Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 28, 2011
Best expansion ever - for a different audience?

In yesterday's post somebody commented that "Lets face it - outside of raiding there is very little to do in WoW that is fun." Which immediately made me think of my wife, who is playing World of Warcraft casually for 6 years and has never raided, nor even entered a dungeon. And Cam commented in a post before that: "You can probably fix your angry troll problems, Tobold, by adding a big 'IF' in front of all your posts. Since folks can't seem to get that this was the original implication.", which struck me as very true.

While we often talk about dungeons and raiding, I believe that there are millions of World of Warcraft players out there who aren't at all interested in that sort of content. And I'm not talking about Gevlon's hypothetical "wants to group but is too stupid to" moron & slacker. But about people who simply don't *want* to group. Usually this kind of players has lots of alts, because that way he can access more of the sort of content he is actually interested in: Questing, crafting, exploring.

And I wonder how that sort of player sees Cataclysm. I could imagine that if you like questing, the combined Shattering / Cataclysm might be the best expansion ever, because it created several thousand new quests. There are two new races with new starting areas with very different styles (comedy for the goblins, victorian drama for the worgen). And even starting a new character of an old race is a new experience, as so many zones have changed so much.

The other kind of players, the ones Larisa calls the bitter veterans, the ones who think Cataclysm is the worst expansion ever, maybe need to realize that they aren't even the target audience here. It's a bit like going to a cinema and seeing the latest Disney movie, and then ranting that this is the worst horror movie ever. You're in the wrong film, hell, you're even in the wrong movie theatre! Blizzard wasn't even trying to make an expansion for the bitter veterans, having fully realized how futile that is.

I've been saying for years that the hardcore are Blizzard's worst customers, being less numerous, using the most resources, and paying not more than everybody else for it. While Blizzard still supports the raiding style of gaming, this might not be where they actually make their money with.
"It's a bit like going to a cinema and seeing the latest Disney movie, and then ranting that this is the worst horror movie ever."

I think you hit the nail there.
The rage of certain veterans is fascinating, although a little sad to watch. How many years of bitterness can a player endure before he realizes that it doesn't lead anywhere, that it's time to move on and get out of the stew of misery he's boiled for himself?
All the new and rehashed content is certainly great for the altoholics in us!

The cutscenes (particularly the shorter ones that you can't skip) kinda point in the other direction though, don't they? I'm levelling seven toons at once this time (yes, I know, it's not... normal) and like I believe you pointed out in a previous post, the linear questing structure in the high-level zones isn't super-fun the third and fourth time.

However, a lot of energy on this blog and elsewhere this last few weeks has been spent on the level of difficulty of the heroics (and to a lesser degree, raiding). Seen in the context of this last post ("the Cataclysm is targeted at the casuals") this takes on a new and interesting dimension. If you seek to make the game more accessible for casuals, why are even raiders screaming bloody murder over hard heroics?

I apologise for yet another incoherent post – I hope I got at least part of my point across!
I don't think I would say that the raiders and complaining about the difficulty of heroics. If they were struggling that badly on heroics then they wouldn't be raiders, as they would not be prepared for them (in terms of gear or otherwise.) Most of the complaints about difficulty are actually complaints about the quality of LFD queue.

And even if the heroics were too hard for you as there is plenty of non dungeon/raid content to entertain yourself with. I hate the general feeling among cauals that they re somehow entitled to clear every raid without any effort.
For me (a former raider), the new solo content is not-quite-an-expansion, mostly because the difference between old and new content is so stark.

If all of the zones were at that level of completely revamped zones like Stonetalon or Southern Barrens, then Cataclysm would be the best expansion ever for a soloer. I might even call it WoW 2. But that's not the case. I could identify some changes here-and-there in Mulgore, Northern Barrens and Felwood, but the overall feel of the zones was the same as in Vanilla. If you like the storylines but hate the old game mechanics, these qualify as "good enough". There's plenty of this type of content, but eventually you will hit level 60.

