A Cataclysmic Problem

It has become a sad little game. Logging onto WoW and peeking through my fingers at the Guild roster or my friends list. Who isn’t going to log in? How many weeks has it been since I talked to that person? I wonder if they are playing Rift. I wonder if they are okay. As far as I know, only one absence is logically explained and has assured the guild he will be back when things get straightened out. But then, he lives in Japan, so I am pretty much willing to give him a pass.

People like to point fingers at Rift. But it’s not Rift. Rift was lucky to come out at the right time, in the right place to fill a void for WoW players.  But it could have been anything, any fun fantasy MMO with pretty graphics that does any of the numerous things players have been begging for in WoW, and they would have gotten a whole slew of dissatisfied customers. People aren’t leaving WoW for Rift because Rift is a better game. People are leaving WoW for *anything* because they are simply tired of WoW and what Blizzard is doing with it.

The problems:

1. Cataclysm is too hard.

For those saying “l2play noob”, shut it, and leave. Cataclysm is too hard. It’s that simple. Fewer people have killed Nef than had killed Kel’thuzad or Prince at this point in the expansion. Call people Wrath babies all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that people like raiding, like getting epics, and like DOWNING bosses. What they don’t like is endlessly wiping for hours because ONE person screws up (and it is never the same person). In a 10 man raid, a team should be able to lose 2 people and still manage to pull off the kill. In a 25 man raid, a team should be able to lose 5 people and still pull off the kill. Take a moment to consider the fights and how ONE person can screw even a 25 man raid.

BWD: Magmaw – one person with a parasite runs into the group, probable wipe. One person jumps on the head and doesn’t know how to work the chain, probable wipe. Omni – A person gets fixated and doesn’t move quickly enough, tanks and or heals get a slime blown up on them, definite wipe. A person doesn’t control their pet, Magmatron’s shield blows, definite wipe. Maloriak – Miss an interrupt? Wipe it up, the tank just died. Chimaeron – Tank’s taunt missed, through RNG I feel the urge to add, wipe it up. Or god forbid, the raid makes it to the final push and there aren’t enough mages, warlocks, and shaman, to spawn things to distract him. Artemedes – One person targeted and doesn’t move fast enough, entire raid wipe.

ToW: Conclave – ONE person knocked off Rohash platform, raid wide debuff, wipe. One tank misaligned his jump, falls to his death, raid wipe. One missed taunt to pull Anshel off his healing thing, raid wipe because he isn’t going to die fast enough. Al’Akir – the master of RNG wipes with tornadoes spawning on healers or tanks and spawning right when wind blasts start up.

BoT: Trash – wipes if one of the cc-ers goes down. Halfus – miss an interrupt, taunt, or big heal on the tank that is holding 2 dragons? Hope the trash doesn’t respawn before running back. V&T – One ranged not moving fast enough, one tank getting sucked into the basement, one purge happy healer, one person not running the right way for fire breath… wipeity wipe wipe. Elemental Monstrosity… what in this fight doesn’t cause a wipe if it happens to a tank or healer? Cho’gall – Slimes resist the earthbind totem? Kiss the healers goodbye.

RNG is not fun, especially when it controls the success or failure of a boss fight. My issue with all of these abilities is not that they exist, because many of them show nice challenging boss fights. My problem is that the price of even minor failure is DEATH. Didn’t move fast enough? Dead. Didn’t run the right way? Dead.

So what is Blizzard’s response to this? It will get easier as the expansion ages. This is possibly even more short sighted than the “resilience will fix it” comment. Yes, out-gearing the content will make it easier, but that doesn’t help guilds who are losing raiders left and right NOW.

2. 5 levels simply wasn’t enough.

There aren’t enough new zones for 80-85. There wasn’t enough time to feel like we were going from easy to hard. Replacing ICC epics was going to be hard enough, but replacing them with greens at 81 is just painful. At least with Wrath we held on to them for 6-7 more levels. (Some even making it all the way to Naxx.) When I hit 80, I hadn’t even touched Stormpeaks or Icecrown. Only a few quests had been completed in Zul’drak, and about half of Shalozar. Sure, I was one of those weirdos who did both Borean and Howling Fjord, but still, I had a ton of content. And I didn’t do dungeons as I was leveling, so those were totally new at 80, plus heroics!

It also took me 3 weeks to go from 70 to 80. It took me 3 days to do that for 80-85. Even when leveling my alts, it takes a short amount of time. And I always ding in Twilight Highlands regardless of how many instances I do while leveling. At that point, I only have that zone left to do.

3. Old content being revamped is great, but you have to please the bleeding edge too.

There simply needs to be more to do. I am thrilled at the updating of the old world. But where is the stuff in the old world for level 80-85? Where are the quests in Stranglethorn for the bored level 85 to escort newbies down to Booty Bay? Where are the level 85 Argent Dawn quests in Eastern Plaguelands? Where are the quests at the Ironforge Airport?

4. Dye, Appearance, and Housing.

How many years have players been asking for Armor Dyes, Appearance tabs, Soulbound armor bags, and player/guild housing? As long as I have been playing the game.

