Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A lot of content

I was about to write a comment to a post on The Common Sense Gamer blog, but it got so long that I decided I'd better post it here. TCSG quotes Blizzard VP Rob Pardo, who "says the reason why WoW is successful is because it delivers a lot of content; not just a grind; and that content takes time and creative effort to produce.", and complains that this isn't true, because the WoW end-game is a grind. True, but that isn't what Rob Pardo said. In fact, objectively viewed, all what Rob says here is totally correct.

World of Warcraft is successful because it delivers a lot of content. Take the famous "casual" gamer, including the middle-class variant which has a casual attitude, but plays quite a lot (that would be me). How much content does he have in WoW, if he doesn't want to raid or grind? A rough estimate would be about 2,000 hours before he has explored all the zones, did most of the quests, and played several character classes and races, Horde and Alliance. 2,000 hours totally qualifies as "a lot of content". I can't even think of other media offering anywhere near 2,000 hours of content. You can read the complete Dune series of books much faster than that. Even endless TV series like CSI with all sub-series, or Friends, don't come anywhere close to 2,000 hours. But World of Warcraft offers that much content, and that is a major reason for its success.

Rob Pardo says "not just grind", and that is true, there is a lot of non-grind content in WoW. He doesn't say "there is no grind in WoW", because that would be a lie. The reason why I'm more or less burned out of WoW, and why so many other bloggers are angry with WoW, or cancelling their accounts, is that 2,000 hours is not the same as "endless". It is totally possible to consume all that lot of content in the two-and-a-half years of WoW's existence, if you play more than 15 hours per week, which a lot of players do. And at the end of the content there is no game over screen telling you that you have finished. Instead there is grind and the raid game that is only attractive to a small number of hardcore players.

The problem that Rob Pardo states in that interview is that Blizzard is unable to produce content as fast as some players consume it. I mentioned it before, at the rate that me personally I'm consuming content, the Burning Crusade expansion was only good for three months. Content patches help, but they aren't adding so many hundreds of hours of non-grind, non-raid content either. For me World of Warcraft simply ran out of content, even if I'm totally willing to admit that there was a lot of it to start with. I just couldn't get enough of it, couldn't ration it, and used it all up. Now I'll need to play something else until they restock.

Running out of content you still want to play is a sad thing, causing some negative emotions. Many people become so frustrated and depressed from it that they start complaining about how bad a game World of Warcraft is. I don't really feel comfortable with that. I'd like to have more content, I'd like the developers to create more non-grind, non-raid content for the masses (aka "me") instead of raid content for the elite. But that doesn't change the fact that I quite enjoyed the last 30 months of playing WoW, 30 hours per week. In fact I'd feel rather foolish saying "I played over 3,000 hours of WoW and finally came to the conclusion that the game sucks". The worst thing I can say about WoW is that after all that time I'm not sure I'll want more of the same, even if they added accessible new zones and quests. But I never expected World of Warcraft to last forever.

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