With linear expansions you could at least leave the old content behind you. For levels 60-79, you basically stop playing Cataclysm halfway and go play TBC and Wrath. Old storylines, old zone design, old and sometimes downright obsolete itemization. If you want to see the rest of Cataclysm, you have to go through it. It's like the chocolate river scene in otherwise family-friendly Willy Wonka. Trying to get through Wrath with a hunter proved to be too much for me, so I'm currently trying to sidestep the issue by switching my paladin to protection spec. I liked the TBC dungeons and didn't really experience the Wrath ones, so it should be interesting enough.
I'm not a raider. I tried it in TBC, didn't really like it, and while some of my friends raid, I've not gone back.

Wrath was boring. I didn't play for much of it.

Cataclysm, on the other hand, has been vastly more interesting. Lots of questing, new races, new content in general, and tradeskills and PvP seem to be more interesting as well.
While Blizzard still supports the raiding style of gaming, this might not be where they actually make their money with.

In fact, the raiding game is one of those examples where Blizzard acts for idealistic reasons. It doesn't make any sense from a financial point of view. I agree, Tobold.
That's one of the reasons WotLK was so wrong: It tried to push people into raiding who had no interest in it.
In fact, the raiding game is one of those examples where Blizzard acts for idealistic reasons

Not true. Raiding started in WOW because the core audience for MMO's was driven by Raiders who were the "haves" that motivated everyone else to play. Over time the game has become much more casual in some ways but I suspect the developers are struggling to find some way to get the "casuals" to raid or Pvp because the content has more life than questing zones.

I don't think it's Idealism. I think that they have an ideal vision in thier heads of a game where everyone runs the same instance over and over and they spend less dev cycles on it

I certainly didn't want to give the impression that I'm complaining about the difficulty of the heroics. I don't raid, ever, because of constraints in my schedule, but I for one am very happy with the new and improved dungeons and the increased difficulty in heroics. I like challenge, and that's what it provides now. Great!
For me the choice of Blizzard in choosing the target audience is very clear: new players. Adding in a little bit to keep the old ones a bit more... maybe.

When you look at numbers, the only change possible for an old player is that he gets bored and quits, lowering the number of customers. And this is inevitable, anyone gets tired of an old game sooner or later.
On the opposite the only change possible for a new player is to decide to play, increasing the number of customers.

So it's easy to choose: if you want a lot of customers, make the game so that new players like it.
I still think raiding is an important part of what makes WoW. To separate it would be difficult. Even for people aren't really "raiders".

Raiders are part of the economy. They are the skilled players in daily heroics that help out the players with less time and inclination to learn stuff offline.

They offer raid PuG slots to people who are looking for a little taste of raiding without being a raider.

I believe Blizzard cares about raiding as much as anything else. Because its all part of magical formula that is WoW.
@Oscar: It's just a point of contention that feels completely wrong. I'm a raider, and by the time we were geared for raids, my group pretty much eschewed CCs and practically went back to Wrath-style pulling. Now, with a lot more raid gear, we're just doing speed runs for the most part.

@Nils: It's a lofty goal that generates interest. I'm certainly not a great PVPer, but whenever I hear tales of a fellow Feral druid rocking a Gladiator title (not an easy feat for ferals), it sure makes me want to pick it up for a while. If casuals so choose to take part of the main areas of interest, these things provide goals for them to strive towards.
@Oscar: Sorry Oscar, that last paragraph was not directed at you at all - I meant you in the much more general sense!

I'm not surprised to hear you say that. Having tasted easy heroics, noone wants to go back to Shattered Halls. Unfortunately :)
I somehow managed to forget to respond to the original topic. I am unable to comprehend how people can play this game for so long without raiding or PVPing. I am already bored on non-raid nights. I detest levelling, questing in particular. I need a real goal or challenge, and 1-85 does not provide that for me. I will be posting about this later. Thanks Tobold for giving me all my ideas this week!
"and paying not more than everybody else for it"

This just doesn't sound right. It would sound better as:

"while paying the same amount as everyone else."
hmm, you might have identified the problem.

