Once upon a time in the World of Warcraft there was an expansion synonymous with hatred; it was called Cataclysm.
Following on from the well-loved Wrath of the Lich King was always going to be difficult but Cataclysm never really hit the mark. Don't get me wrong, the revamp of the old world was much needed and did breathe new life into some tired areas but too much of the expansion’s energies seemed focused on this revamp. Cataclysm had other issues as well but the main bugbear for most people was the rate of content release.
After a 7th December 2010 release we saw no new content until the end of April 2011, almost five months later. This first major patch for the game simply introduced the “troll heroics” Zul 'Gurub and Zul 'Aman, both reworks of old raids. The five-man heroics also came with their own set of issues, namely the insanely high difficulty level at release. Just a month later in June we were given the daily quest hub Molten Front. We also saw the first additional raid content in the form of Firelands.
Firelands and Molten Front were to keep us busy until a slew of content another five months down the line. The end of November 2011 saw a huge amount of content released. Three Caverns of Time Heroics kept five-man groups busy and the addition of the Darkmoon Faire kept more casual gamers entertained. Transmogrification was well received and breathed new life into old content as players hunted for the perfect-looking gear set. We also got new raid content in the form of Dragon Soul as well as a new difficulty setting for more casual gamers, the Raid Finder.
This release of content came just a month after Mists of Pandaria was announced. Spirits were high. A new expansion was coming, we had new content. All was well. Until everything stopped.
Nothing else happened until the end of March 2012 when the Mists of Pandaria beta was released. This beta lasted six months. No other game content was released in this time. By the time Mists of Pandaria was released on September 25th 2011 we had been killing Deathwing for ten months, twice the length of the other Cataclysm raids. No one was impressed and subscriptions dropped off rapidly.
In a Post Mortem of Cataclysm, World of Warcraft’s lead designer, Ghostcrawler, acknowledged some of the failures in the expansion. Most notably as he talks about what Blizzard learnt from Cataclysm, he addresses the issue of content delivery. In the list of four aims Blizzard have for Mists of Pandaria two of them concern content. They are:
2. Give players plenty to do. It’s a sad feeling, and a real failure on our part, whenever someone says “I want to play WoW this evening, but I just don’t have anything to do.”
4. Get great content out faster. Enough said.
- Ghostcrawler, Lead Systems Designer
So as we are now in the final raid tier of Mists of Pandaria, with no release date for Warlords of Dreanor as yet, I am asking, has Blizzard delivered on its promise?
Mists of Pandaria started out amazingly well. The expansion was fresh, new features gave us a lot to get our hands on and a new race and class made for some rerolls across the board. Blizzard promised more content faster and in record time, just two months into the expansion, the first major content patch was released. This patch introduced us to the Brawler’s Guild. It also offered us world PvP events as well as upgrades to items and Battle Pets. On top of this we also gained some new scenarios.
The release of such major gameplay features so soon into an expansion was unprecedented. Many wondered if Blizzard could keep this up, but they did.
A little over three months later, at the beginning of March, we got another patch. This content patch, dubbed The Thunder King, offered a huge range of both casual and raiding content. The biggest addition was a whole new island, the Isle of Thunder. Reminding veteran players of the Burning Crusade’s Isle of Quel Danas, the Isle of Thunder was a hub of dailies. Players on each server had to work together to complete the dailies and unlock new sections of the island. Over the course of several weeks the island slowly unlocked and eventually revealed a new world boss, Nalak. We were also given access to a new raid, The Throne of Thunder. As if this wasn't enough, new scenarios were added and we were also given access to another little island containing dinosaurs which dropped pets and another world boss, Oondasta.
Just five months into Mists of Pandaria we were swimming in content. At the end of May 2012 yet another content patch hit. This time PvP players gained a new battleground and arena whilst PvE players rejoiced in new scenarios, the introduction of heroic scenarios and a nuke in experience required to level from 85 – 90.
By this point a lot of people were starting to feel overwhelmed. We were drowning in content and many casual gamers felt that we had too much, too soon. Then in September of 2013, just shy of a year after release, what was billed as the final raid of the expansion, Siege of Orgimmar, was released.
It is now February of 2014 and since the first year of content no new gameplay-based patches have been released. All we have seen are a few minor updates such as the in-game shop, changes to the mail system and raid finder improvements. None of these are content updates. So what comes next?
On November 8th, at Blizzcon, Warlords of Dreanor was announced as the new expansion for World of Warcraft. However since this announcement no information has been made available regarding timescales for release. A beta has not even been announced yet.
Based on past expansions the beta testing period has usually lasted 6 months before an expansion has been released. If this pattern continues, assuming beta begins within the next month, we are currently looking at a September release date. This would mean Siege of Orgrimmar would be the longest running raid tier in World of Warcraft's history.
So the question is, what are Blizzard doing? Why have we been given two years’ worth of content in 12 months then been left languishing with nothing? What happened to the promise of more content faster? Was 12 months your limit?
Right now the only thing we know is that we will be granted our instant level 90 as soon as we pre-order Warlords of Dreanor. With not even a release date in sight even this is worthless right now. Disillusioned players, like myself, ask what use is this if there is no new content to play with?
Whatever Blizzard are doing I hope they do it quickly or Dragon Soul will be handing over its accolade of longest and most hated raid tier in WoW history and I want more for Siege of Orgrimmar. It is an amazing raid. Siege of Orgrimmar is a well planned, well thought-out and engaging raid and the Garrosh fight is truly epic, a fight worthy of being an end of expansion boss fight. Whatever you are doing Blizzard, please don't spoil this amazing raid by letting it drag on for months on end. I would hate for it to be remembered that way.