicated fans play so much that they quickly burn through all the dungeons, quests, and raids. As time passes the end game gets filled with more and more players chopping at the bit for something new. If the developers can't feed them anything then what used to be dedicated fans can quickly turn into very negative critics.

Game studios have come up with different tactics for dealing with the problem. SOE tends to come out with very quick expansions which they support by charging top dollar. This seems to work with their smaller subscription base who are devoted enough to spend a little bit more for new content. Other games though that are supported by a more casual player base can't rely on their customers willing to shell out 50$ every six months. The problem is that subscription based games with large player bases are almost expected to give out free content since they make so much money from the monthly fee.

Blizzard had seemed to stumble upon the answer to this problem by holding back content from their initial game releases. Raid dungeons like Zul'amon and Black Temple were mostly done during the initial Burning Crusade development, but held back for patch content. I'm sure only a small group of developers were left to get these instances ready while the rest were put on SC2 or WotLK. This isn't a bad strategy actually and I've talked about it before on my blog.

The reason I bring it up again is that now the strategy seems to be biting them on the ass. I think they've gotten too used to always having something in reserve and now they don't have enough developers working on World of Warcraft. I also have a feeling that WotLK is taking longer then they initially expected and its keeping them from putting developers to work on patch content. Warhammer and WotLK also seem to be in some sort of weird competition with each other and I suspect they've got a case of feature bloat causing delays.

In the mean time current World of Warcraft players are left a little desperate for new content and Warhammer fans are having to survive just on the words of Paul Barnett. It funny that Age of Conan is having the opposite problem where they probably should have held some content back for additional polishing. They are fixing things in each patch but it's obvious things are a bit hectic at the moment. I wonder if they should have held off their release a few more months, but that would have probably given them less time to collect fees from bored World of Warcraft players.


Anonymous said...

The extra high level instance content is only valuable if you actually run it. In my case I never have even approached the door near Hyjal or BT.

I do miss additional PVP content however. TO me that would have been much more interesting.

Relmstein said...

Yes, one of the more common complaints I hear is about the lack of new battlegrounds and PvP content.

Then again if recent rumors are to believed then the WC3 mod Defense of the Ancients is being used to designed a new battleground for WotLK.