Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 29, 2011
 
World of Warcraft classic servers

It is very hard to be not aware that some people are very angry at Blizzard over the "panda expansion". Personally I don't mind playing more humorous characters. And while I agree that Mists of Pandaria is making the world of Warcraft less serious, I don't see it as a huge step. WoW goes from being 58% silly to being 63% silly to use some fictional numbers for something that is impossible to measure scientifically. Thus it appears that it just happens that for some people 60% silliness happened to be threshold at which they couldn't stand it any more.

Or we come back to my theory of burnout: The older a game gets, the more awesome stuff the game company needs to add, only to just keep the interest level constant. Mists of Pandaria is maybe not so remarkable for what it does, but for promising already a lot and it still not being sufficient to keep the interest up.

To test that theory I thought of a thought-experiment, which for once isn't completely unthinkable: What if Blizzard introduced "classic servers" to World of Warcraft, which would work exactly like WoW did in 2004/2005, maybe minus some bugs and plus some UI improvements? Would that bring the lost millions of subscribers back?

Personally I don't think so. I, for one, wouldn't be terribly interested in playing on a classic server. Been there, done that. While I do consider that classic servers would be a good idea, I don't think that there are millions of players out there who would prefer classic over the current version. Maybe the WoW expansions were too slow, and maybe they never brought us everything we would have wished for, but I don't think World of Warcraft would have survived if it was still on vanilla with no expansions at all. So it is hard to argue that the expansions made the game worse, they only maybe failed to keep up with our growing demands and expectations.

In another, more fictional thought experiment, I was considering a World of Warcraft which got the Burning Crusade expansion in 2005, Wrath of the Lich King in 2006, Cataclysm in 2007, and Mists of Pandaria in 2008. I am pretty certain that in that case Mists of Pandaria would have received a warmer welcome. Four years later it appears more like being too little, too late. Everquest is about to launch its 18th expansion in 12 years, which is probably closer to what players demand. And that still didn't prevent people from burning out.

The alternative might be a MMORPG which resets regularly. Which might be the appropriate point to tell you that A Tale in the Desert is currently in the final events of the fifth telling, and will start over from scratch (with improvements) on December 3rd.

Comments:
Classic WoW content wasn't that good compared to pretty much everything released since. While some people might like the idea of Classic servers, I don't think they would that much after playing on them.
 
I really liked this post.

Your numerical assessment of the % of silliness in WoW is spot on and actually made me laugh aloud.

I agree with your burnout theory.

Like many of my friends over 6 years I've had long long play times with short breaks leading to breaks that were longer than the periods of play.

Theirs nothing Blizzard could have promised that would have satisfied even 50% of the vocal minority who you hear from online.

Pokewow, Dungeon Challenges, armor transmogrify, less hardcore progression path... sad to say but it perfectly captures the kind of things that will let my wife and I keep playing. With a young child we can't raid anymore, but the game is growing and changing, and I'm sure Mists of Pandaria as well as Diablo 3 and a few others will be on the short list of games we play.
 
I was there on release day, and it simply wasn't as good then as it is now. It was way better than the MMOs on the market at the time, but it wasn't as good as it is now. I would have less than zero interest in any sort of "classic" server.
 
In another, more fictional thought experiment, I was considering a World of Warcraft which got the Burning Crusade expansion in 2005, Wrath of the Lich King in 2006, Cataclysm in 2007, and Mists of Pandaria in 2008. I am pretty certain that in that case Mists of Pandaria would have received a warmer welcome.

I don't know, one of the major factors that have been burning me out are the frequent gear resets and system changes. If these had been happening every three months instead of how often they actually did, I think I'd only be more tired of and cranky about the game, not less.
 
I wrote a reference to Lego Universe the other day in a comment to another of your posts. I don't know if you've played that game, but it is definitely the direction that WoW appears to be moving. More and more worlds within the world, with less internal consistency between them.

