Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
No man ever steps in the same river twice

The title is from the greek philosopher Heraclitus, who insisted that the world is ever-changing. I agree. But that doesn't prevent people from nostalgia. And in the case of World of Warcraft, people are either nostagic for vanilla WoW, or for the first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Instead of realizing that this was just the time where WoW was still fresh, and we weren't so jaded as we are now, they assign some mythical properties to The Burning Crusade. And Blizzard jumped right on that bandwagon and announced the next expansion to be thematically very similar to TBC. I don't think that will work.

Of course nostalgia does work to influence buying decisions. I expect the rise in subscription numbers for Legion to be even higher than for Warlords of Draenor. But then people will quickly realize that you can't step in the same river twice, that Legion isn't TBC, and that you can't bring back the old enthusiasm just by plonking Illidan back into the game. My prediction is that two quarterly reports after the release of Legion the subscription numbers will be back to lower than before release, just like the universal curve predicts.

For me, in hindsight, The Burning Crusade was actually one of the worst expansions of World of Warcraft. The whole attunement concept was a disaster. The Burning Crusade destroyed many guilds and changed social aspects of the game for the worse forever after. It fostered elitism and the concept of "you aren't good enough to be in this guild". There is nostalgia by people who at the time *were* the elite and at the top of the heap, but even that turned out over time to be a rat race and hamster wheel which people couldn't keep up with forever. And the zones of TBC to this day are my least favorite content in WoW when leveling a new character.

The one good thing about Legion is that it won't be like The Burning Crusade at all, in spite of the demons. LFR, flex raiding, premade group finder, and all the other inventions to make the game less elitist and more accessible aren't going to go away. Some basement dwellers whose life purpose is to lord it over others in a video game where they "rule" due to having no other life will be seriously disappointed by the "new" version of The Burning Crusade.

I made the most friends during TBC. It has decreased steadily since thing. I'm not actually sure that was about the changes in the game, as much as it has been about the changes in my play time/style.

I still want to raid, but I can't find anyone I want to raid with, and I hardly have time to get through all the daily type stuff, much less wade through the disaster that is most of pugging.

Hmm. I had a brother playing in BC and Mists, and two brothers in Wrath and Cataclysm. It was much easier to form a group with the two or three of us to form the core. Maybe that's the basis of my problem.
I loved TBC and I loved the way WoW worked back then. I do however agree completely that you cannot re-surrect those days anymore than you can resurrect a loved corpse. What about new players though who haven't been around nearly this long? Should be a little different in their case. It would be interesting to see WoW stats that actually show consistent subscribers/returning accounts vs. new. How many of WoW's current playerbase are left from pre-WoLK?
You'll upset the Blizzard developers if they catch you saying things like it being a TBC reboot. (

Looking through the zone list we have a Druid/Satyr zone, a Viking zone, a Naga zone, a mountain zone, a Demon/Elf zone. To me the whole thing is screaming !!!ELVES!!!
Yes. The nostalgia wasn't for elves but for the elitism. When returning people see that this is LFR and "every punk is a hero", they will indeed quit.
I agree with your prediction, however I disagree that this is blizzard trying to return to the BC era of WoW. If anything I would say they have been trying to recapture WotLK with both WoD and Legion. WoD especially reminded me of WotLK. The leveling process was you fighting against the LK armies and plans much like WoD. The entire expansion revolved around a singukar threat with a clear and present enemy. Not really like BC or even Mists. It sounds like Legion will be the same.

I would also argue that because Wrath was the games peak it would make sense for them to try to recapture some of that.

Either way I agree with your analysis that you cant just redo that special sauce and people will play Legion and then be disappointed.

I recently just picked up WoD and find it fun mainly because I only played it for a couple months when it came out. So now. It has a ton of content that's new for me and I can go through at my own pace and do it all. I feel like that's what I'm going to do for all future WoW xpacs. I'll jump in near the end and soak up the entire xpac in a few months then unsubscribe until the next xpac is winding down.
I would be surprised if Legion was not the final expansion of WoW.

WoW will survive, but as intellectual property for new games. What WoW has metastasized into is an abomination and is collapsing under it's own weight.

