Only as good as the last patch

I cannot remember a time when I have been as glutted on awesome computer games as I am right now at this moment. My gaming hours are still very occupied with Dragon Age, which is offering some of the most compelling, immersive gaming I’ve ever had on PC right now.  It is not only a great game, but it also plays right into my storytelling/ RP AND gameplay preferences so it’s absolutely the whole package.

If I want a break from that and some mindless hack/ slay action, Torchlight is still brilliantly entertaining. I find I enjoy it more when I don’t sit down for long sessions — that can get repetitive. But in short bursts it’s very fun and refreshing, and I still have more character classes, more builds, more endless dungeon to try. As if that wasn’t enough, we finally decided to pick up a PS3 so have a couple more great games there (Little Big Planet and Uncharted 2) when we want to sit down on the sofa together and play. I will have more to say about both of those games sometime but they’re both fantastic.

The nice thing about the single player games is that even if I build up a backlog now, it just means I won’t buy any more for awhile until I’m done with them. There’s no special hurry.

But where is WoW in all this? It’s on the back burner for me. I’m keeping up my relaxed raid schedule of one 25 man raid a week, and that’s about it. But why is that? This current patch is simply not compelling and I’ve run out of goals. Until the next patch drops, I’m finding other things to do with my spare time.

Larisa comments that she worries that people think she’s burning out because she’s been critical of WoW recently. I don’t think that. I think they put out an unexciting patch, and I remember noting that it sounded like filler when I first read about the Coliseum. I also don’t see any reason why even a fan has to ooze positivity over a lacklustre patch. By all means find something positive to talk about, but what if the positive thing is, ‘Well, at least we’ll all be geared for the next patch which should be better’?

Compared to the single player games, patch 3.2 offers very very little gameplay. There was one new raid instance that didn’t put up much of a challenge – I enjoyed the new mechanics but they didn’t keep us occupied for very long. Being offered the chance to keep rerunning old instances to be rewarded by a slightly different set of badges which could be turned in for better loot got old before the patch even went live.

One thing this has crystallised in my mind is that WoW at the moment is only as good as its last patch. Oh, there’s plenty of other content in there but I’m done with the rest of the expansion myself, as are a lot of other endgame players. We’ve run the instances, gotten the rep, experienced the quests/ storyline, and capped the tradeskills, so we are very focussed on the new patch content to keep us engaged. Or in other words, many people who played since the beginning of Wrath are now out of in-game goals and bored of the year old gameplay. As soon as a new patch hits, everyone who is endgame-ready will be motivated to switch to the new content — partly because it is new and partly because they will be enticed there with ever increasing rewards. But what happens when they’re done?

Any subscription game needs to keep offering players a mixture of short, medium, and longterm goals to keep their interest in maintaining a relationship with that game. Those are the things which make it worthwhile to pick up a longterm sub, knowing that there are things you want to accomplish that will take months. Goals aren’t enough on their own, but if they’re not there, then you’d better hope that your community is very sticky indeed.

The reason this has become more of an issue now in Warcraft  is that Wrath heralded a new era of accessibility for the game. And that meant fewer long term goals, and a shift in perspective for raid goals. For example, if your goal is to kill the last boss of a raid instance, you can now decide whether killing it on normal mode (possibly in a PUG) will satisfy the sightseeing instinct. Is it worth the extra hassle of finding a raid group just to get the boss on hard mode? A lot of people don’t find that as compelling a prospect as when it was the only way to see that boss die at all. Not only that, but because of the way players are now corralled through the game, many more of them will run out of patch content before the next patch hits.

So these things are in many ways a result of deliberate design decisions. I don’t think the decisions were bad, and I rather enjoy that I’m able to see all the bosses and finish a patch and move on without having to dedicate vast amounts of time and effort. But it does mean that if one patch is less exciting, it’s far easier to either skip it or take a break and do something else until Blizzard provide something more interesting for players to do.

I’ve seen a lot more raid groups recruiting at the moment, so I’m guessing a lot of people are bored with the Coliseum. Will they come back to see Arthas fall in patch 3.3, or will other games — maybe even single player games — have stolen their gaming souls?

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12 thoughts on “Only as good as the last patch

  1. We are in the era of the “content patch”. There are not only skill balances or bugfixes, they usually add some new dungeons, new dailies, new fluff, new pets…

    So yeah, the game is only as good as the latest content. Because there is no point in playing older content most of the time. And there is a lot of older content. The new content is basically sitting on top of rotten older expansions and on top of the latest expansion which also starts smelling after a while.

    WoW is not the only game faced with this problem. In LOTRO, the city-area of Evendim (Annuminas) has a city combat and conquest system plus bonus dungeons attached. Guess who cares about this quite cool and really good system nowadays at level 60, +10 levels higher and outgearing everything there, where actually is not much else to get.

