I had a really interesting conversation this morning with @BellularGaming about a subject which seems to come up with the regularity of each new patch: what drives people from Azeroth. 7.2 has been the first patch since launch where it’s become acceptable to say out loud that the best Expansion that Activision Blizzard has ever made for the franchise might not be all that. In fact, if the number of people I’ve seen on their personal feeds bemoaning how the Timeless Jungle Island has destroyed their enjoyment of gameplay is any indicator? All is not well for a portion of the player base. If this were a revelation to me, I’d be shouting it from the rooftops, but I’m here to remind everybody that what you think is somehow a revelation has happened before, but the reason as to why remains unlearned.
As predictable as a new Tier, you can guarantee that for some players, change is harsh.
I’ve touched already this week on how damaging the transition was between Vanilla and The Burning Crusade for a lot of people, so much so that they left and never returned. I know a remarkable number of casualties from that first transition, too: those who were comfortable with exactly what they’d been given and never asked for the change. Level 60 was quite enough, because it had granted a mastery of all things that would utterly ruined if the slate was wiped clean. All the achievements that would be effectively negated, time required to get to the next level of competence… and for some, it was simply too much. With the current situation on the Broken Shore, even the lure of specific buffs and access to Challenges has not acted as incentive to play for many, because yet again, that mathematical ‘achievement’ slate has been redefined. Whatever the Infographics might tell you, power-based progression is not proving popular with everybody.
135,000 people with a skin after two weeks live says that yeah, this was only ever gonna be a breeze at launch for a tiny proportion of the player base, especially as these skins are supposed to be one of the major selling points of the Expansion. There’s also some fairly significant mathematical fail going on here according to Mr Alt, who knows his shit. According to him there’s in fact a 0.888% success rate for characters using the figures available, which should mean that about 475k should be wielding a new skin and not 135k. In the most basic terms, however, if only that number were able to secure their Challenge objective, that means a MASSIVE 15025000 attempts were a waste of time.
Yet again, the only way you ‘win’ is via Power and Gear. The only successful path is via elements that many simply don’t have the time for or increasingly resent grinding when they will be negated a patch later. As I have no real interest in what my Artifact looks like, I’m not really able to comment as target audience anyway. I get why people love this shit, and quite obviously the success is fabulous when you look at it from the right spot, but if all you’re still doing is logging in twice a week to raid and treading water until the Tomb of Sargeras opens, World Content is NOT doing the business. If one of the Company’s most vocal supporters is prepared to post this regarding upcoming content without prejudice I think that maybe, there is an important point being missed:
This is the THIRD TIME we’ve been given a static base of operations, four if you go back and include the Isle of Thunder and for some, that’s more than enough. This game has lost an important component somewhere between Pandaria and now: the bolt on, pre-constructed and almost modular nature of the game play elements on show here may save time in deploying the content, but they don’t provide role play or adventure elements, and they’re certainly not as exciting (for me at least) as designing your own outfits. It’s that classic RTS verses Aesthetic argument that’s been had on this website since they introduced Pet Battling for the first time: how much do people want to play what they are given and what now should be in the players hands to dictate? What 7.2.5 (and 7.1.5) have been pitched as is the ‘experimental’ content that won’t upset the apple cart of raiding and progression. The problem now is that unless that ‘reliable’ backbone of grinding until reset can keep doing the business, there’s the possibility of losing players who may never come back again.
The fact remains, all these arguments (or versions thereof) happened in previous Expansions, and we’re still here. In fact, if I’m honest, I could be sitting here and typing this and it could be the months before Wrath, or indeed Cataclysm. Very little changes in the design mentality, and that might yet be the biggest single obstacle to allowing Warcraft to settle into a second decade without fear. If your Dance Studio idea only now made it to the light of day because it’s inescapable that aesthetics really are a big part of the future?
It could be time to leave the RTS elements in the past, once and for all.