So I want to clear up a few things and talk about how the sausage is made a little.
I'm seeing the "12-16 months' worth of content prepared" thing bandied about, and this is actually the result of a statement being repeated enough where the words change enough to change the meaning. Prepared isn't the correct term and was never actually said to my knowledge. The correct term is "in pre-production," which is closer to planned than prepared. Pre-production means the content exists in design documents, concept art, and maybe a prototype or two. It hasn't even begun becoming real content yet. Having a lot of things planned out like this is great, as you can then shift the schedule according to what you see your game needs as things progress on live. Having a fixed schedule that didn't change in reaction to live game information would have been a mistake, and the schedule did shift accordingly.
So now let's talk a bit about holidays and why saying "No Winterfest" mid-Autumn isn't as crazy as it sounds.
I was working on Shade's Eve in April.
I realize that sounds a bit insane, but that isn't out of the ordinary. I've worked on other games where the same was very much true. Unlike most other things in game design, holidays based around real-world times of the year are immutable. You want to harness the energy they bring, and so it's very advantageous to schedule around them, but that means starting things early so you have a buffer.
Now, holidays are great, but they're not as important as making sure the live game is working well. We took the time we needed to fix things players were already experiencing -- all of the departments -- and that meant that the schedule changed to account for it. But Halloween and Christmas weren't interested in our bug fixes and didn't change their schedules for us.
When it came to Drop 3, Shade's Eve was more or less done, but it still needed a lot of proper, rigorous testing. With limited-time events, it's even more imperative that your content work and work well, because if there's a show-stopping bug that happens, every hour you spend fixing it is an hour players miss of that content for the year. QA time was vital, therefore -- particularly with some new bits of tech we received. But QA had Drop 3 on their plate, and Drop 3 -- full of many bug fixes and content that would be around all year -- was rightly deemed more important for QA to focus on. Would we have liked to get Shade's Eve in? Of course! But with finite resources, we picked giving Drop 3 the most thorough testing it could get, and it was the right call.
Winterfest wasn't in the same state Shade's Eve was when we stopped -- it was a rough li'l bit of content at the time. Fun, but rough. Even if we started the train back up now, finishing some part of it, testing it, and getting it out by Christmas would be a tough prospect with everything else cooking. We'd much rather deliver something that's full-featured, fun, and high quality.
I've been doing holiday content in this industry a long time, and I really want to show you folks what we cooked up, because I'm very proud of it. I hope you'll enjoy it next year.