Cracking The Iceburg

*Warning – this is a little bit long winded, and just a tad bit of a stream of thoughts.  If you find something completely out of place, please let me know in comments*

Larisa, at PPI, wrote yesterday about the “B-Team” that many people think is currently controlling the fate of WoW.  At the heart of her comments is the fact that WoW may be turning into an iceburg – slowly floating downstream, melting away into the abyss.  Check it out, it truly is a good read.  Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Is WoW aging?

Yes.  Every game ages.  WoW never was on the cunning edge of graphics, instead opting for “stylized” graphics, of a more cartoonish quality.  But that is its simple bliss.  Think about it two ways – from an acutal middle aged perspective, and from a technical standpoint.

From a technical standpoint, it is a stroke of genius.  90% of all computers (including my lapotp) can play WoW right now (although fully populated Dalaran is pushing it).  Look at other games like Doom 3 (a FPS of about 3 years past), and the more recent Crysis.  Both games have absolutely stunning graphics.  Crysis was modeled with realistic feel to it, and Doom a more cartoonish feel, similar to WoW.  Both shipped with state-of-the-art graphics engines.  However, at launch of Doom 3 – they had a FAQ dealing with graphical issues that basically said “your computer is too old, upgrade it.”  Both modes came out with “ultra high” graphics settings that no computer at the time could run (even now, ultra high mode of Doom 3 can bring state of the art computers to their knees).

From a realistic standpoint, how many ways were armor actually crafted in the middle ages?  I can guarantee you it wasn’t the way it is in WoW, with everyone being a bit unique.  You had leather, chain mail, or plate.  Plate came in a few varieties, but generally it was simply polished steel. Leather was the most decorative, and most widely used because of its cost.  Only the most noble of kings had some of the more emblazoned pieces we see in WoW, and certainly nothing on the scale of any of the tier pieces.  So, it is really beneficial to go with the cartoonish feel, so we get to play around, and have (the much loathed) spiky shoulders.

Are we losing WoW players?

It certainly seems like it.  I have no hard numbers to prove it, but it definately feels like WoW is starting to lose more and more people.  I wrote about it, almost every blogger has written about it, even the Blog-o-sphere has felt the loss of many-a-blogger related to WoW.  But at the same time, with recruit a friend, and other incentives, I think we are seeing a bigger influx rather than loss of players.

Can WoW, as it is now, stand up for another 5 years?

That is debateable.  There definately seems to be a few cracks forming in the beasts.  The raid base is largely uneasy, either claiming “lack of content” or “raiding is too easy.”  The amount of class changes that are done on each patch are simply staggering, especially to the longtime players.  Honorscode even leveled a pro-warrior as “Insurance” against changes that would potentially be coming down the paladin tank line.  Recycling old content has become a theme, and it seems that development time is stretched to a bare bones, absolute minimum (this is of course assuming that “Cataclysm” turns out to be what the intrawebs is speculating).

So, what can we do to help WoW stand the test of time?

Start investing into graphics engine updates NOW!

WoW’s graphics are charming.  But Blizz can do better, and they have proven it.  Have you looked at the new druid cat forms?  Simply stunning.  If you make changes incrementally, you will minimize the clients you lose, and allow the game to be a bit fresher with each update.

Find a clear direction for the game.

I don’t think I can put it much differently than this.  Where are we going?  What can we do?  What lore can we flesh out?

Lich King will go down, I think, as one of the better expansions in WoW’s history.  It was MASSIVE, brought players back to the world they loved (rather than the sci-fi esque Outlands).  The storyline is simply amazing, graphics, even though using the same engine, were simply stunning, and the world is simply immersing in a way that no one can quite put their finger on, but still tangibly there.  This needs to be continued, and the only way to do it is to lay the ground work NOW.  Tolkein is famous for the Lord of the Rings.  But you know what?  He had thousands of unpublished papers that he wrote to flesh out the background of even the landscape, not to mention whole family lines.  WoW needs this.  Story is an integral part of the game, and the story has to grip the player.

Define the vision for each class and spec.

I know that is a tall order.  But let’s think about most games.  Most games are single player, they have distinct feels to them, each character distinct from one another, and each not having to be balanced around millions of other people – mostly just the denezins of the crypt.  That isn’t the case for WoW.

In wow, you are constantly tweaked, prodded, pokes, swapped, erased, rolled back, pushed forwared, buffed, smacked square in the teeth with the nerf bat, etc…  You need to have a vision of the class, and where you want it to be, or else things just become a constant tickle and twitch here and there, or in the worst cases, knee jerk “sorry, we really arent liking what that class is doing right now.” reactions.

Find a way for PvE to co-exist with PvP.

WoW is a dual faced game.  It has a PvP and a PvE side, and that will never, ever change.  And that is ok.  What is not ok is for one aspect of the game to considerably effect the other.  Paladins (specifically Ret) have been getting hit with the nerfbat in PvE far too often just to bring PvP in line (and arguably, that hasn’t even happened yet).  It is irritating both sides of the fence.  If you had a vision of the class, and where you want it to be, then you would not need to constantly be severely hurting aspect of the game for the sake of the other.

Embrace 5 man dungeons.

I was woefully saddened by the lack of 5 man dungeon content in LK.  I thought to myself, “Wow!  When I hit 80, I can go from one instance to the other, chaining them, and still have half a day to play.”  And that is what is happening now with Heroics.  Constantly, people are looking for 1 more to chain heroics for the badges.

