Friday, December 12, 2014

One Month Down, Eleven To Go?

We sit at the one month point of the warlords expansion and it is time to play around with a little bit of speculation.  However I do not believe there is any speculation needed.  I am completely willing to go out on a limb here and make a prediction, but I do so without any risk of being wrong because it is an extremely strong limb.  The next expansion will not be out in 11 months.

Blizzard has promised that this expansion will only last one year.  That is not going to happen.  The way the staggered raid releases are set up I can see maybe, just maybe, the next expansion coming as early as one year after the release of the second starting raid.  But no way in hell one year after the release of warlords.  Nope, not going to happen, never.

I personally think I would like to see this expansion gone as soon as possible.  I'm not exactly happy with the feeling I am playing on a live beta, even if I am enjoying the game right now.  I would not object in any way to only having 11 months left to it.  Sure, if it goes by that quick I will never be able to complete mythic as I did with siege as I am a casual raider with friends that are just not up to that level of play, but that does not bother me.  As long as I finish normal (now called heroic) like I have been doing, or coming close to, for the years since I started raiding, I will be more than happy.

That is one reason I do not see them sticking to a faster release schedule.  There are more players like me than there are players above me, in terms of progression.  And there are much more under me.  So they will not, or should not, cater to the ones above me and they most definitely should cater to those below me.  While it does not matter to me if I do mythic, as I consider that bonus content for when I am bored and not actually part of the main game, to some people having the time to get into mythic and finish it is very important and with a sped up release schedule it will basically lock out the vast majority of the player base that wishes to see mythic but just can't do it on a short schedule.

Another one of the reasons I do not see that happening is blizzards track record.  They are dreadful with releasing timely content.  I know they are trying to get better at it.  At the beginning of mists it looked like they finally nailed it.  Mists probably had the best first year in terms of content patches released in the history of the game.  There was nothing not to like about it, unless you disliked having so much content.  There was just a lot to offer and they offered it all.  For a moment it really seemed blizzard would be living by their word and making faster releases.  It did not turn out that way when we sat in the same raid for 14 months.  Hey, I did not mind, it took me 9 months to finish heroic (now mythic) and I am happy to have had that chance.  But I would still say it went on too long.

Add all that to the fact that warlords is effectively still in beta.  Yes, I know it has been released, but blizzard has been releasing a flurry of changes left and right of recent.  All changes that should have been made on beta.  Changes to professions, the same ones I wrote about here being in an unfinished state on beta, changes to achievements, and changes to other things.  All of which should have been adjusted on beta.  As it turns out, it is being adjusted on beta, a live beta.

So adding that all together.  Blizzard not wanting to cut the raid season really short, because it wants people like me to have my 9 months at the end of the expansion to get a mythic kill, their track record of being really dreadful with timely content releases, and the fact that even if warlords has been released it is still not a finish product, we will absolutely, one hundred percent certain, not be seeing a new expansion in 11 months as promised.

So now that we got that out of the way and it is no longer a discussion, the expansion will last longer than one year, it is time for the real question, how long would you like to see this expansion last?

I know that the expansion still has that new car smell for a great deal of people, and everyone knows we all like something more when it is new, so I am expecting some people will over estimate how much they are enjoying the expansion because of that.  My opinion however is going to be more based on the what I believe would be best for the game and not the fact I am enjoying myself at the moment.

After the next raid is released, blackrock foundray, in January, I would like to see the expansion follow the mists design.  Meaning I would like to see a content patch three months later in April followed by the last raid, as there are only supposed to be two this expansion, three months after that in July.

I personally believe that a 6 month cycle to raids is fair enough that it gives the people that want to push the top level of raiding enough time to finish it, the people that do it for something to do the time to dabble in it, and everyone else the time to finish up the top difficulty they are capable of clearing.

I also believe that the last raid of the expansion should last a little longer, nine months in my opinion seems to be fine.  No more of this 14 month stuff please.  But I also believe that just because the last raid came out doesn't mean that it should mark the end of content for the expansion.  So after the last raid is released in July I think it would be nice to see some sort of catch up island, like the timeless island, released three months after that, meaning in October.