those of us lifetimers and raider-types in LOTRO have had to get used to the fact, over the last 6 months or so, that we are no longer the main audience for the game. F2P LOTRO has completely re-aligned LOTRO to the lower lvl, free player base - and given the tripling in revenues and (on my once-small EU server) sextupling of the population, that decision is clearly the right one from a profitability point of view (the only point of view that matters to a for-profit company). that's not easy for us old-timers, lifetimers and raiders to accept or deal with, even though the re-alignment is a basic premise of a micro-transaction business model.

so conceivably, yeah, Blizz have done the same thing (as a non-WOW player, i couldn't say). we do know that the newbie hose continues to spurt for Bliz; that end-game users are much higher cost and lower profitability than new users; that the game below level-cap is rock-solid, and after Cata more so than ever before; that teh newbie hose does indeed continue to spurt; and that there will ALWAYS be more people who haven't played WoW than those who have.

given all that, the real question is 'why has it taken until now for someone to recognise the situation for what it is'?

there's certainly no shame or problem with Bliz aiming at newer or more casual users; they *are* more profitable and more numerous; the only question is whether they'll go the whole hog, like Turbine have, or be happy milking under-utilised subs from their market advantage.

one final question however: are you (or the Cata-critics) saying that WoW no longer has a proper raiding end-game? WoW's raiding game has been a stick to beat up every other Western MMO for *years* now.
There is no sandbox in WoW.

Sure, you can create a gazillion alts and keep doing the same old 1-85 content over and over and over. And you can take 6 years to do so, never setting foot in any dungeons. If you call that fun, then who am I to argue?

But once you get all your alts to lvl 85 - what do you do then? Create more, and do the same old content yet again?

The only 'no sand-box' exception MIGHT be the auction house meta-game - but then it is not real, supported, game mechanic. If everyone started to play it, it would fail miserably as a game.

Right now, WoW appears to be designed to shuttle players into end game raiding. There are no developer-provided alternatives.
Exactly. I am a quester, crafter and explorer. This is the best expansion for me.
I swear we already talked about this. Cata feels more like an Alt expansion designed to increase new subs.

Looking at it from that perspective I think it's a great expansion.
Very much agree with most of what you've written.

I would like to point out though that in the beginning WoW needed those raiders to be vocal and enthusiastic about the game. That was the experience new players wanted.

Now the game has mass appeal and, most, new players are looking for a very different experience.
As a casual explorer with lots of alts - I have to agree. This is the best expansion ever. I might get to the new high-level content eventually, but I'm in no hurry.
I liked raiding. I also liked leveling. I had multiple alts of every class, some higher level, some low, both alliance and horde. Cataclysm made me unhappy.

it reminded me of a movie that looks so wonderful when you see the commercial for it but when you get to the movie theater, you realize that that commercial showed you all the best parts and its all downhill from there. sure, there are some quests that are fun, but to get to them, you have to slog through soooo much.

I wanted a transformation hat for my characters. I figured it would be at the end of a quest chain, but from what I read about it, the quest chain was pretty fun. it was. except I had to finish more then half the zone before I could get anywhere near that chain. for every peacebloom vs zombies you have million and one "kill 10 rats" quests that you cannot skip. not if you want to open up the chain you really want.

exploring. greatly hindered by incessant phasing. its not fun to wonder around and see nothing but rocks and some grass, simply because you haven't done the quests that open up the action in the area you just got to. and speaking of phasing, it really messes with farming and by extension crafting.

it seems that Cataclysm was aimed at 2 groups of people - dedicated raiders and casual players who play so casually, it could take them an entire expansion to hit level cap..if they ever hit it.

and if you are somewhere in between those two? oops.
I don't know whats not to like about this expansion. Tons of new content. A PVP system that actually, you know, works (except Tol Barad), making tanking and healing challenges again... I think it's easily the best expansion. I don't know how any hardcore people would really have anything to bitch about.
Mrs Bhagpuss and I both played WoW as you describe. We had no interest in any of the parts generally focused on. We rarely bothered with normal dungeons, far less heroic ones. Raiding wasn't on the radar.

We explored, levelled, crafted, quested, traded and generally goofed around as we do in all MMOs. We liked WoW, but we pretty much ran out of things to do that were interesting in a few months.

