Friday, 25 February 2011

Nostalgic goodness or developer laziness?

The blogsphere has been awash with news of the instances in 4.1 since the first inkling that Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub we're to make a comeback in the same way that SFK, Deadmines and Onyxia did in Cata, and Naxxramas did back in Wrath. There's been a mixed response on the blogs I've read, and the comments left on those blogs, some hailing it as a great idea, some lambasting blizzard for profiteering and laziness.

The draw of rehashing old content, from blizzards point of view, is pretty clear. Instance design is not an easy thing, simply reusing old instance 'skins' takes a lot of time (i.e. cost) out of the development and testing process so hypothetically sees more profit for them. If you assume profit equals entertainment value though (i.e. blizzard keep making profit as long as their game still entertains people) is this quite the case? Larisa talks about an analogous gum chewing exercise in diminishing returns with her post on the subject, and I have to say I agree (to some extent) with her on this; players play WOW for entertainment, entertainment comes in many forms, but in terms of raids and heroics you can safely say it generally comes down to a mixture of: the challenge, new experiences and loot. If the instance is the same layout and the same strategies, the longevity of the former two is diminished. That leaves you with loot, I've talked about this previously, people think they want loot, but actually they don't it's a pseudo-reward, people need loot to progress to the next stage in the game, it's a means to an end, nothing more (though I accept there are some people in the game who just want loot for loots sake). This potentially leaves Blizzard in a dangerous position which many companies see them self in; reducing costs to boost short term profits, but at the expense of future opportunity. Opportunity is a very difficult thing to measure, and because of this the men in grey suits tend to ignore it; if an organisation cuts costs and costs alone they eventually erode that company's ability to make and money, this is a long drawn out process and is hard to see happening until it is too late. In the same way, Blizzard could find themselves in the position of having a disenfranchised customer base, who up sticks and jump to another game where all of the content is new to them.

The flip side of the coin is actually two fold, firstly, a lot of the players who've been around the block and look back to Vanilla WOW with a certain fondness (despite all of its failings that we've all conveniently forgotten) the chance to run those early instances again, with an added bit of spice is quite appealing. But also, for those players who never played in the days of Vanilla WOW, and there are lots, all of these instances will be new (or very nearly new) to them.

I'm undecided as to whether it's actually a good idea or not, and I suppose the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I suppose the trick for Blizzard to achieve success with this is balance. Mixing desirable old content with enough new content to attract new and old players alike without giving the impression of the stale gum Larisa refers to for those who've been there before. My fondest raiding memories of WOW are in the days of Molten Core, and Zul'Gurub, but actually thinking about it now, you can compare it to that old flame from school that you never quite got over, as memory fades the downsides are forgotten and the good memories highlighted. Just as in the days of progress raiding in MC, it was mainly fun, but quite often an organisational nightmare which took at least 30 minutes to set up, and 15 minutes per wipe to organise which turned into a monotonous, soul destroying, grind as people geared up for Nax. In the same way, when you really think about it, the old flame was a phsyco bitch from hell and you're well shot of her…. But that's nostalgia for you…

From the limited information which has been released, I'm thinking (or is it hoping?) Blizzard might have got the balance right, they seem to be following their tried and tested model of opening up end content to the masses, just in a different way, this time converting old end content to new 5 man stuff. I like the idea (I think) of the higher ilvl requirement which makes for a heroic-heroic of sorts. I just hope, I mean really hope, that this isn't simply the accountants standing behind the game designers, with their clipboards, ready to pounce on any though of innovation which isn't focussed at maximising short term profits for the shareholders. Old content is fine, so long as it's innovated around, taking the best of the old world content and building on that, so long as this is done in addition to new content and not instead of new content, and for the love of the children, please not all of the old content; there are some things that are best left forgotten (LBRS anyone?).


  1. I just discovered your blog via Leafshine, and I love it!

    Of course, my very next thought was "I wonder if he'd like a Welcome Wagon Spotlight" so I ferverntly looked for an email address to ask...but didn't find one! So, if you might be interested, shoot me a note at or on twitter @BeruHeals :)

    So much great stuff here! I've really enjoyed my visit! (Also - I know it's a few posts back, but Cadbury Eggs are quite seriously the fruit of the gods).

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  3. the err, llama ate it...


    thanks for the comments, good to know someones enjoying my ramblings