Whilst you enjoy your Invasion events, I have quite a lot of time for thinking. The Expansion we leave behind will not be remembered kindly by many of you. It asked a lot from players, though there will be those who will maintain that in reality, it never demanded enough. Having your daily life exactly regimented might be anathema to some, but for others it is a symptom of modern living: being able to plan ahead was what this Expansion defined going forward. Having a precise idea of what quest was ‘up’ on any given day? It might be depressing for some, but the salvation it gave to theirs going forward was palpable, and being able to track that going forward and planning your day accordingly?
Welcome to the Age of Proper Organisation.
I realise I can take a lot to blame for this change in outlook. One only has to look at how I prepped for the Fashonista achievement beforehand to understand that having certain key pieces of information available to you first hand makes for ridiculously simple pre-planning. The thing is, we’re all less edgy nowadays, having sold out to the data-mining gurus. It’s not like this is either bad or wrong either. It has become a so fact of the game’s existence that by allowing people to know stuff well ahead of time, there is less drama and issue when stuff eventually changes. A part of me may die inside when I grasp just how acceptable this has become as ‘gameplay’, but when your playing field is relaid on a two-yearly basis? It pays to know what you should be doing on it to make the most of your time.
However once Activision Blizzard finally grasped that telling us everything makes the surprise less surprising, everything changed.
The decision was made last year, before Warlords launched, to ‘leak’ all the relevant game cinematics well before release. The fact that this time, before the Invasion events, nobody else had seen them says to me that the lesson has been learnt: if you don’t want players to be spoilt, don’t spoil them. That might seem obvious from out here, but I genuinely think that at some point between Cataclysm and now the designers stopped thinking about surprise, and simply concentrated on mechanics. There’s nothing wrong with that outlook, after all, but ultimately for those of us who live, work and exist in Azeroth, just knowing everything isn’t the answer.
In fact, that’s the total opposite of what should make gaming entertaining.
There’s also an irony in the understanding that people complaining they weren’t in control any more is just ridiculous: the whole debacle on max camera distance is a beautiful metaphor for a company which only seeks to improve a product, but continually fails to understand the responses when they do. The change didn’t need to happen but came on the back of a larger project to improve the look of a 12 year old game. It was even sold as part of the Launch package back in August last year. Nobody however grasped that by improving one thing, something else would be come a fundamental issue. The fact it has taken weeks and not months for that change to revert (if only in part) speaks volumes about how much Activision Blizzard is now listening. However, as I hear said every Expansion, this kind of thing has been going on since TBC launched and it seems that the company still doesn’t grasp the issues.
Here’s where I personally step into this argument and make some observations of my own.
I may have some personal objections between the marriage of the game company with certain data-mining sites, and this might cause further concerns with objectivity, but in the end you cannot alter intractables. This is what it is now, like it or not, and without such developments one might argue the game would not have been able to move forward. Perhaps more now than at any point in its life span, Activision Blizzard understands the significance of appeasing a playerbase, but with Warcraft no longer as its key focus? The rules again will change. That’s quite crucial as a point to make: this is no longer one title holding together the Company. With 15 million Overwatch subscribers joyously announced all over social media following the latest Earnings call? There’s no Blue Riband for Warcraft in any of the current reporting. We are no longer the benchmark, just part of a stable. Yeah, this might be the stud horse that sired all the new mares that are racing off and scooping up the plaudits, but without solid breeding stock? You don’t build a dynasty.
Warcraft was the cash cow, prime breeding stud, the heart of the organization but the fact remains that it is no longer either needed or required to propel this company forward. There have been some key personnel changes in the last year: from high-profile personalities and front and center presentation, the title has stepped back from the limelight. No more is it about the ebullient individual presences, this is now a quiet and unassumingly united front. Warcraft’s certainly not been put out to pasture just yet, but if Legion does not perform, one has to wonder what happens next. Personally, I think more people would be better served to think less about the drama surrounding change and evolution, and simply focus on Azeroth itself.
When you remember this is just a game, a lot of other stuff becomes largely irrelevant.