This post was written on Thursday evening. I’m going to sit on it when it’s done, and I know going in that, like many other posts of mine, this draft has about a 80% chance of deletion. I’m going to write it all down now, and I’ll see how I feel about it after a few days.
Blizzcon 2010 has started!
As the long string of excited posts about everything from loot bags to food carts goes up on WoW Insider, I have a confession to make.
I don’t feel like excited or enthusiastic about playing World of Warcraft anymore.
I still log in. Then I stare blankly at the character log in screen.
Who to choose?
If I’m by myself, the answer is, nobody.
I have not a single ounce of interest in any of them… except for my Mage.
Why am I still interested in my Mage?
Because when I play my Mage, I’m playing with Cassie.
This effect, the feeling of fun while playing with Cassie, believe it or not, can be duplicated with a boardgame. I don’t need WoW to have fun spending time with my wife.
So, WoW has gone from being a value added part of the family experience, to being something that just doesn’t sound like fun.
Is it the blahs?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. Or at least, not only the blahs. But it could be. Maybe it is.
If I’m going to be perfectly honest with myself, I think part of it is that the game has been out for a very long time, and yet with every big expansion it’s the same old, tired story.
Well, all right, other expansions have come and gone, why should this one feel any different?
During previous bug-filled unbalanced pre-Expansion patch releases, my enthusiasm for the promise of the game, the potential it holds, would keep me logging in and see me through the bad times until the fun returned.
Is that it? My enthusiasm has aged like a bad cheese; it’s gotten crumbly and easily broken.
I really liked class-specific quests. I loved the Druid flight form quest line. I’ve enjoyed every quest line for every class i have chosen to play; it’s been one of the big “replay value” aspects of the game. As has there being two separate factions with different starting areas to play through. Now the class specific content is gone. The reverse of what I want…. instead of there being more class specific content to give me an additional reason to enjoy leveling different characters, now the existing ones are gone, too. So, when you play an Alliance character… that’s it. You’ve seen it all.
Or is it the bugs?
Oh my, yes. The bugs. That is a major part of it. But not just the existence of bugs, it’s more what the bugs the patch incorporated represents for me about Blizzard’s changing attitudes.
What positive things have come from the release of the Patch into the game? There were quite a lot. Revamped Talent trees, new play mechanics for many classes, expanded stables and trap launcher for every kind of trap, and, well, a few other things. Sure.
Then I balance that with it’s polar opposite;
What negative things have come from the release of the patch into the game?
I’m not going to list them all. It’s so subjective, isn’t it? How emotionally affected you may feel by the bugs you encounter in different from anothers. One person’s major frustration at getting D/Ced in instances is anothers “butch up, Sally”.
What it comes down to, for me, is that the benefits gained from implementing the patch WHEN IT WAS, the new Hunter stable slots and Talent trees and all sorts of cool little things, were outweighed by the negatives incurred by implementing it before it was done. Before it was stable. Before the beta component of testing was complete.
The point to logging in, for me, is to actually play the game as a form of entertainment. Adding stress for any reason OTHER than pulse-pounding internet dragon killing excitement is NOT the kind of stress I’m looking for.
The condition of the game before the patch was such that I could reliably log in and play a stable game. I could plan to do something, with the serene confidence that I’d be able to do so, including coordinate a massive in-game event without having to worry about sudden chaos-causing problems such as when everyone that tries to click on a Mage portal to Dalaran or Shattrath gets disconnected every single time they click on the portal. Not to, like, bring up any real life examples or anything.
The condition of the game after the patch is that I may intend to do something, but chances are good something somewhere is going to crash or have issues. Issues I’ll have to work around or find a fix for, and if I’m in a group, I’ll likely find the group fall apart before everyone gets back to a stable environment.
I’m too tired to deal with Vanilla WoW stability issues. This stuff was fixed. We were past this point. We had lots of problems, but we endured them and moved past them. We were all good, ‘sup?
I’m sure that my exhaustion with current content is a good portion of the problem. I had a far worse experience just prior to Burning Crusade being released, being hacked and all my Druid’s raiding gear being deleted and not ever getting it back two months before BC came out, and all. But I stuck it out then, and it all turned out fine eventually.
Even at the height of the instance zoning problem, when you simply were not allowed to play in instances because too many other people were already playing and having fun, I did not feel quite as tired of all the sillyness as I do now. I was not as close to canceling my account as I am right now.
It really is the buggy state of Patch 4.0.1, and when and how it was released. The timing of it. I just don’t see any excuse for it.
It’s not a slap in the face. There are no histrionics here. It’s just that it’s a videogame I’m paying a continuing fee to play that feels like I can’t really play it now without wondering what problem I’ll hit up next.
I’ve got console games, and you know, I never have to worry if the developer is gonna change something up on those that’ll make it so what I used to play will sudden;y stop working, or crash when I do x. Worst I gotta worry about is that my disc gets scratched and will stop reading.
This ain’t world peace or a cure for cancer we’re playing. It’s a video game. It’s no big deal, but I have to decide, is the ennui I feel, and my general falling trust in Blizzard’s attention to providing a quality release product, combining to mean that i should save my money anc cancel my subscription and not pay money to buy Cataclsym? Why through good money after bad?
I’m not a zombie, or a fanatic. I didn’t drink any kool-aid, and I’m not going to follow slavishly anywhere Blizzard chooses to follow.
And there’s an old saying that’s applicable… don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.
When the class specific quests have been brought up in the past, one common Blizzard response has been that coding quests costs resources, and those resources are better used in creating quests that all players will get to experience.
To which I reply, Blizzard is receiving an immense amount of capitol from our monthly subscription fees. We pay money for the game, and we pay money for the expansions, and on top of that we pay a monthly subscription fee for server maintenance and new content.
