This is a very long article, that talks about something I’ve been thinking of for a while… what will happen as WoW continues to age and grow, and how will new MMOs affect our community over time. Read on if it’s something you’re interested in discussing.
Many of you may be unaware that my wife is a corporate zombie.
Well, at least she used to be. She has a lot of college degrees, which she worked insanely hard to achieve, and for a long time she was an upper-level executive for a world-wide organization that is well known for their non-profit works. Then our first child was on the way, and she decided that to better raise and nurture our son, she would shift her career and work from home.
None of that is the point, but it lays the foundation for what I’m gonna talk about.
As an upper-level executive, she regularly read books that I can only think of as ‘managerial confidence boosters’.
You might have read quite a few of these yourself. Books that promise that, after spending thirty minutes of reading, you will become a powerhouse of inspiring leadership, armed with the secrets of the rich and dynamic, able to make correct decisions and dominate your peers in the market with one hand tied behind your back.
Okay. I guess they look cool sitting on the bookshelf when you are having a meeting with the employees that you’re planning on downsizing.
One of the books she made me… wait, I mean encouraged me to read, was called “Who Moved My Cheese”, by Spencer Johnson.
While targeted at business professionals who are supposed to job hop and leave their mistakes behind before they get a chance to catch up with you, I found it to have a very strong underlying message that I’ve carried with me.
The book itself is a cute little parable, a bit heavy-handed but still cute, telling the story of two mice. The two mice are both in one place, where they have learned that cheese, which they enjoy eating, can be easily found. They come back day after day to enjoy eating the cheese which is already there.
But then, the story talks about how differently the two mice react as the amount of cheese that appears each day begins to dwindle.. or the quality becomes poorer, until finally one day the mice go to the place where cheese has always been, and find that there is no cheese there. None at all.
The book itself, of course, is showing how people that are used to a pattern become safe in following that pattern, and even though the world around them may change, or their own needs may change, they find safety in doing the same things and following the same patterns in their life, rather than taking the frightening step of leaving what they know and are used to in search of new, fresh cheese.
Johnson is talking about jobs, and how people will stay put in one dead-end job even after they see that the job itself has no future in it, or may even become worse over time, or is no longer meeting the needs of their family or career or what they want out of life. And about how hard it is to break out of a feeling of safety in search of the new and unknown. And it really does seem to imply that you should feel no loyalty to any employer and be ready to bail the second you detect a change in the air that may bring you, personally, any inconvenience.
That’s fine, it’s supposed to remind executives why they job hop, after all, adn help them get over their fear of the unknown.
But I think the core message of anticipating, preparing for and adapting to change applies to World of Warcraft, too.
If you look at video games, and the technology of our computers and how things have grown, this is still a very new, very fresh segment of gaming.
Everquest may not have started it, but they propelled the genre into worldwide fame. Much like Doom, people who don’t game heard of Everquest. Realistically speaking, Everquest came out not that long ago. Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage, City of Heroes, Star Wars Galaxies. All pretty new. A few years is nothing.
MMOs come… and while they may be eagerly anticipated, they don’t last forever. There WILL be something else that catches the publics’ attention.
But… World of Warcraft has so far endured. My question is, for how long?
Think of the cheese as representing your enjoyment, your happiness in what you do in the game. Whatever it is that you personally get out of playing the game. What brings you back again and again and keeps you playing WoW instead of any other MMO.
World of Warcraft has been around for over 3 years now. Many things have been credited for it’s success, but I’d have to say, IMO, that the two biggest contributors are that it is a huge game full of content that can keep you busy questing for an incredibly long time on your first character… and that once you’ve done that content, it takes a very short amount of time to bring a second character to the max level to play with your high level friends.
There are tons of things to do at end game. There are tons of things to do while leveling. But if you know what you’re doing, you can blast a character straight to 70 in a remarkably short period of time.
But the cheese… are you still enjoying the game as much a year down the road, as you did when you started?
I think that everyone understands that different people enjoy different things… but when new content takes a certain amount of time to appear, you have to be enjoying what is out there right now.
I played one character from 1 to 60… and then 70. That was some good tasting cheese.
I played an alt from 1 to 70. The cheese from the content, not so tasty… but a new class, a faster progression, and knowing the basic rules right from the beginning the second time around made playing a lot of fun. Good cheese.
Third alt, the leveling was a grind… I kept at it because I knew how much fun I would someday have when I was at level 70. The cheese… not so much in the play of the content, there were bits of fun, but overall it was boring work that was only rewarding in anticipation of the fun I would someday have.
