WoW: Expansions, dungeons and raids

There’s been a generally negative reaction to the recent dev announcement that patch 6.2 of World of Warcraft is the last of the Warlords of Draenor expansion – that ends the story relatively abruptly and makes this expansion the shortest lived in the game’s history.

Reading comments on blog posts and Massively OP’s coverage got me to thinking about the perceived value of expansion. It’s very difficult to compare expansions between MMORPGs since games are so very different in their design. One complaint about Draenor was the lack of new class or race – is it fair to look at Heavensward’s one new race and three new jobs and say Heavensward offers better play value than Draenor given the latter’s lack of any new classes or races?

Not really given that Heavensward is the first expansion not the sixth for Final Fantasy 14, as yet we have no idea how long it will be before another comes out so the pace of expansions for FFXIV is an unknown quantity compared with the regularity of Blizzard’s expansions to WoW. Rather than try to compare different games in this much detail I will take a brief look at the content of WoW’s expansions, I think it’s fairer to compare World of Warcraft with itself in this way.

Expansion New Classes New Races New Zones* New Dungeons~ New Raids~
The Burning Crusade  0 2  8  16 8
Wrath of the Lich King  1 0  12  16 9
Cataclysm  0 2  13^  12 6
Mists of Pandaria  1 1  8  9 5
Warlords of Draenor  0 0  8  8 3

*Zone count includes new class or race-specific leveling zones and PVP open world zones such as Wintergrasp. Source: http://wowwiki.wikia.com/Zones_by_level
^Zone count for Cataclysm includes the new zones but excludes the revamped Vanila WoW zones
~Source for Dungeons and Raids by expansion: http://www.wowhead.com/zones=instances.-1

Just looking at the group content a moment (and ignoring PVP since I’ve never played it willingly in WoW) we see a pattern over the course of the more recent expansions, that of declining instanced content release. These raw figures do mask the advent of the re-use of old content through the upgrading of old dungeons or raids for higher levels, presumably with a lot less effort than it takes for the team to produce something new from scratch. They also say nothing about the number of bosses, that is to say the length and time-involvement in each of them but that’s a more complex analysis than I wish to go into for this post.

Expansions bring a lot more than Dungeons and Raids of course; systems like archeology, pet battles, the Halfhill garden or garrisons are ‘content’ as well, but they’re mostly solo activities.  Cataclysm involved the wholesale revamping of the original Vanilla WoW zones (the continents of Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor) so a smaller number of dungeons and raids might be explained by the effort that entailed. But why did Blizzard not pick up the slack for Mists of Pandaria?

The other expansion features I’ve considered in the table above are new races and classes. Up until Warlords of Draenor I’d come to expect WoW expansions to deliver on one or the other. In either case you had an excuse to level a new alt. That was a big part of my longevity with the game – I would never have stayed playing for five years solid on just one character. It was the chance to create a Draenei Shaman, a Blood Elf Mage and a human Warrior alt (reincarnated as a Death Knight) that offered me a break from dungeon grinding at end-game. In general I see World of Warcraft as being poor value for money compared to other MMORPGs on the market at present. Although my lack of interest in the story in Warlords was also a factor in my not returning, the lack of new races or classes in this expansion didn’t help either.

The two patches since Draenor’s launch have only re-enforced my view on this, Blizzard aren’t following up on their promise of faster content releases and those releases seem, to an outsider, to be rather thin offerings. Having fewer dungeons (and raids) released within a given expansion, even with more difficulty levels (e.g. Mythic dungeons in 6.2) doesn’t fill the content gaps between expansions. What I always wanted from inter-expansion patches, and until Pandaria’s dearth of dungeons did receive, was *new content*. I wasn’t interested in the same old dungeon or raid with yet another difficulty level. I think Blizzard needs to learn some hard and fast lessons to get World of Warcraft back on track.

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13 Responses to WoW: Expansions, dungeons and raids

  1. I think this is a good summation of why I and so many others feel so disaffected with WoW at the moment — well, this plus the nonsensical story and the no flying debacle.

    It’s also worth noting that WoD is the first expansion not to add any new arenas or battlegrounds. True, PvPers did get Ashran, but putting aside its largely poor reception, Wrath and Cata both managed to include new battlegrounds as well as open world PvP zones.

