The Future of WoW

It’s been a while since I’ve spoken about WoW, but it’s still a game I really enjoy, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve tried my best to condense my thoughts on the topic into a few specific points, but they tend to blur into each other, so apologies if this is a long and rambling post.

The biggest problem WoW currently faces is its content droughts. Every two years, they release an expansion, everyone plays it for six months, and then we get one content patch to last us about 18 months. Of course, this doesn’t work, so there’s about a year where there’s nothing to do. In a subscription MMO, this is absurd. Why should I pay every month when you haven’t released content in months and months?

The answer to this question for most people is that they just refuse, and unsubscribe every other year until the next expac. As a player, I fully understand this mindset, as I’ve done it myself. The problem is that Blizzard as a company doesn’t seem too concerned about this ebb and flow of players. They feel so assured that players will come back that they’re quite happy to go a year without content. However, while many players will come back, every time a player leaves, there’s a chance that they won’t, and as the years go by, that chance increases because players get fed up with running out of stuff to do and getting bored. I’ve read from multiple people who aren’t coming back next expac because ‘I’ll just get bored again after a month’.

There’s an argument that the game is just old at this point, and I’ll get into that more in a bit, but I think the biggest problem is that an MMO needs to have players year round, and Blizzard doesn’t seem to understand how to achieve that. The goal that they’ve stated over the last 5 or so years is that they want to release expansions faster, but they haven’t been able to manage.

The problem is, nobody wants faster expansions. I don’t want to have to go out and buy an expansion more than every 2 years. Rapid expansion releases simply water down the excitement of a new expansion; having a new continent to explore, or a new class to play, should be a rare thing. What we need is expansions that actually last 2 years. Develop a great new idea for content for an expac, and then keep adding to it.

This is by far the biggest problem with Warlords of Draenor. They released a fine expansion, but then proceeded to completely give up on it and add almost nothing new. One content patch for an entire expansion? Really?

The Almost Success of MoP

Going back to the ‘WoW is old argument’, I can see why people may think that the problem is really down to people getting bored with WoW in general. I don’t think this is true, and the reason for that is Mists of Pandaria. Blizzard made two huge mistakes with the expac, which damaged what was otherwise the best expansion they’ve ever made. The first mistake was to put the Pandaren front and centre. If you changed nothing about the expansion save the name, and had the Pandaren as only one race among a multitude of others on the continent, a huge contingent of players wouldn’t have considered it a joke, and would actually have been able to see how good the content was in Pandaria.

The second mistake was that they created almost two years worth of content, but spread it out over one year, so players burned through it too quickly and then were left with nothing to do. The patches came fast and furious in MoP, and it’s obvious in retrospect that the content could have been spread out more, adding a couple of months between patches. Doing so would have avoided such a huge wait at the end, and kept players long enough until WoD released.

I bring up MoP now because the content in it was incredibly fun. Quests at max level that delved into the lore? Robust systems for endgame content other than raids (pet battles, rep grinds)? Small group content that could be accessed almost instantly (scenarios)? MoP had a lot of great things going for it, but it’s two big mistakes make it look like they did a lot more wrong than they actually did.

The Misstep of LFR

So we can see that Blizzard needs to make sure to keep adding content, but what content should they add? I came to a conclusion the other day that I thought would be contentious with top raiders, and then was startled to find a video of Kungen (one of the top raiders in the world from Vanilla through to Cata) saying the exact same things.

End game needs to be more than raiding. Fact is, Blizzard has always spent an enormous amount of time working on raids, when few people actually play them. Their response was to create LFR, a version of the raid that would allow almost anyone to enter and play, and still get to see all of that cool content that they’ve spent so much time on. In theory, it made perfect sense. Lots of games have an easy mode for players who just want to play without having to put in too much effort (or in an MMO’s case, dedicate time to play with other people).

It didn’t work. The reasons for this are not completely clear, but it’s my opinion that the strength of raiding as fun content is a group of people, coming together to overcome challenges. Spending time on a boss, learning how it works, working together with your friends to time things and beating it through teamwork; this all felt awesome. LFR replicates none of that. Instead, it simply shoves you into a hallway with 24 other people and says, kill this room of adds, then a big guy, then another room of adds etc. Spending 6-7 minutes on a boss in a raid is perfectly fine when there are interesting things to pay attention to, but in LFR, there’s no tactics, so instead you’re stuck in what is essentially an incredibly boring dungeon with more people. Trash and bosses take a long time to kill, which is boring, and the few times where a boss actually requires tactics, nobody bothers, they just wipe until they’re strong enough to ignore them, which just means the process is even longer, which makes it even more boring.

