Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Does new content outdate too fast?
A reader wrote me with a question about World of Warcraft raid content:
It's hard for the casual player (or just me) to keep up with the new raids that have come out. The guild I was in never really finished Uldaar 10 let alone 25 then TOC came out. Now everyone wants to run that and not ULD. Then Onxyia re-release 10 - 25 has come out making ULD less appealing…and what was that other dungeon Naxx something? And looking at WoW Insider today I see they have a new raid coming out next patch.Well, my first comment here must be how great it is if the casual player's problem nowadays is that he couldn't finish Ulduar. This is already a huge improvement over the situation in the previous expansion.
All this said: is the release of new content great for everyone in the game or just the sub-set of users that clear it in 10 days? (I guess the root of this question is the same raider vs casual argument…)
Having said that, there nevertheless remains a problem: The reason why my reader can't finish Ulduar isn't because it is too hard for him, but because he can't find a group to do it, because everybody else moved on to the newer raid dungeons. And that is something I can sympathize with, as I have a similar problem: I'd love to raid with alts, but can't, because nobody is doing Naxxramas any more. Even pickup raids go to Onyxia or ToC, and only invite people with [Epic] or similar achievements.
The simple truth is that organizing a raid, regardless of destination, is already pretty hardcore in itself. While some casual players, or alts, probably wouldn't have huge problems beating Naxxramas, they do have a problem getting a raid started in the first place. Which is why Blizzard is talking about (but hasn't finished developing yet) a system which would give rewards for organizing groups as part of the new looking-for-group system. I sure hope that extends to raids as well, not just 5-man groups. I am pretty sure that there are enough players around who still would like to do Naxxramas and Ulduar, it is just the organizational barrier to entry that is hard to pass.
I hope that the new LFG system has a high priority for Blizzard, because it tackles exactly the problem the reader mentioned: From day 1 of an expansion there is a "wave" moving through the content, with many players being interested in the same content at the same time. As long as you ride that wave and develop your character at exactly the speed of everyone else, things are fine. If you fall behind for any reason, you run into problems.
Part of that is psychological: Other players assume that if you aren't in full Ulduar gear by now, you are a moron and a slacker. If you say you want to go to Naxxramas now, people conclude that you don't know how to play Naxxramas, and aren't geared enough for it. Which for example for my warrior alt isn't true at all, I'm geared up well enough for entry level raiding, and I know Naxxramas inside out because I've been there with my priest main. The other part of the problem is incentives: Not only is running Naxxramas again rather boring for somebody who already spent months there, but it also gives only useless loot drops, and barely useful emblems. It is counterproductive that today running Naxxramas nets you less than doing a mix of heroics and daily quests.
As I said before, the situation for casual players has much improved since early Burning Crusade. Raids are more accessible now, and emblems added some incentive to redo older content. But we aren't quite there yet. And my reader is right to pose the question whether new content is only great for the subset of players that clears that content fast, even if that subset isn't quite as small any more. Would you agree that lets say Naxxramas is already outdated? And what do you think could be done to keep content alive for longer?