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Gamer Think Tank: What Do You Expect from an Expansion?

By on Nov 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm, in MMORPG  |  Comments: 1 comment

Just in case you ever get a teensy bit bored while browsing the internet and find yourself thinking about your video game collection, we’ve got few questions for you to ponder over. Well, one a week in particular. Possibly more. The others will come in the later editions of Gamer Think Tank. By the way, we’re not totally sold on this column’s name yet, so if a cool idea strikes you, feel free to shout it out in the comments section. For now, let’s talk about what makes an expansion.

I won’t lie: I still follow World of Warcraft. The recent news on the upcoming expansion, however, doesn’t have me excited. Maybe I’m spoiled by my first MMOs: Asheron’s Call, Asheron’s Call 2, and Horizons (now called Istaria). Those games updated on a monthly cycle back then. I fully expected my $12 a month (those were the days!) to get me new quests, dungeons, events, and sometimes even new races. In fact, I remember AC2‘s level cap was increased without needing an expansion. Aside from Horizons, both games got expansions, but they offered something a bit different. AC1‘s first expansion gave us a huge new place to explore, bigger than what we usually got in content updates, plus I believe that’s when we got housing. AC2′s did the same plus gave us a new race.

The other thing, though, was that all these games also had GM events. GMs were in the world and not just smacking people with ban hammers. They were at RP events, hanging out in trade areas, or sometimes controlling lore characters for part of the monthly content event. We still got monthly updates, GM events, and on top of that, expansions that added a lot more content we didn’t normally get (especially not all at once). The expansion also didn’t slow down the updates! Like clockwork, the next monthly update would hit and progress the story.

WoW really was the death of this for me. Don’t get me wrong, I subbed to the game non-stop till the second month of Wrath of the Lich King, but my expectations for expansions changed. Now, I needed either a new race or class, a new landmass, and new mechanics. I found that GM events weren’t going to happen, updates would come every three months if I was lucky, and the story and world often lagged behind. This was one reason Cataclysm was a disappointment for me: there was no new landmass, they just introduced a few zones and redid the game world, something my old games did every few months to keep the game lore interesting (and up to date). I stuck around a bit longer for my guild, but honestly, I felt tired after only a few weeks. It wasn’t an expansion, just an update for me.

Warlords of Draenor is feeling the same, and I’ve noticed some other people making similar complaints. Outlands is being repurposed, which is fine, but… reminds me a bit of Dragon Age 2 just reusing the same dungeons a million times but using different monsters or moving some chairs. There are no new races or classes. Mechanics are changing, but WoW changes these so often, sometimes even while people are doing arenas, so it’s not exactly something positive, though I do respect Blizzard for being willing to experiment, once they finally get the courage to attempt it. Which brings me to my next point. Let’s be honest: housing is nothing new. WoW is probably one of the few games that doesn’t have it. The Garrison idea is Suikoden with SWTOR‘s crafting system from what I’ve heard so far, with a dab of customization, while being wholly instanced during a time where the new kids (WildStar aside) are going back to non-instanced. For me, this isn’t so much an expansion as a content patch, one of which will be desperately needed after months without a regular update. I can’t imagine WoW players will be seeing new content for at least 6 months. Maybe this is ok for people who started with WoW and haven’t tried other MMOs, but for me, I’m only left wondering what could have been. I won’t go into details, but most people familiar with RIFT can probably understand why the WoD seems to light to me compared to RIFT‘s first expansion that gave a huge new landmass, new souls, and multiple housing, plus the usual level cap change and additional dungeons/raids. That is how you do a theme-park expansion.

So what about you, junkies? What you do expect from an expansion? How should it be different from a patch?

Laguna Levine
Teacher by day, writer by part of the day, and sleeping sometimes at night, Laguna is a critical Nintendo fanboy that can often be found playing PC games. He also writes about Japanese culture for Tofugu.com.
Laguna Levine

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  • Laura Hardgrave

    WoD does seem a little content/feature/new location light I have to admit, though I also have to admit that I’m both a sucker for Outlands and a sucker for housing, so I imagine I’m going to enjoy the expansion regardless. I didn’t even think about garrisons in comparison to Suikoden, but you’re exactly right, hah. That’s pretty cool. I’m a huge fan of Suikoden I and II. >.>

    For me, I think whether or not I enjoy an expansion totally depends on not only the fact that there’s new content/features/land masses to explore, but that those new things are thoroughly developed, change the game world in a big way, and leave some type of impact. Not too many recent expansions have actually achieved all of that for me, but it’s a tough order I realize. In lieu of all that, I tend to just enjoy the bits I do enjoy and hope for future patches that tidy up the loose pieces.

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