Warhammer Online has been patched a great deal since launch, above and beyond the typical patching of a new MMO, with everything from small ‘hot fixes’ to major content patches like 1.1a. It’s rare that a week goes by without some changes, and something is always coming down the pipe. It’s exciting stuff usually, and gives players the chance to really watch an MMO establish itself and find its groove.
Each patch is also a two steps forward, one step back type of deal, or two back one forward if things go awry. Sometimes the step back is minor randomness like the travel mounts flying off axis, and sometimes its serious stuff like a massive increase in CTDs. Sometimes the fix does not actually fix anything, like ghost mounts, which have been ‘fixed’ in each of the last few patches. For all the great balance changes 1.06 brought, it also introduced a slew of new class bugs or oddities, stuff most players don’t know about unless they read the forums. It’s unlikely a regular player is going to notice his +5% crit chance tactic is not working if he equips it while mounted, right?
On the other side of the coin you have Blizzard and their patching schedule. Almost all of their patches actually fix what they claim to fix, and rarely introduce game-breaking side effects. That said, those patches are at best once a month, and players can be left waiting 8 months or more for a content patch to add a new instance or set of quests. Deadlines, when given, are more often then not pushed back, be it server downtime or content additions. “When it’s done” is the company line, and it’s used liberally.
Putting my obvious Bliz-hate aside (or trying to anyway), it makes me wonder which style of updating works best for players. I would imagine more active players, those that not only play but also read forums and dev posts, don’t mind the Mythic approach as much as the more casual player. As long as you keep up with the bugs, and Mythic addresses them shortly after they creep up, they are not that terribly bothersome. (CTD and other game-break stuff aside of course). My mount flying like it has a broken wing really changes nothing for me in RvR, and as long as I’m still dealing the same damage, I’m not going to spend a long time worrying about the fact that my Black Guard is holding is sword in the wrong hand, no matter how stupid it looks.
On the other hand, if I’m Joe Casual, and I only have a very limited amount of time each week to log on and play, running into something like a broken PQ or zone crash might be a deal breaker for me, especially if it happens repeatedly. That said, Joe Casual is unlikely to notice the tactics bug, so while the hardcore will be spamming the forums with “slap in the face” posts, Joe Casual will be happily questing/RvRing away, likely unaware that his dps has decreased by 1-2% due to a bug.
With the Blizzard approach, it comes down to your current status in WoW. If you happen to be a class affected by some serious-for-you bug, it can be a very frustrating experience waiting months for a fix. If you have run out of content, be it PvP, raiding, or even questing, waiting 6+ months for Blizzard to add more can also be frustrating, or just make the decision to unsubscribe easier. That said, if your class ‘works’, and you have enough content to last you, Blizzards approach works very well for you. You know that even if a hotfix is released, it’s very unlikely to break something that was working for you, and your gameplay remains unaffected. Your mount won’t start flying with a stutter, or your character won’t suddenly hold their sword and shield in the same hand, or get stuck laying down constantly.
Part of all this is from the fact that WoW is 4+ years old, while WAR has 2+ months of live release under it’s belt, but part is also (imo) just a difference in philosophy. Blizzard double and triple checks each change at the expense of deadlines and timeliness, while Mythic pushes out content and changes in rapid succession, and then later goes back to fine tune everything, with minor bugs not being cause to delay an update.
In a perfect world, we would get rapid content patches that work flawlessly, but that’s just never going to be the case, especially in MMO land. Putting the actual differences in the games aside, which approach works best for you, and why?