The Pandaria expansion emphasises that, with its "secret world" theme. But it's only part of the trend. Each previous expansion (except Cataclysm, which is a bit ironic considering how criticised it has been) has increased the fragmentation a bit – particularly after the release of the next expansion when the previous ones always feel a bit "off" after events have moved on.

One way to get to grips with this is to make worlds that are less interconnected. In that way, a wholly secret world, hidden from all until now, is perfect. You can create new lore, unique to that world, without having to negatively impact on the other worlds in Azeroth.

Like you, I don' think there's anything inherently wrong with that. It simply seems smart. But it does decrease my personal interest in the whole thing. I like narrative and the progression along an arc. So for me, an Emerald Dream expansion (for example) would have been nicer. But again, that would have created even more of those consistency problems than previously.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I think many people would have complained of a Pandaren expansion in 2008 too. On the other hand, I don't think Blizzard would have released a Pandaren expansion then, either.

But I agree with your main argument: going backwards is not an answer. You simply cannot roll back time like that. And while the overall reset is an interesting idea, I assume that you will lose a large swathe of customers at each reset, which I guess will hurt those important revenue figures.

Finally, it would interesting to know who those people that are most upset over the Pandaren thing are: current players or past players hoping to return to the game later. Also, I'm curious to know which groups matters most to Blizzard! :)
 
Hmmm - the problem is, to gewt back to the classic WoW 'feel' you'd also have to close the Pandora's box of UI add-ons. Thinking back to raiding in classic WoW we were barely starting to use the likes of boss mods and threat meters. A lot of WoW's evolution has come from players creating add-ons that change the nature of gameplay, and from Blizzard tuning encounters in the expectation that players have those add-ons. I expect that raid groups playing 2005 content with 2011 add-ons will blast through it.

Here's an alternative thought experiment - suppose Blizzard launched 'naked' WoW servers with no add-ons allowed (and encounter difficulty was detuned appropriately). Servers where you had to remember what a boss's abilities were, where DPS had to gauge their threat and throttle back damage if it 'felt' like they were going to pull, and where you had to set your AH prices and post items manually. Would anyone be up for that?
 
I remember playing with you a bit at the start of the last telling. Was quite a fun little game will probably give it another try on this reset.
 
People look back at classic WoW through rose colored glasses.

I still remember Molten Core raiding. As a mage, you had only one choice: frost spec. And all you really had to do was fire frostbolts all the time and use a special ability once every two minutes. Or decurse all the time... As for hybrids? Healer was a better name. Not that much fun in retrospect.

So if I look back at a more recent expansion where I played a DK, I see that it's a lot more fun. You had a priority based rotation, had to use about 5 spells all the time and still had to use your specials. Add a fun pet, better encounters and overall, the game is just a *lot* better.

So I'm not worried about the next expansion. If the new class is as fun as the DK was, I'll be very happy to play one.
 
Golden memories are pretty much that. Memories. Its never as good as you think it was 'back then'.
 
I stopped playing during WotLK, but at that stage I felt addons were becoming less necessary anyway. Bosses flagged their use of special abilities much better than previously. Deadly Boss Mods was not needed in Naxx2; in fact there were probably only about three bosses where it was of some minor use. Blizzard could have made threat clearer as well, in which case DPS at least could have got by quite well without add-ons.
 
where DPS had to gauge their threat and throttle back damage if it 'felt' like they were going to pull

Vaelastrasz before ktm and other addons! 4 Tanks taking over an unspottable boss while everyone has unlimited resources and pulling aggro meant loosing a good part of your raid. KNIET NIEDER STERBLICHE! :-) Such fun.

A naked server without any addons allowed will not get many people playing. Personally I don't have any bossmods installed because normal firelands doesn't require it. Bosses make enough emotes to know what's going on. The only raid addon I have is ClassTimer (raid as DD).
 