WoW operates under the "Constant power inflation rule" where gear is king and the entire point for the majority of players is to get better gear. When WoD ends, you'll have 715 iLevel gear and be dropped into a iLevel 600 world (The iLevel of someone who only leveled to 100 in WoD.) You will stomp the place stupid and then complain it was too easy. And you would be right.

It will be like this because the lowest common denominator is someone who leveled from 1 to 110. When they hit 100, they will immediately start leveling to 101, and their gear will be ievel 600. Where do you level to 101? Why... The Broken Isles.

Each expansion transition has an end / start gap that increases exponentially. It can't be sustained.

When Vanilla transitioned to BC, the step wasn't noticeable for most people, because they weren't dripping with Naxxramas gear.If they were lucky, they might have been in a guild that did some MC or BWL. But we've accelerated the curve by having end expansion zones that flood you with top gear. (Timeless Isles and Tanaan Jungle.)

Tobold, are "Some basement dwellers whose life purpose is to lord it over others in a video game where they "rule" due to having no other life" your latest straw man? Do such people even exist (outside of South Park's Make Love not Warcraft)? This seems like an attempt to blacken the name of anyone who disagrees that LFR is A Good Thing, without having to bother with actual reasons.

It doesn't even have to be basement dwellers, although they will be on this en force... it will be the huge influx of people at iLevel 715 who expected to start a new expansion with level appropriate monsters and find that they're ROFL Stomping an iLevel 600 world.
I don't think Blizzard tries to imitate any previous expansion by Legion. What they are trying to do is to speed up expansion cycle and streamline content for cutting the costs.

Before tokens, once the content was up, it was sensible to milk out subscription money as long as possible, to a moment when mass unsubscribing due to boredom began. Now, with the token, they cannot do that. The subscriptions payed with money is less significant part of the earnings, box price and token sales are here to save the day.

Max earning from expac sales can be achieved by releasing expansions frequently and spending less for their production. Max earning from token sales - by adding more and more things to spend big amounts of gold for (e.g. what used to be apexis gear in Ashran, new mounts, pets, buying boosts in raids etc.), all of which is quite easy to produce content.

So what is in store for us is fast expansions with no real depth, mainly repeating what worked in previous, minimal number of patches between them, and lots of gold sinks.
I understand from a business standpoint Blizzard's desire to recapture what was once great about WoW. I still enjoy playing the game from time to time with some of the friends I have made over the many years since launch, especially given that I have been playing for free since the launch of the WoW token (with Gold simply raining from the sky in this game, I'm truly shocked that people continue to pay cash for these things).

What I don't really understand is the continued insistence from so many players that Blizzard's dropping subscriber numbers means that development has always moved in the wrong direction, and that we NEED to go back. Do players really believe that they haven't changed in the past 12 years, that their lives and the lives of the average player haven't changed? Blizzard's core audience at the height of WoW's popularity was in it's late teens or early twenties. Now in their late twenties or early thirties, does the average player really have a lifestyle conducive to the type of play schedule that was common during BC or even Wrath? I mean, High School was fun too when I look back in nostalgia, but I certainly wouldn't want to spend another four years there.

I am not arguing that WoD was WoW done right. It has it's good and a whole lot of bad. I would love to see some more challenging and unique encounters continue to push the truly hardcore, and because I am not one of them I would also appreciate greater devotion to solo and small group content. Rather than looking back, what I want now, Blizzard, is innovative and creative storytelling and content that encourages the player to work with the friends and guild members still joining us in the game rather than using the game as a glorified chatroom. But I appreciate that WoW is growing old, and so am I. I would genuinely worry if subscriber numbers didn't continue to drop because I fear it mean that both games as a whole and the players themselves had grown stagnant and complacent.
The "basement dweller" is a joke, but the raid scene being dominated during TBC by people who played far more than the average was very real. The whole attunement thing took very long unless you played excessively, and then you were competing for raid spots with people who *had* played excessively and were already wearing better gear.

