The state of WoW

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Nov 162009

So, Leafy threw up a post a few days ago saying how well WoW is targeted at its core audience right now, and Lissanna replied with a post saying “No, WoW is boring right now.” I actually agree with both of them, because they’re not really talking about the same point.

If you are a casual player (hint: If you read WoW blogs, you are probably NOT a casual player), then WOTLK is absolutely awesome for you. Unlike BC where most content was far too difficult to accomplish, 90% of the current content is puggable. Gear progression is easy, and getting easier. There are lots of paths for character advancement besides raiding; achievements, WE’s, PvP, etc.

If you are a raider, then things are very meh. All the content is fairly stompable on normal, assuming you have a reasonably skilled raiding group. (I expect my casual raid guild to have TOC25 down fairly soon…Lag on Twins is not fun.) The problem is, unlike BC where EVERYONE was motivated to keep progressing, hardmodes seem “meh.” The only people who want to do hardmodes are the achievers and the gear hogs, but most others really don’t see the point in it. Since the hardmodes require top-flight participation from everyone (unlike normal where 25% of the group can go afk), most attempts for midcore guilds to step up are generally frustrated.

A thought- would things be any different if you added a third difficulty level? Take the current normal difficulty, make it even easier but have it drop loot equivalent to the top Heroic (so Ulduar easy would drop 200, TOC easy would drop 219, ICC would drop 232) and bump up the difficulty of normal and hard. (Oh, and have Easy/Normal/Hard open from the beginning…forcing people to clear a certain difficulty first is a crappy way to do content gating.) The eventual goal would be for 80%+ of the playerbase to clear Easy, 30-40% to (eventually) clear Normal, and 1% to clear Hard. People can run Easy to just see the content if they desire, run Normal to gear up, and run Hard for top gear + status. Normal’s more challenging, so it’s more rewarding for guilds to work through it, and Hard mode is just ridiculous. Thoughts?


  23 Responses to “The state of WoW”

  1. I think adding an extra tier of difficulty is complicating things too much. If they had started Wrath with the same amount of raid content that was available with BC I think things would be in a very different place.

    In BC you had Kara, Gruuls & Mag for entry level, SSC & TK for medium level and MH at a harder level. There was also lock outs that required you to achieve something before you could see a certain boss or enter a raid. I know a lot of people thought that really sucked but I for one never felt that there wasn’t new content on the horizon!

    So I agree that the first tier of content in BC was way to hard and having to gear up in Kara before you could step into 25 mans was a real guild killer. I would be really interested to see how things would have been today if Wrath had been released with the same amount of content however with both 10 and 25 man versions available…. I think raiding would be in a much better place for both Casual & Hardcore players alike.

  2. Hmm. I like your explanation better, I think.

  3. BC’s problem was the lack of transition between Kara & everything else (25 not divisible by 10 – it was a basic math problem Blizzard failed). If they had worked the transition out better, I think a lot of people would have been happier.

    Wrath’s problem is that hard modes aren’t fun for anyone except the top 5% of the playerbase, and they aren’t releasing enough raid content for there always to be new encounters to work on (the way that BC had multiple big dungeons released often enough that there was always new content to raid) for everyone who can clear normal but can’t progress on hard modes.

    They have released only one real raid dungeon in Wrath. Naxx was old content that I’d already seen a lot of; Ulduar was the only real epic feeling raid dungeon. ToC is too short & boring as heck – filler content at best. Single-boss dungeons take 10 minutes to clear (and longer to form up/summon). Raids without a lot of trash is actually bad because it goes too fast. I think what WotLK raiding is missing is the trash mobs that slow down raids and stretch the encounters out over time. There’s just a complete lack of raid content for the bosses to be so easy for normal raiding guilds to clear. The middle group of raiders have been left out of this expansion because of the lack of releasing progression content.

  4. Alaron: Thank you for that post. I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head as to what I was saying, and why that’s a very different issue from the frustrations Lissanna is having.

    Lissanna: I think that BC’s problem was more than the math: it was that there was no progression for 10 man groups. We, as a guild, can pretty comfortably field a 10 man team once a week. We could never muster 25. Z’A was a late addition, once they realised how damn popular Kara was. It wasn’t just that 10 doesn’t go comfortably into 25, it was that Blizz hugely underestimated the demand for 10 man content.

    I suspect the lack of trash/content in ToTC is the biggest misstep Blizz has made with Wrath. That’s why people are bored in the wait for Icecrown Citadel. As a whole, the Argent Tournament seems to have been an interesting experiments, but a failed one, I’d suggest. Interesting that they’re front-weighting raid content much more in Cataclysm, isn’t it?

  5. I’ll agree – I’m terribly, horribly bored. I run ToC 3+ times a week, including hardmodes. I do Ulduar, OS and heroics, too. The problem is once you have the hardmodes down, they’re not hard at all, just gear checks. It’s been the case for at least two guilds on my server that as soon as the got Anub down the first week on hardmode, the very next week they achieved Insanity.

    The hardest hardmodes in game are still Firefighter and No Light in the Darkness. In Ulduar.

