Paying to Beta

wow[World of Warcraft] A thread I’ve been following elsewhere references a theme I’ve heard before: the release of unfinished content in an expansion has become acceptable. The poster states that there are several unfinished aspects in WoW’s expansion, The Burning Crusade, and declares that the solution to this problem is that the developers should have made it harder to level so that they had time to fix it, after release.

How has this become modus operandi?

Without burning down too many bridges, it’s safe to say that most of EQ’s expansions were released missing some end game content. A lot of time, this missing content was locked behind a broken quest or encounter, preventing players from getting to it. Be it the simplicity of the yes-it-was-in-game-you-can’t-find it quest of the Holy Avenger (odd how exact same situation played out 7 years later in EQ2 with the Frogloks), to the non-functioning key quest of Vex Thal, to the broken Rathe council, and so on. There have been reports, both with some proof and others of the “my friend knows someone who knows someone who knows a dev’s girlfriend” type that state these were broken on purpose. Basically the timeline to complete was the most important aspect, and complete or no, the expansion would ship on the promised day.

So back in WoW, there are a few “unfinished” aspects. Apparently the higher level raid content was largely untested and is unwinnable, at least at the current time. Factions worldwide get stuck at certain levels and stay that way until you hit 70. Itemization in some parts seems somewhat random. There are a lot of people who seem to think this is ok. I’m not saying bugs are always avoidable – after all, I work in software design, and I know we are constantly fixing bugs – but when a product is shipped with distinct missing parts, that just isn’t right. Would you accept that McDonald’s gave you your hamburger without the meat, with the promise that at some point in the future it would be provided to you? But it’s ok to take my money now, and I’ll take the half-finished burger, and go wait over here?

The poster’s comment that Blizzard should have made it harder to level, just so they could have time to finish their released expansion, really rubs me wrong. The sad part is I’ve heard it before. Many times, for years.

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Oz

Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

16 thoughts on “Paying to Beta”

  1. I think he is smoking crack and needs to step away from the PC for a minute. The Burning Crusade for all intensive purposes is by far the best expansion launch this industry has ever seen.

  2. What is broken or missing, I am at the bloody edge of content and factions and tradeskills and short of two days of crashes following the release day, I haven’t even had lag, let alone a broken quest…

    If he is an uberguild member and complaining that Gruul and Matheridon are unbeatable at this stage, please cry more. Every MMO company tunes raid bosses out of reach to slow progression and thus adaquatly tune down encounters just enough to make them beatable.

    Think of the QQ if Blizzard made the encounters too easy and 200 guilds had already one shotted Grull and Magtheridon!?

    “ZMG Bliz Nubz leik l2code b0ssz we pwnz0red tem an leik we r teh 1337.”

  3. Only broken quest I’ve found so far is “The Vengeful Harbinger” in Terrokar Forest ( http://www.thottbot.com/?qu=10842 ) although I thought I heard that the netherdrake mount quest was also bugged. It was also only a few days ago that they added the recipe necessary to get alchemy potion mastery.

    All in all that seems quite complete to me, although I don’t really raid so there’s likely quite a bit I’m not seeing.

  4. The only problem I’m having is a spike in difficulty between the level 68 and 70 dungeons. Mainly Setthek Halls is easy but there’s a huge increase in the diffculty of Shattered Halls, The Black Morass, and Shadow Labs. You go from pulls of 3-4 mobs to 6-7 all that hit fairly hard in the 2k range.

    Also I’m starting to hear people complaining about Kharzhan being too long for only providing sidegrades to the armor found in the 5-man instances. My friends and I still have a ways to go before we get to Kharzhan and find out ourselves though.

  5. Those are viable concerns Relmstein, however if you recall back at early release, the difficulty of Stratholme, Scholomance, LBRS and UBRS was very very pronounced. If people want to aquire their Dungeon 3 sets, it is going to take some significant effort and coordination, as it should. Those instance will not be loot pinatas until gear and coordination catch up to the average playerbase, and with regards to Karazhan, I agree on some levels, but the encounters are very, very well made and the dungeon is exceptionally well designed. If loot quality vs. time investment is your primary focus, avoiding it may be a good option, but I love the thrill of a new kill and a fresh exploration.

    Some tips on managing the Dungeon 3 instances… chain fear, poly, hunter trap, shackle, stunlock, sap…

    Its all about CC and lots of it. If your group is having a hard time managing the large pulls, consider you group composition and try again. Also, single target dps is critical, and nothing will wipe you faster than breaking CC or some cowboy showing how leet he is, off soloing while everyone else is getting spanked by the legionnare.

