During this weeks downtime, good old Gnomeaggedon had a wonderful post, where he praised Blizzard’s communication skills. You know what the contraction for “good old” is, right? Go’ld!

He frequently has wonderful posts, he is pure go’ld, I’m just mentioning that one because it’s relevant to what I’m going to be talking about.

Oh, and Gnomer, you been threatening me with a rant against one of my PvP related posts for months now. Wassup? Bring it, shorty!

Ahem.

So yeah, Gnomer was very impressed with Blizzard’s communication skills during the recent downtime.

Since he was nice and considerate, that must mean I gotta be contrary and cranky, right?

Sure, Blizzard had some great communication. Well played.

But how about that communication the week before?

You know, the Twitter Developer Chat communication?

Yeah, THAT communication.

I’m very happy whenever Blizzard passes on information to us concerning their plans, and the intent behind them. Most companies restrict themselves to lawyer-approved press releases that are so sanitized you can’t see controversy in them unless you really twist your inner lens ALL out of focus.

Blizzard doesn’t do that. They talk to us. The developers as well as the community moderators. So please, keep in mind that when I do bitch, it’s with a healthy appreciation that at least we have some idea of what they’ve got going on.

I’d rather be told something I don’t like, and have it be the truth, than to be told nothing at all.

Moving on to the Twitter Developer Chat, the subject of class specific quests was brought up. Will Cataclysm have them?

The bare bones answer is, yes. There will be class quests at 20, and another at 50. Or something like that. This is good news, correct? There will be something for each class.

However, the value-added answer was that there will not be, and by implication never be, extensive class-specific quests because it is too expensive for the developers to program into the game.

Why is it considered too expensive? Let’s think about it for a moment.

The amount of time spent on quests for that one class could be better spent on quests that all classes could complete. The decision has to be made, create content all classes will see, or content only one class will see, using a certain finite amount of resources.

Or, to try and clarify Blizzard’s position for us, plucking numbers from thin air, if a programmer costs $30 an hour, it takes 1 hour to design a quest and implement the programming, and 100 hours of programming time ($3000) is budgeted for new quest content, then which is a more valuable use of that $3000? 100 quests for everyone, or 10 quests for each class?

That’s the position Blizzard holds. That it is too expensive in terms of allocated resources to program content exclusively for one class that nobody else will see.

In terms of project management and budget resource allocation, it’s very convincing logic. Especially when budgeting the resources required to completely revamp the existing Azerothian world experience.

In terms of the game design of an MMO, however, especially for an MMO with an extremely aging demographic, I don’t think it’s solid foreward planning.

In fact, I think it’s damn shortsighted.

My biggest objection to that logic? The concept, at this stage in the game, that content designed for only one character class will only be seen by a small segment of the players.

Are there still any players of over two years experience in this game that have created one character, and stuck to it, never experiencing anything else?

No. Most players play one main character, and then they start a new one for a new experience in the same game.

Having made that point, let’s back up a little. 

As a developer, you have a decision to make.

Allocate resources to either attract new customers, or allocate them to retain existing customers.

Or both.

I think Cataclysm is a brilliant plan for accomplishing both.

Existing customers get brand new leveling experiences within a familiar setting. I personally think that there is a lot of evidence that people LOVE being surrounded by familiar settings with a fresh new little tweak.

Anyone else love long series of books, TV shows or movies, where the scenery may change, and the plot may be different, but the major characters and genre stay the same?

No, I didn’t think so. Oh no, once an episode or book comes out, there’s never a demand for a sequal.

For existing customers, Cataclysm lets us continue to play in a world with familiar rules, settings, and structure… but the rules are just a little different now, and the places are a little changed now, and the quests are a little different now, and even the locations where Herbs and Ore spawn will be a little different now. And you can fly!

Small adjustments, but overall a comfortable feeling of being at home. It’s just like having a new couch and loveseat, and a 44″ HDTV added to the experience.

