Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
 
Blizzard repeating old mistakes

To get some sanity instead of the hype cycle, I tend to not read too much about all the empty promises developers make before a game is released, but rather play it when it is out and see for myself. So now I am discovering a lot about Mists of Pandaria, where others have already learned everything there is to learn before the game was even out. I read the first player hit level 90 only four-and-a-half hours after release. My exploration of Pandaria will be considerably slower.

So I've been playing with my priest through the new zones, or rather through the start of The Jade Forest. As that character also does mining and jewelcrafting I first ran around to collect ore nodes before doing quests. Thus I met NPCs with no quests or empty places, only to find later when doing the quests that these had turned through phasing into quest hubs. In short Mists of Pandaria is repeating the mistake of Cataclysm of having strictly linear quest progression through zones, where every character is forced to go down exactly the same path, and quests can't be skipped.

I believe that people who read forums and blogs have a very wrong idea how Blizzard is making money with World of Warcraft. The bread and butter of Blizzard is not the people who rush through content, the high-end raiding guilds, the elitist jerk theorycrafters, or the bloggers and forum posters. Blizzard is making most of their money from people like my wife, who was subscribed to WoW all the way through Cataclysm, and was busy leveling alts.

Mists of Pandaria might well turn out to be the worst expansion ever to level alts in. It has the linearity of Cataclysm zones, but where Catalysm had two possible zones to start in, Mists of Pandaria only has one. The Jade Forest might end up being more hated than Hellfire Peninsula, because in Hellfire at least you could skip the quests you didn't like. All the talk you heard about Blizzard making MoP more casual-friendly is going to come to nothing if those casuals become bored of leveling alts due to linear questing.

I predict an even worse rollercoaster ride of subscription numbers for this expansion than Cataclysm. In the coming days and weeks you will read about millions of sales, and lots of returning subscribers. But early in 2013 the stories will be of a mass exodus again. World of Warcraft is still very far from dying, but the developers missed a huge opportunity to increase the longevity of the casual subscriptions.

Comments:
Tobold,

I don't think it would be safe to argue against that prediction!

And yes, if the zones turn out to be too linear it will be quite sad. Like you, I haven't read much about Mists. I did pick up somewhere, though, that they use a lot less phasing now than they did in Wrath and Cataclysm. Maybe the Jade Forest has some tricks up its sleeve, or turns out to be an exception. Before my army of alts are done, I fear I will know the answer only too well. :)
 
So you are basing your claim of linear questing throughout the entire expansion on the experience you are having in one zone?

I'm not going to argue with your experience as I am not playing it right now myself, but Blizzard has specifically talked about non-linear questing, entire skippable zones, etc etc etc, quite a bit. I recommend making it out of the first zone before making sweeping generalizations.

You might even be correct about expansion linearity and/or broken promises. But your conclusions are a bit premature in any case.
 
I haven't even wanted to start the questing yet. So I am leveling a tiny Monk. I got used to hearts and now I must read quest-texts again. On the other hand it is nice to see on the map where exactly the drops are.

My main complaint is that I play to socialize with my guild and my Level 10 Pandaren Monk is still not in the guild, because I am still not an Alliance character. I am rushing through the first (really linear) levels just to be with my guild. Was that Blizzard's intent?

I also noticed that my Monk while walking from one quest to the next often encountered nothing but landscape on the way. Empty unused landscape, not even mobs in some places and after the first 10 levels nobody will be back there ever, even if it is beautiful (would be actually if WoW didn't eat up my graphics power)

I do hope that there is less phasing. Phasing made it so hard to play with friends.


 
Let's hope MoP avoids that linearity. I don't have a particular stake in it -- I'm unlikely to play MoP for quite a while, and even then I'll likely only level my main -- but I tend to think it's a terrible dev mistake that privileges a single story experience over replayability and long-term fun. IMO it's what did the most damage to SWTOR's numbers; it's certainly done damage to my SWTOR guild.
 
So you are basing your claim of linear questing throughout the entire expansion on the experience you are having in one zone?