That would leave us with 6 months of no content while we prepare for the new expansion which should, in my opinion, come in April of 2016.

If it worked out to be that pattern I would be very happy, but for blizzard, my opinion on what I believe would be a good release schedule still seems like a very ambitious endeavor and I do not believe they would be capable of keeping up with the schedule that I laid out.  So don't expect that to happen.  But I would be very happy to be proved wrong by blizzard and glad to eat my words if they can make it happen.

So what do you think this expansion should play out to be?  If they keep to only 2 raid tiers do you think my design would be nice or maybe you think we will get a third tier, or 14 months in one raid again.  Let me know.


  1. If we're placing bets my money is on March 2016 when the Warcraft movie comes out. That gives us enough time for two full raid cycles and they've already said that there will only be two.

    The reason why I'm thinking March rather than April is because if new players are going to come in, or more likely people are going to come back because of the movie it would be better if they were on the same playing field as everyone else. If they come in at the end of an expansion then as blizz's focus has always been at the end game, they would be on catchup which is no way to start a game. A game should be started at the beginning IMO, so timing the expansion release with the movie and offering a boost to level 100, like they did with boost to 90 for Warlords, makes the most sense I think.

    This of course assumes that blizz is capable of releasing content in a timely manner. I remember after blizzcon 2013 I was waiting for the beta to start any day, as Siege had come out in the September. Christmas came and went and I was sure that it would be any day, but the days and weeks went past and there wasn't even a murmur. As beta cycles lasted about 6 months I got more and more concerned, if beta hadn't even started yet when was the expansion going to come out? The numbers just weren't adding up.

    As you know I unsubbed end of March, as I'd cleared Siege on Normal, and done a few heroic modes. Heroic had always been my bonus, I didn't really care about it and with no end in sight it just contributed to my burnout and I quit. I still checked WoWInsider and this blog everyday. I waited for a beta announcement and waited and then it was what June that it opened. I could not believe it, that was much, much too late. Siege had been out 8 months already, the expansion should have been releasing, not beta starting.

    So yeah my point is as much as it makes sense for them to release to coincide with the movie. As much as the numbers stack up for that release schedule. I have zero faith that they can do it. Sort of a "I'll believe it when I see it" kinda of thing.

    Still if they are going to be releasing March/April 2016, then the beta would have to come out about October next year. Which means they will have to announce the new expansion at somewhere other than blizzcon as all they did at last blizzcon for Warcraft was pretend the intervening year hadn't happened, and just talk about the same stuff as the previous year.

    We had the Warlords announcement a year before release. I think that will be the first test. If they announce the next expansion March/April time of next year, then that will be a positive first step. Of course I don't really follow games cons, so I don't know if there's anything big that happens around then, they will probably shift the announcement to whatever venue will get the most press.

    Only time will tell.

    1. Using your logic based on the movie, which I had not even thought of, April, as I figured it, still works well.

      The movie comes out in march, the preorder and instant 100 free comes with it, so everyone buys warcraft for full price, gets into the end game instantly, when it is nice and easy and everyone is farming it, gets all excited thinking this is what it is always like, then a month later when the new, and higher priced, expansion comes out, they buy that because they are hooked because the game is still new and exciting for them.

      So using your movie tie in, april makes even more sense than it did when I was basing it on time frame alone.

      They can wait until blizzcon to announce it and start the beta then. It is not like they actually do everything on the beta as is. Look at what we are playing now, it is a live beta. So beta does not need to be long and they can announce it and open it in short time. No need for a huge way in advance announcement.

    2. Yeah I know they don't have to announce it a long way in advance but they usually do to jump the hype machine. That's why I figured they wouldn't wait till next blizzcon.

      I suppose you are correct about the nice and easy farm mode. I just thought it would be more exciting to start fresh as it were.

      Oh off topic but I figured you would know. I thought invasions were supposed to be difficult. Have they nerfed them? My first one ever just popped, the Shadowmoon clan invasion. I just went for it as I figured it's the first one, I want to see what it's like. I got 794 points, so I was easily into silver rating. I also checked the achievement for no buildings getting destroyed, not that they seemed to be at risk or anything.

