Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why WoW is Declining

After having played the early game from a new player's perspective and the late-game a few months ago, I think I can point to exactly three main reasons as to why WoW declines:

During the leveling game you level too fast. And I am not talking about a little bit too fast. If you don't have heirlooms and don't use rested EXP and don't gather resources and don't do dungeons and don't do battlegrounds and never kill more mobs than necessary for quests (e.g. explore), you level a bit faster than would be good!

But people like to actually do a dungeon every now and then. Some like to do battlegrounds. Many have gatherer professions, many kill more mobs than necessary. Many will use rested EXP and so on. In practise, it is hard to not outlevel the content! And even if you do fight mobs at the correct level, they are often too weak to allow you to use more than two or three of your abilities. You just don't have a chance to play your character! That's frustrating.

Now, combine this with very linear stories that are often even interesting enough that you want to do them! These quest lines often are, in fact, good. And this means that you don't want to skip them. Especially since skipping means going to a new zone, as the entire storylines are linear. But if you don't skip them you mostly end up one-shooting grey mobs. That's not sustainable for 84 levels!

The jump in the game's philosophy, story and quality from 60 to level 61 drives players crazy.

The relentless focus on raiding is bad enough for players who don't want to raid during endgame. But the difficulty jump is not from this world. At 84 you were rushing dungeons with heirloomed tanks and healers. It was 100% irrelevant what buttons you pressed or where you moved.
And then suddenly at 85, you enter a really hard raiding game designed for long time raiders with lots of experience. To be fair, Blizzard is doing something about that right now. I don't know whether this will be enough, though. The tiered system that gives you second-highest level rewards for farming LFD dungeons disincentivises doing older raids.

There are many, many smaller problems, too. Some of them not even that small. But these three problems are, in my opinion, the main reasons for WoW's decline.
It is especially disastrous as players in the past made a new twink when the endgame didn't interest them. But the leveling game is maybe even more problematic than the endgame right now. If you don't want to raid for some reason and don't enjoy killing grey mobs, then there's actually not much choice, but to unsubscribe and get Rift.


  1. I'm usually with you, or at least can understand your points. But not today.

    While I think points #1 and #3 are contributors, they are not what I'd consider "main reasons" at all. And #2... maybe I don't know what you mean, but I thought both the story and game play into BC was pretty awesome, and still do. You may want to elaborate on what drives you crazy, specifically.

    My personal opinion, is that the main reason for the decline boils down to two main things.

    1) The gearing/loot treadmill. Everything you do focuses around the acquisition of gear, but it's difficult to feel any lasting sense of accomplishment in what you've acquired when the whole purpose of your gear is to then enable you to acquire better gear, and so on.

    2) It's nearly impossible to be unique anymore. You could argue it's always been that way, but the dumbing down of content, and the decision to make all content accessible, has made it so that, if they want, everyone can get the same thing. I've been at a point where I earned the coveted widget that only a few others had, and it was awesome. I've also been at the point where I was the one coveting something I didn't yet have, and strange as that seems I also enjoyed that aspect. It gave me something to work towards. That no longer exists.

    Finally, a third, perhaps less significant thing, is that the age of the game is also detrimental. The theme has become stale. This might be less of a problem if the treadmill and the lack of uniqueness weren't also a problem, but with them, it definitely starts to matter. Without something more meaningful to drive them, people are just getting bored of it.

    Finally, I gotta say, I honestly haven't noticed that much of a decline. I read about it everywhere, I hear people complain in trade chat constantly, but the cities are still full, the events still happen, and people still buy my wares on the AH at the same rate they always have. I'm sure there's decline, but it really hasn't affected me personally.

  2. The first is a damned if you do, damned if you don't problem. With so much emphasis on end-game, players who wish to change their class do not want to waste time on leveling, so they need it fast. The speed helps with retention.

    On the other hand, if leveling is too fast, that may push new players too quickly they can feel overwhelmed. The experience may seem too fleeting to be worthwhile.

    In my mind the solution is to keep leveling slowish (maybe not vanilla slow, but not like LK, especially not cataclysm), but have some sort of system for rerolling.