I'm basing it on the fact that I didn't get a choice of starting zone, nor did I get any choice what quests to do in the first half of level 85 to 86. Even if there is more choice later, that feels like a serious bottleneck.
 
I just finished about as much as you. I moved ahead to pick herbs and found some quests, did them,and then went back to the first quest line.

Didn't feel linear at all. And there were several different storylines.
 
I haven't even wanted to start the questing yet. So I am leveling a tiny Monk. I got used to hearts and now I must read quest-texts again.
I might have become a GW2 fanboy, but I too started to level a monk in MoP. For the first 4 - 5 levels I just had 2 attacks and listened to "I don't have the energy for that" messages as I had to wait for the resource to fill up. The combat at the lower levels felt so empty.
People may complain that GW2's hearts are questhubs in disguise but at least I can go where I want and level there.

Also the same as Yashima above mentioned: I'm cut off from my guild (the main reason for me to still play WoW) so I felt like I wanted to rush the first levels as quickly as possible (which made everything feel even slower than it actually is).

GW2 may not be the revolution many hoped for but it did change my view on WoW and what I enjoy in an MMO.
 
The whole things used to be as open-ended as you liked but they got many complaints in the beta that no one knew why the Alliance and Horde were even in Pandaria. So they made the very start of the first zone on rails to explain some of this stuff. After that it's all exactly the way you want it.
 
It looks like Apple's latest history. "The iPhone 5 is a piece of crap, no real innovation, who careas about that thing".

The truth: 5 million iPhone 5s sold in the first three days.


 
On a side note, did you try Torchlight II? There is a demo already, if you want to try-before-purchase.

and... Borderlands 2? They're extremely fun, you should play them.
 
I'm in the valley of the four winds zone and I can say that besides maybe the first hour of questing in jade forest pandaria is not at all as linear like cataclysm. in jade forest it is on rails up until you establish your factions base. from that point several hubs open up and you choose which to go through and complete. in valley of the four winds you do a single starter quest for the zone and them the same thing happens, four or five hubs open up and the choice is yours where to go. so I think your making your assumptions far to quick Tobold.

now there definitely is a trail blizzard lays out through the zones if you wish to follow it, but its totally up to you to follow it. each hub is its own mini storyline and not heavily chained together with any others. from my experience there is however at least one "main" chain that spans all the hubs but again its up to you if you choose to follow it. for jade forest I didn't.
 
I also started to level my character from 85-90. It felt so weird after GW2 and took me some time to get used too if I can say that I am used to now.

1)I was attacking mobs in my way without notice if I have them tagged or not. After I participated in some kills I have seen my quest log say 1/15...then I realised I have to compete with mob tagging

2)In one place I hade some quick respawns and found my self fight 8 mobs. I tried at first and then I realized I am gonna die. put up defensive cd's and tried to run out to save myself. I counted 10+ people passing next to me, not a single one stayed to give any help, unlike in GW2 (I don't care if they do it for profit, the help each other)

3)Lot of the times I was trying to dodge attacks but found out that I should put my hopes to RNG.

4) In a quest I spent 30-40 minutes to kill a single mob for a quest because I couldn't skip that quest and progress further http://imageshack.us/a/img21/3264/wowscrnshot092512125028.jpg

5)I decided to level my farmer first that has mining-herbalism. Almost all the times I was running stressed to hit a node just to find someone else got there first..or sometimes I had to fight a mob and while I was doing so someone else came and took the node

So far I have only negative experience and after 3-4 hours I stopped playing. I got bored in GW2 little fast and was waiting wow with good willing, but wow just made me to appreciate gw2 more and especially the non-linear experience and of course the zero competition between players in pve. If more of my guild mates login and we decide to level up only through dungeons together I may play it again. I would pay blizzard to get me to 90 if I could just so I be able to raid with my friends, even if I like leveling very much in other games
 
giannis hits on some great points. now my personal experience was completely different then his. I had no problems finding enough mobs to kill. I was lucky enough to get by any quests that were mobbed by players fairly quickly. and I had no trouble finding nodes. so overall I've been pretty happy playing mists. blizzard has a serious problem though when two players doing the same content can have such vastly different play experiences, one pretty good and one very bad.
 
stupid phone cut me off. the question I wanted to pose is how does blizzard fix this? how do they normalize the experiences on launch day?
 
the question I wanted to pose is how does blizzard fix this? how do they normalize the experiences on launch day?

