Frequency of MMO content patches

How important are frequent content updates to your enjoyment of an MMORPG?

During the first few years that I was playing MMORPGs I became used to a certain tempo for content patches and expansions. World of Warcraft players could expect a major expansion roughly every two years. Inbetween there were smaller content patch every 3-6 months. I remember regularly watching for news on the next patch, getting excited for new quest lines and new instances.

Other MMOs have kept a similar development rhythm, for example LOTRO (although Turbine releases an expansion every year with 2011 being the one exception). Everquest 2 has also had yearly expansions but fewer content updates outside of those.

But this defacto pattern of semi-regular chunks of content has been challenged by a couple of games in more recent years. Trion started the rebellion with the launch of Rift. This game had a new content patch every 4-6 weeks for its first year, most of which were focused around a time-limited event separate from the leveling content. More recently again we have Guild Wars 2 with the Living Story deluge every two weeks, again this is content that stands apart from the ‘main game’.

More content is always good though, right? Towards the end of my first subscription period in Rift I was certainly feeling event-exhaustion from the endless series of monthly events. Each event came with a new set of dailies and a new currency to grind. Having a new event every month left me with no time to play the wider game, however. There are different types of players not just in the types of activities they prefer (pvp, exploration, raiding) but also in the pace of gaming they enjoy most. I game to relax. Being hit constantly by a fire-hose of content is overwhelming.

So I’ve found myself retreating recently into more traditional MMOs, not just out of nostalgia but because I don’t have that feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed by achievement lists or token grinds. I’m enjoying playing LOTRO partially because Turbine aren’t trying to set some world-record beating tempo of  content delivery. There are traditional ‘time of year’ festivals as distractions from leveling but they’re all established, annual events so I can safely ignore them if I’d rather be focusing on character progression.

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4 Responses to Frequency of MMO content patches

  1. Meznir says:

    Frequent paches would be good if they weren’t time limited. GW2’s fortnightly new content would be amazing if it was additional and cumulative content – but forcing you to do it in such short time limits is WAY too much pressure for me and turns into as much of a grind as Pandaria dailies.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    Memory is seldom accurate but I’ve checked the patch note archive at Allakhazam and it does seem to bear mine out. When I played EQ from 1999-2004, patches could come any time and could have any amount of content from a few bug fixes to whole new zone. There were expansions, first once a year then every six months but inbetween came all kinds of things. New zones, dungeons, complete revamps of existing content, new game mechanics and infrastructure changes could all appear, unannounced unless you’d been following their progress on the Test server, which most people did not.

    Patches were generally loathed for the downtime and the inevitable bugs but seized on excitedly for the content. I can’t recall anyone ever talking about any kind of rhythm or cadence of patching – patches just happened. We might get three in a couple of weeks then none for a month. And of course, other than holiday events, which didn’t really exist in the way they do now, all the content and changes were permanent.

    That’s how I liked it. I agree with Meznir that the current pace would be fine if the changes were going to stick around indefinitely, but the way it’s going in GW2 in particular is just adding bi-weeklies to the existing dailies and monthlies. It’s easy to get swept along by the flood when you’re there every day but now I’m somewhere else I can’t say that I am missing it at all.

  3. trivialpunk says:

    This is the precise reason I got out of PVP. New armor sets and rankings every season? No thanks. Did it once, never again.

  4. Pingback: Pacing In My Play and Worlds | Healing the masses

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