hellfire_citadelApparently I’m a butt-hurt WoW-hater. I’ll never understand why criticism of WoW (like a lot of things) is received in some quarters as a personal attack. Clearly I played WoW for nine years and blogged about it for half that time. I don’t hate World of Warcraft, I loved World of Warcraft! So why do I insist on attacking it? Well, this once great franchise has been in steady decline since the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and nothing would make me happier than seeing that trend reverse in the way that the hype suggested the Warlords of Draenor expansion would make it. All this blog has ever done is trying focus on discussions points about what might be wrong with the game. Sometimes I’ve suggested how problems might easily be solved, but I’m not a game designer, I’m a gamer. My role is to play and provide feedback, if there are problems game designers, not gamers, will ultimately solve them.

Let’s briefly recap where we are. Blizzard left us stranded in Mists of Pandaria with no new content for thirteen months! Why was 5.4 Siege of Orgrimmar with us so long? Blizzard claimed it had committed it’s entire team to working on the new expansion. This team, now 210, was the largest they had ever had working on on World of Warcraft. So explain some things to me.

eq54axThe Warlord‘s launch was clearly rushed. If it wasn’t why was it so buggy on release: people could not get into the game, garrison phasing was broken and some things plain didn’t work. Apparently there wasn’t time to finish two functional capital cities, the Tanaan Jungle levelling zone, add full garrison customisation (selecting location for example) and the Ashran PvP zone shipped with all the problems that beta testing had uncovered. Players discovered a dearth of end-game content, and several mind-boggling, old school, reputation grinds, the garrison facebook game and the Apexis Crystal grind.

So to the apologists that claim Warlord’s is packed with content let me counter with the question is it engaging content? Let’s put raids to one side. Blizzard makes great raids, period. If Blizzard made a bad raid (and they have, Dragon Soul for example) it would be an aberration, an exception and far from the rule. I want to look beyond raids. Beyond raids we have essentially two things to do. The Garrison mini-game and Apexis Crystal grinding.

Garrison mission

This is your game now…

questlistWhy am I calling the garrison, Warlords’ “killer” feature, the all-new player housing, a mini-game? Well, like a facebook game you can spend fifteen minutes playing it, then log off and come back tomorrow. Instead of questing or gathering and crafting yourself you can send out your minions to do it for you, they can even get you some decent epic gear. Rather than creating varied content for you to play through Blizzard has created virtual content. You pick a missionfollower from a list, pick up to three minions, for a list, and send them out to complete that mission. When the timer runs down you can “complete” the mission from a list and collect the reward. Your minion are all upgradeable in two ways: weapons and armour. Instead of doing fun stuff yourself you can sit in your garrison getting fat and sending out anonymous minions to do it for you unseen and un-coded. Now that’s cheap content. Cheap content that has destroyed professions once and for all.

Everything else in the game is mob grinding. You can do an Apexis Daily: go to a zone, grind mobs to fill up a bar, gain currency and reputation. Or you could grind rare mobs and search for treasures for reputation and currency. I did one Apexis grind for a faction I didn’t care about then I went to check out the faction Quatermasters just to see what was on offer. The rewards and the sheer number of Apexis Crystal Shards required made me lose interest immediately. The grind’s pain in ass : reward ratio was too skewed.

Ion and Josh

Poor Lore, I really like Lore.

6.1 Hotfix / Content Patch debacle. Now it’s not me being unfair, Blizzard have admitted (Ion Hazzikostas in the recent Q&A to be precise) that 6.1 was a mistake. They gave the patch too much of a fanfare and calling it 6.1 elevated it far above it’s status. Reasonably enough people expected a content patch (with some content) and the resolution of some of the problems with the new expansion. This is not without precedence, point release patches (.1, .2 etc) have always been new content introduced into the game, indeed 5.1 addressed some of the early problems that, the alt unfriendly, Mists of Pandaria, and it’s initial reputation(s) wall of grind, had. They also gave us new maxresdefaultand compelling content with the Brawler’s Guild and new scenarios. 6.1, or 6.0.5 as Hazzikostas would prefer us to think of it as, delivered…well, er…the delayed new Blood Elf character models, a new tab in the Toy Box for heirlooms, Twitter Integration and the Selfie stick

