Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Has Blizzard Bitten Off More Than They Can Chew

With the continued wait for news on the expansion and the outlook being more and more likely that we will suffer well over a year with no content you have to wonder why is it taking so long.

When my source told me that the artwork was holding them up some months ago he and I had a long conversation about how they should have never let that happen.  The new character models should have never been something that were a selling point for the new expansion.  It should have been something we were told would be added as the expansion went on and then added as they were ready.  A few on release, another one or two during the first patch and then more with each patch until they were all added in.

But no, blizzard wanted them as something of a selling point for the expansion.  I can't say I blame them really being the coming expansion offers basically nothing else otherwise.  Sure, some new zones, some new levels, some new skills, and some new raids and dungeons.  But they are already ditching scenarios, which is a huge mistake in my opinion, and everything else outside of new levels is just "patch" material.  The new expansion offers us new character models and garrisons.  That is it, nothing more.

So how exactly are they biting off more than they can chew?  Well, being we are not currently playing the new expansion you have your answer there.  Those two new things they are actually adding could not be fine tuned well enough to meet a reasonable release schedule.

Mists added more to the game and it did not hang them up that long.  Even cataclysm offered a completely redesigned and remade old world that saw the world change, the quests change, the maps change and flight added and it did not take that as long.

Garrisons are a very ambitious endeavor, one I am honestly looking forward too, but it does not seem like they were capable of finishing them off in a reasonable time frame.  Between adding those and remaking the art for the characters we are set waiting for two things that are both throw away things. 

Once the expansion after warlords comes out garrisons will be gone and forgotten, a mistake in my opinion, because once again blizzard does not design to the big picture and will tie them to only one expansion and the other, the art, will look nice when we first see it but roughly 6.3 seconds after we log in and see what our characters look like we won't care any longer.  It will be a case of, oh, that look nice, now lets get to leveling, questing, dailies, dungeons, raids, etc.  It is not exactly a feature, more so a feature that should hold up the development and release of the game.

Blizzard could have just as easily not done character models and not added garrisons and just made it a slightly more advanced farm, which they already have designed, instead of the huge leap forward they they are doing for personal space, a sort of player housing thing.

They could have released the new zones, with new levels, and item squished redesigned skills and talents and let us get playing in those new dungeons and new raids with a new player vs player season.  This would have kept the player base happy, very happy.  All they want are things to do.

Would we like new character models?  Yes.  Would we like garrisons?  Yes.  But the question is, would we have rathered the expansion being released in march at the latest, as it should have been, or in november as it seems it will be?  March please.

Blizzard should have noticed that garrisons were holding them back, that the art work was holding them back, and instead of making an already disgruntled player base wait and get more upset with them they should have released new content.

Save the garrisons for a november patch, save the art work for a november patch, they should have released the game to keep the player base happy at a reasonable time, like in march.

Did blizzard bite off more than they could chew trying to get all these things ready?  I believe so.  They should have worked on the heart and soul of the game first.  The story, the zones, the leveling, the dungeons, the raids, the quests and added the "new content" later.

Think about it, even at its base, the basic stuff like leveling is going through a great deal of changes as it is.  With some stats being removed and other stats added, items being squished, talents being removed, talents being changed, talents being added, and so much more micro managing going on for this coming expansion, they had enough to worry about just to get out the simple stuff so we could do it.  Adding new leveling content has never been harder because we would be leveling through it with new stats, missing stats, new abilties, missing abilties, squished items, and it would all need to run smoothly to work.  Isn't that already a lot to ask of them?

Even if I say often that warlords is offering us nothing new really, and it isn't, it is not exactly offering us nothing at all, just nothing new but a lot of something adjusted.  There is a huge undertaking to the backbone of the game and how it works.  Not something you could call a feature, but something that was needed and apparently, something that was already a bit too much for them to handle.

I believe garrisons should have been held back for a later patch.  I believe the character models should have been released over time one at a time.  I believe everyone should have been working on the basic game to make it work and make it ready for release instead of making us wait.

