Stop playing World of Warcraft, go play Starcraft Worlds!

This might be a stretch and totally off base, but that’s part of the fun in writing a blog. You throw stuff out there, people to tell you that you are an idiot in your comments, and you enjoy the ride.

The recent (how recent depends on what class you play, but yea) design changes by Blizzard, moving away from PvE balance and making PvP-focused changes, are a bit puzzling at first. Why would you risk your cash cow, the recent centerpiece of a major business deal, and mess with a proven formula? You are taking a game built on a solid PvE model and basically doing a 180, catering to the super-minority of the ultra competitive PvP crowd at the expense of your PvE base. Unless the two are completely separated, they can’t both be balanced. One always suffers at the expense of the other. Since day one, it has always been PvP suffering at the expense of PvE. Now Blizzard is doing the opposite, changing things to balance them in PvP at the expense of breaking them in PvE.

Does Blizzard really think the future of mass market MMOs lies in arena-style PvP combat? Just a guess, but I say no. The future, just like the past, is still firmly rooted in casual, accessible PvE content, and Blizzard knows this. It also knows that WoW is starting to age, both in technical terms and in simple ‘been there done that’ ways. No matter how great a game is, at some point people move on just to move on, to try something else.

Is it such a stretch to say that Blizzard sees this as well, and is preparing for it?

  • Step one: maximize profits from your current base of players (RMT e-sports)
  • Step two: disrupt your competition as much as possible (Warhammer Online)
  • Step three: transition that player base to your next game (Starcraft Worlds)

What I’m suggesting is that WoW will be tuned to cater as much as possible to the PvP crowd, while the casual PvE crowd will be sold on Starcraft Worlds. It makes sense for a number of reasons. First, your biggest future competitor, Warhammer Online, is aiming at the PvP crowd. Why not turn your massive PvE game into a direct competitor with your biggest enemy (EA vs Activision for 3rd party videogame supremacy), while also changing to not compete with yourself for the PvE crowd? Design Starcraft Worlds as a highly refined, very accessible PvE game, morph WoW into a PvP game, and you have the market covered. Market Starcraft Worlds as the next WoW, but with even better questing and everything else people fell in love with their first time in WoW. Those players wishing for old WoW will have a place to go, and those looking for better PvP will also have a place to go. Blizzard collects money regardless of your choice.

This would also explain the massive lack of info about WotLK. It’s entirely possible WotLK was a PvE-heavy expansion originally, but is now being re-tooled to cater to the PvP crowd. The new ‘pvp only’ zone might only be the beginning. Perhaps Icecrown Glacier is not a raid instance, but instead some super exclusive arena? Instead of expending the PvE game, maybe the major selling point of WotLK will instead be spectator mode for PvP, like Blizzard has been hinting at? Maybe seasonal bracket tourneys like Warcraft 3 had are coming to WoW?

Sure this is likely all wrong, but at the very least, a few dots do seem to be lining up. With Starcraft 2 set to release sometime late 08/early09, why not release Starcraft Worlds in time for Christmas 09, building on the rush from SC2 and completing the transition from WoW to Starcraft?

25 Responses to Stop playing World of Warcraft, go play Starcraft Worlds!

  1. tipa says:

    If you think Blizzard would risk their cash cow in any way, especially to transition people to a game in an entirely different genre which has not even been announced yet, well, I think that would be a hard sell around the Activizard corporate headquarters.

    They want your $15/month, many of the execs still have only one Porsche. They will do ANYTHING for players to keep them paying — ANYTHING. Why? Because the moment WoW subscriptions start to dip significantly will be the beginning of the end for them. There will always be people willing to pay to play WoW, as there are for most MMOs, but WoW is propping up the whole damn company. If revenues fall, if stockholder confidence falters, it will be a disaster for them.

    You can be absolutely sure that recent changes are made because that they have done many expensive studies proving that this is the best way to keep people paying.

    They know they might not be able to hit the magic spot again. They had years to refine the best ideas of other games, now other games have had years to refine the best ideas of WoW. And meanwhile WoW has changed into a significantly different game from the one that launched.

    WoW will do whatever it has to to keep you paying. And we now see they have started to explore ways of letting you pay them even more.

