Midst the flood of news recently came a little woolgathering from Ghostcrawler, as he told Digital Spy that they would like to put expansions out more frequently, and as often as once a year or so “would be a good rate”.

I noticed he didn’t say they were going to put them out once a year, or commit to doing them once a year. He only said that they know new expansions bring more people back than a content patch, and they’d like to do them more often.

“We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.” - Ghostcrawler.

I’m not seeing a promise to put out a new expansion every year, although I have seen folks rephrase it as though this is the new moose. Will we see people yelling at Blizzard years in the future, “But you promised you’d put out a new expansion each year!”

Undoubtedly. Reading comprehension is a fading skill.

But so what? What IS an expansion, anyway?

How does a new expansion differ from a content patch?

To me, an expansion is an entire story arc coupled with new technology upgrades, added mechanics and features.

The story arc is the part I love the most, but the technology upgrades probably have the most impact on my everyday gameplay.

I do not expect the same updates or upgrades to the engine each expansion, or the same bumps in character capability. I just expect that there be some improvements to the software, some technology upgrades, some under-the-hood tinkering.

So, like with Warlords of Draenor. I am hearing people complain and saying how disappointed they are that there aren’t new classes or races announced. “It’s not an expansion without at least one new class or race.”

I can see why you could think that. Burning Crusade brought Blood Elves and Draenei, Wrath of the Lich King brought Death Knights, Cataclysm brought Worgen and Goblins, Mists of Pandaria gave us Monks and Pandaren.

It’s a fair point to make.

I don’t personally subscribe to the belief that what was done once must be done always, until the end of days, world without end amen. So they’re not doing a new class or race this time. Okay.

They ARE, however, committed to updating the character models and animations of every single race out there, and I have heard it said they are adding more hair styles and color options.

I don’t have this mythical new class or race, but what I do have are eleven full character slots on my main server, with five character at max level and more on the way, each and every one of whom could benefit from looking prettier.

New Garrisons. New world PVP. New elite PVP modes for those who want the PVP version of Challenge Modes, skill instead of gear. Item Squishes, gear that changes primary stats based on your current specialization, Heirlooms on a UI and out of the bags, Garrisons, more class levels and new class talents.

Yes, this upcoming expansion is bringing tech and mechanic improvements. So to me, that checkbox is filled.

And we’re getting a new story arc. Warlords of Draenor. Going to old Draenor and taking the fight to the Horde… before they were a Horde, and before they ever did anything to us. So, basically, we’re getting our revenge in first. Preemptive Revenge.

So, if we invade Draenor and kick all kinds of snot out of the Orc tribes, in the years to come will they nurse their anger and thirst for revenge against us? After all, Han Shot First and all that.

What I personally want to see is the part of the story arc after the initial rush. That first content patch after the expansion has been out for three months, when we’ve killed most of the male Orc tribal leaders… and their wives seize control of the clans, swear vengeance and set out to make us pay.

Then we can have a great slog in the mud as everything gets all twisted. The Orcs were manipulated into attacking their former friends, the Draenei. But they didn’t drink Mannoroth’s blood, they still possess free will, and here came these invaders from another world who tore into the Iron Horde and slaughtered their leaders before they had the chance to make their own decision to turn back to the path of justice.

The Iron Horde are not inherently evil, they cannot be, for they are the living parents of our own Orc peoples.

So what happens when we get ours in first, and they respond to that? When they rise to this unexpected challenge? When the Warlords that were duped fall and new leaders rise in their place, leaders that may not have fully bought into this whole “let’s go kill the Draenei and wear their skins as clothes” bullshit, but sure as HELL aren’t going to let us just waltz in and kill their families.

It’s going to be interesting as all hell. Where will it go? Where will it end? Blood feuds will come from this. And what of the Orcs of our Azeroth, going back to fight their own ancestors, once lost to them?

This isn’t that long ago, what of Orcs facing otherworld versions of themselves…

Will the Orcs of the Iron Horde think of themselves as the superior race because they did NOT weaken themselves by drinking the blood of a demon? A master race?

Will they be a people capable of both atrocity and compassion, or cardboard cutouts? Are we looking at Orc Socialism on the move?

I am excited as hell because Blizzard has ALWAYS satisfied me with their storytelling and their intricate plots. Go  back and take a look at Mists of Pandaria, track how we started with a lost prince on a mysterious island, grew through discovery of ancient peoples and fascinating cultures, fought a massive war against the Mogu and the overall insidious nature of the Sha poisoning everything, and finally culminating in a faction leader trying to take some of that power and seize his chance at ultimate victory over everyone he sees as an enemy.

