Hurry up and wait (OR: why smaller, more frequent patches is better)

So, today I want to examine the history of patches and content releases in WOW’s history. My goal is to explain why the smaller, more frequent content updates are going to be better than the big (but infrequent) content patches we got in WotLK.

First is our trip down memory lane:

  • Patch 1.x (Vanilla WOW): 12 major patches across 2 years. One to three months between content patches. Only 4 of the 12 major content patches contained raid zones. Other numbered patches included as little as “Weather effects and Tier 0.5 armor sets” as the major content features. Other content patches included either 5-mans (with nothing else), or outdoor raid bosses, or PvP content with no major PvE content releases. It didn’t really matter what you were into, since there was always something new & interesting to do (and if you didn’t like what was in a certain patch, you only had to wait another month or two for more).
  • Patch 2.x (Burning Crusade): 4 major patches across approx 1.5 years (Jan 2007 thru Oct 2008). Two to four months between content patches (6 months between BT released in May 2007 and ZA being released in November 2007 with only “void chat” as the major patch between them). Three of the 4 major patches contained raid dungeons plus additional features. Began the days of huge monolithic patches with many months between content releases. However, the difficulty of raid content was designed such that it could take a guild 4 to 5 months to kill all the content, and not very many people cleared all of Sunwell even having from March 2008 to October 2008 (7 months) with no additional content releases (in part due to the gating of opening Sunwell content).
  • Patch 3.x (Wrath of the Lich King): 3 major content patches, with 4 months between major patches. Each major patch released a raid dungeon plus additional content. 3.3 was released almost a year before the next major content patch (4.0). They released other content in sub-patches (ie. ruby sanctum in 3.3.5 approx 6 months after 3.0 hit).

For a full listing of the patches, their release dates, and what they contained, I put them on a separate page here to not clutter & distract from the post.

A return to the “good ole days”

Having experienced all of WoW’s post-release development, I am actually REALLY happy to see that they have decided that the Vanilla model (smaller, more frequent “content” updates) is a better way to go than huge content releases (with huge gaps of time between them). There are points in time where there is plenty of raiding content still to do, but everything ELSE in the game is boring. Giving us minor goals or smaller, more frequent, “content” patches is better than having to wait for a big raid dungeon’s release with the 5-man and quests all together so that we have a ton of things to do for 2 weeks and still get bored 3 months before the next content patch hits again.

A rose by any other name? Instead of the major content patches, we have still gotten a lot of patches (with numbering such as 3.3.5a) which would either include bug fixes or content features (things they didn’t want to wait for a “major” content release patch to push out because people’s ideas of a content release patch had gotten too grand).

Vanilla was more fun because it felt a lot less like “hurry up and wait” and more like there was always something new to explore. Even if that new content involved PvP in Southshore/Tarren Mill, it still felt substantial.

Instead of the TBC & WotLK patch cycle of “hurry up & wait”, I like the idea of going back to a time where a “major content update” could be something small that wet your appetite for more to come. If you are only waiting 2 months between content patches (with less content per patch), I think we can get used to that, and it may help prevent the huge spats of boredom that come between the rush to complete all the content in huge patches.

4 Comments

  1. Posted March 5, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Best post yet. Been thinking about doing a review of every single druid-specific patch change from 1.0 and onward. But I’m busy and need to get rl stuff out of the way and you should do it!

    Also, yay for smaller more frequent content patches. Raiders only care about raids. The casuals dig the easier raids and some BGs and 5p stuff. The arena diehards – well, they’re too cool for anything else.

    Personally I’d love for Blizz to continue making content for all different parts of the playerbase. Which oddly enough leads me to conclude that the lack of new arenas is a bit “due” for an up-shift.

    • Lissanna
      Posted March 5, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      In vanilla, there was also a lot more involvement by people in dabbling at more things – because the patch between your raid content patches may have been a new PvP thing, so you took the time to check it out because you had the time to try it (instead of being distracted by the new raid and then forgetting the PvP thing even got implemented and then being bored when your raiding got boring).

  2. Beth
    Posted March 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I wholeheartedly agree here. I much prefer the smaller patches with mini games/goals and added “filler” content for those of us who aren’t quite ready and/or willing to raid yet.

  3. Wharep
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how their new (old) patch system will turn out. Good I hope.
    At least I know, that the activity level in our guild, when there’s no raid going on, has been depressingly low lately. Even I don’t log in much atm. Cata is great, but there really isn’t much to do in endgame.
    Having more minor patches, with just some content, should help keep the boredom away.