Most things we do for fun are short. Get in, get fun, get out.
Sledding in the snow, dancing at the club, watching a movie, playing cards, target shooting, whatever. Short.
You get in, get your blast of fun and get out.
World of Warcraft isn’t about a short blast of fun. Blizzard is selling us a virtual world. Everything about WoW has to say, “Come join us, move into your new life in Azeroth. There is so much to do you’ll never want to leave. Or unsubscribe.”
The income expectations are all based on keeping your butt in that seat, resubscribing every month.
So the design goal has to be wrapped around things to do in Azeroth when you’re bored.
What I want to do is look at how the game design has changed while the player base continues to evolve into cynical flibbertigibbits that equate subscription models with grind models.
We have seen pet battles and collections added, and supported with daily quests and even a tournament. We’ve seen collectible pets added throughout the game, tied as drops to old and existing raids, and all BoE so the avid collector doesn’t have to be a progression raider, they just need to have sharp gold making skills.
This keeps you out there in the world looking for rare pets, doing quests, trying to get improved quality versions of pets you already have, a lot of activity to do. All short term, fill in kind of fun. BUT, there are so many pets that the process of seeking out rare versions of them and leveling them can take years. It’s not something that you can just grind out in a day. It’s a small rock that you push a little ways up that hill each day
Old raids were changed to make them easier to solo to officially add those into content you do when you’re bored. Alongside the old pets and the achievements you can unlock (many with mounts tied to them and even potential legendary weapon questlines), there are also old gear items to seek out for the fashionistas among us wanting a specific transmog set. With weekly lockouts per character, again, not something you can grind out. You can push that rock on one raid clear per character per week.
We have seen professions updated so there are incredibly powerful gear recipes (and pets, and mounts)… but you have to discover the gear recipes by doing a profession BOP daily cooldown. The mat cost is not the gate, no rare materials are needed. But you need a LOT of basic mats to make your daily cooldown every day. The gate for your crafting an item is time. Blocks of time in 15 to 30 day increments per day. You can easily make your own Sky Golem if you have a farm, an Engineer, a Miner and an Alchemist (for Living Steel cooldowns). You just need lots of time.
We have seen that farm system added where you can slowly unlock plots on a farm, then plant and harvest your own crafting materials to feed your professions… if you don’t want to grind for crafting materials, you can harvest your own, but only so much each day. In this case, an alternative to grinding. You can either grind your mats by flying around looking for nodes/sprouts, or you can get a small harvest every day, on each character that goes through the farming.
We have many, many factions, most with mounts, gear and tabards. Some with profession recipes. We’ve seen their reputation gated behind daily quests, which again gates you not by grinding but by time. Do a little every day and push that rock just a little bit further.
The Timeless Isle seems to be something new that is an anti-gate. Lots of sudden, instant gratification. Just pop on over to Loot Isle at level 90, plunder the chests and get geared up! Except your experience killing mobs can vary wildly depending on your class (hint – tanks and pet tank classes have a much easier time of farming elites) and of course those wonderful rare mobs die so fast that you pretty much have to be right nearby to get tehre in time. Still, it’s a lot of fun and a great change of pace… and once that initial burst of plunder is gone, there are still tons of rares to try and find, special loot, pet drops and other reasons for us to keep coming back day after day. And oh yeah, a reputation grind if you’re dedicated and want the Emperor’s mount.
Even in the most current raid, there is a reason to keep logging in and trying to clear the final wing every single week; Heirloom weapons that scale from level 90 to 100, gear that will be useful into and through the entire next expansion. They can drop from Flex as well as Normal, so for anyone that can raid with friends this is a strong incentive to keep coming back every single week for another shot. And if you don’t have alts, only one main, it’s still an incentive because your first Heirloom drop will be a weapon for your mains spec and class. Something you can use yourself when Warlords drops.
