I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about WoD who are unable to put a handle on exactly what is wrong with it. I’ve also seen numerous people complaining about the complaints, saying that they don’t understand what the problem is. So, in an effort to bridge the divide, I offer you one of my trademarked long-winded sermons/open letters to Blizzard. Enjoy.
First off, let me quash the ridiculous notion that the complainers are being wishy-washy. With very few exceptions, the people complaining about sitting around in their garrisons with nothing to do aren’t the ones who were sitting in one spot in a city to queue for things in MoP (and before). In years past, they (we) would queue for some group content (heroics, LFR) and then do some solo content to fill the queue time. We could fly around and gather resources, or do dailies, or archeology, or pet battles while waiting on the queue to pop. This minimized downtime and maximized efficiency, keeping us busy and productive while we waited. It was a good model.
The problem is that now, in WoD, most of those options have dried up. Yes, there is a recurring theme here regarding the loss of flight, and it is a major reason why the current model is bad, but it isn’t the only one.
- There is no reason to leave the garrison to gather resources. The resources you gather from the mine and herb garden are sufficient for most people’s needs, especially if you have multiple garrisons (alts can get a productive level 2 garrison as early as 91/92). Add on to this the slow, tedious, and inefficient nature of ground travel through terrain designed specifically to waste your time and “making do” with what your garrison gives you is the least painful choice.
- There is only one mainstream PVE daily available (the Apexis daily), and although this daily can suck up more time than a single MoP daily did, it isn’t likely to be sufficient to fill up your entire queue time for even a single LFR/heroic. Combine this with the fact that the quickest/easiest way to do this daily is to form a group (which throws a wrench in the works regarding queuing for anything, anyway) and you have another recipe for disaster. The content has no self-synergy.
- Archeology, wild pet battles, and gathering suck without flight. These activities were designed with free and open access to the world in mind. They are spread out across vast spaces, often tucked into little nooks or crannies, frequently in hard to reach places, and almost always occur in spaces filled with trivial mobs. The problem is, we no longer have unfettered access to the world. Without flight, travel is gimped and you spend longer getting around and trying to do the content than you spend actually doing the content.
- There are only 6 pet trainer quests (MoP had 11, not counting Beasts of Fable, Timeless Isle, or the PVP quest). Despite the fact that Pandaria was bigger and had nearly double the trainers, both continents take roughly an hour to complete. Inefficiency in action, right there. I’m completing half the amount of content I used to in the same amount of time because the designed inefficiency is doing its job and wasting my time on travel and trivial combat. The problem is I’m smart enough to know it and I resent the hell out of it.
That’s basically the problem in a nutshell. The effort-to-reward ratio is off. Inefficiency may not be the worst thing in the world, but it’s not a pleasant sensation. After I’ve spent an hour playing a game (one that is ostensibly for recreation) the last thing I want to feel is wasteful. Happy, productive, bad-ass, even pleasantly drained? Sure. But angry, wasteful, incompetent, and annoyed? Not the right direction, Blizz. I’m not opposed to the principle of having to work a little to get the reward, but this is a *game* not a second job. Currently we’re expending more effort than the fun is worth.
So, since you didn’t seem to get the right message, Blizz, let me spell it out for you. People didn’t complain in MoP because there were too many dailies and rep quests available. No, really, they didn’t. They complained because dailies and rep were too necessary to progression. They might have said “OMG, too many dailies,” but what they meant was “I don’t like that the only way to spend currency I’ve already worked to earn is to unlock reputation vendors by doing even more work.” That’s the effort-to-reward ratio coming into play again. No one would have cared that there were half a dozen factions with half a dozen quests each day if you didn’t have to grind rep with all of those factions in order to spend your JP/VP and get gear. It was the amount of gating that bothered people, not the amount of content. Guess what? You replaced the content with still more gating and expected this to somehow fix things. Seriously, Blizzard, if you aren’t trolling your playerbase, then you have some of the most insanely incompetent employees conceivable.
At the end of the day, what most players (heck, most people in general) want is options. Let us choose whether we want to do rep by grinding mobs, running dungeons, completing quests, or some mix of all of them. Let us choose whether to gather resources from the garrison or out in the world (instead of giving us free resources to replace mining and herbalism). If nothing else, we’ll feel better about the whole thing because we will feel involved in the process and empowered by our decisions. It seems like you must at least be aware of this concept because you gave lip service to the idea, but you failed to deliver on it. We were promised interesting choices, but we were given a game with only one track and the rails weren’t even hidden.
This game has some of the best story/lore and art to date. Really. It’s been an absolute joy watching the story unfold. I feel attached to the characters, and for the first time I feel like my character is actually an important part of the world in which he lives. The artwork and the voice-acting are superb. The landscape, the models, and the cinematics are breathtaking. Heavily stylized, yes, but visually stunning, nonetheless. Some of the new technologies you have developed or implemented are truly extraordinary. Phasing has come a long way. I love watching my actions change the world. (Hey, those monsters I killed are still dead and the encampment I saved /built is still alive and flourishing.) There is a lot of good to love about this expansion. Yet, somehow, you’ve managed to take all of that and turn it into one of the worst expansions ever because of bad/incompetent choices regarding game design.
The most earnest and heartfelt advice I can give you, Blizzard, is simply this: Get out of your own way. Do what people like George Lucas and J.K. Rowling could not do. Set aside your ego, and your feeling of artistic entitlement, and realize that you are not bigger than your creation. Sometimes you have to sell the product your customers want instead of the one you had envisioned. That’s ok, though. Some of the greatest icons in the history of popular culture have been the result of collaboration and compromise. Superman, Wolverine, Mickey Mouse, Luke Skywalker? These characters are not who or what their creators originally intended them to be, but all of them are far better because of it.
Be bold, Blizzard, and take my advice. Build us a world and let us choose how to play in it. That’s all we want. Just give us a playground and stand back. We don’t need a teacher with a stopwatch standing over us, rotating through the swings, the slide, and the monkey bars on a strict schedule. This expansion has great potential, but the presentation and implementation has really sucked the joy out of it. It’s not too late to fix it, though. When the quarterly report comes in and your 10 millions subscribers has dwindled back down below the 7.4 million you started with, just stop and remember that it is not the artist that we love, but rather the art he makes. Then make the game worth playing again.