03
Jul
15

All the Blizzard hate

It seems like the “in” thing to do these days is to hate on Blizzard.  If you read such active sites as the official forums, the /r/wow subreddit, or the forums on MMO-Champion they all make it seem like Blizzard is the epitome of all that is evil.

Depending on which parts you read, you would find the general opinion is that

  • Blizzard hates PvP
  • Blizzard ruins PvE by trying to balance it with PvP
  • Garrisons suck
  • The Shipyard sucks
  • Blizzard went with time travel in Draenor to avoid writing new content
  • Expansions are too far apart
  • This expansion is too short
  • Tanaan Jungle is awful
  • Archimonde is a terrible final boss

and on and on…

First of all – I’m not going to claim that Blizzard has done everything right.  However, the internet has a habit of making everything black/white with no position in between.  The game isn’t everything you hoped?  It can’t possibly be just some innocent misses in game design or decisions that look bad in hindsight.  No, clearly this is the work of money-grubbing greedy bastards at Activision who are conspiring to milk WoW subscribers for every penny and not offer any value in return.  MUA-HA-HA-HA!

Here’s how I see it:

  • Garrisons are a logical extension of the farm from MoP which was very popular.  It was VERY popular at first, but didn’t age well and was old within a month or two.  It was a very sensible design choice on the surface, but there was not enough vision to see the long-term effects.  Probably a bad design decision, but seemed good at the time.
  • People have been asking for a faster expansion cycle for years.  Blizzard has acted on this, but not in the way people hoped.  Rather than lots of content compressed into less time, they’ve gone with less content for a faster turnaround.  This bothers people, as we all hate getting less than we expected.  But the go-to argument is that WoD is not worth the $60 box price.  I don’t agree with that.  Did we get less for our $60 this time than we got in WotLK or Cata?  Yes.  But most got a lot more gameplay from WoD than they got from $60 Destiny or $60 Skyrim or $60 Assassin’s Creed.  Yes, there’s the subscription price but that hasn’t changed in 10 years and so is a non-factor in the argument.
  • Archimonde is an epic foe, but maybe wasn’t the ideal end boss only because he hadn’t appeared in the story all through WoD.  People compare him to WotLK when Arthas was everywhere, or Cataclysm when Deathwing was all around.  I agree with this.  HOWEVER… when Grommash was initially announced as the end boss of the expansion, it was met with all kinds of disappointment at the prospect of another orc-centered expac.  Blizzard responded by replacing him with an even bigger baddie.  This was the player’s getting what they wanted!  However, it comes off as slapped-in since we don’t see any build up to Archimonde in the story.
  • Two raid tiers in WoD is low since we’ve had so much more in past expansions.  I want to give Blizzard the benefit of the doubt here.  IF they have already assigned a lot of their personnel to work on the next expansion, then the current expansion clearly must suffer.  That’s a big “IF” and time will tell.  IF we get a new expansion by early 2016, then we can look back and perhaps understand their choices.  There will be those who whine that Blizzard should have enough staff to do both current content AND the next expansion.  That’s wishful thinking.  That’s like wanting your favorite restaurant to hire more staff so that you don’t have to wait for your food.  Sounds nice, but its not going to happen.

Personally, I blame a lot of what we are seeing on just a falling-out-of-love with MMOs.  I think that the current MMO model has played itself out, and really there is nothing Blizzard can do that will make people happy.  MMO numbers are declining across the board in all MMO games.  There has never been a “perfect” MMO.  Many have tried (ESO, Wildstar, Amalur, many others…) but all have failed in some way or another.  WoW is equally imperfect, but years ago we were more forgiving.

Analogy – Lets say that you have a girlfriend who is awesome (I’m going with girlfriend since I’m a guy.  Flip the genders in the analogy if you like).  She’s funny, smart, and has similar interests to yours.  But she has an annoying laugh.  At first, you are so enamored with her that the laugh is irrelevant.  As you reach your 5th, 8th, and 10th years together, you’ve come to take her good features for granted.  But that laugh still grates on you.  After all those years you’re less likely to overlook the laugh.  One day you get into a fight, and with all the anger your annoyance with her laugh just seems magnified.  Its like the last straw.  You don’t break up because of the annoying laugh, but it was in your thoughts the whole time.

This is how I see our relationship with Blizzard.  In its early days we overlooked or forgave its misses.  We still reflect fondly on vanilla even though it was mostly a grindfest with unimaginative raids that had some great moments in between.  This love affair peaked in Wrath when the new features made us mostly forget the bad stuff.  As time went on, the game was just more of the same with different skins.  Now the good stuff is taken for granted and we focus more on the problems.

