Maybe it’s just me.
As I play through the Wrath of the Lich King, I keep feeling… “So, where do we go from here?”
What’s funny is, nothing really has changed in the game. Not in terms of having things to do. There seems to be no valid reason to have any complaints at all, at all.
In the first expansion, a new continent was added, the level cap was raised, new factions were added along with new gear for those factions, a new Profession was added, existing Professions had tons of new recipes to level through, new specialties for Professions were added, many new instances were created, Heroic modes were added for those instances once you reached the level cap, and new raids to move through after that came into play. The first raid was made HUGE and had a player requirement that most guilds could meet, even if the rest of the raiding environment was too difficult or too time consuming. Daily Quests were added as a source of income and rep gain.
It was a major success. The feel was… epic. Just epic. Even a year and a half after the expansion had been released, there was STILL stuff to do, and have fun.
Part of that, of course, was the addition of new content periodically, such as the Sunwell Plateau. But we still found ourselves loving Karazhan, and the new Badge rewards, and PvP, and Zul’Aman timed events, and so on. Epic.
So, how is Wrath any different?
A new continent was added, one that feels even larger than Outlands. And can I say, I LOVE not having the entire stupid science fiction aspect in my fantasy game? I love science fiction, sure, but if you want to add sci-fi to an MMO, Blizzard, please make Universe of Starcraft and let me play a Terran Firebat, okay? Okay, nuff said. Continuing on, the level cap was raised, new factions were added along with new gear for those factions, a new Profession was added, existing Professions had new recipes to level through, new instances were created, Heroic modes were added for those instances once you reached the level cap, and new raids to move through after that came into play. The first raid was made HUGE and had a player requirement that most guilds could meet, even if the rest of the raiding environment was too difficult or too time consuming. And new Daily Quests were available for income and rep gains.
In fact, all raids are supposed to have a 10 man component that makes them much more accessible, far more craftable BoE Epics were added, daily quests for Professions were added, some quest chains had new in-game cinematics, the graphics of gear were improved across the board, zones were designed with the idea that you could fly built right in, such as Icecrown, and lots of small touches were added like toys for mini-pets, cooking quests, motorcycles with sidecars, and new quest types that included controlling vehicles and flyin dragons to rain fire and destruction on the earth, and perform dragon versus draqon aerial combat.
So, how could anyone possibly feel like the game is less now than it was before?
Well, all I can do is go by how I feel in the game.
The first thing I feel is that we now have one continent too many.
When we had Azeroth and Outlands, we complained about having to return to Azeroth every time we wanted to interact with the Auction House. There were plenty of other reasons to go to Azeroth, we had the Sunwell Isle, the Caverns of Time, Zul’Aman in the Ghostlands and Karazhan in the Pass. We complained about the Auction House being Azeroth-only, but there were still plenty of reasons to pop back to Azeroth for other things. There still felt like reasons for returning. And a Community Moderator informed us that the AH was in Azeroth to force us to visit the old capital cities, so they felt vital and alive for new players, instead of a vast ghost town.
Most of us made bank alts to hang out in the main cities and interact with the AH, mailed our stuff to them, and moved on.
In Wrath, we have the exact same situation, no Auction House on Northrend. Still. But where there is a reason for returning to Azeroth once in a while, the single Caverns of Time instance, we now have almost zero other reason to return… and try as I might, I can think of no reason to ever return to Outlands. The continent of Burning Crusade is dead as a doornail, unless you are trying to level a Death Knight.
It does not feel as though we ADDED Northrend to the game, adding content. Instead, it feels like we replaced Outlands with Northrend. Outlands are now this slum part of the city nobody visits unless there is one specific thing they wanted… then they go get it and get the heck back out again. Outlands serves no purpose except as a place to level through as soon as possible to get to Northrend… and then, the vast majority of players there are Death Knights.
