WoW: Cataclysm, analysis with less snark.

Leaving the fun and games behind for a minute, it’s time for some ‘serious business’ talk about WoW’s next expansion, and what it really will bring. I’m not talking about the finer details or even the bullet-point list of additions, but what it brings to WoW as a whole; how it will change the game.

Whether you hated or loved WotLK, most people can agree it did not offer ENOUGH new stuff for a game that gets updated once every six months and gets expansions every two years or so. Similar statements were made about TBC, although for that expansion at least Blizzard had a rather length end-game to keep people busy, whose who got beyond Kara anyway. But when your business model is based around keeping people around as long as possible, providing 1-3 months of casual content is not a great solution, and Cataclysm is certainly going to fix that.

For starters, regardless of the exact percentage of old Azeroth being revamped by Blizzard and to what extent, to see it all a player will not only need to start back at level one, but go all the way up to 85. This means seeing all of the new/old 1-60 game, all of the old BC content, all of the old WotLK content, and finally whatever the five new levels bring. In other words, casuals will be seeing ‘newish’ stuff for a long time, which means Blizzard will be collecting their $15 a month for FAR longer than they did with WotLK. From a business standpoints, that’s brilliant, and from a dev standpoint you keep your players entertained at a much lower cost, since they will be spending X% of their time on your older content while not noticing/caring that it’s old.

The other major factor that should make this all work is that unlike previous expansion, which were end-game heavy and still pushed players to hit the cap to join in, this expansion will actually encourage players to do stuff at the lower levels. People who joined WoW after TBC or for WotLK will have the chance to see the Deadmines with other low level players, instead of having the choice of being powered through by an 80 or not seeing it at all. Even if level 15-18 Deadmines is the same exact instance in Cataclysm as it is now, just the fact that more players will be around to run it as intended will make it FEEL like new content. Apply that to all of old Azeroth and it’s easy to see why Cataclysm should be very well received by everyone.

And while my last post was mostly just to poke fun at Blizzard, I do come away thinking they could/should do a lot more with this expansion. For starters, MMOs with far smaller budgets have done significant graphic upgrades in the past (EVE setting a high standard as usually, but even games like DDO have added DX10 effects and cleaned things up), yet WoW will still basically be the same looking game it was back in 2004, and in 2004 WoW did not exactly look high-end. By the time Cataclysm is actually released (2011?), even the average toaster and calculator watch will have DX10-capable hardware, and even if you are still trying to capture the netbook gaming crowd (who actually does serious gaming on those anyway?), at least give the engine the OPTION to not look so dated. Updating some textures is since and all, but is that the best the biggest MMO in the world can do? Never mind that WoW does not push the genre forward in any noticeable way outside of subscription numbers (in some ways that’s not it’s ‘job’ in the space anyway, WoW for years now has been the melting pot of the genre, preferring to ‘borrow’ rather than create), but when it’s blatantly trailing behind it’s peers, fans have good reason to demand more, and should.

The other point that raised a question in my mind was exactly how much of old Azeroth is actually going to receive significant updates. Blizzard stated that not all zones are total remakes, and that some might only get minor changes. Adding a new quest hub or moving some pieces around is not what I would consider expansion-worthy, and if that’s the update being given to even 25% of the zones, it’s disappointing. Even ‘remakes’ like Silithus or Duskwallow were somewhat shallow, and I’m hoping most zones get a lot more than that. And while lore-related complaints no longer really apply to WoW, how exactly is only SOME of the world going to experience a cataclysm anyway? Are some of the quest NPCs going to pretend nothing has happened, while the guy next to him is in desperate need of 10 samples of horse dung to solve the apocalypse? That might come off as a little strange…

