Roadmap to Expansionville

The Mythic-sponsored blogger video hit the Herald this week. ((( air vacates balloon )))

It’s actually a funny video and well put together. I was, however, hoping for something more. With the bloggers’ visit to Mythic and their subsequent awesomely cool articles they all posted, we all know they were made privy to some juicy inside scoop. And through great self-constraint they’ve somehow successfully kept it under wraps — probably due to the threats levied against them and their families should they blab. My hope was they’d announce what the devil the Red Plague is … or info about an expansion … or something about new content.

The contest announcement isn’t all that sexy to me (probably because I’m blanking on tool tip ideas). However, it’s another neat way Mythic is choosing to include players in shaping the game. So I like that.

I’m a dreamer and with that cat kicked out of the bag it’s time to move on. I’ve decided to take a look backwards at how Mythic handled expansions in the past rather than throwing more limp-wristed darts on what an expansion might look like.

… Queue flashback sound effects from Wayne’s World … God, I hated Wayne’s World …

D A R K   A G E   O F   C A M E L O T
Released in October 2001, DAOC offered three separate factions (Albion, Hibernia, Midgard). The game was on PvP focus that featured team dynamics over solo play. Players fought over enemy land to further their hold on territory, keeps, and objectives. To this day it is still regarded as the best RvR gaming experience by many players. DAOC is still active today and has released 7 expansions in its tenure:

  • Shrouded Isles. (Released in November 2002) Added 6 new classes (Necromancer, Reaver, Savage, Bonedancer, Valewalker, Animist), 3 new races (Inconnu, Valkyn, Sylvan), and  new lands for each realm the size of the current lands — each included epic dungeons. Did you hear that? EPIC!
  • Foundations. (Released June 2003) Free expansion added player housing and the ability for players to create their own shops.
  • Trials of Atlantis. (Released October 2003) Added 3 new races (Half-Ogre, Frostalf, Shar) and significant new high-level content for each realm. Notable is the ability to swim and explore underwater. Also added were “artifacts” (special items) for players to find and the addition of Master Levels. Some contend that this is where the game started to go south.
  • New Frontiers. (Released June 2004) Was a free remake of the entire RvR experience from zones, keeps, and siege equipment.
  • Catacombs. (Released December 2004) Added 5 new classes (Heretic, Vampiir, Bainshee, Warlock, Valkyrie). Introduced new zones, easier leveling, and enhanced player model graphics.
  • Darkness Rising. (Released October 2005) Introduced Champion weapons and levels, player mounts, hybrid classing for players, and the addition of a connecting island (Agramon) between the three realms.
  • Labyrinth of the Minotaur. (Released November 2006) Added a new race (Minotaur) and a new hybrid class (Mauler), a new RvR dungeon located on the isle of Agramon, additional Champion levels, and Mythrians which could increase the stats on weapons.
  • New New Frontiers. (Released September 2007) Free patch released to overhaul much of the RvR experience. The extra “New” was coined by players.

Summary: That’s not a bad run. Players were treated with an expansion practically every year. DAOC came onto the scene as Internet connections were gaining speed, graphics continued to improve, and MMOs were getting more exposure.

Moving along, Mythic bought the Warhammer license from a company called Climax Online in 2004. Apparently starting over from scratch, Mythic was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2006. EA was looking to the future and wanted to expand their grip on gaming by getting more involved online. The launch of WAR was delayed several times and in the end … the game is only now where it most likely should’ve been at launch (which is actally a good thing albeit 1.5 years late).