  6. I guess it depends on where you draw the line between “expansion” and “content patch”. Personally, I draw the line at “If I’m paying extra for it, it better damn well give me a brand new game to play”. From what I understand, BC is pretty much as big as or bigger than WoW as far as game environment is concerned, but doesn’t change the game mechanics too much (couple of new races… meh), so I guess it’s in the gray area.

    If there’s a content patch, I don’t have a problem if some quest is a placeholder for things to come, or if something is a little broken (though I’d prefer if they just finished the damn patch before they rolled it out). But if you’re buying an expansion which explicitly provides a feature, and that feature doesn’t work at launch, then you’ve definitely been sold snake oil.

    As for the current example of BC, I’d say you’re in a definite gray zone since there was an associated content patch that went along with the launch of BC, and you may be confusing the two when you’re calling it “Beta in a Box” to paraphrase the good folks over at mogarmy.net.

  7. I think a better analogy is if McDonald’s wanted to give me a burger without the pickle. Now I have a friend that loves pickles. He orders hamburgers ketchup and pickle only. Because of this he has to go to Burger King where he can get it his way right away. I am not a pickle fan. I like them on their own, cold and crunchy, but I hate them warm and soggy inside sandwiches. For similar reasons I prefer daikon kimchi to cabbage kimchee. Though kimchi bokum is pretty good, as long as there is plenty of pork.

    So if McDonald’s asked me if it’s ok to give me the pickle later, I’d say “ok!” but my friend might be upset.

  8. One of these days Blizzard and Vivendi will realize that they don’t ‘need’ to sell what they have. That the shit they have is so good for so many people that it sells itself. And that day will be glorious because they’ll finally be able to let go and just work to improve the game.

    No, really. Sometimes I don’t think Blizzard is aware of what they have with WoW. I think they still feel the need to run it and micromanage it with PR and usual industry moves(tm) so they can squeez the last customer. One day it’ll dawn on them and they’ll realize they don’t have to. It’s WoW. It sells itself.

    Examples? C’thun was a cockblock for however many months. Industry SOP indicates that you put in a cockblock to stop players advancing past what you have to offer and quit because they don’t have anything to do. They needed time to finish Naxx. Was it necessary? I don’t think so. Think back. Do you know anyone, any player that was of the appropiate level to kill C’thun (

  9. …(continues)

    ( less than .01% of the playerbase at the time, I imagine), that would have said “Well, I quit because I killed C’thun and there’s nothing else. Bye”.

    No, no one would have said that. Everyone has invested so much in time and energy on the characters that are at the bleeding edge of content that no one dares to quit. C’thun should not have been cockblocked. There was no need for it. If Naxx wasn’t ready, people were not going to quit about it. They would take it, do something else, then come back when it was done. It sells itself. Did people quit after they finished MC or BWL and there was no ZG or AQ to try? No. Or at least not enough to make it statistically significant.

    Same with the expansion. I don’t have BC yet, so I can’t verify the missing/unfinished content for myself. Maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not as bad as the internet alarmists like to spout. But without even having BC, I can’t tell you that there was no need to rush BC to meet an arbitrary launch date.

    Would people have left if they had taken their time to complete things? Would we have seen mass quitting of the game had it launched in February? No, we wouldn’t have. Everyone would have waited one more month. In March? In April or May? No one would have quit. Not enough to make it statistically signficant. The shit sells itself, and hooks players by itself.

    The day Blizzard and Vivendi realize this they’ll slap their foreheads and will stop treating it like any other game around. A game that need to be launched ‘right now’, because otherwise it would miss its window and won’t sell as much. Won’t sell as much? What window? It’s WoW and BC, ffs. Competing against who? They’ll also realize that they can take as much time as they want to make new content and deliver it in pristine condition, because people will wait. They’ll wait as long as they have to. And those who can’t wait and quit? Well, they’ll be back once it’s done.

    WoW is so irritating because it sells iself. Blizzard and Vivendi just need to come to terms with it, knowing that they have all the time in the world to do things right.

  10. The problem is that the team probably gave a date they thought they could have everything done at, sent it to marketing, and had the CDs and boxes printed then.

    They had the option of either a) providing target date that probably would be too early, or b) do a LaForge and pad estimates to hell and back. The former shafts just the folk who’d get to the broken content, which usually isn’t many people (and tends to be the hardcore bastages who never quit anyway). The latter pisses off everyone, including the people who are now complaining that they can’t get through encounter X, all of whom wouldn’t be able to get to encounter X, world sector Z, and powers group V.

  11. But the dev teams aren’t usually the ones that set “the date” (I imagine houses like iD handle these things differently).

    Vivendi are the ones that set “the date” beforehand, and take care of all the business paraphernalia of shelf space, marketing, etc. This is thought up months in advance. What the team does with their project managers is to see what new content and how much of it to cram into the dev cycle to it (theoretically) reaches that date fine.