I think there was a plan to normalize the experience by having cross-server zones, but a lot of people protested against those for reasons I haven't seen clearly explained anywhere. Something about you forming a "community" with the other 20,000 players on your server, and that "community" getting "destroyed" if you mix it with the 20,000 players of another server. I must be getting old, I somehow can't remember the names of the 20,000 players on my server.

Anyway, my experience with regard to crowding was good, due to particular European reasons: Half of the 20,000 players on my server were Italian, and they left when Blizzard opened up official Italian servers recently and handed out free server transfers.
 
Oy.

So much for going back to a Wrath environment. I wonder why they decided to do this, especially after they'd made noises about 'fixing' the linearity of quests through a zone.

I know that TOR does this too, but you know, I don't mind so much with TOR. I suppose the class quests keep enough variety out there for me, whereas leveling through Hyjal and Vashj three times was one time too many.


 
Long time reader, first time commenter.

The first zone is a bit more linear because there is a specific story they wanted to tell to get the expansion set up.

Having played some of the other zones in Beta it does spread out. You have multiple options within zones on the quest hubs you want to explore and also there is overlap between zone levels, so you can alternate which zones you quest in.



 
Good to hear. I'll play it, and then write it as I see it. If I get to leave the linear part and Pandaria starts feeling more like an open world, I'll say so.
 
Casuals can level a monk from lvl 1-85. That should keep them busy for months, not?

When levelling in outland, I levelled two characters at the same time. My warlock would do zone x and my hunter zone y. With the rest bonuses I could level both of them to level 70 through completely different zones.

Doing the same content with three characters just doesn't look as appealing.
 
I think Giannis was spot-on regarding the differences between WoW and GW2 when it comes to PvE cooperation. It was probably the most glaring difference when I was leveling my main through Jade Forest last night. I don't have a strong preference between quest givers or hearts, but mob tagging and node stealing are frustrations that seemed so easy to solve that I wonder why Blizzard hasn't done it yet.

GW2: Bunch of players show up in an area, everyone fights bad guys, everyone helps rez fellow players, everyone profits and feels part of a larger group.

WoW: Bunch of players show up in area, compete to mine nodes, ignore other players even if they're getting beaten on by multiple mobs, waste time sitting in a circle w/ other players to complete kill quests, and generally feel like other players are your competition rather than your teammates.

GW2 is far from perfect, but I really feel they do a much better job of creating a cooperating PvE environment.
 
Tobold,

the situation is worse than you think. First, Cata was more of same and burned out fast. Now MoP is more of same again and this time will burn out faster. Players lost the illusions about Blizzard after Cata and DIII and they will not tolerate a bad expansion for long time.

Second, this time WoW have a real competitor, GW2. It is not a good time for launch a bad expansion. And the subscription model is better for GW2: it is easier return to a game with no subscription. A lot of players that returned to WoW after play GW2 will return fast when they see they don't like MoP.

Third, players that tryed GW2 get adapted to the non-competitive environment from that game. A lot of posts here show it and I ever suspected that was to happen (I had a post at syncaine making that argument some 2 weeks ago). No competition for nodes, no kill stealing, full loot for everyone, players liked it and return to WoW is just showing how much better is GW2.

Howver, the numbers from Noysy Gamer for the last sunday are up: GW2 had 51,481 hours played (a decline of -25.4 %) and WoW had 33,794 hours played (+31.7 %). Players returned to WoW this weekend for prepare for expansion, but GW2 continued to lead.

We will see how it works next sunday, when we will have direct comeptition between MoP and GW2. But I think we will see, before this weekend, a lot of players delluded returning to GW2 and a lot of bloggers writing that MoP was the worse expansion ever...

