[Cataclysm] 3 good reasons why vets are getting bored

tigger

So, will Cataclysm mark the beginning of the end of Blizzard’s great warhorse?

Three months into the new expansion, are many players who have happily subscribed for years to WoW turning in their cards? Or even just players who subbed for a few months? Is it just the bitter veterans who are talking about bowing out, unable to cope with a game that has changed so that it can capture a new audience? Or is it just that a proportion of players will ALWAYS leave a few months into an expansion – not everyone is interested in signing up for the long haul of content patch to content patch.

We don’t have answers to those questions yet, except that it is really normal for lots of people to play a new expansion for a few months and then leave, uninterested in endgame. But there are some genuine reasons in Cataclysm why veteran players might be feeling the burn.

1. It’s not Cataclysm, it’s all the previous long delays between patches catching up with the playerbase.

In a MMO like WoW, there are plenty of activities on which players can spend their time. Even if you’re not interested in instances or PvP, there are mounts and pets to collect, alts to level, achievements to aim for, economic sides of the game to master … With three expansions under its belt, WoW offers a lot of content.

But if you were playing the game during those expansions, chances are you’ve already done all of that expansion’s content that you were interested in while you were waiting for the next content patch. For example, I happily ground out my Skyguard rep via daily quests for a nether ray flying mount during TBC – I enjoyed it at the time, dailies were shiny and new and so was flying. I cannot think of any reason why I’d ever want to do it again.

As another example, lots of people levelled alts during Wrath. Heirlooms were available for the first time, and there was a long delay between ICC and Cataclysm. So there’s a good chance that for many of those players, they already have level 80s of whichever classes they were interested in. So when Cataclysm rolls along and there is a bit of a gap between patches, that’s a time-filler they have no reason to do again. Yes, you could relearn to play those alts with the new talent trees and I’m sure that a lot of players are doing exactly that, but the 80-85 trip is fairly linear and fairly speedy if you have rested bonuses and guild perks to help it along.

And especially since many people are not really enjoying heroics, gearing an alt up through random heroics might not be as fun as it once was. (This is an issue with grinding heroics as a standard mechanic incidentally, even people who enjoy the challenge on their mains might not be as interested on alts that are intended for chilling out.)

What I’m saying is that for any individual player, there’s a certain amount of time filling activities in game that ever have the possibility to interest you. Once you are done with those, if nothing else has replaced them then you’ll either have to dial down the amount of time you spend in the game, get horribly bored by hanging around with nothing much to do, or leave and find a replacement. Blizzard has not really been replacing the long grinds which we now tend to associate with the earlier expansions. And even if they did, there would be an outcry from different sections of the playerbase which aren’t interested in grinds that might take months to complete. (Note: veteran players, already committed to the game, probably ARE interested in long term goals like this.) I think archaeology was Blizzard’s attempt to fill this hole. I’m not sure how successful it’s being.

2. Raiding ain’t what it used to be

My greatest disappointment in Cataclysm so far, bar none, has been zoning into Throne of the Four Winds. This is a smallish raid zone, located in the plane of elemental air, similarly to Vortex Pinnacle. Why the disappointment? See, I thought Vortex Pinnacle was gorgeous. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful 5 man instance, all airy, with arabian nights/ egyptian /djinni themes in the architecture. You can hop from one part to another by riding on whirlwinds. It’s just a lovely zone. And in the back of my mind while I was playing there I was thinking, “And if you think this is good, just imagine what the raid zone is going to be like!”

The raid zone is five platforms with djinn on them. That’s it.

To explain why this was a shock, you have to understand that raid instances in WoW have usually been just a bit more special than anything else in the game (yes, with the exception of Trial of the Crusader). AQ40, Serpentshrine, Black Temple, Ulduar, ICC, even Naxxramas. When you zoned into one of those instance you KNEW you were somewhere special. Throne of the Four Winds looks like Vortex Pinnacle but less cool. Bastion of Twilight is a cave. Blackwing Descent, to be fair, looks like the rest of Blackwing Caverns and does have a killer lift, making it my favourite of the raid zones so far this expansion.

