Thursday, October 04, 2012

More of the Same

Bronte comments on the previous post:

Optimized it may be, but isn't [questing in Pandaria] just more of the same? With a new coat of (panda) paint, running on the same treadmill, with the scenery a little more scenic?

Well, yes. But the implication of the comment is that "more of the same" is a bad thing. I don't agree with that.

Novelty is not the only criteria for value. It is an important one, yes, but there are others. Execution is worth a lot, and Pandaria executes extraordinarily well.

It comes back to polish. The gaming industry drastically underestimates how important polish is. I think it's because different features are easier to justify and to advertise. Almost all modern games would be made better by cutting features, not adding them. Then spending time just cleaning up the small things.

I have a perfect example with The Old Republic. Ever since launch, two graphical bugs have been annoying me. First, when character select screen comes up, the current character appears shifted downwards. Selecting a new character immediately fixes it from that point on. Second, if you destroy something in game, the character model does not return to the default rest position, but is instead stuck in an awkward state until you manually pull out your weapon. They're utterly trivial graphical bugs, but I see them every single time I play the game, ever since launch. Seeing those bugs just reminds me that Bioware is not dedicated to polish as they should be.

Anyways, back to WoW. Yes, Pandaria is more of the same. If you are absolutely tired of WoW, then you're not going to like Pandaria. As for me, I really only have one character, so I only do extensive questing in WoW once every couple of years. So I'm not tired of it yet.

Pandaria is WoW, only a better, more polished WoW than ever before. Personally, I'm more than happy with that.


  1. Rohan is spot on that MoP is quite possibly the best WoW expansion to date and a vast improvement over Cataclysm. I'm playing my 85s through at a relatively slow pace while I focus on leveling my monk. I'm just now getting close to finishing the Jade Forest area on my paladin.

    Yesterday, I made my way over to the Jade Temple. As I neared the courtyard, I had to just stop and tilt my camera skyward to look around. The place is immense and beautifully detailed. The art team(s) did a fantastic job here of capturing a certain look and feel that is awe-inspiring.

    I can't think of a time during Cataclysm that I just stopped to look around like that. Vash'jir had some nice vistas, but the gameplay in that zone just made me want to level through as fast as possible. Deepholm had promise, but soon dulled. The closest thing in Wrath would have been Grizzly Hills, with its huge conifers and rugged landscape. Oh, and the Kalu'ak with their giant turtles.

    I can think of a lot of moments like that from BC, fresh in my memory from recently leveling two characters through. Seeing the wide open plains and ravines of Nagrand. The forbidding destruction surrounding shattered Auchindoun. Riding up to see Shattrath for the first time. And, of course, Karazhan. Even the sky in Burning Crusade made me stop and look.

    So many people focus on bemoaning the talent changes, how hard/easy dungeons are, how this bit of quest text didn't make sense, how the graphics don't push the bleeding edge of realism, and on and on. I wonder how many of them ever stopped to enjoy the view outside the Jade Temple.

  2. Well, Mists is not all that polished.

    My login screen hasn't behaved right since 5.0.5 dropped --sounds are all off or cut off early-- and I still can't do screen caps about 4/5 of the time.

    If there's a highlighted glow to the background, such as if you select a Draenei character at the login screen, the oversized pic of the toon itself is all washed out from the backlight. Some areas, such as Darnassus, I have difficulty seeing details due to the washed out lighting effect.

    FPS has also taken a dive, about 10-15 fps less than I had before 5.0.5 dropped.

    Comparing the polish in Mists with other MMOs I play, Mists' expansion fits right in with TOR and LOTRO, and is definitely ahead of AoC. True, I haven't gotten to Pandaria itself yet, but in the fit and finish department there are still some gaps that have appeared only since the 5.0.1 patch back in late August.

  3. @Redbeard

    My FPS dropped significantly, until I uninstalled my addons and waited for them to be updated. Omen, in particular, had a nasty bug that in mass combat would reduce FPS to about 3.

    However, that being said, there were updates to the graphical engine again, like they do every major release, and it does raise the bar on what the minimum required hardware is, so it may not be a lack of polish, but rather new features that are impacting your FPS. If you're running on older hardware, or even newish hardware, its quite possible that your FPS may be impacted.

  4. @Talarian-- I've considered that the graphical updates are the most likely culprit, but I find it interesting that even though I run at about the absolute minimum for TOR to run, I get better graphical response in FPS from TOR than WoW. I'd expect the reverse to be true, and it was up until 5.0.1 dropped.

    I also suspect the shared server zones have something to do with it as well, which would make that an issue at the server level, rather than my local level. The reason why I suspect that is because I get poorer FPS when I'm out in the lowbie zones, but not when I'm in Stormwind or a BG.

  5. @Redbeard
    Ah, I forgot about CRZ, that's a good point. The visual lag may stem from increased processing power that CRZ may require. I know when crossing into a CRZ my machine stutters while it switches, it's pretty jarring. But afterwards it seems fine, but I am running a beefy setup.