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MMOWTF - Expansions

This week in his MMOWTF column, Staff Writer Dan Foriter tackles the subject of expansions to popular MMORPGs.

Expansions

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

The young knight strolled into the barren streets of Jhelom looking eager for adventure. He spies a robust weapon smith NPC with a quest icon above his head looking vaguely in his direction.

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“Hail there good sir!” The knight begins “I was wondering if you could perchance give me a quest so that I might ditch this noob gear?”

“Aye lad I do!” replies the mindless drone “I need your help killing skunks since they are really smelly! I want to head over to Abigail’s house and...”

The knight quickly clicks past the flavor text since his next destination is already flashing on his mini-map. As he prepares to head toward the next part of his kill-quest, another knight comes jumping into the draw distance. The two quickly exchange dance emotes before discussing the complete lack of players in the area.

“Dewd wth...where is every1?” The new arrival wonders.

“That is a very fine question indeed. Perhaps it might have something to do with that new area of epic evil that suddenly became accessible last night!”

“Rofl I totally 4got about the expansion lol” the knight muses “only nubs r left in the old cities cuz all the l33t stuffs n the new zones”.

“That would seem to be a plausible explanation for the deserted countryside on the way here as well. I guess there is no sense in bemoaning our situation though, we should get back to grinding out those levels so we can join everyone else in the expansion.”

“yeah well don’t wait up 4 me...my mom is 2 cheap to buy me the new pack so I cant come anyway.” The other knight pouts “I’m gunna do som duping and make enough selling em to pay 4 it though lol. Latorz!”

The original knight can do naught but shake his head as he sets off to finish his quest.

When it comes to releasing expansions to the original game there is little deviation from the standard “Pay us $39.99 for five more levels and a new race” offering. Throw in some more zones, PvE epic raids and a handful of new spells and you’ve got a package that no one could do without right? This week my baleful glare falls on the current system of expansions, their content, and their effects on the game as a whole. On with the show!

The whole idea of an expansion is centered around the evolution of the game along the path imagined by the developers. This general involves adding features and areas that were part of the original plan but were unable to be completed before release. To be clear, I don’t consider fixing broken features or incomplete game mechanics from previous incarnations to be new features. That sort of thing should be part of the normal patching process not thrown in as part of a paid add-on. The problems arise when the expansion becomes an end unto itself and not a means to move the game closer to the original vision. I’m not naive enough to think that money and subscription numbers aren’t prime motivations when it comes to expansion, but it would be nice to see a Dev team actually build on their existing game instead of piling random features and zones on top of each other like a stack of Tetris pieces on level 99. Props go out to EA/Mythic for pulling the plug on Trials of Atlantis code from test servers. It’s well past time to remove the legacy of the 3rd worst patch ever.

Another issue I have with the current system is that I really don’t think I should be paying for an expansion every half a year in addition to the monthly fee. I’m definitely not cheap, in fact, I’d pay more than $15 for a game if they would require people to score higher than a 90 an IQ test before creating an account. It’s more of an insult to my intelligence that they think I’d be dumb enough to pay twice just to keep up with everyone else at max level and epic loot. How about you guys do what the IRS does and withhold some cash every month to pay for my expansion instead of blowing it in Vegas at Fat Tuesday M’kay?

In addition to the ‘chumming the water’ issues above there are other impacts to the game itself when an expansion is released. We all know that the players who want the expansion the most are the achievers at max level who have already burned through the hundred or so hours of content from the last release and need more jewelry for their mighty e-peen. Whatever theme park wonderland lies behind that portal will become the new home to a decent portion of the players whose classes weren’t nerfed to oblivion and forced to level a new toon. The old areas are now much less important unless you want to go back and help out some new guild members or you are just a sucker for nostalgia and grey mobs.

For once, I’d like to a see a properly tested and free expansion that was actually built on the ongoing storyline of the game instead of just a new zone with newly skinned mobs and more bank slots. That is not to say that there are not expansion that don’t meet all these guidelines...just that we need more or them. I seem to have run out of mud so pop into the forums and spout off on this week’s topic. I shall return next Friday... Beware!