Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Patch 5.4 and Siege of Orgrimmar was released on September 10, 2013. We’ve been in there for 4 months so far but to me it feels more like 4 years.

This week we learned that there is another PVP season planned during Mists. This means we’re likely looking at another 6 months in Siege of Orgrimmar before Warlord of Draenor comes out. At least. Blizzard does a lot of things well, but pacing their raid content releases is not one of them.

The most recent three expansions have had a pretty distinct pattern when it came to time spent in a tier vs. number of encounters available in that tier. The first tier goes quick. There are a lot of encounters, but the tier isn’t current for that long. In the middle tier, the ratio of encounters:time goes down – the tier stays current for roughly the same amount of time (give or take a month), but there are less bosses to fight. In the final tier of an expansion that encounter:time ratio drops even more. We get more bosses than the middle tier, but the tier drags on for 10-12 months while we wait for the next expansion to be released.

Wrath of the Lich King
Tier 7  (5 months, 18 encounters – 3.6 encounters/month)
Tier 8  (3.5 months, 23 encounters 6.6 encounters/month)
Tier 9  (4 months, 11 encounters – 2.75 encounters/month)
Tier 10 (1 year, 26 encounters – 2.2 encounters/month)  

Cataclysm
Tier 11 (6.5 months, 25 encounters – 3.8 encounters/month)
Tier 12 (5 months, 14 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)
Tier 13 (10 months, 16 encounters – 1.6 encounters/month)

Mists of Pandaria
Tier 14 (5 months, 32 encounters – 6.4 encounters/month)
Tier 15 (6 months, 25 encounters – 4.2 encounters/month)
Tier 16 (10 months?, 28 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)

Tier 8 (Ulduar) in Wrath of the Lich King is an outlier in this – an example of creating a tier that was amazing in both quality and quantity, but then pushing it to the background with another tier extremely quickly. WotLK is also a bit of an anomaly in that it was the only time in any expansion (or original WoW) that we got 4 raid tiers.

The question is…why the hell do they keep doing this?

I can understand some front-loading of content. When a new expansion comes out, having a ton of new content is going to help convince people to purchase it. But they need to spread the content out better. Here’s what my generally mindset looks like as expansions proceed:

Game is released
“Oh my god, there’s so much to do! Level! Get rep! Get enough gear to start raiding! Try to check out the new features that were introduced.”

First raid tier ends
“I wish it had lasted longer! I’m sure my raid could have defeated a couple more raid bosses if we had an extra month, and there’s still so much other stuff to do.”

Second raid tier ends
“I feel good about this tier. We had a decent amount of time to progress, and I’m ready for a change of scenery.”

Six months into the final raid tier
“Is this tier ever going to end? Can we hear some news about when the next expansion is coming? Pleeeease.”

Eight to twelve months into the final raid tier
“I’m so bored, we killed everything months ago and playing has been a huge waste of my life for the last few months. Fuck this fucking game, I hate it.”

They need to learn to hold something back. Maybe instead of having 3 raid instances at the start of the xapc, only put out 2 and save one for the last tier. I know I’m not the only one who gets bored doing the same, single raid for almost a year.

Mists of Pandaria also had the least amount of raid zones. In Burning Crusade we had 8 different raids – Karazhan, Magtheridon’s Lair, Gruul’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Hyjal, Black temple and Sunwell. Some of these only had one or two bosses, but 8 raids make for a tremendous amount of variety in scenery, lore and types of bosses encountered. It makes things much more interesting. In Wrath of the Lich King there were 9 different raids. In Cataclysm we had only 6 raid zones. In Mists? Only 5, and 3 of them were squished into the first 5 months. This made for a lot of monotony over the next 10 months.

Is providing varied, interesting raid zones becoming less of a priority?  It seems that in Warlords, a lot of attention is being paid to allowing people to raid in 700 different ways (LFR, normal, heroic, flex, cross-realm, mythic). How much attention will be paid to the variety and amount of raid zones themselves?

After the original release and four expansions, will Blizzard ever learn how to not suck at timing their raid content releases?

10 responses to “Lather, Rinse, Repeat

  1. Yeeeeep. I really thought Blizzard was going to learn their lesson this time after the last interminably fucking long drought we had during Dragon Soul. At first I thought they were going to find a way to drop an expansion on us sometime in the spring, but that’s looking less and less likely–at this point we’re looking at September (I highly doubt they’d release an expansion during the summer doldrums), so basically a full year of SoO.

