Blizzard's Plan To Get Rid Of Gaps Between World Of Warcraft Expansions

Blizzard's Plan To Get Rid Of Gaps Between World Of Warcraft Expansions

After more than a decade of expansion cycles, Blizzard is changing their approach to World of Warcraft. Step one? Take players to a new planet.

During a BlizzCon panel, World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas made a surprise announcement: the game is about to venture to a whole new planet, Draenei homeworld and demon stronghold Argus. Initially, people assumed it was a wink toward the next expansion. Nope. It's set for an upcoming patch.

"Patch 7.3 is taking us to Argus," Hazzikostas explained to me in an interview at BlizzCon after his panel. "It's the story of Legion. Legion's story is one that extends beyond Azeroth."

It's a big leap for a post-expansion WoW patch, but Hazzikostas said to expect a consistent stream of meaty (and less meaty) story content — rather than lengthy breaks — until the next expansion comes out.

Blizzard's Plan To Get Rid Of Gaps Between World Of Warcraft Expansions

"We're working on a new expansion," Hazzikostas told me. "It's gonna be great. But we're setting ourselves up to be much more flexible in the amount of patch content we create. We're making sure that we're always gonna be working on the next step, the next link in the chain. To keep our players engaged, to make sure there's always something new to do in Azeroth. The expansion will be done when it's done."

He added that he doesn't think this will have a material impact on the next expansion. He doesn't want these things to deflate expansions or the momentous feeling that surrounds them.

"I don't think [this will impact how much content is in the next expansion]," he said. "Obviously, the expansion will come out later than if we decided to make less patch content and focus on the expansion. But there's always a process of iteration that goes into making our expansions. That's gonna happen regardless. I think it's more about making sure we have a contingency plan in place so that when it's done, there hasn't been a gap."

Obviously, though, this new patch plan further blurs the lines between updates and expansions. I asked Hazzikostas what the difference is these days — you know, aside from the part where grabbing one without forking over $US40 ($52) is legally considered theft. In short, it comes down to new mega-villains and wholly new features.

Blizzard's Plan To Get Rid Of Gaps Between World Of Warcraft Expansions

"I think an expansion is level cap going up, you're going to a new set of zones, a new continent or new sub-continent, entire new features and systems, and new major antagonists being built up," he said. "By and large, major new features like Artifact Weapons — that level of content — that's gonna be tied to a new expansion."

That said, features like Dungeon Finder originally launched in patches, and Hazzikostas said the team's certainly not opposed to testing out new technology and systems in regular updates.

Now, this all sounds nice, but if you've been following WoW for the past few years, you might notice a trend here: Blizzard roles out an ambitious new expansion release rate plan, and then... it doesn't happen. For a while, it was all about releasing expansions faster. Annually, even! But now, Blizzard has shifted in a different direction. Still, it's tough to have faith that things will go off entirely without a hitch.

Blizzard's Plan To Get Rid Of Gaps Between World Of Warcraft Expansions

"I'm not gonna say we have our whole process so locked in that we're not gonna make mistakes," said Hazzikostas. "We're always gonna overestimate or underestimate."However, he added that the WoW team now has somewhere between 250 and 275 members, and everybody's got an expansion under their belts. They're in a strong place to keep up a healthy pace. Now, I suppose, we wait and see.


    Blizzard's Plan to Get Rid of Gaps Between World of Warcraft Expansions
    First thought: You mean, Blizzard's newest plan to get rid of gaps, right?
    Because they've been claiming to have plans to fill in gaps between expansions every time they launch one.
    ...They've never actually succeed, but it's good that they're still trying, I guess.

    Now, this all sounds nice, but if you've been following WoW for the past few years, you might notice a trend here: Blizzard rolls out an ambitious new expansion release rate plan, and then... it doesn't happen.

    Oh, guess you had that covered. Good.

      They're doing a pretty good job of it so far. 7.1 hit only 2 months after launch, 7.1.5 is on PTR now, 7.2 is in the works, 7.2.5 is in planning. I definitely get the cynicism, I've felt it myself, but this actually feels like they're succeeding, and it feels pretty good.

    This is an interesting balancing act for a developer - when to provide more content versus giving the players a chance to finish with existing content. Obviously in WoWs case the hard core players devour it as quick as possible. But there are still players who are struggling to make it through the content and find it frustrating because they don't get to finish stuff before new content comes out and everyone moves on to that.

    There really isn't any good solution unfortunately because no matter what approach you take there will always be dissatisfied people. All you can hope is that the developers keep more people happy than upset.

      Nah, Blizz have that covered in WoW already. There are multiple difficulty levels for each dungeon so casual players can experience the story whilst on easy mode essentially.

      Then the raids all come out in "Looking for Raid" a few weeks after they've been released which again is an easy mode so people can experience what the raid is. Means no-one gets left behind because they can't handle a tougher difficulty.

      People still find something to complain about...but about 90% of the complaints I've seen on the forums have just been thrown out with the announcements made at Blizz con.

    So happy I re-joined WoW for Legion after a 5yr break. It feels like the best time to be playing since BC first came out. So much is going on, so much great content being released.

    They've really breathed new life into WoW. 2 months into the expansion and I'm still trying to get through content...have barely started on my first alt.

      I'm really liking this new one. Though I am kind of feeling a little 'locked in' to my main spec, to the detriment of other specs... let alone alts.

