Death knell

I didn’t click a link and read all the bullshit about Why you hate wow. If you don’t like it. quit. Did I really need 70 more lines about why it sucks? I don’t care. I comment on [your post], nothing else.
Obviously you feel butt hurt over the expansion. Speak with you wallet. cancel and move on. No matter what YOU think, it’s not going to change MY mind that WoD is an excellent expansion.
Maybe you don’t find it fun but obviously 7+ Million other people DO.
No matter how many lines, and blogs you post about hating it won’t change their opinions.
I have a feeling that even though you are going to “cancel” your sub, you will spend many, many more hours trying to convince others to hate it like you. Or at the very least, you will get a little satisfaction each time someone agrees with you so that you get a little more validation….
Michael Brown – 18 May 2015 (Google+)

I’ve played World of Warcraft for nine years. This blog has documented some of the fun and bathos of almost half that. So do I hate Warcraft? Do I intend to write a[nother] tediously long post about why it sucks, hating on it? Well, as I’ve said [many times] before there’s nothing worse in Warcraft than expressing an opinion…even on Google+. Every so often a good rant can be very therapeutic, however I’m not angry about one stupid feature or implementation, something that could mar an overall good game experience.

The problems with Warlords of Draenor specifically and World of Warcraft generally are so large, so fundamental, that I’m not raging I’m sad. Sad and cancelling my subscription. Am I going to “spend many, many more hours trying to convince others to hate it like…” myself? Well, I’m going to lay out not my “butt hurt” and “hating”, but my critique of current Warlords content in the hope that others will nod in recognition and perhaps even unsub too. Do I want to kill World of Warcraft? No, of course not, only an idiot would play a game for ten years hating every aspect of it. However, Blizzard won’t listen to me; other bloggers; the forums; Youtubers; or you. Only one thing will make them listen: if we stop giving them our money for their game.

The initial hype surrounding the release of Warlords brought new and lured back old subscribers, the numbers swelled to 10.7 million. Numbers we haven’t seen since Wrath of the Lich King. That’s a lot of money! Within three months subscriber numbers had collapsed back to the 5.4 Mists of Pandaria levels and were down 2.9 million. There is good reason for this and the route back to giving us a better game is to understand first what went wrong in WoD. If you happen to like WoD all I can say to you is that all we’d like to do is make WoW better, restore the game to what it was, iron out some massive wrinkles, that surely won’t hurt you.

WoD mapwodcompscaleIt might be easy to dismiss some complaints about Warcraft and the current expansion as failure of expectation. There was a lot of Blizzard / Blizzcon hype about the launch. However, after reconsidering the Blizzcon presentation what Blizzard were planning to offer doesn’t seem unreasonable or substantially more involved than what was offered in The Burning Crusade. Warcraft‘s second expansion was even used as a template for what was offered in Warlords, Blizzard used the slide on the left to to compare the seven Outlands zones with the seven new zones of Draenor that would be available at launch.

During the same Blizzcon presentation the integrity of the Warcraft timeline was discussed. During the fourth, Cataclysm, expansion Blizzard retooled Azeroth and redesigned the levelling and questing experience in the classic vanilla zones. When Warcraft launched it was a new sixty level RPG, by the sixth, Warlords of Draenor, expansion the game was 100 levels and without streamlining and redesigning the vanilla zones and levelling process the time required to advance from 1 to 100 would have been unpalatable. However the Cataclysm reworking broke the storytelling and levelling timeline. The level 1 to 60 questing zones were all up-to-date post Deathwing‘s Shattering. To level from 60 to 70 you went through the Dark Portal to Outlands where the game was trapped in a pre-Lich King world. From 70 to 80 you went to Northrend and everyone was talking about Arthas, the Scourge and no one had even heard of Pandas. Then you skipped back forward in time for the 8o to 85 content opened for Cataclysm. Finally the timeline continued in the lore light continent hidden in the Mists of the southern oceans. In order to fix some of these anomalies Blizzard re-purposed the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands and turned it red and sent us…back in time to pre-Burning Crusade Draenor. Outlands would then be accessible through the Caverns of Time and so the in game time anomalies would be absorbed into Warcraft narrative and players would get an opportunity to experience what is the lore foundation of the Warcraft franchise: the events of the last years of Draenor and the opening of the Dark Portal that precipitates the forming of the Alliance and the First War. A great idea and an exciting premise.

Blizzard creates the most popular MMO in history, with probably a larger player base over ten years than all other major MMOs combined.  They don’t add the features that YOU want, and thus they are lazy.

Lazy are companies that publish buggy games to meet a deadline.  Lazy are companies that publish games that are incomplete.  Lazy is not the word I would use for Blizzard.  Have they made mistakes?  Of course.  As do we all.  A difference is that when I make a mistake I don’t have thousands of people riling each other up about it on social media.
Steven Desanto 20 May 2015 (Google+)

Everything went wrong right from the beginning for Blizzard. The player base for once had a genuine reason to be angry after Wrath of the Lich King and the Ice Crown Citadel patch players had to wait almost a year for new content. We’re not going to do that again Blizzard said, content would be released more often even if that meant slightly smaller content patches. Then they made us wait for over a year with the 5.4 Siege of Orgrimmar patch telling us there’d be no new content as they had their largest ever development team now working on the next expansion. Fine Mists had widely been savaged by most commentators as the worst expansion of the franchise (though personally I still think Cata wears that crown).

