Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Linear progress makes content obsolete

Today I finally became exalted with the Kirin-Tor with my World of Warcraft priest, earning me a +spellpower gem recipe. But I made two observations in the process, and found they were connected: In spite of wearing a Kirin-Tor tabard, it took me half a year to get exalted with them. And the epic reward was an iLevel 200 cloth robe, which wasn't quite as good as the one I was already wearing. The common connection was me having advanced too far, too fast with raiding, which made both visiting heroics for reputation, and the reward for exalted reputation pretty much obsolete. I made the last 200 points of reputation doing jewelcrafting daily quests 8 days in a row, at 25 points each, because I couldn't be bothered to do even a single heroic.

The problem is that progress in World of Warcraft is more or less linear. That is easiest to see for dps classes: Anything that increases damage per second is progress, everything which doesn't isn't, and is thus not attractive. If you are a freshly minted level 80 in green/blue armor, doing heroics for the loot there and added reputation rewards is a great thing. But if you move on to raids relatively quickly, and get completely equipped with gear from Naxxramas 10 and 25, heroics just become obsolete. And now Ulduar is going to make Naxxramas obsolete. Just do a /who Naxxramas tonight, and you'll see how the population going there has dropped precipitously.

It isn't just that the rewards of heroics aren't worth it any more, the challenge also diminished. Unless your idea of challenge is to go there with a badly equipped and badly playing as well as rude pickup group. If you visit an heroic dungeon with the people you already beat Naxx with, not only will none of you get much useful reward, but also the run will be far easier than when you did the same heroic first before you got all that epic gear. So unless you are helping to gear up an alt, there isn't much chance to get a group of more advanced friends together for it, thus also diminishing the social aspect of 5-man dungeons.

And when the next expansion comes, the whole continent of Northrend will become obsolete. Dalaran will turn into a ghost town, just like Shattrath already did. Naxxramas will join the list of "tourist attractions" for guild runs on off nights, a list everything from Molten Core to Sunwell already is on. If you are at the level cap of the *previous* expansion, it always makes a lot more sense to go to the new zones of the current expansion than to try and organize a raid with people of your level to the previous expansion's endgame raid content.

Due to the linear progression of your character, only a tiny part of the huge amount of content World of Warcraft has is actually useful to you. That gives you the impression of playing a really tiny game, because unless you have an alt of every possible power level, most of the content of WoW might as well not exist. We're stuck with whatever raid dungeon is appropriate for our current level of power, plus some daily quests, and it is getting repetitive fast. You can break out by playing a different character, but only at the cost of giving up most of the power you so painstakingly accumulated with your main. No wonder so many people manage to get bored in spite of there being such a huge game around them.
I think Tigole even said WoW is a progressive MMORPG, old content is obsolete if new content has been introduced.
The only exception for this, was Naxx, because it was obsolete before it had arrived, hence the upgrade.
There's a simple solution to this problem, heroic versions of every dungeon. Same mobs, same fights but scaled to the elite difficulty of the level-cap.
There'd be alot more travel around the world, and alot more re-use of old areas if there were epic challenges all-over, instead of just in the 'new' zones.

To make it simple, just re-use drops that are already available in other heroics, but with different looks. That way there's no need to re-design / re-balance all the loot.
And if you want the full 'matching' set for your class. Make it so that you have to do a bit of travel to get it. Upto 5 pieces per set, means 5 different dungeons to run.

Alot of great content design is being wasted, and what better way to reminisce about the 'good old days' than a trip to some classic dungeons.
It's a good point, since I'm decked out in Naxx 25 epics, there's no use in doing heroics. Did one yesterday to help a friends alt but there was nothing to gain for me. And now, the only thing I can do to get better gear is Ulduar 25. There's nothing else to do to progress my character.

And yes, they fixed a part of the problem by allowing heroic modes for the new instances. But once you have your gear, you're done! And not all old dungeons have been retrofitted with a heroic mode. And really, who would like to do Karazhan Heroic again? Or run another mana tombs? It's all sitting too fresh in my mind to redo it all. On the other hand, I've been wanting to do another Dire Maul or Maraudon run but there's not much point in doing them except maybe one missed achievement.
Not only is the content linear, but everyone's locked into the same pace. Those that progress faster get bored, and those who progress slower have to hurry up before the content is made obsolete.