If my previsions are right, we will see the bleed of subscriptions happening before the end of this year, not at next year. And next year the bleed of subscriptions will be so strong they will be forced to merge server. And I think we will see Blizzard discussing about make WoW free to play at the next year. WoW will not die, but the same way that EQ is yet alive.

Tobold, that is not a disaster, it is a cataclysm.
 
Just for complement my last post.

Gianis was highly critical to GW2, a lot of Gianis posts showed it. The first hours of MoP aparently changed Gianis opinion...

It is just one case, but I think a lot of Wow players are experimenting tha same feeling. To "play with my friends" will not work for long time, slowlly the friends too will return to GW2 (or try it for the first time). The subscription bleed will be huge.
 
At the risk of engaging in confirmation bias, this sounds about like I expected. Luckily, even if I did succumb to return to WoW, for some reason I am really put off by the anthropomorphized pandas, which feel far too much like "furries" done Disney style to me. It's just....not the sort of fantasy adventuring I want, m'kay...
 
You know, now that people have mentioned it, I realized what felt wrong about the PvE exp in WoW last night - it's not GW2!!

I have to say, GW2 seems to provide a much more pleasant leveling experience - you just can't beat those open world group encounters. Though, that may change in GW2 as the population thins out. There are still enough people in the low level GW zones to have lots of help, for now.

And in GW2 you are not penalized for helping others - no such thing as 'tagging' a mob. Everyone who helps is rewarded. You have no real incentive to help others in WoW. Though I do realize that using the GW2 method in WoW, as it stands today, would make it a gold-farmers paradise. Perhaps a compromise where everyone shares exp, but only the 'tagger' gets the loot? They can get away with it in GW2 because the economy is in ruins.
 
Joao Carlos thats exactly the point. I had lot of concerns in GW2 and got little bored rather fast, and made some negative posts about GW2 but logging into wow seems like GW2 was an oasis.

Like also titanicus said, the competition between your allies is frustrating. The difference seems chaotic. I cannot explain it but in GW2 I have other feelings. I see someone fight a mob and I fight it too, I see a node next to me and say ok I will go and get it when I want, after I kill some mobs here..no pressure, no stress.

You see a node in wow and you leave everything else and run to get it..I use stun with my paladin on the mob to have time to click the node and then continue fighting..I remember in TBC I had leveled a hunter for mining, because I could send my pet to the mob next to the node while I could mine the node, so less node stealing for me..

Also titanicus when I played gw2 I said that hearts is just quest hub, while yesterday in wow I was trying to click the quest giver between 100 people with their mounts, I can say for sure now that I prefer hearts over quest givers.

In GW2 we are only 3 friends..if we were 5 at least to run the dungeons together there would be no turn back to wow.
 
As you play Pandaria, you'll notice that most of the named quest mobs in the game are not tagged. ie. anyone who hits it, even if they are of the other faction, gets quest credit for the kill.
 
I can only echo what others have said about the WoW v GW2 questing system.

I had given up on GW2 but MOP has made me realise just how little I appreciated the GW2 system.

Mob and node tagging do not make for a pleasurable experience let alone a feeling of community teaming up to fight a common enemy.

It seems that the blinkered player base in WoW blame the "lack of a community" on random grouping using DF/RF when it clearly goes wrong loooong before that point when players learn to hate and view their realm mates as unhealthy competition long before level cap.

Blizzard have said there will be a greater emphasis on daily quests in WoW which is a shame given that questing is such an irritating experience. I am concerned as MOP appears to have the smallest number of 5 mans of any expansion (one of my favourite parts of the game) so if they are swapping them out in favour of more mob tagging then they can count me out.
 
@Giannis

a pug will work fine at GW2, so you don't need wait for 5 friends at GW2. If you really want it, just create a guild and make 5 friends.