With all that said, will Cataclysm bring be back in 2011? That’s tough to say. On the one hand, it’s still going to be super ezmode, even in the already ‘easy’ MMO genre. I know most MMOs won’t offer Civilization-level challenge or the make-or-break of DarkFall PvP, but being easy and insulting-easy are two different things, and each patch/expansion moves WoW further and further into insult territory for me. It’s just hard feeling any sense of accomplishment when every challenge basically rolls over for you. The other factor is who knows what the genre will look like in 2011. Maybe Aion will be WAR with a working endgame (doubtful, but who knows), maybe Darkfall will follow EVE and continually grow/improve (the first big patch was excellent). Maybe Mythic will finally fully fix WAR’s endgame (last patch was a good step), and maybe SW:TOR won’t play like a WoW-clone in space with head-to-keyboard hotbar combat (or that 4th pillar they keep talking about might matter). But if all that fails, or between now and 2011 Blizzard ups the ante with more details about Cataclysm (remember they still have much, much more to reveal), it might be worth coming back, plus I’ll have WotLK content to see first-hand as well. I think I’m going to call my Undead Paladin “LulzLore OneHealzSpam”, and pimp him out in all the best RMT items the cash shop has to offer!

39 Responses to WoW: Cataclysm, analysis with less snark.

  1. Kyir says:

    They stopped caring about lore a long time ago.

    And bringing Nef back in a new instance with his head fully attached reeks of lazy developers.

  2. sid67 says:

    WoW will still basically be the same looking game it was back in 2004

    Not really. The old zones aren’t “basically” the same, they ARE the same. However, with each expansion, we have seen an incremental increase in the quality of detail and graphics provided in the zones. If you compare the new zones in Wrath to the old world zones, the differences in quality are actually very dramatic.

    That said, I’m not claiming they are high-end graphics or anything but there has been an quite a bit of improvement relative to the 2004 release.

    The other point that raised a question in my mind was exactly how much of old Azeroth is actually going to receive significant updates.

    That’s a really valid concern. A remake of the old world zones has the “potential” to be one of the most awesome expansion ever released. It remains to be seen if they can actually pull it off in the implementation.

    My feeling is that it will seriously fall short of that potential but still be cool enough to be worth resubscribing for a few months.

    I’m already disappointed about the story arc of Cataclysm though. I really wanted to see the “War” between Horde and Alliance evolve. Instead of sundering the world, I would have rather seen some enemy invasions. The launching points of such an invasion are already in place in the old world, so it would have been cool seeing the Horde camped outside Stormwind.

    • syncaine says:

      For graphics, they user higher-rez textures, but the poly count is still the same, the engine does not have things like ragdoll physics or volumetric fog (or any other fancy effects), even things like a day/night cycle have not been improved. And like you said, the newer content might get better textures, but ALL of the old stuff is still old. Given how much computing power has increased since 2004, and how cheap decent-range GPUs are now, I don’t think upping the graphics engine would really cut a lot of people out, and it would certainly attract some people back in.

      • Argon says:

        I find it amusing that you are so harsh on WoW’s lack of cutting edge graphics given your previous defense of Darkfall’s less-than-cutting-edge graphics. Certainly WoW’s graphics aren’t as good as LotROs or WARs, but they are good enough. At a practical level, I’d probably be okay with the graphics being worse, as most of my time is spent paying attention to cooldowns, aggro charts and so on, and not on the mural on the ceiling.

      • syncaine says:

        One is made by the biggest company in the market, the other is made by a small indie shop. And with all that said, I’ll take DF over WoW in terms of graphics, especially if we factor how the graphics effect the gameplay. Sound is huge, bright/dark areas and day/night are a factor, being able to sneak around is a legit tactic due to the art style, etc. Some might prefer the neon glow style of WoW over the darker stuff in DF, but even at the most basic poly-count/gfx-effect, at best their even, and that’s an insult to Blizzard.

      • Kessiaan says:

        To be honest, in a ‘traditional’ MMO such as WoW I’d rather have more draw distance than higher poly models.

        I resubbed to check things out, this seems to be exactly what they’ve done. Sure, it’s a cheap fix but seems to be a good one. Even with an aggressive LOD engine and short draw distance low-end users might have issues with high-poly models or ‘busy’ areas.

  3. Mordiceius says:

    It is nice to see you take a reasonable look at it instead of constant sarcasm. I dare say that I enjoy the softer side of Syncaine.