    At least SOE is being up front about their plans to let players send them more money. They’re not sneaking around it, they’re taking the heat for it now. Secretly, one by one, other companies will implement their own forms of RMT. You always want to keep your eyes open for opportunities to let your most fanatical players send you more money.

  2. syncaine says:

    My reasoning was that at some point, some of that 10 million player base will look to move on, regardless of how good WoW is. Why not transition them off to another MMO of your making.

    And I think aside from the fantasty/sci-fi difference, warcraft and starcraft are basically the same games in terms of RTS. No reason why they won’t be the same game in MMO form as well. Plus remember in many ways Starcraft is far more successful than any Warcraft game ever was, being the pinnacle of RTS gaming for many.

  3. alcaras says:

    Im in ur commentz, tellin u ur an idiot.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. :P

  4. alcaras says:

    On a more serious note, Blizzard’s main competition on the horizon is WAR. WAR has billed itself as being king of PvP. Blizzard is re-positioning WoW to counter WAR, and the way to do this is to embrace the PvP side of things. They have no significant competition on the PvE side of things (people are not going to go play EQ2 if they’re playing WoW) and thus know that they have lock in from those people, so they can re-angle the game to be more PvP-ish to fight off the threat of WAR.

  5. alcaras says:

    Starcraft Worlds won’t be out until 2011 at the earliest.

    SC2 itself won’t make it out until 2009.

    Wrath will still be mostly PvE, with a dash of PvP thrown in, much as TBC was.

    Blizz is just repositioning to fight off WAR on the PvP front, and they have no competition on the PvE side of things that forces them to react in that direction.

  6. alcaras says:

    And is there any disagreement that WoW is a far, far better game now than it was at launch?

    I think Blizzard is doing the same thing Google is. As Google spells out here:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/our-secret-sauce.html

    “The answer, at least in my opinion, is a much older economic concept called “learning by doing” that was first formalized by Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow back in 1962. It refers to the widely-observed phenomenon that the longer a company has been doing something, the better it gets at doing it.

    Google has been searching the web for nearly 10 years, which is far longer than our major competitors. It’s not surprising that we’ve learned a lot about how to do this well. We’re constantly experimenting with new algorithms. Those that offer an improvement get rolled into the production version; the others go back to the drawing board for refinement.

    So I would argue that Google really does have a better product than the competition — not because we have more or better ingredients, but because we have better recipes. And we are continuously improving those recipes precisely because we know the competition is only a click away. We can’t fall back on economies of scale, or switching costs, or network effects, to isolate us from the competition. The only thing we can do is work as hard as we can to keep our search quality better than that of the other engines.”

    Blizzard has been running WoW for 3 years, and developing it for far longer. They have a huge start in terms of the “street knowledge” it takes to run a 10 million subscriber MMO. They’ve had first hand experience with growing pains and they have a level of polish unseen in this industry. They are getting better and better at their game, while their competitors are still struggling to catch up to where Blizzard was in 2004, all while Blizzard is forging ahead with new and amazing things in 2008.

  7. tipa says:

    WAR would like you to think it is an alternative to WoW, but I have been assured by people in the beta that in fact they are entirely different games which just share a distressingly similar look. If WoW players go to WAR, though, I will be happy, because it will show that WoW players CAN play a different MMO. There’s a lot of people saying that WoW brought people into the MMO world, but when they quit WoW, they also quit MMOs rather than trying out other ones which are, compared to WoW, niche, unpopular games not worth their time.

    If they go to WAR, though, maybe they can go to Spellborn, or Copernicus, or Metaplace; maybe the MMO market can finally move beyond “WoW (and everything else)”. Maybe WAR is the rehab they will need to move on with their lives, and if so, Hail Warhammer, may you forever reign.

  8. tipa says:

    @alcaras — I played WoW in beta, and left before BC, so I’m pretty familiar with how it was before launch. And I disagree. WoW is not a better game now than it was then. I liked it for its simplicity and casual nature. Now you have people getting cold sweats if they don’t get their dailies in.

  9. alcaras says:

    @tipa — What don’t you like about it now? I’ve seen so many small improvements, with more improvements coming in 2.4, that I’m just amazed at how good its gotten. I’ve been playing since Beta (~August 04) as well.

