MMO Expansions and Sequels

I recent­ly read a post at Tobold’s about the nature of Bliz­zard expan­sions, and it got me thinking.

I keep ref­er­enc­ing World of War­craft 2 in my posts (“Maybe Bliz­zard will change this in WoW2”). But it dawned on me that there’s real­ly no real dif­fer­ence between sequel and expan­sion with MMOs. We’re already play­ing World of War­craft 2. Bliz­zard is about to release World of War­craft 3.

WoW3 is a 10-lev­el long game, com­plete with its own endgame. The mechan­ics are dif­fer­ent, but they are back­ward com­pat­i­ble with WoW and WoW2. In fact, all that old con­tent is being updat­ed to use the new mechan­ics. For some class­es, the spells and tal­ents are dif­fer­ent. Item­iza­tion has great­ly changed. Tank design, one of the fun­da­men­tal parts of the stan­dard group game, has great­ly changed in design.

As Bliz­zard learns more about MMO design, class­es take on new wrin­kles and learn to work togeth­er bet­ter. The over­all play expe­ri­ence at each point is bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous version.

Sounds a lot like a sequel to me.

Still, let’s look at it anoth­er way. Here are the most obvi­ous changes you would notice if you were to be dropped back from now (late TBC) all the way back to Week 1 of WoW. I’m skip­ping the obvi­ous stuff like (no dark por­tal, no out­land, no draenai/blood elves).

(Let me hear it, old school WoW peo­ple! Rem­i­nisce with me a little.)

  • Mounts are pur­chased at L40.
  • There is no lev­el­ing boost between L20 and L60.
  • A fair amount of the uncom­mon loot you get is not use­ful to any class or build in the game (two hand­ed swords with Spir­it, cloth armor with Strength, etc).
  • PvP is unstruc­tured and open and gives no reward oth­er than the fun of it. There is no bat­tle­ground or are­na sys­tem, how­ev­er there are raids on oppos­ing cities and con­stant skir­mish­ing between Southshore and Tar­ren Mill (as a result, quest­ing in Hills­brad is a nightmare).
  • Pal­adins, Druids, Shamans, and Priests have one mean­ing­ful build each: healing.
  • Heal­ing gear did­n’t make heal­ers spells more effective.
  • Pal­adins are Alliance only and Shamans are Horde only. Each fac­tion thinks that the oth­er’s exclu­sive class is overpowered.
  • The only tanks are War­riors. Their only but­ton to gen­er­ate threat is Sun­der Armor, and boss tank­ing is mash­ing that button.
  • You zerg (15-man) the 5‑man con­tent, and in fact this was how the max lev­el instances (both of them) are run. “LF6M for Strat, any class.” This expe­ri­ence is large­ly free of tac­tics or strategy.
  • There is no mean­ing­ful Silithus zone.
  • There is no Mau­radon or Dire Maul.
  • There is no Stran­glethorn fish­ing event or Gurubashi are­na mas­ter event.
  • There is one raid zone, Molten Core. To get there, you have to clear through the longest instance in the game, every sin­gle time you want to raid there. The short­cut to avoid this long clear is to swim up a long riv­er of molten lava, and rough­ly 20% of your raid dies while doing so. It’s still worth it.
  • Molten Core had all of Tier 1 and Tier 2, and both looked terrible.
  • There are no badges or tokens that are shared by class­es. In your raid­ing career, you can go months before see­ing an upgrade; when your piece final­ly does drop, your fel­low class mem­bers want it just as bad­ly as you do. In fact, most instance runs, you expect to get no loot at all, so DKP and oth­er guild cur­ren­cy sys­tems are port­ed from oth­er games.
  • The most reli­able way to get zomgepics is raid­ing. Peo­ple who oth­er­wise have no inter­est in raid­ing do so sole­ly to get zomgepics (much like bat­tle­grounds now). In relat­ed news, raids are 40-man affairs where afk’ing is ram­pant (again, much like bat­tle­grounds now). You silent­ly loathe 10–30% of your raid mem­bers for this rea­son alone (yes, much like bat­tle­grounds now. Bliz­zard threw bat­tle­grounds under the bus to improve raiding.)
  • Raid­ing requires resis­tance gear for every­one; the only way to cre­ate that gear is to raid and wipe and get the ran­dom craft­ing mate­ri­als to drop from the trash mobs in the very instance you’re craft­ing the gear to be suc­cess­ful in.
  • There is no hero­ic mode of anything.
  • There are no fly­ing mounts.
  • There is no guild bank.
  • There are no realm trans­fers. There is no char­ac­ter renaming.
  • There is no way to report gold spam. There is a lot of gold spam.
  • There is no online armory. Peo­ple lie about their build all the time.
  • There is no way to mark tar­gets. Hilar­i­ty ensues on more than half of all fights.
  • Some class’s entire raid­ing expe­ri­ence is hit­ting one but­ton to decurse the raid.
  • Quest tar­gets are farmed for use­ful drops.
  • Trav­el is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. There are no sum­mon­ing stones. There are far few­er flight paths, and you can’t make a mul­ti-point flight, you have to trav­el to one, then the next.
  • You either have a war­lock, or you com­mute. Most max lev­el char­ac­ters don’t have epic ground mounts. Com­mut­ing is not triv­ial, and zone chat and hearth­stones are much more mean­ing­ful because of this. You actu­al­ly hang out in the same zone as an instance that you want to go to, in the hopes that some­one else shows up. Instances are much slow­er to get rolling.
  • There are no dai­ly quests. You grind mobs for mon­ey, and you like it and say thank you.
  • Escort quests are both pro­lif­ic and mad­den­ing because of fre­quent bugs. (robot chick­ens, anyone?)
  • Some dun­geon set pieces are tied to trash mobs that are incon­ve­nient to get to. Also, the drop rate on these trash mobs are low­er than sim­i­lar pieces tied to instance boss­es. (I’ll nev­er for­give you, Devout Gloves! Don’t believe that tooltip, they weren’t BoE originally!)
  • The inter­face sucks is sim­ple and clean. (kid­ding, PvD)
  • Most high-lev­el craft­ing pat­terns are world/realm drops (aka very very very rare ran­dom drops), which are either sold for ridicu­lous amounts of gold or are learned by some­one’s alt, nev­er to be seen in gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion on that realm.
  • The Auc­tion House is in only one city per fac­tion, and that city is crowd­ed.
  • No handy min­imap icons like ! or ? let­ting you know where you can get or turn in a quest.
  • War­lock and Hunter pets don’t despawn when you were mount­ed. Those class­es have a larg­er aggro radius by default as they ride.
  • Pal­adins only have one dura­tion of buff: five min­utes. Keep­ing pal­adin buffs going dur­ing a raid is comical.
  • War­locks don’t have soul shard bags. Inven­to­ry is con­stant­ly a mess for them.
  • No mage tables or war­lock soul­wells. Con­jur­ing food/water/healthstones takes for­ev­er.
  • Pal­adins can nuke Horde PC Undead toons with Exorcism.
  • Tau­ren don’t have Kodo mounts, they instead get a buff to run at mount speed (plain­srun­ning)… but it’s not under play­er con­trol when this abil­i­ty turns on. Hilar­i­ty ensues.