For brand new customers, the advertising will entice them by saying, “You never tried WoW before, because you were worried that everyone else already knew everything, and you’d be the noob. But now’s your chance to get in at the beginning, and learn the World of Warcraft alongside everyone else. The rules are new, the world is fresh, and there are brand new races and starting areas to try. There has never been a better opportunity to explore World of Warcraft all over again… for the very first time.”

Okay, so Cataclysm brings something for both existing and new customers.

For the existing customers, though… we’ve all been here before. I for one feel like I can predict the future based on past experiences.

Right now I have every character slot filled. I have had for months.

If I want to experience the new leveling world, there are three possibilities for me;

  1. I delete existing characters I love.
  2. I start up fresh on a new server.
  3. Blizzard lets us have more character slots per server.

What if all my friends are on my server? Then if Blizzard doesn’t open up more character slots, somebody has to get the axe.

If the game was only a year old, or even two years old, that wouldn’t be such an unreasonable expectation. Right?

But as a long term customer of over four years, I don’t think I’m unusual in having almost every slot filled with a character I like, and in which I have invested my time to develop, train and bond with. .

Does that sound super geeky? Bonding with a character in a video game? Of course it does. Anyone that doesn’t share certain geeky video game role playing characteristics with me is even now firing up the comment page to scream “It’s just a video game, get a grip!”

That’s fine, you don’t get it, and perhaps that means you represent the sane point of view.

I can only say that when I look at my level 73 Shadow Priest with maxed Jewelcrafting and Tailoring, I know that I may not feel like playing the character because I don’t currently enjoy her playstyle, but I have too many memories tied up in playing that character with friends. Great times with Legatum Ignavis in Karazhan, uber time spent PvPing in Alterac Valley with my wife to get the awesome PvP epic gavel (which she still carries), even time spent training Jewelcrafting that I just don’t want to lose by deleting her, even though I don’t intend playing her any time soon.

To paraphrase Roy Batty, “All those moments would be lost in time… like tears in the rain.”

Cut down to it,  if I want to hang with all my friends, and they don’t feel like server changing, then I have to kill a long time friend. Digital or not, it’s not cool. I’d much prefer to allow the character to remain, perhaps not logged in by me, but I can imagine at the loading screen that my Priest is out there in Azeroth, somewhere, sipping ale at the Pink Pigtail Inn and sharing stories of Mind Flaying some poor Rogue in Alterac Valley back in the day. Just waiting in pleasant retirement until the day her old friend wants to melt faces once again.

So, technically, limited replay value in the leveling experience, yes? Us oldtimers don’t have tons of empty slots to fill up.

But that’s okay, let’s move past that and assume that most people will eventually fire up a character on another server to experience the changed world. Or delete people. OR, perhaps they’ll take their max level characters and go questing the old world from scratch. Hopefully, all quests will be reset so you can do it all over again from the beginning.

So you do that on one character. Leveling or questing content from 1 to 60.

And then you do it a second time.

What have we learned from 5 years of playing?

Doing the same quests on different characters year after year gets damn old.

We play multiple characters in the hopes of experiencing something new.

And you tell us that content for one class is too expensive because it wouldn’t be seen by enough people? REALLY?

Sure, if all you’re looking at is the next three months, you might be right. Are we really planning on the game only lasting three more months?

Inevitably you want to see the experience from the other faction. Why? Is it because they’ve got better classes? Not anymore. Is it because they’ve got races you like better than the ones you first picked? Probably not, what races you went with first are the ones you liked best. Except for folks that like the brand new races, and none of the others on that faction.

So why?

It’s to see new quests. To take part in new storylines. To experience something new and fresh.

Well, if there are no class specific quests or content, I mean real class content different from the rest, then what you have is playing a different class through the same old thing you’ve already seen five, ten, fifteen times.

If each class had it’s own rich content at some point, or a little thread that wound it’s way through all the levels that had some good story to it, that would to me add something special for the long term player. Something new that playing that class brought besides a new way to trigger a ranged or melee attack.

I’m not thinking of the next year. I’m not even thinking of the next two years. I’m thinking of where we are now, and how short sighted it feels to hear a developer say that class specific content is too expensive for the return on investment.