As a programmer, I can certainly understand the reluctance to update the old content when there's shiny new content to be made. And I don't really see heroics as a solution unless the item system is massively overhauled. Funnily enough, the pre-TBC percentage system would stand the test of time as long as new items would be different and not just have more stats.

One of the more sustainable systems for expansions is Magic: The Gathering's model. Each expansion introduces new game mechanics, but not necessarily more powerful cards. But overhauling WoW's content structure now would be a massive undertaking and quite risky. Comparisons to Star Wars Galaxies' New Game Experience would be inevitable.
Also, there are people like me that can't spend large amount of time and like variety but at same time would like to be completationist. At least at a reasonable level.

Now, I'm playing as a mage but I'm considering to start playing a dudu.
But there are things like factions and achievements that eventually make me desist in such decision to play something different.

Building a new toon from level 1 (or level 55 if is a DK) is a great occasion to revamp playing style and fun. But doing again faction and achievements is a non sense.

Also wow is linear and made of only one railway. No variety. Just different position on the same railway.
Even wearable items... if you are doing dungeon X, you are wearing set Y transitioning from Z.
This is two distinct issues. That out-leveled content passes into irrelevance is inevitable in a level-based game like WoW. Sure they could refurbish those old zones but to be honest, the last thing this game needs right now is a few dozen more mindless chain-pull aoe instances with crappy loot.

The far bigger problem is that a huge amount of the Wrath content was redundant before it was even released. Not just gear-wise, worse. Fun-wise. There goes all your re-playability. I know they wanted to make raiding and instancing easier, fair enough. But I cannot fathom the motivation to de-tune the heroic dungeons to the extent that they did. Would it have been so terrible if there were a couple of niche zones that were moderately difficult? It took them 3 years to give every class more-or-less effective CC. Then they removed the entire mechanic from the game.

So, all the five-mans: boring and pointless. Factions likewise. I mean, who doesn't want to repeat the same dull quests every day for weeks to raise their DPS by 20 when they already put out 3.0 times the required amount. What does infinite mana plus 30 mana equal?

By setting the bar so low on Naxx, they effectively negated the rest of the expansion content for anyone involved in raiding (outside of the excellent 70-80 questing of course). Since the clear intention is for everyone to be a raider, we'd have all been better served had they directed the huge amount of development time they wasted on the 5-mans into much needed content that people might actually see.
The world gets smaller with every expansion, this is sad. But maybe they have a genius idea for their next MMO...?
What they could of done is made badges all the same, but you get far more badges for harder bosses. For instance, heroics are 1 per boss, 10man are 50 per boss, and 25man are 200 per boss. Then make the prices on items grow expenentially for each teir.

Just my two copper... hehe
I touched on this a few days back, saying that expansions should offer 'new content at the end of the old world, and new content at the beginning of the new world. make an expansion half and half, instead of 'abandon this area right now and head to the new shiny zone'.

nobody seemed to agree, surprise surprise.

with gear / heroics, yeah. I'm in the same boat. I hit revered with some faction, and immediately switched tabards, because I KNOW that gear will be useless by the time I hit exalted. I just want the head enchant from here, the honored belt from here, and the whatever thing from there.

idea* what if exalted gear had scaling stats? increases spell power by 12%? then as your gear got better, that loot would get better...?
One thing that might help is if there were not so many levels. I think Blizzard has gotten carried away. I would rather see an expansion with 5 levels but each level taking twice as long to obtain. If the original game was level 1-50, BC was 51-55, and WoTLK was 56-60, a higher percentage of the world would be of use to each player. Blizzard thought of a lot of things when they made the game, but they missed a little bit on this point, the point you made that only a small part of the content being useful. It does make me sad to see most of the pre-WoTLK content now a ghost town. I guess that was partially adressed with achievements but I personally have no interest taking my lvl 80 to old-world content for an achievement. I have been complaining for a long time that the game is too easy. I think it should be very hard to get to level 80 and then there would be more people still doing pre-WoTLK content. They have gotten themselves into a snowball-effect problem where the players will need expansions sooner and sooner to stay happy enough to keep playing. There are already people bored with Northrend, that's crazy.
Raids and heroics are by their nature obsolete once you progress past them. They are the progression part of the game. This has been going on since EverQuest. The difference is they made it easier. Easier keying up (as in none), easier gearing up, lower gear requirements, etc. So casual raiders can do it in a reasonable amount of time, and hardcore raiders can do it quickly. Its hard to balance. I remember in EverQuest, when Planes of Power expansion came out, a large portion of the expansion was only available to raiders. Well organized and skilled casual players need not apply. At least until they relaxed the requirements and let the "regular" people in to see more of the non-raid parts of certain zones. But that's the progression game. I don't see a good solution.