No one need a healer or a tank at GW2. Slowlly players are learning how to make strategies for fight inside the dungeons, and that will make Keen opinion about dungeons ("it is like a wow dungeon when the tank dies") a mistake. There are strategy and tatics inside that dungeons, but people need learn it

I saw players using strategy inside AC explorable and it was a pug: one player that made it before just said to us "third wave of undead we just kite"... before that, "let the troll and the ghost boss kill one another, just not forget to hit both for gain the kill"... and AC story had the "throw stones at the lovers bosses"...

I think the problem with Keen is that he wants try dungeons only with guild members, so no one at the guild learn new tricks. And the player community is learning new tricks inside that dungeons, but the best chance to learn them is with pugs, not guild groups.

So, Giannis, my advice is forgot guild only dungeon groups at GW2, you will have more chances to learn better strategies for dungeons with pugs.
 
I'll second what others have said: once you're past the first quest line, which introduces your faction to Pandaria, things open up. With no rested XP in play, I've hit 86 and gotten a breadcrumb quest for the next zone, and there's at least two hubs I've not visited. (Check out the quest achievements for MoP; instead of the old "do 76 quests" style, it lists the hubs you have to complete.)

That said, the leveling experience is definitely showing me what GW2 got right. Shared tagging and nodes really is so much better for a multiplayer game. In GW2 I'm always happy to see another player; in WoW I want to get away from that mob-stealing jerk. :P

Quests themselves seem to be Blizzard in good form. More interesting than most of the GW2 content, definitely. The hearts are so plot-light, and I'm enjoying the storytelling in WoW.

From 80% through the first zone, I'd guess that MoP is a good expansion. Time will tell!
 
I played MoP for the first time yesterday. I did the first few quests, did 3 instances (something temple and the brewery twice), and ran around, trying to find mining nodes. I found plenty, and also found some camps with quests, so I wonder how linear the expansion actually is.
Although I didn't mind the linearity of Cataclysm that much. I like to complete zones at least once, so it didn't really matter to me which quest hub to do first.

Call me a filthy casual though, but it amuses me to no end the amount of hate MoP is getting and the praise towards GW2 (although that seems to be losing some steam).
I played GW2. About 6 times, around 2-3 hours each session. It just didn't "click" with me.
I played a sylvari elementalist. My personal story was so cliché and predictable it wasn't even funny.
I did lots of running around, filling hearts by ...clicking stuff and killing mobs. Isn't this pretty much every WoW quest ever, without the npc talking at the start and end? But hey, I could choose which heart to go to first right?...as long as it around or below my level, of course...
I was always surrounded by people but had no real interaction besides rezzing and being rezzed.
Also, it's kind of ironic that some time ago WoW was bashed for having content that required too much "dancing", aka "dodging", but now it's "I can't dodge this attack? Preposterous!"
I have to admit though, the way GW2 handles the resource nodes is awesome and should be copied asap by WoW. The "send gatherables to bank" button is also a dream come true.
In the end, GW2 made me resubscribe to WoW. If I'm going to spend my time clicking stuff and killing mobs, I might as well do it where I actually have a guild, where I have plenty of gold, where I'm familiar with the world, and where I can actually do what I like best: heal.

If that doesn't make me one of the cool kids anymore...well...I never did like kids much ;)
 
I never understood the push for players to have to be competitive to one another that Blizzard seems to love. I come from the old school pen and paper D&D role-playing world where it was all about playing as a team, the players all united against the common foes. To start with WoW makes you pick a faction, so right out of the gate you are set up to compete with half of the player base. Then with mob-tagging and node stealing you end up competing against the other half also. And Blizzard has decided to make it worse! With cross realm zones you are no almost always guaranteed to have to compete against someone for mobs and nodes. I pushed the last several weeks to level several alts to 85 to be ready for the expansion. Prior to the turning on of CRZs it went great. After CRZs were implemented all the zones become full of competitive jerks stealing kills and nodes. I logged out several times completely upset with it all.

I'm not sure why but Blizzard seems to think that competing against our fellow players is fun. It isn't. We should be able to compete when we want to be competitive, not forced to do it all the time, especially against those who are supposed to be our allies.
 