When World of Warcraft was originally being developed, going headfirst against Everquest II, they invested in their plan. They couldn’t know how it would turn out, so they brought their ‘A’ game and did the best they could to anticipate what would really attract and retain customers long term.

None of the magazines or news agencies at the time considered WoW to be the big thing that would dominate the world. Everquest II was regularly reported to be the stronger contender for next gen MMO, simply because of the experience and popularity of EQ1.

During that initial development, clearly somebody over at Blizzard thought about differentiating the class gameplay experience in ways other than just stats and playstyle.

Somebody clearly thought that investing resources into making each class leveling experience have something special, something new. Some reason to draw you into the 1 to 60 game all over again, and extend your subscription that bit longer.

They invested at that time in class specific content. Special quest chains to unlock class defining abilities. Rogue quest areas and Ravenholdt. Warrior chains for kick ass weapons. Level 50 class quests for items out of Sunken Temple.

It really does feel like one person had that vision, but spent more time with one class than another. Different classes have content implemented at different levels. In some cases, all the class chains consist of are “go here and do this” to get an item that would have been a decent upgrade. Others have big epic feeling chains that bring special mounts. Even the Hunter class had the raiding gear chain that brought the bow and quiver of awesomeness.

It doesn’t feel like the attention to the classes was balanced, but more like one person had a vision… and then in mid stream had their attention shifted, or their resources pulled, and nobody left shares that same vision going forward.

It’s too bad. I know that, having done it already, I don’t personally look forward to questing through everything for the third time and saying, “What now?”, knowing that the plan is for all classes to get the same basic experience.

When it comes to investing resources in improving the replay value of World of Warcraft, a game meant to be a subscription based long-term gaming experience… I just don’t agree with the idea that class specific content is “too expensive”.

Really, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather they had the opposite opinion; that investing in long term replayability at all levels of content be something they make a high priority.

I know that Blizzard has done a fantastic job on the Cataclysm content. I’ve seen the screenshots, I’ve read a few of the beta reports, and by all indications, one thing you cannot accuse Blizzard of is being cheap on developing new content or redesigning the game.

I guess what it boils down to is my objection to the game design philosophy lurking behind such statements. If you’re going to be a subscription based game, you’ve got to be keeping your eye on things that will improve replayability, and keep your customers in it for the long term.

Saying class specific content is “too expensive” feels, to me, to be back-asswards to that concept.

15 Responses to “Flipping positions!”
  1. Shintar says:

    I can only say: I agree completely!

    Also about wanting more character slots. I was relieved when they said in an interview recently that they are at least considering it.

  2. Kit says:

    Re: more character slots – Blizzard won’t do it until they give up on Recruit-A-Friend as a way for you to stay on your home server but have more than 10 characters. Double your slots, and a nifty rocket ride too! And all for less than a Sparkle Pony (a month). Cynical? Maybe. . .

  3. Athenrein says:

    I agree too! I’m only on my second class – my warlock hit 50 recently, and I got super excited when I got the warlock quests from the funny little imp in Felwood. Just a couple evenings ago I did the swift flight form quest line, which was also pretty amazing. It feels really special to know that my class is the only one that can summon Anzu. It’s a neat little reward for playing a class I love. I adored healing the sickly gazelles in the Barrens too. And all the warlock demon quests.

    Quests that lead to new abilities are really cool. I think they really help connect the player with the class and with their character specifically. They’re brilliant for us people with little RP tendencies.

  4. Graimerin says:

    Some of my fondest memories of playing early WoW way back when Azeroth was all the land mass we new of, I enjoyed having quest the pertained to my chosen character. At that time a Paladin, who was sent away from safe quiet Human area I knew for the fabulous weapon fit for a Paladin. This was about 5 years ago when I knew nothing of any outside sources for the game and remember fondly wondering what could it be. I was playing as prot and was hoping for a shield. I got through everything and collected and fond stuff in two instances and at that time a Ogre mound that was full of elites. I received a wonderful 2 handed mace that stayed with me for a very long time only being destroyed (sold to vendor) when bank space was a a premium. For me at a time when raiding wasn’t even something I knew about. That quest chain taught me about grouping, the size of Azeroth, instancing or to me the foundation and basics of the game.

