New content comes in patches. That's how it has always worked in WoW. Some patches with a multiple decimals, like patch 1.8.2, are just for bug fixes, emergency boss tuning, and the like. They don't really count (although to be fair, some have given us small amounts of new stuff, such as Onyxia's return in patch 3.2.2). A patch with two numbers, like patch 5.2 hitting very soon, is supposed to have shiny new pixels for all of us to enjoy.
Patch 2.2, released in September 2007, didn't have any. It was the only time in WoW's history that a major patch did not introduce any new content to the game world. No raids. No dungeons. No battlegrounds or arenas. No daily quests. Not even new items.
Instead, patch 2.2 gave us something we didn't particularly want. Something players immediately hated and decried as useless. Something we have never embraced, though most of us haven't thought about it in a long, long time. Most players probably don't even know it exists.
Patch 2.2 gave us built-in voice chat. At the time, WoW Insider's Eliah Hecht questioned giving the patch the 2.2 designation. "Can this really be called a content patch?" he wrote. "Is voice chat actually content? Where's the new zones, dungeons, ... or whatever? This just reads like an unusually big bug-fix patch to me."
In an FAQ published prior to the patch, Blizzard offered their reason for implementing voice chat:
To celebrate the new feature, Blizzard gave away 40 Logitech headsets.
Since launching World of Warcraft, we have made a number of improvements to the interface to offer players more convenience and ease of use. The voice chat system is another such feature. It is simple to use and fully integrated into World of Warcraft, making it that much easier for players to communicate with each other.
Some players were actually opposed to the system entirely, fearing discrimination against those without headsets. Needless to say, no such campaign against the headsetless ever came to pass.
The voice chat feature was tested on select realms when 2.2 went live. Many realms didn't receive the functionality until a week later.
Vocal about voice chat
What was the initial reception? WoW Insider took a survey about the voice chat rollout. Given the options of "Flawless," "Laggy but playable," "Unable to log in," and "I don't care about voice chat," 40% of players chose "I don't care."
That meant, at the time, 60% cared enough to at least comment on the state on the rollout. But how many players actually use the built-in voice chat? A 2011 WoW Insider survey revealed that only 4% of players use it.
WoW's integrated voice chat had a steep mountain to climb to acceptance, but it never made it past base camp. It didn't have anywhere close to the number of features that TeamSpeak or Ventrilo offered back then, and the gap has continued to widen. Its broadcast quality was and is suspect. It suffered from a number of bugs initially and remains buggy today. Also, the system has an inherent drawback: if the game crashes or locks up, you can't communicate that information to the players in your group like you can with third party software.
If you look back, it's difficult not to conclude that creating built-in voice chat was a mistake for Blizzard. The amount of money spent on programming and the separate servers required to run the feature has had little apparent impact on subscriptions, player retention, or the average player's experience.
Will Blizzard ever revisit this feature? During Blizzard's first Ask the Devs event in March 2011, a Korean player asked about improvements to voice chat. Community manager Nethaera responded,
Is this still in the works behind the scenes or has Blizzard given up on it? At the moment, only Blizzard knows.
We aren't at all happy with the quality and feature set of Voice Chat. We think we can do a lot better. While we aren't working on it right this moment, the next time we revisit Voice Chat, we want it to be an epic improvement, the same way Dungeon Finder redefined Looking for Group.
Alterac's AFK summer
In the summer of 2007, Alterac Valley suffered from an epidemic. Players had figured out that AV offered the best honor gains, and that the battleground would award these gains to everyone in the zone. The lazy and thoughtless soon learned that they could simply sit in the caves where you spawned and earn honor without participating in the fight. They were dubbed "AFK'ers" and the caves where you spawned became known as the "peace caves."
Making matters worse, many Horde players believed that AV map imbalances made trying pointless, which led to more AFK'ing. This in turn convinced more Horde to do the same. It became a self-fulfilling cycle of failure.
This behavior frustrated those who wanted to win. When you had 12 AFK'ers sitting around in the peace caves and the other team only had three, your odds of winning decreased dramatically.
At the time, there wasn't much that PvP'ers could do about it besides open a GM ticket to complain about specific individuals. It was a slow and unsatisfying process, since the battleground would be won or lost long before a GM could get around to your ticket.
No honor in peace
Patch 2.2 implemented Blizzard's first stab at a solution. They created a new option when right-clicking on a player that would allow you to report them as AFK and apply a debuff to them to prevent honor gains. When the system was first announced, AFK'ers posted a tongue-in-cheek response on the forums asking Blizzard to save the "peace caves" for the "conscientious objectors" in both factions.
The original system had several flaws. It didn't actually remove AFK players from the battleground -- it only reduced their honor gains to zero until they started moving again. If the players were actually sitting there at the keys, then they might notice it and leave the battleground. However, many were actually as well as spiritually AFK, so while they didn't profit from their jerk move, your team was frequently no better off as a result. Running bot software could also get around the reports.
Blizzard eventually hotfixed the reporting system so that a certain number of reports would boot the AFK'er and apply the Deserter debuff. Of course, the more aggressive system could be abused, but most players considered it a small price to pay for fewer AFK incidents. Blizzard also made changes to improve faction balance for the map.
In January 2008, Blizzard also began to issue warnings, removal of honor and honor-bought items, and ultimately account suspensions for repeat offenders. Other stuff (still no content)
In addition to the usual class adjustments, dungeon and raid tuning, etc., patch 2.2 also implemented the one-hour delay in Auction House gold delivery. At the time, black market gold sellers were transferring gold to customers by purchasing simple items like Tough Jerky for insane prices. The delay allowed Blizzard to check the legitimacy of sales before the gold moved between accounts.
The drops from Serpentshrine and Tempest Keep raid bosses were increased to three. This was the first of many changes to make gearing up in larger raids less punishing.
The patch also improved the chat UI to show which chat channels players were currently in, and added better functionality for private channels.
Daze was buffed to ignore the Defense stat, because why should tanks have to miss out on all the fun?
Most random official notes
- Shiny Red Apple: Druids in animal forms can no longer eat this food item.
- Corrected the sound made by many items when moved in players' inventories.
- The Temple Concubine's polymorph no longer has the pig icon appearing when it sheeps a player but now shows the proper sheep icon.
- Merciless Gladiator's Legguards: This item now appears as a kilt.
- During the quest, "The Smallest Creatures", the marmot's stealth ability is working once again.
- Shaman ghost wolf no longer holds weapons or shield while attacking.
- The size of Ice Barrier on a Gnome Mage is now nearly 200% the size of the actual gnome.
- Farmer's Broom 100% beefier, looks more like a craggly witch's broom instead of a modern kitchen broom.
- Totems: Totems that grant only friendly beneficial effects will no longer trigger attacks from neutral city guards.
Following on the heels of patch 2.1, widely regarded as one of the best patches that WoW has ever seen, 2.2 was severely disappointing. Also, the gap between 2.1 and 2.3 meant a six-month period without new content. Such gaps later became par for the course for WoW, but after the steady stream of content in vanilla, players expected more.
It seems that Blizzard also found 2.2 disappointing, because they have never since released an X.X patch without new game content. In the end, it's just a number, but the X.X patches have come to mean new things to do -- and it looks to remain that way through 5.2 at least.
If nothing else, patch 2.2 will forever be remembered as the patch that finally fixed the orc shoulder bug. That may be its most enduring legacy.
Click to the next page for the full patch notes!
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