  10. syncaine says:

    I’ll second that, I think pre-TBC WoW was far better, at least for a Warcraft fan. Now all the lore and the entire game style has changed drastically. It might be better features wise, but I think it lost a lot of its initial 1-60 charm.

    Also the Google example falls short only because a company like SOE or Mythic have been crafting MMOs long before WoW’s release, so really the experience is on their side. Hence my optimism for WAR. I’ve heard similar things btw Tipa. Really wish they would drop the NDA so that argument could be put to rest… Soon enough I guess.

  11. Telidon says:

    Forget WoW. World of Warcraft was great to get people introduced to the MMO style of gaming but it really is like a junior sports team when compared to the pro’s. Looking for a game that has complexity and incredible depth. Has an amazing PvP and PvE style of play as well, then look to Eve Online!

  12. alcaras says:

    After playing DAoC and seeing where Mythic took the game after ToA, I don’t have very high hopes for WAR. Initial videos are also depressingly bad, with many of the same clunky animations from DAoC. I personally think Blizzard will crush WAR, which will be lucky to even get 1 million subscribers.

    WoW’s 1-60 charm is still there. I don’t see how the “entire game style” has changed drastically, could you elaborate? I think you’re see through rose-colored glasses back when WoW was new. It’s much better now. Black Temple is orders of magnitude better than Molten Core. Arenas are much better than Warsong. Daily quests are far better than farming for Elemental Water in Felwood. Classes are far better balanced than they were before.

  13. alcaras says:

    Note: I am by no means a WoW fanboy, as I think it has its flaws (see my posts on my blog for my critiques), but I do think it’s the best game out there right now.

    @Telidon: I tried EVE twice. Sadly, I couldn’t muster up the stamina to get through hours-long tutorial :-/ The first time I skipped past it and ended up mining asteroids a few times before logging out. The second time I tried to get through more the tutorial, but didn’t get “hooked” by it and quit out. I will eventually try a third time, but my preference of fantasy over scifi doesn’t portend well.

  14. alcaras says:

    And the Google example is accurate because, just as Google redefined the search space, Blizzard redefined the MMO space. Remember companies like AltaVista and Yahoo were doing search well before Google did, but then Google came along and did it their way, and they changed the face of search. Similarly, companies like Mythic and SOE were doing MMOs well before Blizzard came in, but then Blizzard came along and did it their way, and they changed the face of MMOs.

  15. syncaine says:

    Well in terms of 1-60, the game is now a ‘get to 70 asap’ game. All the instances and such pre-70 only slow you down. I played in beta until TBC. Even playing to 60 the 2nd and 3rd time, it was still enjoyable to go through that. Playing again now, it’s so difficult to not rush to Outland and 70. I see half my guild (all former raiders) rushing to 70 just to do it, even though the entire point of playing again was to go slow and do all the 5 man stuff. The game mentality has changed, and Blizzard fostered that change.

    I can’t talk about BT, having never raiding in Outland, but I can see how it should be. BWL was better than MC, and Nax was better than BWL. Each new raid should be better than the previous. But lets compare Arena combat to Southshore, the first version of PvP in WoW. I think the southshore battles were far more ‘WoW-like’ than anything a BG or Arena does, simply from a lore perspective. You actually had Horde vs Alliance fighting over a town. Blizzard has moved away from all that now.

    edit: Ok, in that regard I agree with the Google example. You win :)

  16. tipa says:

    I wouldn’t say Blizzard really changed the face of MMOs. That they were far more successful than any other company before them, heck yeah, hard to deny that; but most MMOs aren’t much like WoW. LotRO reminds me the most of it as regards gameplay but even there, they are very different. Dungeon Runners is the MMO I think is most clearly based on WoW, but it’s more a parody of WoW than a game in its own right.

    What’s changed with WoW, that I don’t like, is the movement away from casual fun to naked obsession of the same sort that ruled — and ruined — EQ1, FFXI and DAoC. Instead of making WoW into a megalith, I’d have preferred they followed the strategy they’d done with their previous games and just come out with a new MMO rather than continually distort their original, fantastically wonderful, vision.

    If they’d just come out with a new MMO instead of BC, and had always made it clear to people that WoW was the first in a series of innovative MMOs, they wouldn’t be in the uncomfortable position they are in now, a company whose very success is its prison.

