Daily Archives: January 18, 2007

MMO Expansions – What Is Appropriate Timing?

With the release of The Burning Crusade and the commentary that has surrounded it, there are a couple of questions I want to dredge up.  The first, and perhaps the easiest to discuss, is the timing of expansions.  How often should an MMO offer expansions?

I have my own opinion on the subject, which is that once a year is about the right pace for major expansions.  Any more than that and I start losing track of what is going on.  But I am at the elder end of the MMO age demographic, so my views on the subject are pretty suspect.

To get around that, I grabbed some information on a few more well known MMOs to see how they have handled expansion time frames.

EverQuest The Buried Sea, the 13th expansion for the game, will be out in February, keeping their expansions on a twice-a-year pace like some crazy gnome-built contraption that nobody can shut off.  Is there a good, detailed guide to EverQuest expansions out there?  Or a random EverQuest expansion generator?

EverQuest II has had either three or six expansions, depending on whether you count adventure packs or not.  Conservatively they are doing better than one expansion per year, but with the December producer’s letter from Scott Hartsman, there is some indication that they are going to ease off that pace and settle into something closer to once a year.

Dark Age of Camelot has had 4 retail expansions at the rate of about one a year plus two expansion-like free content upgrades.

Ultima Online has had 7 expansions since its release in 1997 that started off at the rate of about one a year.  It will be close to two years between releases before the next one arrives.

Star Wars Galaxies has had 3 expansions since release, although The Trials of Obi-Wan got pretty well trod upon by the New Game Enhancements or NGE.  The rate of expansions was about one per year until NGE.

City of Heroes has only one expansion in the sense I mean here, which is City of Villains.  They do, however, provide pretty major updates to content on a regular basis, called “Issues” to keep in the comic book vein.  They are on Issue 8 currently, which puts the pace at about one a quarter, but I do not know if each Issue has enough content to compare it to a retail expansion.

Lineage II has no expansions, but has introduced a “chronicle,” which constitutes a content upgrade along the lines of an expansion, nearly every six months, putting them in the EverQuest league for timing.  Again, like City of Heroes, I do not know if Chronicles are as extensive as retail box expansions.  The chronicles are free, so if you buy the game box on the shelf today, you get them all when you patch.

World of Warcraft is the big news of late, with a single expansion more than two years since release.  They did add some free, high end raiding content during that time frame, but the average player saw little or no content since the initial launch.

Summary

My read on this is that an expansion a year is about right, though it isn’t an absolutely provable proposition.  If you pull out the non-retail expansions, only EverQuest, and possibly EverQuest II, seem to be exceeding that rate.

This is one of those posts where I wish I had a forum, because it begs for reader feedback.  What do you think the right time line for expansions should be?  Or what MMO examples have I missed or misread that should be considered?

The Great Uninstall

Once in a while I get the urge to clean up my hard drive.  Installing the Vanguard Beta 5 client was one of those times.  One of the performance recommendations I read was to defragment your hard drive after the install and patching process was done.

This brought back memories of the early EverQuest II days when daily patches and an tendency to thrash the pagefile on my drive would have me defragmenting once a week.

And once I start thinking about defragmenting the drive, I start thinking about cutting down on what is actually on the drive in order to speed up the process.  Thus the weeding began.

I was able to dump quite a bit from my attachments folder along with a trailer for Transformers on DVD that Sony slipped in on me with Echoes of Faydwer, but it is always the games section that takes some thought.  Here is what I ended up dropping from my hard drive.

Battlefield 2

I bought it and probably played about 10 hours online before EverQuest II came out.  I think I have played another 4 or 5 hours since then.  While I liked the game when it came out, MMOs have since swallowed my gaming time.  Also, I have purchased none of the expansions or bonus packs, so the last time I played I was somewhat limited in the servers on which I could even play.

Battlefield Vietnam

I played a lot more of this, mostly the Point of Existence mod, than I played Battlefield 2.  There seems to be a trajectory here.  I played a ton of Battlefield 1942 (95% of that in the Desert Combat mod), a lot of Battlefield Vietnam, a little Battlefield 2, and I have not bothered to purchase Battlefield 2142.  Anyway, BFV and various mods went to the recycle bin.

NetHack

I really liked Hack, Rogue, and NetHack way back in college.  Every once in a while I get the urge to play it again, so I go search the net to find the latest binary.  I play it for an hour, then it sits dormant on my drive until I get around to cleaning up.  Until next time, NetHack! (If you get the urge, you can find NetHack here.)

Civilization IV

It was a shame to uninstall this, but it had to go.  While I like Civilization IV more than Civilization III, it still was not a winner with me.  Plus, in the long standing tradition of Civilization releases, you always have to upgrade your machine to get it to play smoothly, and I haven’t gone there yet.  One Civilization game remains on my drive, Civilization II.  When calculating hours of play versus money spent, Civilization II is the all time winner for me.  I still play a game of it every now and then.

TacOps

A game you have probably never hear of.  In 1996 when I picked up a copy of this game, it was very cool.  It is a tactical war game that is similar to the Avalon Hill war games I played in my youth, only the computer takes care of all the accounting for you and there are NO HEXES!  That’s right, somebody figured out that in translating war games to the computer, you can leave the hex grid behind.  The computer can do all the movement math for you.  I bought the 4.0 version last year when Battlefront Games had a sale.  Again, this was something of a nostalgia buy.  The problem with TacOps today isn’t so much that it is exactly the same game, but that the maps you play on are the same size as they were in 1996.  Maps that filled the screen when I was running at 640×480 are tiny now on a 1600×1200 LCD.  The maps do not resize, so you are stuck playing in teeny-tiny mode, which was too much for me.  When I need a war game fix now, I play Combat Mission: Afrika Korps, which remained installed.

HalfLife 2

I bought this game again purely because I was reading Christopher Livingston’s HalfLife 2 based comic “Concerned.” (My original copy disappeared at some point.) I actually ended up playing through most of the game on the easy setting, but have not really touched it in the last few months.  That and the fact that I am not a big fan of Steam and having to be on the net to play a single player game sent this one to the uninstall list.

The Result

All of that, plus some other bits and pieces I deleted, just about balanced out Vanguard.  And in the end, I am not sure that the defrag helped Vanguard at all.  At least any improvement was not noticeable to me.

But cleaning up my hard drive gives me a good feeling all the same.