Now, three level 70s. I log in each day, and I play, and I enjoy myself… but I start to wonder where I will look for new cheese in the game.
At this point, it’s about following the cheese. There are strong reasons for staying in World of Warcraft; My wife plays and enjoys the game. I have friends here. I have a lot of time invested in three max level characters. I know the world, I know the rules, I know the classes and the game. And there will be an expansion coming, and new content… in 6 months or so.
If I were to leave for a different game in search of the cheese, I wouldn’t know anyone there. I would be alone, solo, just as when I picked up WoW for the very first time. I would not know the rules, I wouldn’t know where anything was, I wouldn’t know how anything worked or where to figure stuff out. And I wouldn’t have the extreme fun of playing the game with my wife.
On the other hand… there would be brand new adventures, a new world of content, new friends to make, new classes to see for the first time, new art direction, new lore. Something fresh and clean and new. And a brand new community in a vital game that has just taken off, rather than is feeling like it’s winding down.
And maybe… maybe I would find more cheese there, more than I have right now in World of Warcraft.
Am I leaving WoW?
Ha, no. Not anytime soon, either. Are you kidding? I still get plenty of cheese to keep me happy.
But, think about it yourself… how long have you been playing WoW? Are you enjoying the game as much now as you did when you started? Are you enjoying it as much, but for different reasons? Did you get turned on to PvP right when you were getting bored with questing? Are you into raiding with a large guild now, and feel that the game is more vital than ever?
Try to imagine where you will be in a year from now. Will you still be having as much fun? If you get bored with what you are doing now, what is the next part of the game you haven’t tried that might grab your interest?
Is a new expansion, with a new world, ten new levels, one new profession and one new class enough to last you two more years? Think about the Burning Crusade. Is that enough to do it for you? Or are you dreading resuming the push to level and then re-gear?
Will you want to level an alt as much when you have to go from 1 to 80? Will Blizzard decide to change things, and add something like Dark Age Of Camelots’s alt rule, where if you have one character at max level, you can create an alt at a higher than normal level?
It is possible… Blizzard has stated that if you have one character at a high level, you can complete a quest chain to create a level 55 Death Knight. What if the secret they haven’t revealed yet, is that ALL alts will be able to be made starting at level 55? And you will no longer have to revisit the first 55 levels of slogging through the low zones, unless you want to twink.
Will having just one new class make that big of a difference to you, after another year? Does it make more sense to make high level alts more accessible to players?
Will you hear the song of the wild geese flying overhead, reminding you that there are new worlds out there to conquer? Will you yearn for something new?
What about two years from now? Or five?
It’s something to think about.
I think the people with the shortest attention spans, the ones that have little emotional investment in their characters, the players that are asshats or griefers at heart, and the people that have no friends in the game and no feeling of community would have no compunction at all in moving on to the next new thing. in fact, I think we’ve seen a bit of that already, with Age of Conan.
If you think about how quiet some of the Trade and General channels have been on your server, compared to before AoC… I think a ton of asshats have already moved on to Conan to torment all the fresh new players in that game.
After all, their potential victims already have them on ignore in WoW.
Can you imagine? A horde of asshats, like the froth at the leading edge of the wave, leaving WoW to rush on, washing over each new MMO and flooding it with hate and rage, before tiring of that crowd and moving on. You can almost see them in your minds’ eye, perpetually seeking out a new audience to bask in the annoyance they bring.
Those of us left behind as time goes on… encouraging friends to join, playing our mains and alts, waiting for new content releases and taking part in the community of friends we forge… how many years will pass before the cheese, for us, is also gone?
Is it possible for Blizzard to create enough new content and change the way we play the old stuff to keep things fresh, and fun, and cheesy, for many years to come?
Or will there come a point in the future, a point that Blizzard is already planning for, when they will stop actively supporting new WoW content, and spring Universe of Starcraft, or World of Warcraft II (the thousand year change), on us and force us to choose, once in for all, to either stay in a dead world with our community, or move on to something new?
I think of the people that still play Everquest I. And Dark Age of Camelot. And other MMOs that were once the hot, rising success story, the games that were vibrant and fresh. At some point, the number of new players dwindled… the existing players began to wander away… but there are still thousands who choose to stay and play on.
No matter how huge World of Warcraft is… at some point, that WILL happen to us. Maybe it’ll take ten years, but it WILL happen.
When it does, will you know when the time has come to go off in search of new cheese? Or will you linger on, hoping that Blizzard will bring the cheese back just the way it used to be?