  17. alcaras says:

    “Southshore, the first version of PvP in WoW”
    They were horrible laggy zergfests :-/

    “a company whose very success is its prison”
    ?? Err what?

  18. alcaras says:

    “I wouldn’t say Blizzard really changed the face of MMOs. That they were far more successful than any other company before them, heck yeah, hard to deny that; but most MMOs aren’t much like WoW.”

    Maybe it’s me, but it seems like those two sentences contradict each other. If most MMOs aren’t much like WoW, and WoW is far more successful than any other MMO, then doesn’t it follow that Blizzard changed the face of MMOs…

    e.g. Most search engines aren’t like Google, Google is far more successful than any other search enginge, therefore Google change the face of search engines…

  19. syncaine says:

    At times it was laggy (rarly though that I remember), and generally it was a zerg (although less then what AV is now), but it still felt more like what WoW should be than anything does now.

    And at times, it was some great action when the sides where smaller and more balanced. Also raiding towns back pre-BG’s was also excellent fun. You never see any of that now.

  20. tipa says:

    Well, I was assuming you meant had an influence in the design of MMOs. Aside from a new buzzword “polish”, and a trend toward catering to the solo/casual gamer that was already arguably changing the industry before WoW (about half of EQ1s classes could solo, and the LDoN expansion which allowed varying levels of challenge and DoN which had many solo missions show the trend before WoW even in this hardcore game).

    If “change the face of MMOs” means people stopped thinking of EQ and started thinking of WoW when MMOs were mentioned, well, I guess, but usually you expect a phrase like that to go along with some sort of broad shift in the industry. WoW’s most lasting impact on the industry is that it redefined what success felt like. In that, no game can be successful unless it has more than a million users. You stated in one of your other comments that if WAR only got a million users, it would be considered a failure.

    This is precisely the prison of WoW’s success. It can’t do anything radically different because if anything they do only appeals to a million people, it will be considered a failure. So now you have Blizzard warping WoW to go after various trends in the industry when I maintain they would have been better off to leave WoW as the game it was, and make a new MMO with a hardcore raid focus, or a obsessive compulsive disorder focus, or a PvP focus, instead of trying to fit all these things into one game. It is PRECISELY this that killed EQ. So maybe WoW should truly have learned not only from its predecessors successes, but also its failures.

  21. alcaras says:

    syncaine: I have a feeling Lake Wintergrasp will be Southshore 2.0, polished and with the long promised siege weapons.

    Ah, I see what you meant, tipa.

    I think a large part of WoW’s success stems from its accessibility and, yes, its polish.

    Blizzard still has the most accessible MMO and is making it more and more accessible. Witness the new BoJ loot, the new PvP epics for T4/T5 tokens, the new honor system, daily quests, the lifting of attunements… They are learning from their mistakes and trying to open up the game to more and more people.

    I think that you’re right that Blizzard is in large part trying to be all things to all people, but I think they’re been remarkably successful in doing so. Arenas, for the hardcore PvPer, are amazingly fun and a great source of competitive game play. I love the idea of the new Tournament server, since it saves me the trouble of going through the honor grind slog (which, for how bad it is, is orders of magnitude better than what came before it; speaking as someone who got to Rank 12). I also enjoy seeing the endgame raid instances and experiencing those boss fights. However, I note that large part of my enjoyment of the endgame of WoW is the great people I’m lucky enough to play with. My guild, 300 some account strong, runs about 6 Karazhan runs and week and a BT run. We’re large enough that we gain a large degree of flexibility. And my arena team, comprised of folks I’ve been playing with for, from the least, a year, to at most two and a half years, is a great bunch of guys who are skilled, smart and, at their heart, good people.

    I will freely admit that if a player isn’t in a guild or isn’t playing with long time friends, then hitting level 70 in WoW feels like a betrayal. It was true at 60, but apart from raiding at 60, everything else was more flexible. You could go bash heads at Southshore or you could 10 man Scholo or zerg down UBRS. You didn’t need to be at the top of your game, so to speak, and even raiding, once you got in past the barrier of being able to make a set time every week, didn’t require excellence for success. You could AFK your way to epics through Molten Core, and not until Naxx did Blizzard design encounters, so prevalent in TBC, where one person messing up could and would wipe the raid.

