Are you sure that’s really an expansion?

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.)

26 Responses to Are you sure that’s really an expansion?

  1. Malakili says:

    I agree big time with this post. But its the same old virtual word v. theme park argument, so we’ll see if it goes anywhere new (i doubt it). In WoW (et al) expansions are mostly functionally resets. But that is because in those games the content is almost 100% developer driven. When your game is based around player driven content, every option the player has just increases the total content, rather than resetting it.

    In fact, if Darkfall were to have a “traditional” expansion, which say for arguments sake, added an entire new content with stuff only highly skilled/geared (cause obviously “leveled” doesn’t make sense in this context) people could kill, and dropped far and away better stuff than anywhere else in the game, this would actually be a huge detriment to the game, I think.

  2. Draglem says:

    And lest not forget extrapolating a small sample to illustrate your point is just poor form. You could have stopped with the Eve comparison and just braced for 1 or 2 “Wow has way more subscribers, so it has to be better,” and “What do you mean the punch tastes chemical?”

    @ Malakili What about a zone that is relative the same that has either a different theme, exclusive place to harvest specific mats for new items or some other mentally hilarious draw instead of simply raising the skill cap? It may be a slight advantage to those who can travel there, as they would have access to potentially better cash income or what have you, but I would not call it game breaking under proper constraints and yet still have premium content, which is all an expansion needs to be for an MMO with limited servers or any other reason to NOT shit on their subscribers.

    Bottom line is that the Gross Majority of “MMORPG” “players” confuse “Expansion” with “Game Reset”.

    • SynCaine says:

      Well don’t the sea objectives kinda do that though? I mean they don’t physically expand Agon, but they do turn an area that was previously ‘pointless’ into a point of interest, so as a player you have more places to go.

  3. sid67 says:

    From a taxonomy standpoint, the term “expansion” is always associated with a content update in which you pay an additional upfront cost for the new content.

    So, in my opinion, the definition of an “expansion” is very tightly tied to whether or not you are paying an additional fee or price for this content.

    The actual “amount” of content that you receive is NOT a defining characteristic because the amount of content provided can vary quite widely.

    Or in other words, content updates that are included in your subscription fee are not expansions — even if they provided as much content as a ‘for fee’ expansion.

    This really isn’t a statement that ‘expansions’ are intrinsically better than other content updates.

    To the contrary, the more content you get from your ‘subscription’ without paying an additional expansion fee is very much to your benefit.

    But to my point — the term ‘expansion’ is really just a marketing label used to justify the additional fee or expense on the part of the consumer.

    It’s an attempt (and a successful one) to differentiate “new content for a fee” from new content that is already included. That’s why we see “free content updates” but never “free expansions”.

    • sid67 says:

      If that wasn’t clear enough, let me put it more plainly. I wouldn’t call it an expansion because your not paying for it.

      That said, kudos to Aventurine for providing a content update for free that rivals any paid expansion.

    • Draglem says:

      Well, by that definition one could easily reach the conclusion AV is attempting to sway what a value they are gifting in hopes to pick up a new copy because they either have to suffer disappointing sales with an expansion that will (speculation) not draw new or returning players to the game, as is the logical point of most expansions, or they can project how much they SHOULD have made and declare that is what they have spent on advertising costs in the first year. That and Syn’s paycheck of course. All and all, under budget and someone is getting a fat bonus and it is not me.

  4. Andrea Bargs says:

    Hmmm. Working under the assumption (rightly or wrongly) that every DF player visits the DF forums at least once a day, and that every DF player who cares enough about the game would read each ‘Spotlight’ post at least once for whatever reason, (discounting multiple read counts from the same people, former and future subscribers), there doesn’t seem to be a lot of DF players (8k?) for a game that will be a year old in a few months.

    If you split that evenly between the two servers…

    No wonder its an empty world : )

    (If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid ZERO of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

    • Ragnarok says:

      I know many, many players who never visit Forumfall. It’s a unique place, a community that was developed years before Darkfall launched, and most players who joined Darkfall after launch didn’t feel the need to get involved in that community. With no incentive to be on the boards every day for social reasons, they often do not see news posts. They hear about them through word of mouth or through private clan forums.