    • Telwyn says:

      I welcome the PVP perspective since I know nothing, that doesn’t mean I think it’s unimportant but even reading about PVP additions doesn’t mean I’d understand the importance or value of them to actual PVPers…

  2. Balkoth says:

    I’m basically copy/pasting a comment I just let at In An Age because it’s applicable here…and a good chunk of that comment is giving links to spots where I’ve already written small essays on this subject…

    “They also say nothing about the number of bosses, that is to say the length and time-involvement in each of them but that’s a more complex analysis than I wish to go into for this post.”

    I’ll go into it (rather, I’ve ALREADY gone into it multiple times):

    For example, you’re looking at total bosses for an expansion rather than bosses/month, which makes WoD look bad because it’s designed to be a shorter expansion (which is what many people have been wanting for years). As the info below indicates, you’re also miscounting raid bosses — if you include non-tier bosses then Cata had 28 while WoD had 30…if you include all raid bosses then Cata had 32 while WoD had 34. Either way WoD wins, and WoD did it in like half of the time.

    Dungeons/scenarios are also intentionally being phased out/lessened — people overall hated scenarios, the idea of running dungeons over and over again for badges was bad, and dungeons are a really bad time/result ratio for Blizzard on top of that. You can disagree with Blizzard’s resulting stance if you want, but it’s hardly fair to try to claim they don’t have enough dungeons when you know Blizzard is INTENTIONALLY not doing more dungeons.

    Written a lot more lately, not wanting to retype it all again so…

    General stuff:

    http://balkothsword.blogspot.com/2015/07/been-rather-busy-but-cross-post.html

    Dungeons/Expansion Costs:

    http://marcleoseguin.com/2015/07/02/wow-raiding-done-for-wod/comment-page-1/#comment-5188

    • Telwyn says:

      We can maybe agree to disagree on this, I fundamentally dislike raiding in WoW. Regardless of the difficulty level it’s just too much happening on screen, too much movement and too many bosses with too many abilities to learn about. I always preferred 5 man content and was happy for that to be challenging – this has nothing to do with wanting easier group content per se. Blizzard decided during Mists that dungeons were no longer necessary and gave us LFR, but to be honest that’s my idea of hell – pugging not just one or two spots but 20+?

      I don’t care how easy it is to get into raiding now, I don’t want to do it. For 5+ years heroic dungeon runs with friends were a valid endgame for non-raiders. Sure Blizzard may prefer to make just raids and vary the difficulty but that doesn’t respond to complaints that dungeons actually are a different group content experience from raids in the first place.

      • Balkoth says:

        Telwyn:

        “Blizzard decided during Mists that dungeons were no longer necessary and gave us LFR, but to be honest that’s my idea of hell – pugging not just one or two spots but 20+?”

        What exactly is it that turns it into your idea of hell? Being in a group with 20+ other people? Being in a group with 20+ people who are strangers? Having to organize a group of 20+ people (normally if someone says “I have to PUG a bunch of spots they mean *they’re* leading the group but you might not mean that)?

        To be clear, I think LFR is hell because it’s a mindless bunch of strangers with no communication, no accountability, and usually at least a few assholes. But I think you might enjoy normal raids in WoW depending on exactly what it is you fear — hence my questions. And I don’t mean “fear” in a bad way — getting started with raiding in WoW can be insanely intimidating for number of reasons for people and WoW does not really provide good tools for new players in that regard.

        “For 5+ years heroic dungeon runs with friends were a valid endgame for non-raiders.”

        Would a 10 person group of friends in a raid bother you in a way that a 5 person group of friends in a dungeon would not?

        “Regardless of the difficulty level it’s just too much happening on screen, too much movement and too many bosses with too many abilities to learn about.”

        For what it’s worth, if you did heroic dungeons at launch in WoD then most normal raid bosses aren’t any worse than those — especially since with voice communication being used you have a raid leader who’s coordinating the fight as it’s going on, meaning you don’t have to memorize everything or something.

        I mean, maybe we will have to agree to disagree, but I’m willing to help you try a normal raid that I think would be a *much* better experience than your past experiences, going by some of the things you said.

        Tyler:

        “I don’t know of anyone who’s been asking for shorter WoW expansions.”

        See this: http://inanage.com/2015/07/08/wow-content-comparison/#comment-14899

        There’s a massive amount of people who would love expansions six months apart with constant dungeon/quest patches. They’re only playing for a month or two per patch as it is now.

        “There’s not even any guarantee that WoD’s dearth of content will prevent a long wait between expansions.”