Which turns out to be everyone not exactly like him, or the mercenary Goblins he hires.

This new story arc is so full of potential I’m squeeing in glee. So many ways to take this Warlords of Draenor thing over an entire expansion arc filled with multiple content patches.

So much potential for fun.

What is an expansion?

It’s lots of new game features and improvements, and a big honking story arc.

Can they do a new expansion every year?

Sure, as long as they tighten up how long the planned story arc will be to one year in length with the content patches coming  every two to three months. And as long as they continue to have new features and improvements in the pipeline that seem significant when they are unveiled each year.

I know it sounds silly but while I do like having content coming out sooner, I don’t want tons of new content coming out quite that fast.

I think most of Mists of Pandaria hit me at just the right pace. Maybe a few weeks of free time after I had absorbed each one before the next came out.

How fast we play the content is different for each person. For every player that has best in slot gear and has already completed Siege of Ogrimmar on normal, there are probably 50 that are still collecting Sigils or Valor for their Legendary cloak quest.

Just as there has to be new content for us to get excited over, there has to be a codetta afterwards to give us space to breath. We enjoy the content, work hard to reach levels or reputations or gear points, unlock content, and then we take a moment to look upon our works and relax before tearing into it once more.

I would actually like to see something different than a traditional expansion each year.

What I would like to see is one true expansion with the technological marvels and new features with the big story arc lasting a year of smaller content patches as chapters…

And then the second year would focus on another big story arc, new areas to explore and adventures to go on. The Burning Crusade storyline, zones, dungeons and raids without the programming time spent working in two new races, more levels and above all the time spent trying to re-balance it all in playtesting.

Yes, the art assets, quest design, all of that would be just as intense as ever, massive amounts of work for Blizzard to prepare. But without the balancing that new levels or classes impose on us, I think we could get to the new storylines sooner.

Anyway.

What do you think? What features or improvements do you feel are necessary to take something from a content patch and make it a real expansion worth purchasing a box?

And how fast do you really want them to come? Has Mists of Pandaria left you feeling bored between content patches, overwhelmed by all the new things to do that hit before you’re done with the last chunk, or has it been just right?

4 Responses to “What is an expansion?”
  1. taikuutta says:

    Commenting for me personally, I feel the timing for how they’ve been bringing content is pretty good. I run main and alts pretty regularly, and am leveling one last toon on my server, so I don’t feel a dearth of content. Sure, timeless isle is kind of a grind, but I do it on my terms, when I want. There will always be qq about content being outdated and grindy, so don’t do it. I’m kinda bored with the forum venting over lack of content, give me new stuffs! There’s plenty to do if you just want to do it. If what is being offered is not what you want, then don’t do it. Take a break and come back later. WoW will still be here waiting for you.

  2. Theodoxus says:

    I like the MoP style of content outlay. We had what, 5 factions to grind at the beginning, and each content patch dropped another? I like that – just enough time to grind it out on my main and then enough time to catch up on older factions. I flew through Cata (sans Firelands) and WotLK rep, now working on BC reps (truly grindy) and shutter thinking about doing the Steamwheedle reps… But as long as the content isn’t flying off the shelf and I have to spend every waking moment maximizing rep gain – I’m happy.

  3. tweell says:

    The pace has been decent, IMO. I will admit I’m not really looking forward to another Horde-based expansion, even with the goodies Blizzard is throwing in. Vanilla leaned Alliance, Burning Crusade leaned Horde, Wrath was Alliance, but Cata, MoP and now WoD are Horde. Let’s see, Blizzard, you’re highest sub level was… Wrath! and you’ve been losing subs ever since, but… continue on with World of HordeCraft. I play mostly Horde now, it’s where the fun is.

  4. Herr Drache says:

    I’m OK with the pace – it could be a little slower between raids because I’m in a non-progression guild and want to “do it all”. Pet battles. Reps. Bones. Pets. Mounts. I would have preferred it if the initial content would have been staggered a little more. There was just SO much new, SO much to do that it almost threw me into the trap of “why do anything at all if you can’t reasonably finish anything anyway?” And on that note, Shaohao rep and his timeless isle? Go and… [redacted].

    As warrior tank I especially disliked the fact that the only people who could wipe an LFR raid were the tanks – everyone else could pretty much play on auto-pilot following the basics: don’t stand in the fire. That added pressure and the LFR mentality made me drop my dual-tank spec, pick up Arms, and mindlessly coast through the first few LFR raids. But that’s not a blizzard problem, but a people problem!

    And lastly: Han Solo shot. Period. “First” implies a “second” ;) And he was totally right in doing so!

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