    I have run so much of the current content I am sick out of my skull of it. But there’s nothing else worthwhile to do, and with any alts reaching 80 gearing up for ToC in less than 2 weeks, old content is pointless.

    • I think what we can all agree on is that “We want raiding to be accessible to all” and “We want raiding to be a progressive, immersive experience” are two design goals that are VERY hard to coordinate. It’s very clear that the BC priority list of 1. Raids 2. Heroics 3. PVP/Crafting/Solo Quests/Other is now 1. Everything. There’s not really an in-game reward for being a good raider anymore, PVE-wise. Only the best got to see Illidan/Sunwell; everybody gets to see Arthas. From an accessibility standpoint, that’s good, from a rewarding skilled player standpoint, that’s bad. (Speaking cynically, Blizzard has an incentive to encourage poor play, since poor players take longer to complete content). Unfortunately, there’s no going back, so skilled players will have to look for other rewards besides exclusive content, and decide whether that’s worth continuing to play. I know I’ve personally boycotted Heroics for the past month. Ah well, as least I’ve got Dragon Age to tide me over until 3.3…I may even let my sub lapse for a few weeks.

      (As an aside, I think Blizzard has decided that WoW’s growth is essentially finished and has shifted into maintenance mode.)

  6. I definitely beat you to the punch on this one ;)

    Based on the comments so far that are here, its evident that a lot of people have yet to do TOGC25 or at least attempt Anub in TOGC25. He is by far the hardest hard mode in game currently (moreso than anything in Uld) which is shown by the # of guilds that have accomplished this so far.

    In regards to your idea of 3 different tiers of difficulty, the idea of having to do the same instance 3 times * 2 (10 and 25) is not appealing.

    Finally, people complain that content is too easy and that they’re bored. Think back a few years ago when very few people were participating in progression raiding and complaining that content was too hard. Just goes to show, Blizzard can never win.

    • I’d even argue that the boredom issue is not even about content being too easy at this point. It’s about hard modes not being fun & not feeling like there is any progression going on at all a year after the expansion has come out. Ulduar was the only instance that felt like we were progressing. One instance out of a whole year was a “real” instance. That’s just not enough content.

      They can’t be easy & tiny single-boss dungeons. I’d be okay if they started doing winged raids with separate lockout timers for each wing of it – but release more than one wing if there are going to be less than 5 bosses in that wing.

      If there were more raid bosses at the same difficulty level normal mode is (if ToC’s raid instance had 10 bosses instead of 5), I think there would be a lot less bored people.

    • Seca, I think the issue of 10 vs. 25 is separate, though I understand where you’re coming from, and that’s a good thought.

      Lis, I think the difficulty lets you clear through the content faster and then get bored, vs. BC where you have to gear gear gear to get through the content.

      Val, well, obviously quite a few people have yet to do TOGC25, seeing as only 10% of WoW players worldwide have downed TOGC25 Beasts, and only 1.3% have downed all of TOGC25, according to GuildOx. I find it interesting that only a few more, or 2%, have downed Algalon25 in Ulduar, despite him being available for MUCH longer.

      I also find it interesting that you say you would run the instance 6x, if it were available. That wasn’t my intention at all (I was going off the ICC/Ulduar model, where you set the boss difficulty level per-boss), but the very fact that the option is available at the moment greatly contributes to raider burnout.

      New thought: What would be the effect on raiding if you had ONE raid lockout per week? (i.e. 10 or 25, but not both)?

      • Liss: I agree in regards to your content not feeling “epic”. TOC hard modes are essentially the same with more dmg and requirement to do more dmg. I would disagree that Ulduar is the only real hard mode instance so far in wotlk though. Sarth3d was very challenging (in it’s heyday before everyone started zerging). Again I think TOC is really juts a way to level out the whole world in terms of gear so that everyone is prepared to experience ICC to it’s fullest. Don’t worry ICC will solve a lot of everyone’s complaints (I hope).

        Alaron: If there were only 1 lockout per week (10 or 25) that would mean the gear would have to be equivalent. If that is the case I would definitely prefer to do 10 vs 25 but then that would basically nullify 25 man raiding. The only way that would work is if you made 10 man way harder than 25 man and that would kill 10 man only guilds. As for running the instance 6x I would probably do that (depending on the size of the instance). TOGC 10 and TOC10 combined takes a total of 1hr 15 mins tops (lol)

  7. I’d argue there is an intermediate level of difficulty – that being 10 heroic. But this does result in the same numbers issues that Kara did in BC.

  8. Ugh, no 3rd level please. And hard modes are definitely meh.

    Seeing Algalon for the first time was a trip.

    Seeing Anub’Arak for the umpteenth time was a big old yeeaaahumhuuhokwhatever (how many instances is he in – and how many times have they re-used and re-re-used that graphic model?). There’s nothing different to TOGC, it’s just some different strats and a bit more damage and tighter this or that enrage.

    As a film-maker there is NOTHING I’m remotely interested in in TOGC. There’s no cool visuals. There’s no stepping out onto Nefarian’s terrace for the first time. There’s no seeing Ragnaros come out of the lava.

