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The balance between new and old content

The balance between new and old content
In some ways, the development team on World of Warcraft has to constantly pay for their own successes. Nostalgia is a potent force, and players often look back fondly on their favorite experiences and want to experience them again. The recent patch 5.1 changes allowing max level players to enter and solo older raid content is a testament to how much goodwill there is towards these older experiences. In both Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, older dungeons were revamped and raised to the then-level cap as heroics, and two older raids (Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman) were brought into Cataclysm as five man dungeons to tie into a further storyline.

Today, while reading the forums I came across a post by Nethaera that really sums up the difficulty in this kind of balance between player nostalgia and new experiences. One of the things I think Cataclysm showed us was that there are limits to how much time players will accept spent on revamping old content and that Blizzard really has to focus on what's new in order to keep the game moving forward. As much as we all love a good soak in nostalgia, it's never as good to actually eat the leftovers as we convinced ourselves it was.

Nethaera - Old Content is just like Printing money
Quote:

I often wondered why blizzard doesn't take advantage of the content people loved. Sure, new content and raids are fun but how much time would it really take to upgrade Kara to current gear levels.

I mean why in gods name wouldn't you do things like this, the Ony upgrade was great but even now its outdated by two expansions. The scarlet monastery was good but you didn't even have to redesign the dungeon, just leave them as they were.

Can you imagine if Apple decided to completely change the Iphone every release? Sure a few things are changed on each version but the core design, style, and functionality are all there and people still flock to get the latest version. Why is that, its because they have a good thing going.

I'm going to sound a bit like a broken record, so forgive me, but when we are working on updates to the game, we're looking at what works well for the ongoing development of it. Sometimes that means taking a look at previous content and updating, and sometimes it means leaving it as it is. Overall though, it's about where we want to take things next, what fits into the larger scheme of development, what can we devote resources to comfortably and still deliver the best possible experience we can in a reasonably solid time frame.

There are a lot of things that people keep bringing up that they'd like to see again, or revisit in a new and fresh way. We're not unaware of this. But, at the same time, we have to keep asking ourselves, "Does it make sense and if it does make sense, does it make sense right now?" In contrast, there are those detractors who are often upset when we do go back and refresh content. In some cases it's because they're new enough that they haven't seen it yet, in others it's because they feel we should leave well enough alone, and to others yet who feel that it's a development "cop out" and a mere recycling effort. That's not to say that these things aren't possibilities "someday", but what seems simple to you may not be quite so simple as all that.

An example of updating things on a very large scale, is Cataclysm. There was so much work done from the starting quests to the environments to the very flight paths, but to those who didn't go through the refreshed content, it was a "waste" of time. We also then had what many felt was far too little at the upper end of content for them. So, despite best efforts to refresh a significant amount of content, not everyone was pleased with it once the immediate blush was off the rose. What we must fight against is time, nostalgia, "What do I get to do/take part in?", or even "where's my challenge?" So, no, it's not as easy as that. In a perfect world, maybe it would be.



I don't envy the team here at all. As an example, I really miss old Zul'Gurub. It had unique models (I never did get my Halberd of Smiting) interesting lore and unique mounts. Now, that's not to say that new Zul'Gurub is bad, because it's not. But it's not the same - we lost something in updating it. Even with Zul'Aman, a far less changed dungeon, we still lost Zul'jin (since he's dead) and for me, not getting to see and hear Zul'jin in favor of some guy I didn't know wasn't an exciting trade. Again, it's not that the dungeon was bad, but it wasn't my Zul'Aman. The danger of updating content is that the past is always filtered through the emotions we have connected to the memories, we do not see it objectively.

Mists of Pandaria's success, in my opinion, comes from its commitment to giving us new experiences. New dungeons, new raids, new zones, new quests, it's a case of resources being dedicated to making the now, not remaking then. As great as the Cataclysm revamp was in places, it was still a change to the old world, and for people who had run those zones before the Cata changes it was at times jarring and offputting. Now, we can make the case that it was necessary (I certainly belong to the camp that believes it was) but necessary or not, seeing characters I remembered from my first trip through Darkshore dead on its beaches on my worgen was extremely gloomy for me.

In the end, I think Mists has gotten the balance pretty close to perfect, with a few heroic dungeons revamping old content, and the rest of the expansion taking full advantage of the huge new sandbox given us.


Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria

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