  4. Ravious says:

    Whoa, I figured the “new” old zones were just going to use phasing, where level 75+ or whatever would see a cataclysmic Azeroth, and levels 1-75 would see pre-cataclysmic Azeroth?

  5. Sean says:

    As sid67 already pointed out, there have been significant graphical updates to the underlying engine, with more to come as detailed during their Art panel at this year’s Blizzcon. None of them individually are stark differences but together they represent a facelift to a game that already had a very focused aesthetic that I think ages acceptably well. If you need further evidence of the improvement, the bitching in the comments to your last post about the new graphical features in Wrath making the game nigh unplayable at the highest settings are testament enough.

    Also, even given Blizzard’s notorious track record with releases, why the speculation of 2011 release? Mike Morhaime said unequivocally in more than one interview that Cataclysm (along with Starcraft II) are Blizzard’s two major releases for next year. Moreover, one of the developers during a panel discussion intimated that the expansion would be out before the next Blizzcon. Since they’ve been working on this since before the release of Wrath, I don’t think 2010 is at all unreasonable, even for Blizzard.

    Lastly, I don’t understand the “ez-mode” criticism particularly from someone who hasn’t even tried the latest content. I agree that Blizzard has really dropped the ball with the amount and variety of end game content. Naxx was rehashed and too easy even for a beginning raid and some of the hard modes could be made more interesting. However, Ulduar is not faceroll simple. The “trash” can and often does cause wipes for uncoordinated groups. My own casual raiding guild has been making slow progress through it and feeling immense satisfaction as we complete new encounters. The problem, now, isn’t difficulty but as you rightly point out, variety. For a game “that begins at 80″ the amount of endgame content is disappointing.

    • syncaine says:

      Bad engine coding and ‘high end graphics’ are two different things. Fallout 3 is an amazing looking game, yet runs better than most games out today. Look != performance. I’ll just say this about the whole graphics thing, unless they do an update that matches or beats what EVE did, whatever graphic improvements they make are, IMO, second rate at best.

      As for easy, I was talking more about the game as a whole, and not the 1-2 ‘one handed mode’ raids they might add. I’m not saying back in 2004 the PvE in WoW was hard, but at least once in a while a quest required more than tab-targeting to a mob and auto-attacking it to death. I know for the majority that’s viewed as a plus, but I have trouble sticking with a game that’s insultingly easy 99% of the time, but that’s just the min/maxer in me talking.

    • sid67 says:

      Lastly, I don’t understand the “ez-mode” criticism particularly from someone who hasn’t even tried the latest content.

      TAGN had a good post about “skill” in games a few weeks back. One of his points is that MMOs really don’t get more difficult as you play. Killing a level 10 mob at level 10 is about as difficult as killing a level 75 mob at level 75.

      Critics, like Syncaine, would argue that Blizzard has also taken this approach in the raiding game making it easy for anyone to experience the content.

      Having raided through Ulduar myself, I am NOT going to claim that raiding is ezmode in WoW. It may be more accessible, but players who suck are never going to get past a fight like Mimiron. The trend has been on the tougher bosses to make raiders more personally accountable (do it right or die).

      If raiding seems easier to some players, it’s because they get to practice content twice a week (once in 10 man, once in 25).

    • Kyir says:

      Have you done the Colosseum at all?

      It’s easier than Naxx.

      • Argon says:

        Oh now, let’s not exaggerate. Colosseum isn’t easier than Naxx, though it certainly is easier than the later stuff in Ulduar. It seems like it is intended to be a mid-expansion gear/difficulty reset, to get everybody ready for Ice Crown. Hopefully the hard modes will provide a level of challenge around the same as (regular mode) Mimiron and Yogg.

      • Kyir says:

        No. It is easier than Naxx.

        Jaraxxus is a joke, the Northrend Beasts are pitiful, and all Champions requires is raid stacking.

      • Gareth says:

        I quit before this released, but 2 room instance with no trash is definitely easy, for the first time ever I’ve even seen Blizzard have to buff a boss here too.