Did anyone else notice that it is one of the BULLET points on Rift that a player can dye their armor? Champions touts their character customization and creator for good reason. Players like to stand out from the crowd. They like to ROLEPLAY of all things. It’s why I always hate when affliction gets nerfed. I don’t WANT to be destruction. I want to be affliction and I want to be good for my team as affliction. I also don’t want to look like a unicorn vomited on me. Many players site LotR Online as a great example of player customization because of the appearance tab. Tons of WoW players, including myself, love to collect old armor and holiday clothing. Now we have overloaded banks and every new acquisition is an exercise in torment of what to delete.

Blizzard argues that they want players to recognize instantly when someone is wearing a set of armor. They want players to see the pretty art their artists created. This is a fallacy. I play three classes at level cap right now. I played 5 classes at level cap in Wrath. I could maybe tell you distinguishing characteristics of TWO of the armor sets I wore. I could maybe spot 3 or 4, if I was looking at them in game and correctly identify them as tier 10 armor. I know for a fact I can only do it for two sets of tier 11. I am not looking at players to tell how awesome they are, I am right clicking and inspecting to tell how awesome they are.

The solutions: Never present problems without a possible solution.

1. Nerf bat or buff bat. I vote buff.

So how do they fix the difficulty? Well really there are only two easy options. Nerf the bosses or buff the players. Nerfing the bosses is bad business. Then all the “hard cores” start whining about dumbing down WoW. They can’t just toss a buff on the whole raid like ICC, because then imagined elitism springs up.

But buffing players… Now that’s fun. Big numbers is big fun. An amplified, worgen tomed, fully buffed, spell power potted Curse of Doom on Netherspite for 52,000 damage? Yes please. (My point is made by the fact I remember that SO CLEARLY.) But they can’t just go in and buff everyone 15% across the board. They have to be sneaky about it. Buff this ability on this class, buff that ability on that class, buff armor gains on tanks, buff slow heals on healers, etc etc. Stealth buffs? Even better.

2. Patch soon, patch often.

If all the content is going to be reworked old content, it’s got to be fast. Patch every other month if possible. Especially if they are going to continue updating old content. In addition, every patch needs to carry with it minor buffs, minor additions (like to archeology, stats, and achievements), and possibly a pet or mount. Any updates to Holidays and Holiday bosses are stellar too.

Also, note for the next expansion, having the amount of exp to get to 81 be less than the amount of exp to get from 79-80, is not a good thing. The time invested needs to be equivalent to the previous levels. Consistency is key.

3. &4. Fidelity vs Agency. Omg, Kent was right. And suck it up princess. As designed just doesn’t fly anymore.

First off, players are willing to accept things that are expanded over time. Look at archeology. Players are willing to accept shorter dungeons if it means more of them. Players are willing to accept getting poor loot drops if there are more ways to get the odd piece they are missing. Players are willing to accept something not being perfect if it means they get something neat. Fidelity and agency are a trade off, but far too often Blizzard seems to make the wrong choice on which one to go for.

One example of this is the linearity of a quest zone and the inclusion of cutscenes. This is exceptionally noticeable when playing with another player. Ever tried to do Uldum with 2 people? It *sucks*. When one player completes a quest and it auto ports them somewhere while playing a cutscene, the other player is left in an old phase, alone, and has to fend for themselves. I like linear stories as much as the next RPGer, but in WoW, there needs to be a feeling of open world. I can remember doing quests and deciding to not do a “thread” of quests. Just skip it, that one is too annoying, or just isn’t fun, so I will just skip over it to this other quest. Blizzard killed that in Cata though. Each quest is a part of a big long chain. If the player tried to skip over this step, they can’t progress the zone.

This goes for dye on armor and appearance tabs too. Saying this was “as designed” just doesn’t work anymore. Sure when WoW was the *only* good MMO out there, we accepted this. But other MMOs are ripping off WoW and allowing for more freedom. The Blizzard artists need to let go and accept that players want to play THEIR way, not the way an artist wants them to. Yes, someone is going to take Paladin tier 2 and turn it into Hello Kitty pink, red, and white. But just as often someone is going to leave it red, gold, and black and look just as awesome. Also dye can prop up a flailing profession or become a major gold sink.

Even quests that are fairly simple go into this dungeon and kill this dude, or go and gather these rare items for me, in out of the way, hard to reach places, will fill a need in the old world for level capped players. Anyone else remember farming to get a flying mount to get access to the Highland Pools and the Shat’ari Skyguard dailies? I do.

One final point is about Guild leveling and reputation. As I said before, Guild Rewards are a powerful thing. Being in a level 20+ guild on my main and having all my alts in a level 2 guild, I can honestly say the difference is noticeable and painful. It will be slightly eased by the inclusion of a tabard in 4.1 that will help players earn rep with a new guild, but this doesn’t help new guilds. Players aren’t willing to move on to a guild that is a better fit at the risk of losing their perks. I have heard, from multiple people, about recruiting coming to a standstill because players simply aren’t willing to start over on rep or join a guild that is lower level than the one they are in. Guilds advertising in trade that are under 15 or so are practically laughed out of the channel. I have always maintained the best thing about WoW is playing with friends. When the player feels punished for playing the way they want to play or for changing their mind, something is wrong.

It may not be dying per se, but WoW is definitely feeling some pain. I worry about what might happen if this trend continues. People can argue all they want, but the dwindling raiders in my guild and the dwindling people on my friends list speaks for itself. The really worrying thing is that for each player that leaves WoW because of any one of these problems (or RNG), another player is likely to follow, especially if they find a new multiplayer game to play. And so the negative feedback loop starts until there is no one left but the gold farmers to play with.

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