LFR doesn’t work. Raiding with a group of strangers, silently killing stuff with no challenge for over an hour, isn’t fun. It doesn’t matter how pretty you make the place, or how cool the bosses are. Having to stand in a room doing my rotation with nothing else to distract me is painfully dull. You might as well ask me to use my rotation on a target dummy for five minutes for a chance at loot; at least that way I wouldn’t have to put up with other people who have no idea what they’re doing, slowing down the process and making it that much more dull.

The Need for Endgame

You may think that the solution to any player not enjoying LFR is to step up and raid properly, but this isn’t a solution. Just because a game is an MMO, it doesn’t mean that people who can only play for limited time each week shouldn’t be able to have fun. In fact, it’s these people who make the game profitable. If raids take up too much time to develop other things, then spend less time on raids. I actually thought this idea might be contentious with top raiders, but as I mentioned earlier, in a video Kungen explained that most of his time in WoW after the initial burst of content, was logging in for 3 hours a week until he was geared up. He wanted to play more, but had nothing to do.

All players, be they raiders or people who play two hours a week, want content outside of raiding. Fact is, raids really don’t need the effort that Blizzard gives them. Molten Core was a large room with some bosses thrown in; the devs have mentioned how they literally built it in one week. Top end raiding is fun because of the people you play with, not because each boss has a million different things to learn. Blizzard needs to spend less time on designing raids, and more time on creating content out in the world.

What type of content? There are many, many options. Professions are an excellent way to give characters progression that doesn’t involve player power; create quest lines to get rare patterns, dailies to create certain materials, have secret places in the world to find for certain materials. Secondary professions are even better; archaeology is an excellent example of content, it just needs to be a little more rewarding and a little less grindy. Hell, even fishing can be interesting if you added in some cool quests and dailies for it.

Pet battles are a great example of taking an existing system without much depth, and turning it into something that will keep players attention. With a little more work, the PVP system for pet battles could become a great way to hold people’s attention outside of raids. It just needs more rewards, and a little more detail, like quests getting you to win with certain pets or pet types etc.

Dungeons and scenarios are another avenue. They’re less good, because they’re instanced rather than out in the world, but they provide fun, repeatable content. Make them more rewarding, and players will happily do them more.

I’ve also heard that artwork is a leading cause for delayed content, but the fact is that after 5 expansions, the world is filled with areas that aren’t being used anymore, and players love going back and revisiting old locations. Simply create new daily quest hubs or dungeons/scenarios or quest lines in existing places in the world, and you have easy to make content that will keep players happy and busy.

More Lore

And finally, a word on the lore. The lore, more than anything else, is what got me hooked to WoW, but the fact is that no matter how often I hear people from Blizzard going on about how important it is, it’s rarely ever utilised. The quest lines in patch 5.1 were incredibly well received because they got players involved in the story, but they’ve never been repeated. The fact is that in a world as big as Blizzard have created, you don’t need to keep players constantly together with major lore characters, you just need to inject story and lore into things.

Have quest lines and cinematics involved with more aspects of the game. Meet Harrison Jones as you start leveling Archaeology, and as you create certain artifacts have him reappear to give you tidbits of story. Have a story for all of the pet tamers in the world; each one you beat tells you more about how they caught the pets they’re using, giving you access to special parts of the world to find new pets.

Have scenarios where you meet a familiar face in a familiar place; you meet up with Tyrande at Nordrassil and help her find out the source of corruption nearby, you meet up with Hemet Nesingwary in Un’Goro to hunt big animals for a contest. These are literally the first things that popped into my head, so it stands to reason that a group of people getting paid to do this should be able to think up plenty of stuff. The possibilities are endless.

As time goes on, I hope some of these ideas make it to the devs for WoW, and the game takes a turn for the better. As it is now, I’ll be playing in Legion, but I’m very worried about how long the content is going to last me. If they repeat WoD, the leveling content will be excellent, but then that will be it, and I really hope they’ve learned from their past mistakes.

Am I right or wrong? Are there other things that you think the game needs at the moment? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on twitter.

/endrant

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2 Responses to “The Future of WoW”

  1. You took the Words right out of my mouth…

  2. i find that blizzard has been making poor choices for wow for a while now. They dumbed down the raids with lfr, made gear less of a deal to get and cherish. They made the players less involved with the world. Flying mounts took away from the general feel of greatness the map has. they basically took away talent tree for a while. Added some silly spells. took away from the community feel, like finding a group of guys and going with them to a dungeon. less content, heroic dungeons were just gear runs and became boring to run. hitting buttons in a rotation to beat a raid boss became boring and generally pvp feels a little less balanced then earlier. still one of the best games ever made but it aged in a bad way imo

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