Saturday, February 1, 2014

WoW's success might also be its downfall

I was playing a free pandaria trial of World of Warcraft this week.  In about three days I got my 85 death knight to 90, and tinkered around with a few of the other aspects of the game.  While some of the improvements are very solid (multi-loot, for example), I can't help but feel two things: 1. The server population is much lower than I remember and 2. The same missions and mission types are being used over and over again.

It seems to me that everyone is "done" with pandaria.  Serious players maxed out end-game reputations already, and have beaten the major raids.  With Warlords comings sometime this year, it makes zero sense to gear up when item levels will just receive a major boost again at the next expansion.  As a comparison, I user my Gurthalak, Voice of the Deeps, until level 86, and it only lasted that long because I didn't want to death gate out and put a new rune on the axe I got as a quest reward.  Now, it was just the LFR version of the sword (item level 390), but even the heroic one would have only lasted until 88, when I got several item level 414+ weapons (from quests accessible much earlier than 88).  In all honesty, it took about 4 or 5 LFR runs to get that sword, but when I think about all the other purple gear I had, and all the time and effort put into those (all gone by the time I hit 87), it makes me not want to do it again, ahead of the next expansion.  WoW PVP has not interested me since the original twink era, and with all the redone classes it turns into an even bigger gear game.

This is such a sharp contrast to the vanilla WoW I remember.  There, everyone was doing whatever they could to gear up for raids, and get as much gear as they could.  Blizzard was releasing new content almost as fast as people could conquer it.  Not to mention that getting to 60 was so much of a longer journey.  Raiding actually required farming materials, using professions, getting geared before stepping foot into a raid.  Reputation factions were a major grind, where there weren't as many dailies (if any at all) to ease your way.  The three PVP factions were actually good sources of gear in general, for PVP or PVE.  Above all the game was fun, even for all the challenges.

The quest type problems are a consistent theme in WoW.  I think that the "quest node" idea has been taken a little too far with MoP.  Every zone has about eight to ten areas where quests are given out.  You usually have three to four "rounds" of quests for these areas, culminating in a harder quest (longer or more difficult) and that one usually rewards a piece of blue gear.  Rinse and repeat about fifty times.  Most of these are kill x creatures, kill boss creature, gather x drops, or gather x items from clickables.  There are some rare exceptions, but I don't recall any of these being fun.  They were a chore list.  It is not helped at all by the fact that you cannot fly in pandaria until 90.  This, to me, makes zero sense.  It resulted in me racing to 90, and getting flying, only to look around the area and discover all the areas that were previously inaccessible held lvl 90 mobs and were typically sites for dailies.  So, they basically repeated what they did in TBC with that.

The net result is that the game is no fun.  The lore is still interesting, but I can read wowpedia for that.  There is nothing in this game for me anymore.  Warlords might change that with Garrisons, but I feel like I am just going to be disappointed with the way Blizzard will do those.  I will be even more disappointed when they announce another new expansion shortly after Warlords goes live.

WoW was released in November, 2004.  TBC was released January, 2007 (26 months later).  WotLK was released  November, 2008 (22 months later).  Cataclysm was released December, 2010 (25 months later).  Pandaria was released September 2012 (22 months later).  Warlords will be released sometime this year, if we assume December that is 27 months (though 25 months seems more likely, which would be October, meaning beta should be April).  This 2ish year release cycle makes the game predictable.  6 months of solid playtime, levelling characters, completing original raids, doing server events.  Then 6 more months of raiding the newer content that is patched in or gates are lifted to make it available.  Finally, the next expansion is released, and there is 6-10 months of languish while everyone leaves to do more fun things.  Then the beta hits, people get interested, and start setting up their accounts and characters to be ready for it.  Then the cycle repeats.

I will certainly try to be a beta tester for Warlords, and I will be watching, but something needs to change about WoW, or it will stop making enough money for Blizzard to keep developing it.  The cosmetic upgrades will certainly help, but it will be too little too late if they don't change the game's structure.


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