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Content delivery in WoW


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#1 Greybone

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:19 AM

This is a old topic for many of you I'm sure, but I'd like some input.

I've been discussing a bit at work with a co-worker of mine. He plays EQ2, and we've talked a bit about the differences between the games, and especially how things are as a end-game raider.

I don't really care which game is 'best' or whatever, but there's a striking difference in available content that's interesting.

WoW has had a extremely limited amount of new content since launch. We've gotten 2 new raid zones, 2 20-man zones, a few dragons and demons and whatnot, and a couple 5-man zones, all in a year and a half. We've been there, done that, for everything, a million times over.

Meanwhile, EQ2 has gotten (according to my co-worker) a hell of a lot more. They're still unlocking new zones and are far from conquering all the existing content. Every day they go raid something different.

One of the things that lead to my WoW burn-out was definately the lack of things to do. I'd done almost every quest available to me, most of which had zero to mediocre rewards, and I wasn't insane enough to start the BG grind.

I'd raid whenever we had the chance, which wasn't that often, and it would be the same old content over and over once we mastered the initial encounter.
Then what?

Progression in WoW is limited to items, enchants for said items, and reputation.
There's no new quests with good rewards, there's no long questlines, there's no advancement to new dungeons and raid instances.

They've added a questline to upgrade your blue set, which is largely irrelevant to raiders, and they've added more reputation grinds. My questlog didn't change much the last 8 months I played.

Now, we've talked about the expansion, and how it will solve everything. We'll get 10 more levels with quests and fun stuff to do, we'll get more instances we can work at simultaneously, as well as raid zones and long questlines to unlock said zones.

There's a few things I'm wondering about:

1) IS wow's content delivery so slow compared to other games/what one would expect?

2) If so, why does blizzard have so few content developers when it should easily be a process they can branch out and have multiple developement teams working on simultaneously?
edit: :)

3) Is lack of content a real issue for a majority of the WoW player base, or is it limited to hardcore raiders with way too much free time on their hands?

4) Is blizzard content with settling for boxsales, thus downprioritizing development of new content? (co-workers theory)

#2 Zellyn

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:31 AM

parallelizable

Never, ever do that again. If you must, use this instead.

I think that the people who burn out the quickest are the hardcore raiders. I can count the number of MC, ZG and AQ20 runs I've done on one hand (not cumulatively, but for each). The events are still exciting, but I just really love running around like a wacko stabbing things. On the other hand, once I've seen Ragnaros go down (not yet, probably this weekend) a few times I imagine I'll lose my interest in it.

I will, however, continue to romanticize about things like BWL and AQ40. I've seen the animations for C'thun's eye and body rising up from below, and I wish I could see them in action, with all the other purty things going on. As a rogue, fighting Vael (or more specifically, getting Essence of the Red) makes me all hot in the pants. Will I still enjoy in after doing it a billion times? No.

To form an accurate comparison of the two games, though, you need to have someone who has played both. Are all those zones your friend says exist really well defined and thought out? Some of the BWL and AQ events make me smile just reading about how in depth they are. Even some of the hokie ones in MC, like Domo, are still fun to me. For example, I can easily compare the end-games of FFXI and WoW, and I can easily tell you there is fuck-all to do in that game but grind, craft and fight over boss spawns.

As for sales vs development, I don't think that Blizzard needs to worry about sales as much anymore. They have the largest market share of all the MMOs. I think they're starting to shift into a content-production mode. I think they've realized that the issue with people like you is that they're trying to cure having their fingers chopped off with massive blood infusions without stopping the bleeding first. I think Naxxramas is meant to act like a hot iron. It'll hurt like fuck, and stop the bleeding, but it'll give them the time necessary to get the expansion out, which will hopefully mean way more shit for even hardcore raiders to do in a week than before. Ideally, though, Naxxramas and Kel'Thuzad won't end up like C'thun and just be a brick wall between domination of the end-game.
<08-07-09 02:09>[Velth] This is the behavior of a benefactor of the EJ forums?

