How different do you want your expansion to be?
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 October 2012, 4:27 am
I've been reading about two MMORPG expansions today: One is Mists of Pandaria for World of Warcraft, the other is Darkfall: Unholy Wars. Mists of Pandaria sold 2.7 million copies outside China (still haven't seen the Chinese sales data), but received negative points in several reviews stating it was too much like World of Warcraft. I mean, seriously, apparently some reviewers would like an expansion of World of Warcraft to *NOT* play like World of Warcraft. Listening to that, Aventurine decided to make Darkfall: Unholy Wars basically a new game running on the old subscription. That includes wiping all characters. While I assume that Unholy Wars will share many of the traits of Darkfall Online, like free-for-all PvP and the ability to loot players, it is a very different model of an "expansion".

Now I am not saying that the World of Warcraft model of expansions is ideal. Basically a WoW expansion consists of 5 to 10 levels worth of new zones, which can be played through in anything from 4 hours to 4 weeks, and an endgame, which takes the rest of the two years to complete. Once the next expansion comes out, the 5 to 10 levels worth of zones from the previous expansion are still somewhat relevant, as you still need to go through them with any alts. Especially if the new expansion has new races or classes. But most of the endgame of the old expansion becomes irrelevant. During Cataclysm the Wrath of the Lich King final raid Icecrown turned into something like a rarely visited tourist attraction. Now that Mists of Pandaria is out, nobody is visiting the Firelands any more. The most lasting impact of Cataclysm is having redone old Azeroth, because most of the raid and heroic dungeons have become obsolete.

But still the World of Warcraft model of expansions, which WoW just inherited from previous games, and which many newer games use as well, has some basic advantages: You don't have to learn a new game, you don't have to start over from scratch, you can continue the character advancement of whatever your favorite avatar is. Some of the previous character advancement, like gear, becomes obsolete, but the core of your character remains. And most of the time the way you play him remains the same, even if talent trees get redesigned, or spells change. The character I am playing in Mists of Pandaria is nearly 8 years old and has thousands of hours of /played time.

Now Darkfall is a niche title with only a few thousand subscribers. But there is a risk that some of these subscribers have become very attached to their characters, and won't be happy with having their character wiped. Except for part of their social connections, they will lose everything. Sure, the "expansion" won't get criticized for being "more of the same", but at what price?

Which model of expanding a game do you prefer? Would you like your characters to be wiped and everybody to start over? Or would you like to continue playing more of a game which isn't too different from the previous incarnation, using the same characters?
Tobold's Blog

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