        But this whole gear reset crap, that really killed WoW off for me and was the final straw.

        The problem I have with that design is that I don’t want to run the easy mode 5 man heroics over and over for gear upgrades, but because they’ve added a new tier of gear that is dropped in for little effort it would force me to just endlessly run that content if I want to be able to go to Icecrown.

        To me that’s tedious and unchallenging and gets between me and doing enjoyable things, and on another point, what’s the picnic doing outside the big bad’s base, its lorelol at its worse.

    • Gareth says:

      “Lastly, I don’t understand the “ez-mode” criticism particularly from someone who hasn’t even tried the latest content.”

      You then reply that your casual guild has made slow but steady progress through Uldar, our casual guild got over 1/2 way without encountering a roadblock whereupon 1/2 the top raiders quit, they’ve progressed onto 75% since.

      But that’s not the point, when you step back from it ask yourself, where is the difficult content?

      I asked myself that and realised that while the burning crusade had harder areas and harder 5 man quests etc, this one has nothing, and I mean totally nothing outside of Uldar. I was playing a game where the only content worth playing for me consisted of a handful of bosses in one single instance, yep Uldar difficulty is just right (for a casual guild, hardcore need something harder) but for £10 a month I want more.

      Blizzard seem to think that more here is a log-in-once-a-day grind to aquire pets/gear without even adding in a enjoyable story, really just couldn’t be bothered to login once a day to do 15 minutes of content every day for 2-3 weeks.

      The main reason I enjoyed WoW’s TBC there was the storylines, the gameplay was right too, but story propels me through the game, that’s why I’m a PVE player chiefly, although I do enjoy some PVP (and crave someone to actually get off their backside and produce something with more PVE/PVP content like Alterac valley had in WoW before they put a timer on it and turned it into a racetrack, instead all these software houses are going the lazy mode and just giving people a box to PVP in, but I digress).

      Now a bad novel I read has me just not caring about the characters or the situations, unfortunately that’s how I felt about most of WotLK, only one questline moved me to feel for something in the game (Oracle’s, I know they look cuteish, but it wasn’t that it was seeing the evil of the lich kings massacre of one of their villages, you could have put any race in there and that quest line would have moved me).

      In comparison as I’ve gone through Everquest 2 I’ve found a lot more well written quests and stories, that’s the killer thing that just went from WoW, much of the new storyline has changed to match the graphics – comic book, a prime example is the much vaulted WrathGate questline, over the top stuff that suits young children but didn’t move me.

  6. Tholal says:

    I’m not sure why you think this expansion will reinvigorate the amount of lower level activity. If you want to see the new content, just hop on your flying mount and tour it with ease. And Blizzard has gone to great lengths to speed up the leveling process, so those that do start over will be powering through the content.

    So the idea that suddenly players will be running through Deadmines with a level appropriate group seems to be a bit of wishful thinking.

    • syncaine says:

      You might be right. If the expansion does not reinvigorate the 1-60 part of the game, it might be a worst expansion than WotLK (since so much of it will be focused on content people rush through, and the end-game content won’t be as ‘new’ as the stuff in WotLK).

      Now I feel oddly stupid to be on the optimistic side of a WoW debate…

  7. Chris says:

    @Tholal: Because the majority of WoW players won’t care about actually *experiencing* the bulk of the new content, right? I mean, hell, why even buy the expansion when I can just look at screenshots and youtube videos?

  8. Bhagpuss says:

    I think the graphics in WoW look fantastic. Just how good they look was one of the major surprises for me when I began playing this Summer. I’d read so often about how crude WoW’s graphics were and seen so many poor screenshots that when I finally got to see Azeroth in person, so to speak, I was just blown away.

    My recent MMOs before WoW were EQ2, WAR, LotRO and Vanguard and WoW looks easily as good as any of those, at least at the settings I could play any of them. My PC is coming up 3 years old, though, although it was a good machine at the time I bought it, so maybe other people see different pictures to me.