#3 XI-

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:38 AM

Here's my problem with the content delivery. I could deal with the slow rate of content delivery, if when it was delivered, IT ALL WORKED. And if they could stop incessantly breaking crap unrelated to anything else (*cough* seal fate *cough*).

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#4 Lailla

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 11:46 AM

I'm not familiar with MMOs outside of WoW, so I can't say much for your first two questions.

I play 30+ hours a week and one of the biggest ways that I've combatted boredom is through alts. Doing pubbie groups in a different role, running MC and praying your setpieces drop, and doing ZG/AQ20 to get free, uncontested upgrades is a lot of fun to me. Hell, I spent a few hundred gold this week on coins and bijous to power my druid to exalted so I can start bringing my mage while ZG still holds upgrades for her.

Though even the alt game gets old. After 3 level 60s and a few stagnant 20s, I cannot, cannot, CANNOT bear the thought of doing the same old alliance quests again. I started an undead warlock here on Mal'ganis, but it's really hard to push through the levels without any kind of social support (thanks Relwin :angry: ).

The only reason most of us still play is because of the social environment we play in. In a tight-knit guild, there's always someone to talk to or quest with or go to Wailing Caverns and fish 200 deviate fish with (pre-deviate fish schools :( ). For most pubbies, it's the same way. As long as there's some social stimulation, a person will be likely to keep playing. What good is running UBRS 200 times for Painweaver if you don't have anyone to be happy for you when you finally get it? Who cares if you did all the quests and got all the rewards if when you finish them there is nothing to do?

I've never been in a guild that lagged behind in raid progression, so I'm not sure exactly what that feels like. I would imagine that even a guild learning MC right now is ridiculously excited every time they down a new boss. Nerd screams from downing a new boss are awesome. (We got Twin Emps last night and I only wish I could hear nerd screams more often!)

Since Blizzard doesn't have to provide the social environment that keeps this game so successful, I can see why they would be more interested in box sales than keeping the content fresh and working. Broken C'Thun affects a tiny, tiny fraction of WoW's population. So really, why would Blizzard care?

#5 Drauk

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:14 PM

1) IS wow's content delivery so slow compared to other games/what one would expect?

2) If so, why does blizzard have so few content developers when it should easily be a process they can branch out and have multiple developement teams working on simultaneously?
edit: :)

3) Is lack of content a real issue for a majority of the WoW player base, or is it limited to hardcore raiders with way too much free time on their hands?

4) Is blizzard content with settling for boxsales, thus downprioritizing development of new content? (co-workers theory)

1) Yes, it is very slow. And they are artificially slowing it, by not releasing smaller patches. Im ok with Naxx being 1.11, but why they cant release smaller patches ? NR items, keyring, etc ?

2) Because it was always Blizzard way. And they can't hire enough people for some reason or another. Also it seems that a lot of content team is busy working on BC

3) Actually i think it is a bigger issue for casuals than raiders. Raiders at least have BWL and AQ as more or less modern and actual content. What does casuals have ? Re-itemized strat, scholo and BRD/BRS, visited more times that raiders visited raid instances ?

4) No, they are putting as much new content as they could. They really can't make it faster without hiring more people and/or drasctical changes to development process.

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#6 Elerion

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:35 PM

There are three reasons content delivery in WoW has this glacial pace:

1. The Blizzard Reputation. Blizzard has a reputation for putting out top notch shit, with minimal bugs and strong balance, and maintaining that through a few well placed patches. They will run into issues with losing this image if they release stuff that is as buggy as some of what we saw in EQ. Sure, C'Thun is buggy, but until this shitstorm began, barely 1% of the playerbase cared, and it was usually the well informed portion. Most the players that bought this game because it said "warcraft" or "blizzard" don't give a shit about C'Thun. Thus, they want maximum development time on the content, and they want it to be interesting when it's released. We'll have to give them that: Most the content in this game is brilliant, far better than 90% of what EQ had (and by reports, EQ2). It's just that there's too little of it.
2. Catering to everyone. WoW wants to please every single gamer out there, from the housewife that plays 4 hours a week with her son to the hardcore 12 hours a day raider or honor grinder. They also want to have a working PvE game AND a working PvP game. All this results in each area getting less attention and content than if they were more focused on one part of the playerbase (EQ PoP for raiders, for example). The PvE + PvP issue in particular makes it really hard to have a decent raid progression. Of course, they only want to please each of their players enough that they keep playing, which leads me to point 3:
3. It's cost efficient. Paying content designers and QA teams is expensive. Free content offers no marginal revenue, even though it can have an opportunity cost of lost subscriptions if it's ignored. Thus, they want to keep the content delivery at just the right speed that not too many people leave, and that the costs in making it aren't too big.

#7 Dargoth

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 12:46 PM

There are three reasons content delivery in WoW has this glacial pace:

1. The Blizzard Reputation. Blizzard has a reputation for putting out top notch shit, with minimal bugs and strong balance, and maintaining that through a few well placed patches. They will run into issues with losing this image if they release stuff that is as buggy as some of what we saw in EQ. Sure, C'Thun is buggy, but until this shitstorm began, barely 1% of the playerbase cared, and it was usually the well informed portion. Most the players that bought this game because it said "warcraft" or "blizzard" don't give a shit about C'Thun. Thus, they want maximum development time on the content, and they want it to be interesting when it's released. We'll have to give them that: Most the content in this game is brilliant, far better than 90% of what EQ had (and by reports, EQ2). It's just that there's too little of it.
2. Catering to everyone. WoW wants to please every single gamer out there, from the housewife that plays 4 hours a week with her son to the hardcore 12 hours a day raider or honor grinder. They also want to have a working PvE game AND a working PvP game. All this results in each area getting less attention and content than if they were more focused on one part of the playerbase (EQ PoP for raiders, for example). The PvE + PvP issue in particular makes it really hard to have a decent raid progression. Of course, they only want to please each of their players enough that they keep playing, which leads me to point 3:
3. It's cost efficient. Paying content designers and QA teams is expensive. Free content offers no marginal revenue, even though it can have an opportunity cost of lost subscriptions if it's ignored. Thus, they want to keep the content delivery at just the right speed that not too many people leave, and that the costs in making it aren't too big.

Only major thing I see here is:

If you release more content - some of which will indeed be buggy - you won't have so many fucking angry raiders because they'll actually have something to do other than bang their heads against C'Thun for 8 weeks. I highly doubt many guilds would have had a problem with 'Oh C'Thun is still untuned. Let's go try to make some headway in Naxxramus/other 40 man concurrently released.' Rather than having nothing to do but C'Thun or 3 hour BWL/MC clears.

#8 Elerion

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 01:51 PM

Obviously they screwed up with C'Thun, they went too far. They're still pacing content release such that it barely keeps the majority playing, which is the most cost efficient way of going about it.

Would we have more fun if their Dev/Designer/QA teams were three times as large and made content of this quality at three times the speed and handled problems quicker? Yes. Would Blizzard/Vivendi make more money? No.

#9 Dricen

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:21 PM

As someone mentioned before, Blizzard is trying to please every type of gamer, and delivering content for all, the result of this: content release for a particular group will be slow, whereas content release for the game as a whole is in a nice pace.

If you sum up all the content release and changes overall (all gamer groups), WoW is doing fine, it's the specific content release pace that is screwed, this of course is due to the "please everyone" mentality Blizz seems to be opting for.

Now you need to ask yourself, why should they change?, they're already the MMO with the biggest subscriber base, and in all honesty they don't have any solid competition, EQ2 is the closest competition they have and it's not even close because :

a) too many people are afraid to go back to an SoE game
B) too many people played EQ2 in its early release form and didn't like it
c) game just isn't appealing enough

In it's current form, and with their current content release pace, they have the strongest MMO playerbase, and they don't have a reason to change it, sure they have people here and there taht quit, but it's not a menacing majority, so they don't really care enough to make a solid investment into widening the development budget.

