Legendary Quests and Subscribers, Oh My!

Looking back on it, I applaud Blizzard for the legendary questline they have provided us through Wrathion as Mists of Pandaria progresses.

As a first grand attempt, I think it has succeeded in it’s largest challenge; how not to alienate the players.

Going into this expansion, Blizzard was faced with the eternal question, “How do we keep people from unsubscribing after they complete each dose of new content?”

It’s got to be the toughest challenge any company can face in this age of jaded gamers.

We gamers have many options for our dollar and our playtime, and the politics of playing have gotten ridiculous over the years.

Just one small aspect of it; there are undoubtedly players who will refuse to play World of Warcraft because it is an MMO with a monthly subscription payment system.

Think about it. There are players, I’ve spoken with them, they could play WoW, they like the game itself, they can easily afford it, but they are philosophically opposed to financially supporting any MMO that uses a subscription model.

In this kind of gaming climate, how does a company that uses a subscription-based system keep people from dropping and coming back?

In years gone by, we saw one method; bribery. “Sign up for a year of WoW, locked in with legal agreements, and we’ll give you a neat mount and a free copy of our new video game when it releases next year.”

What was the result? Many folks accepted the agreement, I among them, enjoyed the mount and Diablo III, and continued on. It didn’t affect my decision as to resubbing, because I knew I wasn’t going to unsubscribe anyway.

My wife, on the other hand, debated over it for a very long time, and in the end did NOT take the one year agreement. She did not want to be locked in to the game for a whole year, if she finally drifted away entirely.

The funny thing is, she did not then and still has not unsubscribed. Not once. But she refused to close off the option to unsubscribe. She wanted control over the choice of paying to play the game or not on her terms.

There was quite a lot of cynical irritation and red-hot rhetoric when the one year plan was announced. Who needs that kind of mess in their Public Relations department? Who really wants to see more morons and malcontents swear at Ghostcrawler as if it was his personal intention to piss people off?

For Mists of Pandaria, instead of a one year agreement, we’ve had a very different strategy.

The first part has been the increased rate of content releases. There has never been this amount of content released in such a short span of time. Blizzard started the expansion by promising an accelerated content push, and they have delivered.

So, lots more content to do, new content coming fast and fresh, less opportunity for someone to blow through it all and get bored, followed by an unsub. Right?

As part of the first wave of that content, there were many, many factions with gear upgrades, reputation gating, and daily quests. Many, many faction daily quests. There was a bit of a blowback on that, we could see where it was headed. It just felt too harsh, it needed some adjusting. Which came, there have been constant tweaks as we go. The Valor cap system and the changes to it have been amazing. The Commendations for alts have been nothing short of brilliant.

Another thing that was introduced to much discussion was the legendary questline from Wrathion once we reach level 90.

So much to do in this questline, gated by progression and drops from Raids that could be done in normal or Looking For Raid, and by grinding reputation with Wrathion.

Staged progression, that required continuous investments of time. You didn’t have to log in every single day to maintain progression on the Legendary questline, but you almost have had to log in and maximize your progression every week to stay current.

I started on a different character than the one I play now. I started on the chain on my Hunter. I am now completing it on my Warlock, and at the point I switched, I was about one month behind the progress of everyone who had stayed perfectly current. I am, right now, still 6 Titan Runestone drops from completing the current stage of the questline, when most of the folks I play with have their cloak or are only one or two stones away. So, even though i have continued on it to the best of my ability every week, starting one month late has me still one month behind.

I’m not going to call the Legendary Questline a perfect win for keeping subscriptions up. I’m calling it an excellent first attempt, and a wonderful work in progress.

The implementation has had it’s problems. Some items of the questline were only useful if you had been lucky enough to get the corresponding item to mate it with in LFR, something that was certainly hit or miss. Raise your hands if you had a gem or an extra socket long before you got a weapon to put it on? Yeah, me too.

Overall, I have enjoyed the questline.

Yes, I know it is meant to keep me logging in each week to try and get drops from weekly raid lockouts, completed daily quests to gain Wrathion rep, and maintain my progress. But that’s okay.

Each step of the way has brought more than the mechanics of a drop hunt or a rep grind. There have been cutscenes, story development, a sense of building a relationship, taking part of a developing story, and along the way completing solo scenarios that are new and fresh, just like the Warlock Green Fire questline but there for everyone to see.

