Tobold's Blog
Monday, May 14, 2007
What if the real casual players hit level 70 in WoW?

While I'm often defending the point of view of the casual MMORPG player, I can't honestly say that I'm a real casual player myself. I play too many hours, in too large blocks, I read (and write) too much about these games, and I even participated in raids. But fortunately I have a real example of the species "Ludio Casualis" at home, my wife. Although she plays World of Warcraft since over 2 years, she has never hit the level cap. She played several characters to between level 40 and 50 before she finally discovered that rogue is her preferred character class. She made it to level 60 only after the Burning Crusade was already out. And last weekend she dinged 66 in Nagrand. Even at her speed she'll reach level 70 in a few months, long before the next expansion comes out.

And now she asked me what she should do when she eventually reaches level 70. I didn't have a good response. In the two years she played my wife *never* visited an instance, except one low-level dungeon together with one of my high-level character. She doesn't know the first thing about tanking/healing/dps aggro management in a 5-man group. She never even *was* in a 5-man group, the biggest groups she did was with two other random players killing some elite mob for an elite quest. Most elite quests she just abandons. And of course she never ever did any sort of PvP, she isn't interested at all in that. So if she doesn't want to do instances, and she doesn't want to do PvP, what can she still do at level 70? She can do some remaining quests for the item rewards, even if there are no more xp. Or she could grind some faction. But for all practical purposes the game is over for her. She could start a new character, but she repeatedly tells me that she doesn't know how she ever lived without Vanish, and I don't know what other class she could still have fun with.

There is no rule saying "a casual player plays X hours per week / month", and not everybody started WoW over 2 years ago, so nobody can say how many players are in the same situation. But it is safe to say that a majority of players, however casual, can reach level 70 in the 3+ years from WoW's release to the release of the second expansion. And neither WoW nor any other game of the genre has come up with a good plan on what to do at the level cap if you don't want to do PvP or groups. In spite of the "massively multiplayer" label, it is the ability to play without too much interaction with other players that got World of Warcraft to 8.5 million subscribers. Losing this feature at the level cap risks losing these solo players when they finally reach the cap, and I suspect that there are more of them around than you'd think. They aren't that visible, because they don't write on forums or blogs, and don't interact much with other players in the game. I once called them the dark matter of WoW. But in spite of being invisible, they are having a profound impact on Blizzard's bottom line, because each of them pays the same $15 per month than the most famous guild raid leader. We might not even notice them leaving, except for the fact that we'll wonder one day why Blizzard never announced 10 million subscribers for WoW. The day more people are leaving than coming new into the game, World of Warcraft will start its slow decline. And that day could well be now, or at least not very far away.

my gf is also considered very casual.
she refuses to play with me, because then we have to "fight" over the loot (read: i have to give her everything ;) )
she hit lvl60 pretty fast then she rerolled others because she like the leveling, not instances, raids or whatever.

when tbc came out i bought her the expansion as well, but she never ever stepped into the outlands. she rerolled a be-rogue (because her lvl60 rogue had too many crap in her bags)

and now, she's leveling in LOTRO ;)
I call myself a casual player, too. I'm playing almost two hours daily, excluding weekend where I don't even play or I play in blocks of 4-6 hours, so that I can finish hard/lang quest chains or do some instance runs (see hard quests).

My first character which hit the level cap was a nightelf rogue which tend to become really boring with level 60, I didn't want to play in a guild and so my chance to attend on big raids was very low, so I decided to farm money with that rogue while leveling another character, which right now is my new main character, a human warlock. Much more fun to play with!

Right now my rogue is still level 60 but with much better equipment from Burning Crusade content, my warlock reached level 66 last weekend. But Burning Crusade is boring right now, I actually don't want to play the content again with my rogue right now, and my warlock is hanging around coilfang/auchindoun instance quests, so I'm not ready to switch leveling/questing zones to Nagrand.

I started 6 new twinks, each class I haven't played yet, with different professiones to support my warlock with their professions. My warlock does tailoring/enchanting, my rogue does skinning/leatherworking. I started a draenei paladin with mining/jewelcrafting, a draenei shaman with herbalism/alchemy, a dwarfen warrior with mining/blacksmithing, a gnome mage with mining/engineering and so on, the last two twinks do both mining and herbalism to support the alchemy and jewelcrafting twinks with mats.

