Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
WoW Legion launches August 30th

Blizzard announced that their next expansion for World of Warcraft, Legion, will launch on August 30th. Which is a) a bit less than 2 years since the last expansion, and b) faster than I expected. Not that this really changes anything. World of Warcraft is still following the universal MMORPG subscription curve described by Raph Koster, with each expansion bringing a spike of returning subscribers, followed by relatively fast drop back to the original curve. Providing an endless stream of material for sensationalist WoW-haters who each time write a "WoW lost millions of subscribers again". If you sum those up, you'll realize that WoW lost 20+ million subscribers over the years, which is more than it had at any point. It's a bit like Time reporting national debts without mentioning national assets.

As I made an impulse buy during my last period of playing WoW and pre-purchased Legion, I will most certainly play this expansion at least for a while. And as I bought a bunch of WoW tokens before they doubled in price, everything I need is already paid for. Having said that, I don't expect much from Legion. I have grown increasingly impatient with the lack of innovation in MMORPGs. Every expansion, even every new game, feels like more of the same, minor variations of a theme I've grown too familiar with. So I'll play a character or two to the new level cap, and then that's it.

I don't think I'll like Legion as much as I like Warlords of Draenor, mainly because of the loss of my garrison. I know very well that different players want different things from player housing: Functionality, decoration, or social aspects for example. Personally I am very much in the functional camp, so losing the more functional garrisons to get the more social class order halls for me is a distinctive loss. And who are they kidding with a story line which makes every single player the leader of their class order? If you have any actual social interaction it should become rather obvious that only the NPCs will pretend that you are a leader, and that pretense will run very thin very soon.

I do expect Blizzard to provide polished work, because they always do. And as every game feels the same and I really don't want to play MMORPGs all year long any more, two or so months of Legion will suffice for my annual MMORPG quota this year.

At least WoW is relatively simple to play one-handed, or indeed no-handed if you use a couple of dance pads (
I'd say they failed hard, considering they stopped developing new content for Warlords about a year ago to "focus completely on the new expansion". I will ignore the usual PR talk saying "we aim for annual expansions" because every one knows that's just corporate bullshit. But with the current launch date they are breaking their own record of 'longest tier' again, while also providing an expansion with less content than ever.

Their model would work great for D3, but for an actual MMORPG getting your playerbase to buy a box +2 months and then unsub is a horrible state to be in. It's not as if they are the sole contender for MMOs anymore. Heavesward launched less than a year ago and it has already had 2 major updates + multiple smaller patches... and even the smaller patches put WoD 6.1 to shame.
I've already pre purchased Legions, but i am concerned. My deal is raiding, and it appears that Legions is trying to appeal to "Special Snowflake" players that just want to level forever.

I foresee 2 problems:

First, the Class hall. There is literally no reason to have them be "social centers" as opposed to the Garrison were everything was functional and uncrowded. What will happen? Every bored dipstick in existence will park their screen blocking flying whale right in front of the mission board.

Second, the special snowflake optimization of classes, coupled with the essentially arbitrary item itemization will result in many specs being simply less effective for raids, and other specs being the "uber raiding specs." To exacerbate that problem, the "Raid flavor of the month" will be discovered by the community as content is exposed, making it difficult to just play one spec for the entire expansion without feeling like you're being left out.
"I do expect Blizzard to provide polished work, because they always do."

At this point, that appears to only mean "free of bugs." It is a rather sad statement that this is the best compliment you can come up with.
As someone who is the opposite to the self-nominated 'elite' like @Smokeman, I'm looking forward to seeing if Blizzard is finally going to shake the paradigm of 'raid or die' as the only play-style that yields any rewards at end-game. It's always been a quitting point for me once reward paths change from small-group/solo to one that involves having to deal with a bunch of other people. Some equally-challenging and equally-rewarding solo/small-group is my ideal for endgame progression (I suspect much like the other 70+% of the playerbase who don't raid at all, let alone enjoy it).

