New Content Is Shared Content

Fantasy MMOs tend to start with race-based newbie zones and meet up some number of levels in, thinning to a smaller number of high-level areas before expanding again at the cap (discussed previously). Games with strictly divided PvP factions get a more strongly separated version of this, as you can send your night elf to play with your dwarf friend but not your orc friend. Some games will bring everyone together sooner, others will create several paths to the level cap. Please, make an alt while we work on the expansion.

You spend years making this base content. It takes a lot of work to recreate that leveling path several times, even if you recycle content across the paths (a roc is a red vulture, sure, why not). Unless you are Cryptic, this is something like a four-year development cycle. Now that the game is live, you are expected to patch in new content every one to three months while working on bugs and balance. At least you have some half-developed content that was meant for live, maybe even an advertised feature that was not completed on time; City of Heroes/Villains gets a special prize for patching in the last 10 levels after release twice. Oh, and you likely have an expansion every year or two, and that needs to be big enough to justify selling a new box.

Making new content for each faction is time-consuming, creates balance issues, and has limited value given the number of players at the level cap in multiple factions. Or you can make the new content once and send everyone through it. You will need faction-specific details, but the more overlap you have, the less content you need to develop. Add neutral factions that deal with everyone. Add common enemies. This conveniently encourages PvP and/or cross-faction teams, depending on how you set it up.

So you have one Outland and one Northrend. Albion, Midgard, and Hibernia fought over the one big dungeon, and now their descendants in WAR do the same. Superheroes and supervillains both fight the Hamidon, the Honoree, and Romulus (CoX is odd for having the Statesman Task Force and Lord Recluse Strike Force, very different parallel content). Holiday and event content is often mirrored, with the same content slightly redecorated for the factions’ cities or low-level areas.

I don’t know that I would prefer it any other way. It sometimes feels like corner-cutting, but I do not want to need level-capped characters across multiple factions to see all the new toys, and making two sets of them means more time or more cost. I would rather have two sets of content that I can experience on my main. Although it strikes me that Blizzard has the billions of dollars and the staffing and is still producing shared content at a Blizzard pace.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “New Content Is Shared Content”

  1. I don’t know if this will make any sense, but I think the level of polish that comes with Blizzard games (expect for some upsetting news regarding Cataclysm – “we don’t have the time to update Outlands” – WHAAAAT?), makes up for the shared content as well as the delay in content additions.

    Take Cryptic for instance. The released games follow strict deadlines regardless of whether the content is ready. The launch day of Champions Online introduced a game-breaking patch, that completely changed the way you played CO. STO was released 5 months later with a strict deadline. Now CO is going F2P, and if Emmert’s comments to EuroGamer are any indication, so if STO.

    My point is that there is a reason WoW has 12 Million+ subscribers, more than the next 10 MMO’s combined (just pulled that figure out of thin air), because the content is well worth the wait and they continue to innovate and experiment.

    1. WoW is not innovative and experimental. They can’t afford to be. They have to keep providing the same kind of experience that they always have (Questing, grinding, instancing etc) in order to keep the 12 million customers that they have.

  2. WoW’s problem is that it is so stringently factionalised, so different content has to be made for each faction. In more open worlds (such as EVE and Perpetuum) all missions are open to everyone and all areas are open to everyone so only one batch of content needs to be created, saving development resources for other things.

  3. WoW is pushing it further by deleting old class-based quests and not producing any new ones. I think this is a mistake, as it homogenizes the game into a nice grey stew… but it does make sense from a production standpoint. And, to be fair, it does mean that if I want to see all the unique stuff I only have to play each race to level 20 or so then one from each faction to the end. That’s a nice time saver if I’m in a completionist mood.

    Still, I like the sense of world that comes with unique content for different races/classes/factions. *shrug*

  4. I think City of Heroes will soon raise the level cap for a third or even fourth time after release. The City of Preatoria stops at 20 now. Perfect to raise the level up to 50 to in the next several issues. Although that is slightly different since it will just be new content.

  5. Wow does do it’s content well, but there is little reason to try the other races, let alone the other faction, because there never felt like there was much of a difference, you raid the same places, kill the same bosses, effectively do the same quests.

    Would be nice for a very different levelling experience so that making alts actually became worthwhile, while you can experience everything on your main levelling again becomes a chore.

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