@Joao Carlos

I don't know why, but Idon't enjoy dungeons with random players. Maybe had lot of bad experience for this. With friends we are talking to ventrilo, discussing strategies on the fly without need for typing, we have fun with jokes, e.t.c. Also I can say "wait guys, phone" ok no problem...we can start and finish it whenever we want it...

long ago I said to myself that I will not bother to make random groups, I just don't enjoy it. And by no means I say this because I think I am good player and they are not.
 
I wouldn't call them mistakes. It's more like legacy issues with them.

Or maybe, it's part of the "if it ain't broken" mentality in Blizzard. Remember the level of complacency demonstrated by Jay Wilson in his comments about the Diablo 2 team.
 
I wouldn't call them mistakes. It's more like legacy issues with them.

Or maybe, it's part of the "if it ain't broken" mentality in Blizzard. Remember the level of complacency demonstrated by Jay Wilson in his comments about the Diablo 2 team.
 
Blizzard has said they are doing phasing less for more important reasons and that you can still see other players even if phased. And Rossi on WoWInsider said he leveled 4 toons thru KLS each differently. This was a redone opening zone to push story; with the concomitant impact on gameplay. Personally, I would prefer zero phasing.

I predict a huge swing in WoW #s, independent on the quality of the game: Asia. If increasing sales are outside E/NA in places where the revenue model does not involve purchasing a subscription, then I think it is more likely that "renters" will be less committed to a game than "owners" who have spent the money.
 
Recent Bliz developer (at least acknowledging a problem is the first step):

Ion Hazzikostas - Lead Encounter Designer (AusGamers)

Cataclysm overused phasing and it wasn't fun to not be able to play with your friends that are in another phase.
 
Maybe a few posts from a non-wow-hater might help.

First off, the game actually does have shared-tagging on uniquely named mobs. 50 players were around me on the terrace in the jade forest killing named's, and we only waited once for each kill, not 50 times.

Killing junk mobs of course requires you to kill one by yourself. However, to those arguing GW2 did it 'better', did you ask anyone to group? I was part of the initial rush of players, 50-100 of us in the same areas up until the hubs, then about 10-20 in same areas, and only once was I forced to wait for mobs to spawn, and that was maybe 5-seconds because there were very few people in the area, they have definately fixed the adaptive spawning. As far as resources, there were enough that node-stealing was rare.

The phasing is not the cata phasing mechanic. If you group with someone, you share what you can see. Mineral nodes are viewable to all, however people aren't killing your quest mobs in your 'phase' to get to a resource unlike in cata. New players to the jade forest will not be screwed over quest wise because 90's are taking all the spawns. On top of that, while I can only speak for mining, there is a single ore used for leveling mining, you don't need any special things to do so. Due to that, 90's will mine elsewhere.

Thankfully though, most of the people that are so 'jaded' by GW2 and compare it to wow, I'd just like to throw out a single thing. I play on a medium-high RP server. People don't just go to that server for new characters, so the only characters usually on that server are, well, that servers characters. Last night, we had a queue. That server has never seen a queue. Many US servers are seeing that.

tl:dr - There is shared-tagging for unique named quest mobs, Liniarity is only till you open Hozen/Pearlfin hub and very small zone-entrance quests to 'present' you the zone, phasing is not the phasing of cata, just affects what you see and can be shared via groups, dynamic spawning working, and most servers seeing higher than before populations. Don't like it? Don't play it.


 
The whole expansion is pretty much linear, and I think that this is a purposeful design choice. WoW stopped being a game in Cataclysm, and it has done a complete shift to a story on rails, or just pretty much a theme park. Quests are there to unlock pieces of the story bit by bit.

It's extremely difficult to tell a cohesive story if you are sending the player to multiple hubs/zones. Questing doesn't have to be challenging or interesting if it just a story release mechanism.

I think at this point the biggest piece of the fanbase is in love with the lore and the characters. They play the game to fight alongside Thrall, Jaina, and all the other figureheads, much like those who go to Disneyworld get to interact with Mickey Mouse and all the other Disney characters.
 
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