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.