Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Has Blizzard given up on WoW?

Perhaps I'm spoiled by a shockingly productive development and design team on Rift, but I was stunned today when I read the patch notes for the upcoming 5.0 patch that's going to land for WoW. This is the first patch since 4.3 which introduced a bunch of new features including a new raid, 3 new 5-man dungeons and the Raid Finder feature. That was a good, solid content patch. Then, eight months later, you would think that they'd have something new to throw to the players while they wait for the September patch, no? Yep... a world event involving Theramore.


No, I'm not kidding. Let's compare, just so that you understand the magnitude of my shock. Rift came out with patch 1.6 about 2 weeks before 4.3 hit. 1.6 introduced a new zone to the world that's about on-par with the size of Twilight Highlands in WoW, but with the re-play value of a major end-game daily quest hub. It also included a new 10-man raid and two dungeons, linked together into a single storyline much like the three in WoW's 4.3. So, that's about the same amount of content, I feel. There's a whole new quest hub in 1.6 with a massive island worth of design work plus the size of the new raids is about the same, though WoW's raid has 10 and 20 man versions. The Raid Finder is a pretty big change, but then there were two 20-man, open-world raid Rifts introduced in 1.6 as well.

OK, so WoW and Rift are about on-par going into December of last year... then this year happened. While WoW has languished with no new content until this month's World Event, Rift has been cranking. patch 1.7 introduced a new "master mode" (basically a 5-man raid) that unified the two parts of the existing 5-man dungeons released in 1.6. In addition a new 2-person dungeon was released. It was also a massive update to the mechanics. This was released in December. In April, patch 1.8 landed with a massive new raid, two new trade skills and "instant adventures" which are a new way to queue up for quests that are constantly ongoing and that you can join at any time with other players.

In June, we got our most recent patch, 1.9. This introduced a small raid, and a massive new PvP option where you queue up in one of three factions and go in with hundreds of other players to duke it out in a massive land-grab type event. Of course, this came with updates to the PvP system and new rewards.

I haven't bothered to mention a slew of world events, the most recent of which introduced the new raid for 1.9, and so landed slightly before the patch.

I think you can see why I was confused this morning when I congratulated a friend on getting new content for WoW and then went to read what new goodies he was getting. I was just floored. Could it be that WoW has gotten exactly one world event worth of content while Rift has gotten 2 new 5-man dungeons, two new raid dungeons, a huge new PvP event, and gobs of extras. That's just stunning. Oh, but it gets better.

Mists of Pandaria and Storm Legion

Why has WoW been slow to update? Because they're coming out with a new expansion in September. Ah, well then, that will balance the scales, right? Well, not really. After next month's patch 1.10 for Rift, we'll see the first expansion for the game in the fall. This expansion will introduce 3 new raids, 7 dungeons and a new 2-man dungeon at release. It will also triple the size of the world (which, admittedly was smaller than WoW's sprawling, original 2 continents). Rift isn't kidding around. These guys are pumping out content like it's a fire hydrant. And don't get the idea that this is some kind of hackish quick slap-dash effort where they release junk every few months. Rift has been consistently improving in quality, and yet they began with some amazing content.

It's not all roses. I'm still frustrated by some things. There is nearly infinite versatility in Rift's soul system (basically the opposite of the way talents are going in WoW), but many of the souls aren't well tuned for end-game so you end up with 3 or 4 soul combinations per class that are viable, and the rest are all back-burnerred or only brought out for special utility roles. This frustrates me, but it's certainly not a deal-breaker, and I certainly don't want to go back to WoW where talents are being transformed into, "pick entree A, B or C and then pick your 6 side-dishes."

Anyway, I'm glad that I chose to move to Rift when I did, and I hope my friends who play WoW enjoy the life they get back while waiting for content. ;-)
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