WoW’s expansion planned smartly and slated for “late 06”

Taken from a thread on RNG forums (part of Grimwell diaspora):

What range of levels will the content cover in this expansion? Will it focus only on the high level characters, or will there be something for everyone at every level?

While the full range of levels is covered, it won’t be equal; the support will be proportional to the population of the game, so it will tip to the high end of the game (as most veteran players will be of high level).

Any new quest arcs will fit into existing areas and arcs. Since WoW takes players on a deliberate path through the levels in specific areas, any new quests need to take advantage of these areas and pair up with existing content instead of making new areas for the same level range and moving or splitting up the player population.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something smart and informative in an interview to a dev (I never heard before of this “Shawn Carnes”, he appears as a quest designer in the credits of the game) and in this case the whole interview is worth reading.

I quoted that part because it finally accepts concepts that I fought for in the past. And I’m definitely glad when my ideas can be proven correct and can be confirmed on a real game. In particular I’m referring to this and another post on this website. Beside all the lenghty articles I wrote about the mudflation.

Compare that quote from the interview above with what I wrote some time ago:

Right now “new content” and explansion packs are added to the margin of the game even when the “core” is still broken, not functional, unfun or unused. The fact is that this new content keeps derailing the development on something irrelevant. My idea is that you can add and expand the world by keeping a cohesive approach. To consider the game world as a “whole” instead of an amass of stuff you pile up randomly and that keeps growing without a sense.

Instead of creating new zones with new mobs and new quests, you can also re-consider what’s already in the game, add more paths and quests, add interactivity, adjust something that isn’t working properly and so on. With this approach you do not need a brand new zone with brand new monsters and quests in order to keep the game up to date and the interest of the players alive. The development can reuse, adjust and expand what is already available and add more “space” only when it is truly required.

(There’s also This thread where I discuss the same concepts with Brad McQuaid)

I believe those points are important and define the guidelines to bring the game more toward a “Virtual World” with its own complexity and personality instead of an enlarging stain of mudflated content that dries up and vanishes with the time, making the whole game progressively age and die. If they keep going in that direction WoW may have something to demonstrate even about its longevity.

But as I said even the rest of the interview is interesting. Firstly because it gives us more details about the behaviour of the subscribers (even more interesting today after this announce):

With WoW breaking every MMOG record for subscription numbers, what is the plan at Blizzard for retention of users?

Current retention is high, and I am more impressed by the low turnover than our resubscription spikes during patches. The WoW live team continues to work on content directed to the existing customers to keep them interested in the game. If I had to guess, somewhere between 15 – 20% of our accounts have at least once 60th level character, so the content needs to cater to those customers.

You mention spikes during patches. What are you seeing there?

Every time a major patch has been dropped for the game, we see a notable number of accounts reactivate. These spikes are easy enough to see and can be related to people wanting to check out the new content.

Then for some smart stabs at SOE:

Blizzard has no plans for in-game advertisements. They really do not fit the general nature of WoW. The development for WoW is, first and foremost, focused on the total game experience. What the players experience is our key to continued success.

What of real money trading (RMT) for in game goods? Has Sony’s move to launch the ‘Station Exchange’ caused Blizzard to rethink its stance on RMT?

Blizzard does not condone RMT. We are more concerned about the experience of the players than we are in expanding in other directions.

And finally a surprising statement:

An expansion is planned, not in 2005, possibly in late 2006 barring unforeseen chaos. Work is already going on for the expansion, and it’s going good. What to look for?

Blizzard is good at polishing what we do well. The WoW expansion will be like other game expansions in that there will be new characters, items, spells, etc. but it will have the Blizzard twist.

And yes, between all the good ideas, I believe this one is particularly daring and will indeed payback. Breaking another of those annoying commonplaces about mmorpgs needing an expansion every six months or a year.

I already explained on Q23 why I believe Blizzard isn’t and shouldn’t be in a hurry:

Honestly I’m surprised we haven’t heard of an expansion pack for WoW yet.

Beside the other reasons, Blizzard has still the single-player mentality and you usually release an expansion pack when the game starts to sell less, so you can push it again in the shops.

But WoW is still at the top of the charts.

And now I’m positively impressed. They are taking their time to plan and develop a wonderful expansion, built on good principles and without rushing it. Focusing the rest of the development on the live game which is what truly matters right now.

Good work.

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