    I’m not a big one for novelty. I don’t need a constant influx of new content to hold my attention. If I like doing something once, chances are I will go on liking to do it pretty much indefinitely. Similarly, I don’t object to things being easy, or straightforward. I was drawn to MMOs in the beginning by the RPG element, but a big part of what has held me for a decade is the simplicity and the repetition, which I find relaxing and soothing.

    Seems to me that Blizzard are making some inroads with this expansion in giving the illusion of novelty without changing very much, which is something that MMOs need, I think. Just bolting on a new high-end land-mass every 12 months, as most MMOs have done up until now, causes more problems than it solves and this looks like a viable alternative.

    We’ll have to see how it turns out in practice.

    • syncaine says:

      What settings did you play LotRO at, or even WAR? Because both games look substantially better than WoW when you run all three maxed. Maybe WoW looks like WAR if you have WAR at low and WoW at med/high. And unless you run WoW at high and LotRO at zero, how are those comparable in terms of graphics, even if we remove the whole ‘style’ aspect?

      I mean 3yr old hardware that was good at the time is what, a 8800GT or something? An 8800GT with a good 3yr old processor should be able to run WAR near-max at an average resolution.

    • sid67 says:

      I’m always reminded of Starcraft when this discussion about graphics comes up. At release (and I assume even now), Starcraft was a 256 color game. Blizzard got hammered at the time by most of the gaming community for not having at least 16-bit colors. The reason they cited at the time was the same one they use today: building for the lowest common denominator amongst users.

      Ironically, despite the criticism, people liked the graphics. And Starcraft went on to become the most popular RTS game of all time.

      I’m also always reminded of Donkey Kong Country which was pretty much the last major title to be released on the SNES. The interesting thing here is that Nintendo did an incredible job with these graphics on an aging machine. In fact, I would say the graphics in DK beat many of the titles that released with the N64.

      The moral of both stories is that it’s not always a polygon count or some flash bang technical gizmo that makes something look good. With good creative design, sometimes you can make up for your technical limitations. In fact, I really applaud companies that can DO just that — create something gorgeous without relying on the new fangled widget as a hi-tech crutch.

      • syncaine says:

        But there is a big jump between a game using top-end graphics to hide design issues (AoC initially) vs a game looking dated. WAR often gets compared to WoW graphically, but stack the two side-by-side and it’s clear which game came out in 2009 and which came out in 2004. Stack EVE against any Sci-Fi game today and tell me which one was released in 2003. Same with DDO, the game looks great in 2009 thanks to all it’s updates, and that game has an overall population the size of a single WoW server.

        Even if WoW did something like EQ2, where they just updated the player models, that would go a long way to give Cataclysm a ‘new’ feel without a total revamp. Updating mobs with higher poly-count models would be a huge bonus, and again not a total revamp. I’m talking more about stuff like than, rather then WoW becoming the second coming of Crysis.

  9. Tholal says:

    @Chris – If I understand correctly, most of the new *content* will be directed at high-level players. The zone revamps will mostly be cosmetic, which doesn’t require a new character to witness. Why create a new character so I can try and dodge mobs while looking at the newly broken barrens when I can fly over it and witness it in all of its glory? Are the new quests going to be so awesome that I have to level up a new character to experience them ‘properly’? I doubt it.

    And why would someone spend time gathering together a group of 17-20 level characters so they can go through the same old Deadmines instance when instead I can head through the new heroic version on my max level character? And if I do have a new character, wouldn’t it be much easier to have a level 80 buddy rip through the instance for me?

    I am playing devil’s advocate here, because I hated being powerleveled through dungeons by higher-level characters when I played WoW, but most WoW players have no such inhibitions. Expecting a sudden mentality shift because the zones have new graphics and layouts seems a bit of a stretch.

    I do think the revamp is an excellent idea, and I *almost* would resubscribe for a month just to see it. The old zones may now see more higher-level characters passing through, but there won’t be a sudden resurgence of lower-level characters. Most people making new characters for the new race/class combos will use the Refer-a-friend and other leveling techniques so that they can catch up to the rest of their guild.

    *shrug* That’s my 2 cents anyway.