    In WoW, 1-70 as it is now is largely a solo adventure, a zipping through a leveling-pace increased world, with a minimal amount of grouping needed or even desired. Then comes 70, where apart from questing, very little is soloable. You need at least one more person to even play Arena, and solo queueing BG is an exercise in getting stomped by premades. Successful raiding requires watching videos and prepping strategy, and even Heroics need everyone on the ball. What’s a new 70 to do, where existing power structures and friendships effectively leave them with a very limited pool of folks to play with? In some part this is a consequence of an old game with its own established communities.

    This is part of the reason why each WoW expansion is a “reset,” because it lets new players catch up. TBC let people catch up to the Naxx clearing guilds and Wrath will let people catch up in just the same manner. But some of the problems, notably the social dimensions, are going to persist because a game designer can’t “reset” friendships and associations that have developed over the years that WoW has been out, and WoW honestly does not encourage people to get out there and meet new people to play with. It encourages one to find a good group of people and then only associate with them, with the increasing returns of familiarity being emphasized over economies of scale. New people are unknowns, and as unknowns, they are risks, because in much of WoW at 70, a single mistake can cost you. In arena, one person can lose you the game, in raids, one person cratering on Archimonde (for example) can cost you the kill. Thus WoW encourages people to play with only people they know and trust, and the raid lockout system and Arena charter system make it expensive if not impossible to play with lots of different people, since you’re forced to choose who you want to play with, since you can only do one raid lockout and week and only really be on one Arena team.

    It is in this vein that I have my highest hopes for WAR. One of the things I loved about DAoC was the fact that anyone could contribute to the realm war, whether my guild’s 8 man gank group or the mass zerg of Albs outside the gate, you could make a different that you could feel. In WoW, you need to be part of an organized group to make any progress, and the only difference you make is not in the world, but only in your own group’s advancement. My hope is that WAR, through its innovative public quests and Mythic’s history of RvR will capture this ability to play together and use it to do great things, providing a powerful contrast to WoW’s quite noticeable blockades to letting people play together.

    For reference, some blog posts of mine that elaborate on these points:
    Future MMOs: Please make it easy to play together

    http://forums.subcreation.net/viewtopic.php?id=4755

    Making Arenas More Popular

    http://forums.subcreation.net/viewtopic.php?id=3437

    Paradigm Shifts at Level 60

    http://forums.subcreation.net/viewtopic.php?id=2739

  22. Telidon says:

    Alcaras, with the release of the latest Eve expansion they have revamped some of the game and one of the things is the tutorial has been made alot more focused and will lead you to your first agent missions. One thing I have to say about Eve is that you need to read, read and read some more the incredible amount of knowledge stored on the net about the game. That has opened up a whole new horizon in regards to what I hope to get out of the game.

  23. i like Starcraftt so much that i will never stop playing

  24. Yeebo says:

    @Alcaras

    Basically, at 70 WoW morphs into EQ in some ways. Save that in EQ that was the whole game, not just raiding. Even out grinding a camp for XP, it was pretty easy for someone to get the whole party killed. And that would mean hours or work down the pooper, and possibly a painful corpse run. Folks were very hesitant to group with someone they didn’t know past a certain level.

    That was alleviated to some extent by the fact that the communities were small enough that you could build up a reputation as a solid player on your server. It’s much harder to do that in WoW. As a fresh faced 70, no-one will really have any idea who you are if you haven’t gone out of your way to make social connections. And even then, your reputation will not extend beyond those connections. For all but the most hardcore or supremely social players that is going to be a very small proportion of your server.

  25. Aunvre says:

    I have to disagree for one reason Yeebo.

    Admittedly the server is quite large, and many people have many alts at max level, but generally guilds solve this. On my server there are a handful of elite guilds farming the top endgame content that only allow the best of the best to even be in their guild, then there are the more casual raiding guilds underneath. Of these dozen or so guilds on my server it seems the majority of raiding toons are in them and can be counted on to do their role. Doing poorly can reflect poorly on the entire guild and this keeps many paying attention. It’s the unguilded or random guild characters that are not trusted (which is generally the minority)

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