W A R H A M M E R   O N L I N E
Released in September 2008 offering two separate factions (Order, Destruction) with six different races (Chaos, Dark Elf, Dwarf, Empire, Greenskin, High Elf). The game had a strong release selling over a million copies and garnering over 800,000 subs. We know the ugly after that so why self-flagellate ourselves reliving it? Let’s move on. Being out for a year and a half, we’ve seen one pseudo expansion as well as some other content:

  • The Witching Night. (Live Event in October 2008) An event where players completed tasks to earn special items and titles.
  • Heavy Metal. (Live Event in November 2008) Reikland Factory scenario introduced and only available during the event. Players were rewarded with special items and titles. Completing all tasks granted early access to 2 new classes (Knight of the Blazing Sun, Blackguard).
  • Keg End. (Live Event in December 2008) An event where players completed tasks to earn special items and titles.
  • Night of Murder. (Live Event in February 2009) An event where players completed tasks to earn special items and titles.
  • Bitter Rivals. (Live Event in March 2009) The first of three Live Events that were part of the Call to Arms series. Players received special items and trophies and in similar fashion to Heavy Metal, completion offered early access to 2 new careers (Slayer, Choppa). Added for a limited time was another new scenario called the Twisting Tower.
  • Beyond the Sands. (Live Event in April 2009) The second of three Live Events a part of the Call to Arms series. Players completed tasks to earn special items and titles.
  • Rise of the Tomb Kings. (Live Event in June 2009) The third and final Live Event as a part of the Call to Arms series. Special items and trophies were added as in other events. This final installment of Call to Arms was a race on each server. Whichever realm won the race would gain early access to the new Land of the Dead RvR zone.
  • Land of the Dead. (Live Expansion in June 2009) The first substantive expansion of content to the game which added a new open RvR zone. The realm who collects the most Expedition Resources unlocks its access. Many new items and weapons, etc. were added to the game including a new dungeon called the Tomb of the Vulture Lord.
  • The Wild Hunt. (Live Event in September 2009) Celebrating the one-year anniversary of WAR, this event added in the usual goodies. A new slot was added to player inventories for event items (items gained via Live Events that have a decay timer). Also added was a new, event-only dungeon called the Hunter’s Vale.
  • Daemon Moon. (Live Event in October 2009) A slight revamp of the Witching Night event from 2008. Added was a new PQ game called Daemon Ball.
  • Keg End. (Live Event in December 2009), and Night of Murder. (Live Event in February 2010) were repeats of the 2008, 2009 events.
  • Weekend Warfronts. (Began in February 2010) New weekend-only events that provide tasks for players to complete within that weekend’s featured scenario. The first featured warfront was a new 6-v-6 scenario called The Ironclad.
  • Patch 1.3.5. (Released May 2010) Not an expansion but rather an expansive update to the overall game adding in many new things and fixing a large number of long standing bugs. Of significant note was a totally revamped city siege end game experience focusing on RvR.

To be fair, we really can’t compare the two timelines — DAOC spans 6 years while WAR is a few months shy of 2. DAOC in its first 2 years released two paid expansions and 1 freebie. In that same timespan WAR gave us Land of the Dead, fairly constant Live Events, and the new Weekend Warfronts. Live Events and the Warfronts utilize existing content with simple task lists and small amounts of new content. Adding in the four new classes can’t really be considered either, when they were originally meant to be in game at launch (except for the Slayer … oh poor Hammerer, we barely knew thee).

Things were different earlier this decade … the economy was better, unemployment was low, the games industry was booming. In the present, it’s an ugly scene. Right around the time WAR launched, the U.S. financial markets crashed and took the world with it. EA was affected like pretty much everyone else. They did what many large companies did at that time (and several times since), cut payroll. This greatly affected WAR’s master plan. And I do believe there was a plan probably similar to what DAOC enjoyed.

Folks complained about the “work being done” on Land of the Dead when the game was still broken. People complained during the Wild Hunt about another PvE dungeon being built when the game needed fixing. I’m telling you, those things were all part of the grand plan and things that they felt necessary to at least follow through on come hell or high water. Live Events? Those were in the plan too and clearly did not take a ton of development time to pull off.