So yes, I believe blizzard bit off more than they can chew.  Lets just hope it "feels" better when it is all done than the cataclysm redesign of the old world did, and just feel like a complete waste of time.

Only time will tell, but as it seems, blizzard is going to make us wait.  Maybe they are hoping if they make us wait long enough we might forget how much we hate being stuck in the middle of nothing with no new content for a year.

Hey, maybe that is the angle they are going for.  Release it as late as possible so we will just be happy to have something instead of complaining how late it was.  One problem, how many will be left to be happy when we had to wait so long.  Yes, they bit off more than they could chew.


  1. I think they did more in Cata than they are about to do in WoD.

    It's not that they chewed off too much - except maybe for the graphics team - it's something else. It is quite possible that the graphics team is so visibly the bottleneck, that other teams don't even do much now - because no matter how fast they are, it won't speed up the release - so they waste their time tinkering with issues of low importance. It's mismanagement. Maybe accompanied with a loss of developers (there were rumors), but primarily mismanagement.

    1. Yeah, the remake of the old world, new art, quests, zone progressions, etc was a hell of a lot more of an update than just redoing art.

      The art is the big deal, as far as I have heard. But yes, mismanagement otherwise. Partly because, as you said, what they are doing, but also in the terms of not releasing sooner and adding the art later, that is mismanagement too.

  2. I don't keep up with business news about Blizzard tooo much, but I'm now wishing I new a bit more. My understanding was that Greg Street took several people with him when he left for LoL. I can't help but be curious how much that affected Blizzard in general.

    Also, I get that there should be some quality control for the story (not that there really is), but for character art, there is no reason I can think of that they wouldn't just higher more people to get it finished. If they're really losing money with lost subs, it seems it would be well worth hiring more people to get it out faster, and it's not like they're going to impact play or the game that much, so it shouldn't matter if they wanted to use "outsiders".

    meh. Did you see the news about 6.0 and heirlooms. it made me think of you. The increased drop rate of Heirlooms makes me feel like I will have to run at least normal garrosh on all of my alts, every week.

    Glad you're back,

    1. There were rumors but I can't see it effecting them all that much. It is not like his leaving was out of nowhere, they knew it was leaving and they would have (should have) not announced everything if they did not know it was going to happen without him.

      I thought that when 6.0 comes the first one will be a 100% drop rate. Maybe I am wrong. But once we are over level 90 they will not drop at all.

      I have not killed garrosh on any difficulty in months. Maybe I should start again.

  3. Completely agree with your assessment. And without getting into the whole fly/no-fly debate, I would just point out that it takes a lot more time and coding resources to code a 3-dimensional zone than it does to code a 2-dimensional zone. The devs can natter on all they want about how flying deprives players of the whole "game immersion" experience, but my bet is, they have in fact bitten off more than they can chew, and flying is too much of a stretch for them at this time. (And as an aside, I think they should be a bit more up front about all their reasons, not just the party line ones.)

    1. I'd be the first to bash Blizzard since I hate to see what they did to the game, but no 3d for zones ain't it.

      It does take a lot of time to fix a zone that was not flight-ready to work with flying, but if you are developing a zone as flight-ready from the beginning, you don't spend much more time than if the zone were to be 2d (in reality, 2.5d) only. Take it from a dev.

      I think I saw some screens from the alpha - check them out. There are no missing ceilings, etc.

      That ain't it.

    2. There's another aspect though.

      It *is* simpler to do quests without flying in mind. It isn't terribly difficult to do quests so that flying doesn't "trivialize" them either, mind you, but there's some extra work, yes.

      Plus, of course, no flying means that people travel slower (with all the flight paths), so you might be able to get away with less content than if you had flying. So, there are some savings here. Although I don't think they are too important in the grand scheme of things.

    3. Yes, I agree, and that is close to what I was getting at. Flying requires interaction with the scenery and landscape, even if it is only to watch it passing by underneath and landing somewhere at random. If the zone has not been designed with that possibility at the start, it is resource consuming to add it in, as you point out above. I am not sure they are allowing for this eventuality is my point, so it does save resources if they never have to consider it. And if you are really squeezed for time -- as is the point of Grumpy's post -- this approach could be a significant time saver, certainly in the crunch time short run.