I really don’t think there is anything that Blizzard can do now to make the players happy.  I think that 10 years (or more if you played Everquest) of formulaic MMO gameplay has made us cynical.  Unless Blizzard somehow surprises everyone and re-invents the genre, the subscriptions will continue to decline and the complaints will persist.  I also think that Blizzard knows this, and perhaps it is why they seem so deaf to the complaints.  Maybe they know that there is nothing they can do and so are just going to ride it out as long as they can.

01
Jul
15

The slow decline of a guild

I know that some people guild-hop, and to many their guild is simply a means to an end – a way of getting into weekly raids at their chosen difficulty level.

My guild is the social structure around which my whole WoW experience was built.  I’ve been in this guild since I dinged level 55 in vanilla WoW, and I’ve been the guild leader since the Karazhan days of Burning Crusade.  I can’t even imagine playing the game without it.

Sure, we’ve gone through ups and downs.  We’ve seen slow periods when few players logged in.  We’ve gone through entire raid tiers when we couldn’t field a raid team.  This time feels different.

Patch 6.2 came out, and there was no spike in player logins.  The same handful of people are logging in sporadically.  There is no guild chat.  No “grats” at achievements.  No guild chat about Tanaan Jungle or guild groups being formed.  Even our long-term most dedicated players have not come back with the new patch.

A bunch of our players who were at least logging in occasionally have left the guild.  They went to another social guild. I’ve checked, and that guild doesn’t have significantly more activity.  I think that social guilds are generally falling apart right now.

I’ve considered the idea of taking some of my alts out and going to a different guild to try and raid.  At the moment, I don’t have the heart for it.  I think I’d sooner quit WoW than leave my guild, even when it’s empty.  Besides, that’s not necessary since the Group Finder has given me the ability to play without a guild structure.

I can’t see anything improving in the near future.  I think the rest of this expansion will play out along this pattern.  By the end I may be the only one (out of hundred of guildie account) who is logging in.  Maybe Blizzcon will have some amazing announcement that will bring people back.  Maybe not.  Time will tell.

It’s unusual to feel lonely in an MMORPG with seven million players.  But I do.

26
May
15

I just realized… I’m the target demographic!

I read blogs.  I read the WoW subreddit on Reddit.  I look at my guild roster at all the inactive accounts.  I see all the gnashing of teeth and the wringing of hands.

So why am I still logging on 3-5 nights a week?

1) I decided early on in the expansion that I was going to pace myself.

I remember in the first few weeks after the expansion was released that I was completely overwhelmed with all the stuff to do.  At the time, I was super busy in real life, so I couldn’t throw myself into the game and inhale all the varied activities.  So I decided then to pace myself – tackle one thing, then move onto the next.

So I leveled my two raiding toons and geared them up.  When raiding dried up, I moved on to making gold.  When that stabilized, I went to pet battles.  Now that I’m reaching my pet battling goals, I’m going to start working on filling up my Toybox.  Because of this measured bit-by-bit approach, I have not run out of things to do.

2) I can only play for 1-1.5 hours at a time.

I never have a chance to get bored.  My Garrison routine on 5 characters takes me about 40 minutes.  Then I only have 20-40 minutes left to fill up.  Its easy to do that without getting bored.  I can go catch some wild pets, run an LFR heroic, do a Garrison Campaign mission, etc…  This pretty much makes me the target demographic for the current expansion.

3) I’m now playing for free

With three max-level Garrisons and an enchanter, my passive gold-making is about 8-10k per week with zero effort on my part.  That more than pays for a monthly WoW Token.  With no actual money at stake, why not keep playing?

4) I don’t miss raiding

Don’t get me wrong, I love raiding.  But it is only one of the myriad of available activities, and I’m content to busy myself with other things while I patiently wait for raiding opportunities to happen again.

5) I’ve been through this before

In late Burning Crusade, my guild went through a dead period.  People stopped logging in.  People left the guild.  On many evenings I was the only one online.  I was patient, and it eventually turned around.  As the saying goes – this, too, shall pass.

13
Apr
15

What has gone right/wrong with WoD?

Let me make a quick baseball analogy.

A baseball player starts a game with two home runs.  But at the end of the game he strikes out with the winning run on base, and his team loses.

Did that player have a good game or a bad game?

I don’t think you can answer.  On one hand, two home runs in a game is great.  However, failing when the game is on the line is bad.  The point is, it isn’t black and white.  You can have both good and bad in an event.

End of analogy.  People are very quick to label WoD as “good” or “bad”.  I emphatically disagree with either characterization, especially since we’re only 5 months into the expansion.  The expansion has had some incredibly good aspects, but has definitely failed to deliver on others.