But Tobold has often spoke of the problem of the leveling game: soloing is the best way to level up. If grouping was the best way, people might do dungeons more and the get the achievements while they level up. But given the changes that were made a while, I can't see that happen. Almost every quest outside an instance is soloable, so dungeons are those things you spam trade chat asking for a run through.
A friend and I were recently discussing this very aspect of the game. One of the things I kept coming back to (when all you have is hammer...) is that phasing could be used to change the original content. The real problem with phasing is that it's two different zones - so people in one phase don't see people in another phase of the same zone. But, in reality, how much interaction do level 80s have with level 15s? The majority of the interaction is instance runs (which could still be possible if the instances were not phased) or having opposite faction high level toons come in an kill your quest givers or flight masters. Imagine the Barrens populated with level 50 or level 80 mobs. But it's phased so that the level 10s and 20s see it as it currently exists but you - having been to outland (let's say) see the mobs at level 60 with another dungeon or two replacing the current WC/RFK/RFD or augmenting them... It's not a perfect solution, but it's something that's implementable with current practices. I think the real problem is that Blizzard doesn't believe that players will want to pay for "urban renewal" of vanilla WoW content.
Some of the epic drops in the heroics and epic rep rewards are BiS depending your spec/class.

Some of the NAX items in both 10 and 25 are pretty crapy once you can rub the purple haze out of your eyes.
Thanks for the insight Tobold, I think you are very much on target with the a core problem in the game. By making raiding easier and more accessible Blizzard has trivialized the other 99% of the content in the game. My first heroics were equal parts excitement and frustration. Now it's just boredom as we AOE just about everything (including the bosses) and runs of less than 20 minutes are not uncommon.

While I don't necessarily miss 3-4 hour instances (e.g., Dire Maul), I do miss the immersion they offered because they set you apart from the world at large. They were like going to a nice restaurant and having dinner, something you set aside time to experience and enjoy. Now most instances are like drive-thru's, in and out in less time than it took to fly to the instance. We've traded experience for expedience and have lost quality and purpose in the process.
Yeah, I agree. The world feels a lot smaller than it did when the game went live. I don't feel it supports as many different playing styles either. You level a bit, you instance a bit, you raid a bit. End.
The grind nature of improving your character gets old too. The difficulty in progression factor increases logarithmically towards the end game. It’s been said that people don’t have alt-ism it’s more an allergy to the grind and treadmill that WoW puts you on.

The no weapons (deadly weapons) with the new season 6 really hits at Blizzard limiting the PvPers, raiding is supreme. New directions in design at Blizzard are putting too many barriers to my fun in WoW, it’s time to move on.
Would you really like to run slave pens yet another time? Daily? For the easy badges?

It was nice while it lasted... time to move on.

LBRS was great. IMHO the best dungeon ever. But, would we run a dungeon which takes many hours and after 6 hours you would still have open quests?

The old dungeons are not only obsolete by their level but also by their design.

I agree with your post Tobold. The game could really benefit from incentivizing more content. Retune old 60 dungeons for level 80s in Naxx 10 gear, and give them their own large shared loot table? Making Naxx easy and accessible was great, but it did prematurely kill interest in 5-man instances. They need a superheroic mode, or old world stuff needs a new heroic mode that is a challenge for people in full heroic/naxx 10 gear.

Also, Dink has a point about arena weapons: it looks like there is no way to improve your weapons by PvPing unless you are on one of the best teams. Sucks pretty hard.
I think it's a great shame 5 man content became redundant so fast. It feels like the next time a dungeon will be genuinely worth running will be 4.0 which is a long way off.

I hope they introduce a Magister's Terrace type affair with 3.2 or 3.3. I miss pugging 5 mans.
Could it be that the WAR solution of regular temporary content addition is an excellent solution ? I'm impatiently waiting for the Beyond the sand event due this week and there's another coming next month. No major changes, just nice new stories that will disappear after a few days and thus generate a sense of urgency.
Which begs the question: When will Blizzard beat the Power Levelers and Gold Sellers at their own game and offer paid-for level 80 characters? When will Blizzard start selling Gold, Epic Mounts, PvP Gear, etc?

