Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tick Tock Time - Time between patches and releases

Now that Mists of Pandaria has been officially announced for release it has sparked in me a curiosity. When have all the patches occurred in WoW, what were they for, and how long did we wait for them?

Searching for Patch Notes
Thus began the research. I wasn't able to find any previous patch notes at Blizzard, and I remember when they posted patch notes that there was always a link to old patch notes. With the current iteration of their "blog" I was unable to find them. Somewhat distressing considering that info is their own history. I guess they turned it internal. I was bummed. It reminded me of how much information is just not on the website anymore, or perhaps its just more difficult to find. I don't know.

Off to my old friend Google where I searched patch releases. I found the best collection at WoW Wiki. It is very cool, they have patch info dating back to pre-launch vanilla, and they did a pretty decent job of compiling everything. It is really fun to trip down memory lane and pinpoint exactly when I began playing in the sequence of events. Then to remember what was happening and how I was feeling as certain things were brought on line in-game. My plan is to try and keep track of releases and patches going forward, and have my own notes and timeline about what was launched when.

So I took all this information and plopped it into an excel spreadsheet for my own reference. I briefly thought about putting it up as a page here but it seems too long and not as complete as I'd like it to be to post it.

What I Found
Not surprising, as the cycle of expansions has gone on, the time between patches has increased. That is a good sign actually. That means there is less Blizz is fixing, and that the game is more stable than it's ever been. Though that also means that the time between new stuff is longer as well. Both the time between patches and the time between patch and expansion.
From the last big installment in vanilla (Naxx release) to the pre-launch BC events there was 6 months. (Jun-Dec 2006). I do remember the wait for BC seemed forever. I think because I was so excited to be a part of everything going on.
From the last BC event (Sunwell) to the pre-launch Lich King events was 7 months (March-Nov 2008). This was surprising to me. It seemed like we had so much to do, and I wasn't even raiding any of the larger raids. This was also when we saw the biggest influx of dailies with the Isle of Quel'Danas. Before that the dailies were rather insignificant and many were zone pvp related (Hellfire nodes, Nagrand's Halaa etc.). We had new ways to spend our time.
From the last Wrath big patch (Ruby Sanctum) to the Cata pre-launch events was only 4 months (June-Oct 2010). I think most people would count from when ICC launched though. In that case we're talking 10 months (Dec 09-Oct 10). It did indeed feel that long, even though I was raiding ICC from probably 3 months after it came out until right around 4.0 dropped. I had things to do and my guild was relatively vibrant. Everyone was still logging in regularly. As you can probably deduce from that sentence, it is not that way right now. I did level a large range of alts. More than ever before. I believe I raised 7 toons to 80 before Lich King was done.
Well, here we are waiting for the next launch. So when was the last big patch? I'm sure you all know it was DragonSoul but when did that come out exactly? I was surprised that DS was launched back in Nov 2011. If we use that as the last big infusion of content then we are looking at 9 months. Assuming that we'll start getting pre-launch events in August, or early September. This was only surprising in that it has been just shy of how long we waited for Cataclysm to drop, and yet this time around it feels like this has been the longest one yet. I fully expected there to be more of a difference. It certainly feels like more of a difference.

Patch Content
That being said I thought another point was really interesting. The number of patches we've seen over the last two expansions has decreased. Again a good sign and something we would expect to see over time. It's just not something at the forefront of my mind as the months roll by.
Vanilla hit version 1.12 before it was done, with around 38 total patches. BC was at 2.4 but it had a lot of versions, approximately 28 in all. Wrath went to 3.3 with its own passel of versions, about 22 total. Cataclysm is also at 4.3 but has only seen around 14 patch releases. In fact, I was incredibly surprised to find our last patch was in late February. We've had nearly 6 months of patch free time. Very unlike all the last expansions we've been through. That means we haven't even seen anything new in 6 months.
A lot of speculation has gone on about why we are so bored this time around. Looking at both Cata and Wrath timelines we've spent about the same length of time waiting for things to happen. We've had a little less dropping in between than previously but it just seems like we have less to do this time around. Perhaps its the number of zones, or that we only had 5 levels as opposed to 10. It may be that 1/2 the expansion was dedicated to 1-60 leveling which left less content for the 85's. We had a lot of end-game content up front this time around and the dungeons seemed strangely spaced throughout Cataclysm to me. Whatever the reason we are all hitting the top end of boredom.

Regardless of the reasons I thought the information I got from this data was rather interesting and strangely relevant as we wait for our next big WoW fix.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Things I Loved and Hated about Cataclysm - #4 Quests

I have always enjoyed questing. It is one of the things that has always drawn me into the game, and it allows me to be apart of the world that Blizzard has created.

