Regional FlagWhat WoD needs to bring back "feel"Source
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#1 - 2014/03/03 11:12:00 PM
These are just my personal beliefs about what makes gameplay significant and "feel" superior. A lot of people complain that WoW has lost its soul, and whilst I disagree with that overarching, negative assessment, I can see where the argument stems from. It stems from the systematic stripping of adventure from the gameplay experience. Please enjoy my hopefully readable ramblings.

Over the last 8 years, the game has been systematically stripped of adventure elements in an effort to expedite a players experience. LFG, LFB (battleground queue), LFR, increased questing experience gains, heirlooms, homogenized class system, removal of attunements, removal of rep "grinds", resilience, etc were all necessary and essential to the games continued growth into the new generation of gaming, that is, pickup/put down play that appeals to a wider audience who may not have the time commitment required of a traditional MMO. "Hardcore" players remain satisfied with normal and heroic progression.

You may all recall what the game was like at launch, November 24 (ish), 2004. Many of us have been here since the horde push of closed beta (some earlier), and have seen the monumental changes since those times. It's no argument that the game has improved leaps and bounds with regards to accessibility, but has that stripped away the core nature of the MMO? I say no, it hasn't, it has taken a fragmented experience that was Vanilla WoW and has turned it into a stream lined, dedicated experience. Gone are the days of truly grinding to 60 and then aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out what to do next. The game has a very clear path on what we should be doing at level 90. That path is also open to all classes, races and specs. It does not matter what you rolled, you will be able to do it. You could not do that in Vanilla WoW. You couldn't raid feral, ret, shadow, beast mastery, enhancement, survival, etc. It wasn't viable. That wasn't good enough.

Professions were a mess. Costly to level, irrelevant for the most part, time-sinky in nature and lacked the immersion that crafting can bring to a game. PvP was a [removed], let's be honest. A handful of specs dominating both world PvP, and the primitive battleground system later introduced. Combinations of classes (i.e. Rogues/mages) and races (i.e. Undead) having distinct advantages over others no matter the situation. The gear gap, though not nearly as severe as today, truly existed. I was borderline unstoppable in full tier 2, coming up against players in battlegrounds who had barely scraped together low level PvP items and dungeon tier. That problem exists now of course, but the barriers to obtaining competitive gear are overcome with effort and moderate time investment. That was not the case in Vanilla WoW.

So what did Vanilla WoW do correctly? To me, Vanilla WoW did a LOT of things correct that caused it to be the juggernaut that it was. Adventuring in many other MMO's was intensely fun, but incredibly punitive. Experience loss, gear loss, the risk of being PK'd, and an overall time consuming process. WoW changed that with the introduction of flight paths, intuitive map and mini map, clear level distinction in zones and quests leading to those zones, aggro drop of monsters after x amount of time running, dedicated PvP and PvE zones, big but not overly huge world with every corner relevant, interesting and challenging dungeons located sporadically in key lore areas (i.e. Blackrock Mountain, Scholomance, Stratholme). WoW combined FUN exploration, with a reward system.

To me, the leveling experience was significant for two reasons: 1) It took a damn long time and 2) Reaching end game was an achievement in of itself. There is a reason why we used to deride players as "Ebayers". Those players who purchased their accounts had not gone through the same rite of passage, didn't have 12 days /played against their name to learn their class. At the start, Guilds with a few level 60's were successful guilds with potential to dominate. Of course, as time went on, every single Guild had at least a dozen (and in the case of raiding guilds, over 60 mains at max level). This was all well and good when there were only 60 levels to plough through. There are 90 now, soon to be 100. Can we expect players to follow the carrot dangling on a stick for 12 days /played, in this day and age? When the MMO world and gaming community have evolved? Of course not. And we are better for it. Have we lost something in the reduction? Yes, I argue we have - we have lost part of the adventure centric model I mentioned earlier. Blazing through content now to reach end game is the norm, not the exception, and no one really minds.

Vanilla WoW also seperated raiding tiers into a clear progression model, there was no cart before horse issue that we have now in MoP (Heroic and Normal excluded). The progression model in Vanilla WoW was achieved in two ways, gear checks and time sinks (I include attunements in this section). It was not overly hard to get the attunements required for Onyxia or Molten Core/BWL, nor was it a tall ask to get the Onyxia Scale Cloak for the Shadowflame mechanic. But it did take time. But was that consumption of time a bad thing? At the time, no it wasn't - it gave the game meaning and players a sense of direction. Would such a time sink work now? No - there is too much else to do, between dailies, structured PvP, world events, pet battles, "fun" things such as transmog collection, achievements, etc. Time sinks such as attunements create an unnecessary time investment for players in an already cluttered world. They are gone, and we are better for it.