The Blizzard response implies resources for coding are finite. You can do either X OR Y, but not both.
My response, take some of the subscription capital, and instead of spending our WoW payments on funding your new MMO, use some of it to hire MORE RESOURCES, and code BOTH kinds of quests. Hire 5 more people and have ‘em code class quests. Add the resources to the project.
OR… stop using that bullshit excuse, and admit that you don’t want to spend the money to invest in that segment of the game, even though it helps to differentiate the feel of the various classes and extends replay value, keeping existing customers in the game for longer periods of time.
If you don’t find value in it, say so and be honest. When you use bullshit excuses, all I do is laugh at the corp-speak.
You don’t have the resources? Really? Wow. I feel very sad about your incredibly poor financial condition. I regret that WoW is not a money-making enterprise for you. I am sad that we are a burden on your bottom line.
That was BS customer speak, by the way. Two can play that game, and neither is very helpful to actually communicating.
I sometimes feel like the last sane person on the boat.
It’s Blizzcon. I mentioned that at the start.
Blizzard employees, while you head on out to your huge event celebrating what awesome rockstar gods you are, as your legions of fans pour their undying love and devotion all over you, as the horde screams out their adoration and chants your names, as queues form to meet you and beg for autographs, I am here to whisper in your ear on your chariot ride to the senate;
Blizzard, it’s a videogame. A very good videogame, but still a videogame. And at the moment, it’s a pretty broken game. Don’t shatter your arm patting yourself on the back.
You’re only as good as the quality of your product, and if you keep going on this route, releasing content before the bugs are actually worked out, you’re likely to find out that the lesson of Star Wars Galaxies and the NGE can be applied to other companies, too.
WoW, in my opinion, and boy this whole post is only my opinion, is one of the most impressive achievements in gaming technology. How incredible is it that the game has kept my interest, and the interest of other players, for years. Not months, but YEARS. Sure, a good part of that is carefully timed content patches and new expansions, but it’s still an incredible achievement.
But it is still a videogame. It’s a product. We are still your paying customers.
We are not your tax paying citizens, and you are not our kings and queens. We are not reduced to flinging poo while we toil in your fields, without choice as to the disposition of our monthly funds.
We can emigrate at will. We don’t even have to pack up our furniture and haul it away on a burro.
I just keep asking myself, why? The game isn’t even remotely stable now. It was pretty rock solid before the patch.
What is the definition of a beta? Ain’t it, “something not yet ready for release”?
The patch was not ready for release. And yet, released it was, and it’s live, and we’re dealing with it…
But why? Was it to give us something new and shiny to keep us logging in that little bit further, get us over that last hump before the Cataclysm where a lot of people might have canceled their account for one month until new stuff was available?
I don’t care. Machiavellian scheme, incompetence, poor managerial decisions pushed by a rigidly adhered-to marketing timeline, I honestly don’t care.
What I care about is that I’m a customer… and a stable piece of software I’m in the habit of using regularly has had a patch pushed to it that has broken many aspects of it until, not that I can’t use it, but that I don’t emotionally FEEL like I want to use it anymore.
There was a time when every game that was released was pretty much a beta version, and the first thing you had to do to even get a playable build was go online for the patches. Then along came a company called Blizzard.
In that era, Blizzard made a name for itself by responding to media questions asking for a release date with the answer “We’ll release it when it’s ready.”
That was so amazing, that a release of software would be pushed back, delaying profits, just so it was released in finished form. How ballsy! How… how respectable.
It seemed to be an indication that Blizzard was a company led with integrity. I for one responded with my consumer loyalty. There hasn’t been a single product Blizzard has sold that I haven’t purchased. Okay, except for some of the Trading Card game stuff, and some of the models.
I’m sorry to say it, almost as much as I’m sorry to feel this way. But this Blizzard ain’t that the one I gave my consumer loyalty to, the one that I had confidence in. Not anymore.
There’s honestly nothing else out there remotely like WoW.
More interesting to me, there CAN never be another game that could capture my heart the way World of Warcraft did. I won’t be writing a blog gushing over the next video game. WoW has always been something special, but aside from that, WoW came along at a time when the MMO world was still pretty new, and Blizzard took the foundation of Everquest to an entirely new level.
But that was then. We were younger then, and the world has moved on. We, as a gaming culture, have grown older, and if we aren’t more mature, we’re certainly a lot more jaded.
Our expectations are a lot higher now than they ever were in the past.
The Patch shouldn’t have been released until it was stable. That’s my feeling about it. If that meant they didn’t hit their timeline of release prior to Blizzcon, so be it.
I look at the early removal or breaking of class specific quests as just kinda being icing on the cake. One of the few things I was looking forward to was getting my Mage to level 60, so I could do my class quest and learn the Pig polymorph spell. Well, that’s not gonna happen. Turns out I waited too long… the Cataclysm didn’t break it, the patch did. Whoops, guess I should have played that class a month earlier.
I’ll still get Pig… from the trainer. And Cassie will get her Flight Form from the trainer as well… but never get the chance to do the class quests.
Why break it?
That’s a rhetorical question, because the answer they seem to give themselves is, “Because we can. And because nothing matters in the game anymore until Cataclysm is released, and the sheep will keep paying until it comes out, and then they’ll buy the expansion, and then they’ll pay while they level to 85, and by the time they get bored again we’ll have 8 more months of revenue streams generated. We’ll just put together some new content instances or raids for when they start getting restless and bored again. Let’s just go mingle with our adoring public. We’re good.”
But do I care enough to be there to see it, if I don’t feel any enthusiasm anymore?