Gotta love the debates that go on regarding how old time World of Warcraft players complain in nostalgic sense about what post-TBC players have missed. As a post-TBC player, it’s very hard to get a sense of what Vanilla and TBC were like. However, having read a bunch of forums, I’m starting to get a sense of where World of Warcraft has been hurting.
If there’s a really huge issue at stake, it’s that the WoW community has slowly been on a decline. I think part of the problem seems to have manifested in WOTLK where the dungeon finder was introduced. As a result, you no longer needed other people to run instances. Since many of the instances in WOTLK were pretty easy, most players could handle them. However, the loot rewards and badges coming from farming Heroics seemed to stab at the hard cores and older community. The challenge no longer was there and bad players would be “carried,” causing a great deal of friction.
Thus, Cataclysm was born, which took the complaints of the hard core loyalists and attempted to amend the mistakes from WOTLK by making instances harder, requiring people to really learn their classes and use the full range of abilities, as opposed to simply AoE’ing down mobs. Of course, the tougher stance has created a decline in WoW subscriptions (either that or old players just are giving up).
However, the real damage had been done by removing the community/social element. Certainly, the changes to the guild system theoretically would focus or amend part of the community element. Realistically though, this is not the case. It seems that people simply find the highest level guilds to reap instant benefits rather than looking at a guild as something special for a group of people with similar goals. It’s not like the LFG will disappear in a day and the harder instances really are designed for guilds to work together.
In my case, I haven’t seen much of that. I’m not certain if my lack of exposure is a result of being on a PVE realm, but part of me does not think that is the case. It might be that my current guild is a casual/social guild. But thus far, I’ve seen little to no social interaction and very few achievements beyond vanilla instances where the guild has done much together. Again, it might be the fault of my guild master or just the way people are in my guild.
Still, I think there is some missing camaraderie that even WOTLK had. These days, I rarely speak to anyone in my realm, except to occasionally help people. Maybe it’s again because I’m on a low population PVE realm. Most people there I have met are those with jobs. It could be that most players are on the opposite side of the world so that I can’t do much to interact with them. But the community is quite lacking and something that I imagine hasn’t really improved since WOTLK.
New World vs New Content
The best way I can explain this is like this. The first time I went to Japan, it was one of the most exciting times of my life. No matter how screwed up the situation (getting lost, backpack breaking on the plane, overly heavy suitcases, can’t read signs, barely any friends, language problems), everything was new and bold. The second time I went, it still was exciting but I knew how to get around. The third time I arrived, I wasn’t as excited and started feeling bored.
Then I moved to Japan and my first few months was just a blast. The second time I moved to Japan, I was still excited, but more to see my friends again and just be part of that odd little world. However, I knew where everything was and I got used to the stupid questions people would always ask me (“Are you Chinese?” “How come you can’t speak Japanese?” “Why are you fat?”). The only thing I would look for at this point were extremely hot girls or restaurants I’d never been to. But frankly speaking, I got bored pretty fast of the usual spots like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, etc. The excitement that I had felt my first time there was completely gone and my enthusiasm slowly was being drained, but I wasn’t as aware.
What I was aware of was that I liked being there for some odd reason, despite all the issues of living out there and stress. Something keeps pulling me back. But once I’m back, the boredom creeps up and I quickly tire of the same spots that people have me go to with them.
I think the same thing goes with WoW. Your first month into WoW is just an incredible experience. Everything is new and it’s really not like anything you’ve ever experienced. You’re just learning the ropes so you feel this excitement as the system is being defined. However, once you get used to that particular system, you find yourself getting angry when it gets changed (and just read about all the nerfs that circulate every patch to see how many people QQ on the forums).
I personally think that the point of entry into WoW is the best. Your first few months are great because it’s the first time you’ll be doing things. But what happens once you hit 85? What can you do? If you’re lucky and get to be part of a raiding group, then there’s plenty of options for you. Or if you enjoy PVP, you can try BGs or Arena. What happens when you create that second toon? Sure, you can go through the process again and there’s plenty of areas to try out. What happens when you’re on your 5 toon? It gets pretty boring even though you pretty much can figure out when and where to use your abilities.
One of the game makers faulted the game’s age as being the chief killer. In other words, there’s only so many things you can still do in WoW. They’ve tried to boost the game by creating mini games (e.g. the wanna-be Joust or Plants vs Zombies), but you’re still in WoW. Expansions add more content, but that’s more or less like seeing a new girl you’d like to fuck or finding a new bar. That doesn’t change the main elements of the world.
Hardcores vs Casuals
This is such a hotly contested area and a landmine field for Blizzard. Whom do you pander for? Obviously, in the end, Blizzard is going to pander to their shareholders and accountants, which is an extreme shame. So every decision will involve them to some degree.
Still though, in order to make money, you have to focus your attention on this divide, which seems to grow all the time. The bet for Cataclysm to appeal to the hardcores was a huge gamble. That gamble didn’t seem to pay off from a subscription point of view as it has been cited that the game has lost a huge number of players. But is the loss really not a loss? Is this a way of Blizzard trying to make a statement? What if Cataclysm ends up being WoW’s last expansion (where I’ve heard that the possibility is very likely)? If that’s the case, then would Blizzard prefer to put their money into their hardcores who they know will stick by?
Even if this part is true, there’s still a major issue at stake. And that issue is whether the casual player will ever trust Blizzard again. That’s a huge stake at risk. A company’s image is everything in a situation like this. I’m a very casual player. However, I feel that WoW has done a pretty bad job of giving my money’s worth. If I pay money as any other subscriber to the game, don’t I deserve to partake in all content? If I can partake in all content, what sacrifices will I have to make in order to experience that content?