    The Outland jump was an issue even in BC, but since the revamp it has definitely gotten worse. Even if they retuned Outland questing to add all the fancy phasing and rewards and linearized stories, there's still the strange jump in scenery and time.

    Ironically, the third is something that I think has gotten worse as raiding has become less exclusive. Does anyone start playing WoW to raid? I can't imagine it. I sure as hell did not, nor did anyone I know (beside maybe a couple former EQ players). In vanilla the game seemed like raiding was almost an afterthought, or at least not the main focus of the game forever after. We were not all expected to raid, not by other players or by the devs. That has changed and now 'everyone' raids, which makes as little sense as if WoW was designed so that everyone does PvP or everyone does RP.

  3. A lot of people are rationalising quick levelling changes in games by saying that people want to reach level cap quickly in order to raid. That may be partly true, but what is really happening is that there is a perceived status & achievement value connected to having a max level character and this is combined with a powerful emotional desire to "succeed", which drives people into following the quickest path to their goal regardless of how dull that path might be.

    Levelling fever didn't start when MMOs added endgames, it's always been a factor from the earliest RPGs. In the past however developers realised that good gameplay was a sort of competition between the devs and the players: Players will press the I win button if given the opportunity and then totally lose interest in the game and it's the dev's job to put as many obstacles in the player's way as they can and to ensure that the path of least resistance to "beating" the game is the most fun one.

  4. I notice that LOTRO now have an advertising page: "Get Legendary" where they encourage you to get to Moria really quickly in order to get a legendary weapon... What they don't seem to appreciate is that people don't really want a legendary weapon, even if they think they do, rather they want to want a legendary weapon - it's a goal that drives them forward in the game even in the face of considerable grind. By making goals more easily achievable all they are doing is reducing the longevity of the game; in the case of both LOTRO and WoW the cost of allowing players to achieve their goals too quickly is that the early parts of the games become deprecated, unchallenging and ultimately boring.

  5. I agree with all written here. And for me, personally some of what you write, Michael, might even be more of a problem. But if I were the developer, I would work on the points first that I have written down. For the masses, I think thiese are the mein issues.

    Klepsacovic, the developers could easily create a really fast leveling game by moving 80% of the leveling content (quests, zones) to level 85. Just make the mobs lvl 85.

    Then new player would become 85 really fast and there would still be a lot of content.

    What doesn't work is to offer a hell of a lot of content that you can't realistically do while it is not grey.

  6. * First

    Exactly it's a hack and slay kill speed but without the fun of a good hack and slay like Torchlight.

    * Second

    > The jump in the game's philosophy, story and quality
    > from 60 to level 61 drives players crazy.

    What is it that's wrong with Outland?

    I always hated the Outland because the world was so much worse then the vanilla world was. But with Cataclysm the old world is exactly like the Outland. Isn't it?

    - go to hub
    - get all quests
    - if it moves, kill it
    - return to hub and get breadcrumb for next hub

    * Third

    > It was 100% irrelevant what buttons you pressed or where you moved.

    What's funny is that during WotLK the normal dungeons at level were harder then heroics or raids. :) UK at level was a real challenge.

    > To be fair, Blizzard is doing something about that right now.

    I don't agree. I think they are not. Nerfing outdated content in a game which only focuses on the current tier does nothing to help "less hardcore" player. The change helps hardcore player to reroll or gear up an alt.

    Something like Tobolds "Opening up the closed club" approach would be "doing something about that".

  7. > Kring said "What's funny is that during WotLK the normal dungeons at level were harder then heroics or raids. :) UK at level was a real challenge."

    Er, what? I leveled purely through dungeons the first time through WotLK and I remember going "Well, this could be interesting on heroic but is way too easy now." over and over again. Granted, I had a somewhat experienced group (not so much gear though due to alts) but the dungeons weren't remotely challenging. Heroic was a bit better in that regard with the same group (though not by much.)

  8. Scrusi, that is because you leveled with a fixed group.
    If you leveled solo then you met ICC25 raiders in the heroics that were (even) more powerful (in relation to the content) than the heirloomed twinks in the non-heroics.

  9. I agree with all your points, but they only really concern the new players. They say nothing about veterans getting bored of the game.