      I was solo. If I had done it with 2 friends, making it a team of 3, then either they adjust the rating so you get less points? or it must just be a complete cakewalk to gold. I don't know but it certainly wasn't what I expected. I figured it would be tougher than that, I was expecting to maybe not even get bronze first time out, especially as I was on my own and not in a team.

      Back on topic I guess we can at least hope that with the movie coming out, they are hopefully unlikely to leave such a huge gap in content as it doesn't look good. They will want to be making a good impression to hopefully bring back players or not put off new ones. At least that's the theory, like I said I don't have faith that blizz can do it, as they seem to get away with doing whatever they want.

    3. I am thinking, using your time line, they can hook people to buy the game, maybe additional boosts, and the expansion, all because of the movie instead of just buying the game, using the boost, and then leveling the boosted character, where they might get bored in the leveling process and just quit. Somehow letting people jump right into the fight might, just might, be a better way to get them hooked on the game.

      Not to mention, the movie fits the warlords theme (not know what the next one is) so I think they would want to drag the movie people into something like the movie. So to speak.

      I think, but do not quote me on it, the points scale to the people in there. At least it seemed that way on the beta. I got gold solo and gold with a friend, nearly the same ending points for both. So it seems that even with another person there it worked to be closely the same.

      However, they did nerf (or is it buff) the garrison invasions. The first week the iron horde invasion was impossible to get gold on unless you got lucky with spawns and more big mobs spawned. Most of the time you would be sitting there for 20 or 30 seconds with nothing to do because not enough mobs were spawning. So they increased the spawn rate, which in turn made it easier. I would say that is more a buff to them than a nerf to them however.

      I think, now that you mentioned the movie, my timeless is a lot closer than I would have guessed. They will want an orc centric expansion out when the movie comes out (which this is) and they will want to sell those people an expansion while they are hooked early on. So April makes a great deal of sense. Odd how I came up with that not even considering the movie. lol

    4. Invasions are a cakewalk if you have 3 competent players. They are not so easy if you dont. I did one this week with another hunter and a ret pally, and they were both very good players. Actually I was the worst of the 3 by a little bit. We got 1300+ points and destroyed it.

      Earlier this week, I'd done one with a different ret pally and a lock. They were...not so good players. We got 866 points. I looked at recount afterwards, and I had done twice as much total damage as the Ret Pally, and 4 times as much total damage as the lock.

      I was really surprised by this failure to gold. I thought it would be a cake walk, but I had to work my ass off and we still didn't get it.

      So, I don't think that having 3 people adjusts the rating. Invasions are just tuned for a lower tier of players. As in, the kind of player that doesn't check blogs about the game, keep up with changes and really know his/her class.

      Once we are in full Highmaul normal raid gear, or Foundry lfr gear, I bet a good player will be able to solo to gold no problem.

    5. I helped with one yesterday to try to carry a few people to gold and we missed it by 8 points. 8 Points. It was like yours, I was more than double the other two combined. I was actually amazed that we came that close.

      It could be done even with two lesser players being we came that close and the other two where near fresh 100s both under 600 item level. Just need to focus and not AoE in that case. The faster single targets go down the faster they respawn it seems. More respawns mean more points.

      As for solo gold, they seem easier than they were on beta and I could solo gold most of the invasion on beta when I first hit 100 and was still wearing all my siege gear. So yes they are easy, but you can still screw up pretty quick and miss gold solo. Even when better geared I think I will still do 3 just to see how high I can get the meter up. My record so far is 1648. I think I can break 2K soon with a good crew. 1 melee and 2 ranged seem to be the idea make up for most of them. With 3 AoE heavy classes I can see 3K on the botani one as possible already even without raid gear. That is the easiest one.

    6. How can 3 people not get gold easily? I've gotten over 700 points solo in 630 gear. Do you get less points per kill if there are more people or something?

    7. It is completely possible. I tried to help a group a few times and only ended up with silver. Heck, I got more points solo than I did with a group on the same invasion. Points are tallied up differently when 3 people are there. I am completely sure of it.

  2. Personally, I think they should have postponed the WoD launch like they did with TBC (becoming one of the best-liked expansions, leading a.o.t. to many checking out Wrath) instead of rushing it out like they did with the first Cataclysm (the expansion that chased a third of the player base away in the first few months).

