Today, I decided to cancel my subscription to World of Warcraft for the 3rd time. I have to start focusing on my personal life again and re-building that aspect up. World of Warcraft, while fun, just takes far too much time and the way things have been, it’s been a fairly frustrating experience. What I wanted to talk about in this blog are things that I think need to be addressed.
I mentioned that I needed to leave the game mostly because of the time consumption issue. I’ve been spending probably far too much time in the game rather than focusing on some core issues in my life. The net result is that I’ve missed some opportunities and have to get away from the game completely in order to deal with them again. Some people might argue, “Well, why can’t you do both?” To put it bluntly, I’m an all-or-nothing type of person. I like hitting things full force when I do something. In this case, I really want to take advantage of the game as much as possible by maxing out my toons.
Unfortunately, for someone attempting to maintain 11 toons, it’s just not realistic. Things like handling the farms, doing dailies, valor point capping, LFR, the legendary cape quest, reputation grinding, pet battles, etc. are pretty overwhelming. I tried to just focus on a few toons but even that can consume quite a bit of time. For instance, I want to gear my characters up through Ordos and the Celestials. The way that system works though is you pretty much have to spend your reset day finding groups or waiting for someone to start a Celestials group. I estimated that it probably takes 12 hours to manage that on 11 toons. If you’re unlucky and miss out on the reset day, then you’re kinda screwed for the rest of the week.
Worse yet, you’ll run into situations where you have say allies griefing you as you prepare during an Ordos encounter. That effort might prolong a 5 minute fight (or so) until 30+ minutes. It’s bad enough trying to assemble a group and getting them ported over (because few people are willing to help with the summoning stone or others are just lazy in not wanting to walk over). After wasting 30+ minutes trying to deal with that situation, you just end up realizing that the effort isn’t worth it anymore.
And that partly motivated me into canceling my account. But the issue is just far larger overall. The thing is that the game requires far more time savers to improve the overall experience in the game. Some players often times will point towards the MMORPG label and say that the immersion into the world are what makes the game. In the case of World of Warcraft, do you really feel that it’s a “world” or just a larger Warcraft map with more people to interact with?
I feel that the MMORPG stigma holds World of Warcraft back in many ways because of this desire to prolong the lifespan of content and the way people consume that content. The grinding/farming aspect over time does not really have a positive long tail effect for the game. As people grow up or deal with real life, the grinding/farming takes a massive back seat to more critical issues. I know for quite a few friends, they simply have been forced to quit because they no longer can expend that time to devote in dealing with all the little time wasting elements in the game.
Let’s take another example with LFR and the queuing system. This system in the current situation is almost unusable. The queues now average 1 hour and sometimes more. Most of the essential problem is that tanks do not want to queue. People on the forums will retort, well then go queue as a tank? If I want to play my mage, then the point is absolutely moot. In short, the answer isn’t to solve other people’s specific dilemma but look at the core issue with LFR. That issue is that LFR is nearly undoable because of how the mechanics work. Simply put, people do not want to deal with mechanics. One wipe and a good portion of the group leaves. Then some person goes to grief and you run into a cycle of endless wipes. Put simply: it’s not fun especially when you devoted around an hour just to get into a queue that you need.
I’m hoping that with the Flex attribute added to all difficulties (minus Mythic) that it will solve the queue time issue. My belief is that the queue times should never go beyond 10 minutes maximum. The game itself needs to become a “get in and get out” type of situation rather than becoming a joke as the World of Waitcraft. That might imply lowering the standards and difficulty of things like LFR, but that’s better than wasting people’s time and leaving a bad impression.
Again, I’m hoping that with the four defined difficulty levels, the game works on layering the encounters better. Making it such that LFR should not wipe more than twice at most should be a standard. Also, ensuring that the average time for a successful completion of LFR should not exceed 30-60 minutes tops should act as a time requirement. Doing things like removing meaningless trash (such as the ones just before the Dark Shamans) are critical to ensure that this time requirement is not exceeded. It should resemble the design philosophy for the End Time Heroics in patch 4.3 where people can do them during a lunch break.