If you don't think they'll do it, think again. You can already buy a partially leveled character from them, you just need to satisfy a couple of requirements, first. Put in the hours, buy both expansions, and they'll provide you with a level 55 character. And in doing so, they're essentially admitting that pre-BC content is pointless, and in admitting that, they're just a step away from providing players with max-level characters. For a fee, of course.

At the moment they're still working out the kinks, how to implement it without breaking their game or starting a riot, but once they resolve those issues you'll soon be able to buy a capped Toon with entry level PvP or Raiding gear. Or you could get both sets, for an additional fee of course ;)
If anything WAR is worse about this than WoW. In WAR you are completely cut off from the lower Teir's once you out level them. So you have 10 levels in which you can fully enjoy any 1 Teir.

If you are on a Core server you can still Tour 50% of the lower teirs and if you are on an Open server you can tour 100% of the Teir below you. In WoW you can atleast go anywhere or do anything no matter how much you out level it.
People keep asking for heroic modes of old dungeons but what is the point? I don't use the heroics we have now... I don't need them. Why would I want to go to heroic Dire Maul? I can go to Dire Maul now and see it if that is the point.

The real issue is at the end game cap if you have "finished" the previous raid.. there is only one place to progress your character, the next raid. It is a really big issue now and I am not sure how they are going to fix it. We didn't see it in TBC because they gave us nice loot for badges. Now we have this silly tiered badge system which is really annoying. I am mostly a 10 man raider so the badges I get from Ulduar are already useless to me. There isn't a single item I need from them, which is really lame.

I just wonder how the hell a new character/player is going to be able to gear up for Icecrown a year from now with the way we are seeing the progression content implemented.

I guess maybe for the first time I am really seeing where the game is headed and personally it looks pretty boring. I kind of want a game I can play everyday, not just twice a week when I raid.
Linear progression puts you in a box. I wish that box could be removed. If you really think about it, linear progression means that no matter where you are in a game, only about 5% of that game is really relevant to you. Because, of course, content that matters to you is in that range that starts a few levels below you and is too difficult a few levels above you. The bigger the game, the less content that is relevant to you at any given time.

So, as much as old content really doesn't matter...depending on where you are in the game...high end content doesn't matter to you either. can say that over time that content is useful. But people who haven't reached high levels quit games because of boredom from being stuck in that box. I've done it myself.
Without linear progression there is no feeling of accomplishment from your place in the linear progression. People derive satisfaction from linear progression; a 16 year old working at McDonalds feels pride in owning his 1998 Oldsmobile Acheiva; a 38 year old working at McDonalds and driving a 98 Acheiva is less likely to be brimming with pride. WoW's addictive quality is based entirely on advancing linearly. The fact that they have weakened this progression by making gear less important and letting anyone see end game content is the source of all this boredom and dissatisfaction, because no one is deriving a feeling of status from their progression. It's as if Studio 54 started letting fat people in or something; it really kills the whole point.

Doing heroic mode BRD isn't going to change that fact, if anything its going to be lame as hell that you are having the same experience at lvl 52 that you are at 80. The whole normal mode/heroic mode is a way for Blizzard to double up on content for half the price, and not a solution that players should be advocating for. The proper solution is for Blizz to unclench its ass and start spending part of its billion dollar profit to keep the content feeder working.
And the point exactly is.... ?

Last time I looked, it was called progression. My friends and I progressed so fast, we didnt use a single epic from a reputation vendor. The only reason we ran heroics was to practice practice practice our classes, so we'd clear raid content quicker. Because we were practicing, not because we got awesome gear from heroics. Oh - and because we love playing our toons, of course :) We had a ton of fun doing that. Now we do heroics on our alts, and we enjoy hanging out doing alty stuff. Non-progression stuff, because its fun and less stressful.