You'd probably describe that as TBC sorting out the wheat from the chaff, but "time played" definitively had a bigger effect than skill. And the result was many guilds splitting and choosing to leave old friends behind in favor of a smaller, better geared team. For me that was a very negative evolution of the community which did a lot to make WoW less social and less inclusive.
The problem with The Burning Crusade from my perspective was that the Blizzard plan seemed to be to take everything from vanilla and turn it up a few notches. So if there was something you really liked, such as hardcore raiding or attunements or five person dungeons, you were probably happy with that part of the expansion. (I quite enjoyed the dungeons.) But if you were sick of some things from vanilla, such as "kill ten rats" quests, then TBC's plan to make you go kill 15 or 20 rats was probably not a winner.
Apparently, I'm illiterate. (Who knew, right?) I wrote:

"I would be surprised if Legion was not the final expansion of WoW."

What I meant was:
"I would not be surprised if Legion was the final expansion of WoW."

Huge difference. In addition to what I said before... imaging how OP Demon Hunters will be. They will ALL start at 600 when a lot of people will be over 700, the OP nature of the Hero Class (Which is basically guaranteed.) won't be noticed in it's full force until the first Demon hunters hit 110 and exceed the WoD people in iLevel.

Oh, the complaints... the screaming for nerfs. I can hear it now.

For what it's worth, I'm one of those people who are very nostalgic for burning crusade. But I recently played through the quest areas again, and I must admit that the questing doesn't hold up against more recent expansions. I think part of the reason why I remember it so fondly is because it was such a huge jump from vanilla.

I also really enjoyed how at least during the first third-to-half of the expansion, there just seemed no real emphasis on raiding. It was instead all about dungeons. And there were tons of dungeons, and somehow they never got old. They kept feeling rewarding, you could always use more badges and crafting mats.

It was nice to always have something you could be doing to advance your character. In later expansions I found myself getting to the point where I'd log on for raids and that's it, the rest of the week I wouldn't even log on. The newer raids were better than the early BC raids, true, but they were really the only thing going for you. In early BC, the raids didn't even have music ready, they patched music in later. The final bosses were punishingly difficult and not fun, until they were patched. Kara gear was comparable (if not worse) than the best dungeon gear. Badge gear was comparable to SSC/TK gear.

In BC I'd raid twice a week and spend the rest of the week running dungeons, and usually it was the dungeons that I enjoyed more and found more rewarding. I think I've done more Heroic Mechanars than all other non-BC dungeons combined. I'd bet I've finished more BC dungeon bosses in general than raid bosses from all expansions.

There were reputation grinds that were worth it because the exalted gear was just that good, because a netherdrake was awesome compared to other flying mounts. There were daily quests and max level quest chains that felt rewarding.

I don't think WoW can go back to something like this. WoW has become defined by its endgame raiding, to the exclusion of all other activities. Developer time is focused on raids, and so the game has changed to push everyone into raiding, so the raids need to be better and get more developer time, and so must become more accessible to justify it, and so on.
> It fostered elitism

Are you sure it was TBC fostering elitism? Back in Classic, the guild I was in had a whole, fairly large GUILD of sycophants. Those guys had the expressed goal of leaving their guild to "ascend" into our guild. We would retain close ties to them, when we were missing people for a raid we would pick some of them as fillers and now and then when we had an open spot, someone of them would switch to us. Does it get anymore elitist than that?

Seems to me what fosters elitism is inaccessability. In a time when only a few guilds on a server were even able to enter the highest tier of raids and most people actually weren't able to enter any raids at all, raid guilds were the ultimate gate keepers.
Tobold: I really don't understand why you find it bad that good players left lesser players out of raiding.

Do you think a football player bring his friends and family to the championship team?
I think they should be in the spectator crowd cheering!

Most of your criticism of Burning Crusade seems to be the experience for raiders. Even you recently estimated their population at the time at 3%. I don't know if that's accurate, but they were certainly a very small minority. The "attunement disaster" that hardcore raiders complain bitterly about applied to almost no one. There was no elitism problem in the vast majority of guilds, because they weren't trying to raid.

You seem to think the people who loved Burning Crusade were the top 1% lording over the other 2% of raiders. But I think it is the vast majority of players who never had any interest in raiding, and resent that their preferred content is made obsolete by faceroll LFR handing out epics like Halloween candy. Most players spent their time going through dungeons, and that was the last expansion where they were challenging and offered meaningful rewards.
@Gevlon: A) First of all the system is unable to sort the good from the bad, it only sorts out those willing to spend a lot of time from those with less time. I know a lot of people who skill-wise could keep up with the best of them in vanilla, but didn't make the time cut in TBC.

