WoW Patch 6.1: Dude, Where’s My Content?

In a few days, Blizzard will release the first major content patch for Warlords of Draenor. Except there’s one problem.

A wallpaper for World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWhat’s the content of this patch?

I haven’t been following World of Warcraft news quite as closely since I’m not currently subscribed, so when I didn’t see any previews of significant content for 6.1, I assumed I was just missing something. But then Blizzard put out their official trailer, and I saw that this really is a tiny patch.

The one major feature that was datamined for the patch, the Iron Docks quest hub, has been confirmed to be delayed to a later patch, and it also turns out it’s just a short quest chain, not a daily hub.

So what are we left with? The only new content is a continuation of the legendary quest chain — which if Mists of Pandaria is any guide will likely comprise about fifteen minutes of actual gameplay/story spread over a few weeks of grinding — and some new garrison quests, which are mostly centered around new incentives for existing content. Oh, and a racing minigame at the Darkmoon Faire.

I suppose a mention could be made of the Blackrock Foundry raid, as well. This was intended to be launch content but was not ready when the expansion released. Oh, the official line is that it was ready but the release was just gated, but the expansion went live in November, and BRF wasn’t opened until February, and they were testing it again on the 6.1 PTR. That’s not launch content.

At the same time, though, it did release before 6.1, so it’s probably not right to count it as 6.1 content, either. It’s in a weird limbo.

Blackhand in the Blackrock Foundry raid in World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorOtherwise, 6.1 just offers quality of life tweaks like the heirloom tab (which was intended for launch and was delayed), the new Blood Elf models (also a delayed launch feature), and oddball features like an in-game selfie camera and Twitter integration.

So we’ve got ourselves a major content patch with no major content.

I don’t think anyone was expecting 6.1 to be enormous. The first patch is usually relatively small. Cataclysm’s first content patch added some dungeons — revamped, true, but Zul’gurub was pretty much all new, and it did expand the endgame a fair bit — and Mists of Pandaria’s added a daily hub and some scenarios.

Those aren’t blockbuster patches, but they’re certainly much more than just a handful of quests and a selfie camera. 6.1 isn’t even going to re-enable flight as it was originally suggested to.

Hell, 6.1 would be a tiny patch by any game’s standards. Titles like Neverwinter and The Secret World put out bigger patches than this, and they don’t have anywhere near Blizzard’s resources. The only other game I know of that puts out patches this small is Guild Wars 2, but their patches are far more regular.

Prior to launch, it sounded as if Blizzard had big plans for WoD’s patches. Farahlon and the Ogre continent in the south were all offered as potential patch additions. Farahlon in particular was strongly hinted to be a new zone for 6.1.

A screenshot of Gorgrond in World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorBut now Farahlon and the Ogre continent are in the “we might still do it but probably not” category, and 6.2 is planned to add Tanaan Jungle, which was supposed to be launch content and is now believed to potentially be the final major content patch for Warlords of Draenor.

So it needs to be asked again: What the Hell is going on at Blizzard?

Here we have by far and away the most successful MMO on the market, made by one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. There are more people working on World of Warcraft than ever before, with it having absorbed much of the resources from the cancelled Titan project. And what they deliver is the longest content drought in the game’s history, followed by the smallest expansion in the game’s history (with over half its raid content delayed for months), followed four months later by an itsy bitsy teeny weeny “content” patch comprised primarily of features that were supposed to be in for launch but had to be pushed back.

Even after fourteen months, WoD was launched unfinished, and after four more months, it’s only starting to approach the state it should have been in at launch — and still missing Tanaan. It boggles the mind.

I’m not fond of tinfoil hat theories, but at this point, it’s clear that Something Is Up. Three possibilities occur:

A screenshot of Telador in World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor1: Blizzard is shifting gears and now plans to churn out expansions that are as small as possible as quickly as possible, with little post-launch development. Most of the resources are already devoted to 7.0.