Some might argue, “Hey those heroics sucked!” My counterargument is that the real issue was how most people just farmed those three for a large number of months, which induced boredom. But I felt that those three heroics were pretty well designed. If there were more of them and that Mist of Pandaria had been released sooner, then people might remember those heroics a little more fondly. Either way, to me that was a good benchmark for design.
Beyond LFR and Heroics, are there other aspects of the game that can be improved upon in terms of time? Flight paths to me really need a massive overhaul. I feel that the way they work serves no purpose anymore beyond acting as a scenic guide. But these days, outside of the initial awe of seeing things from overhead, are they really worth keeping in its current form? My feeling is that there needs to be a speed up option that allows one to instantly transport between flight paths. For instance, you have the Shrine of the Two Moons and the Timeless Isle. Despite the Shrine being in the dead center of the map, the Timeless Isle can take an unnecessary amount of time. If you receive a gear upgrade during LFR while you’re on the Timeless Isle, you have to either Hearthstone back (if your inn is set there) or you fly all the way back over. There’s really zero point in dealing with the flight path time aspect outside of the fact that you don’t have a special item in your inventory to instantaneously transport you back and forth between both locations.
Some people will say, “Well, you’re losing the immersive part!” What immersive part? Just sitting on your butt waiting helplessly to land? You can’t do anything meaningful while in mid flight outside of chatting and browsing your inventory. It’s a horrible waste of time. It gets worse if you’re on one side of the map and need to arrive on the direct opposite point. You can easily sit around for a good deal of time just trying to get across. I mean, if you really enjoy sitting around doing nothing while participating in an absolutely useless activity, they should just give you a checkbox on your UI which allows you to take the long form. But I think most people just want a way to move between spots in a fast, efficient and brain dead manner.
What about the farm in the future? I think the new Garrisons will act similar to this in that you might be able to have a method to grow your own resources. However, if it’s anything like the way the farm currently works, it really needs a better UI tool. I’ve averaged roughly 10 minutes to manage a single, fully developed farm. If you do other things like dailies for tailors, leatherworkers, etc., those aspects can add a few minutes. On 11 toons, that can get up to 2 hours. While I appreciate what the farm brings, I feel that there should be a fast mode. Something that just automanages your farm, especially if you have numerous alts. I mean, perhaps when you’re starting out, you can have some thing like a skill that progresses over time until eventually it reaches 100%. When it hits that 100% mark, then you can be presented with an auto-management option that handles the items planted.
Another thing I would love to see is a better way to improve the drop rate system. This part is mindboggling bad. And it just loses appeal over time. I mean, is the game about killing bosses or just accumulating loot? I like to think of the game as a way to improve your character in a large part, which is what makes loot hunting fun. But when it becomes unpredictable, horribly time consuming and frustrating as a result of the way others might abuse a group or system, then the game loses a huge amount of appeal. That’s how I’ve felt over the expansion. I felt that I’m forced to constantly kill the same bosses I already defeated on a single toon over and over just to get that one item I’m missing in a particular slot. That experience really isn’t rewarding to me, especially when I do the same thing on 10 other toons. The experience might feel rewarding the first few times on each character, but not 10+ times on each character. The first time you beat an encounter is the only real time you feel that exhilaration. After that, it’s just monotonous positioning and you’re only counting down the seconds for the boss to drop dead so that you can hopefully obtain that piece you’ve been waiting for.
I think this experience is wrong and needs restructuring. If the fights lasted 2 minutes then I wouldn’t care so much. If the queues or ways to group up were easier, I wouldn’t mind. If the fights were easy and I didn’t have to deal with some psychopath kid trying to wipe us and waste our time, then I wouldn’t care. But that’s not reality. The reality is that none of these conditions are true and dealing with these problems over time just is stressful.
Ultimately, the thing is that I want to make my game time feel meaningful and that I get something out of it. Whenever I feel that I can no longer move forward or that the experience is becoming monotonous and pointless, then it’s a huge signal to quit the game. I don’t want to be in a situation where I obsess over small things that in the scheme of life make little impact outside of detriment to my personal life. That’s why I have to quit and this is a huge problem that the Blizzard team needs to look at more seriously.