        If Blizzard doesn’t deliver a new expansion within 8ish month’s of HFC’s release (so Q1 2016) then I will join you in decrying WoD.

        “Really the only people who benefit from shorter expansions are Blizzard and its investors.”

        It’s cheaper for regular subscribers (like me and presumably you). A month’s subscription *should* be $19 at this point, not $15, going by inflation.

        Paying $20 more for an expansion per year and $4 less per month is saving $28 a year. On the flip side, people who buy an expansion and then only subscribe for a month or two get hit harder. Assume we get an expansion every 12 months with a patch every 3 months.

        “Old” model…

        Regular Subscribers: $19 * 12 + $40 = $268 a year
        Sporadic Subscribers: $19 * 4 + $40 = $116 a year

        “New” model…

        Regular Subscribers: $15 * 12 + $60 = $240 a year
        Sporadic Subscribers: $15 * 4 + $60 = $120 a year

        And obviously people who literally only subscribe for 1-2 months at the start or end of an expansion get hit the hardest.

        “I’m not sure where you got the idea that people “hated” scenarios….Certainly there was never any shortage of people running them.”

        There was no shortage of people running them because they were much more efficient for Valor than heroic dungeons. By your logic people loved the dailies at the start of MoP because there was no shortage of people doing those either.

        If you looked at the General Discussion forum or Raids and Dungeons forum, you’d have seen quite a few complaints about people not liking them compared to dungeons. And Blizzard explicitly came out and said that people didn’t react well to them at some point, forget the exact quote. Basically, Blizzard thought they wound up working well as storytelling tools but not as “group” content at max level (based on player feedback).

        “Also, please provide a source for Blizzard intentionally scaling back on dungeons. I’ve not heard that.”

        Have you never seen Blizzard talk about dungeons and raids compete for things like art assets and that art assets are often the biggest limiter on those? That’s one of the whole reasons Blizzard introduced LFR — they were hoping it would basically replace needing to add new dungeons and instead they could add more raid content (or other content). Hell, if you think back to stuff like the “End Time” and “Well of Eternity” dungeons in Cata, those easily could have been raids. Well of Eternity WAS going to be a raid originally, in fact. So that’s the problem with making new dungeons.

        On the other hand…

        “GamesBeat: Has anything about the content in the Warlords expansion disappointed you?

        Hazzikostas: There are areas where we’ve seen slight declines, but we attribute that largely to a failure on our part to properly keep them incentivized and interesting.

        I think [five-player] dungeons is a great example of a shortcoming there. We created a bunch of new dungeons for Warlords of Draenor, but we didn’t really give much reason to keep running them after the initial weeks or couple of months of the expansion.

        In the past, you kept running Mists [of Pandaria] dungeons, which probably overstayed their welcome a little bit, but you kept running them for valor points [which you could exchange for gear] a year-plus into the expansion.

        We felt that was a little silly to keep running the same content as you got stronger and stronger and stronger, still getting that reward, which is why we removed something like valor points. But I think we went too far.”

        So yeah. They intentionally tried to avoid the BC/WotLK/Cata/MoP situation of running the same dungeons for over a year. They aren’t happy with the result, but it WAS a deliberate shift.

        “As for running dungeons for badges being “bad,” we’ll just have to fundamentally disagree, since that was the bread and butter of my endgame for most of WoW’s lifespan.”

        You’ll have to disagree with Blizzard too, then. Note that they said “We went too far” and not “It was the wrong direction to go.”

        “But I’m sure a lot more people did that and enjoyed it than raiding, which has always appealed to only a tiny minority of players.”

        Something like 20% of the playerbase has done normal raiding and last I heard barely half the playerbase was even max level. Which, being generous, would mean that there’s only twice as many max level players that DON’T raid compared to those who DO raid (and this isn’t counting LFR). Hardly a tiny minority.

        Meznir:

        “The storytelling in the levelling content was great – which made the lack thereafter even more disappointing.”

        I agree. I liked Cho as well and I thought 5.1 (with the Krasarang dailies/Divine Bell quest line) was excellent. I think a large problem is Blizzard is trying to figure out what to do for max level “solo” players. 5.1 was well received in general, but once people got through the main quest line in a month or whatever people had no reason to keep doing the dailies. They’re trying to figure out how to make extremely repeatable max level content that keeps people engaged over time (hell, right now you can get a full set of 695 gear from Apexis Crystals alone if you want)…which is hard to combine with new and interesting stories. And they can’t do “5.1, but even LONGER between new main quests” without making it feel like just dailies again.