B) Second: A premiereship football team is not made up from anybody who applies, with the trainer selecting 11 of the big group half an hour before the match. There is a good reason why professional sports team rarely mix with amateur sports teams. TBC was bad because it changed the rules so much: From guild which had room for underperforming good friends in 40-man raids to a system of smaller raids and attunements that forced those guilds to kick out their friends. Bait and switch is never a good idea.
Actually it never forced anyone to be kicked. It forced them to don't bring them to raids. That's what I mentioned with the football example. The player can still hang out with his friends and come to the match together. But the friends belong to the cheering crowd and other good players belong to the team.

It is indeed a problem (still is) in WoW, that if you aren't on the raid team, you can't really help them, just hang around at best. But it's still is, you still can't raid with more skilled/dedicated people, you can just get the same gear in LFR, one patch later.

The only way to allow people to mix is the EVE model with "carebears + PvP-ers". A casual miner can contribute to the Alliance Tournament team by sending them ISK. Gold in WoW is much less needed, so such financial help is irrelevant.
I have to agree with Gevlon that the central problem is that raiding is all a guild is good for now (aside from PvP guilds). You wouldn't have a "daily questing" guild or a "garrison chores" guild. In Burning Crusade, guilds had a large function for dungeons (which is what the majority were doing). Now, guilds that aren't raid guilds are just chat windows. That doesn't bring people together any more than Trade chat.

I think they missed a huge opportunity with guild garrisons. That could have been a pretty significant source of content for casual players.
I don't think you're really giving people enough credit for being 'skilled', especially when you're looking back at TBC. I was part of a group that built a raiding guild from the ground up at the start of TBC, and I assure you that player skill had a significant impact on success.

We recruited anyone with a pulse just to get our numbers up, and these were all people who 'played a lot', but that really didn't matter. We only started to make real progress once we were able to stop bringing along the people who played a lot and sucked.
But the friends belong to the cheering crowd and other good players belong to the team.

What a completely jerk thing to say! Everybody who pays the same subscription to WoW should have the right to experience the same content. That is what makes today's version much better, where you can see the content by LFR. During TBC you didn't have the option and the attitude was "We, the elite players, have exclusive content that the others can't see". There is already one MMORPGs exclusive for assholes, we don't need WoW to be like that too.

I mean, how much of a jerk do you have to be if you want not only to see new content, but also make sure that not everybody else can see it?
Everyone HAS and HAD the right to experience the same content. It's not like some players were disallowed to form a raid or their characters were banned from Black Temple. The content was there for them. It's just that they wiped or failed to attune for no other reason than them being bad.

So in your opinion it should be forbidden for kids to kick a ball around? There should only be champions league soccer, and everybody who doesn't qualify for that is "bad" and doesn't deserve to set foot on a soccer field? After all, everybody has the same opportunity to be a champions league soccer player, do they?

It doesn't work for soccer, and it doesn't work for MMORPGs either. Making the game attractive for the top 1% and unattractive for the bottom 99% does not get you any more revenue from the 1%, but diminishes the revenue from the 99%. Yeah, WoW was still growing during TBC, but this was also the expansion where growth started to slow down. The rampant elitism of the game at the time did not help and WoW could have become even bigger if they had implemented LFR already at that time. WoW is a mass market game, elitism doesn't have a place in a mass market product. You can't sell Rolex watches at $15 and introduce some sort of restriction that still allows only the 1% to buy one, that is an inane business plan.
If challenging content is changed to a stupid, silent faceroll with random strangers in order to make it more accessible, that doesn't mean that everyone gets to experience the content. It means that nobody gets to experience the content, because that content has been destroyed.
How exactly does the existence of LFR prevent you from doing the same content in a more challenging mode?
Critical mass. LFR takes some of the people who could have been raiding mythics and removes them from the pool. Not a big deal of the popular servers, but a potential death knell for the sparser ones.
Of course they can enter the soccer field and play ball. After all the basic action of WoW is killing monsters. We are all entitled to kill monsters from the 5 years old kid in dad's leap to the most dedicated and skilled players.