Do you blame movie makers for not making movies that you can watch over... and over... and over... and over.... ... .... ....

how many people are the "so many people" who are managing to get bored? Do we have proof/evidence of this alleged phenomenon? Last time I looked, people cant get enough of all the fun new things in 3.1. And many people are even running 10 man Ulduar on their alts, already, on non-raid nights. These tend to be people who play a hell of a lot. They seem to be having a blast. They also run naxx, sarth & maly on their alts. Everywhere I look, people are having fun. Maybe I'm just on one of the few servers in wow where people are actually enjoying the game. All the other servers are full of bored, quitting players. Hmmmmm, yes, thats probably it.
[quote]If you are a freshly minted level 80 in green/blue armor, doing heroics for the loot there and added reputation rewards is a great thing. But if you move on to raids relatively quickly, and get completely equipped with gear from Naxxramas 10 and 25, heroics just become obsolete. [/quote]

There are some exceptions. Sometimes significant ones. As someone above said some heroics have BiS items, so they are at least worth going for rewards (but not challenges if you out gear them).

If you respec from one role to another (healer >> tank, or tank >> DPS, or DPS >> either) most of your gear is worthless and you need to acquire a new set. Which isn't the same drag as starting over from level 1. You can also get a significant part of the way with crafter items and badges you got from your old spec. (I don't know how common it is, when 3.1 came out I got a second talent tree to play prot pally with, my primary tree is holy pally...I figure once I can tank decently, or at least off-tank I should be able to fill out any raid or instance...)

Past that, well it is a shame there isn't a magic way to make a lot of new content. Either totally new, or revamp old world content. It seems odd to me that pen and paper RPGs don't have this issue, but WoW slams into it so hard. Or maybe it is just with pen and paper RPGs people tend to restart from time to time (but they get totally new adventures), sometimes because death isn't so trivial in pen and paper games (many of them at any rate). Maybe it is just simpler to make "new adventures" with pen and paper systems (but why can't it be made simpler for MMORPGs?). For whatever reason you never seem to run out of "new stuff" in pen and paper games. If someone figures out why maybe some of that can be carried over to MMORPGs.
I am really not all that interested in revamped content. I'd rather see new content.

That said, special events in old places could be fun. As someone said, Blizzard could use phasing. I'd love to see a week-long invasion of Tarren Mills and relive some of the PvP from the old days.
So, let's pretend that Blizzard decides to go all heroic on those old dungeons. Where would you like your level 90 gear progression to begin? Should it begin with the new content or the old? Do you want full sets of level-cap gear in every refurbished instance? Or would you be OK with one set spread out over several instances? Should you have to complete all of those instances and gather that gear before hitting the new level-cap zones? You would almost have to because if you did the new zones first then the refurbished zones would be obsolete (again) before ever setting foot in them. But, if you do them first, then (depending on the balance) you might never progress to the new level-cap content, or you might run through it too fast and wonder why they ever bothered.

Regardless, the refurbished zones will be obsolete again sooner or later. Should Blizzard refurbish them with every expansion?
"people cant get enough of all the fun new things in 3.1. And many people are even running 10 man Ulduar on their alts, already, on non-raid nights."

Uh... Uldar dropped last Tuesday?

You need to pop the fanboy bubble if you think its a defense against the larger charges that people are enjoying the patch now. If ungeared alts are running the new raid instance already, watch for incipient boredom and burnout... oh.... three months from now. Maybe sooner, since the hardcore guys will be running Uldar every frigging night since its so easy. There's no challenge left in the game to any but the most casual or pathetically incompetent.

People are temporarily not bored. The boredom will come again pretty quickly because the way Blizz is running things now its impossible to avoid, at least at R&D funding level Blizzard intends to spend on the project. Shit is just too easy, end of story. Leveling is a joke, raiding is a joke. It's kind of sad. There's making the game accessible to casual players, and there's pandering to the lowest common denominator. You be the judge what Blizzard is doing.
You know how on TV shows, when the ratings start to sag they start getting people married, and pregnant (Ross & Rachel), or add some super cute 'lil tyke to the show (Brady Bunch, Growing Pains, Scooby Doo), or have Fonzie jump a shark in order to boost ratings? It's pretty much a tell tale sign that the show is on the downhill slope.

WoW is doing the MMO equivalent of these things. True, its still very very popular. True, it's still the best. But what Blizz is telling us with all these rather tawdry and cheap changes to the game formula that made them immensely successful is that they think they've peaked. They think they need to add some cheap excitement to keep people playing. They think their customer base is deteriorating so they are slapping some cute sparkly bits to keep people entertained. There's a reason they are developing a new MMO, and it's not because want to compete against themselves; it's because they know WoW is showing its age.