There are a few reasons I think it’s not quite perfect yet.

First, while it’s kept me engaged in the game week by week, it’s had the effect of pushing Cassie further away.

She was too busy with work stuff to play much for a few months. When she had time and came back, she felt that she was so far behind everyone else that it would be too big of a pain in the butt to try and start now. The weight of everything out there to do, all the grinds that have to be completed weighs on someone who hasn’t started it yet. There have been adjustments, more frequent drops for earlier stages, reduced Valor requirements, etc but it doesn’t change the feeling of being too far behind to ever catch up.

Especially when she sees that I’m doing it every week and I’m still over a month away from getting a Cloak, assuming I continue to maintain my lack of luck on Runestone drops.

So as much as it kept me going and giving me a reason to do LFR wings long after my gear was past it, it has pushed her away and given her greater reason to feel disconnected with the world of WoW. She now feels like an outsider, watching other people engaged in this massive questline without her.

The other reason is simply the length of each stage of grind. Some of them haven’t felt too bad, but the initial Valor grind. That sucked. That was like a wall of “I don’t want to Valor cap anymore” to push through.

I did it anyway… TWICE before they reduced the Valor needed, but it was still brutal, because it let me feel like if I did not Valor cap by God every week, I was not performing up to expectations. No, there were no real managers supervising my performance. But it left that feeling of work going undone if I didn’t Valor cap. Did some people let that wall o’ Valor stop them? I imagine some might have looked at it and said, “nope, nope, nope.” At least until the amounts were reduced.

I think if, in the next expansion, they continue along the same concept, a massive questline progressing a story in the same style, with the same kind of rewards at each stage, it will be a winner. I really feel this is part of a winning idea. I have yet to see ANYONE bitch about the existence of the questline or the way it draws you into playing every week (or almost every week) to stay up to date. After all, it is entirely optional, and open to anyone, all that is required is you put forth the effort and enough time to run your LFRs and some dailies once in a while.

You’ll notice I haven’t talked about the star of the show, the prize at the end of the rainbow. The Legendary whatsis that is ostensibly the point.

That’s because whatever the final reward is really doesn’t matter, and if it’s kept a secret so much the better.

At each stage of completion, we’ve gotten something pretty cool. Something that was a big enough upgrade to make exchanging it for a drop from the next content patch a big decision, but not so big that it was still overpowered two content patches later.

Now the new Cloak is a big enough iLevel that it is clearly a worthy goal that will last long into Siege of Orgrimmar and even beyond. The rewards we are getting are useful, different, powerful enough to feel like sizable boosts without being too ridonkulous, dahling.

In short, I think the way they’ve planned rewards for the questline is great. And it’s clear why there haven’t been items other than gear improvements, too. Some people might not be interested in pets, or mounts, or titles or transmog gear, but everyone can benefit from powerful gear upgrades.

They could, in the future, implement other versions of this Legendary questline targeted at pet collectors. We’re getting the Celestial Tournament in the next patch, and it’s always possible we will see a Legendary Pet questline develop that would keep us fighting new and different challenges, collecting special training food drops, achieving special training goals, and while the final reward could be a Legendary Pet some of the intermediate stage rewards could be learning how to teach your pet to “fetch”, “roll over” or even “play dead”. You know?

I know there has been a lot of argument about the death of WoW, and the loss of subscribers, and such in the community. What I’m trying to say is, when comparing how Mists of Pandaria has played out with Cataclysm, I truly prefer Mists. I love how things have progressed in this first rough run, and it is clear Blizzard is learning a lot as they go.

The Legendary Questline is only one thing they added in this expansion to help retain players. Don’t forget the entire system of Pet Battles that was added as well. If they take the lessons they’ve learned running this in live and improve on it going forward, I have nothing but hope for the future of WoW.

I know that’s not a very popular position to hold, but this is one Bear that’s happy with the way the game is playing out, even IF it will take me six more damn weeks until I get that spiffy cloak, too!

8 thoughts on “Legendary Quests and Subscribers, Oh My!

  1. The game as a whole is too easy. That is what ultimately generates boredom. And when a game is too easy, people who don’t belong in raids or more difficult situations are suddenly gumming up the works.