In reading these posts, it’s clear that this divide is created as barriers to entry by the hardcores/elitists. Even for people who are capable of raiding, it seems that the way the game is structured in terms of seeing end game content (e.g. raiding), you must practically participate at the moment when everyone else is doing it. That means that only a small percentage of people will get that opportunity. Unfortunately, it also implies that you will have bragging rights. Is this the right thing to do?
I’ve already stated my theory on what should be done, but I need to constantly reiterate the problem at hand. I think in the context of this post, WOTLK was fair to the casual player. I want to say that I enjoyed it for the most part. I had the chance to get close towards the Lich King fight. I thought that was great. Right now, I’ve done no Heroics thus far and only two Cataclysm instances. I remember reading how after Firelands came out on trade chat one night how people were already asking people to describe the Firelands trash mob tactics before letting others group up. Other people retorted that person, but it’s pretty clear the kind of mentality that has come about. To really spell out this mentality, here it goes:
To raid, you pretty much need a certain gear level (item level), which means you need to grind either in randoms (or if you’re lucky) with friends/guild members for points. If you’re doing randoms but don’t know the fights, prepare to get slammed or even kicked because, of course, other people don’t want to carry you. So you have to already have done research on these fights by watching Tankspot videos or other guides online. So let’s say you’ve done all this preparation work, sacrificing an enormous amount of personal time (and probably your self-esteem) to get to a point where you might be able to join up in a raid group. You end up having to master ZA/ZG just to get enough epics to finish up the first few raids, which probably are not happening anymore, or someone is nice enough to let you in to do Firelands raids (not to mention that people complain about how “epics are given away in these instances” because these people couldn’t gear up when the first raids and heroics came about). But again, you have to do all this preparation work to go raiding. That goes the same for the other 9 people in your group. You go after your first boss and spend the entire evening wiping. People get pissed, leave, holler at each other and so on. You keep trying and finally manage to find the group that gets your first boss down. But he doesn’t drop that piece of loot you need, so you have to do it again next week, when another person wins the roll on that loot and you keep doing this for the next few months, say goodbye to your waking hours and personal life.
Now tell me. Is there something wrong with that picture?
I was reading from one poster how end gaming raiding was about the thrill of the kill. Well, if that’s the case, why care so much about the other shit? Why worry about item levels, preparation videos, etc.? Why not just go in and keep doing things for fun? Isn’t that what games are supposed to be?
Then there’s the whole nonsense about what epic loot means. For the hardcores, they believe that epic means only we get it so we can brag to people in Orgrimmar or Stormwind. Isn’t the point of epic loot also to provide extra abilities to make it easier for people to participate in raids? Are we simply seeing another form of elitism going on?
If that’s the case, why not charge the hardcores an extra $15/month? I say if you go raiding and you want all that bragging rights, pay extra money because then you can go complain to the developers that you’re not getting your money’s worth. If I pay $15 a month, I am entitled to participate in all the content, just like everyone else. It’s not like using a service like Facebook and complaining that they changed the feed. And this just isn’t about me vs Blizzard. This is me vs hardcore players, who apparently have quite a bit of voting rights with the developers.
At any rate, what I described above is NOT indicative of a healthy gaming environment. Just saying, “Well STFU and QUIT!” isn’t enough. Game companies need to be responsible to their players as well. Yes, they need to think of both the hardcores and the casuals. Usually, Blizzard does a pretty good job at this, but with WoW, it’s a lot tougher because the game is participation based.
That said, here’s what I think highlights the good/bad points of each expansion (plus the original)
- Vanilla – Good: New world. Best community. Everything was being defined. Easier to get into large raids. Earning something meant YOU EARNED IT. Bad: Poor questing, too much grinding, glitchy (for better or worse), horrible time sync, 40 man raids were ridiculous, probably the hardest.
- TBC – Good: Improved questing. Best raids. Gorgeous world. Great lore. Dailies as a way of making money. Bad: Really hard raids (Sunwell). Harder to get into raids. Arena creating massive nerfs and balancing issues. Allowing paladins to be Horde and shamans to be Alliance (meaning lacking uniqueness to each faction). Male Blood Elves.
- WOTLK – Good: Vastly improved questing. Lots of great new content. Ulduar. LFG (for accessing instances quicker). Very casual friendly. Easy to get gear. Height of subscriptions. Vast continent to explore. Bad: Gearscore. Achievements to enter raids. Community at a low point after Coliseum came out. No longer a challenge to get gear. Lack of raid progression because of some instances and badges.
- Cata – Good: Return of challenging content. Re-focusing of questing zones to be more cohesive. Attempt to focus on the social aspects via changes to the guild system. Allowing more opportunities for solo players. Bad: Loss of subscribers. Challenging content might be “too challenging” for the casual player. Guild system may not have worked as intended. Way too little content. Too much genericizing of classes and constant nerfs.
There you have it. Now, these enumerations are merely my opinion based on what I’ve read in forums. Since I wasn’t around in BC nor Vanilla, I can only speculate and attempt to grasp at what the nostalgic praise those two versions have received. I have read from people who played in both saying that game has improved, so there’s clearly a disconnect in perception.
Hard to say what the real disconnect is outside of preference. Perhaps, it’s the fairness in world PVP? Maybe it’s the community or the shared experiences that some people received? Could it be the epic events occurring? How about the fact that the game was hotter when it started especially in the consistent online people playing it simultaneously?
At the end of the day, it really boils down to the individual’s experiences. I’m guessing the truth lies some where in between (like everything).