        It’s definitely a problem Blizzard needs to solve…but raiding in WoW is better than ever. Leveling in WoW is better than ever. The sound and art are both excellent. I imagine you’d agree all those people give a damn. And you didn’t complain about PvP, so those guys are safe. Who’s left to fire?

    • I don’t know of anyone who’s been asking for shorter WoW expansions. What people want is no more year-long gaps with no new content, but shorter expansions is far from the only way to solve that, and it’s definitely the worst way. Paying more for less content is not what anyone wanted.

      There’s not even any guarantee that WoD’s dearth of content will prevent a long wait between expansions. We’re already in what is likely the last major patch — definitely the last raid tier — with no announcement of the next expansion. That announcement likely won’t come until BlizzCon in November, and even if beta started immediately after the announcement (unlikely), we’re still looking at roughly six months of beta before release.

      Really the only people who benefit from shorter expansions are Blizzard and its investors.

      I’m not sure where you got the idea that people “hated” scenarios. I know a lot of people disliked that they were used as a replacement for five-man content, but people mostly seemed to enjoy the scenarios themselves. Certainly there was never any shortage of people running them.

      Also, please provide a source for Blizzard intentionally scaling back on dungeons. I’ve not heard that. I did hear them state the exact opposite of that multiple times going in to WoD. They swore up and down that not offering any new five-man content in Pandaria’s patch cycle was a mistake and that they wanted to do better.

      As for running dungeons for badges being “bad,” we’ll just have to fundamentally disagree, since that was the bread and butter of my endgame for most of WoW’s lifespan. But I’m sure a lot more people did that and enjoyed it than raiding, which has always appealed to only a tiny minority of players. LFR has changed that somewhat, but then again most people wouldn’t consider LFR to truly be raiding.

      • Meznir says:

        Seconding Tyler’s comments here. That’s exactly how I feel about it – we’re getting less content for the highest priced Expac with a raise in sub fees (at least here anyway). Value for money has seriously plummeted.

        WoD has been a strange one for me. The storytelling in the levelling content was great – which made the lack thereafter even more disappointing. 6.1 was a joke – that doesn’t deserve to be labeled as a major patch when there was neither quest hub nor raid. Tanaan looks good on the surface, but at its heart it’s a repackaged timeless isle – and has very little storytelling (the Garrison Campaign additions are good – but there are only six parts I believe).

        I really miss scenarios, I miss dungeons having a point, I miss the AMAZING storytelling and animations of Mists (come back Lorewalker Cho – I’m sorry for shouting at you every time you wandered off before a boss fight!)

        This week’s Massively OP podcast (link below), about 10-15 min in really sums up my feelings well too. Bree hits the nail on the head when she says that they should “fire the staff and hire someone who gives a damn”. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but wow players like me are feeling seriously neglected and unvalued.

      • Balkoth says:

        Reposting part of previous comment as I misjudged the “blocks” slightly:

        Tyler:

        “I don’t know of anyone who’s been asking for shorter WoW expansions.”

        See this: http://inanage.com/2015/07/08/wow-content-comparison/#comment-14899

        There’s a massive amount of people who would love expansions six months apart with constant dungeon/quest patches. They’re only playing for a month or two per patch as it is now.

        “There’s not even any guarantee that WoD’s dearth of content will prevent a long wait between expansions.”

        If Blizzard doesn’t deliver a new expansion within 8ish month’s of HFC’s release (so Q1 2016) then I will join you in decrying WoD.

        “Really the only people who benefit from shorter expansions are Blizzard and its investors.”

        It’s cheaper for regular subscribers (like me and presumably you). A month’s subscription *should* be $19 at this point, not $15, going by inflation.

        Paying $20 more for an expansion per year and $4 less per month is saving $28 a year. On the flip side, people who buy an expansion and then only subscribe for a month or two get hit harder. Assume we get an expansion every 12 months with a patch every 3 months.

        “Old” model…

        Regular Subscribers: $19 * 12 + $40 = $268 a year
        Sporadic Subscribers: $19 * 4 + $40 = $116 a year

        “New” model…

        Regular Subscribers: $15 * 12 + $60 = $240 a year
        Sporadic Subscribers: $15 * 4 + $60 = $120 a year

        And obviously people who literally only subscribe for 1-2 months at the start or end of an expansion get hit the hardest.