And finally, the big one. The grand ‘keep coming back’ path. The legendary questline that spanned the entire expansion, timed and paced perfectly with drop gathering and reputation grinding to reward a player that logged in and completed his objectives every single week for the entire expansion. The grand culimation of all of our efforts gave those of us who completed it a massively OP cloak, a special boss only we get access to that can drop warforged gear, and access to an isolated area that has a chest with a guaranteed Burden of Eternity to upgrade something instantly to 535. Rewards that are good right NOW, while there is still plenty of time to get use out of it while we wait for Warlords.
I like all of these things, but they paint a clear picture of what we can continue to see down the road.
I like how the farm gives you an alternative to grinding for crafting materials, as long as you are cool with the pace you harvest those mats. I expect the Garrison to continue this metered material pace, and give us a new collectable to seek out everywhere, our minions. Everything we’ve seen in pet collecting and battling we will see with our Garrison minions. More to seek out, collect, farm from instances and raids, rewards as quests, drops from rare mobs.
We can expect more factions to gain reputation with, and mounts and tabards at the end. I would expect more daily quests, but possibly with a difference. Right now, you can choose to champion a faction, and as you do a dungeon you get bonus rep with them. I would expect this system to be used for a daily quest hub somewhere, or with all reputation based daily quests, where you can champion a faction, and all daily quests done will cound to that faction.
I believe we can expect a new legendary questline, one that again unlocks over time and gives us an incentive to keep coming back and pushing the rock a little further each week. I would do it just becauze of how much I enjoyed the story development and the way it tied what I did through the entire expansion. The items and special boss? BIG BONUS.
I think we can expect more craftable special items, like the mounts and pets. But this time, less of the super-rare materials and more of the daily cooldowns using cheap materials. It puts the reward in the hands of anyone with patience and a dedication to log in every day to craft, instead of being exclusive to those that can save tens of thousands of gold.
I also expect more big ticket expensive items, to continue to give the big gold makers a prize to strut their stuff. Making gold and manipulating the market ALSO requires constant logging in and managing auctions week after week.
What all of these activities share is that there is an end goal to work towards, but you really can’t just grind it all out in a day or two. There are things you CAN grind if you like to, like Emperor reputation (or Black Prince rep), but most are designed to let you push the rock further towards each goal and then move on to something else, each and every day. Lots of different minigoals, with so many to choose from that there is something for everyone.
I really liked the pace and flow this expansion. I LIKE having a lot of little things I can do, and I’ve enjoyed having the farm to supply me with materials to feed my crafting without having to spend an hour or two flying circles for ore, and especially grind mobs for cloth.
Last expansion, at this exact same time, my main activity was circling through the Abyssal Depth endlessly, farming herbs on my druid while swimming like a dolphin. I swam for many hours, mostly listening to Lewis Black comedy albums while I gathered my herbs. I enjoyed it, but I can’t really say it gave me something I was excited to log in and do every day.
Say what you will, I feel things are a lot different now.
We do seem to have a very long wait ahead of us until we see Warlords of Draenor.
There is a new Diablo expansion that will release soon, as well as Hearthstone, and Blizzard would not release an expansion in competition. They stagger their title releases so each one has their fans undivided attention when products go on sale. Who knows when we might see Heroes of the Storm in there as well.
In the past, it has seemed from timing that Blizzard expects the release of a Diablo game or other property to occupy us as if it were a content patch for WoW. I don’t know if that is intentional, but there are gaps in WoW content to match the releases of other games.
Instead of just swimming around farming herbs, I have daily farming for mats, crafting, leveling pets, seeking out rares for ones I’ve got, old raids to solo for transmog gear, raids to do with friends for achievements, raids in Flex to try for a heirloom off Garrosh, leveling with Recruit a Friend, Timeless Isle wandering, Zandalari Warbringer hunting, and STILL so much more.
It’s a lot different. There are things to do, rocks to roll just a little further, and all of it is just different enough that each one stays kind of fresh.
I’m not excited at the idea of four more months without new content, but they are getting better at spreading things out.
Once we’ve got Garrisons, and our minion raid teams to begin to manage? Yeah, I can see that whole structure adding a lot more depth to ways we can fill our time.