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.