Which brings me to my second point, which is that Burning Crusade was out long enough that the majority of players that wanted alts, had plenty of time to level ALL of them to 70 AND get them decent gear. I started late, having stuck with my Druid for ever and ever, and I still managed to get a Hunter and a Priest to 70 and raid with all three 70s long enough to get them all Exalted with Violet Eye, AND get a Shaman to the mid 50s. Sure, there may very well be new players all the time, but seriously… how many folks are starting ANY alt except a Death Knight now?
And Death Knights start at 55, and leave their starter zone at 58… able to enter Outlands directly from Eastern Plaguelands, never having to step foot in Azeroth except to say ‘hail to the chief’.
I don’t know how your guild rosters look these days, but I’d say a solid 30% of our online players in the guild at any given time are Death Knights. This has created a noticeable imbalance in the tank/melee DPS ratio to healers and ranged, because the general consensus is that DKs are a lot of fun to play… which is great, but it certainly underscores how rare any alt other than a Death knight is.
I don’t particularly care how having so many Death Knights will affect raiding composition in the future, but it is a contributing factor in making me feel that the alt game is slowly dying. With experienced players having the ability to instantly create a level 55 Death Knight for the alt urge or to learn a new Profession, who exactly wants to go back and redo the 1 to 55 level game? Especially after having had so much time to level alts already? And how will new players feel when they create their new level 1 main character, and enter an empty world… until they reach level 10 to 12, enter their starting zone’s capital city, and experience the joys of Trade Chat for the first time?
Let’s move on to point number three… the depth of the game.
In Burning Crusade, the Professions added a ton of new recipes, and some seriously amazing items… most of which you had to actually HAVE the Profession to enjoy, and even after crafting the item, you had to keep the Profession to equip it. Most of the desirable recipes were either random world drops, stupidly difficult reputation rewards, or rare drops in high end raids.
And there were many complaints.
The funny thing is, though, that the system catered to the collector in all of us. No matter how good you were, there was a recipe, somewhere, that MIGHT drop that would be a ‘oooh’ item for someone. For most collectors, it is the hunt, the chase for that elusive item, that keeps the blood pumping.
In Wrath, we got what many of us had asked for. The recipes that people will want are accessible to everyone based not on random chance, but on time and effort. You want that Jewelcrafting recipe? Then put in the time to do the daily quest, and you are guaranteed to get it eventually. Want that Enchanting recipe? Disenchant enough Blue items and you can buy it with Dream Shards. Want to make craftable BoE Epic leather? Pick up some Arctic Furs off the AH and buy the recipe you want, when you are ready.
It’s great for everyone that has a Profession and is in a small guild, or is in a big guild where someone else on raids is the designated ‘Profession Drop’ person. No more trying desperately to find that one person on the server that got the Recipe drop you want, no more feeling that there is only one person in a guild that you go to for an item. And the mat cost is also easy to obtain, all you need is gold. Want that Epic? not only is the recipe obtainable, but the modern equivalent of the Heroic Drop, the Frozen Orb, drops often and is easily obtainable on the AH.
But… the hunt, the chase for that rare recipe, it’s gone. The need to run a instnace to get that special mat to craft it… it’s gone too. In many cases, there may even be a feeling that there is no reason at all to go past a certain point in a Profession, because there is nothing special waiting at the ‘end of the rainbow’.
Cooking is the most blatant example, with most recipes turning green at 425, and nothing new to get after that. Each Profession is now very nice to have for it’s own reasons… but once you have it, and you’ve leveled it, if you get the recipes you want from the trainer and the vendor, you’re done. There is no need to lift your view from Dalaran, and eye the array of instances and raids open to you in search of the next recipe to add to your collection. A handful of reputation recipes is about it.
I think that is enough for you to see where I’m going with it.
There is more to do in Northrend, and everything that has been provided to us in the expansion has been done with an eye towards learning from the past, and fine tuning everything to be smarter, more accessible, and special. Quests, professions, mini-pets, daily quests, factions, graphics… there are no missteps here at all.
But the difference between Northrend and Outlands, to me, is that the player base is two years older at the core, two years wiser to the rules of the game, and two years more advanced in completing content. Towards the end of Burning Crusade, leveling was accelerated to keep folks interested, keep them in the game long enough for Northrend to give us all something new to do, but has ended up with everyone bunched up at the same starting line, looking for the referee to shout ‘Go!’.