I'll level my twinks to level 35 and skill their professions till 300, so that I have a solid base of things I can support my warlock with. I'll then finish leveling my warlock to 70 and try to find a guild which does raids on weekends. So, you see, there are much things you can do, if you want to.
well, actually the real grinds happens after she hit 70. she might enjoy the grinding or feel boring which may lead her to decide to quit.

anyway, you don't need to worry of 'feeling lack of contents' as Blizzard will keep updating something to attract subscribers not to leave.
Well, the new patch just added more soloable content, but if you're not going to group, it's just farming rep (well that's what groups do too, really). Which is rather pointless unless you want to craft.

But yes, eventually it just all gets old. I decided not to raid this time around, I'd had enough, and it was too much of a committment. (Even though I played every day). PvP is the same: in the end pretty pointless if you're not in a guild and entering as a group. And I'm burnt out on healing groups in the same dungeons over and over. So in the end there was nothing left to do, so I quit a few months ago.

Now I play LOTRO mostly, but I've really cut back, I log in 3 times a week only. I am trying to go slow and have fun since I think by the end of LOTRO the same problems might crop up. But I paid for the lifetime and I feel like it really frees me to go as slow as I want, or to try other games.

The funny thing is I am still paying for WoW since I think i'll go back, I guess I should cancel it :)
All games end.

My 69 Shaman is busy with farming motes. It's hours of grinding to get materials together. He just got his transmutation mastery.

That'll feed my 66 Warrior's blacksmithing plans. The Primal Mights will go to making an epic BoP (sadly) hand-axe. Mining brings in motes of earth and fire.

Neither are making any progress with impressing the Maghar, or Thrallmar, or the Consortium, or the Lower City, or the Aldor, or ... There's that to do.

My wife's got a 65 Shaman She's done a few instances, but is quickly disappointed with bad pugs. I spoil her.

We both have characters yet in their 40's, and new characters in their 20s and 30s.

And then characters of new classes over on other servers.

On 2nd thought, maybe some games don't end.

I just waiting for WoW to segue into WoS.

As for going to LoTRO.

My wife's very much a Tolkien fan. She's read every book, read the Silmarillion, she's read the History of Middle-Earth series, she's just gotten The Children of Hurin. She gets the map packs, she gets the art books. She played the LoTRO beta. We don't have plans on getting it yet. It just didn't synch with her for some reason.
OMG the sky is falling. LotRO will rule us all!!!

I would have something more constructive to say, but it seems the new shiny has all the bloggers snowed over.
I'd say I'm currently a 'casual' player. I play about 10 hours a week now, previously I played about 30 hours a week(3 hours per weekday, 8 hours hours per weekend).

Why have I cut 20 hours out of my WoW playing? There isn't anything to do. I'd love to raid more, or even run dungeons, its just not worth it though. Groups take too long to get together, groups have wipes, people dropping out, people going afk, etc...Before when I played 30 hours a week I'd attempt to start groups and raids. Now I don't even bother, all I do is farm ore, gold and pvp. Those mundane(sp?) tasks don't keep me occupied for 30 hours a week, so I cut back to about 10 hours a week.

The only fun part of wow for me now, is alts. I have a 70 mage, 70 pally, 61 rogue. I'm bored of them all. Hopefully my warlock will be 60 soon so I can bring him to the outlands, grinding in azeroth is super boring. Thats about all I have to look foward to right now, rather sad.
I don't agree that ALL solo players are not visable because they don't post on forums or write blogs. For my LotRO experiences I have soloed to level 12 but have yet to join in in a fellowship.

I personally enjoy soloing when I first start playing a MMORPG it depends then if I 'group' up or not on any number of factors.
This is why things like player-housing, crafting, and events are so important. I've played 19 MMO's, and the only one I still play to this day (except for WoW) is Ultima Online because, even though I've maxed out all 6 character slots, I can still strive to better my estate.