I’m not blaming our lack of expansion news on the financial crash of 2008 … what I’m saying is it helped contribute. WAR had been delayed several times prior and could not be delayed any further. EA needed a “win” to boost their bottom line on this game and didn’t want to face WoW’s Wrath. WAR was a huge hit for them … and by the time we all realized it needed more work and many players had moved on, the launch had served its purpose. These tricks happen all the time to make balance sheets look better and to close out the fiscal year on a highnote. The crash finally did catch up with EA, staffs were cut across the board, thus changing the grand plan for future growth.

That was a part of the problem, among many, but a large contributor was also the sobering fact that the game needed polish. To be honest, a lot of polish. Resources were already reduced and then probably split to continue building the Land of the Dead stuff, continue Live Events, and the Wild Hunt one-year anniversary event. The rest was probably platooned to fix the game. Along the way we got some toys: RvR Weapons, the Weekend Warfronts, some new scenarios, other shinies, and a brand-spanking new City Siege endgame. So let’s not totally discount Mythic’s efforts.

So where are we now?

Coming down the homestretch, I hope. RvR and Forts are clearly next in the crosshairs so we should see some Dev posts on the forums. When they do appear, please discuss, propose ideas, and complain. But if we look back to that interview where the head of Bioware said WAR was profitable, “we have all sorts of expansions planned” … we should be hearing something soon. Right? RIGHT???? Or are we waiting on the Korean launch? When is the Korean launch? If they don’t go to real war with the North, that is.

As we inch closer to this game being solid, could the path DAOC took work for WAR?

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12 Responses to “Roadmap to Expansionville”

  1. Queue people telling you that you are a fanboy and there isn’t enough whining in your post! Not me though, I prefer people with an optimistic view. 😉

    Nice summing up, never played DaoC myself so it was informative to get familiar with the timeline.

    Players tend to forget all the free content they implemented into the game, which took a lot of work, just because it wasn’t exactly what they wanted at that time. Which is quite frankly Mythic’s fault for not listening to their players.

    Mistakes have been made and now they are behind us. The future prospects are looking much better. Staying positive (not estatic or overhyped, mind you) is the way to go now. And we need to make sure we’re throwing piles of feedback at Mythic, so they don’t stray away from what we want the game to be. 🙂

    • LOL, I definitely have some fanboy in me. I’m a very understanding person and so far, I’ve just let some things roll off rather than letting them bother me in the game. That doesn’t mean I don’t know about its issues. And they are there.

      Many people forget about what happened in September 2008. I work in the financial sector and it was scary and no one was left unscathed (except for big oil). That collapse and rushing to launch with an unfinished game really put WAR behind the 8-ball. Not a good place to be with such a fickle segment of gamers. MMO gamers’ attention is short, on the whole, and they move on to the next thing rather quickly.

      So like you, I am hopeful we are about to turn the corner. RvR is the last big hurdle to this game being what we should have received. We need something truly new to get people fired up again.

  2. I wish the video could have been a bigger announcement 🙂 In an interview Carrie said that she was excited about 1.4. While it may not be a retail expansion, it should be something good.

    • So how long, exactly, did they keep you guys locked in the Pit of Despair? LOL

      It’s still cool that you guys got to do that. They video itself was very well put together. I do recall her mentioning being excited about 1.4. My best guess is that 1.3.6 will come out at the 2-year anniversary mark. That will give ample time to fish the players for RvR ideas and for them to implement what they have in store. I’m sure it will be a big patch.

      Will we get a 1.3.7, 1.3.8, and a 1.3.9? If so, that means 1.4 is next year. Expansion? Hmmmm. In a way, I like them being so tight-lipped … gives us more to speculate about.

  3. How long can they wait for 1.4? So many releases probably coming with Cataclysm, and SWTOR. At least one advantage is they know when SWTOR is probably going to release since its EA. I think even with Cataclysm it is taking a while since its basically revamping the whole game. Don’t forget also about Guild Wars 2 changing the way MMO’s are.

    They need something to keep players from jumping ship to any three of those games, and I think it is going to be tough no matter how awesome 1.4 is.