    Oh sure, lots of people are going to be upset with this. But it’s true. Some people just CANNOT raid. They don’t understand the mechanics. Or, even if they do understand the mechanics they can’t adjust to them. They die in the fire over and over. They get run over by the yeti every time he charges, even though no one else does. They cannot click ONE BUTTON when it is their turn, even when told not to do anything but click the button. But since they have access….. Everyone else has to put up with them. Eventually people stop logging in to die for the 87th time in the same ugly manner.

    Now, a lot of folks will ask why you don’t just keep that person from raiding. Sure, tell a real life friend that he/she can’t raid because he/she sucks? That’s never going to happen. What happens is that you re-prioritize things in your life and suddenly logging in to play THAT game no longer becomes as important.

    Basically it comes down to quality of life. If playing a game is no longer play. If it is no longer enjoyable. If it starts to feel like work. If it begins to inflict actual mental anguish at the thought of logging in on THAT particular night to get killed by THAT particular person in THAT particular fight again…. Well, you find something else to do, or you convince your group of friends to move on to a different game. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. That is why I stopped playing WoW.

    One of the advantages Everquest had(has?) over WoW is simple. There’s not that much to distract you from helping your friends. 1) Limited amount of raids that are EXTREMELY gated. Either you can get in, or you can’t. 2) VERY involved quests that require solo and group effort to complete, but never make you feel like you are “behind” everyone else. 3) Farming for items in areas that required groups would FORCE people to play together. Friends mostly, but not always. Granted this wasn’t friendly to those folks who couldn’t commit to playing for hours at a time. Not all games are for everyone.

    And that last observation… Not all games are for everyone. Lets change that to “NO game is for everyone.” There are learning curves that some people just cannot climb. If you give them a push and force them into the next level… Well its like having a boss who has been promoted past his abilities. Makes it bad for everyone. And that is what WoW has done. They’ve promoted all the junior gamers to a level where they just cannot keep up. And when all the other people who are trying to get enjoyment out of it finally decide they have had enough… they quit.

    All that being said, I haven’t given up on WoW. Not yet anyway. At the moment lets call it taking an extended break. I’m still paying my subscription, reading blogs and keeping an eye on things. I even log in every now and then to see what’s up in Azeroth. But have I played? No. And so far, I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that I might return full time. But I keep hoping. In vain, maybe. But hoping.


  2. Like you, I’m extremely happy with the legendary quest line. I commented to friends several times back in vanilla and BC that I wished Blizzard would create truly epic quests for each class. Something similar to the original Hunter epic chain but on a much larger scale. It’s something Id wished SOE had done when they first introduced Jedi in SWG. So this kind of content truly resonates with me and I’ve been enjoying working toward the end of quest line. I’d love to see Blizzard do something like this very expansion.

    My only criticism is that the initial stages are somewhat difficult to work hrough on alts. I dislike running dailies on a sustained basis so it’s been difficult for me to earn Revered with Wrathion.


  3. As a healer, who tried the Celestial Blessings quest… I don’t know, at least a dozen times – it gets infinitely easier when you apply the Dominance Offensive (Shield wall? whatever the ally side is) buffs you can buy with commendations. Being fully raid buffed plus some (the elemental shaman buff that was a pure dps increase was AMAZING!) totally made the difference in my performance (and I was failing as a 525 ilevel disc priest (smh)).

    Tanking has it fairly easy too, given you can pick up a Shado-Pan buddy from the quest guys in Townlong.

