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|
|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.