  10. frank says:

    Cataclysm surprised me a bit because I thought the ‘leaks’ prior to Blizzcon were too good to be true, but once it was all confirmed I’ve been incredibly excited to see the next expansion.

    I think I have a special place in my heart for the old world, I have a lot of good memories there, but I always knew it should be better. If they can pull that off, Cataclysm will be a huge success in my book.

    I sort of feel like a tourist in Northrend. Some of the zones are nice, some are awful, but I’ve played WoW so little in Wrath that I don’t really feel like I know the place anymore. I’m just waiting for that return to Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms with all the other game improvements that have come since my first adventures form 1-60. Starting again at level 1 will be well worth it if they do it right.

  11. ScytheNoire says:

    It’s just more of the same. That’s the problem. What happens when you got bored with the same, found it to be too much of a grind, too much of a job. Then of course the next expansion won’t appeal to you.

    Blizzard simply keeps pumping out the same old crap because the damn people keep paying for it and eating the shit up. If the people started waking up and demanding better, then we might get better. But most aren’t, and so, we get yet more of the same old crap yet again.

    • Gareth says:

      I’d argue that its even worse, this new expansion is there primarily for the new players.

      Maybe its motivated by Aion? I don’t know, either way its thin on content for high level players and I think the whole “lets have night elf mages who shouldn’t use magic because we think its cool” additions feel like a bandaid to fix the lack of development time directed at the longtime WoW players.

      • Psynister says:

        Here you’re crying about too much being directed at low level players, and up aboove you’re crying about new content making you put in too much work to get more gear so that you can see it.

        Less QQ, more stfu?

        Seriously, you can’t cry about not having enough content and then cry again because new content takes too much effort for you to get geared up to experience it.

        You aren’t looking for a new challenge, you’re looking for another easy-mode dungeon you can walk right into and clear in about 2 weeks. Then you can go complain again about how much Blizzard has failed to provide enough challenging content, blah blah, not up to standards, blah blah, hard mode sucks, blah blah, farmed it for 3 months still no sword drop, blah blah. /yawn

        Seriously, pick one side of the fence to be on here and support it.

        And check your Night Elf lore again. Mages go back as far into Night Elf lore as you can possibly get.

        /end_rant

  12. Psynister says:

    While you can fly over all of the old world to get a look at it, that’s not going to give you the experience of running it with a low level. Quests are changing, the look of the world is changing, and phasing is going to be introduced in those levels as well. You aren’t going to be able to have a level 80 come run you through the content because he isn’t going to be in the same phase as you.

    Assuming that everone is going to see the new content while using RAF is a bogus overstatement. Is it going to happen? Absolutely. Is everyone, or even a significant number of them, going to go out and buy a new copy of the game just to activate RAF? I very seriously doubt it. Yes, you can get BoA gear for +20% experience, yes you can join a guild that will give you another +10% experience (if they’ve leveled high enough), but 30% bonus experience isn’t going to make you level up so fast that you miss all of the content.

    Being excited about Cataclysm comes down to what motivates you to play the game. If you’re a min/max player then you probably aren’t going to be too thrilled with it as it stands right now.

    I love everything that Cataclysm has to offer, and I am very excited to see it. I play WoW because I love to level characters and progress through the game itself. I have raided, but I don’t find it thrilling. If anything it’s annoying. To me, the game doesn’t start when you hit level cap, that’s when it ends. For some the game ends when there’s not longer a challenge you can’t overcome, for me it’s when my character can no longer grow.

    When I want a serious challenge I don’t head for raids that consist of mobs that are controlled by a simple computer program, I head to the battlegrounds and arenas to fight against players that are capable of making their own decisions on the fly.

    To each their own.

  13. Lumin says:

    Two comments:

    – WoW development funding is being poured into 3 other games, NOT WoW
    – the best games are produced by a group of friends in a metaphorical garage, NOT by a corporation

  14. Lolz says:

    As the quantity of subscribers and method of data transfer to nongamers get larger, MMO take the jump from “game” to “entertainment.”