Also if you notice EQ focused to please raiders, hence the very fast content release rate, EQ2 also focuses on high end content, they do however focus on pvpers (now) , and a bit on casuals (with their solo content release) , but it's only a minor concern, unlike blizzard who cherishes casuals.

Until the day where WoW has some pretty rough solid competition in a particular department (pvp, casual, hardcore raiding) , they simply won't change their model, because they way it's functioning now, and with their current development budget, they just don't have to, because they still have the best playerbase, for them right now it's the good ol' "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, and from a business perspective, i wouldn't change it either, as a gamer, it sucks, but as a businessman it's just good moneymaking, and after all, that's what they're looking for.

PS: english aint first language so take it ez =)

#10 Ghostz

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:22 PM

Would we have more fun if their Dev/Designer/QA teams were three times as large and made content of this quality at three times the speed and handled problems quicker? Yes. Would Blizzard/Vivendi make more money? No.

Would they retain more long-term customers? Yes.
Would they retain their reputation as pretty much the top video game designer? Yes.

I believe Blizzard have realized that keeping their customers happy should be their number one priority. Thats why they take that extra year to make sure their game was released at its full potential. That is why Starcraft Ghost was scrapped for now even though they spent years developing it. Is that not a lot of money down the drain? Is spending an extra year developing a title to polish it off and make sure everyone enjoys it not extra money? Hiring more development teams falls under the same category, spending money to keep their customers be happy.

Its all part of marketting, look at EQ and EQ2, many raiders don't want to go to EQ2 just because of their experiences with the original. On the other hand, Blizzard released quality game after quality game and on the release of WoW I'm sure a ton of those initial subscribers' main selling point was the Blizzard tag on the box. If they keep that trend up, they will have the same effect when their next title comes out. Its a much better idea to spend some extra money now and reap its benefits later down the line.

#11 Dricen

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:30 PM

Would we have more fun if their Dev/Designer/QA teams were three times as large and made content of this quality at three times the speed and handled problems quicker? Yes. Would Blizzard/Vivendi make more money? No.

Would they retain more long-term customers? Yes.
Would they retain their reputation as pretty much the top video game designer? Yes.

I believe Blizzard have realized that keeping their customers happy should be their number one priority. Thats why they take that extra year to make sure their game was released at its full potential. That is why Starcraft Ghost was scrapped for now even though they spent years developing it. Is that not a lot of money down the drain? Is spending an extra year developing a title to polish it off and make sure everyone enjoys it not extra money? Hiring more development teams falls under the same category, spending money to keep their customers be happy.

Its all part of marketting, look at EQ and EQ2, many raiders don't want to go to EQ2 just because of their experiences with the original. On the other hand, Blizzard released quality game after quality game and on the release of WoW I'm sure a ton of those initial subscribers' main selling point was the Blizzard tag on the box. If they keep that trend up, they will have the same effect when their next title comes out. Its a much better idea to spend some extra money now and reap its benefits later down the line.

Although i completely agree with you, i just do not think blizzard has realized this yet, because WoW is still a young game, they haven't reached that point where they have to start worrying about keeping their longterm players, which are hardcore raiders, casuals and pvpers come and go as fast as lightning, but raiders stick it in the long term.

Consider that releasing a polished and well made game isn't easy, blizzard has done it pretty well in the past, however, an MMO is a whole different cookie, the insane large amount of content in an MMO makes it very hard to have absolutely all well polished. WoW is by far the most overall polished MMO, and even though they have had their screwups, specially most recently with AQ, it is still the most polished MMO to this day, and it shows in their playerbase.

When they start having playerbase issues, they will go into "omg lets please the longterm raiders" mode, until then, they'll keep their current model. And even if they hire 10+ gamers to tell them what works ( hello furor, tig, indalamar), those gamers in the end, don't make the big decisions, and the big CEO doesn't care about "long term raiders", he cares about the money he's making from the game in it's current form.

