Sep 2, 2008

[The RL Grind]

I've talked about this before, how the continued emphasis on heavily-scripted game content instead of developing tools for user-created content is a bad thing for WoW. Basically, that the constant race to create new scripted content for people who chew through it 100x faster than it can be produced is a destructive, unwinnable cycle. A quote from a recent interview with Frank Pierce has confirmed my opinion:
Question: How interesting has it been for you to watch the success of World of Warcraft?
Frank Pearce: I don't know if I'd describe it as "interesting" as much as exhausting. We've got almost 3000 employees worldwide now, and the majority of that growth is due to the success of World of Warcraft.

As a company we've found ourselves spread very, very thin - because the World of Warcraft community has a voracious appetite for content. That development team is 130 people, they're working on content patches, they're working on an expansion set, they've got their hands full - and then we've got the other development teams that we need to continue to support as well.

So it's great, it's a great problem to have, but it is a lot of work. We've learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes along the way. It's been good experience for us, I wouldn't say that we've regretted it... but "interesting" isn't how we'd describe it necessarily.

And they can't ever lessen the breakneck pace, until they shift the focus of their development to longer-lived mechanics that allow people to make their own content and experiences. As long as WoW players are stuck waiting for handouts from Blizz for their fun, that 'real life grind' won't end, and I worry about potential burnout of the devs.


Grumpy Misanthrope said...

It worked, and is still working, for EverQuest...

Pai said...

For the top percentile of people still playing EQ who raid, or craft or like mostly to hang with their friends, it works. From what I understand there is almost no work done on anything other than endgame with EQ. It works for the niche that already likes it, which is pretty small nowadays. Also, EQ has always had flaws in design that should not be repeated, and which WoW tried to address, but not always in the right way. Content is one of those things.

WoW, unlike EQ, has no robust RP tools or Crafting system, and very poor community tools ingame. In many ways, it's much more limited. It's scripted dungeon content is superb; however, it gets 'used up' very quickly, and there is nothing aside from grinding or raiding afterwards to do, there is no open ended or freeform 'sandbox' or RP options. The devs are too busy working on all those scripted events, which take up all of their resources and provide the LEAST amount of re-usable value long term.

The WoW fanbase is not EQ's fanbase, their pace of playing and demands are different. That, coupled with Blizzard's incredible slow pace to release content, ensures that the devs are basically slaving away endlessly and never really making progress, they're always a few steps behind the ravening mass demanding 'more'.

This is the problem with building a 'game on rails' instead of a 'world'. The players do not have the ability to make the world their own, to make their own stories. The very design of the game itself and it's mechanics stifles that in WoW. Plenty of EQ players have remarked on it and criticized it exactly for that.