I wonder about things. All the time. So much so that my first wife used to call me “the Wonderer”, singing along to an oldies Dion song, wistfully hoping that someday, sometimes, I would just accept a few things the way they are and maybe pipe down a little.
But that day has never come.
Last week, during patch day meanderings, I wondered some things about DDO’s release of new content. I wondered if the pace was lightening. I wondered if the emphasis was too much on epifying old content at the expense of producing new content. I wondered if there was ever a patch that included content. And mainly, I wondered if 2014 would be the lightest year ever for new content.
And I wondered what DDO’s content releases would look like if I entered them into a spreadsheet and graphed ’em up.
Wonder no more, today we stop wondering and just do the math. I love it when that happens.
Let’s start by examining what is going on in the first graph, above. This shows every release that contained content. It is not every release; patches that contained fixes and/or systems but not new content are excluded. This single-mindedness probably causes me to short-shrift some releases that were system-heavy. System work and bug fixes are just as difficult and time consuming as content, maybe more so, but are not reflected here at all.
This article is all about the content.
I’ve broken down content into six “types”. Quests, Raids, Wilderness, Challenges, Revamped Quests and Revamped Wilderness. So, in using this methodology, a quest like “Maze of Madness” is counted twice, once when first released and again later when it is revamped. Most of the “revamps” come in the form of epification, but not all, some of the lower level quests were reintroduced differently too.
I do not count revamped public spaces at all. Yes they take time and effort. Yes they add to the game, usually, though not always. But no, they don’t count as content.
It is immediately obvious that the pace of new content release was much more robust immediately after game launch, and that it picked up again when the game was re-launched as free-to-play. Since then the new content is farther apart, and sparser per release, with the exception of the Expansion Packs, especially Menace of the Underdark.
Oh, and I learned right away that yes, there have been patches that held new content. But not in a long time.
The amount of content that is not a new quest or raid is increasing over time. But the percentage of content types seems to be fairly static. There has always been non-new-quest content. I was surprised by this, I thought the quest content as a percentage of the total content was falling behind. And it is, but not by very much; it is surprisingly stable.
These graphs count all of the different content types as equals; a quest counts the same as a challenge or a wilderness area or a revamp. Another assumption that pays short shrift to a few specific units, especially larger quests, especially the super-massive Haunted Halls of Eveningstar.
But in general, Turbine breaks the larger quests up into smaller chunks of a story arc. And I suspect the development effort behind a wilderness area or a revamped quest or a new quest are similar, especially the testing part of those efforts.
This one shows the amount of content in a release divided by the amount of time since the previous release. It is a clumsy attempt to show the velocity of each release, meaning a summary view of the amount of effort put into the release by Turbine.
I may be connecting too many dots here, but I think this graph hints at a major DDO development team size reduction somewhere between Module 5 and when the game went Free To Play, then a team ramp-up for the expansion packs, then another reduction after Shadowfell Conspiracy.
This method of showing Turbine’s emphasis is only so accurate, in that work on a release may start before the end of the previous release. And the units of work that I am grouping as “units” may be too broad. But I think even as simple as this overview is, it provides value anyway as it reflects the way we perceive Turbine’s release emphasis. We don’t have visibility to their development schedule or process, we only see what comes out, and when.
It interests me to note that the standard pace of release is slightly over one new unit of content per month, and has been for several years (with expansion packs an exception again). We’ve had a recent dip in the average but also signs that the dip may be temporary.
If Update 18 or Update 20 seemed underwhelming to you considering how long you had to wait for them, that’s because they were. From a new content point of view anyway. Update 18 had an excuse, it was chock-full of non-content stuff like Iconics and Glamered Armor. Update 20? Hello? Update 20?
And now an attempt to answer the big questions. Is content release slowing? Will 2014 be the worst content year ever?
Yes, and no.
I’ve had to project outwards to fill this graph, and I did so by assuming that Update 23 would consist of the epified Orchard, epified versions of all four quests in the Orchard plus Litany of the Dead, and a new raid to take the place of the Abbot. I assumed this because it has already been announced.
Similarly, we know that Update 24 will contain “quests” and that a new challenge is coming as well. I assumed five quests because the average release this year contained six units of content, and we know that at least one of them will be the new challenge. I would be very surprised – pleasantly, but still very very surprised – if my assumptions end up underestimating what is really released. I would not be surprised if I am overestimating output for 2014; I am taking a lot on faith.
But if we take those assumptions and go with them, then 2014 is going to end up okay. Even from a historical perspective. Not a horrible year at all.
The trend slopes down, I won’t pretend it doesn’t. But remember that 2012 and 2013 had paid expansions; I suspect that makes them the outliers. Instead of 2014 being unusually low in content, 2012 and 2013 may have been unusually high.
I think 2011 is a better benchmark, and 2014 will top it. Only time will tell, obviously, but I am choosing to interpret the graph as being half full.
Because I can. The data is there.
Isn’t data grand?
🙂 😀 🙂