#12 subscience

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 02:59 PM

I'm not familiar with MMOs outside of WoW, so I can't say much for your first two questions.

Compared to the two other MMOs I played as much as WoW (UO and L2), WoW blows them all out of the water. Then again, one is pretty dated by today's standards and the other one is solely populated by farmers.

I played AC2 for a bit and their content updates blew me away. Sure; it wasn't a great MMO, but the effort and creativity they seemingly put into each patch was astounding- Entire areas would go from green rolling hills to snow covered hilltops to a scarred war ground depending on the lore and player interaction (to a degree). Although only monthly, I don't think any updates in any other game made me more excited than AC2's.

#13 Dargoth

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:26 PM

As someone mentioned before, Blizzard is trying to please every type of gamer, and delivering content for all, the result of this: content release for a particular group will be slow, whereas content release for the game as a whole is in a nice pace.

Eh, I don't know. Raiders are bored. Casuals are bored. PvP'ers are bored. The Tier 0.5 stuff that was supposed to tide casuals over for a good while (presumably through the Naxxramus patch) has already been exhausted by many non-raiding types on my server, since most of them already had their blue sets (or most of it). PvP'ers haven't gotten anything new in months (aside from nerfs) and raiders get 1 instance at a time to do with little to look forward to but the next PTR and being free beta testers. I personally think the content pace sucks thus far. I realize in EQ2 they just drum up some generic terrain and call it a new zone and release an expansion, but the crawling pace of content with WoW is annoying.

I'm sure there are business reasons, they have to realize how addicted most of their player base is. They know most players, casual or not, will complain for a good while before actually doing anything about it.\

I think this sort of ties into the item progression discussion in another thread, as well as comments about the lack of any completely dominating dungeon that's actually open for us to aspire to actually progress toward. This new dungeon->last boss impossible->nerf to killable week before new dungeon->last boss impossible->nerf to killable week before new dungeon->last boss impossible->nerf to killable routine is becoming, well, routine.

#14 Dricen

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:36 PM

you might have not understood what i meant :) , i actually agree with what you've said, content IS slow paced, but content for a particular group.

What i mean is content as a whole is on an ok pace , they release reviews, changes to BGs, the t0.5 sets, changes to 5man 10mans, AQ, AQ20, but the content is spread out among different player groups, which results in each group seeing it as slow, thus ending bored.

This is what i believe is the main problem with WoW, they're trying to please everybody, but that just doesn't work and will not work unless they seriously increase their investment in content development, because as it stands now, they're just dont have the content to please them, and the problem is they have the potential to do it (seeing how much money they're making), but since their subscribtion rates are still fine, there's no need to change them, and that subscribtion rate is fine because there just isn't any other solid strong MMO competitor out there.

#15 Praetorian

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:42 PM

I get the impression that a good old-fashioned management consulting firm would have a field day with Blizzard's production infrastructure. I'd love to peek behind the curtain and see for myself, but based on a lot of the results and communication observed, it really seems like half the time the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.

That's the problem with just saying "add more teams to work on more content in parallel." I think the way the Blizzard production cycle may work, that would just lead to incredible chaos.

#16 Dricen

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:48 PM

I get the impression that a good old-fashioned management consulting firm would have a field day with Blizzard's production infrastructure. I'd love to peek behind the curtain and see for myself, but based on a lot of the results and communication observed, it really seems like half the time the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.

That's the problem with just saying "add more teams to work on more content in parallel." I think the way the Blizzard production cycle may work, that would just lead to incredible chaos.

Even though i agree with you, i'd like to think it doesn't work that way given the fact that blizzard is under a corporate tag and handles millions of dollars a month, one would like to think they have a much more coordinated production structure.

But then again, as you said, you see all these asymmetries from them when it comes to information, patching, feedback, etc.. i wouldn't be surprised if it does operate like that.