And everyone is leveling at their own pace, but we all started at the same point, and it’s not that far to reach the finish line. Even the slowest among us will be hitting max level by the end of January, even if you are flipping back and forth with two or three characters.
So after everyone on the server is 80 in month or two… what will we have to keep us interested in the game?
The same things as before. Raids. Heroic instances. Crafting and Professions. Daily quests. PvP. Alts.
So, my thought is… is there enough depth to Northrend, enough depth to Professions, enough depth to existing instances, and enough fun in PvP and raids to keep all these hordes of level 80s going?
And for how long? Three more months? Six? A year?
Is there enough depth to the game to keep non-25 man raiders going for six more months? If the next patch brings another raid, Ulduar, but has no other content, no other recipes or instances or quests, will Northrend continue to satisfy?
I have to tell you, I don’t personally think so. I think the initial rush is going to be over soon… soon in MMO game terms, maybe two or three months. The first character will hit 80. Then that one will work on Professions and instances and raid, while an alt gets leveled.
But six months down the road, with all alts at 80, all Professions maxed, all desired BoE epics acquired, and the choices being narrowed to raiding, running instances, PvPing, or leveling an alt in the wasteland of Azeroth from level 1… I think it’s going to slow way the heck down. There will always be players that will hang on forever, just look at Everquest 1 or Star Wars Galaxies.
But I honestly think that, as things stand, give it six more months and people are going to wander away. A lot. Especially non-Raiders.
I’m very curious to see where we go from here. Very, very curious.
If I have one thought about this, it would be to hope that Blizzard has given some thought to revitalizing all of the old content, slapping it with a fresh coat of paint.
Yes, they removed requirements for many things to make it easier to get a group to do… things like removing the need for Aqual Quintessence to take on Ragnaros in Molten Core, or needing the Urn to summon Nightbane in Karazhan. Things to encourage folks to go back into old world content that they hadn’t seen before, and for folks that are too lazy or busy with other things to grind those old quests or reputation chains to get those items.
But the one thing they haven’t done is give us a new reason to go back to old world raids, other than seeing the content. Seeing Molten Core brought my guild in there, but that only happened once. Onyxia, we did a few times. UBRS, the same. Especially for the Jenkins titles.
But if they add that one special element to the old raids and content that people pretend they are above caring about, the LOOT, then you’d see some actual running of the stuff.
What is the number one area I’ve seen people return to in old content, time after time after time?
Two reasons; seeking the rare Tiger mount, and trying to get the Turtle polymorph spell.
Does anyone try to get the faction rewards for ZG? No.
But if they added a new faction for the old raids, a new faction that had relevant rewards for level 80s, perhaps like the new Bind on Account items to give to your alts… if there were bind on account drops added to the boss loot tables… or things 80s would love, like new mounts, new spells like Polymorph: Rabbit, new quest rewards for the new faction… well then.
Even more fun… what if there was a single massive quest chain added, unifying all the old world raids?
A quest chain that required you to collect a drop from each end boss of each raid, in order to follow the quest, and in the end, you would gain a bind on account legendary item that would be tied to a title like the current Achievement for completing them all? Perhaps you could earn a token letting you buy one legendary bind on account item for every time you completed the entire chain, that looked as sweet as the Death Knight weapons, and scaled in power for your characters.
If you knew, knew going into Molten Core, that not only were you entering a massive raid with lots of history to it, but that you could earn a new faction rep that had recipes or items to get, and you had the chance to get a drop that would be actually worth having, do you think you would be more excited to go? Or maybe knew that there was a mount that you had a reasonable chance to get, or a new class specific item or spell?
You wouldn’t need to make a heroic mode of the raids… maybe tune things up a bit to compensate for 80s, but people already try and run them with as few people as possible, to maximize drops. I don’t think level of difficulty for stuff tuned for 40 level 60s is that big an issue.
There are just so many ways to revitalize the old content… and I think, honestly, that something will have to happen by July, or we are going to see some serious issues.