I don’t have an issue with the encounters themselves which have so far been a good mix of intricate and tank’n’spank. (Well I do have issues with how melee is balanced with ranged but balance isn’t specific to this expansion.) I also have seen lots of feedback that Blizzard have generally done a good job with balancing out the difficulty of 10 vs 25 man raiding, which is a great achievement for them really.

But I feel there used to be something more special about raiding, and it wasn’t down to the percentage of the player base who was involved,  or the difference in scale between 40 vs 25 vs 10 man raids, because raids felt more special in Wrath too. And plenty of people were raiding Wrath in 10 man groups and/ or PUG raids.

That, I suspect, is going to affect how people feel about the endgame at the moment and whether it’s worth hanging in there. It is also something that Blizzard could turn around instantly with the next content patch if they come up with something like Ulduar. (Possibly even very like Ulduar, if Uldum is the next raid due up.)

If that happens, raiders may resub. It will after all still be possible to gear for raids via heroics at that point because the emblem gear will be upgraded.

3. Shorter term goals lead to shorter term players

I have identified before that I think Blizzard is deprecating long term achievements in WoW, which is (ironically) a long term trend for them. Emblem gear gets updated with every content patch. Gold and the economy is less important than it has ever been.

Players are being encouraged by this to feel that if they aren’t enjoying the game, the thing to do is unsub and see if it looks any better next patch – which might be in 6 months time. realID even means that you can easily keep up with your friends when you do get back, check who their current alts are, which servers they are on, and see if they’re interested in raiding again.

From being a game where people keep long term subs, I wonder if WoW is deliberately becoming one where a wave of endgame players will resub when the new stuff gets patched in, confident that they’ll be able to quickly catch up and join in. Other players, either enjoying the current tier of raiding more, not yet having run out of long term goals, or playing less frequently, will keep their subs up during the quiet times.

What do you think? If you are thinking of quitting, would you consider resubbing in 6 months time if they put in a cool content patch?

Thought for the Day: What happens when people get bored of raiding?

I think that raiding as a preferred playing style in MMOs  is on a long downwards spiral. There’s really no trend to show that people are dying to spend more time in tight knit raid guilds with regular weekly raid nights, far from it, the trends are towards more solo and casual play.

And although more people than ever before have been able to raid in Wrath, that just means that people who hadn’t seen raids before might now be able to decide, “Well, that was OK but never again.” Especially if opportunities for PUG raids or casual raiders are reduced in the new expansion, which is likely for the first few months at least. (10 man raids are more sensitive to people being able to commit to regular weekly raids, not less because they’re likely to have fewer people ‘on the bench’.)

Rohan commented recently that he sees issues with the new rated battlegrounds too, and I think he’s right on the money with this one. I particularly like his categories of transient vs extended group content — eg. a PUG is a transient group which forms for a single session, and a raid group is an extended group which forms with the expectation of regular weekly/ daily assaults on extended raid content.

So what are the casual players to do if they aren’t able or willing to commit to something as long term as a regular raid group or battleground group? And how about people who are bored of raiding because they’re bored of the regularity of the whole thing, what can they do to break up the tedium?

I think that WoW, for better or worse, is tied to this form of endgame and will continue to cater to it until the last server is turned off (ie. possibly not in my lifetime!) but people tiring of raiding is an opportunity for some more agile developer to ask, again, what is an MMO really all about? Is it just PvP over territory again and again and again or raiding? Is it just adding more solo grinds? Or could it be something else?

Or perhaps people will just dip into more of the F2P games, play a bit until something else comes along, and endgame as such will be only for the ultra hardcore. (As opposed to just the hardcore as it is now.)

End of the Expansion Blues

If there was any doubt that we were nearing the end of an expansion in WoW, the start of the Cataclysm alpha has put a line underneath it.