    That way a lot of bugs could have been solved (basically everything people complained about in Beta went Live) and not all those features 'needed' to be cut (Battle Pet-breeding for example). Certainly with not a third Raid Tier hogging the art resources they could have done a better job with the same-face models and personalising Garrisons more (perhaps with Scenario's, say saving the Gnomes in Azashara would allow you to gain some Gnomish followers etc.).

    Alas, it was not meant to be, and now WoD really comes across as something they pretty much just slapped together. Thematically (imo) they did the right Expansion for the wrong Blizzard game, and vice-versa (the latest Hearthstone Expansion is tempting ;)

    As for the length of WoD: given how e.g. the Stat Squish pretty much ruined any remaining feelings of progression for pre-90 content (TBC Gem Gear can easily last you through 85-90 for example) while at the same time the current WoD numbers suggest that at the end of it they're right back at MoP end numbers (making the whole exercise pretty pointless) , I'd rather see a reboot of some sort.

    Perhaps use versioning software or something to re-issue older versions of the game/open official Legacy Servers, as the current model seems unsustainable on so many fronts.

    1. This expansion is cataclysm 2.0. But I am liking it much more than cataclysm thus far at least. But is it still a very content light expansion where they wasted too much time on useless BS instead of actual game play.

      I really do wonder about the stat squish thing too and how they threw it out the window. When squish down stats as far as you did and then inflate them so much in the first tier. Heck, even before the first tier. They immediately went down the "stats are out of hand" thing again. They should have never squished if they were not going to learn something from it. As from the looks of it, they didn't learn a damn thing from it.

    2. I think the Squsih is under the bus already because raising iLevels is the one trick they know to make generally unappealing content more appealing/played more no matter what, especially since the whole 'vanity rewards' thing is (IMO at least) reaching its limits (there are only so many Mounts you can stuff under your characters' butt, Pet #1001 is less exciting than the first few, and already during Wrath did people question the amount of Titles).

      As a side-note, I think it was a huge mistake to make the Molten Core Memorial Raid a level 100 instead of 90 thing with (basically) a one-time reward.

      All it did was encourage people to skip content to reach 100 ASAP, and make subscribing for the Holdouts less appealing (speaking as one , not only would I have levelled more characters to 90 on more accounts, with Winter Veil, Expansion Start AH rush etc. I generally sub for the first month of a new Expansion despite not buying it the last few times, and MC - with Threat :)) (I stoppped Tanking with Cata as Threat control basically became irrelevant) - with the Mount would probably have enticed me to stay a bit longer despite my severe issues with 6.0 (camel, straw).

    3. I think the biggest problem with MC was the mount they gave away. Don't we already have enough high and obnoxious mounts that people sit on mailboxes with? But that is another story.

      They can push gear forward, they can even let item level seem large like it is. Doesn't mean they have to double the stats on things from tier to tier.

      Did blizzard forget that if I had a normal mode gun I would still do heroic to get the heroic mode gun even if it only had 2 more agility on it? It doesn't need to have 48 more. That is why stat inflation is crazy. Blizzard doesn't grasp the concept that an upgrade is an upgrade, be it 2 or 48, people will want it. There is no need to give massive power boosts. Never has been, never will be.

      With small boosts like that it would also have the added effect of letting skill play more of a factor again. Someone with lower gear could help the team, if they played well. But with huge power increases, someone with lower gear gets left behind because "you don't have the gear for this" and skill gets thrown out of the window.

  3. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

    A year said Blizzard, which starts the clock in November of 2014 and runs it out in November 2015. Excuse me while I go laugh myself sick...

    Barring divine intervention, I doubt seriously that under the best of circumstances that Blizzard is now or has ever been capable of creating a game that fast. Perhaps their card game met that marker, but I doubt it. I am more than willing to say none of their real games ever got made so quickly. (Yes, that reveals my profound dislike of card games that use a deck other than the standard four suits.)

    Two years is the best that Blizzard seems capable of when it comes to releasing new expansions (replacements) for their current version of WoW. With much rushing and brow beating and releasing a still in beta but called finished release, maybe August, 2016, maybe.