If they can break out of the minority-serving raid-or-die mentality and stop labouring under the provably false delusion that raiding as the final word is what their playerbase wants, I might stick around past finishing the story quest lines. As it is, I expect a similar trajectory to the last three expansions. 2-3 months of questing, MAYBE 1 month of collection/grind fluff, then un-sub.
The total number of people no longer playing WoW is probably a lot higher than 20 million. There was this infographic published back in 2014 which mentioned that over 100 million unique WoW accounts had been created at that time. Crazy number...
At this point, that appears to only mean "free of bugs." It is a rather sad statement that this is the best compliment you can come up with.

Free of bugs is part of it. And if something is sad about that, it is that one still *has* to mention a bug-free MMORPG as a rarity.

But polish goes a lot further. It also means the game has flow, the parts fit together to form a whole which is greater than the sum of its part. Nothing grates, at least not the first time you play through it. Again, the sad news is that this isn't a given in 2016.
"Some equally-challenging and equally-rewarding solo/small-group is my ideal for endgame progression (I suspect much like the other 70+% of the playerbase who don't raid at all, let alone enjoy it)."

I am really looking forward to self-upgradable mythic dungeons. Challenge modes were a good idea, but the ruthless ticking clock meant I couldn't enjoy the harder fights.

Removing raid set bonus from LFR gear was a really great decision. With my main char I have exactly 6 citadel LFR kills. Playing through nhc and hc is entirely enough. My main char only raids and immediately stopped 5men content when having 2/2 upgrades on all gear.

Blizzard should put perks into raiding gear that is only usable in raids, so that they can give out same ilvl/power in 5men content. But in a way that raid gear is clearly better in a raid, but has the same power in 5men content as 5men gear. So there would be no carrot dangling behind raid content for 5men players.
I am unsubbed since June 2015. I can tell myself "I wont buy Legion!" 100 times a day but I am perfectly aware I'll be there on August 30, anxiously waiting to login. I know that.

Azeroth always calls and it's hard to resist. Plus I've got 4 unused tokens...
I would hardly consider myself "elite" as I only do flex raiding, I have no intention of ever doing "mythic" raids because of the "professional team" nature of it.

As to the "raid or die" end game... what else is there? You finish the quest lines enough times and you're either done with the game or you do group content. If you join a fixed group, you're raiding. If you don't join a fixed group, you're pugging the same 5 man dungeon over and over. You COULD pug raids, but that's a real pain in the butt.

Raiding is what separates online games from single player games. At some point in a single player game, there is just no reason to play it any more. And you can't just ramp up the difficulty of the single player content in a class based online game, either, as the class based nature of the game would guarantee that a single class would always be "best" at the single player content.

I don't think you can count on Mythic+ dungeons in Legion here, either. I expect those to be hard core difficult to the point that you need a professional 5 man team to do the max ones that drop the max loot. So unless you're willing to be on a team, at some point you're done with the single player accessible content.
"Free of bugs is part of it. And if something is sad about that, it is that one still *has* to mention a bug-free MMORPG as a rarity."

Yes, this is actually a part of what I meant, a sad statement for the industry.

But also, WoW expansions (if not even patches) used to include substantial features that add to the game. I think it is sad that there is nothing about Legion I would consider a feature that even stirs my interest. WoD at least had garrisons, which I was quite interested in, even if the implementation turned out to be terrible.
I guess this is narcissistic but I almost view posts like this as bait to get me to start a fight again.

MMOs are at the iPhone stage; they are what they are. You can refine them, add new apps, whatever, but at the end of the day it does what it does, faster processors or bigger screen aside.. You can decide whether or not that is good. Obviously I think it's bad, because the core gameplay isn't fun (definition of fun: a game you would play even if you lost all progress when you quit).

But you can only put so much glitter on the pig, and once you've been around the block for 100+ days, most of us see the pig for what it is and move on. Which is why MMOs are all on the downward curve and have been for years. The baseline where new players balances out the burnouts hasn't been found yet.
WoD really put the fork in it for me, if only because I hate "pretend resource management" which is what the garrisons felt real control, lots of illusion of choice, including the option to ignore garrisons entirely. I tried reloading recently, in anticipation that the expansion and movie might motivate me to finish WoD....oh god no, I can't go back. It's physically painful. Uninstalled and am now sticking to ESO, Black Desert and The Secret World.

MMOs aren't dead, but they're in an interesting decline. I don't think we'll see them recover until something very impressive and VR related probably revives the genre.
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