    I find it sad when things that made WoW stand out for me must be shuttled out of the way based on cost benefit formula. I’m sure that Cat will be amazing in many many ways but maybe Blizz dropped the ball by not letting us see all the wonderful changes that could have happened to characterization by not giving us class specific quest.

  5. Kriyet says:

    BBB, I’m of the same mind.

    One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about trying new characters is seeing their class quests as they get new skills – druid & shaman particularly. I love the added dimension to my character that they have undergone a trial that enriches them in their class. Having a level 80 druid, I’ll probably never bother again to do my druid class quests instead of training my form changes, but I think a new player who misses those chains misses out on development of their toon.

    I particularly missed this in Wrath, where levelling a 2nd, then 3rd toon through Northrend has become nothing but a grind. I was hopeful we’d see more of these introduced in Cataclysm, and the announcement that higher-level class-specific quests were not on the boards was disappointing.

    I understand the argument about the labour involved, and think you’re right, the developers are backwards. Class-specific quests aren’t expensive! They are a cheap way to give a whole new game experience to old players. Way cheaper than say…redesigning whole zones for example? My only hope is that perhaps Blizz will rethink this after Cataclysm ships and patch us some 80+ class-specific quests.

    I can dream….

  6. kawikak says:

    I know this is technically nearly impossible, but I’d be nice if you logged onto a “login” server that stored your characters, and from there you’d chose which realm you wanted to play on instead of having the characters “housed” on one semi-permanent realm. I guess that’d kinda overly-dissolve the whole community experience for a lot of people, but I have to wonder if that’s what blizz is planning by rolling out the real ID feature so that you could see which realms your friends are on, and go there to play with them. I mean the only reason we aren’t all on one single realm is due to computing/networking limitations right? That and the fact that things like the auction house and trade chat would be way too overloaded to even use. I wonder how they came up with the “acceptable/playable” populations for each realm.

  7. Taeraresh says:

    I’m still working my way though the demon-finding quests on my level 53 ‘lock, and having a great time with them. It makes me kind of sad that there won’t be that uniqueness for different classes in Cataclysm.

  8. Lara says:

    Maybe it’s different for you, but I think there’s a fourth option to add to your list of Three Solutions for a Full Server: Transferring somebody to another server. That’s how I got the one free space I have left now on my home server. I couldn’t bear to actually delete anybody, and I sure wasn’t about to start over from scratch. I moved someone to a server where I already have a couple of friends—loaded her up with some heirloom gear and a bit of spending money, and off she went.

    I’d really love it if we could get an extra slot or two, even if it meant you had to choose one particular server to get the extra slot(s), and maybe even if it cost a bit of real cash. (Though, of course, I’d rather not have to pay extra for it!) Still, I’m more than a little bit skeptical that Blizzard would ever do this for us. :(

  9. Rob says:

    Only the lock has so many class-unique quests, truely a major point of the class. I agree w/ B3, doing the same quest gets boring. In that regard, wraith was pretty fail because many of the quests in NR were identical to H and A (having done both). I would say 80% are same, 20% unique. Couple that with 4-5 hours per level, going full tilt w rested xp and 20% xp bonus, makes the game pretty boring and tedious at that stage.

    I think at this point I’ve played all the races starter zones. I played the vast majority of the classes and got their unique quests. Would more unique quests make me want to level more? Absolutely. I would love to have a class quest every 10 levels with a nice blue, just to keep up, because (and this will change), while leveling it is damn hard to get decent gear by questing alone.

  10. bigbearbutt says:

    Brokentree, I agree with you, and I’d probably add to your point that Loremaster achieve also probably skews the data to look as though there are enough undone quests for all classes that class-specific aren’t needed.

    Shintar… you said what i wanted to say, with far more eloquence. Well done, and welcome to my feedreader. :)

    Kit, you’ve got a very good point. I don’t think it’s cynical, after all… I thought about that rocketmount too.