It was worth trying WoW and we had fun for a good while. We definitely got our money's worth. Compared to a number of other MMOs that we have played in the same fashion, however, WoW really doesn't have nearly as much to do. It has plenty, but other MMOs have a great deal more.
@Oscar: I think you may have misunderstood. It's that anybody who's ready for raids gearwise already outgears heroics. That's why it's practically impossible for me to believe that actual raiders would have problems with heroics.
Claiming that hardcore players are the worst customers financially wise is debatable. Hardcore players are more likely to spend extra money on the various services (faction transfert, server transfert, etc.) provided by the game thus actually paying more that casual players. They are also the ones who will keep playing farming content to optimize their toon whereas casual players will cancel their subscription once they run out of content.
It's called the "end game" for a reason. If you choose not to do the "end game" at 85, then I don't think you are entitled to expect as much content.

There is always PVP, which no-one has mentioned (not that I PVP).
"It's called the "end game" for a reason. If you choose not to do the "end game" at 85, then I don't think you are entitled to expect as much content."

This is mostly true.

If you don't want to raid or do heroics, "end game" really does mean "the end of the game." From a solo perspective, you have basically finished WoW like any other RPG with the end of Twilight Highlands.

On the other hand, there is a LOT of content before raiding. Certainly there is enough that you could go through a few times, assuming you like playing different alts.

I simply don't understand why it is assumed that people who dislike playing with strangers want to play the game less. It seems like a poor business decision to have no solo endgame content, all those players quit when they are "done" with the game.
You want to see the bitter veterans of WoW, play Rift. Non-stop WoW talk/bashing in chat. All. Day. Long.
Unfortunately, your post fails in its analogy. For those who are bitter, it is more akin to them being in the theatre for the disney film and having the projector guy change the move to a horror film midway. That is how they feel, and its thoroughly justified.

Why does anyone feel the need to villify these people? If nothing else, they do it to themselves quite better than you could. It is better to try to understand points of view, more productive.
I've been playing WoW since near day one, and there are some evident truths that seems to be overlooked whenever this discussion point comes up: The Vanilla WoW endgame was designed by developers who had experience from another MMO(EQ), and this design meme established the progression mechanics of the entire 1-60 player experience. It set the stage for player expectations and solidified the overall design goals of future content. No one was forced to raid in Vanilla, and crafting, questing, running dungeons(before heroics) and even open world PvP provided plenty of oppurtunity for a large cross section of player types.

What Blizzard did in expansions and new content releases after Vanilla is what all the fuss seems to be about, and certain segments of the player base are just never going to be satisfied with "change" no matter how well Blizzard polishes the content.

A certain segment of the player base rallied for smaller raids because 40-mans were just to painful to manage. Blizzard introduced Zul'Gurub and AQ20 yet a certain segment of the playerbase still had issues with raiding. Blizzard then switched to 25-man raids(from 40)for the endgame, provided 10-man content, introduced heroics, implemented a Hero class, added achievements and we still have the same issues being discussed even today as evident from Tobolds post.

The issue I have with players like Larisa is that she freely chooses to read a blog like Wolfshead, and then somehow feels like she is being forced to endure his views as some sort of edict that she is somehow expected to follow and support. He isnt asking to be argued with, nor is he asking to be debated or blindly followed like "the pied piper of reason" as to how WoW should be played.

She admits that she didnt start playing until 2007, ~3 years after the "Vanilla" effect, and her useage of the term "WoW Veteran" feels like an insult when her comments come from a position of not having even experienced the feel of the game as it existed back then. Regardless, her issues with veterans seem to be centered around the type of rhetoric used as it relates to bloggers like Wolfshead. Many of us can read his posts and get the "gist" of what he is trying to relate without getting all hot and bothered by the verbage used.

Blizzard wasn't even trying to make an expansion for the bitter veterans, having fully realized how futile that is.