Er…WTF Blizzard? OK, so they messed up. 6.1 was more of a hotfix patch and they threw in some dev’s pet passion projects that a couple of them had been working on in their free time (according to Hazzikostas again in the Q&A). So the real 6.1 content and problem resolution patch would actually be labelled 6.2, right? Er…

A shipyard! Fantastic!

A shipyard! Fantastic!

Patch 6.2 (the real 6.1?) arrives. Finally Tanaan (which must have been somewhere near completion last November when WoD was released) has been reworked as a Timeless Isle style zone. To complement the Invasion of Tanaan we have a new garrison feature: a shipyard with themed naval missions. A new raid, of course, as every even numbered patch has a new raid: Hellfire Citadel is back. Blizzard have given us a new dungeon difficulty Mythic (like the old Heroic dungeons) and the bonus Timewalking events.

To be honest they’ve listed the Adventure Guide under new content when clearly this is more appropriate at the bottom of General Changes, under UI. Shocking Blizz, talk it up. 6.1 Mythic dungeons are simply the existing dungeons turned up (if not to 11 then to about 5) a bit. It worth noting (thanks again Mr Hazzikostas) that even Blizzard concedes these dungeons are Mythic in name only. So what about this Timewalker dungeon thing? Well, they’re only available at weekends (!?) and they are so ridiculously tuned so that level appropriate characters will struggle harder in them than did back in the day when the content was new (in The Burning Crusade) and level 100s can faceroll them solo. What a valueless waste of time.

mqdefaultTanaan was all but ready eight months ago so adjusting the mob and difficulty levels for well geared 100s can’t have taken any time. However the entire zone is a giant Apexis Crystal grind – exactly the kind of uncompelling and repetitive content the player-base was looking forward to getting a break from. Exactly the type of content I wasn’t doing immediately after release…

Shipyard...

A new command table! Fan-fucking-tastic!

Shipyards. Shipyards underline and reinforce all the criticisms of garrisons. Naval missions sound great, right? You will never see one however, as you send your minions out on them and the closest you get to a ship is crossing to Tanaan, even the opening Invasion event is no more exciting than getting on the boat at Ratchet. Seriously, another (re-skinned) command table in lieu of actually playable content?

Needless to say the raid content is great. No argument. Raiding in WoD is keeping most raiders playing.

So this took eight months to create? Finishing one zone? Adding another command table, a building and some new follower virtual content? A UI enhancement? Re-spinning old and existing content that no one will be interested in? Eight months? Please don’t excuse your lack of creative content by telling us 6.3 will be the last content patch in Warlords and the dev team (the biggest WoW has ever had) are now working on the next expansion!

Is this how Blizzard is going to continue with the franchise? Rush release new expansions for the holidays, call their hotfixes content patches, don’t develop new content or address in game issues or support their expansions fully after release on the grounds that they are now working on the expansion to follow? It’s simply not good enough. Garrisions and facebook style command table virtual missions are no substitute for engaging, out in the world content that makes Azeroth feel like a lively and vital MMO world in a vibrant franchise. Three million subscribers said “No, this simply isn’t good enough,” to Blizzard‘s game after only three months of Warlords of Draenor. The second quarter figures are due out soon, I predict a plateau of subscriber numbers around 7 million as Blizzard starts gold selling and milking it’s community for all it’s worth. The cynical new, over-priced, WoW Token becomes available and you can trade gold in the auction house for game time bought with real money, more expensively in Token form from the Blizzard Store.

If we want to fix World of Warcraft and twist Blizzard Activision into creating real content for the franchise then there is only one way to do that. Hit them where it hurts – in their wallets. Unsubscribe today, save WoW!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mTRvJ9fugM

 

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