2: Blizzard realized they took the wrong path with Warlords of Draenor — possibly due to a large amount of negative buzz pre-launch — and they’ve decided to cut their losses and focus on getting this expansion over with as quickly as possible so they can work on something better. Most of the resources are already devoted to 7.0.

3: Blizzard has developed a streak of gross incompetence. Most of the development is now being done by a thousand monkeys working at a thousand typewriters.

All possibilities seem rather paranoid and far-fetched, but at this point, what other conclusion are we supposed to draw? Myself, I think the truth is likely some combination of possibilities one and two.

If I were currently playing the game, I’d be hopping mad, but as it stands, I’m just terribly confused. This simply doesn’t add up.

Dance, cow, dance!But on the plus side, it is clearer to me than ever that I made the right decision by not buying WoD at launch. The amount of content it has delivered to date isn’t worth $120.*

*($50 for the expansion plus four months of subscription fees at $15 per month.)

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What Happened to Dwarves?

I’m the Elf guy. Everyone who knows me knows this. Elves are my favourite fantasy archetype. I live by the creed, “If it’s not an Elf, leave it on the shelf.”

A shot of Gimli, son of Gloin, in the Lord of the Rings filmsBut you may be surprised to learn that in my earlier years I was also a pretty huge Dwarf fan. When I played Lord of the Rings as a kid, I was always Gimli, and I was damn happy about it.

I admired the courage, the nobility, and the sheer badassery of Dwarves. They were mighty warriors and loyal friends.

As the years went on, my interest in the Dwarf archetype faded and ultimately all but evaporated. Part of this is due to my changing tastes and my love for Elves coming to eclipse all else, but a lot of this also has to do with how the fantasy genre has treated the archetype and — I think — failed it.

Of all the major fantasy archetypes, Dwarves seem to have the least variety in their depictions. I’ve seen amazing variety in the depictions of Elves — good and evil Elves, wild and civilized Elves, fierce and placid Elves, magical and mundane Elves. Dragons, too, have incredibly creativity in their various depictions. They’re usually huge fire-breathing lizards, but their temperaments and their places in a world and its history can vary wildly.

Dwarves are always pretty much the same. I’ve seen a few minor variations on the theme here and there, but they’re generally all just a bunch of bland Gimli clones. Nobody seems to put much effort into their Dwarves.

Art of Magni Bronzebeard from World of WarcraftWhat’s worse is that what little change has come to the archetype has not at all been for the better. The archetype has not expanded, but narrowed. It hasn’t evolved; it’s devolved.

These days, the overwhelming majority of Dwarves you seen in fantasy are crude, hard-drinking brawlers with cartoony accents, and little more. They’re buffoons.

It didn’t use to be this way. If you go back to the beginning, Tolkien’s Dwarves had dignity. Sure, they liked to drink, and they were a bit crude, and they never backed down from a good fight, but there was a lot more to them than that. They were an ancient and noble people with a mysterious and complex culture. They built wondrous marvels, and they accomplished grand deeds.

Look at Thorin Oakenshield. Here is a Dwarf with dignity. He is a regal and terrible figure, brave and bold but also subtle and majestic.

Watching the Hobbit movies and being reminded what a grand leader Thorin is really opened my eyes to how much modern fantasy has failed the Dwarven archetype. They have the potential to be so much more than tipsy thugs that sound like Groundskeeper Willie.

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit filmsIt echoes how pop culture belittles ancient Nordic culture, from which the Dwarven archetype draws much of its inspiration. People view the Norse as naught but hard-drinking, brutal raiders, and certainly that was part of their culture, but there was much more to them than that. They were also great poets and scholars with a rich culture and mythology, and they were far more technologically and socially advanced than the other European peoples of the time.

I want Dwarves to take their dignity back. I want them to get a fair shake. They deserve to have all the depth, complexity, and variety of the other great fantasy archetypes. One of my goals for future writing projects is to present a version of Dwarves that is more original and more sophisticated than what has come before, and I would love to see the rest of the fantasy genre do likewise.

Let Dwarves live up to their full potential. Let me be a Dwarf fan again.