You see what I’m get­ting at. We’re cur­rent­ly play­ing a game that has the name World of War­craft, but when you com­pare it with the orig­i­nal World of War­craft, you could eas­i­ly call what we’re play­ing a sequel instead of an expansion.

WoW3 will be back­ward com­pat­i­ble with WoW2 and WoW1. Soon, you will be able to load your WoW3 toon and play all that con­tent with all the improve­ments. The graph­ics in WoW3 will be slight upgrade from WoW2, just like WoW2 was to WoW1.

The whole expansion/sequel dis­tinc­tion is over­rat­ed when it comes to talk­ing about MMOs. These games are con­tin­u­ous. They evolve.

(Also, going back and read­ing the patch notes and see­ing “Patch 1.2 Major Changes 2004–12-18” and remem­ber­ing read­ing them makes me feel real­ly old.)

revised 2008-08-25 with addi­tions and cor­rec­tions from the com­menters: Ianedes, Pete, P, Rudo, BookhouseBOy, Hellscreamy, Kyladar, Din, Hiryu. Thank you all!

More Words!

25 thoughts on “MMO Expansions and Sequels”

    1. @Meringue — I remem­ber well, but he was able to be tak­en down solo any­way. If you need­ed that quest? Good luck. Always a stealthed rogue around, wait­ing to take his Win­ter­fall Fire­wa­ter imme­di­ate­ly on respawn. That buff potion (no elixirs at that time) was one of the best buffs for melee in the game at that time.

      I know because my wife was some­times one of those stealthed rogues. :)

  1. You for­got that flight points did­n’t chain. You had to board a gryphon at each loca­tion along the way.

  2. LAWLZ awe­some post man. takes me back to MC days, 

    Per­rins assist me for your target.…Perrins are you there PERRINS WHERE ARE YOU…

    sor­ry guys i had to get a beer

    Per­rins assist me for your target

    LOL it was awe­some. man the kid­dies have it so much eas­i­er now adays with raid tar­gets and all the easy gear.

  3. for­got: no boat between Auber­dine and Menethil Har­bor, u had to talk to an NPC and get teleported.

    1. @Nathan — I almost put that in! But I decid­ed that Cap­tain Place­hold­er was a bug of an imple­ment­ed fea­ture, so I dis­qual­i­fied it from the list.

  4. MC — Garr with no raid markups (no skull, moon, star, etc) … locks a go go with the banishes.

    “who’s got what?” hehehehehehe

  5. Hi,

    You actu­al­ly had to find things. Now they’re all marked with big ? and ! on the mini-map.