    Athenrein, yay for Anzu!!!!!

    Graimerin, I know JUST what you mean, that warrior quest agasint the whirlwind, and the warrior quest for learning Berserker were both, without heirlooms the first time I did them, lasting memories. And the Druid quests to learn Bear form! I still think that was awesome when done right at level. And the long quest to learn swim form! Those memories last, for me, lots longer than doing Westfall again.

    Oops, I gotta go, but I also wanted to add, Lara… you’re right. A server transfer is a good option, IF you’re willing to split time between two servers and have the money, or just want to know that character is parked somewhere if you want them back someday. Good point!

  11. angry anon says:

    too expensive…

    yep that’s the point of ALL of this crap from our paid developer company lately – Blizzard/Actievil realizes that Wow is probably in it’s last death rattle.
    Yeah sure they still make a ton of money… but not like they did in the past.

    So translation of corp-speak to english – “too expensive” means “Gee we can’t invest even miniscule resources to a legacy aging game that may not last much longer”

    Here is the thing that chaps my leggins. How much developer time is Blizz spending on “social networking” integration? Oh yeah that’s a GOOD QUESTION!
    You see I am paying for a service. I give Blizzard money and they entertain me. I REALLY REALLY DONT LIKE BLIZZ SPENDING DEVELOPER MONEY THAT I GAVE THEM TO MAKE AN ENTERTAINING GAME… AND USE IT TO MARKET TO ME.

    IT’S LIKE PAYING FOR CABLE AND HAVING THE CABLE CO SENDING ME A SURVEY EVERY WEEK!!! I just can’t stand this. FACEBOOK is FREE they can do whatever they like cause no one is paying them. Blizz is a different story. They ARE being paid and they want to play it both ways. They want the subscriber revenue stream AND the marketing database to sell data out of. Gee guys I don’t think so… I pay you to give me content… you don’t do content… I DONT PAY!

    Net Net of this is.. Blizzard is admiting to the entire player base that Star Wars: The Old Republic WILL KICK THEIR ASSETS when it ships in 2011…

    THIS is why Blizz is shipping an incomplete Cataclysm
    THIS is why Blizz is shipping the expansion in 2010 come Twisting Nether or Highwater
    THIS is why Blizz is doing the stupid “facecraft” II in space
    THIS is why Blizz is saying “too expensive” and we put B Team Mr Ghostcrawler on point to produce Wow expansions
    THIS is why we were “forced” to switch to Battle.net ids
    THIS is why we get these stupid Real ID debacles

    We just have to get our heads wrapped around the fact that… it’s 2005 again and we are playing Everquest II hoping that this Wow thing takes off… because ughh EQ2 just jumped the shark BIG TIME with this /pizza thing and I can’t stand a company messin with my killing dragons time.

    Isn’t that the great thing about free markets??? WE WILL HAVE CHOICES FOR OUR ENTERTAINMENT DOLLAR… In fact it’s the looming Wow-killer that has Actievil all in a tizzy about “expediting revenue capture”.

  12. Russ says:

    Well-said, BBB.

    After spending a year progressing through the raids in WotLK, and then taking a break, I’ve been spending most of my time in-game as “me-time” with my druid. I’ve done a lot of PvP, which brings me closer to my class. I’ve changed my soloing/questing/farming playstyle. I’ve finally completed “Vanquish the Raven God” and the druid questline. I’m working on fun and different achievements. I’m soloing old content. I’m more in love with my feral druid than ever.

    As I completed “Vanquish the Raven God” and got my Swift Flight Form feat of strength (LOL!), further class quests in Cataclysm were high in my mind. The druid questline made me feel special, and I like that.

    This won’t be a “rail against Blizz” comment; because others have said it better in previous comments, and like I said, this was a very good article. It’s just to express that I really enjoyed the druid questline, and I wish that there were more to come.

    That being said, class-specific quests add to both the epic and personal/individual feel of the game. As you stated, they also add to the uniqueness of the experience when playing multiple characters. If Blizzard wants to retain subscribers during the lean months, it seems to me that developing class-specific questlines makes good business sense after all (no math involved, just common sense as I see it).