        “I’m not sure where you got the idea that people “hated” scenarios….Certainly there was never any shortage of people running them.”

        There was no shortage of people running them because they were much more efficient for Valor than heroic dungeons. By your logic people loved the dailies at the start of MoP because there was no shortage of people doing those either.

        If you looked at the General Discussion forum or Raids and Dungeons forum, you’d have seen quite a few complaints about people not liking them compared to dungeons. And Blizzard explicitly came out and said that people didn’t react well to them at some point, forget the exact quote. Basically, Blizzard thought they wound up working well as storytelling tools but not as “group” content at max level (based on player feedback).

        “Also, please provide a source for Blizzard intentionally scaling back on dungeons. I’ve not heard that.”

        Have you never seen Blizzard talk about dungeons and raids compete for things like art assets and that art assets are often the biggest limiter on those? That’s one of the whole reasons Blizzard introduced LFR — they were hoping it would basically replace needing to add new dungeons and instead they could add more raid content (or other content). Hell, if you think back to stuff like the “End Time” and “Well of Eternity” dungeons in Cata, those easily could have been raids. Well of Eternity WAS going to be a raid originally, in fact. So that’s the problem with making new dungeons.

        On the other hand…

        “GamesBeat: Has anything about the content in the Warlords expansion disappointed you?

        Hazzikostas: There are areas where we’ve seen slight declines, but we attribute that largely to a failure on our part to properly keep them incentivized and interesting.

        I think [five-player] dungeons is a great example of a shortcoming there. We created a bunch of new dungeons for Warlords of Draenor, but we didn’t really give much reason to keep running them after the initial weeks or couple of months of the expansion.

        In the past, you kept running Mists [of Pandaria] dungeons, which probably overstayed their welcome a little bit, but you kept running them for valor points [which you could exchange for gear] a year-plus into the expansion.

        We felt that was a little silly to keep running the same content as you got stronger and stronger and stronger, still getting that reward, which is why we removed something like valor points. But I think we went too far.”

        So yeah. They intentionally tried to avoid the BC/WotLK/Cata/MoP situation of running the same dungeons for over a year. They aren’t happy with the result, but it WAS a deliberate shift.

        “As for running dungeons for badges being “bad,” we’ll just have to fundamentally disagree, since that was the bread and butter of my endgame for most of WoW’s lifespan.”

        You’ll have to disagree with Blizzard too, then. Note that they said “We went too far” and not “It was the wrong direction to go.”

        “But I’m sure a lot more people did that and enjoyed it than raiding, which has always appealed to only a tiny minority of players.”

        Something like 20% of the playerbase has done normal raiding and last I heard barely half the playerbase was even max level. Which, being generous, would mean that there’s only twice as many max level players that DON’T raid compared to those who DO raid (and this isn’t counting LFR). Hardly a tiny minority.

        Meznir:

        “The storytelling in the levelling content was great – which made the lack thereafter even more disappointing.”

        I agree. I liked Cho as well and I thought 5.1 (with the Krasarang dailies/Divine Bell quest line) was excellent. I think a large problem is Blizzard is trying to figure out what to do for max level “solo” players. 5.1 was well received in general, but once people got through the main quest line in a month or whatever people had no reason to keep doing the dailies. They’re trying to figure out how to make extremely repeatable max level content that keeps people engaged over time (hell, right now you can get a full set of 695 gear from Apexis Crystals alone if you want)…which is hard to combine with new and interesting stories. And they can’t do “5.1, but even LONGER between new main quests” without making it feel like just dailies again.

        It’s definitely a problem Blizzard needs to solve…but raiding in WoW is better than ever. Leveling in WoW is better than ever. The sound and art are both excellent. I imagine you’d agree all those people give a damn. And you didn’t complain about PvP, so those guys are safe. Who’s left to fire?

      • Did… did you just cite yourself as source?

      • Balkoth says:

        No, I linked to several paragraphs I wrote on the same subject you asked about. Would copy/pasting that content from that comment to this site have made you feel better?

        If you haven’t figured it out, the past few days have had me responding to these same topics across multiple sites and I’m tired of retyping the same stuff out. So I just link to *previous* stuff I wrote. But I can copy/paste if that offends you.

      • Balkoth says:

        I mean, hell, if you had *read* it you would have seen that I explicitly said I do not fall into that category of people.

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