    If BC indeed has unfinished/broken/cockblocked content, then, according to what I’m saying either:

    a) Vivendi didn’t allow for “the date” to be pushed back.
    b) Blizzard tried to cram more than they could manage or finish since BC was greenlighted and work began on it.

    Both are bad. What I’m saying is that WoW is such a popular game, such an addictive cash cow for Blizzard and Vivendi that they don’t seem to realize it. Pushing back a date, or scaling down content until it can be produced to perfection won’t hurt WoW at all. It’s not any other game that has one shot and has to be micromanaged like this. They have a lot of room and a lot of leeway to be able to present a finished product. If there’s unfinished content, they’re just not doing it, or not being aware they have all that room.

  12. You people amaze me. Blizzard and Vivendi pull off one of the most unexpected and successful expansion launches in MMORPG history because a few hardcore players can’t beat an instance? How many guilds have beaten Naxx? You didn’t hear people bitching that it was unbeatable out of the gates!!! BWL is about the only major dungeon to launch with serious issues.

    Julian just stop. You may feel that an expansion wasn’t warranted, but with 2.4 million boxes sold on day one we are approaching a nearly 1 for 1 conversion rate to The Burning Crusade in North America and Europe. That more than deflates your idea that WoW doesn’t need to “expand”.

    I don’t know what Blizzard you are looking at, but the one I pay attention to is KNOWN for taking their time. Polish is Blizzard’s middle name. Blizzard is a box seller and not a company that tries to survive on monthly subscriptions. Blizzard’s business plan has always been built around selling millions of boxes. Monthly subscriptions just pay the server bills.

    Blizzard produces quality. Nothing about TBC was rushed. No one gave Blizzard a date with a “Get it done or else.” statement. Blizzard took the time they needed to make a kick ass expansion. They have succeeded. No one and I mean NO ONE tells Blizzard to launch early. They get it right or they go back to square one and start over. From all accounts, TBC was in better shape during it’s beta than ALMOST EVERY major MMORPG expansion to date has been after it’s launch.

    Vivendi has their part in this too. Four million boxes on shelves on day one is nothing short of awesome. I don’t personally like Vivendi, but I can’t deny them props for a calm and collected push to have product on the shelves. I am even more amazed that they have now allowed Blizzard to offer TBC via download.

    Vivendi and Blizzard realize what the “cash cow” potential is in WoW. That “cash cow” potential is selling boxes in stores. So expect high quality expansions from this point forward.

  13. Heartless… /signed

    As to the comments prebiously regarding ‘no on ready to kill Cthun’ thats just bullshit. My guild was ready, as were 4 others on my server. There were hundreds of guilds worldwide stuck on C’thun during the unbeatable phase.

    If Blizzard had bucked the trend and tuned C’thun to current status, people would have been farming it less than a months after the gates opened, and that leads to very unhappy hard guilds.

    Trust me when I tell you that we prefer an unbeatable encounter that we strive to perfect, then walking in and one-shotting a God without having to think about it or theory-craft. If you think I’m lying, you are just wrong. This isn’t about “Epix fer Everyone” when we raid. We do it to do the impossible, and if it is intrinsically possible at the start then we get bored and call foul for shoddy design that made a noob raid instance.

    When they promise ‘cutting edge’ content, we expect nothing short of impossible. When Death and Taxes beat Four Horsemen, pre-nerf, that was beyond epic… Do you think they are more pleased with their kill, or would they have ratehred kill a nerfed version a month earlier?

    Go ask them.

    Blizzard should change nothing about their expansion behaviors and release timer, unless they can release an equally polished expansion sooner than the last. The risk is of course promising one every X years like EQ did, and delivering a steaming pile of crap just to meet a deadline.

  14. Granted, I’m well behind the curve as far as leveling goes, but I am on the other side of the fence. I wish Blizzard would bring out more content, sooner. I think they spend too much time on the polish.

  15. Hrm. I never said BC wasn’t warranted. At all. What I’m saying is that if indeed there is unfinished content in it (something I can’t verify for myself because I don’t have it yet) and this is because BC was rushed/released too early for the amount of content planned, then there was no need for this to happen. BC would have been a surefire seller, as it was, had it been released unfinished(?) in January, pretty well-done in February or slow-roasted to perfection in April.

    It doesn’t matter. It would have sold anyway, and that’s what I think Blizzard and Vivendi are not grasping, if they released it early and/or unfinished. I’m saying they had all the time in the world to polish it.

    People may not wait for Smallish, Generic Fantasy MMO to deliver an expansion and may go elsewhere. People will wait a lot more for BC, though.

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