WoW has jumped the shark and Blizz knows it.
Although I ask this rather late in the blog and comments...

Assuming that WoW is dying...not in the way that no one is going to play it, but not "growing" and just sorta stagnating YAP style...

1. Would you rather Blizzard use all their money to develop a new MMO?

2. Would you rather Blizzard spend their WoW money to add content/change content/modernize content?

I'm still playing WoW too much, but I'm hoping a new Battlefield game comes out soon to give me something to do. Running heroics, naxx, alts, etc, just isn't cutting it anymore. I log on to play with friends I've made while gaming for 7+ years now...people who log on vent even if they aren't playing WoW or any game...friends. If they all quit WoW, I'm pretty sure I'd drop the game myself, or severely cut back on it.

So, would you rather Blizzard keep WoW on life support with new content that rapidly becomes obsolete, or make a new MMO that is really a next-gen MMO that builds on WoWs success?

Would you keep playing WoW as much as you do now, or at all, if everyone on your friends list and your guild quit tomorrow?

The answer to those two questions, in my mind, would address the linear progression and obsolesence of WoW, in terms of how you see the game, and yourself playing the game.
The core issue here, is loot.

Players flock to instances or raids based on which ones offer the greatest reward. I.E gear. Granted these are harder, but they soon become obsolete.

Just think, hypothetically, if every single instance and raid in WoW, was mobs the same level (not necessarily difficulty), all offered the same loot, would there be any reason to go Heroic Violet Hold, over Shadowfang Keep, beyond personal preference.
a 16 year old working at McDonalds feels pride in owning his 1998 Oldsmobile Acheiva; a 38 year old working at McDonalds and driving a 98 Acheiva is less likely to be brimming with pride.The 16 year old probably has a prettier, younger girlfriend, and is physically much fitter than the 38 year old. And at 50 the guy finds himself laid off, and his shiny SUV being repossessed. Life isn't linear!
I think the intended solution to linear progression obsoleting content is that you see it again on an alt.

But a bigger problem is that content where the difficulty:reward ratio is out of whack obsoletes other content, even for alts.

e.g. if I levelled a second character to 80, it would be foolish to waste my time running heroic 5-mans for epics. I could go straight to Naxx-10, cruise through it because I know the fights so well (it's tuned to be easy for new players, so it's easy for an experienced player even if his gear isn't at the level it should be), and get far far more epics a lot quicker.

A similar thing happened in TBC as season after season of honour epics was released. Even though they were itemized for PvP, they were still strictly superior for PvE to 5-man loot due to just having such high item levels. So if you levelled an alt late in TBC, the best next step was to grind battlegrounds and never set foot in an instance, even if your goal was to gear up for PvE.
The heroic old-world content could be scaled to match the level cap. I liked the term "SuperHeroic" that one of the commentors suggested. Maybe they should be the equivalent of a 5-man raid.

If gear, gear and more gear, was the only aim of playing WoW, Blizz would simply be able to change all the loot in dungeons rather than bring out new content. But I'm sure people would have alot to say about it if they did.
Blizz already introduced a minimum "blue" drop from every boss, including those in old-world dungeons. It didn't make them any more popular, did it?

Because boredom isn't just about not being able to "progress", it's about not having the choice to do anything other than Naxx and Ulduar.
I think the balance was better in TBC, where the heroics were challenging, but there was a good variety of them too. And Kara was mostly out of the question until you had a good set of gear from those heroics. Not to mention keys.

I'm not saying that Blizz shouldn't make any new content, but it's obviously much quicker to revamp the old. True, it may be mostly simpy tank and spank encounters, unless the boss mechanics are changed, but isn't that better then nothing at all. At least it would relieve a little of the boredom between the more major content patches. (Maybe even release one super-heroic per month, rather than all at once).

As an extra to this, instead of doing the same few daily quests over and over again, why not let the old quest givers hand out the dungeon quests that you've already completed?

The nature of WoW says that eventually 99% of all toons will be at the level cap. And at that point, every piece of old-world content will be worthless. The months or years that Blizz spent devolping and tuning that content would then be useless.
a 16 year old working at McDonalds feels pride in owning his 1998 Oldsmobile Acheiva; a 38 year old working at McDonalds and driving a 98 Acheiva is less likely to be brimming with pride.The 16 year old probably has a prettier, younger girlfriend, and is physically much fitter than the 38 year old. And at 50 the guy finds himself laid off, and his shiny SUV being repossessed. Life isn't linear!

