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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.


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.


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.


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?


WoWInsider – End of an Era?

Having played World of Warcraft for a long time now (almost 9 years), I’ve seen the way the community has changed over the years.  WoWInsider was a HUGE influence on that.

When I started playing, game blogging was barely a thing.  There were a few communities – Elitist Jerks and the official forums and the like – but not much else.  You generally went to Thottbot for your information ad read the comment section.  Then there was an explosion of gaming blogs.  They became the go-to resource for all things gaming.  If you wanted to know something, from boss strategies to crafting to pvp, to class-specific information, there was a blog (or 10) for it.

Then along came WoWInsider.  And it was good.  Really good.  And the WoWHead.  It was good as well.  And from these, there became less need for gaming blogs.  Why scour the internet for information when it was almost certainly on WoWInsider or WoWHead?

As a blogger, I did resent them, somewhat.  I had become pretty involved in my rogue-related blogging, and the fact that WoWInsider’s rogue columns were just plain better than mine irked me a little.  It helped ease the sting when they linked to my blog and brought me thousands of views.  Still, it was soon after this that my blogging started to decrease.  In my mind I sometimes blamed them for stealing the thunder of WoW-bloggers, but in my heart I knew they were just excellent writers who were putting a lot of time and effort into their work.

Since then, WoWInsider has been my number one WoW resource.  I know that some people call them shills for Blizzard, but considering how much I love the game I’m not actively looking for WoW critics.

Seeing how they have been the dominant online presence (outside of the official forums) for WoW for years now, to me this marks another shift in gaming communication.  Is this because of the recent predominance of Twitter as a gaming community?  It it because there are fewer gamers?

I’m sad to see them go.

And I hope on Tuesday when their site closes they will make an announcement that they are setting up shop in some other part of the internet.


Grimrail Depot is the Worst Thing Ever

I’m very patient.  I don’t gripe in party chat.  I don’t call people noobs.  I don’t tell people how bad they are playing.  I generally stay silent, respawn after a wipe, then go back and do my thing but try and do better.

I tolerate both the good and the bad in LFD groups.  Sometimes you get a great group, sometimes you don’t.  That’s life.

That said, my problems with Grimrail Depot are not from the players or the inevitable griping and drama that comes with a run through this hellish place.  This is all Blizzard’s fault.  I have now run Grimrail Depot three times – twice as a healer and once as dps.  I will never run it again.  Here’s why.

  • After making the game more and more of a solo affair, pushing us into LFD and LFR and Garrisons and reducing any need to communicate, the first boss in Grimrail Depot actually requires some form of coordination.  Since most players have been trained by Blizzard to run in and pull without fear, this inevitably leads to drama.  Who is killing what?  Why did you kill the little guy first?
  • When on the train, during trash packs there is fire everywhere.  I’m a good little player – I’ve learned to run out of fire.  But wait!  We’re in a narrow little corridor with no room to maneuver.  So we get caught in fire no matter how much we want to get out of it.  Sorry healers.
  • Line of sight.  Take one wrong step, and you’re out of sight of the healer.  Let the finger-pointing commence.
  • The second boss is the biggest mess of any instance boss I can remember.  The Dungeon Journal – a real advance in the game – gives no real clear advice on what the heck is going on in that fight.  I’ve done it three times and I still don’t have a clear idea of what I’m doing.
  • The sliding backward thing during the second boss?  Whatever developer came up with that should have to sit on a rolling chair on an inclined floor while he tries to do work at Blizzard HQ.

In three times through this instance I’ve totaled about 18 wipes.  It doesn’t matter how patient I am, that’s more than I can take.  Thanks, Blizzard, but I’ll pass on this one.


What Makes This Better Than Dailies?

Yesterday I posted a list of all the things I do when I log onto WoW.  It involved garrison missions, mining ore, picking herbs, gathering timber, trapping beasts, daily crafting cooldowns, and the daily Apexis Crystal quest.  It is quite a large list.

I dinged level 100 about 5 days ago.  I have not yet run most of the level 100 dungeons on either normal or heroic mode.  The reason for this falls squarely on my “chores”.  Each evening I log on at some point.  By the time I have finished my chores, I look at the clock and decide that I won’t have time to wait in a queue and complete a pug instance before I have to go to bed.  And so I do a couple of quests or kill some rares, or just gather more timber.  I’m not making a lot of progress toward raid-readiness.

And yet I don’t feel like I’m being forced to do this.  In Mists, the dailies felt mandatory.  They were mostly not enjoyable, but were a means to an end.   Whether you were a crafter or a raider, there was something you needed from the dailies.

In WoD, the garrison is simply the most fun I am having in the game, and I play the game to have fun.  I am opting to do what I like, even if it isn’t an optimized path to end game.

I think that somewhere along the way, WoW was taken over by optimizers.  Each task or choice had its value set based on how close it was to the ideal path toward an end goal.  Whether is is online guides or simulations or HandyNotes or add-ons, the majority of the game turned into a means to an end, and if you strayed from the most optimal path you were “doing it wrong”.  WoD has brought back the freedom to play how you like, and that’s just what I’m going to do.


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)
September 2015
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