Time and time again, we’ve hammered in the idea that Cataclysm is a massive undertaking — quite possibly the most ambitious “expansion pack” to any game previously released, and nearly large enough in terms of content to count as an actual sequel. But given recent news, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Blizzard may have bitten off a little more than they can chew. Core systems such as Path of the Titans and Guild Talents have been totally scrapped, in favor of vastly simplified ones that both ease balance and assuage the development process.
Then, we learn that other bullet points so boldly splayed out on the big screen at BlizzCon 2009 like a deli cart full of choice meats, are being reconsidered or pushed back into content patches. Heroic versions of Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep may not fall to the same fate as the fabled “Dance Studio,” but on the surface they don’t seem like terribly hard things to implement, right?
Well, actually, that’s a perfect example of the problem. Blizzard isn’t simply dealing with a looming release and waning interest in the current content (which Ruby Sanctum will resurrect about as effectively as a paramedic using a potato battery for a defibrillator); they’re also compelled by their obsessive need to ship a quality product. That’s to say that a Heroic version of Deadmines isn’t that easy to implement. On one hand, an update of an old dungeon isn’t as pressing as polishing the brand news ones, meaning that it can safely be set on the back burner. On the other hand, Blizzard clearly wants to do more with it than plug in new stats for the mobs and rejigger the loot table (like they did with Naxxramas). If they’re going to push the Defias storyline forward, Deadmines has to reflect that, and that could mean brand new bosses and events or compelling versions of the old ones (personally, I’d like to see them fix all the mobs on the pirate ship that seem to have x-ray vision). Releasing with, say, 4.1 would allow them to do just that.
As we inch closer to the Fall, I’d expect to see more promised features fall by the wayside, become neutered, or otherwise look far different from their original incarnation. It’s a fact of life in the video game industry, and it’s hardly something new for a Blizzard game. But we shouldn’t fret quite yet… Continue Reading