Friday, October 9, 2009

The hidden new technology of Expansion 4

I recall reading an interview with one of the head muckety-mucks over at Blizzard just after Blizzcon, in which he was asked how he felt about the leak from MMO-Champion regarding Cataclysm. Very disappointed, he said. They felt like somebody stole Christmas.

Well, I can understand. You want to see the crowd go ape when you unviel your new toys. Oh, they did, but I imagine it would have registered on the Richter Scale if they had been able to keep a lid on it.

In the most recent 3.3 PTR builds, data miners at MMO-C have again uncovered potential plot elements that Blizzard wants to spring on us as a surprise. They allude to "the Lich King's most powerful Death Knight" but stop there. MMO-C has uncovered evidence that it is probably going to be Deathbringer Saurfang - the perverted remains of Saurfang the Younger who fell to the Lich King's blade at the Wrath Gate.

Now, we all speculated on this. We've speculated on the Maelstrom and what might come of it, we've speculated on Saurfang's fate, we've speculated on Goblins and Worgen and so forth, and every now and then we get it right.   But data mining adds a whole new dimension to it.  The Saurfang lead is one thing. All the Cataclysm facts that were unearthed via data mining as well gave outlets confirmation of leaks they picked up on.

So I think that one thing we can 100% expect in Expansion 4 will be new technology to obscure embedded data so that it can't be mined in the same way. A way to ensure that models and textures don't get associated with meaningful names.

And I suspect that this new technology will both complicate the software and slow down development of content.

Am I upset? Do I blame? No. It is a tribute to WoW that people are so curious about what is coming that they go to such lengths to find out.  And while Blizzard might have some responsibility for not forseeing this sort of thing and planning around it early, they decided that they'd rather get content out first and worry about this if it really was an issue.

It would be easy to sit on a high horse and sniff "now see what you did?". But that's just stupid. I was as excited as everyone else.

You know what? I'll be as excited next time as well.

ETA 10/27/2010 - Well, can't get 'em all right, can I? :)