Monday, December 15, 2008

Gearing up the game.

World of Warcraft has the potential to never end. Even now, the game's developers have dozens of ideas they could include in an endless series of expansions. But how does each expansion affect the game?

Vanilla WoW required several years to develop before it went live. Let us compare a few things from vanilla to it's expansions.

First, every race and sex in the game has a unique model to it. Armor is designed around the form of the races and sexes.

I do not know how long it would have taken to release The Burning Crusade if it had no new character races/sexes added to the game, but I do know that every new piece of gear in the game was designed around all of the original races.

This is the kind of thing that takes time and manpower to test and implement.

Yet, the Burning Crusade added two new races and their sexes. That is four new forms to design all of the new gear around, as well as every piece of gear that is already in the game.

Granted, not every piece needs to be modified, but consider that the same boots worn by a human female hunter do not look the same when worn by a male dreanai hunter. Those little tweaks must be reproduced for every set of boots. It is possible that some armor does not require such tweaks, but I think you see the point.

The more models in the game the more effort must be put into the next expansion.

Vanilla WoW: eight races + sexes = 16 models.
Burning Crusade: ten races + sexes = 20 models.

Then, there are the classes. In Vanilla WoW there are nine classes, each with it's own style of armor. There may have been some cross class gear, but I did not play Vanilla long enough to know the details. Wrath gives us a new class.

So, now if we consider armor models.
Vanilla WoW: eight races x nine classes x two sexes = 144 potential gear variations.
BC: (10r)(9c)(2s)=180
Wrath: (10r)(10c)(2s)=200

If the next expansion included not new battle ground gear, no new arena gear, no new badge gear, no new level cap, and no new teir gear...if there was only one new set of gear for every character, Blizzard would have to develop at least 200 model sets. Add one new set for a new 10-level cap at each level (obtainable through world drops) per model and you suddenly have 2000 gear models.

This is just the basics. Once you add arenas, BGs, badges, crafting, instances, tiers...the numbers just keep getting more crazy.

These things take time. Blizzard might be concerned about money (though they make so much of it just a small percentage could almost double their manpower), but I would like to think they are more concerned about quality. There is a medium to be found between the number of people working on the project and the amount of work to be done and the space/resources with which to do that work. Sure, they could have an army of people on hand just to design the gear, but would it all have the correct personality? How many people can do the testing of the gear and reliably say what can stay and what should go? I suspect that my art style would not be suitable for World of Warcraft, but hey, at least I could help them with a few dozen sets of gear or so!

The next expansion has those 200 basic gear models, plus whatever new races or classes are added to the game.

Have you been complaining about why Blizzard has been recoloring gear for use across multiple aspects of the game? This could be your answer.

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