WoW is far too progress-orientated to just restart it, like Tales in the Desert... Even if that's does somewhat happen every expansion in raw game mechanic terms ("green is the new purple").

The more interesting question, is the single large paid-for expansion model redundant?

WoW could work with a subscription to a shared game world, and small one-off payments for each block of new isolated content: Don't like battle pets? Don't buy that system addon. Not raider or gladiator? Don't buy the latest set of dungeons or arenas. While certain core game systems are shared, a lot can now be broken down this way - privately instanced, or using publicly visible art assets in a restrictable way.

Blizzard's culture seems to preclude "WoW as a platform" logic. The more general counter-arguments tend to stress immersion (such as battle pets as a chill-out activity between raids, even if you thought you were buying WoW for teh hardcore) or community (multiplayer tends to suffer when different players have access to different game components), which makes it important to the viability of the whole game that players cannot pick and choose what they buy in to.

A more muted approach would simply be to call patches "expansions" - steadier evolutions and content flow. As you note, 3 WoW patches and an expansion every 2 years isn't terribly far removed from Everquest's expansions.
 
but I don't think World of Warcraft would have survived if it was still on vanilla with no expansions at all.

It would have survived - but with significantly less than a million players now.

---
I was considering a World of Warcraft which got the Burning Crusade expansion in 2005, Wrath of the Lich King in 2006, Cataclysm in 2007, and Mists of Pandaria in 2008. I am pretty certain that in that case Mists of Pandaria would have received a warmer welcome

Careful. Since WoW expansions replace prior content and add to the game in a vertical way, it might actually not have been a good idea to have expansions come out sooner.

I would actually have liked a later release of TBC and WotLK, because I hadn't completed all the raid instances, yet.
 
I wouldn't play on a classic server, I did enjoy vanilla, but I raided then and even got burnout.I was also for a while in a level 60 locked guild that did old content with no above old content equipment, it was still easier because we had done it before for the most part, once you have done something so many times you just are able to do it easier( it was still fun but that was the people). I rather enjoy the game now for the most part.I think you can look back on the past and it seems ever so great because it was new, not that it was better just novel.
 
I'd be very interested in a Classic WoW server because WoW was already well into WotLK before I finally got round to playing it.

While I was playing I looked up lots and lots of stuff on various websites because I knew almost nothing about WoW. One of the most frustrating things that happened repeatedly was when I spent fifteen minutes reading about some great mechanic or activity that looked as if it would be really good fun, only to find that I was reading old information and that content had either been removed or heavily modified.

In no case did the "improved" version seem to me as though it would be more fun than the older version might have been, so it would be great to go back and give all those things a run out.

PS. A propos my comment yesterday on comments disappearing, before I pressed "Publish" I copied this to Notebook and just as well too. This is the message I got :

"We are sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.
The following errors were found:
Input error: Memcache value is null for FormRestoration"

I often get this message when submitting comments.
 
A much better question would be what would happen if WoW created new content that was very similar to "vanilla" content.

So what would happen if blizzard made new dungeons more like BRD, stratholme, WC, and Sunken Temple? And what if they made the newer raids more like MC, AQ, and Naxx? And what if they kept different character classes different, at the expense of non-perfect balance 100% of the time?

What would happen then? Oh yeah, the game wouldn't be so boring. The fact the Blizzard is now actually using disney and pokeman as their major sources of inspiration shows you where their mindset is.

Players aren't suddenly leaving because of burnout (it makes more sense that burnout would happen to different people slowly and continually, not all of a sudden at 6 years). At least cataclysm looked good from the outside. It drew older players who had quit back into the game. I seriously doubt MoP will be drawing any former players back. And I honestly can't imagine who it will attract other than elementary school students.
 
I never got why expansion had to be vertical anyway. Until Cata the world just got more and more disjointed, with obvious seams between expansions.

