We’ve entered that part in pre-patch proceedings where everybody demands a crystal ball and time to explain their ‘when will Patch X.X go live’ theories. Once upon a time you could judge release candidates by the end of the PvP season, whether the data had downloaded to your computer and if there was a Tier set attached to an Instance. None of these factors are a reliable benchmark any more: in fact, if we’re honest, there’s no real indicator anywhere that the Tomb of Sargeras is ready for deployment.
Welcome to the New World of Content when Players are Ready.
Despite the numerous criticisms of this Company’s approach to design, nobody can argue they’ve not listened to demands laid out after Warlords. We have content now to satisfy even the most rabid of consumers, and with it being less than a month since the Nighthold was first conquered by the Mythic teams, it is fair to say that throwing another World First race into the mix is not really what anybody wants right now. Having decoupled the instance launch from patch deployment is a shrewd business move in that regard. It is fair to suspect that we won’t see the Tomb ‘opened’ until the business of establishing all the world content exposition is completed anyway. This in itself shows a marked departure in design mentality, which is worth exploring further.
The Nighthold has set an important precedent: this well-designed and implemented storyline, that played out over a set number of weeks for early consumers but that could be easily truncated for late arrivals, literally led you to the door of the Instance. That means, I’d fancy, that we’ll have (probably) 8 weeks of 7.2’s continuing storyline (including time to establish a proper base of operations) before everybody’s at the gates of the Tomb and ready to move forward. After this (one assumes) Patch 7.2.5 will be deployed with something else awesome TBC before we see new raiding in June. After that happens, of course, there’s only one thing anybody will want to talk about anyway, so I can see the Company not wanting to get ahead of themselves.
If we cast our minds back to Blizzcon (only four months ago, seems like four years) you will recall that Argus is slated to be 7.3, and NOT a new Expansion. If that is the case, and we do see the Tomb open in June, current development protocols would dictate there’ll be nothing to announce at Gamescon, because we’ll see 7.3 on the PTR as soon as 7.2.5 is done. That seems a little incongruous, considering the Company used Germany as such a good basis to propel this title forward on a worldwide stage. If I were a betting woman, I’d still be putting solid cash on us getting an Expansion announcement there, with massive coverage subsequently across the two days of Blizzcon, which was announced this week.
In fact the more I think about it the more I feel summat seismically different is coming. Could it be the rumours of a ‘secret’ project inside Blizzard that’s pulled a number of key Warcraft personnel off Legion? Have I been drinking too much green tea and doing too many yoga sessions? This Expansion has redefined the landscape for so many things going forward, and Activision Blizzard appear to have a remarkable number of irons simultaneously in fires. Call it what you like but I feel that there’s a change coming, a departure from what everybody has previously experienced. All we can do now of course is wait, and hope the answers come Soon (TM)
There’s a post coming tomorrow about how I envision the development process going forward: what is now hugely encouraging is that story has moved very much front and centre in our motivations and actions in Azeroth, and soon beyond on Argus. Once you grasp that the path forward has an awful lot to do with some very long term and clearly quite carefully planned events? Suddenly, the future becomes considerably more interesting. Whenever 7.2 deploys on live servers, it starts a countdown to what is likely to be a very different approach to the concept of regeneration, and how Warcraft moves confidently forward into its second decade as an MMO.