Expectations are very difficult to manage. Rant.

I was reading about the Blood Elf models not making the WoW – Warlords release, and through the comments people are extrapolating from that (a) Blizzard are rushing, (b) release might be around the corner, (c) the community deserve a little more information, (d) Blizzard have had plenty of time already and they are lazy, (e) the expansion will be terrible.

The variety and breadth of perspectives on the next expansion is telling of two things. The fan-base isn’t sure of many details they consider important, and that Blizzard isn’t actually served (in the short term) by being honest with their fans.

The company who is infamous for releasing when they are ready, and who has already said that the game will be released closer to December than July – I just don’t get it. A feature set was broad brushed a long time ago, and details are being released to keep the fans interested and also to keep WoW’s long tail of blogs, news, etc alive. The release dates cycle is very long (basically impossible to argue against) but it is not significantly longer than other expansions.

I do not think the studio deserve to be derided for communicating about status, delays, and where their thinking is, because the alternative is that they just go silent and do press releases for the blogs to recycle. For pity’s sake fan-base, start being fans.

If the long view is taken, a fan can look back at the 10 years of discussion and banter between the vendor and customer, it demonstrates that talking to fans is a good thing. Many other game devs do not discuss their products in this way, and I think they suffer less bad comments pre-release.

Comments such as this is superficially reasonable, until you start to ponder what answer would actually be satisfactory…

The only thing that worries me is this;  what has to be scrapped to allow extra time to get this in at a later date now?  Meaning, if this was supposed to be done at launch, that allowed for room for other content to be released later on.  Since this is being pushed, what content may get pushed even further or now scrapped because of this?

There is no useful answer to this question. Speaking as a manager of software projects, I see questions similar to this all the time, and the answers cannot be specific without creating another set of clarifying questions. It becomes an endless cycle of q&a…but what if…why can’t we just…why wasn’t I consulted?

As much as it might be hurtful to say the end consumers of the expansion are not stakeholders who should be involved in the timing and planning stages, so releasing information to them is done for customer engagement purposes, not to actually ask which feature should be in or out to meet a flexible deadline. Yes, they are the end paying customer, but your needs and views have been analysed and incorporated into the product strategy already. I’m certain that Blizzard are taking every feature seriously as they’ve released so many good quality products in the past. A flippant approach to features, quality, or deadlines doesn’t match their history.

Express your frustration or opinion without the dramatic rhetoric, and you might even find the vendor listening. Attack the vendor with no constructive feedback and you’ll be muted. We all know that an attack creates more clicks, but at this stage the whining is just tiresome. If you don’t like waiting, then go do something else because you’ll be waiting regardless.

The fact that one of the racial character models won’t be updated isn’t a show stopper. This announcement proves that, and tells us that they are willing to drop some non-core features to meet their target dates. Heck, drop more character models for all I care. The content (worlds, raids, quests, etc) being finished to a high quality and without defects is a showstopper, the upgrade process for the game is critical, the distribution method is critical. Even the comms plan for marketing and the planning a round their own other products and the products of their competitors is important. New character models? Sit down (imho*).

Keep in mind too that the models are not being shelved, but being delayed. This isn’t the dance studio. That is a box feature that is wonderful to drop into a discussion like this to demonstrate why something which was all but pointless to a wide range of players can also create a blather of negative feedback from a loud minority. It should never be anything except a silly nice-to-have feature. By comparison I think the new models are more important, but trivial compared to the actual story and event content for the expansion.

We need to deal with what we get at launch. Not what you wanted? Then don’t buy it.

If the lack of a particular widget ruins the game for you, then wait till it is present and join the game again during that content patch. I’ve unsubscribed during the downtime period and cannot understand the parts of the fan-base who are angry that they don’t have new content in the period where it was well communicated that there would be no new content. Too long between expansions is only true if you’re choosing to not play or not enjoying what you have now.

I’ve previously blogged about the time to expansion release being long, but it was an observation targeting the idea of doings something else with my time and money. If you are choosing to pay for something you don’t like, or sitting in front of a game which we know won’t be changing for months and expecting something new; then I think there are other issues. PEBKAC.

Happy gaming, TyphoonAndrew.

* ok, not humble.

5 thoughts on “Expectations are very difficult to manage. Rant.

  1. Er…

    “The release dates cycle is very long (basically impossible to argue against) but it is not significantly longer than other expansions.”

    Dragon Soul was launched November 29th, 2011. Mists of Pandaria was released on September 25th, 2012. So roughly a 10 month delay.

    Siege of Orgrimmar was launched September 10th, 2013. Warlords will likely not arrive until November or December, so that’s an 13-14 month delay.

    I’d say 30-40% longer (which is 3-4 months) is significantly longer.

  2. Respectfully I think comparing the last one to the next one, when talking about Blizzard’s release performance isn’t representative of their overall performance. I’m talking about expansions, not patch content. Siege is just a patch. They do an expansion in roughly two years. Adding 2-3 months into a 24 month cycle isn’t 30%-40% at all. Consider the overall dates (from the wikipedia page on WoW):

    WoW Release: Nov 2004,
    Burning Crusade: Jan 2007,
    Wrath: Nov 2008
    Cata: Dec 2010
    Mists: Sep 2012
    Warlords: Nov 2014?

    When you consider that they’ve released an expansion in around 2 years, and Nov 2014 will also be around two years, its not a dramatic change. And they made this well known, so getting angry about them keeping to the target they publicised is odd. If they missed Nov/Dev and pushed it to March 2015 then I’d agree it is a failing.

  3. People active in the game live patch-to-patch, though — I doubt few people would care if WoD came out 3 years later instead of 2 provided there were 4-5 raid tiers instead of 3. This is also the third time in a row that the last patch has dragged on way too long. ICC, then Dragon Soul, then Siege of Orgrimmar — and SoO is the worst of the three in terms of sheer time.

    What compounds people’s frustration is the fact that t14 was incredibly short and t15 could easily have been out for another month. So if t14 had lasted 3 more months and t15 1 more months then Siege would be dragging on far less.

    They keep saying they want to make expansions faster and then keep failing and we keep having super long final tiers.

  4. Oh I agree with you that the time from last raid to new expac is way too long. They tried to add that last mini-raid in Wrath and it was laughable; firstly for the initial difficulty and how small it was, and then because of the push to get players into it despite it being clear it was strongly disliked (was it called Tree Dragon or something).

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