      • SynCaine says:

        Just to add to this, even in a game like DarkFall, with the average player being more ‘dedicated’ to the MMO genre than a game like WoW, I doubt even 10% of the population reads the boards with any regularity. I mean it’s the same 20-30 people posting daily in the clan forums, and they have their own (99% stupid) game that they play. Outside of that group, ForumFall and DarkFall don’t overlap much.

        • Andrea Bargs says:

          So this means the ‘community spotlight’ section is all for naught? I wasn’t even referring to forumfall’s cesspool of useless posts, just the section that would be relevant to the player base.

          I think its reasonable to expect that the typical df player would at least read up on what’s relevant to their gaming, and these days its the “expansion”.

          So are you trying to say the currently subscribed df player isn’t excited enough to keep track of what’s going to be in the expansion by reading the spotlight article? Hmmm, that’s quite the indifferent player base you have there.

          So yeah, I think my assumption has more meat than you fans care to accept.

          If you look at the cesspool posts they have what, views in the double digits, maybe more if there’s e-peen/propaganda stuff. So the spotlight in the 8k range or so is pretty valid to me.

        • Malakili says:

          I think you vastly over estimate how much most gamers do this sort of thing. Now, I know Darkfall isn’t exactly a typical case, but you’d probably be shocked at how few people even read patch notes when they are right in front of them on the patcher while their game updates, let alone go seek out answers on their own.

        • Andrea Bargs says:

          @malakili. I think u vastly UNDER-estimate the dedication of 8k or so fanatical fanbois of df.

        • Andrea Bargs says:

          Oh and I’m not referring to patch notes. I’m talking about EXPANSION details. 2 different things in terms of interest potential to the player base.

          Either the expansion details/news are not exciting at all, or there really are just 8k or so players.

          Lol.

      • Andrea Bargs says:

        @ragnarok. I’m not even talking about ‘joining’ the community. Just the number of views in the ‘spotlight’ posts. The ‘news’ section has even less views.

        It seems contradictory that if you’re ‘hardcore’ enough to play df, you don’t even care to read the ‘news’ or ‘spotlight’ section of the forums.

    • willee says:

      You can work under that assumption if you’d like, but it would be wrong…making your whole post senseless.

      :)

  5. Bhagpuss says:

    I refer you to my previous comments on the same subject as raised by Beau Turkey on his blog. Namely, an expansion is any product described in the official marketing material of a game company as “an expansion”. Period.

    What’s IN the expansion is irrelevant. It’s an “Expansion” if they say it is. Or an “Adventure Pack”, or a “Content Patch” or a “Game Update”. These terms have no intrinsic meaning beyond that allocated them, by the marketing department.

    There’s a material difference in whether they are delivered free of charge or with a payment required, though.

    • willee says:

      Bhagpuss- there should be an internet rule, similar to Godwin’s law, stating that anything Beau writes is in fact 100% false, and the opposite is 100% factual.

      TBH, i’m surprised such a rule does not already exist. I’m going to google it and see if I come up with anything.

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    Heh – if I’d read Sid67’s comment before I posted my own I’d just have put “What he said”.

  7. howtoloseyourlifetoanmmorpg says:

    Is cataclysm going to have a new continent?

  8. howtoloseyourlifetoanmmorpg says:

    Ahh semantics. You gotta love them :D

    Sorry for double posting :(

  9. howtoloseyourlifetoanmmorpg says:

    I dictate what I want and when I want. That is the reason I can say that I agree, for the most part, with this pots.

    If you don’t want it, because you don’t think it’s an expansion, cool, you can choose not to buy it.

    Don’t give in to peer pressure and then say it’s the rule. It’s not.

  10. Dave says:

    I love the internet. I really do. It brings out the best in people.

  11. keystone says:

    What’s an expansion?

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