While they might have long ago realized the futility of trying to satiate the entire playerbase, I think that Blizzard realized that the social mechanisms that were established in Vanilla were eroded in TBC, and utterly destroyed in WOTLK. And as such, they tried to rekindle some of that by making "guilding" desirable again, but at the same time they put players on rails with completely soloable content during the 80-85 leveling experience. They then throw players together in completely random fashion(LFD tool) into MUCH more difficult content from a position of "you're going to group with who we tell you to group with" without considering the fallout of the WOTLK Wrathbaby effect after players had gotten use to the mighty loot pinata progression mechanics of faceroller content.

Blizzard HAS made mistakes with this expansion, but while fun is still allowed to be a subjective term, I will hold on to the hope that 5 levels of content will keep me happy until the next expansion. If not, no one is forcing me to play and I can un-sub at any time just as I have in the past.

To each their own. YMMV.
There are two themes that I read in the post/comments. I may be wrong but I interpreted them as being pretty contradictory.

1) Cata is about new subs not bitter veterans.
2) The raids are too d hard ( the WoW parody of The Rent is Too D High politician )

A lot I see is being the WoW problem of only endgame matters. I.e. nobody much cares/values levels 1-84 or 1-524 professions. So if levels 80-84 were just something to power through, then heroics & raids need to be accessible. Your most prolific sociopath wrote "Also, if he doesn't want to raid, why does he do heroics? What will he do with the gear? This doesn't make sense." I.e. nothing before the [current] endgame matters. If it's the destination not the journey, then it is not unreasonable for the customers to want to access the destination.

So I think any subscription business, especially MMOs, is about profitably replacing subscribers. But I don't understand something. While the l33t crowd would never call cata hard, I think there are many arguments that cata is harder than wrath. Which seems like a way to reduce not increase the subscriber base.
I hated the
WOTLK expansion but I like Cataclysm better. Even though I hated Cataclysm, I played it some, at least enough to get a few characters to 80. My main problem with WoW is not as much that it is bad, my problem is that I felt it was already perfect and has slipped a little bit. I am like your(Tobold's wife) that I don't play to do dungeons. I consider myself a treasure-finder who is out to see the (outside) world, find some treasure, and make some money. So I do quests but I would rather grind and get more loot. So I am not really happy that the game has turned into either raid or quest. Grinding to level now is ridiculously slow compared to questing, and epics dropping outside seems like a thing of the past(or am I just imagining this?). But so far I am impressed with the Cataclysm zones and quests and as always I am impressed with Blizzard's attention to polish and detail. I feel that WoW hit its peak in Burning Crusade where the dungeons were hard but the best players got the best stuff from them, but there was a wide variety of epic and rare craftables , where the recipes were random outside drops, so not everybody could make them, so there were niche markets you could get into if you could just get the recipes. I have not played Cataclysm much yet so I don't know if they are still veering away from that, as they did in WoLTK. Also I am disturbed by the growing trend to sell in-game items for real money. So far it's just crack-pony and some pets but I am worried it will go further.
sorry but I typed "Cataclysm" instead of "WoTLK" a couple times there. I am tired but I think you can tell what I meant.
This, if any expansion, should have been the one that they gave us extra character slots. I already feel mostly 'done' with the expansion. I've hit 85 on three characters and am only a blink away from it on several more - only the mehness of going through the same content for 4-5 more times is slowing me down.

I don't have any character slot 'free' on my main server. I am not interested in playing on a different server - I have a community where I am, and isn't an effective substitute - it's great for 1/1 conversations, but it's not the same thing as chat channels and guild channels, nor do I want to have everybody in my guild know my identity.

I've rolled worgen and goblin alts on other servers just to see them, but that's a few hours of content and I don't want to play on another server.

I'm a casual, not hardcore raider - we only raid a couple nights a week for less than 2 hours a night.

It's the only thing I'm actively enjoying in the game, I am bored by dailies, I've done every one of the new quests at least once and in some cases up to 5 times ... there's nothing left for me to do except facerolling through revamped oldworld content on a character that's overgeared.

So overall, I'm not happy - but I'm also not in the hardcore raider side either. But I do agree that this expansion isn't for those of us that have been around since the beginning or near the beginning.
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