———————————————————————————————————–

A few quick things to get out of the way –

First of all – Garrisons are great.  You might not think they are great now because that’s all you have done for the past couple of months, but for the first 8-10 weeks after release the WoW world was abuzz with garrisons, garrisons, garrisons.  The garrison campaign has been interesting, and invasions are a nice feature.

Second, questing and storytelling in the 90-100 leveling was well-done.  Blizzard has really refined the questing experience over the years.  You could argue that the 90-100 journey was a little too quick, but that is ultimately a matter of taste.  At the level cap the legendary quest is, as anticipated, tedious, but you wouldn’t expect anything else.

Third, raid design has been good.  The boss fights are interesting without being overwhelmingly hard.  The division of the first raid tier into two separate releases is interesting, and ultimately prolonged engagement.  Had they released Blackrock Foundry at the same time as Highmaul, guilds would have burned through both tiers even faster, prompting complaints about content even earlier.

Now, what did Blizzard do wrong?

People complain about a “lack of content”.  But if you look at that objectively, the amount of “content” in the initial release + first patch is similar to other expansions.  There is a raid tier of 17 bosses.  There are eight dungeons.  New zones.  There is a legendary questline.  So what are the complaints for?  What is missing?

The question I asked myself is: at max level, what makes me want to log on and play?  It isn’t just raiding.  Very few guilds raid more than 2 or 3 nights a week for 3-4 hours at a time.  So what makes me want to log in the other 4-5 days a week?  I think that is where Blizzard failed in WoD.

Here are the activities that used to occupy my time when not raiding:

I – Gearing Up

In the old days, what you often did on your non-raid days was work on your gear.  There were many paths to get gear.  Heroics, pvp, and reputation were the most widely used.  Heroics didn’t get you gear directly, but they got you Valor Points which could be used to buy high level gear upgrades.  Reputations, usually attached to daily quests, had upgrades as well (in addition to crafting patterns for other gear).

Warlords removed Valor Points and reputation grinds.  Instead, your gearing up is done through LFR.  Since LFR only occupies about 45 minutes per raid once a week, that doesn’t get you to log on night after night.  This gives you no efficient path to get gear except through more raiding.  Thus, gearing up on off nights is not happening.

II – Dailies

Dailies have been part of WoW since Burning Crusade.  They were just that – “daily” – they gave you a reason to log in every day (at least for a while).  However, in BC they were fairly optional – Shata’ari Skyguard and Netherwing and Ogri’la were not necessary factions.  As time passed, dailies became more or less required for a serious players.  Shattered Sun in BC, followed in Wrath by the Argent Tournament and the Daily Heroic quest were must-do activities.  In Mists there were a ton of them, and that caused a lot of complaints.  “Too many dailies!” was the cry from WoW players when they found themselves doing sometimes 40+ dailies every day to grind out an assortment of factions.

Like them or hate them, they kept us playing the game.  Now, in Warlords, they are all but gone.  There are a few, but their rewards are not compelling.  Garrisons have replaced them, and I personally found this to be a welcome change, at first.  However, I’ll be the first to admit that garrisons don’t keep me engaged in the game.  Dailies forced me to go out in the world, travel, interact with things, kill stuff, and actually play WoW.  Garrisons, after a while, feel closer to a Facebook game.  While I didn’t like dailies, they did keep me playing more than I do now.

III – Alts

This may be one of the biggest problems, and it is a problem that Blizzard actually created last year.

Leveling alts is a time-honored activity in WoW.  It was hard to do in Vanilla because of how slow leveling was.  It was still a chore in BC.  Then Wrath gave us heirlooms, which made alts a more attractive option for many people, and introduced Death Knights which started at level 55.  Cataclysm completely rebuilt the whole level 1-to-max experience and gave us all new reasons to make alts, plus they introduced Gnomes and Worgen.  Mists streamlined leveling even further and gave us Pandaren and Monks.  Leveling alts became a very big part of what many of us do on our off days.

This was ruined for us not in Warlords, but in the long, long tail at the end of Mists.  With the fourteen month span between the last Mists patch and the Warlords release, we had plenty of time to level all the alts we ever wanted.  I know many players who have high-level alts of almost every race and class.

When Warlords was released, there was no new class or race to give us a reason to start over at level 1.  In fact, Blizzard went in the opposite direction, providing us with instant-90-boosts if we wanted.  Many of us who want to level an alt are probably starting with a character which is already at level 90, or maybe the mid-50s if we ignored it during Mists, rather than a fresh level 1.