#17 Praetorian

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:52 PM

WoW is unlike anything Blizzard has ever done before. They had to hire so many new people and expand so much around WoW's release that growing pains are inevitable. Blizzard has always been about small teams that labor for years polishing games to perfection. A 6-million-subscriber worldwide MMO with ongoing maintenance requirements is a very, very, very different story. I think previous Blizzard teams were always small enough that communication and keeping everyone on the same page was a complete nonissue, and it may just not be a skillset that the "new Blizzard" has refined yet.

#18 Oaken

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 03:52 PM

If I held the purse strings in my company, I would offer to do it for free because of all the publicity we could get. Having said that, product-based IT development is a whole different kettle of fish than the kind of lifecycle-based IT development the traditional management consulting companies excel at. Would be hella fun though.

#19 Dricen

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 04:07 PM

Indeed Gurg, it has been a pretty important transition for Blizzard , and ít's safe to say they haven't fully attained a complete coordination when it comes to all the branches that they have separated in the management and maintenance of the game.

As for the original questions:

1) content for particular groups is slow, overall, its acceptable, not fantastic, but acceptable, but if looked upon by a particular group (raiders, pvp, casuals) , its slow

2) i believe gurgthock just answered that a post or 2 back ;)

3) yes it is, when you ask yourself, assuming you raid 5 nights a week (average raider, not casual raider nor super hardcore raider), look at all your options and you'll have your answer, casuals and pvpers have it 10x worse.

4) this has to do with competition, right now, they excel at boxsales, and they keep a good subscription base, they dont overprioritize content development because they simply don't need to because for people that have to be playing an MMO there simply isn't a better option these days.

the real question is.. when will this change? when will blizzard try and please an already dedicated and loyal (to some extent) playerbase which they have been building since release?

My personal opinion is it is 10x harder to please everyone than it is to stick with 1 player group, and sadly for casuals and pvpers, raiders are simply the more dedicated. This won't be an issue until WoW has some serious competition which makes them even worry about this, which makes the release of some upcoming games something to look forward to when it comes to the future of WoW, it's funny.. to see some drastic changes in WoW, one has to expect some future promising MMOs to be released.

#20 Shlomi

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Posted 21 April 2006 - 04:33 PM

I've never been in a guild that lagged behind in raid progression, so I'm not sure exactly what that feels like. I would imagine that even a guild learning MC right now is ridiculously excited every time they down a new boss. Nerd screams from downing a new boss are awesome. (We got Twin Emps last night and I only wish I could hear nerd screams more often!)

Our guild alliance downed Ragnaros for the first time last week, and did it again yesterday (only this time without giving every single person in the raid a flask). I'm lagging behind the hardcore elite raiders, but frankly I'm really enjoying it -- by the time we get to C'Thun there'll be an expansion pack out already.

We already have more stuff than we could do in a week. I still have stuff to get from ZG rep, we've only done the first couple of bosses in AQ20, we're gonna wait for a couple more Rags kills before starting BWL, and we have a bunch of PVP nuts with whom it's fun to jump into a battleground.

As someone who plays around 30 hours a week but has only relatively recently started serious raiding (and 2 nights a week isn't that serious really, is it?) I'd say there's plenty of content in the game.

If I hadn't found a decent group of 40 people to go raid with, though, I'd be pretty annoyed about the lack of content for solo and 5-man groups. I don't consider a rep grind to be anything but a lazy way to add content to a game, frankly. Those new Tier 0.5 armor quests actually ought to look somewhat interesting to an newish MC raider like me, but they're harder, more time consuming, more expensive, and less fun than hanging out in MC with my friends.

I'm waffling, but overall I'd say WoW has lots of content for everyone but the cutting edge guilds, who will naturally finish that content quicker than anyone else. Not sure there's a whole lot Blizz could do about it, other than moving to EQ-style evil grinding and spawn camping (never played EQ but from what I hear it's got evil addiction crap built into every second of it).




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