Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A disjointed post

Cynwise has a post up about Cataclysm as a whole and the way it didn't quite hit all the notes it seemed to be aiming for. I can't really disagree. There was a lot to like in terms of improved systems, and the content was all very, very polished-- there just never seemed to be enough of it.

Wrath, in its 25 months, had four raid tiers, with a total of forty-eight bosses. Cata in its 22 months had three raid tiers with a total of 27 bosses.

But that's only one type of content, and though raiding is often considered the pinnacle of the game, it's been long-understood that the majority of the playerbase does not place raiding at a high priority, and so it would make sense that the game would evolve away from raiding as the centrepiece.

I've said before that I don't think anyone at Blizzard had a full comprehension of just how much work they were setting themselves up for in the Cata revamp. They've gone on record talking about the high number of zones they started work on with the intention of performing a few tweaks, but ended up reworking the whole thing. It's easy to understand this attitude of just seeing things that could be improved and needing to do something about it.

But still, I thought the initial tier of Cataclysm Heroic dungeons and raids were fantastic. For the most part really well-tuned, challenging without too many gimmicky mechanics, a very welcome return to form in this area. Blizzard just failed to anticipate the sense of entitlement of the general playerbase, who didn't like suddenly not being able to faceroll group content.

Blizzard for a long time maintained their stance that this was only a temporary issue and it wont be long before we can all overgear everything enough to make it facerollable again. It was part of the way through Firelands that this stance was finally shown to be infeasible. They expected that the lesser-skilled players would be content to live on the previous tier of content, that they wouldn't rather spend three hours grinding Firelands trash for a chance at a single i378 BoE drop, than go kill a bunch of T11 bosses for a constant stream of i359 gear, even after they nerfed those bosses into the ground specifically for the purpose.

So it was then decided that every tier would be subdivided into three difficulties. Heroic raids would be for skilled players, normal raids would be for friendly casual raids, and Raid Finder would be for facerolling idiots. We had the Great Firelands Nerf to bring the current content in line with this philosophy, and we were assured that never again would a player have to suffer the indignity of needing to play content that wasn't current for gear upgrades.

I feel like I've been over this topic before. Way to digress, Coreus. >_>

But anyway, Cataclysm.

I've said before that I think the developers spend way too much time developing complex rewards systems to effectively nudge players into the content they "should" be doing, and not enough on making the content itself worth playing.

The term that overwhelmingly comes to mind when I think about WoW development is "feature creep"-- a term describing a situation in which a piece of software is undergoing testing and polishing to prepare for release, but then has a new feature or improvement added to it which, though it does improve the software overall, has the potential to severely set back the testing process and therefore release as it inevitably introduces more variables to be tested and more bugs to be ironed out. Feature creep is the result of a developer who cares that their product is the best it can be, a perfectionist attitude-- a Blizzard attitude.

Y'know, I'm pretty unhappy with this post. It's disjointed and doesn't really have a central point, but I'm going to post it anyway because I feel like I wrote way too much for it all to go away.

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