In WoW you are always trying to improve your gear, but in games like UO you are also trying to improve your assets, like your property value. Ultima Online also has rare items that give no stat bonus, but show player progression when displayed in a house, and could take a player years to acquire just one set. I once spent 10 million gold on "furs" just to line my castle floor with. The "furs" didn't give me +45 stamina / +33 spell damage, but they still showed a sense of accomplishment.

Crafting is important, because with a good system you will have people logging in way after they've reached level cap just to participate in a good crafting system. I still log on Ultima Online to water and harvest my plants. It's the simple things that go beyond level cap.

Last, player events are important because they bring more to the cohesiveness of the community. Let's face it, when a server dry's up, the game becomes boring. It doesn't matter how fun an MMO is, if there's no other players on the server, then it becomes a mediocre singe-player game.

World of Warcraft is lacking on all three of the categories I've mentioned. There is no player housing, a poor crafting system, and the occasional, uninspiring holiday event.
For me, on-line games are all about the social experience. If you only want to play solo, why not stick to an off-line game like Oblivion? I would hate to be wandering round Outland all by myself.
Yes, I do solo stuff like quests, fishing, mote grinds, but the game comes alive when I join a competent party and go to an instance.
Tobold's wife might enjoy rerolling a new character of a different faction, at least a large part of the quests would be new. A druid would be good, they don't have vanish but they have good solo survivability. Good dps as kitty, good survivability as bear when an add comes along, throw a quick heal if needed and shift back.

Blizz will add more content soon (like they did in the Silithus patch) but honestly, if you took 2 years to level to 70 you're not interested in grinding faction, the only reason you're playing is the levelling.
"she doesn't know how she ever lived without Vanish, and I don't know what other class she could still have fun with."

I would suggest a hunter, the FD ability would server a similar purpose to Vanish and the class is a refreshing change over playing alone all the time, as you essentially have your own controllable mini-tank to help you out.

In general you're right about the issue of casual players eventually running out of content, but I think new content (patches, not the next expansion) and new players will help offset the attrition so that the decline will be both later and slower than what you seem to imply (here and now). Of course, I could be wrong :)
I am a soloist. I'm not very social, because after I get home from work, put the whelpling to bed and spend some time with my wife, I don't want to socialize with anyone. I just want to unwind. Why play Wow, and not (as someone else suggested) Oblivion? WoW is (or was) tons of fun, even as a single player game. I think the time is coming soon to close the lid on it. But damn, I am really going to miss my collection of characters. I have spent two years, give or take, with them. But the truth is, that you can only solo so far in WoW, and then you hit a wall.

I don't PUG much, because my experiences have generally not been good ones. And, not because of players who didn't know how to play; quite the reverse actually. It's the really knowledgable players who are often the worst to group with if you are a casual, because they expect everyone to be at their level of tactical knowledge, and are always ready with shovelfulls of scorn and derision for those not as uber as they.
Excuse me but I have to poke a little fun at hearless. Feeling left out? Too many enjoy something you don’t? Still claiming LoTRO will never reach 200k subscribers world wide?
All good things come to an end, but mmorpgs have no official ending and that's the problem.

It's just a hamster wheel that is disguised as faction grinding, raiding, or battlegrounds.

WoW needs more classes, more races, and more medium level content.

No monks in WoW.
No halflings in WoW.
No rangers in WoW.

You can't even get a flying mount until you hit the level max, which is stupid.
" tells me that she doesn't know how she ever lived without Vanish"

Vanish .... think Hunter. Feign Death is key to casual players who step into problems.

Woman like pets too. Makes Hunter and Warlocks very attractive.

And one poster above suggested to change faction which is good, as the quests are new (most of them).
I played WoW as a hardcore (4-6 hours a night) raider in a top guild on US-Mal'Ganis. I did all of the rep grinding, the instance running, and raiding at level 70 which I hit within 1 week. Within weeks of BC I started burning out. I tried to find solo content and after having been in group content for so long was suprised to find a lack of it. I rolled several alts and found rerunning of old content boring and was just trying to find a reason to play. About 8 weeks ago, I finally admitted that I was addicted to WoW and stopped playing all together. I have 1 level 70 and 2 60's that are "rotting away" on my currently dormant account. I simply haven't found a reason to go back to it.

