Before Blizzard announced that they would be revealing the Warlords of Draenor launch date next week, they were already dropping hints the end of our wait was nigh. Last week, Art Director Chris Robinson tweeted that the updated Blood Elf models would not be included in Warlords at release. Reaction has ranged from disappointed comprehension to criticism of Blizzard’s development strategies and worse.
At first glance this appears damning to Blizzard as this delay, plus the announcement that the max-level Tanaan Jungle zone would be held for a future content patch, suggests that they have been so behind on development that they are bailing on features in the interest of getting the expansion out soon. Yet the Blood Elves were never promised for launch, and the Tanaan decision was allegedly made before Blizzcon. What is of import here is that as we are now discussing content for future releases, Blizzard is, as Robinson noted in his tweet, “near the end of development.” We do not have to concern ourselves with these zones and models because very soon, we will have all the other zones and models at our disposal to keep us occupied. There is still fine tuning and testing to be done on the beta, but with development closing, another milestone can be checked off and Warlords is that much closer to live.
But there is even more good news to glean from these announcements. Blizzard is a terrible arbiter of their own content. Throughout Mists of Pandaria, they released content too much too fast, and then it was consumed by the players too quickly. Blizzard could continue this trend and give us Tanaan at launch, and it would be another zone for players to get burned out on within the first few months of the expansion. If Blizzard has already decided that Tanaan, and Farahlon, and the ogre continent, will be content updates, then they are hopefully planning out the schedule for when they expect these to be released and how that schedule will align with the following expansion’s development. The faster Blizzard gives us content, the quicker players exhaust it, and exhaust of it.
Mists of Pandaria was masterful at serving an entire expansion in under a year, but we are only now beginning to see the end of the resulting content drought. Rather than get Tanaan at launch, Blizzard can use that content to stave off boredom later in the release cycle. Moreover, this does not preclude them from adding further islands to the geography around Draenor, just as the the Isle of Giants and the Timeless Isle appeared around Pandaria only once they were playable. For comparison’s sake, Tanaan and Farahlon are akin to the unidentified Isle of Thunder and the space in Krasarang Wilds that was intended for the faction content in 5.1. With Mists, Blizzard appears to have been thinking at most two patches ahead regarding future content. For Warlords, we may well have at least three patches before Blizzard needs to begin inventing new locales.
While it would be nice for Blizzard to have everything ready at launch, this is ultimately best for the players. While the hope is that Blizzard will stagger the content to prevent another drought, the reality is that players themselves have the power to do so. Knowing full well that we would spend several months playing 5.4, I still have not killed Garrosh (even on raid finder), as I have no desire to run that fight into the ground. I have been taking my time by working on alts, completing long neglected achievements, and focusing on other content like earning my noodle cart. There is enough content in Mists of Pandaria to justify an active subscription for two years. The problem is that it is too easy to blame Blizzard for front loading all the patch content and then leaving nothing.
The only content in Mists that needed to be completed when it was released was the patch 5.3 quests in the Barrens, as those were removed in 5.4 Everything else is still there, ready for a player to tackle whenever they are ready. Blizzard is like a cafeteria that put out breakfast, lunch, and dinner all before noon, while we gorged on all three meals by noon and were left to starve overnight. This is World of Warcraft’s fifth expansion. We know how this process goes. And while it is disappointing that Warlords has taken so long, it is not surprising. Yet we gorged on the content and have starved all year.
The worst part of playing WoW in 2014 has not been the lack of content – it has been listening to the fanbase complain about the lack of content (and I know I am guilty of that) and chastise Blizzard for disappointing decisions that are standard for a game still in development. As much as I like to point out what has changed regarding Warlords since the original announcement, Mists underwent the same experience — the original map for Pandaria only had five zones! (In that light, Ghostcrawler’s infamous “further along” tweet actually makes sense. The Draenor map is one of the few aspects of Warlords mentioned at Blizzcon that has not suffered a significant change.)
I hope that the lessons of Mists carry over to Warlords. I hope that more players take their time leveling and proceeding leisurely through the max level content. I hope that Blizzard sits on patch content for an extra week or two to pad their schedule. I hope that even more content than what we know about is in development for the future. I hope that the following expansion is already well under development. One thing I do not hope is that Warlords is an amazing expansion – I know it will be. As development begins to draw to a close, we are starting to see that Blizzard knew what they were doing all along. And as it has been since September, all we have to do is wait.
As mentioned, the Warlords cinematic and launch date are going to be unveiled Thursday, 8/14. For the record, I’m calling for Patch 6.0 on 9/16 and Warlords on 10/28. I am fully prepared to be wrong on both these predictions. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/15053035/
The Alliance Chopper will be available in game for “a pretty hefty sum of gold.” I don’t think it would have changed the outcome, but Blizzard should have just said that one faction will get the bike free and the other will pay for it when this whole thing started, because despite their proclamations, we all knew this was where we’d end up. Maybe the Warlords trailer will hinge around the question, “Who do they think they’re fooling?” http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/15053028/the-alliance-chopper-is-riding-into-azeroth-8-1-2014
Garrison guards can be changed to other Horde/Alliance races provided you are exalted with them. Now I have the Ambassador title AND I get my choice of guards! Sweet!!! http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/08/03/warlords-of-draenor-change-your-guards-with-exalted-reputation/
Blizzard has a dedicated site for their appearance at Gamescom. Danke, Schneesturm!!! http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/events/gamescom-2014.html
New Artcraft on the different faces that will be added to the new models before launch. They should just default all faces to disappointed, since that’s what most players seem like they are expecting to feel when they finally get to play Warlords. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/15029247/artcraft-updated-facial-customization-7-30-2014