5 man dungeons should matter, and there should be more of them.  Not only as you Level Up, but as endgame as well.  The recent badge change was one way to do that.  But Heroics, as they are in LK right now, are not difficult enough once you get even just Naxx gear.  They become faceroll lootsmashers.  I’m not asking for “AMG casuals ruin everything” vamp up in difficulty.  I am asking to make sure they are fun, interesting, and that you have to pay attention in them to finish them out.  If that is too much of an entry level block to heroics, then make a heroic heroic mode.  Perhaps a “Champion” mode, and reward us appropriately.

Don’t abandon old content.

I miss shadowfang keep.  Yes, I could level an alt to go through there, but it wouldn’t be the same.  And who, now days, can really put together an “at level” run of anything below maybe Hellfire Ramparts?  Unless you have a large guild, or great trade chat SPAM abilities, the chance is very slim.

The old content represents hundreds of hours of development time (hell, probably thousands), too much to simply throw away.  How about a revamp of the old dungeons to allow them to scale with gear?  And, add a heroic (and champion 🙂  )  mode to them.  It wouldnt take much.  And the present heroic situation tells you that you wouldn’t have to change drops, only add the appropriate badge.  Badge loot is more than enough to pull max lvl toons back into the old dungeons with the appropriate level difficulty.

No more one room raids, with one raid boss.

Its lazy.  No matter what the reason for it, lore or because you have introduced this fancy schmancy new gameplay mechanic – jousting – one room, one boss raids tell us that you are putting just enough raid content out to keep us hanging on to WoW long enough to make the jump to the new MMO.  We don’t want that.  We want WoW to be just as groundbreaking as the new MMO.  If that means you hire 20 more peopel to help you get the art done, then by golly do it.  You take in, you know, a bazillion dollars, every 30 days, not to mention expansion purchases.  And for god sakes.  Don’t force us into an Occulus style vehicle mechanic again.  Its annoying, irritating, and no one I know likes it.  If you want to make bosses interesting, make them interesting.  Don’t take the toons that we have lovingly raised and put many hours in, away from us.

Raids should be groundbreaking, fun, and interesting.  This is where you push us to be, is endgame, this is where you should be breaking new ground.

Do away with the 25 man/10 man gear disparity.

We get it.  You don’t want 25 man raids to become obsolete.  That is fine.  Don’t do it through gear.  It wastes precious development time on itemizing gear when you could be itemizing gear for the next tier of content.  Its silly, and it reeks of you just wanting to give raiders more e-peen to stroke.  If 25 man raiding is that great, and you don’t want it to die out, then it shouldn’t when you normalize gear.  Some people will gyrate to 10 man’s, but they have already done this.  But conversely, some people will always want to do the 25 man raids.

Having separate itemized gear just forces a wedge in your playerbase, and gives a weapon for the super-elite to rag on the not so super elite.

We are breaking down barriers with the whole “bring the player not the class” thought, but artificially putting them back up, in different form, when you split gear up (and don’t even get me started on the DPS tax).

Embrace Hardmodes

Hardmodes are here to stay.  They are simply one of the best things to come in LK.  Content no longer becomes completely inaccessable to “casual” gamers, and there are significant enough challenges for the “hardcore.”  Hardmodes also break down the challenge of first stepping into a new tier of content.  I like how they did ulduar (although lootmobile can probably stand to be beefed up a bit).  You didn’t have to have naxx on farm for several weeks to step in to ulduar and start downing bosses.   Yes, you couldnt get very far without having that minimum level of gear, but it gave you something to work at, and something you could farm for critical upgrades.  Then, as you progressed, you could start looking at hardmodes, and the rewards that they offer.

Rethink Professions

Professions are such an integral part of the game, to leave them in their current state over the next 5 years would be a serious flaw.  As it is now, people pick them up (and change them at will) for the benefits to endgame raiding.  The profession a character chooses should matter.  And not just because it is expensive to change.  Because it should be fun, interesting, and profitable (OMG, dare I say that?) for a toon to have leveled to become a master in a profession.

Since I am getting long winded, these are just a few of the things that WoW is going to need to continue to be competitive for the next 5 years.

3 Responses to “Cracking The Iceburg”
  1. Larísa says:

    You bring up a lot of issues that have been discussed for a while. I agree with most of what you have to say, although I beeing a 25 man lover can’t help thinking that 25-man raiding guilds somehow should be rewarded for the extra work it takes. (I know all 10-man fans don’t agree with me about that, but that’s my view.).
    I think that if the added incentives were taken away, it would affect the grand scale raiding. After all people are lazy and quite much loot driven. And if they dissapeared it would make raiding in WoW less epic and special. But that’s just my pov ofc…

    All this said I too love 5-mans and think it’s a shame they didnt’ do more of them. Just adding emblems when we wanted instances and more challenges that were appropriate for our current gear level.

    Anyway: nice rant!

  2. Tutunkommon says:

    I agree with Larisa. I think that 25 man raids should have an edge over the 10 man. Whether it be done through dropped loot or something else, it should be harder, and it should be more rewarding.

    Also, I completely /agree on professions. They seem to be a bit grind-ey, don’t they?

    Don’t get me started non-stop class adjustments. ARGH!

  3. Firespirit says:

    @Larisa – The wonderful thing about the blog-o-sphere is we tend to have a variety of ideas, and opinions. I think you and I can agree to disagree on the aspect of 10/25 man disparity 🙂

    @Tut – When I started writing this, I sorta just went into a zen state. You are seeing a (mostly) unedited stream of consciousness here. There is lots, including class adjustments, that I haven’t put in here, that I would have liked to. But when Word count is edging closer to 2k, that is just a bit much for a blog post (at least for this site at this particular moment).

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