WoW's time as the 800 lb gorilla is drawing to an end. I don't believe it's possible to fix, because it's ultimately about the pool of new players drying up while the current player base decays from burnout/babies/jobs/real life. I also suspect that no other MMO will really be able to replace it, because WoW used up all the new players to achieve its tremendous success. This is part of why F2P is becoming so popular. WoW is the MMO bubble. It will be a long time before another MMO manages to get millions of people to pay 15/mo.
 
Hapmster, it's not that there is a mass burnout so much as there aren't enough new recruits to replace them.
 
What if they would have released the expansion as they did, but didn't increase the level cap and didn't do anything that made the old content obsolete? Raiding, of course, wouldn't work with 14 tiers one after the other. But that could be solved with a reduced mudflation.

Add-ons should add something to a game, WoW only has replace-ons.
 
"The alternative might be a MMORPG which resets regularly."

I've always liked that idea as it allows the players to dramatically change the game world during the course of the game.
 
I am currently playing WoW again the first time after BC with an starter edition account, and my idea is to buy the expansions only when I have finished the content before. So it is currently kind of "classic" WoW ... and it works. And if Blizzard would be able to keep 10% of the people cancelling with a classic server, they probably would do one, otherwise not that many are cancelling.
 
Regarding the humor. I started raiding in Wrath. I was disappointed in the stupid potty humor in the pinnacle of raid instances.

Did "I made an angry poo-poo" really fit with the Lich King's seriousness?

I welcome a gentler theme so that a little silliness will fit better.
 
Note that Magic: the Gathering is still going strong after sixty expansions.
 
It's an interesting idea but the class server offering would never work because ot Blizz's philosophy of funneling all the players into the endgame treadmill. A classic server would need to be managed with gear resets and nerfs to keep the carrot in front of players' noses. This means management teams and increased costs.

In any case, I think most of the hard-core, dissatisfied types have moved on to other MMOs like Rift or Eve or just plain quit altogether. So the actual market would be quite small.
 
Actually I think I would play a Warcraft classic server. Simply because I never did - I joined at the end of Burning Crusade.

My personal opinion is that everyone's frustration tolerance level is different. Amongst other things burnout and undesired change can both increase a players frustration, once the game exceeds the players tolerance they quit. Thus if a developer piles an unwelcome change onto a player population that is already frustrated and close to burnout then you should expect at least some exodus.

Just before Cataclysm released I was frustrated with the game but still playing. When Blizzard revamped the classes and talent trees my annoyance with that change plus my frustration level far exceeded my desire to play. I quit. And yes I deleted my characters just like Nils did.
 
i'd honestly absolutely LOVE to get wow classic servers back, and so does my friends who start in 2005 late 2006, i started in late 2006 with a friend and now we just think wow has become too easy with the automatic quest helper system, way way too fast leveling and way too easy to kill mobs, the old elite mobs that was fun to kill in quests was where you asked guildmates to come help, those days are gone. I miss the days when i started in late 2006 until january 2007 when bc came out, when wow was a challenge and fun. Why do you think many of us old players now play on classic private servers hmmm i would pay blizzard to get classic 05-06 servers back <3.
 
@ Betty
WoW was actually a living breathing world during classic, the players who played it the most would still find new things in classic. During TBC Blizzard saw that it could get away with leading people down a narrow hallway without this world.

@ Carra
So you'd rather have classes that just mould together instead? Don't get me wrong, MC is brought up a lot. Yet it is one raid in all of vanilla people point to as being boring... They never talk about any other of the raids or 5-10 mans. MC is the worst example and people in denial always bring that minor example up first.

@Brent
Glasses ha? So a vast amount of people have those same 'rose-tinted' feelings about WOTLK?

No, didn't think so. Nor do I do I think people will ever have those feelings, because Vanilla WoW was a great game and WOTLK wasn't.
 
DAoC's classic servers probably saved their game after the disaster that was the Trial of Atlantis expansion.

But I think that is a different dynamic than what is going on with Wow. :)
 
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