    Raids were once meant to be the longtime goal, not bread and games for the masses. They were inherently aimed at hardcore people who really did and mastered everything else in the game.

    You probably know the “static group” idea, I know big gaming clans that have clear goals what they want to accomplish and then everyone is free to do what he wants – and they agree on a new “project”, like playing another MMO or just “taking a break”.

    About the content issue: The thing is, MMOs already have more content than one person can actually play. Most of it is just not valid and interesting for players who levelled out of said content. But imagine a world where all dungeons would be level 80 and drop proper loot. I imagine without the “daily heroic” marker people would have a hard time agreeing on which dungeon to do today. And even then some might get the idea “dudes, this is always the same procedure!” and get bored.

    Maybe a new approach would be to make the whole world more interesting and add more kinds of interaction than combat and new loot. The idea of dynamic events developing randomly all over the world also has some merits, I really liked the Scourage invasion for instance.

    I also think the market has more to offer than just WoW, it is the right time to try other games.

  2. That pretty much covers it.

    Hard Modes, ‘cheesements or heading back into Ulduar* are all less attractive than if there was still some Boss unbeaten, that I had to see. It seems a shame to me that Ulduar’s fantastic content has been made irrelevant as far as gear goes….as it will take a certain mentaility to go after Algalon eating wipe after wipe for rewards that….well arnt as shiny as once they were. Algalon may be a bad example ofc its just the one bit of near current content I havent seen as yet. Mind you I’ll probably be able to pug him in 3.3 :)

    As I’ve discussed with Spinks before :- What I really want is something I can just pick up and put down and play with friends without having to worry about how far they’ve progressed, what server they’re on or if we have the right class/balance/skill levels for whatever fight/challenge or part of the game we want to have a bash at tonight. I’m sick and tired of being effectively barred from playing with a half dozen or so friends who are scattered across different servers/factions without paying in time or money for the privilige. Sounds horribly like TF2 or some other shooter. Roll on Diablo III the current WoW killer :)

  3. Right there with you, Spinks. I logged into WoW for the first time in five days last night because we usually do 10-mans on Tuesday night. Our group cleared out Ony, VoA, and ToC in under two hours and the general consensus was, “Well guys, fun hangin’ out, off to play Dragon Age!”.

    I’m pretty bored with the current content, and no real desire to rehash the Colleseum, even if it would be “progress” on heroic mode. There’s only so much of one raid people can take, and I think we’re at that point.

  4. I’m pretty sure the reason the Coliseum part was less than impressive is that development resources for that patch cycle were expended on the new battleground instead. Whether that was a good decision or not, I don’t know, but I’m fairly sure that’s why TOC is the way it is.

  5. I think this is probably less of an issue for those of us who aren’t on the bleeding edge of raid content. Having recently changed guilds to one that just made their first all guild attempt at TotC 25 (downed through champs on the first shot) I find there’s still plenty to do. And I’m still doing the 10-mans even though I have very few gear upgrades left from them – my current upgrade list is all pieces from TotC 25 and Ony 25.

    Last night I hadn’t intended to play much, but as soon as I logged on I was hit up for tanking VoA 10 since we just captured WG. Ended up doing that, then we merged together with another guild group that was just coming out of Ony 10 and tackled VoA 25, and decided to knock out Ony 10 after that. Now I feel pretty set for the week as I only have a TotC 10/25 left this weekend.

    I’m still working on the for fun things to (or for frustration as the case may be). Still no Anzu mount from Sethekk so I keep running that when I can. Trying to finish up Loremaster for the heck of it, run up some other factions that I can grind easily, etc. The other day I found myself farming bug mounts in AQ40 alone just because I can…there’s always something interesting to do if you spend enough time thinking about it…and you haven’t done it already I guess.

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  7. There’s no doubt this was a filler patch as multitudes of commenters have stated. If Blizz had released Icecrown Citadel last summer, they would have had to rush Cataclysm by several more months.

    I agree that it’s a design decision to have hard modes, and as you say, there are both good and bad aspects to it.

    I see the frustration in people right now. My guild has lost two of its top 5 players recently to quitting wow because of boredom. I myself still enjoy the bossfights and trying to complete hard modes but I think I’m relatively unique in that.

    In any case, Blizz is smart enough in the world of the content patch to accelerate patches a bit. They might be hemmoraghing the hard core players a bit, but it’s likely most won’t be gone so long that they won’t be enticed back by IC and Cataclysm after that.

  8. My feelings exactly. I have absolutely zero goals on any character in WoW atm. Certainly not on my main. The only real goal is killing Yogg-Saron, and that’s not a goal that encourages every-day play. I am going to start a Glory of the Hero group, which I hope will keep me moderately busy, but such as it is, I have nothing to do in WoW but chat with friends. Friends who are mostly off playing Dragon Age.

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