    I have no tricks to offer the dps guys sorry… 😦


  4. I have a lot of mixed feelings about all of the changes. Many that I can identify with already stated but everyone’s experience is different.
    I liked cataclysm and I liked Pandaria, at least believe it or not, the leveling through questing. At least the first time.
    I liked the fact that in Pandaria they provided so many options in what to do with your time. The amount of options was great. Having said that, I haven’t logged in since March but there are lots of reasons that play into that.
    I had mixed feelings about many of he changes, pet battling for instance. It was a cool concept and there were so many new pets but it led to camping which was something that wasn’t a big deal unless you were trying for a rare.
    The first and foremost reason for me is I have always had a limited amount of play time. Maybe 4 – 10 hrs a week depending.
    My guild likes to raid but always had problems getting people to keep their commitments to Raid on a schedule. This was mainly because the horde on my server was quickly dwindling to almost completely empty cities and dead trade chat which I had never seen before. We were a small guild made up of decent people, and I dont blame them but This sort of put me in a situation where I always had to be there to help them actually raid. With cataclysm, this was a pain but completely doable to either get gear drops or get valor or crafted gear in order to be able to be geared to actually do it. Gear wasn’t the obstacle in cataclysm, it was learning to work as a group to overcome the raid.
    Along comes Pandaria and because of personal issues my time to play was cut in half at least. It suddenly became almost impossible to actually keep up. My guild was wanting to raid, we again had even less people to commit to a schedule and to becoming a cohesive group that knows how to work together. People were getting tired of waiting and quitting he guild which I completely understand. It became sort of a vicious circle. Raids were more difficult and I couldn’t get geared enough. In fact only a few people had gotten geared enough so we still needed more people.
    The guild knew I did not want to raid any more at that point, in fact as a kitty dps as my main, I wasn’t even that good at it, but they knew I would be there if they needed me and they always did. Because of the lack of committed peeps this would mean pugging, another of my least favorite but necessary things.
    I started getting tired of constant requests to get geared up. I wasnt even geared enough get into LFR at that point and honestly I didnt even want to use LFR having such a bad taste in my mouth for it.
    I was tired of instances and heroics and dailys. I think the only group I ever even got exalted with before logging out for a hiatus was the Tillers.
    It became that if I ever did get time to get on, it was to either deal with some guild drama, usually regarding raiding or to grind grind grind trying to get rep and valor in areas where people where always fighting over the needed things to complete the dailys. I finally just became burned out and realized I was not going to have time to catch up.
    The guild moved to a more populated server but by then the damage was already done.
    I still love the game. I definitely think the good things in his game have always far outweighed the bad but I have just really kind of lost desire to log in to attempt to even try to catch up at his point.
    It’s important that I say I think it’s my own problem that I no longer have the time to keep up and I don’t really blame he devs but I also have to say I don’t believe access to gear should be as big of an obstacle as it has become just to even access areas.


  5. This is presumptuous of me. But then again, I am kind of an ass.

    My suspicion is that part of the reason Cassie feels the way she does is because of what WoW tried to be in Cata vs. what it tried to be in Mists. It really wasn’t so long ago that the casual player felt like s/he could realistically do ALL OF THE THINGS within the game. There weren’t nearly as many gameplay options, as many parallel routes one could take to achieve the same goal, as many things you could do with your game time as there’s been in Mists. And, as you said, the content updates have come much faster in this expansion than they ever have, meaning the piles of Things to Do kept looking bigger to any of us who were still living with that Cata mindset.

    imo, a lot of the complaints I’ve seen in this expansion stem from that. We’ve had Cata-type expectations for what we can realistically complete, and when Mists suddenly gave us an absolute crapton of stuff to complete, our expectations were suddenly no longer realistic. So we’ve either had to adjust our expectations or stop playing. Or, like so many people in forums and on Twitter, don’t adjust expectations, keep playing like nothing’s changed, and just get really really angry about it. 🙂


    • I agree with this, in part… although part of it came from the (now removed) gating… you had to get this rep to revered, which was a grind, so you could even START getting that one to exalted where the one thing you really wanted came from. Yeah, the grand commendation helped… the second time.

      Part of the problem with my growing disillusionment is that so much of it requires a big raid. It has been my experience, every time I’ve done a random anything (LFR, LFD, Ahune, scenario, whatever) that while most people are ok, the raging douches that fill the game make it unpleasant to do anything. I get bitched at because I’m not overgeared for the dungeon on my sixth alt and slowing them down. Yeah, how dare someone who actually needs the gear run a dungeon? I can’t tank anymore because I’m not intimately familiar with every single spawn and patrol in all of the dungeons so I can’t go through them at a dead run, and no one is willing to allow me to take a few seconds to see what’s going on. It’s like being at a stop light in New York. Before the green light reaches the third car the second is already screaming and honking.


  6. Well, you could be like me and get all the items, get ready to kick some butt, and then find out you’re out of practice as DPS because of being lazy and queuing as a healer! Someday, cloak…someday…


    • Hi Matty!

      I’ve heard that same problem from other people as well, and some of them ARE dps as their mains! Apparently, not only is it a bitch to do, but it can also cause problems for some specs more than others.


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