Sadly, despite what Mr Desanto had to say to me earlier this month Blizzard were not prepared to (do what they did with The Burning Crusade and) miss the Christmas sales deadline and Warlords was clearly released too early. They published a game that wasn’t properly tested, was incomplete and bug ridden. Blizzard apologised for the initial problems with logging on to the game at launch. We saw realm queues for the first time in several years, Garrisons were buggy and you couldn’t get inside them, Blizzard citing phasing and instant server issues. There were also rumours of numerous DDOS attacks on Blizzard servers but on release Warlords was so buggy it was difficult to tell whether there was any substance in these rumours.

Bp0SXJTCAAAxf_5.jpg:largeIncomplete? I’ll start with the trivial. The access to Outlands was planned to be relocated to the Caverns of Time remember? In the beta mini Dark Portal ‘place holders’ appeared in the areas near the Cataclysm zone portals in the capitals to grant access to Outlands. On launch even these evaporated and we got generic portals, like the Blasted Lands port in Orgrimmar and Stormwind. Moving Outlands access to the Caverns of Time? Good idea, couldn’t be arsed didn’t have time.

WoWScrnShot_112411_001934Tanaan Jungle (or Hellfire Penninsula if you’re old school) home of the Iron Citadel which was to become Hellfire Citadel. This was designed as a level 98 to 100 levelling zone but simply wasn’t finished in time, so it was delayed until patch 6.2. To the south west of the continent was the Ogre homeland a Island zone that would have us exploring the history of one of the side races of Azeroth that have been in the game since the beginning. This island was removed from the map in 6.1 along with the larger Island to the north east that was to become the Fields of Farahlon, the zone that became Netherstorm.

The idea of faction capital cities was trumpeted at Blizzcon and we saw stunning videos of Karabor, a place of dark name in Warcraft lore and Frostfire Citadel. Karabor is the holy temple of the Draenai and after the destruction of Draenor would become the Black Temple in Outlands. Frostfire Citadel is a huge Ogre city that the Horde would assist Durotan and the Frostwolf clan to liberate. These two locations exist in game but they are mere shells, Blizzard said it would be too challenging and then pointed to the fact that all the facilities of a capital city would be available in your garrison. Bashiok (World of Warcraft Community Manager) tweeted “Totally understand people are disappointed and why, but to make them the cities people expect it’d be months of art time.” Which would delay the Christmas release? Maybe in patch 6.1.

Fully customisable Garrisons, Warcraft‘s version of player housing, were talked about at length at Blizzcon and we were told we’d be able to locate our garrison in a lot of the Draenor zones and even move if to somewhere cooler if we wished. Monuments and Trophies would be available, if you killed a Chimera out in the world you’d be able to mount its head in your garrison. Well, in reality we could place our garrison in two places, one for each faction. They’re far from customisable you get no choice, for Horde it’s in Frostfire Ridge with Orc architecture and the Alliance get Shadowmoon Valley and Human architecture. Trophies and monuments, I think they might come in a patch…

Apparently if you’re looking for something else to do at level 100 then there are Apexis dailies. I can’t really comment on this grind since I couldn’t even be bothered after I’d just hit 100. The rewards aren’t really inspiring and the grind to get them prohibtive.

MMOs may be a grind but that grind can be made more appealing and compelling. It doesn’t have to be only “kill mobs until this bar fills up”. That’s not engaging, it’s not interesting. There’s no story or setpiece or similar. There are plenty of different avenues to grind experience or grind gold – why not different or more varied ways to grind apexis crystals?
Hobb 10/13/2014 (Official forums)

If you PvP then the exits are located…I’m kidding. Or am I? Well, I’ve never been such a great fan of PvP but it’s been two and a half years since the game had a new battleground and almost two years since we saw a new arena. Pvpers did get Ashran though! I’m sorry, that’s not even funny is it. Despite all the feedback the community gave for Ashran in beta every single shortcoming and pitfall made it into the release. Ashran is shocking…and maybe this is a suitable time to mention Warspear and Stormshield. These are less capital cities and more gypsy camps. A gypsy camp would’ve been better though, since they are just some tents around a camp fire or two so at least everything is close together. Warspear is so badly designed, undulating, rocky and sprawling that, given there is so little there, it takes forever to get from one place to another.

Warlords of Dreanor was a decent levelling experience, the Blizzard art department really outdid themselves in the zone design. The raid instances are beautifully designed. Sadly the content designers have let them down. Max-level players, raiders and non-raiders alike, have nothing meaningful or fun to do outside the excellent raids. With the biggest development team ever you have to ask why Blizzard were unable to deliver the same number of zones as they managed for The Burning Crusade? In an effort to hit the Christmas sales deadline WoD was released bug ridden and frequently unplayable. Tanaan Jungle didn’t make the release, the Netherstorm zone and the Ogre homeland isle and content has been scrapped. Garrisons were a great idea but without customisability they became homogeneous prisons. Why couldn’t this large, new development team deliver two fully realised faction capitals? Why is Blizzard so reluctant to provide meaningful 5 or even 3 man group content? Eight dungeons and no scenarios? #Where’sTheContentBlizzard?

Part Two…the triumph and failure of The Garrison.