In the comments of a previous DarkFall-related post here, the question of whether the next update should be considered a patch or expansion was brought up. Now I’ve already written what pushed the update from patch to expansion for me here, but that conversation circles around a bigger overall benefit of sandbox design. Most updates to a sandbox will indeed EXPAND the game, while most updates to a themepark simply add another content layer, making the previous layer obsolete, and so they replace rather than truly expanding the game.
In a game like DarkFall, adding player housing, vendors, or even fluff housing items does not make any previous content obsolete. A cottage (the current smallest form of housing) is just as valuable today as the day it was added, and the upcoming addition of the keep will not change this. You won’t see everyone trading in their current house for a keep because it’s the new ‘best in slot’ item. The same applies to current PvE. The addition of a new dungeon, new mob spawns, or even caravans (if we assume they are a PvE-based element) does not make previous PvE content obsolete. Your favorite farming spot near your player city will be just as viable after the update as it is now, and you won’t have to camp caravan spawn points just to collect the newest rare drop that replaces a former rare drop. Today’s announcement of sea-based objectives won’t make land-based villages obsolete either; their addition simple EXPANDS the options all players have in terms of what to try and capture, just like the addition of a new dungeon or mob spawn simple EXPANDS the PvE options for all players.
If you buy DarkFall the day after the latest update is released, you are entering a world that that day has more options than the day before. If you are a new player joining WoW the day after Cataclysm is released, you are not going to see MORE content, but rather replacement content for old Azeroth, without the option of experiencing the older content. For a new player, all of the old 60, 70, and 80-cap raid dungeons are already obsolete, with the only viable raids being what is included in Cataclysm and nothing else. For new players that decide to re-roll, the revamped zones will be new simply because they have already seen and ‘exhausted’ old Azeroth, but even for them the path from 1-85 will not be filled with EXPANDED options, simple different ones.
Part of the ‘justification’ of current-day Agon feeling to some as under-developed is that Aventurine has all the time in the world to flesh it out. The player base won’t outlevel or outgear any area in DarkFall, so if six months down the line zone X gets a new dungeon, that dungeon becomes an option for everyone, new and veteran alike. The countless player options in EVE today did not spring up overnight, but rather have been the result of five years of steady additions. That today EVE dwarfs WoW in content is more the result of fundamental game design (sandbox vs themepark) than a Blizzard vs CCP issue (although that comparison is a handicap match as well). Each expansion for EVE truly does EXPAND the game, while each expansion for WoW simply replaces older content. At the current pace of two expansions per year for Aventurine vs one every two for Blizzard, how long will it be before David out-contents Goliath in its own arena of PvE? (DF beta was already ahead of WoW for PvP)
(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)