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.