Add to that the expanded assortment of heirlooms now available, and leveling alts is a “been there, done that” activity.  Making a fresh level 1 alt now seems like a desperate search for something to do rather than a real alternate activity.

IV – Professions

There is a lot of debate as to whether professions were ruined in Warlords.  From my own person opinion, I think they were.

I have always been a fan of professions.  Since vanilla, my preference was to craft my own gear whenever I could.  Typically on the first day of a new expansion, instead of questing and leveling, I’m gathering materials to get my crafting leveled up.

And yet that didn’t happen in Warlords.  Crafting was gated behind such a slow system of progression that I couldn’t maintain my interest.  I did my daily crafting cooldown, of course, and kept my work orders ticking, but it was such a slow process that I kind of forgot about it.  I did eventually craft a couple of pieces of gear, but they were to fill in slots for which I hadn’t already gotten a raid drop.

I get the feeling that this was intentionally done by Blizzard, and that crafted gear was meant for just that – filling in gaps rather than as a primary way of gearing.  That makes me sad.

First aid?  I’ll be honest – I have not even looked at it in this expac.

And don’t get me started on gathering professions.  That’s a mess.

V – Fun Things To Do Solo

In Mists, we were introduced to Pet Battles.  At that time, all of the pets we already owned were level 1.  Most of us had less than 100 pets.  Suddenly, we were handed a system where we could level up our pets and collect new pets, and there were hundreds and hundreds of pets we didn’t own.  There was a “progression” of sorts – pet trainers we could fight against, starting easy and low level and going up to very hard and high level, and then leading to legendary pets to fight.  This whole system was completely outside of raiding.  It made us travel all over the worlds – both new and old – to find pets.  Now we have all done a lot of the basic pet stuff and only have the new WoD additions to work on.

The previous expansion, Cataclysm, introduced Archaeology.  Again, this was a whole new system that we were starting from scratch.  It had all kinds of awesome rewards if we were willing to grind them out, including mounts and flavor items (now called toys).  This filled a lot of down time.  Now, Archaeology (like most professions) has been marginalized.  Just do your Garrison enough and you’ll get archaeology pieces.

Wrath gave us achievements.  The addition of achievement points made us search high and low for otherwise pointless tasks to complete to get these points that weren’t actually used for anything.  Many, many hours have been spent in pursuit of achievements.  There are still achievements to do, but they seem to happen a lot for unexpected reasons, like pooping in a garrison outhouse.  My approach to achievements is to be surprised when I see them, rather than actively hunt them down.

Warlords has given us Garrisons, but that doesn’t feel like a separate system.  It doesn’t take up lots of our free time or distract us on days between raids.  Its just always there, and feels like a chore after a while.  Toys, while exciting at first, aren’t really new and aren’t interactive enough.  Same with the Jukebox.  I think this is a big miss by Blizzard in WoD.

———————————————

Overall, I think Blizzard hit a home run in Warlords with their “core” content – the raids, quests, story, and new zones.  Where they struck out was in all the peripheral stuff that we do that keeps us occupied.  As a result, there is a perception that there is nothing to do because the “core” content can only keep us busy a few hours a week.

Lets hope that the next patch doesn’t take too long, and brings with it some engaging activities other than more group content.

29
Mar
15

Is this a failure or just the path of an aging game?

MMO Champion has done some data analysis from the WoW armory and has found that upwards of 60% of all WoW players have done Highmaul at some level, whether LFR, Normal, Heroic, or Mythic.

However, only 36% have done even the first wing of Blackrock Foundry on any difficulty.  That includes LFR, which has been available since February 17th.  The later wings have been done by even fewer people.

I’ll admit, I have only done the first two wings of BRF, and only once each.

What’s the reason for this?

Is WoW hemorrhaging players the way the naysayers have claimed?  I haven’t seen recent subscriber numbers.  In my guild, a lot of our long-time players have stopped logging on.  I don’t think they have unsubbed, but I don’t see them for days at a time.  Why?  There’s nothing in the game that is holding their attention.

Guild raiding seems to be dead unless you’re in a progression guild.  It is easier to get your raiding fix through Group Finder or LFR.  Here’s the downside of that – if your raiding activities are limited to LFR and Group Finder, then you have no personal motivation to upgrade your gear.

In guild raiding, if you run into a roadblock or wipe repeatedly, then you look for ways to improve.  Everyone in the guild has to work to get better otherwise you’ll never succeed.  You grind out opportunities for upgrades, whether in LFR or crafting or the auction house, because you have to run with the same people next week.

In LFR/GroupF inder raids, if your group fails, you can always requeue and find another group.  There is no personal responsibility to gear up or even to be any good at all.

