Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My Life as a Gamer: Oh Hey, Blizz Is Actually Testing Stuff Now

Remember when I said that the new expansion for World of Warcraft felt rushed? Still feeling that. We're still not in Beta, the classes still play like garbage kitbashed and jury-rigged together, but at least major content testing has begun. Below is Bellular's video on the first test of the new Warfront feature.

Allow me to summarize for those coming in late: Warfronts are a new PvE (not PVP) content feature. One faction is deemed to control the contested front; that faction's players cannot access the feature during this time. The contesting faction gets access and has to fight through a Scenario to wrest control away; once that happens, the Scenario ends. The dominant faction instead gets some overworld quests to feed their stronghold war materials, but it is unknown if that affects the Scenario at all. Rewards include a set of cosmetic armor, cosmetic weapons, and a lot more To Be Determined.

This is meant to feel like playing a Warcraft 3 map, or (for you who remember it) playing the Alterac Valley map in PVP when that was in its glorious prime. This is also a testbed for Blizzard's new NPC AI (also the case with the Island Expedition feature), which has the effect of reinforcing the feeling of this being a filler expansion used more to buy time and test new stuff than to actually entertain an audience.

With the expansion set to go live four months from now, and the pre-launch patch expected in two, with the expansion still in the Alpha Testing phase and only now are major features being tested externally confidence in this not being Warlords of Draenor redux has notably waned. The reaction to this test is not good; the lag issues ruined the experience for most, and what was there felt lackluster at best for those who either got lucky or got in after the lag issues abated. Throwing around shit-tons of bots doesn't make for fun gameplay by itself.

The institutional competence of the dev team--outside of raiding and dungeons--is increasingly coming into question. It's long been said that only WOW can kill WOW, and we may yet see that happen. Why? This is not how competent teams test things in public. This is how desperate teams dogged by stupidity and (I suspect) Executive Meddling test things in public, and we all know how well desperation goes over now don't we?

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