    There’s no real reason to push hard to get someplace until ICC drops with a hard-mode only unlockable boss (I hope).

  9. I really enjoyed BC a lot more. I can’t really say why for sure, but I was a little pissed when they allow everyone to get T9 gear just by running 5-mans. Granted this might take awhile, but whatever it seems like people can get just as geared by running heroics and never raiding ever. It is frustrating.

    The only reason I am not bored is because I have 4 80s, so this keeps me busy trying to keep them well geared, plus having two of them demanding two different sets of gear. If I only had one toon, I would be so bored of the game by now.

  10. […] 17, 2009 by Alaron Since I got so many comments on my last post about the state of WoW, (and since I keep getting depressed when I work on the gear section of my […]

  11. Sorry for the lengthy and somewhat off-topic post…

    This dialogue always fascinates me, because reading between the lines, it seems that people are actually desiring necessary…time sinks. This was a specialty (many would say a major flaw) of EQ’s, so I’m using it as a point of reference. When WoW came out, its comparative lack of timesinks (I’m not saying there weren’t any — I realize pvp grinding/rep grinding/etc. was still a somewhat Herculean task) was considered a major strength when compared to EQ. Obviously, it certainly has a fair greater mass appeal at the outset. Ultimately, however, time sinks/penalties seem to cater to a closer-knit community and a more defined sense of achievement.

    (I realize that most people who have never played EQ resent its comparison to WoW, but in many ways, WoW was a refinement of EQ (and other early mmos) gameplay. A number of the WoW devs played EQ — while obviously Blizzard knows how to develop superior games, WoW wasn’t exactly created in a void.)

    I personally don’t mind that WoW generally caters to the casual these days (with minimal hardcore challenges via hard modes, etc.), but I had my fill of endgame raiding during my time in EQ. Having said that, I’ve never been anywhere near as drawn to WoW (even when I played it in beta and thought it was the prettiest game I’d ever seen) as I was by my early years in EQ. This is perhaps because it was my first experience with an mmo, or may be due to the enforced camaraderie that EQ created. YMMV.

    Also — I didn’t raid WoW much during classic, so I apologize if my understanding of it is imperfect. I’m sure I’m glossing over some essential comparison points.

    EQ (through the first few expansions) (least accessible):
    — holy trinity of classes required for raiding (warrior, cleric, enchanter)
    — steeper death penalties (xp loss, must recover gear/corpse)
    — “hell” levels
    — spawn-splitting requirements (pulling/cc tactics dimensionality)
    — AAs (earned talent points via xp – some essential, some not – created need for additional instancing after reaching level cap)
    — generally group-oriented for grinding gear (limited soloing opportunities, depending on class/level)
    — fiendish skillup requirements for crafting (owlbears, I hate you)
    — zones, not instances — shared raid/xp spots – created major spawn racing/drama
    — gear = status symbol
    — obnoxious keying/farming requirements (huge timesink)
    — close-knit server communities
    — trains (drama, drama, drama)

    WoW Classic (reasonably accessible):
    — solo-oriented for leveling (certain specs handicapped)
    — group-oriented for gear (required dungeon grinding prior to raiding)
    — certain classes/specs required for raiding
    — crowd control generally desirable/required
    — grinding required for consumables/reputation/pvp
    — lengthy pvp queues/battles
    — gear = status symbol
    — some keying/attunement requirements
    — instanced raids (no head-on guild vs. guild competition)
    — plow required in raid instances (trash)
    — trains only easily achievable in instances (boring :( )

    WoW (WotLK) (most accessible):
    — solo-oriented for leveling (streamlined)
    — gear fairly easy to obtain with minimal dungeon crawling (and/or pvp)
    — achievements
    — multiple classes/specs can fulfill raiding needs
    — marginal crowd control requirements (ae is often king)
    — minimal keying requirements (Algalon)
    — hard mode gear generally has the same appearance as regular (limited status symbol appeal)
    — instanced raids
    — minimal trash in raid instances
    — easy daily quests for gold
    — (3.3) world LFG

    There’s a neat article on Demon’s Souls (PS3) that further addresses the attractions of some of these nuisances (repeated deaths, steep penalties, etc.):

  12. And um… this blogger stated all that I was trying to say much more succinctly:

    My apologies! :p

  13. Kay: They can wear the ultimate T9 gear via emblems, they look good, they can be coocky, but they spend 80% of play time dancing in Dalaran and killing the squirrel over and over.. so, who do you think its more frustrated?? =P

    Vallen: I totally agree with you in the fact about ToC its just a GearPiñata for all kids arround.

    Also, I think you misstep the comment of LISS, «Ulduar was the only instance that felt like we were progressing», i guess she/he speak in the Lore progression sense… in example, when you enter Deadmines to kill VanCleef, you are completing a fragment of a big story, and you can taste the flavor of the Defias underworld… so, Ulduar complete many storylines over there… (remember Uldaman an the Disc things Quest?)

    I hope you get the big picture of my comment, and sorry about my poor english.

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