    The movie will play a major role in getting an expansion released, yea, sure, in theory. The code and the artwork take as long as they take however, and that seems to be independent of any other outside influences, such as a movie release date. It is one of those things that sound so reasonable in theory but I would never expect to see it occur in reality. How often has Blizzard failed to take advantage of a Christmas shopping season due to the fact they didn't have a finished product to put out the door. (From all I have read, and just from the affect the game rules have had on the lower level content, WoD was NOT a finished product by any stretch of the imagination.)

    With regards to the item squish, Blizzard got it wrong. Badly wrong. The end game stat jump is a BAD idea, a VERY BAD idea. One worth firing the person who pushed for it over type of very bad idea. Some one needs to graph out the rise in item level and the points available to be spent on each item level, and make DAMN sure that the end of the slope rises gently and steadily but does not have a cliff face appearance.

    1. Maybe blizzards definition of a year is not the same as ours. Just like their version of soon is not exactly what you or I would consider soon.

      I personally like the two year cycle. Even more so being we have to pay a box charge for someone we already pay monthly for. I do not want a new expansion each year because all it would be is a money grab and nothing else. Not to mention I am sure the quality would drop of drastically if they pushed new expansions out that quickly.

      The problem with the end game is that there are 4 raid tiers. All raids from LFR to mythic should drop the same gear, make the challenge in the content, not get more gear to defeat the same thing with bigger numbers. Leave the challenge to the ones that want it by difficulty not gear treadmills. If they did that they would not have such huge gear inflation. But because they are so caught up that LFR needs to be a "substantial" increase over dungeons and normal needs to be a "substantial" increase over LFR and heroic needs to be a "substantial" increase over normal and mythic needs to be a "substantial" increase over heroic they screwed themselves with more gear inflation in one tier of the exact same raid 4 times than in all over BC and wrath combined. They really screwed up the stat squish by not sticking to it. We are already back to numbers more than we had when we started DS and that is before you get raid gear. We will be at least at mid mists numbers by the time this expansion ends. Effectively wiping out everything done by the squish in 1 single expansion with only 2 raid tiers in it. Sad.

    2. Anon, Grumpy's former Guild Leader:

      Yes, the squish is gone before it got started. Also, just from a cursory examination of items of lower level, it does not appear to be all that consistently applied either, but perhaps that was just misfortune on my part in the drops I have had since the patch/expansion.

      What is sad is that there are several levels of raids, each with their own "substantial" increase in stats. Off the top of my head, I can do better for gear increases along a logical thought out path that does improve gear without such "substantial" jumps at the end.

      Normal dungeon item base stat (ex. Helm STR +10, STAM +10)
      Heroic dunge3on item base stat +1 (ex. Helm STR +11, STAM +11)

      Tier 1
      LFR raid item base stat +2 (ex. Helm STR +12, STAM +12)
      Normal raid item base stat +3 (ex. Helm STR +13, STAM +13)
      Heroic raid item base stat +4 (ex. Helm STR +14, STAM +14)
      Mythic raid item base stat +5 (ex. Helm STR +15, STAM +15)

      Tier 2
      LFR raid item base stat +6 (ex. Helm STR +16, STAM +16)
      Normal raid item base stat +7 (ex. Helm STR +17, STAM +17)
      Heroic raid item base stat +8 (ex. Helm STR +18, STAM +18)
      Mythic raid item base stat +9 (ex. Helm STR +19, STAM +19)

      Note that such a simplified system of increases means each level of progression instances is better than the previous but not so much so that stats alone mean the player is more valuable than a better skilled but lesser geared player. There is a gear distinction of significant but not super overwhelming between a normal dungeon equipped player character and a Tier 2 Mythic raider geared one. An even closer gear ratio can be obtained by making the increase less than one per item above with say the helm being Helm STR +10, STAM +10 at normal dungeon rating and the Helm STR +11, STAM +10 at the Heroic dungeon level and so on.

    3. I like that idea but blizzard is against it. A blue, ghostcrawler at the time, said that upgrades need to be meaningful or people will not do the content to get it. This is why they are so large. It has been echoed over and over even since he left. The company just does not believe that +1 is still an upgrade and people will still gladly take if if they can get it.