According to MMO Champion, Deathwing will arrive tomorrow, and depart in a blaze of glory about 4 hours later, most likely. Okay, I’m kidding.
I know that it’s like this every time we get a new content patch, but it sure does feel like the raiding guilds have about exhausted what the Firelands had to offer.
Poor Ragnaros has died many, many times now, hard modes have been trounced, and Legendaries have been dissiminated.
Lots of Legendaries, from the chart MMO Champion put out a week ago.
You know the Firelands have been out for a long time when even *I* have killed Ragnaros!
Deathwing will arrive (officially) tomorrow, and we will begin the process of getting geared up and experienced enough in his ways to destroy him.
Seeing the entirety of the Firelands and taking down Ragnaros has led me to think about the various mechanics of the fights and all that is required to match them. How did we get here, and where do we go from here?
In looking back over the years, the one distinguishing feature of content releases is the Skill Level arms race.
When Vanilla WoW first came out and we hit end game, did anyone envision where we would someday get? Maybe we should have.
With every expansion or content release, the challenge for Blizzard grows.
The mission? Design content that is challenging AND fun.
It’s got to be difficult enough that it will take a while to learn, but not so difficult that it breaks the spell we are under when we pursue ‘progression’. If the difficulty includes too much grinding or random chance to succeed, then people lose interest.
It has to remain somewhat challenging even after the path to success is learned, to keep interest alive once mastered.
It’s got to be unique enough to be fun, for a given value of fun. Plus loot, new loot of ever higher ilevels.
Now, it’s got to be all that, plus it’s got to last long enough that the next content release has time to be designed, programmed and tested for release.
Sounds daunting, but that’s just one side of the arms race.
The other side are the players.
Over the years, I have watched in amazement as the player base has built tools to arm themselves in direct opposition to the Blizzard Design Team.
Granted, I’ve taken part in this myself, but it’s still amazing to me what has grown.
As fast as the content is developed, the players build tools to help them beat it.
Website forums for theorycrafters and class experts, individual blogs, web-based optimization tools like Ask Mr Robot or World of Raids, combat log parsing tools, addons, addons, addons, geez I mean Deadly Boss Mods represents a force-multiplying escalation all on it’s own.
As the content gets more challenging, the players rise to the challenge, get better prepared and more experienced. Teamwork, by necessity, improves.
The next round sees more complex mechanics… and the players improvise, adapt, overcome, and then craft new tools (or improve old ones) to speed it up and make it easier.
As with any arms race, there is collateral damage.
Oh yes there is. How would you like to have to design a brand new MMO in this landscape, where the majority of MMO players have been hardened in the fires of 7 years of Azeroth raiding?
And of 7 years of Trade Chat?
Blessing of Kings is taking part in the SWTOR Beta, and todays post highlights a fun fact; chat trolls using story point spoilers to try and ruin your game.
As an MMO developer, how do you arm yourself against this type of scenario, when your opponent (the player) has had 7 years (or more, counting how long the genre has really been out there with Everquest and others) of experience on you?
A new MMO nowadays has to come up with a solid concept, and then design a game not for what players expected and would have enjoyed 7 years ago, but for what people are used to seeing, and subverting, now. Within a week of launch it will have to face the test of the cynical and jaded MMO gamer, whose expectations get higher every day.
Deathwing is doomed, but even as the patch warms the servers in pre-load position, content developers are hard at work preparing the next payload for delivery, aiming at a moving target. They have to design for the players, as they think we will be at that future day, after we have absorbed the lessons we learn from the Deathwing raids.
Isn’t it amazing? This is what it means to be part of a game experience as it evolves, and growing with it. And we get to go back with our modern, up to date characters, and visit the content that was designed for the player of yesteryear whenever we’d like, to remind us of how far we’ve come.
I love it. Yes I do.
The new patch comes tomorrow, and despite the rise and fall of Deathwing, the one thing I think I am most looking forward to is the resurrection of raids to go into old content, to satisfy those transmogging urges. Getting friends together willing to do Serpentshrine Cavern or Black Temple or The Eye should be easier than ever before.
At least for a few months.
Where will the developers take us next year?
Who can say? It depends, at least in part, on how well we adapt to and overcome what Deathwing has in store for us.
You have to wonder, do the developers of other MMOs watch and even play WoW, just to get an idea of what the modern, experienced raider learns to handle?
Isn’t that a trip?
I for one am glad to be part of the journey, wherever it’s taking us. My concern is, in order to come up with ever greater challenges to fit the lore, someday soon we may find World of Warcraft has hit the same wall many of our long-term pen and paper RPGs hit, once the characters reached level 25 with all the epic items that entails.
Where do you go when the players are looking to kill the actual gods and usurp their place to find some kind of challenge? Do you face down the Old Gods, bring forth the terrors of the outer darkness, face an invasion of demons from space?
Oh wait, been there, done that, got the tabard.
Where do we go once we’ve killed Deathwing?
Apparently, once we’ve killed the gods themselves, the only foes we will have left to fear are the most powerful beings known to Azeroth; our former allies.
But in pitting Horde versus Alliance as the core of the battle… can there be any resolution at the end?