What in the WoW is Going On?
Those of you who listen to the podcast know all about my deep concern for the state of the game, but today my concern has reached a whole new level. Lately, I’ve been seeing great and dedicated players and friends quit the game left and right (5 of my good friends have quit the game and from what I’ve been hearing it seems like more are following), an overload of negative comments on the blogosphere and twitterverse, and communities in game dying a slow and painful death. Needless to say I am concerned deeply for the health of my beloved WoW.
Not to be overly academic, but WoW and Blizzard have essentially formed a relationship with each and every one of their consumers. We have developed norms with the way we interact with each other and when those norms get violated it is always very difficult to navigate a recovery process. I have often said in private to Jason and others that I now feel like Blizzard/WoW and I are navigating a rough stage in our relationship. It’s like when your partner/spouse tell you that they don’t love you anymore but because you so deeply love them you want to try to work it out… I feel like Blizzard/WoW is the partner/spouse who doesn’t love me as a player and a consumer anymore. Yet, my devotion to the game remains even despite its best efforts to get rid of me.
So here is my two cents on what is wrong in WoW, and what Blizzard should do to fix it.
I know a lot of you probably cringe when I say that I believe the first tier of Cataclysm raiding is far too difficult for the majority of the player base. I’ll agree that Naxx and Obsidium Sanctum in Wrath were quite easy especially considering that I was able to complete both within 2 ½ months of Wrath’s launch (and I had to level my DK from level 55 in that time). I was also a young and new raider at that time, I knew very little about past raiding ventures and wasn’t experienced in the ways of classic and BC raiding, but I tried my best and did my research and though it wasn’t too terribly difficult it was still time consuming and fun… and I could learn. After all isn’t learning what the first tier of content for an expansion should be all about. So after having done my fair share of heroic modes in ICC, ToC, and Ulduar, and having 2+ years of raiding and raid leading experience under my belt jumping into Cataclysm raiding should have felt like ok… new fights… but lets do this. Instead it feels like everything I learned about raiding has been shattered and crapped on and Blizzard ratcheted the games difficulty up so much that even a now highly skilled player like myself (topping charts even when I pug in with hardcore guilds and players) feels like a complete and utter scrub and I’m left throwing my hands up in the air like did the last 2 years mean nothing?
Finally, this notion of being “spoiled” by a video game is utterly ridiculous in my book. Games are supposed to be fun, and completable by people with some challenge mixed in. Wrath was a challenge for many players but with enough work and effort even if it took them longer they got to do the content, not hard modes, but normal modes. Hard modes are for the hardcore, normal modes are for everyone who has the time and effort to put in. Blizzard should strive to give the hard core players better and more unique loot so they can feel that hard modes really do prove that they’re leet and they have something unique to show for it (not some recolored same model from an easy boss), but still make the loot for normal modes look appropriately cool (just not as cool as hard mode stuff). That’s the way I think it should run.
For all intensive purposes Azeroth is about as static of a world as you can get in an MMO. I’ve been a vehement defender of Blizzard on a lot of fronts, but this upsets me now more than ever that I see a number of lesser funded and developed MMO’s having dynamic content.
Take for instance the rifts and invasions in Rift… open world PVE content that actually gives you something for completing them (Rifts version of Justice Points). They encourage players to cooperate and are challenging but do not end up causing players to have to inspect each other’s gear/spec or anything like that before tackling them. Sure it might be slower than raiding or dungeoning… but it’s fun. No stress I get to join a public group of random people and go pwn some monsters and get stuff. The best part is… hardly anyone is judgmental or mean in those groups. Everyone has this attitude of “Yeah! Let’s do this!” You die… so what… run back and keep fighting the good fight. Why doesn’t Blizzard have something like this? In Wrath it could have been scourge invasions of towns and quest hubs or out in the world. In Cataclysm, it could easily work as Twilight Cult invasions… Imagine cultists overrunning Crossroads or Goldshire randomly, or your out running your dailies in Twilight Highlands and uh oh Dragonmaw Port is under attack by a swarm of cultists and twilight drakes so you and everyone else in the zone go rush to fight it off. Click a “Join Public Group” button and go in and save the day. I’m telling you… it could work and in Azeroth it would be awesome.
I’m not sure if this is because of the content or just the maturity of the game but the player base of WoW is unbelievably judgmental and terribly inconsiderate and rude. In Wrath I used to see people pugging raids and dungeons all the time because it was fun even if you didn’t complete the dungeon. Now on a Friday night I log in and barely see anyone talking in Trade Chat… not even the obligatory “Baby” or “Murloc” memes. It’s like a ghost town…. no one wants to talk… no one is pugging. It feels for lack of a better word… empty or hollow.
Not to mention when you do finally get to the stage of getting into a pug or some other groups activity. You are under constant pressure to perform (spec, rotation, gear, ability) and at the first sign of trouble you’re kicked or not invited. Though I realize this is an ever-present and necessary trend in any group wanting to get stuff done, ratcheting up the game’s difficulty has increased the amount of scrutiny given to players and even friends that you have raided with for 2 years… who are good players! Is that what Blizzard wants to do to their community? Punishing people who enjoy playing together by making it so that they can barely get down 2 bosses a week? Making it so that you have to berate your friends about gameplay mechanics when I know that they know what to do? I urge Blizzard not to sacrifice the most important aspect of their game, the community, for the sake of appeasing the few people who enjoy excluding others from the fun, the others whose sense of accomplishment is directly related to the failure of others.
I recall Chris Metzen, in his “Geek Is” statements at Blizzcon 2010 talking about Dungeons and Dragons… and saying “Geek is sitting around a table with your best friends… armed with only graph paper and funny dice… and imagining far flung worlds of your own.” He even said that that was his favorite slide. For me “Geek Is” spending an evening raiding with my best friends enjoying jokes and downing bosses with minimal stress… still requiring skill and a few wipes… but minimal stress. Why does it now feel like Blizzard doesn’t want me to do this anymore?
Are there any people out there who aren’t experiencing these woes? Is it confined to my server? Is it just a random series of events that has plagued me as of late? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I ask for help and your opinions. Please keep in mind these are my experiences and opinions and they may be very different from your own. I encourage respectful and intelligent disagreements, but don’t want to see any ignorant comments about “how I suck” or “qq” etc.