It’s everywhere, myself, Kaozz, Void, Pitrelli, Spinks and many others are all suspecting something is amiss with Cataclysm… but no one can exactly tell you what. The game is suffering from a strange disease and we don’t know what it is. We see the victims, friends, family, bloggers, guild members who are quitting WoW after only a month and a half of Cataclysm.
The disease appeared with the release of Cataclysm yet if you ask any of them what’s wrong they will tell you that they love Cataclysm. We all welcome the increased difficulty and the return to a time where heroic mean heroic, where epics are not raining down the skies and where it takes some skill to accomplish something.
Yet, ever-increasing numbers of players are finding out they have no interest in WoW anymore and are cutting down on playtime or quitting altogether. I have been thinking hard for the past few days about what might be the cause and I believe I have found the answer. Let’s bring out the big white board and figure this out.
First clue: Heroics
What’s the first thing that everyone mention when they try to explain what demotivates them? Heroics. Heroics are at the core of every discussion about why someone is tired of WoW. Time and difficulty are the two recurring causes given yet I do not believe them to be the cause. Rather, I think we’re looking at symptoms of the disease, important clues but not the real culprit. A lot of quitting players have been playing since release and remember very well the difficulty and how much time instances required. In fact, they welcome it…
Another important clue about heroics is that people in well organised groups are not suffering from the disease. That would seem to indicate time and difficulty again but the patient faced such challenges in the past… Still, the fact that one has to PuG or not seems to have a direct effect on the disease.
So what does non-Puggers have besides time and difficulty that Puggers don’t have? Control over their chances of success. By choosing with who you team with you know what your chances of success are and you have some control over them. In a pug, you lose all control on success and by the same token the time and difficulty of the heroic can be greatly augmented(or diminished if lucky). But the important point is that it’s not up to you.
Second clue: Changes to guild dynamics
If there is one big thing that Cataclysm has brought to the meta game of WoW is the way guild works and how we relate to them. Blizzard has made clear on many occasion that they want us to group together in order to overcome challenges. I’m going to quote Ghostcrawler here:
World of Warcraft supports a lot of solo play. However, we want dungeons to be a group experience. In fact, we think the game is more fun overall when you play with friends, which is why we put so much effort into encouraging players to join guilds for Cataclysm. Running a hard dungeon with friends tends to be a much better experience. Communication feels less awkward, and everyone is generally more supportive of mistakes. You learn the strengths and weaknesses and nuances of players that you run with regularly. There tend to be fewer loot arguments as well. PUGs have their place — don’t get me wrong. But we don’t want to sacrifice dungeons being fun and challenging for organized groups in order to have everything be conquered by any possible group. Make sense?
To make it short, they think that we need to group up more and that we need to get together in guilds. If you don’t join a guild big enough to run heroics or raids at a pace that suits you then you are faced with a simple choice. Either join a guild that can or be done with your progression on that character. Of course, joining a guild that runs heroics also means abiding by the rules of said guilds and that might be rules you’re not interested in.
Blizzard purposefully restricted the possible playstyles in order to encourage grouping. Unless you want to play absolutely alone and don’t want to progress far, you will have to join in Blizzard new vision of group play. We don’t lose all our options of course and someone stubborn enough will always find a way around but for most people who want to enjoy the game without fighting the system, we just lost some control over our play style.
Third clue: The new leveling experience
What else changed with Cataclysm that could explain our mysterious design? The leveling experience of course! Ask yourself this: Do you look forward releveling a character from 80 to 85 in the expansion zones? No? Why?
Could it be because you would have to the same quests in the same order in the exact same way? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
I don’t remember wich developer said it and when(would be grateful is someone know the reference), but I remember him saying that they made the new leveling experience so that players wouldn’t be lost. They wanted it to be clear how to progress through the game, what to do and when. Every step of the way you’re being told exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
Do you see a theme emerging that could point to our mysterious disease?
The disease revealed! Lack of choice and control!
Blizzard wanted to make sure nobody would ever be lost in the complicated world that is a MMO. You are handheld every step of the way, told how to do things and even how you should play.
Want to beat heroics? Join a bigger guild. Want to experiment with your character? No need, we’ll tell you everything you need to know. Want to explore the world? Sure, just follow the dotted path! From level 1 to 85 everything is scripted now. No choice, no control over your own character. The defining trait of an MMO is to be in an open world with other players. They removed the open world and turned WoW into an online shooter.
Heroics are only the most prominent symptom but the more you look the more you see the same pattern. Blizzard telling us how to play their game and leaving less and less to the player. If the Blizzard approved pattern fits you to a T then it’s a perfect world. If not…
PS: Askimet seems to have gone berserk with posts recentely and quite a few comments were flagged as spam wich obviously were not. I am keeping a close eye on the spam filter and making sure your comments make it. Thank you for your understanding.