    The problem for Blizzard now, as it is not for a lot of other “service providers” is that their product is no longer a niche piece: It is a form of mainstream entertainment. A type of mass media transfer, not a piece of mass media.

    This sounds silly: WoW is not a television through which various mass media formats can come through, or an interwebz through which one can find many forms of mass media for use.
    However, it is no longer a game (or puzzle, or show, or movie) because it does not have a homogenization of purpose. It is a framework in which is contained a plethora of activities to cater to the needs of smaller demographics of subscribers (which can be construed as the pieces of media themselves, however they fail to be discretized by typical boundaries.)

    Because they must cater to the needs of individual demographics to maintain profitability and growth there CANNOT be a homogenization of purpose or all demographics that do not wish to participate would be lost.

    Allow this to be a catch-22. In order to appease a subscriber (in this case the blogg-able community) the game should be developed in such-and-such a way.

    One such theme is: QQ More challenge! QQ If WoW is a game, then the game should have some set level of challenge which is to be overcome, at which point you have “beaten” it. Obviously this model doesn’t work for WoW because 1) you can’t beat it, 2) blizzard doesn’t want you to have beaten it, 3) many of the consumers now engage in WoW as entertainment and not gaming and don’t wish to participate in a homogenization of purpose or direction for the entire population -> They play WoW because they like it as it is. Or, it’s a comfortable hobby. Sort of like watching television, only requiring a little more brainpower.
    Another theme is QQ More eparation between hardcore and casual QQ First this issue must settle on time and skill. As WoW gets easier and the mechanics get older, then the skill required is decreased. The time element commonly decides between hardcore and casual, or, the cohesiveness of the unit of hardcore which separates itself out (a la topguilds.) I truly believe that every couple days at blizzard someone says the words “hardcore and casual” and is slapped in the face simultaneously by an accountant, marketeer and software developer, one-shot, and has to corpse run back to his cubicle in shame. Blizzard is obviously choosing their direction: It does not favor the intensely challenging or gated content as its most obvious consumable. It favors the content which can be engaged in by a larger majority that seek the entertainment elements and has created a subset of situations for population demographics which seek the game elements (hard modes if you weren’t following.)

    However, Blizzard recognizes that they have an aged format. How do you propose to fix it? Give ten million people a completely redesigned engine? That in many cases will require a new infastructure (new computers, faster servers, etc?) They can’t do that. You can’t tell 10 million people that some of them have to piss off because some of them want to change what all 10 million are obviously enjoying/consuming.

    You try to feed them NEW but SIMILAR content that they can enjoy. You experiment in what directions the content will continue to amass subscriber population. In the meantime, you develop a NEW product (that now has a reason to require new infastructure) to catch retain your subscriber base: As it attrites from WoW it is caught by Starcraft2, Diablo 3 and your income continues to grow.

    My question is, what is wrong with that model? Why is new stuff “the same old crap?” Is blizzard supposed to send you a damn shaved monkey in the mail to make you really live up your WoW experience? If you don’t want the same old crap, then… Don’t buy it. If not enough people buy it, then they’ll shelve WoW for new stuff or bring out better stuff. Most consumers can’t do that because they’ve bought into their digital lives with lots of invested time, but it’s like poker: What is in the pot is already gone. A lot of these blog posts questioning the new expansion or the new this or new that should really be boiled down to the question that they truly are: “Now that my WoW addiction is wearing off, are MMO’s really worth spending my time on?” That is a question for each individual. When you decide no, I’m sure there’s a support group out there for you to sit around, bang drums, remember the good old days, cry and move on. For the ones that say yes: We’re going to see a renewal on stuff we played with three years ago, and experience all that stuff with a WHOLE lot more people all together. Fan service (heroic deadmines omg) is what this stuff is truly all about.

    • Gareth says:

      Its a good post, and I agree with the sentiment that WoW is entertainment rather then a game, although they do have a small amount of game that remains to be beaten, it was much larger in the past.

