Monday, June 14, 2010

Promises Unfulfilled.

WARNING: This post may bore you, or you may be completely uninterested in the topic. I suggest that you read it to better understand the way games are made and developed, and why developers can never please all players. If you still don't want to read it then piss off, hoser.

There are three kinds of FFXI players, ones that don't follow anything about FFXI and just play the game, ones that follow all information about FFXI but nothing about other MMO's, and ones that follow all information about FFXI and also keep abreast of other MMO's. The first group are pretty insular, so they probably don't even read this blog. The second group might read this blog, and I think this post might still be interesting to them. The third group will love this post. This post is about a recent series of announcements made by Blizzard about WoW. Just let me explain.

Over the past weekend Blizzard made some major announcements regard it's newest expansion (which I might have mentioned before has some striking similarities with Wings of the Goddess), and for the most part these announcements weren't very good. Now, I don't play WoW very much, but I play it enough to be abreast of changes to the game. To a WoW player many of the announcements for this new expansion were orgasmic. To a non-WoW player, the reactions seemed really familiar. There were to be limited expansion areas, but mostly redone but still recycled older areas. The level cap was to be raised again, but no new talents were to be added. There was to be an "alternative advancement" system akin to merits. There was going to be a new crafting system which wasn't a new crafting type just a sub-crafting system (synergy anyone?). There was also to be "Guild leveling" where in your guild gets points for doing guild type events that can then be spent to get bonuses for the entire guild.

As I said, most WoW players were in love with this new expansion, but someone looking from the outside might wonder what they were so excited about compared to what they have gotten in the past. I could go over everything that was to be added but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that over the weekend, they announced that they were scrapping or substantially cutting down a whole lot of what they were planning on doing. They are keeping all of the game world changes, but a majority of the character customization is being cut out or replaced with a much less expansive system. Many of the frills that were supposed to come with the expansion are now gone. This needs to be considered with the fact that outside of the pretty radical reorganization of the game world.

Why does this matter to FFXI? Well, it has a lot to do with the comparison for how Blizzard deals with their players versus how SE deal with FFXI players. SE has definitely made promises to players about content in the past and failed to deliver. The Colosseum is famous as being one of those things that SE wanted to give to players but eventually gave up. The latest round of Summons that took over two years to deliver is a case where they might have promised something far before they were ready to deliver it. The saving grace for SE is that these were marginal goals. The Colosseum was supposed to be a kind of PvP system, which is not all that interesting to most FFXI players. Summons are something that SMNs care about patiently but it doesn't effect over all game content. Blizzard made promises to add several large game systems and has now had to back down on those promises.

Blizzard is famously known for their commitment to quality, often quoted as saying that they will not released content until it is ready to be released. Usually that has meant that it would take longer than expected to get content out the door, but it appears in this case that it means that they are ditching new content. I don't think this speaks well to the planning that is going on at Blizzard. When SE announced the level cap increase for FFXI they also mentioned that a new merit system was going to be coming with it at the end. While this may take some time, I do not believe that it is even an option for SE to cancel this content at anytime. Blizzard currently has very little and limited alternative advancement. Yes, they do have a system that is baked into the game, but that system is very cookie-cutter. There is a "best" allocation, and it has limited flexibility. In SE, for one job the same could be said, but as players can level multiple jobs there can be much more variation in how players choose to allocate merits.

From someone looking from the outside in, I would not appreciate SE dumping their new merit system. I would not like it if SE bagged other major promises. A lot of WoW players don't even know that other MMO's exist, so I have to wonder what they think about these things. Is there a problem with setting your target too high then not delivering? Blizzard used their standard response when talking about dropping their new "merit" system. They didn't want to rush out something that wasn't "fun", they didn't want to have to fix something later just to have it out now, and no they were not cutting it so they had to rush out their new expansion. But I have to ask if the lady doth protest too much... It sounded like everything that was announced this weekend was a scrap or a toning down of previous plans. At least SE didn't lie to us about moving their FFXI people over to FFXIV, but Blizzard assures us that they are not moving people over to their new MMO. How could that even be possible? They have to be moving some people over out of realistic necessity. Even Blizzard doesn't have infinite resources.

With all of Blizzard's chopping and scrapping it seems that they are begging off an awful lot. I have to wonder if this is the first big blunder that Blizzard has made? SE has made a lot of blunders, but right now there isn't as much space for Blizzard to make mistakes. Around the launch of Cataclysm (the new WoW expansion) there will be several other MMO's cropping up. With all these new changes to remove the things that were supposed to be added, I have to wonder what the WoW players think they are getting besides some new versions of things they already have?

Maybe it is just the right time to be playing FFXI. We are getting a real level cap increase, we are getting a whole new end-game, new relic-style weapons, Magians, new HNM, end-game content, and a refocused development team. WoW seems like it is going in the opposite direction.

1 comment:

mika said...

Very interesting post, quit WoW and sold Account some Month ago but still keep reading about it from MMO-champion.
And after reading the blue posts about the Path of the titans, archeology and guild level i was just laughing and thought " good decision to sell Account wont miss it". They scratched everything that was interesting and sort of cool. Now its just a half assed Update like most of them.
They wont loose players because of this because most players just care about the Raids and they look pretty solid on the new expansion. Also when Lich Ling was a wuss to fight xD.