So what your saying is that people age on a linear progression, its just not the right way? What's your point?

People generally get judged based on an age/accomplishment progression. Having no money and no high school degree is pretty normal at 15. At 40, its proof you are an total loser. Sure, life doesn't guarantee at least some degree of progression like WoW does (kill enough foozles, you'll get to 80 no matter what), but that's part of WoWs charm. It imitates the sense of progression and success that people want, without any risk that they will repo your shiny flying mount. It's all just varying degrees of success, so you never have to feel bad about losing your job and going bankrupt.
My point is that you are just looking at a tiny stretch of life between 15 and 40 where your theory of people progressing linearly on some scale of accomplishment narrowly holds. You look at a small, ascending part of a curve, and proclaim an upward trend. But in general most things in life ascend to some peak, and then descend. Physical fitness maxes out at 35, memory even earlier. Earnings tank after retirement. So your theory that WoW progression of ever upwards is based on natural progression of life is nonsense. In WoW your power never ever decreases in absolute terms.
My point is that WoW imitates what people wish life was (ever upward, no death or decline).

So its not nonsense, you are just taking it way too literally.
Hey Tox, you're just disagreeing with everyone for the fun of it huh? The fact that alts I know are running ulduar is a representation of the people I hang out with, not of players in general. Seems to me the majority of guilds got to boss#3 or boss#4 last week. Ulduar is harder than naxx. Hard modes are REALLY hard from what I've personally seen of them in the last week.

Also getting bored with the game is a personal thing, and depends so much on individual factors. When Blizzard say their subscription numbers are rising... I believe them. Why would they tell deliberate and obvious lies?
"Seems to me the majority of guilds got to boss#3 or boss#4 last week"

Which would be the week it is out.

Has WOTLK damaged your brains? Can no one else see how ludicrously nerfed that is compared to what would happen in BC or classic? Jesus H. Christ, the majority of guilds are halfway through the instance. Any half assed loser guild has cleared everything but whats his face with 3 drakes. At this point in BC it was still fairly impressive to be clearing KARA for christ's sake.

I'm disagreeing with everyone (not really but w/e) because WoW has a sick hold over peoples imaginations. When they are in the grip of it they can't see beyond the hype and realize that Blizz is debasing the game not out of some impulse to help out the little people, but because its what they need to do to keep the money coming. They don't want to admit it because it brings all the time they spent on the game into question. Can you honestly say that WoW's best days are ahead of it?

Are the subs going up? Maybe. As to why they would lie, that would be because it suits them to do so. That 11 million number is a half truth at best anyway, so its not exactly unprecedented that they are willing to fudge the numbers. ER pulled good ratings for a very long time, it's just that at some point they did it by constantly having episodes where they threatened to kill off major characters or the hospital was quarantined or something. In short the quality dropped but the made it up with cheap stunts. In any case Blizzards arguing that WoW is good because the their revenue is up is the last refuge of scoundrels. Unless you are a stockholder and not a player, that should not be a valid concern.
"They think their customer base is deteriorating so they are slapping some cute sparkly bits to keep people entertained. There's a reason they are developing a new MMO, and it's not because want to compete against themselves; it's because they know WoW is showing its age."

If you follow the best sellers list Lich King is in the top 5 week after week, and has been since release. How is their customer base deteriorating?

I do agree with you that they think they've peaked, just not in the manner you think. They know they can't really get more people into the game at this point. It would be easier with a new game, possibly a new genre.
This is a natural, fundamental aspect of DIKU DNA. It's so deeply ingrained into the "game" of WoW that the WoW "world" suffers for it. Games are naturally meant to be consumed, while living worlds have dynamics that allow for sustainability. This isn't anything new, or revolutionary. It's just how Blizzard decided to go with the game, and no amount of window dressing or extended treadmills (or paint jobs/renovation) will cover that up.

That's why I keep arguing that it's OK for an MMO to actually have an end, or for players to actually finish with them. (Which naturally leads to the notion that they should be monetized by content, not the amount of time a players spends in the game. It's one thing to charge for content to be consumed, it's quite another to charge access privileges. The actual root game design is more aligned with the former, the business model, the latter.)
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