      But this bit I disagree with

      “However, Blizzard recognizes that they have an aged format. How do you propose to fix it? Give ten million people a completely redesigned engine? That in many cases will require a new infastructure (new computers, faster servers, etc?) They can’t do that. You can’t tell 10 million people that some of them have to piss off because some of them want to change what all 10 million are obviously enjoying/consuming.”

      A new game engine is something that can be added in as its primarily client side, they have added in some good looking water which I give them credit for, almost looks as nice as the Everquest 2 stuff ;) And that’s on the list as something SOE want to update….

      Another example of graphical updates as a game goes is Everquest 2, the graphics engine started in 1999, had shader 1.0 and mainly used the CPU, now the shadows are on the GPU, and they’re working on moving to shader 3.0 December (got pushed back :P) with other things to come.

      Its an interesting development whether you are a fan of the game or not to see how it measures up to something new like AoC which I do think currently has the best graphics on the market to compare to (because they’re realistic looking not stylised).

      Its not the first game to see that sort of change, Everquest 1 had a total revamp too.

  15. Chris says:

    Lolz, thanks for that post. Your first sentence is giving me a lot to think about. Is WoW a “game” any longer? Perhaps for the percentage of players who are striving for new loot. Has it become “entertainment”? Perhaps for the percentage of players who log on to group with friends for a few hours a week. For me, it’s neither any longer, so I bid it farewell and wish it the best of luck.

  16. theJexster says:

    Your blogs make me want to write, (not out of anger like some lesser sites) I consider that a great achievement for a blogger.

  17. Krosuss says:

    Having read your blog for awhile I know where you’re coming from on WoW. I, myself, have never played it and have little to no desire to ever play it.

    I think people much of your criticism of Blizzard and how they handle their cash cow. What you’ve stated over and over is something I agree with 100%. For all the money they bring in … this is what they are giving the loyal millions who still play this dated-looking game?

    That’s been one of your big points about it. For all the subs. For all the millions they make each month. They put so little back for those who play the game.

    You’ve always said that WoW subscribers should demand more. I agree. Blizzard is on cruise control and their customers don’t strive for much more than what they are given. But if they’re fine with that, that’s their business.

  18. Fanwene says:

    When is a game not a game? When it becomes a job! I was late in joining the hype for WoW, joined in August 2008. I had played EQ1 from 99-01 and once again I was looking for my MMO “fix.” I was impressed with the lore in the game and all through TBC. Unlike most, I enjoyed my time in the game, going at my own pace experiencing it all. Then, I hit the inevitable level cap. And WoW’s true face was shown to me. Repeating the same thing over and over and over again on a daily basis. It dawned on me, this is blizzard’s answer to keeping people interested in a game with such a large population base? Yes, there were raids, of which I took part on heavily. But, when you are done with your 3 hrs of raiding what is there to do in game? Farm achievements and grind dailies. It was at that point, the game lost all entertainment value and became a job. I have a job to allow me to come home, relax, and have fun in a game: not to come home and log into a game to do a job.

    It became quite obvious that Blizzard’s creative staff/developers have moved on to their next big MMO when you first enter Northrend: quests which are eerily familiar to those you have done in the past at lower levels. All the gear and weapons found in that area are identical in looks except for a few colors changed here and there.

    And lastly, they slap everyone in the face! There is nothing like getting everyone excited over heading to Northrend to face off against the lich king only to find the citadel is not open yet. You gear up and all that fun stuff to prepare for the inevitable opening up of Icecrown Citadel and the glory that awaits you inside. You quiver in anticipation as Blizzard announces that there will be a new expansion…YES! We are going to face Arthas finally!….Wait! What?! We got called back to the homelands to face off against Onyxia and Napharia and the a few other badies? Didn’t we hang their heads above the gates of Stormwind already? Let the youngins take care of that problem…Arthas is still out there!

    I see it as Blizzards way of milking all they can out of those who still subscribe. For me, my time ended with WoW with the Tournament of Champions. I finally saw the light of what Blizzard was doing and it was enough. I am over the shakes and the cold sweats of withdrawl, but it was worth it.

    I get my new fix from my dealer named Aion.

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