It's just some players are play ball behind the house (killing leveling monsters) and some play ball in a stadium front of 100K fans cheering (killing mythic endboss). Both of them play ball (killing a monster).

How LFR destroys raiding: point. In TBC there was a point to do Kara: to get to SSC. There was a point to do SSC: to do TK. There was a point to do TK: Hyjal. There was a point to do Hyjal: to do BT. There was a point to do BT: to slay Illidan himself, complete the content and stand as a hero in this pixel world with a legendary glaive in your hand.

Now, why should I do anything in the game that is not instantly fun? I'll get better rewards if I just log out, log back 2 months later and do an LFR. You know how can I get even better rewards? If I log out for 4 months and do an LFR. Want even higher ilvl? Wait for the next expansion and the first oneshotted elf in Legion will give you better reward.

Increase indeed stopped in TBC because of a grave mistake: the first ork in normal Hellfire Ramparts on lvl 62 gave better gear than Naxxramas. Then the new optimal way was found: log out and wait.

Of course you can say that the game should not have "not fun" elements, but we both know that it's impossible to create that amount of content that provides uninterrupted fun for thousands of hours.
Very generous of you. So you'll allow the kids to play with a rag ball in the dirt, but won't allow them on a real soccer field with grass on it. Sorry, but no: Every player paid the same subscription fee and has the right to see the same number of dungeons and bosses. You can't demand the same amount of money for a movie ticket from everybody and then let only see a minority the end of the movie based on some arbitrary standard of leetness.

If LFR destroys challenge mode raiding, that is only an indication how bad challenge mode raiding is. Even the elite raiders don't think its fun and would prefer an easier alternative. If nobody misses challenging raids and would rather do it the easy way, then why not let them? There is absolutely no value to have gone through a punishing and unfun exercise. So the solution is not to eliminate LFR raiding, but to eliminate mythic raiding.
Now we reached an agreement. Having LFR and Mythic raiding is wrong. Blizzard should pick an audience and openly tell the other one: sorry guys, it's not your game.

Either eliminate Mythic and even Heroic raiding and make WoW a themepark-like entertainment where people unwind and relax, or make it a game where people compete and win or lose.
Separate games based on the same world.

PvP server with no or abbreviated leveling and no raiding.

PvE server with no PvP or raiding. (This is where you would put "LFR" and dungeons.)

Raid server with no leveling.

These game modes simply do not mix.
I really, really don't think the people in LFR are Mythic raiders taking the easy road. Mythic raiders were a tiny percent of the players before, and they're a tiny percent of the players now. The people doing LFR are the people who have no interest in raiding, but can't turn down rewards better and easier than anything else they could do.

LFR should be "tourism mode." You get to see the content, but it doesn't provide significant rewards.
Why is the fairness based on flat amount of money rather than a proportional amount of money? $15 is worth drastically different amounts to different people, but you're trying to scale how much of a game someone can see based on the flat amount. Should a rich person in England compared to a poor person in China really be paying the same amount of money to access the same content?
About raiding spots and elitism. I think people are forgetting that this was right at the point where 40 man raids turned into 10 and 25 mans. I think those first few karazhan raids were the most drama fueled resets of my entire wow career.

We tried to run 3 groups of 10 and it failed just oh so hard. We only really had 3 good tanks and all the rest were MC-style offtanks, who knew how to hold and add, but no real experience with raid execution. It also suddenly became very obvious which heals were carrying the load and which were getting pulled along. After just a couple weeks we had very clearly designated A-team people and a rolling B-team that resented not being in the A-team, a dozen of the lower half dpsers who felt left out in the cold, and a couple healers and tanks who they were mad at for letting down everyone else and not letting us field more teams.

I'm not even going to talk about what a guild killer pre-nerf Kael'thas was. Or raiders having to run arena's because that gave the best weapons.

BC raiding was damn rocky.

I don't think I was ever as stressed until mid wrath, where to stay competitive you had to run each week the 10man, the 10man heroic, the 25 man, and as far into the 25man heroic as you could, all on separate resets.
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