I am now playing LotRO a maximum of 1 hour a night and maybe 2 hours on the weekend. Its nice to have my life not revolve around gaming any more. I hope LotRO avoids the pitfalls of WoW, but only time will tell.
WoW needs more medium level content and more class choices, but mmorpgs - as a genre - need to create epic quest that allow you the option of retiring your character, after the quest is completed.

Create a system (much like character generation) that allows you to customize a statue or bust, and then place it in some kind of hall of heroes, so other players can marvel at your accomplishments.

Then players can leave the game feeling they actually completed something.

I'm tired of the mmorpg hangover.
She still has a lot of solo content to go after 70. She'll probably hit 70 in Blade's Edge Mountains, and that means she's still got two whole zones to work on: Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley.

So, while she might hit the level cap, she's not going to run out of solo content for a little while.

Plus, you never know what casuals are capable of until they stretch their gaming muscles. Maybe she'll try an instance with a good group of players and discover that it's fun.
I'm a casual player. I have about 5 characters, just started playing a few months ago, and maybe play for a few hours every other weekend. It's a cool game and I'm in no rush to leap up to level 70. I will say this - after playing WoW I couldn't go back to Oblivion. I like the idea that there are other live, real people out there. I like getting into conversations with people. To be honest, the quest stuff is pretty boring but it's fun to run around armed to the teeth.
As far as another character for your wife, I used to not be able to live without vanish. I hate pet classes, so the hunter was out for me. I finally settled on a shadow priest - PWS/Fear/healing gives you a ton of control. Worth a shot anyway.

As far as lotro being the blogger "new shiny," well people who actually write about these games like to think about new and different mechanics. LOTRO is the only legit mass-market competitor that's come out since 2004. We can argue about whether it's good but it has a lot of small-bore solutions and changes to the MMO formula that are interesting to discuss.

As for what to do when the leveling treadmill runs out... well if you're sick of the treadmill do as I did and buy a wii, 360, or ps3. The 360 has a very strong online component while the wii is very accessible. Certainly as a long-time online shooter player I don't know how people can spend years doing nothing but WoW PVP.

I know where the poster above is coming on oblivion, btw... game had no interest for me, the world felt empty. I think if it had had a great main storyline instead of being so "worldy" I wouldn't make such a strong comparison to WoW.
I feel the issue isn't so much the game but people's perceptions of it. After all, you would never play football and attempt to score goals by yourself (or at least I would hope not) so why expect something that is clearly group-aimed to satisfy a person playing solo?

Of course, its great that anyone can play WoW solo and that is one of the most appealing aspects of the game, but WoW is only half a game if you never visit the "group" portions of it.

The real problem, I find, is the social aspect of WoW. Even though you see other people running around questing, you have no real need to ever talk to them, let alone play with them. Inevitably, this means that you end up being totally alone in a hugely populated world.

I don't need to pay $20 a month for that, I can get that free in the real world!

What is the point of this blog? ...You are def casual as: I don't like to level, I don't like to farm Auction Hourse, I don't like to Instance, I don't like to PvP. I don't like the trade skills. The problem is not casual vs what will happen at level 70. The problem is why even play WoW if someone doesn't like so much WoW has to offer? I consider myself casual and pretty much tried all the MMOs and I think Blizzard did an excellent job to staisfy my needs even at level 70. For example crafting Epix, Instance Run, Heroics, Arena, and once in a while Kara.
What is the point of this blog?

The point of this blog is for people to read it. For which they would need reading comprehension, which you are apparently lacking. :)

Of course casual players like to level (they just do it more slowly) and they like tradeskills, and they often use the AH. Many of them prefer solo play over group play which kind of excludes instances and PvP.

If you do heroic instances, you aren't casual.
I think it's interesting that one of the things people like about LOTRO is that it's less addictive than warcraft. I've found the same thing - I like that I only log on 2-3 times a week and don't feel rushed but that's probably a social thing.

For your wife, she'll know if she fancies trying the quests she hasn't done yet or trying out some different specs, or grinding for a cute talbuk or a fast flyer. Or even rolling a rogue on the other faction. I have friends who keep rerolling the same class because they like it, nothing wrong with that.