      Every hour I spend on an alt/off-spec is an hour I could've spent doing WQs/dungeons to level up my main spec's artifact weapon. It's not 34 yet, so I've got work to do, son.

        Yeah, but the DPS gains from further increasing the level on artifact weapons drops off pretty significantly for most classes once you have the worthwhile golden traits. Honestly, if i fill out the rest of my artifact tree, i only get an extra 10k dps on simulations.

        I'm mostly just cruising on my main now, 862 ilvl is decent atm. I need to start busting into 6-9+ Mythics though.

        Have started leveling my mage from 85 (I quit in cata until now). Got it to 95 so far...can't wait to play dps in Legion.

    Im not even playing wow at all now.... after 11 years of playing

    15 min raid every 2 weeks is not worth the 15 dollars and i basically done everything else, besides collect every transmog in the game.... and ughhh just no. Plenty of other great game experiences to have in this life o myne

      15 min raid? You doing LFR only or something? Don't even see the main mechanics from bosses until Heroic. That's when it gets fun, when your group has to stick through the wipes to learn the fights, when you get that great feeling the first time you kill each boss...That's what makes me love WoW.

      Besides that Karazhan has only been out 2 weeks. Man that place is awesome.

      Trials of Valor coming out soon too!

        done it all before many times over the years.... they re-use most the mechanics and I cant stand guild drama....
        why sit so through so much pain when you can be having fun playing other games

        I agree with @bluxy on not being interested in raiding, at least (I'm still having a ball with the solo/small group content).

        Progression raiding was a unique and challenging life experience that taught me all kinds of things and generated some very fond memories. I definitely do not regret doing it for so long, but I'm not in a hurry to re-live that. I'll LFR to see the content, but that's about it. Herding cats in a guild, turning your hobby into a strictly-scheduled grind, is not my idea of fun any more.

        The obligation to your friends to play when you don't feel like it, the boredom of repeating content til you get to the progression, the frustration of being held back by the weakest link, the drama of scheduling, the hurt feelings for whoever has to get benched, the fact that one person not turning up can torpedo the night's scheduled activity (that some people made sacrifices for), friction over loot rules, strategies, keeping the pressure on to actually progress so that you don't lost people to boredom/frustration, which in turn results in ugh, recruitment. That's not to mention personality conflicts, politics, all other drama which amplifies those otherwise solvable inconveniences into world-ending problems for the person who YOU can't progress without them having their shit together to stop fucking tunneling the boss when they're supposed to be dropping adds.

        Jesus fuck, I'm giving myself flashbacks. No. No, I'm not doing that again.

          None of the things you described are problems in my current (semi-casual) raiding guild. We only expect you to show up if you sign up, which I think is perfectly reasonable. Weak links are taught how to improve or politely sat out, I think maybe one person was butthurt about it in the last 4 years. Never had drama about scheduling or loot rules, we use fair systems that new recruits are told about when they join. One person not showing up hasn't been a problem since flex was introduced, we always have spares of each role so we can run anything from 10-30 players on the same content. Strategy friction happens occasionally but it's generally positive - people with different ideas put them forward and if the old way isn't working we'll usually give it a try. We've never needed pressure, we're all like-minded about wanting to progress, and those that aren't tend to fall off quietly and get replaced by people who do. Good recruiment means you rarely have to deal with personality conflicts or drama. About the only thing on the list there that does have to happen is recruitment, but if you're not an officer there's nothing for you to worry about. We've been able to push normal, heroic and partial mythic raiding with the way we do things, despite having a fairly casual approach.

          What you've described is definitely the case in badly organised and badly run guilds; my point is more that it sounds like that's all you've experienced. There are plenty of well-run guilds out there that don't suffer from the troubles you listed (they'd bother me too!), and the rewards for finding a good guild far outweigh the risks. LFR is pure torture, I don't know why you'd consciously choose that over just finding a good guild to join.

          Last edited 08/11/16 11:50 am

            thank buck for this site.... a reasonable conversation about it....

            anywhere else I say it I just get slandered

            I think its just burn out after doing sort of the same thing for over 10 years
            I will always like wow, I just don't want it to infringe on other good experiences I could be having right now. VR seems a leap and a breath away from the old style of games and its so refreshing, that WoW just seems less and less appealing. Its still fun to have a month here and there and do anything new that comes out on WoW... or to revisit when bored. I just don't see myself pouring (way too much) effort into the game ever again no matter how much content they add, special servers or whatnot.

            Just about to get House of the Dying sun in VR and immerse myself in a different WoW.... one that is a totally different WoW.
            My attitude towards games is still pretty darn hardcore.

            Last edited 08/11/16 7:50 pm

              All good man. Burnout happens, I've burned out on WoW a couple of times in the past too, though I keep coming back because in my opinion it has a level of charm, humour and polish that no other MMO has been able to reproduce. But that said, I definitely appreciate that sometimes you just need to put it down and have a change of pace for a while.

              Not that you or @transientmind have done this, but what bugs me is a lot of people confuse burnout with the game being objectively bad. I love pasta but it inevitably gets to a point where I want a different taste; I'm burned out/sick of pasta but that doesn't mean pasta is bad. I'm not off writing negative reviews on Metacritic about how pasta used to be great but since I ate it for 6 months straight now it sucks, I know better ;)

              That's not to say all complaints about WoW are like that, but it seems to make up the bulk of them.

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