From here on, there will be one more content patch – it will contain a small non-progression raid to dispense trinkets and other epic sparklies, some fun PvE questlines (retake Gnomeregan or the Echo Isles), the battle.net Real ID integration, and whatever else Blizzard decide to do in preparation for the expansion that is to come.

And frankly, even though we haven’t yet killed the Lich King in 25 man raid, the kill cannot be too far away. I’d give it a month or so, depending on how raid attendance goes. And for a casual progression guild, that’s a good result which will make people happy.

But for all that, I’m worn down with Wrath raiding. It’s been fun, and I have a post in progress to go through some of the high and low points.  I’ll keep up my end of the weekly schedule as long as everyone else is keen, but I could give it up right now. I can see a mixture of reasons.

  • ICC holds very few tanking challenges for any tank who has cleared Ulduar. LK may be different but it won’t matter if I’m bored by the time I get there. From talking to friends who have tried heroic ICC, I don’t hold out much hope for those encounters either.
  • I don’t personally have any other avenues for progression. Aside from alting.
  • My efforts to get a 10 man crew together haven’t really worked (partly because other people are feeling end of Wrath blues too). I blame my social skills (ie. lack of friends) rather than gaming ones, but the enthusiasm for trying again has run dry.

I think the lack of challenge in ICC is an interesting issue. It isn’t that the encounters aren’t difficult, you only have to look at the hardcore versions to see how few guilds have completed them all. But the difficulty doesn’t really involve my role so I often feel as though I’m just ferrying bosses around while everyone else does the actual work. This is not why I raid.

So pardon me if I fail to get over excited about Cataclysm alpha leaks (why do they even bother with an NDA any more, I wonder?). It’s because I’m wondering if the raid game of the future has moved on and become something I’m no longer going to enjoy. Or maybe it’s just end of the expansion blues.

It came from the PUG: When good players go bad!

This week’s pick up group story is a sad tale of miscommunication, failure on behalf of everyone involved (including yours truly) to act like grown ups, and some inventive griefing where the responsible player forgot just one key thing …

The scene is Old Kingdom. I was tanking. The group was itching to move quickly so I pulled the first few groups quite fast. They didn’t handle it well. Now, in my opinion, if you yell at the tank to go go go at the start of an instance, it implies that you don’t want to wait around for marks or to have the kill order explained.

A couple of characters died – but not me because I know:

  1. the kill order
  2. the reasons for that kill order
  3. how to use spell reflect and interrupt to not be killed by spellflingers
  4. And also I have overpowered gear and good tanking cooldowns.

So really, I’m not going to die. You however, over-eager dps who think it’s a great idea to open up as soon as more than two monsters converge in the same place, are not so lucky.  In any case, after this, I decided to take the pulls a bit more carefully and mark as appropriate. It was my mistake, I’d assumed the group was more familiar with the instance than they really were.

This was not fast enough for some of the crew who started to run ahead and pull anyway. I asked them to stop doing that. And all hell was unleashed in party chat. It … was unpleasant.

We were heading towards the blood elf boss when someone else yelled gogogo again. I sat down, just to annoy them, and said, “afk 2 mins to get tea.” I wasn’t actually afk which is just as well because at this point the rogue stealthed up to the boss, pulled it, and used tricks of the trade to misdirect it onto me. So the boss comes running down the ramp and hits me a couple of times.

I think, “You have got to be kidding me,” and leave the instance mid-fight. After which I put them on ignore. Presumably they wiped, although the rogue may have been able to vanish.

People who just lose their senses

I think some players just have poor impulse control, because as soon as anything goes a way they don’t like, all common sense gets thrown out of the window. Yes, congratulations, you can use your class abilities to be really really annoying. But what exactly is the point?

