I think Blizzard needs to think things over before doing such dramatic changes on such a constant basis. Heroics are hard…. Heroics are not hard! Over complicating stats, combining stats…. It gets to a point where it feels like we’re dealing with one of those plastic surgery addicts… We never know what things are going to look like after going under the knife so many times. With each patch and expansion I feel like I recognize my characters less and less.
In a lot of ways, this quote sums up the feeling I’ve been having about WoW since Wrath of the Lich King. It’s not that change is bad in itself but when you keep changing something over and over and over again at some point you change the game so much it becomes unrecognizable from what it originally was.
Case in point, when I started playing WoW back in Vanilla I do so with quite a few friends. There were 11 of us to be exact. Out of those 11 people, only I still play WoW. With one exception for drama, the 9 other people all left for the same reason. Something changed about the game that they really didn’t enjoy and that caused them to leave. For example, a close friend of mine had a hunter and a Paladin and at some point he just got tired of having his classes experimented upon and gave up.
Creating an abomination
In a lot of ways, I feel like Blizzard has been playing mad scientist with WoW for quite a while. Just take the raid size and lockouts for example. They moved from 40 to BC model of 10 for some raids and 25 for the others. Then, they did both 10/25 versions of all the raids but with separate lockouts and gear and now they share the same lockout and gear. Another good example would be the constant changes to the Paladin class since launch.
I know that this kind of design is called Iterative design. In short, you improve slowly upon a concept until you reach the best result. However there’s a trap to Iterative design which is that you can reach a point where your final product is entirely different from the original need. For example, if you design a car and you end up with an airplane, chances are you lost your way somewhere and even if you think a plane is way cooler than a car, if the client wanted a car he won’t like the airplane much.
What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not about whether the idea is a great one or a bad one. I’m not saying either Blizzard shouldn’t try to improve the game. I’m saying that there’s a trap in all of this and I think Blizzard may have fallen for it. By keeping experimenting with WoW, they are turning it into some sort of Frankenstein monster and every time they add a new arm or leg, a few more player get disgusted by the creature and leave.
And very much like the mad scientists of B movie, Blizzard is exulting in their new “perfect” creation without realizing that outside the castle, more and more peasants are picking up torches and pitchforks.
Calming down a bit
I’ll admit, I used exaggeration a bit in the above post to make it a more enjoyable read but I’d like to take the time to make sure everyone understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that changes to WoW are bad in themselves. For all I know, the upcoming changes in patch 5.0 could very well be excellent decisions from a mechanics standpoint. Stat squishing or Mega damage might not sound like a ton of fun but you get that it’s becoming necessary to change some things about that.
What I’m saying is that the constant changes and experimentation done with WoW are changing the very nature of the game and that is one of the reasons why people are quitting or complaining loudly. To give an example I’m going to talk about Star Wars NGE. Star Wars NGE (New game experience) was an attempt to make the old Star Wars MMO more appealing to a larger audience and get more profit out of a game that wasn’t doing that great. NGE literally turned the game upside down and turned out to be a disaster.
I know from someone who took classes to become a video game designer that the NGE is taught to student as the perfect example of what not to do with a MMO. While the changes in NGE were on paper good ideas, it alienated the remaining players who loved things the way they were and it failed to draw in new players, leaving the game in a very sorry state.
This is what I’m getting at here. It’s not about whether the changes are good on paper or not. It’s about how they change the way you play the game. The more you change the player experience, the more you risk turning away players who loved to thinker with talents tree, who loved to carry arrows arround because it felt more like a living game to them and you risk turning away players who loved their WoW with a darker tone.