I was going to let this WoW discussion go but then Spinks described my humor post as “whining” and got me all riled up again. Apparently the first commandment of MMO blogging is “Thou Shalt Not Question Anything Blizzard Does.”
I do admit that one of my problems is mixing twitter and blogs, though. I’ll be having a conversation on Twitter and it’ll inspire a blog post and without the context of twitter the blog post can seem a little unbalanced. For instance on Twitter I’ve been urging people to try out the new WoW starter areas for the lore and storylines. I don’t think I’ve said here on the blog that you should do that: so now I have. The actual gameplay is very bland and unchallenging but in between the gameplay there’s a lot of narrative and spectacle that can be very enjoyable. You can easily burn through this on a 10-Day Free pass or a Scroll of Resurrection and I do believe it is worth seeing.
But let me roll up my sleeves and get back to pissing off the WoW Devoted out there.
A lot of the pushback on my concerns about the new low-level experience is that it wasn’t made for me, it was made for new players coming into the game.
Well I have a lot to say about that.
First of all, I just mentioned the lore and the narrative. Well guess what? Those will mean *nothing* to someone brand new to WoW. The reason I enjoy them is that I have a vague sense of what has been going on in the world of Warcraft. So when I hear about the return of Malfurion Stormblade or whoever, even though I can’t remember the name enough to spell it right, he’s at least familiar to me. When the story goes on about the Night Elves losing their immortality…that means something to me from playing the ‘old’ WoW. A brand new player is going to be totally lost. A hardcore WoW player (which I am not) who is very familiar with the lore will revel in this content.
So my conclusion is that this new low-level experience is intended, at least in one aspect, to give the veterans something new.
Second issue is that Blizzard needed to make things easier for new players because the old system was too hard. The astonishing arrogance of this statement boggles me. Essentially the WoW vets are saying “Well of course WE were smart and clever enough to learn it, but those people out there who don’t yet play WoW are much too moronic to figure out such a complex game without extensive hand-holding.”
This is bullshit. Someone mentioned that 70% of people who try WoW never get to level 10, the implication being that this new, easier newbie experience will reduce that statistic. Well guess what? 70% of the people who try Farmville never get to level 10 either (I made that stat up but I feel confident the percentage is pretty high). If Zynga made Farmville easier (somehow?) would that stat go down? I doubt it. It isn’t that Farmville is too hard, that’s for sure. And y’know what? Low level WoW isn’t that hard either. It never has been.
Maybe 70% of the people who try the game just get bored? Or don’t see the appeal? Or maybe it isn’t exciting enough.
I’m thinking of the much maligned ‘casual’ player coming to WoW from Diner Dash where she (I dunno why the casual gamer is always assumed to be a woman but I’m going with it for now) has had a constant progression of challenge as she advanced through levels. Her brain is in overdrive as she constantly scans the game board and the mouse dances under her fingers as she guides Flo back and forth at breakneck pace to keep the customers happy.
Now someone convinces her to log into $15/month WoW where she finds she is mostly a passive observer. It’s pretty and kind of interesting but she doesn’t really DO very much. Combat is slow paced and no matter how nimble her mind and fingers are, she can’t speed it up.
Now, you and I know that things will get very very different later on in her WoW career, but she doesn’t know that. As far as she is concerned, after playing for 4-5 hours, WoW is kind of an interactive storybook. That she has to pay $15/month to play. So she goes back to her more exciting casual games.
In a recent post Spinks said “Maybe you have even forgotten what it was like to panic every time a mob attacked you, freak out any time you thought you might be lost, and not really understand how the genre works yet.”
She may as well have said “Maybe you have even forgotten what it was like to have fun playing an MMO.” Panic from being attacked, freaking out at getting lost? Not understanding every number and nuance of the world? Hell yes, sign me the heck up, PLEASE! That sounds wonderfully fun to me. Robbing new players of that fun seems downright criminal.
Anyway… I think I’ve vented my spleen on this now. I’m not quitting my return to WoW over the new player experience or anything and I still have Cataclysm pre-ordered (Collector’s Edition, even). But, as with so many other games, when I see what I perceive as a design flaw, I’m going to talk about it. WoW doesn’t get a Free Pass just because Blizzard made it.
I love the spectacle of the new player experience. I just think that, if anything, Blizzard will lose MORE new players with this new system since they hold the player’s hand too firmly and for too long. Most players (I think anyway) want some excitement in their games. They want to feel a sense of risk/reward. Take away the risk and it just feels boring. Remember as far as these new players know, this is the entire WoW experience.
Currently my new Druid is level 18 or 19 and still spamming 2-3 skills over and over again. Even when I deliberately ‘broke’ a quest (I left an instanced area prematurely) and got jumped by 4 mobs I wasn’t in any real danger, though I did have to self-heal. By doing just the quests you’re hand fed, you’re constantly 4 levels above the trash mobs and 2 above the named mobs. I don’t think at this point a new player would be learning very much. I *am* very interested to see how the game transitions from this hand-holding phase to “OK now you can go and make your own choices.” I hope they do it well.
Sure, give new players 2-3 hours of hand holding to get them started, but by the time the player has put in 5 hours (for normal people this is 2-3 evenings of play) they should start getting a sense of what the real gameplay is all about. At least, I think so.
When WoW subs shoot up to 22 million you can all say you told me so.