Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Broken Shore and the Obsolescence of Content

Patch 7.3 brought a lot of content with it in the form of a new world with new zones full of collectables, challenges, World Quests, and other overworld content. So far I can say I've been having a blast with Argus and plan to publish a few articles related to its content and features in the future. However, patch 7.3 also brought other changes, including some I completely glossed over; I guess I should've read this article to inform myself beforehand. The changes in question affected Broken Shore and involved the removal of Legionfall Recompense for turning in Legionfall War Supplies and the relocation of the Relinquished gear vendor, who now uses a new currency.

The latter change does not concern me too much since the gear vendor got a substantial upgrade and the obsolescence of Justice Points and their analogues is a typical practice intended to equalize the playing field better when new content releases. However, I wish Blizzard would stop using said analogues that cause an increasing clutter of the currency page and devised a more elegant solution like reverting to the Justice Point system.

The former change is of greater concern and the consequences of it already seem apparent just a few weeks after the release of the patch. In this article, I will describe these consequences and suggest improvements to alleviate the issue. I will then close with my stance on content obsolescence, explaining why the removal of Legionfall Recompense was largely an unnecessary change that exacerbates the effects of content obsolescence.

The Consequences

The benefits of turning in Legionfall War Supplies were fairly great and the system, while similar to emissary, was more open and allowed for many turn-ins each day in a style more similar to Adventure Mode in Diablo 3. To compensate for this, the rewards were not as great but they were still significant. Legionfall Recompense served as the major reward and could award gear, including legendaries, in addition to some Order Resources and Nethershards. In addition, Artifact Power was also awarded and the turn-in contributed towards a building's completion. The completion of said building provided a temporary boon that ranged from barely noticeable to very useful. The fact building buffs rotated and lasted for a limited time was intended to encourage players to return to the Broken Shore to keep rebuilding structures.

However, with the release of patch 7.3, building completion has become noticeably slower, with a little over one rotation happening over three weeks when building rotations usually took a week and a half. Oftentimes, two buildings were active at once up until patch 7.3 came out but now one would be lucky to see one active at all. This is understandable since participation in content should largely be concentrated on Argus, but even the hotfix that attempts to address the slow building issue didn't seem sufficient.

In addition, Legionfall War Supply missions now have very poor returns compared to other missions since they basically award a small amount of Artifact Power and Nethershards. This is especially apparent with the Elite Strike mission which used to be one of the best missions to do even without the 5 chances at legendary gear. This is because, in addition to the other rewards, the Order Resources awarded from Legionfall Recompense more than made up for the Order Resources spent on the mission.

To be fair, one could argue the addition of Legionfall emissary along with the fact some World Quests in Broken Shore are lucrative due to their Blood of Sargeras reward help to account for these issues. This is somewhat true since Broken Shore will at least see some action from time to time much like the rest of the Broken Isles. However, unlike the rest of the Broken Isles, Broken Shore was designed to encourage more regular play than an emissary quest, which has only spawned once since the patch, allows for. The fact lucrative World Quests happen to spawn in Broken Shore infrequently doesn't help either. As it's currently designed, the lack of activity in Broken Shore contradicts the evergreen content design philosophy that Legion seems to be aiming to accomplish.

Improving the Broken Shore

Out of all the consequences I described in the previous section, the waning uptime of buildings in the Broken Shore is probably the greatest issue since the benefits they provide remain quite useful but the journey to unlocking them doesn't seem worthwhile. With that in mind, I have a few suggestions.
Have progression towards the completion of a building be automatic. Progression will be chosen based on which building has the most progression towards it.
Instead of just increasing the rate that buildings build at, it might be better to cut out the need to turn in Legionfall War Supplies almost entirely by implementing this quick fix. With the right amount of automatic progression (I'm thinking about 25-30%), there should be a building active almost all the time but buildings aren't active so frequently that excessive benefits are provided to players. This still encourages the act of turning in Legionfall War Supplies in a sense though since the few who will can determine what building is built next.

This suggestion also ensures that in the distant future when War Supply turn-ins are very infrequent, building uptime remains relatively consistent.
Add Legionfall Recompense back but completely remove its chance to drop legendaries.
This is largely a change intended to keep missions that yield Legionfall War Supplies relevant since Argus missions are highly lucrative in their current state. However, Legionfall War Supply missions would fall into a niche of providing some Order Resource returns with all other rewards serving as a bonus which is something most other missions in general lack. Said niche rewards may lead to more players doing the missions, increasing turn-ins at the Broken Shore a little bit.

The suggestion also attempts to ensure that Argus is the player hotspot. By removing the chance for Legionfall Recompense to drop legendaries players won't be as inclined to farm the Broken Shore, focusing on Argus instead to farm Veiled Argunite for Relinquished pieces. It's not like Broken Shore will be entirely devoid of ways to earn a legendary either thanks to rare spawns and its associated emissary quest, so a little legendary farming might happen.
Allow legendary crafting quest items looted on Broken Shore to be lootable on Argus as well. 
This may seem counterproductive when the focus of this article is to prevent the Broken Shore from becoming a ghost town but I'd argue this change may indirectly boost Broken Shore activity even with the other suggestions considered. This is because the Nether Disruptor will be more useful for crafters since farming on Argus serves a bit more purpose compared to farming Broken Shore. This in turn will lead to players competing to try to get the building they want built more, which may lead to more overall turn-ins and the activity associated with it.

On a side note, it would be nice if the introductory part of the legendary crafting questline was skippable after the first time. It's arguably a waste of a few minutes that involves slogging through repetitive dialogue and the completion of a simple objective.

Final Statements - A Brief Word on Content Obsolescence

Nerfing content is understandable since it can help to ensure the longevity of the game. For example, the Garrison mission nerfs were needed long before the Legion pre-patch and Watcher admitted to it well before that expansion's announcement. However, while Legionfall Recompense may have needed a nerf and the issues I mentioned may be considered hyperbolic, I think the removal of it in patch 7.3 was excessive. Argus has many useful rewards such as far better gear compared to Broken Shore, which in itself renders the latter zone a little more obsolete. This situation seems like a definitive example of the advantages an update over preceding iterations.

If anything, I'd be more worried about content obsolescence due to the aforementioned details related to game updates. Thankfully, WoW has done an incrementally better job at handling this issue. Systems such as Timewalking refresh content that has been long-dead by broadening the usefulness of its rewards to more leveling and endgame players. Achievements like Raiding With Leashes do much of the same by encouraging pet collectors to run old raids. Legion has especially done a great job with ensuring content remains relevant with features such as World Quests and reward systems such as Artifact Power, Paragon reputation, and Honor. I would like to think the future of preventing content obsolescence is bright and given my implicit stance based on published articles and forum posts, I'm in support of smart ways to improve content relevance.

Therefore, to balance minimizing content obsolescence and content dominance, I close with this: As long as an update is of good quality and offers good reasons for players to consume its content relative to existing content, there's little need to prop it up by nerfing older content. Also, please don't just arbitrarily remove content either.

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