Cataclysm gave us a new questing format. The linear quest type that began in Wrath has continued into Cataclysm, but in a more structured way. The quests are obviously designed to take you through each theme and storyline of each zone as an individual area. There are also overarching themes and stories that carry you from one zone to another or through a group of zones or continents such as the story-lines through the first 4 zones of the Horde-side Forsaken 1-30 areas comprising Deathknell, Brill, Silverpine and Hillsbrad. And of course we can't forget the main baddie; the Cataclysm zones and the story lines involving Deathwing and his many minions and cults that can be found in the new 80-85 zones.

What I most enjoyed about the linear questing is that you participated in the story as it unfolded. You were a part of everything that was happening and affecting the areas around you. This was a great idea that continued on from Wrath. It became more about the story and less about the out and backs and the search and destroys that encompassed so many of the old vanilla quests. Cataclysm integrated these quest types into a story that made it not so mundane. The story-lines are very laid out for you and it is obvious what is going on. For those of us who feel compelled to do every quest in the zone this was awesome. I never felt like I was going to miss something because the quest chains wouldn't let me.

In the revamped 1-60 zones I found this refreshing. I remember having to search all the nooks and crannies of some of the original areas looking for quests that I might have missed; and I remember being frustrated and having to resort to wowhead and add on's to find everything. It was also a bit harder to figure out the story-lines. When I was new to WoW I fell in love with the lore, but it still amazes me how people pull interesting lore facts out of quests. For some reason I never noticed this stuff when I did them. The disconnected story lines in the original game left me wondering what was going on at times. I still don't understand the whole Ashbringer thing and I wish I did, but I guess that quest story line is gone forever now. 

As for the new zones I found this questing experience interesting and engaging. The stories were well laid out and made sense. I knew I would experience every area of each zone, I just had to wait for the story to take me there. I could quest without wondering where should I go next, or worrying I might miss something. I didn't have to have a plan on how to tackle a zone and the story unfurled for me as I went along.

What I found is there is also a down side to this type of format.

While I enjoyed the hassle-free questing I found it boring after the first go through. Uldum, even the first time around, with all the cut-scenes, was annoying. Being the completionist I am I just couldn't bring myself to hit escape and blow by them. That left me feeling uncomfortable for most of the zone. This was also the one place where it was possible to lose the quest chain, which I did. And once lost it was really hard to find again. Thank god for Wowhead or I don't think I would ever have finished this area. 
The stories are great the first time through but if you have alts this becomes unbearable. After traversing Vashj'ir or Hyjal for the 6th time I really think I'm really over it. And believe me, it takes a lot to get me to "over it". 
Ok, so not that all the vanilla questing was all that great to go through over and over but I felt like I had choices and could vary my questing experience. There are still revamped vanilla zones I haven't gone through, such as Swamp of Sorrows, that I'd still like to see. The BC and Wrath expansions offer so many lands that you could kinda pick each time you went through where you wanted to go. Hellfire and Zangarmarsh? Zangar then Nagrand with some Netherstorm? Lots to choose from and even more in Wrath. You start in Borean or Howling Fjord, but then once you started leveling you can go to any of 4 other choices from there, and from there 4 other choices. Here, with only 5 zones in this expansion, there is just not the number of choices we have seen previously. Even more limiting is the absolute linear quest chains. You cannot simply go into a zone and pick an area you'd like to do over on an alt. You HAVE to progress through the quests as they are presented to you. There is absolutely no other way to do it. Did you like the Dwarven wedding in Twilight Highlands? You won't have far to go but you will have to go through ALL the quests from the landing port to get there. If you are interested in the Twilight Cultist quest chain you have even further to go. Good luck. It can be grueling and boring and will take you nearly a full day of questing to get there. Hope you enjoy it once you arrive. 
And don't get me started about Vashj'ir. This zone was really new and innovative when it came out, and presented an interesting and new experience for all us long time questers.  But man! After the first time through if you go back you're crazy! I have been back twice with alts, no maybe 3 times.... (ok, I'm a little crazy) Usually every 4 months or so I get the itch to see something different and take another toon through. By the time I hit the battle-maiden quests I'm wondering what got into me.

The linear questing in Cataclysm gave us a new albeit structured experience, that had both pros and cons. What I most regret about these changes is the lack of choice that came with this expansion when it comes to questing. It allowed me to get bored fast with the game and forced me to find new things to do. I raid but it does not encompass a ton of my WoW time. Finding new things to do this expansion has been difficult, and I found for the first time I'm not logging in more than once or twice a week right now. Hell, I even took up archeology. I truly consider that a last resort.

That alone makes me concerned about what Blizz has in store for us with upcoming expansions. I know MoP is supposed to offer more end-game options. I certainly hope it lives up to this promise.