  6. Just a cou­ple of things:

    Hunters mark could have been used to mark tar­gets? Admit­ted­ly only one (unless you had some daft hunters that insist­ed on a mark on EVERYTHING), but still!

    Tho­ri­um Broth­er­hood rep grind was­nt added till 1.5?

    Devout Gloves (though i see this was pos­si­bly a per­son­al men­tion, and i share your pain on it being a fel­low priest) was not on a trash mob, nor out the way on a reg­u­lar Scarlet/Living Strat run?

    I could be wrong ofc, but it got me thinking :)

  7. * Meet­ing stones were used for group form­ing for instances (meet­ing stone queue any­one? :p)
    * Speak with an Innkeep­er to join a meet­ing stone queue.
    * Hunter/Warlock pet run along­side their mas­ter (mount­ed).

    1. @Jetal — You’re right, Mau­radon was added in the first con­tent patch, in patch 1.2, which as you say was released less than a month after going live. Still, not there at release.

      @Pete — Excel­lent catch! I for­got about the ! and ?, and now they feel so natural.

      @P — Ha, hunter’s mark! Gegzy and Per­rins know where I’m com­ing from about hunter’s mark and mark­ing targets–when I think of night­mare tank assign­ments, I think of Garr. You’re right regard­ing the Tho­ri­um Broth­er­hood, it was added in 1.5. I for­got that Sear­ing Gorge did­n’t have that whole quest hub! You’re absolute­ly right about the Devout Gloves, I had them con­fused with the Devout Brac­ers. Those brac­ers were on Crim­son Priests I was think­ing of, half of which I think were on the clear to the final boss of Liv­ing Strat, the oth­er half were on the way to the option­al hunter­ish boss in the basement.

      @Rudo — Meet­ing stones were added in 1.3. But I remem­ber the pet run­ning along­side my hunter. Ah, good times.

  8. Great post bro, it real­ly brings me back to what wow used to be. I kin­da miss it in a way. Even though it was hec­tic and almost always frus­trat­ing it was fun to be part of that and just know­ing where the game has evolved from is a reward­ing feel­ing . Hell you just fin­ished prov­ing that even though we all like to think we know what bliz­zard is going to do next its all a huge mys­tery. Either way, awe­some post! 

    PS: I also felt old as I fin­ished read­ing what you wrote. LOL (LF9M UBRS)

  9. That long wait between Scar­let Monastery and Sunken Temple ?

    You for­got about *two* dun­geons in the 40s-ish range that were there at launch: Uldaman and Zul’Farrak.

  10. Don’t for­get:
    Pal­adin buffs only last­ed 5 min­utes, there were no 30min ones.
    Flight­paths took longer (Dark­shore — Gad­get­zan could take half an hour).
    You HAD to stay while fly­ing, because every­time you passed a town you had to choose the fol­low­ing town.
    It took peo­ple months of non­stop PvP to get their PvP Epics (Grand Marshal/High War­lord anyone?)
    You could get your Epic Mount cheap by becom­ing Rank 12.
    UBRS was con­sid­ered hard­core and it was a 15man raid.
    In Beta, Iron­forge had bridges and it was a maze to most.
    Heal­ers did­n’t have any +Heal­ing on their sets.
    Shamans were all Enhance­ment and they were OP (Wind­fury proc­c­ing on Wind­fury, oneshot­ting people).
    T1 and T2 both dropped in Molten Core and looked like your pre-60 uncommons.
    Hunters were always afk dur­ing raids because Auto-shot did tons of damage.
    Black­rock Moun­tain always had 50 stealthed rogues around the corner.

    Can’t think of more than this.

  11. Yeah, I was raid leader for MC back in the day, and remem­bered the Garr fight. Had four tar­gets hunter marked and the oth­er four had tanks. Actu­al­ly had a sys­tem on how to mark it which made it easy to get all those adds tanked/banished too.

    Also, from a war­lock stand­point, no 20/24/28 slot shard bags, so we had most of our bag slots full of these non-stack­ing pur­ple crys­tals espe­cial­ly before a raid. Also, remem­ber that orig­i­nal­ly the shard bags were going to be 20/30/40. SO wish they’d kept them with that many.

  12. Pal­adins used to be able to use holy abil­i­ties (such as exor­cism, etc. that are only usable now against undead/demons) on the hordes very own undead play­ers. After that was changed, they were only usable on undead npcs, but lat­er was updat­ed to include demons.

  13. Tau­ren did­n’t have racial mounts, and used to have the ‘Plains Run­ning’ abil­i­ty to move at high speeds.

  14. @Everyone — I’ve revised the arti­cle and includ­ed a revi­sion note. Thanks much for the sug­ges­tions and corrections!

  15. Why can’t MMO sequels just be like one giant expansion?
    WoW’s expan­sions are basi­cal­ly sequels. They added a ton of new tech, revamp mod­els, added new con­tents. The only short of being a sequel is a new num­ber slapped on it–oh wait, that’s where the patch num­ber came in.

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