For example, I have not upgraded my crafted gear, even though I have the resources to do so.  There is no personal motivation for me to spend the resources.  LFR is easy and Group Finder is hit or miss, but a patient player can usually find a good group that will succeed.  Why should I push myself and spend gold to raise my iLvL if I am just running LFR?

Because I have no gear grind driving me, I really don’t do many of the raid-related activities in the game.  I do garrison chores and I do LFR to make progress in the legendary questline.  I do pet battles to get closer to my Level 3 Menagerie and fishing to get closer to me Level 3 Fishing Shack.  Once I finish those buildings I doubt I will pet battle or fish any more.  Then it will just be the legendary and achievements keeping my attention.

The solution to this, in my mind, is to revitalize guild raiding.  Incentivize raiding in guilds, somehow.  That, however, is unlikely to happen.  Blizzard has spent the past couple of xpacs crippling guilds in order to promote overall accessibility.  Non-progression guilds are all-but-pointless now other than social constructs.  Without guilds, we lose any personal responsibility.  Instead of increasing raid accessibility, what we are seeing is people unsubscribing and raids are going unplayed.

I’ve heard that PVP stinks right now, too.  What it seems like is that all of Blizzard’s efforts to increase accessibility of the game are falling flat once at max level.  At level 100, the game is mainly engaging for progression raiding guilds. Everyone else – casuals, pvpers, guild raiders – are getting more and more unhappy.

I’m still busy in game, but it is discouraging to log on on a weeknight and see only 2-3 guildies online.  If nothing changes, then I predict a nice spike in activity at patch 6.2, followed by a HUGE drop in players once they burn through that content.  Hopefully Blizzard will add some hook to get our attention in the near future.

05
Mar
15

Still Lots To Do For Us Casuals

I see more and more people who stop logging in or even unsubscribe, claiming there is nothing for them to do.

I can see that, if you play a lot.  There is no game that can keep up with content for players who spend hours gaming almost every day.  However, for us casuals, there’s still a long list of things yet to be cracked.

I am full-blown casual now.  My available game time has dropped to only a few hours per week.  I set aside two nights to raid, but we only have enough guildies to raid about 50% of the time.  Even with OpenRaid we usually find ourselves short of tanks or healers.  On off-nights I get to log in about 1 out of 3 evenings, and then only for an hour or two.  Its enough to keep up with Garrisons and do some crafting/auctioning, and that’s it.

On my to do list:

  • finish normal mode Highmaul.  My guild is still at Ko’ragh.  Raiding one night a week, and that with an inconsistent raid team, does not make for quick progress.
  • do normal mode Blackrock Foundry.
  • continue the legendary questline.  I’m still collecting Abrogator Stones, so I’ve got a way to go before I’m caught up
  • Pet Battles – I have not yet unlocked my Level 3 Menagerie
  • Fishing – I have not yet unlocked my Level 3 Fishing Shack
  • Archaeology – have yet to touch this so far this expansion
  • Old raids – I intend on running old raids, specifically to get pet drops
  • Toys – this is a collection I’d like to work on
  • New in 6.1 – Jukebox.  I think this is neat, from a collectors point of view, and I’d like to track down the available music patterns

With the amount of time I play, this is probably a good 6 months or more worth of content.  I’m up to my ears in things to do.  I’m swamped.  I hope they delay future patches so I don’t get further behind.  I know that’s not a popular opinion among the more time-rich players, but I speak only on behalf of myself.

23
Feb
15

What was your first sign of burnout?

This weekend I didn’t log into WoW at all.

Admittedly, I’m really busy these days.  Three kids with various activities, family birthday parties, cooking, cleaning a house, and work that I bring home all take their toll on my free time.

That aside, I did have a couple of hours Sunday evening to log in, and I chose not to.  I elected to relax at home with my wife rather than relax in Draenor.

Is that the beginning of WoW burnout?

The one thing that really makes me question whether I am burned out is a single task I have yet to accomplish.  I have yet to unlock the Level 3 Fishing Shack.  In past expansions, this is the kind of thing I would have been all over like a bee on honey.  I never minded grindy tasks if they had a specific and desirable goal at the end.  Plus, I have always had a love for fishing in the game.  I was the first person I knew to get the Salty title, back in the day.

These days I can’t really motivate myself to go out and catch a few hundred fish.  I’m only logging on for an hour at a time, except on raid nights, and looking for short-time activities rather than long-term goals.

Is this the first stage of burnout?




Armory

Dinaer - 100 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 92 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 91 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 100 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 100 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
July 2015
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