Or maybe even try a RP server. Or something like a priest ... why not? I know I loved my rogue for solo levelling but the priest got all the group invites and got to see all the instances.
I am a level 70 orc hunter and the excitement (I should say, the uniqueness) is gone. I have never been a member of a guild, and I don't particularly like grouping (I think I only grouped twice since day one). I have maxxed my professions.

Once at 70 and with a hefty bank account, grinding becomes work; no motivation.

Well, at least for me, leveling and the rewards that came with certain levels is what makes WoW different and highly addicting. If I just wanted to shoot-them-up then there are tons of other games out there.

I guess it is my own fault I don't get into the multi-player part of it. But, heck I am sick of dealing with the 'players' at work and every day life.

Oh well, Summer is here and I need a break anyway.
I would concur with the 70 in Blade's Edge comment above. That is where I am about to get to 70 too. Has taken 14 months so far, and tht is the only character I play, so think I am fairly casual ! Don't think I have ever not been "Rested".

People who complain that they are bored because of the lack of multiplayer things to do are rather like people who say they are bored because there is nothin on television - there is a WHOLE world out there with lots of things to do.

Just because there isn't a character with a "!" over its head doesn't mean there are not lots and lots of things to be getting on with in Azeroth. You just have to know where to look.
To reach level 70 and the epic flymount from around 800g took 8 weeks of almost daily 2-4 hours play. I ended up with 17oog after spending 5k gold on the epic flymount.

However, for the casual player PVE raid content player TBC offers virtually no playground. Most raiding guilds require players to be Karazhan attuned and have most if not all heroic keys. The later are neccessary to constantly run the dungeon 5 man instances over and over again to equip everyone just fine for Kara and Gruuls Lair. The Karazhan attunement requires the Black Morass event which makes the old warlock epic mount quest in lvl 60 blue equipment look like a piece of cake. The problem for the casual player is to get into a good BM group and participate well to achive the objective. Messing up early (not neccessarily dying, you can even wipe on the last two waves or the last boss and still succeed) blows the 45min event and you have to start over again. Dead frustrating.

So contrary to the wishes of Blizzard TBC splits casual players from hardcore raiders even more, with the casual players now never being able to see end-game content. In relaxed casual guilds it was still possible to get to MC and BWL and succeed in there, nowadays Karazhan is way much demanding.

In our guild we cleared MC before christmas and started out in BWL when TBC came out. 8 weeks into TBC and the guild was dead, with the core people racing to lvl 70 and loosing interest in helping the more casual players along, and then the core left to form a new guild. From what you can read on real forums this was (and still is) standard procedure at the moment in WoW and the net result is that it leaves casual players way behind and creates smaller guilds of hardcore WoW freaks.

Another problem is the repeated grinding for good equipment and the heroic keys, and then the heroic instances for better loot...

I know some folks of even higly successfull guilds left WoW after 14-16 months of play because they discovered that life offers more than just WoW in the evening and night :-) One said he just discovered he has a TV, and actually a subscription to a TV guide :-)

I know some PVE players who rerolled on a PVP server to just play BGs and in the Arena, leaving the spoiled PVE content out now completely.

As a result many people left, rerolled like above, lost the interest in WoW, lost friends and quit themselves and so on. I think many WoW players (like myself) joined LOTRO as a replacement and having the experience from WoW now treat LOTRO in a more relaxed way.
I think there are many good indications that Blizz is seeing declining subscription numbers:

*) Massive patch with immense changes to game mechanics, including nerf of content, change of professions. I still think it's too little and it comes way too late. The whole design is kind of anti-casual and the design itself isn't touched.

*) Free TBC trial very soon after release, where the original game never had comparable trials (as far as I remember).

Certainly I know spades of people who have left the game. Question is only if new subscribers make up the numbers of leavers.

Guilds are combusting on a daily basis or experience high membership turnover.

I think there is no doubt that TBC was a disaster with respect to a good chunk of player base. Going more difficult and less accessible in the endgame was a mistake. WoW really gave new releases by other companies much more of a chance by bonking the extension which was awesome for leveling but horrifying after.

LOTRo has the good fortune of offering a leveling game which mostly has the accessibility that WoW endgame lacks. I'm not sure if LOTRo longevity will be as good as WoWs was, but that's to be seen.
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