Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The good old days of Molten Core
I was talking with a bunch of RL friends last night, during our pen and paper roleplaying session. They all play WoW, but on different servers and in different guilds. And they all expressed being unhappy with the Burning Crusade raiding game. The more successful ones are able to kill a couple of bosses in Karazhan, but complain that the loot isn't great, and each raid costs them a fortune. The less successful ones can't get past Moroes, or have problems finding enough motivated people for raiding in their guilds. And while the question of whether going to Molten Core at level 70 was fun or stupid was hotly debated, everybody agrees that at the time Molten Core was a lot more fun than Karazhan.
That is only anecdotal evidence, but I get the impression from different sources that the level 70 raiding game is even less popular than the level 60 raiding game. Which is a pity. And a danger for World of Warcraft, revealing a vulnerable soft underbelly in a year where several strong contenders are coming out. Take enough Lilliputians, and you can tie down Gulliver. The new free trial for Burning Crusade looks as if Blizzard marketing is getting nervous.
I stand by my earlier judgement that the Burning Crusade is a good expansion, but too little, too late. After three months most people have seen all or nearly all of the easily accessible content. The only thing that is left to do is raiding your way up to Mount Hyjal. Which would be fun if you could do it in another three months. But as the next expansion isn't scheduled before 2008, Blizzard had to stretch the content to make it last until then. And they did that by making raiding costly, hard, and not very profitable. What they failed to realize is that not many people are interested in a costly, hard, and unprofitable raiding game. The earlier ideas to make raiding more accessible to a larger part of the population seem to have been forgotten.
Now Burning Crusade certainly is superior to the old endgame in offering more top level 5-man dungeons. Grinding reputation by going to dungeons is far better than grinding reputation in Silithus. And the rewards for heroic 5-man dungeons are decent enough, except for the Badge of Justice rewards. But having better alternatives only aggravates the problem of the raiding game. Karazhan is a very unforgiving place, and the small number of players in the raid means that if any one of them loses connection or screws up, the whole raid fails.
At least Blizzard realized that the consumables situation for raids was untenable. It makes me wonder how many gold farmers are currently making a living out of supplying gold for Karazhan raiders. Making potions less prominent is going to hurt alchemists and herbalists, but is going to make raiding a lot cheaper. And it offers Blizzard a second chance to correct the difficulty level: Obviously if they leave Karazhan like it is, and reduce everybodies potion buffs, Karazhan becomes pretty much unplayable. Remove the buffs, and you need to adjust the difficulty level of the raid dungeons. That gives them an opportunity to overcompensate, and make Karazhan without buffs easier than it was before with buffs. Nobody is going to give a damn about Blizzard adding the Black Temple, if players can't even get past Karazhan. As long as players think that the good old days of Molten Core were better than the current situation, Blizzard has a problem.