    4. The flying this is complete bullshit, nothing more. I plan to make a post on it soon. In a way I like the no flying, it means more for me because I will still go out there but most won't. People like to be able to move around and get to places faster. It is all about time an efficiency and even the most inefficient person knows that flying is simply better to get from point A to point B.

      You think it is bad enough as it is with people not getting to ordos on their own now? Imagine without flying. It will be 100 times worse.

      But enough on that, I will leave it for my flying post.

      I agree with PvP Anon however, I do not think that is the reason for no flying. The game is now designed from the bottom up to allow flying. It is not something they need to add that will take more time. The blank slate they create the land on is already flying ready when they start drawing it.

  4. PS. I am glad you're back, too, I missed you.

  5. Well, I am not really talking about the visual completeness, I am talking about designing the zone for -- as you put it -- 2.5D interaction. Reading the tea leaves that have fallen from various statements and recent interviews, I am not convinced that Bliz is in fact developing the zone as flight-ready. Not commenting on whether that is good or bad, just pointing out that if you never have to think about making the long-range higher altitude scenery interactive, then you save a lot of dev resources up front.

    1. You might have a point there. There is less they need to "worry" about like how birds will interact and the such. So if they add flying later they do not have to worry about coding that behavior.

      While that does make sense, I have to believe that it would not be more than a copy paste job from how other birds react. Not sure that would take all that much time or effort and quite honestly, if C&Ping from another birds behavior to a new one is really going to take a lot of time they do not have, they do really need to hire more workers desperately.

  6. Regarding flight, the entire world is flight ready right now. It'd make no sense for them to go back to designing environments that should never be viewed from above. I don't think that's related.

    I think they were trying to do too much with Garrisons and ended up having to scrap a bunch of it and start over. Probably a lot of "scope creep" related to Garrisons.

    I also think that the character models are taking longer than expected. Hiring more people to work on them won't speed that up though. You could have a small team doing modeling, textures, and animations for each race, but it can't be more than that. They also need to make sure each race stays consistent with the others, so each team couldn't work totally stand-alone. It's probably that they only have enough teams to work on a couple races at a time though. Even so, hiring more people won't speed that up since they'll need a few months for any new artists/devs to get up to speed.

    As Grumpy said, they should have delayed both of those and just released the rest.

    1. It would have only made sense to release without them.

      You can patch in models and features. But a new expansion is about a new area with a new story and new levels. That is what an expansion is, and that is all we actually needed for it to be release. That... is and has been done for a very long time.

    2. @Jaeger - HI! anyway, how is teh entire world "flight ready" when you still can't fly in the Blood Elf area and the Goat People area? Never made since for the last few patches to forget those areas. :- (


    3. since = sense, d'oh!

      -roo the misspeller

    4. When they redesigned the old areas to allow flying they did not redesigning the two older areas on azeroth added in BC. That is why those are the only areas you can not fly in.

    5. I know. I was just letting Jaeger know, the world is "not" flying ready because of those two areas. And until one can fly in them, the world will never be "flying ready".

    6. I do not think they will ever do them. A mid expansion that people blow through as fast as possible and blizzard even helps with the speed leveling, it does not make sense for them to redesign them. So in that case, the old world will never be fully flight ready.

  7. Just minus 200k subs for Q1 at the end of the day.

    I have to say, the last two quarters are massive for Blizzard. They have basically proven that you can do nothing except preorders and services like character boosts and it won't cost you.

    That's terrible for the game (at least what it should be in my opinion), because why would they do any better than they are doing now, but such is life. Go figure...

    1. 200K loss is a huge win for them. They should have lost 2M or at least 1M. They have offered nothing for the entire quarter except the idea that there will be nothing else for that quarter and the following two.

      I am sure the loss of 200K is more about some math magic from accountants than it is an actual number.