    The pacing of this entire expansion has been weird. I’ll never forget the week that 5.2 came out, and they IMMEDIATELY did the big “here’s what’s coming in 5.3!” data dump in the same week–effectively rendering the 5.2 content stale from the minute it hit live.

    • I was hoping for a Spring release as well. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now though. Not just because of the PVP season, but there’s also been no word of a beta anytime soon that I’ve heard.

  2. I think with ToC they might have wanted that to be a supplemental zone for Ulduar. Or maybe that’s just what I was expecting it to be when first announced. Of course in reality the fights were so much easier and the loot superior that it ended up mostly invalidating one of the best zones they’ve ever created.

    If you want to include BC, that actually had four tiers as well, although they tried to pretend like Sunwell was tier 6.5 or whatever. The model was really for four tiers from Vanilla->WotLK, and then three tiers for Cata->MoP.

    Also, am I the only one that was expecting a kind of Ruby Sanctum zone for the end of Cataclysm? 10 months is a long time – I at least want a mini raid if we have to wait 6 more months for WoD.

    • It was a very strange decision to replace one of the best zones ever with one of the worst so quickly. They could have made ToC as a supplement, but putting the gear a tier higher ruined that.

      In BC there were technically 5 raid zones/2 tiers of gear available right at the beginning. I don’t really find BC comparable to the later xpacs because the raid model was completely different. You had to progress through the earlier instances to get into the later ones. Now as soon as a new tier comes out, the previous is made obsolete. But yeah, I guess Sunwell could have been considered a 4th tier.

      I definitely expected a one-off dungeon at the end of Cata. I don’t really expect one to tide us over before WoD though.

  3. I too find it really hard to wrap my head around the continued pacing failures that manifest in horrendously long final tiers. Blizz has every incentive from a business standpoint to keep up subs going into a new xpac. (I have to imagine the conversion rate of existing subs to a new xpac is substantially higher than is the rate of sales to returning players (even if the latter is substantial.) They know end-of-xpac doldrums are a source of intense frustration amongst the player base. And, yet, it keeps happening.

    More “huhs?”:

    1. Why have the final tiers of Cata and MoP been tuned so gently? (Dragon Soul was much much easier than pre-nerf Firelands. SoO seems to be falling faster than ToT.) If you want to make a tier last, tuning it to be burned quickly is a pretty obvious mistake.

    2. What accounts for Blizz’s modest credit taking over the course of MoP indicating that, thru a combination of process improvement and upstaffing that thinking they’ve finally got the produce-content-at-a-good-steady pace thing down pat, ….. except, as it turns out, when it comes down to the far and away most important test of content pacing… ?

    3. What accounts for the massive disconnect between the dearly departed Ghostcrawler talking on a couple of occasions about how Blizz really thinks that an annual *expansion cycle* would be about perfect and the reality of our near year-long stretches spent in a *single* final raid tier? I mean, is he literally talking about pie in the sky w/ those comments having no tangible bearing on the reality of what they’re able to do? I’d love for there to be world peace a universal cure for cancer too if we’re just going to muse about things we aren’t going to see in our lifetimes.

    • The one thing I am happy about is that they haven’t started nerfing Siege yet. Four months into Dragon Soul, everything had already been nerfed by 15%. Geez, the Dragon Soul design was awful. It managed to both rush people into trying to kill bosses before the next nerf level came in play, and make them dreadfully bored by killing nerfed bosses for months. I don’t know if SoO is tuned too much easier than ToT. The first few heroics were, but as my raid is getting into the second half, they seem just as challenging as the Throne ones.

      • Yea, we got up to H. Malkorok just this last lockout and, as you say, stuff’s starting to feel real now. ;o) MoP’s been a very good raiding xpac. I just should’ve know better than to get my hopes up and bet on Blizz to deliver the next xpac timely. It’s the disappointed hopes that hurt.

  4. I don’t know, Holinka has already said that everyone is reading way too much into this – by your figures, MoP already has the 2nd and 3rd place, and if SoO is 10 months (which I really don’t buy) that’s still only mid-range for the tiers.

    Also I feel dumb, but what’s the 6th raid environment for Cataclysm? Unless you mean Baradin Hold but that’s not much more complex than most of the world fights.

    • I counted BH in Cata and TB in Wrath. They weren’t great raid bosses, but they were individual raid zones that gave people a bit of something extra to do each tier.

  5. I think this is a great way of looking at it. Ultimately, blizzard needs to embrace the 2 year expansion cycle and put out 4 raid tiers with an average of 3+ encounters per month. That looks like the butter zone. And no nerfs, for the love of all that is holy. They were extremely demoralizing.