    Thanks again for the article, BBB!

  13. Pazi says:

    TL;DR: BBB, unfortunately you don’t represent the majority of the player-base. Blizzard doesn’t want to waste money for quests that only a few (players) would do, because most players today are lazy.

    I don’t think it’s all about the costs.

    Back in the days players were actually trying to play the game, enduring all the obstacles.
    I did the paladin-charger-quest on my first paladin (alliance), at level 60, with friends that gained nothing from it but helping a friend (I didn’t do it with my other two paladins (horde) because I got the charger for far less gold and I already did the quest once). I did the druid-swift-flightform-quest (twice, on alliance and horde, at level 70, one back then and one a few weeks ago, because I didn’t want to wait until lvl75) as well as all the other druid-quests. Right now I level my last open class, a warlock, and he will do his pony-on-fire-quest at level 60 because I never did it before, although he runs around with it for 18 levels now. To be honest, I hated the shamans totem-quests at early levels, but I sticked to it the third time I tried to level one. I think I did all the class-quest with the exception of the priest-lvl60-quest (stratholm if I remember right) and those that would be started in MC (I did the hunter-bow-quest). I have a Lore-Master (Hunter) on alliance-side, I stopped playing all of my alliance-toons because I’m experiencing the horde-side now, which isn’t so much different after level ~35, unfortunately.
    With other words, I don’t consider raiding to be the only goal in this game (I have a KingsSlayer (Tank), and another CloseButNotThisTimeKingsSlayer (Healer)).

    Were was I? Ah, endurance. You know how many fresh lvl80-paladins don’t have the spell “Redemption” (for those that don’t know, it’s used to revive other players)? It’s a quest you get in the starting-zone (lvl12ish), from the paladin-teacher. YOU CAN’T MISS IT. And yet in the last month I met 3 paladins that said they don’t have that spell, and worse, they didn’t have a clue from where to get it. They knew that other paladins can revive and still they didn’t bother to find out how to get that spell (for over 60 levels) – I had to explain it to them and I bet two of them still didn’t bother to do the quest because why the heck would they want to spend time on something that doesn’t help THEM.

    Blizzard doesn’t bother with class-quests, because players today are lazy, shortsighted, selfish and greedy (that roll need on any item because they “need” the gold).
    Those players …
    would rather quit the game
    then use their brain.
    All Blizzard wants is their money, as long as possible. They will water down any difficulty to Farmville-level.

  14. Shaldran says:

    So…very…true. I really hope people at Blizz take some time to read this and similar posts about the subject. Cause the selling point (for developer) is not too obvious when you first think of it. But now having read this it would seem to make a lot of sense to invest on class-spesific quests – and it does!

    For me the class-spesific quests etched out the class and character in a unique way. Partly -because- of these quests some classes felt more interesting, unique and fun-to-play-with. Classes with very few or very generic, uninteresting class quests were much less interesting lore-wise…and for this or other reasons I actually ended up playing them much less.

  15. Sarabian says:

    I think “angry anon” forgot his pill this morning. And yesterday morning.

    I may just be living with my head in the sand, but I am seeing a whole lot of win coming from Blizzard lately. They redesigned the whole world!

    Class quests? Oh, hell yes that would rock. I have one of every class except priest, and I’d be tempted to reroll several of them just to see the quests and go thru the spiffy new content. I would love that. I was all happy when I did my paladin epic mount quest. Happy when I helped a friend do their warlock epic mount quest. That stuff is fun. Players now are just lazy. They want everything handed to them without having to work for it.

    I don’t see Cataclysm as “incomplete”. How can I as it ISN’T OUT YET AND IS STILL BEING WORKED ON!!!!!!! How can you bitch about something sucking and not being complete when it’s still months from release and evolving constantly?

    Pazi got it right. Players being “lazy, shortsighted, selfish and greedy” hits the nail on the head. I long for the old days when you had to work for the good stuff, and strut around in the gear because so few people had it.

    -Sarabian a.k.a. “Grumpy Old Bastard”

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