The "community" is often spouted as a superior aspect of Vanilla WoW. In many ways, this is true. Vanilla WoW servers were like small towns; everyone knew everything about everyone else. PvP was personal, raiding was intimate and your guild mates from that time are probably still real life friends. Mine are. But with that incestuous, satellite model, stagnation was bred. Low Pop servers suffered tremendously. The economy, much like a small towns, was nonexistent. The zones were empty, raiding guilds were few and far between and often MONTHS BEHIND (pardon the old insult). For the time, and for the game that Vanilla WoW was, this was suitable - at least at the start. I was fortunate enough to be playing in a top guild on Blackrock US in 2004/5, so I got to experience the 1% - everything Vanilla had to offer. Unfortunately, most did not. The slow introduction of accessibility tools over the course of the expansion has greatly improved the experience for the MAJORITY of players.

With the introduction of BC, many of the above issues were addressed. The grindy, punitive nature of PvP was addressed through the introduction of Arenas and a PvP system that rewarded players for contributing when they could. Raiding was redacted to a 10 and 25 man affair, and we were better for it. Logistically, a 40 man raid team was a second job for the Guild Leader and Class Officers, often impacting real life obligations in a negative way. Adventuring was arguably improved (and arguably damaged) with the advent of flying mounts and a true sense of easily going anywhere, seeing everything. Crafting was improved immensely, with useable items throughout the duration of the expansion, introduced periodically as the tiers unfolded. The ilvl difference between gear wasn't as punitive as it is now, gear from Karazhan could still be useful two tiers later in BT/MH. Raiding progression, was in my opinion, at its peak. Late in the expansion you could still find guilds working on and clearing tier 5 and 6, whilst others were working on Sunwell (6.5). Token rewards for raiding removed the problem of loot dropping and being disenchanted. Alt runs to Karazhan were a thing. Meaningful rep grinds were introduced to reward time and effort investment on a large scale, i.e. the respective factions in Shattrath, Netherdrake, etc. Heroic dungeons offered small teams a chance to play at an elite level, for the chance to receive epic and superior loot. Dailies gave all players a way to improve their character constantly without the strictness of raid schedules.

So what has changed in the more recent expansions? WotLK further improved upon BC and many, including myself consider it to be the "Golden time" for WoW. Large scale PvP was introduced, and although WG is somewhat flawed (i.e. attackers advantage to the point where Defending is useless), it opened up the PvP world to an even larger crowd. You could almost fully gear from WG, between the large honor rewards, the quests and the VoA bossess. A trend continued in each expansion since. Raiding took another leap forward with the removal of attunements; the only hurdle now being your guild and your gear. Heirlooms came to expedite the leveling process, and total exp to level was heavily reduced. Heirlooms in my opinion are the root cause of the adventure death.

Cataclysm came and revamped the system entirely. Leveling was streamlined and stripped of difficulty in favor of promoting adventure and fun. This, I argue, is a good thing. However, heirlooms have completely eroded the adventuring nature of leveling. For those of us on our 7th level 90, perhaps this is ok. For others, on their second, or third. I understand the catch 22; the game begins at end game, the adventuring begins at end game, so why can't I rush there? Fair point. But if adventuring was a fun as it was in Vanilla WoW, with incentives to spread yourself far and wide, would you accept it? LFR came and the accessibility issue of raiding was completely eradicated. No longer were you limited by gear, guild or server. Now players at the click of a button are offered a watered down raiding experience with the reward of RNG, subpar, loot. Transmog came and introduced a reason to spread yourself across the world in search of nostalgia and vanity.

Mists of Pandaria built on the accessibility success of Cataclysm and introduced a new subset. Gear resets are frequent and welcomed, dedicated end game PvE zones are prevalent across the world offering alternatives to players trying to gear up in PvP and PvE. PvP is the most balanced it has been in a very long time (my opinion).

And of course, along the way we have had the ebb and flow of class balance, improvements on class accessibility in raiding, new races, new classes etc. Overall, the implementation has been done well save and except for a few teething issues with Death Knights at the start of WotLK (i.e. PvP balance, first arena season of that expac).

So in light of the above, how can Blizzard learn from their mistakes and successes in previous iterations of this game, to make WoD the juggernaut it deserves to be? What features can we suggest as players that would improve our experience and bring back that missing "feel"? I'll start with what I feel is necessary:-

1) Leveling process to become meaningful again.
2) End game progression to start at Normal -> Heroic - > Raiding, without Heroic gear and early tier becoming useless too quickly i.e. a reduction in ilvl jumps. This will cause raiding tiers to remain relevant throughout an expansions duration and encourage innovation.
3) Same above for PvP. A tyrannical player now cannot scratch a grievous.
4) Crafting professions to remain relevant through increased pattern drops in every tier.
5) Incentives to travel the world other than for professions. I.e, give my level 100 a reason to go back to Ashenvale Forest - maybe I'm defending a town from an Invasion? For that, I get honor points.

I can think of a lot more but I'd like your input too.

Thanks for reading!

--Use of masked inappropriate language is not permitted. -Crithto

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#25 - 2014/03/04 11:42:00 PM
03/03/2014 03:55 PMPosted by Buffwisp
Bump. Read it man, worthwhile.

Interesting read, Buff. I'm not sure that I agree with your conclusions, but that was a nice, even-handed analysis.

Edit: No need to bump