    • Software companies don’t always do all the numbers between major releases … but as it looks, 1.3.6 is probably September to coincide with the 2-year anniversary. At that point, what, maybe one more before the end of 2010? We’re looking at next year. If it’s not a box, it better be something special and better be called “Live Expansion”. If we aren’t getting a box, I predict the addition of the four missing capitals with a new campaign system. (I have some planned posts around this.)

      SWTOR is looking more and more like late 2011/2012. Cataclysm appeals to a different player base. I agree with you on Guild Wars 2 … that one should be interesting and could hurt. Right now the PvP options are slim … Guild Wars would pose a serious player stealer.

    • Imo it’s the current generation of MMO gamers that are to blame for so many failed MMOs (in a way, not literally), not the developers themselves. Jumping from game to game is new and became really frequent only after WoW, or so it seems to me. There will always be a large segement of the playerbase who will lose interest after playing for a few months and go try something else. I’d go as far as to say that it’s the players who play a game excessively and “burn out” that will be the first to change the game.

      This doesn’t benefit any MMO, but it seems developers have adapted and are trying to “borrow” each others playerbase with expansions. Anyway, rambling.

      I don’t think WAR should be afraid that people will change the game and go play something else for a while, there will always be a stable playerbase of veterans. And since it’s a trend of sorts these days, all games will be affected by it. Imo it’s the situation when players don’t want to frequently return to re-experience the game that WAR should be afraid of.

      • True. Gaming in general is about trying things out here and there. WAR being my first MMO I do find it strange how people will play all day every day for months and years on end in the same game. Playing PC and console games I typically will beat a game and then move on.

        MMO’s are a different animal with much to do. But at this point in WAR, short of RR80, a few pieces of Dark Promise and Tyrant, and my Royal weapon … there’s not much more for me to accomplish. Many players are in that boat or have been.

        More content and goodies are needed to keep those players interested as those are the ones who stuck with it.

  4. That’s a very interesting read Krosuss. I’m glad you are around to fan the flames of expansions and/or rumours! I also share you optimism. On the other hand though the next 6 months are important for WAR and I’m sure Mythic and EA realise this. If GW2 or other MMOs emerge and WAR doesn’t take another big step forward I would worry for the game.

    I am with you that the community should speak up and get their ideas across to Mythic. I think we should do some sort of community blog thing to do this. I will post about this soon, or perhaps PM you.

    • I really just enjoy brainstorming. I enjoy playing WAR, and despite my rose-tinted glasses this game needs a bit more polish and definitely some new content.

      I think we’re close. RvR and the Forts are the last big rocks holding us back. If that stuff can be updated as successfully as the new City Siege, this game will be very solid. But as others have pointed out, those things do little for the RR80 players or for making one want to replay.

      I have a ton of ideas — some good some lame — that I will keep posting about. Maybe a dev is reading. You never know. I think with so many WAR bloggers and so many awesome ideas floating around, Mythic should see there are folks to tap into for inspiration beyond the forums.

      I like your idea to rally the bloggers … get the ball rolling.

  5. tingbudong Says:

    I know completenes is not always possible in summaries like this, but it is worth noting that the Hunter`s Vale dungeon and the Reikland Factory scenario were later on implemented permanently, even though they were initially event only content. Also, I did not see mention of the scenario weapons which plugged a rather large content hole and reinvigorated scenarios.

    Those are all smallish additions, but on balance the content added since launch has added up to quite a bit. I think the problem here is that it arrives in small trickles and not in large chunks that make for good press releases so it looks like there is less going on in the game than actually is.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      The post was longer than I intended and I simply ommitted the Hunter’s Vale and Reikland Factory current state mention. I am hoping that when the Wild Hunt comes around again in September that that dungeon will be open for higher tiers. I need the Stag Cloak for my main.

      I did reference the new weapons as RvR weapons but of course, the emblems and insignias are gettable in scenarios.

      We have gotten new content, but it’s not as sexy as an expansion, which is what people want to hear about.

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