Maybe for a lot of us, the griefer is not hiding very far beneath the surface at all and all it takes is a situation in which we feel powerless to bring out the crazy. (i.e. I think he flipped because he couldn’t bear the thought that he might have to wait for me. Or just go along with my request to stop pulling.)

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?

I have to play it again on hard mode?

casablanca

There are two types of gamer in the world. Those who want to play through a game again on a harder mode after they’ve finished it, and those who don’t.

This is an issue that many players will now be facing in WoW. The latest raid instance has not posed a major challenge in normal mode, even to casual raid groups. But the question is: Do we want to play it again, with shorter enrage timers, more adds, and the raid taking more damage all round? If the answer is no, then Blizzard’s flagship is looking thin on content at the moment.

Oh, there is plenty to do in WoW. It’s just that at this stage in the expansion, players who were in from the start have generally already done as much as they wanted of the older stuff. Alts are a possibility, but time to level and gear up is faster than ever, especially if you use heirlooms and xp via PvP (apparently Alterac Valley is where the big xp gains are to be made). We are also now into the ‘holiday season,’ with Brewfest, Hallow’s End, and WinterVeil leading up to the end of the year, and there are new holidays this year also  (Day of the Dead, something to do with pilgrims and turkeys).

They’ve successfully channelled more players into the raid game, and now we see where that is leading. Because when the raid game is ‘finished,’ what is there to do while waiting for the next raid? The gap in difficulty between normal and hard mode Coliseum is high — a raid which can muster enough dps to clear the normal mode might hit a brickwall on the first encounter of the heroic version.

There will be plenty of content in Icecrown whenever patch 3.3 comes out, but that probably won’t be for months. If you’re playing WoW, how are you keeping yourself amused at the moment?

Why do people boost?

Boosting is the local term for when a high level character runs lower level characters through an instance so that they can get some free xp, quest rewards, and possibly other stuff like drops also. Certainly in WoW and presumably in other games too, if you stand around in a city you will hear people asking for boosts through instances. If you get really lucky some of them might whisper you personally to ask.

Now, I have no real idea why anyone would ever agree to do this. I guess it’s just possible that you wanted to go to that low-level instance anyway for nefarious reasons of your own and figure it’s no extra  hassle to take a random hanger on.

Or maybe if it’s a friend who is feeling down in real life or going through a rough levelling patch in game, I could see taking 30 mins out to run them through an instance to cheer them up and give them a boost (in the wider sense of the word.) But what I cannot figure is why anyone would do that for a random beggar.

Yet, I assume some people must answer those plaintive ‘will u boost me through zul’farrek’ (or the even more pathetic ‘will pay u 10g for boost through scholo, you can keep all the drops’) whispers with a cheery ‘Yes, let’s go!’ In fact, even me answering with a mild ‘Haha, nice try but no’ seems to be met with a bruised response, as if somehow that wasn’t what they were expecting.

All I can imagine is that some people are so bored that running a random instance to help a random beggar sounds like something interesting to do, they’re lonely and the random person is being friendly, or they just aren’t good at saying no.

I’d love to know more about the dynamics of boosting and why it happens. I can’t help feeling that somewhere in there lies the answer to getting experienced players to help out newbies, and that there’s a section of the player base who specifically enjoy taking their high level characters and helping (aka showing off to) lower level guys.

Why I boost

I generally get frustrated with running halfway around the world to low level instances to help people who could perfectly well just skip the instance, and who won’t really experience it in any meaningful way when I’m performing a perfectly executed one-woman zerg.

This weekend, I made an exception. I’m  busy working on my city reps (as per last Friday’s post) and I had a bunch of quests to do in Blackrock Depths. I knew that one of my friends and my husband both had an alt in the right sort of level range, and asking around in guild threw up another appropriate level alt also. So I told them that I was planning to zerg BRD and offered that they could bring their alts along. And that I’d like to take the runecloth (for rep) but everything else was fair game.

So we went off and did this, and it was good fun. We chatted on Teamspeak, the guys got good great xp for their alts (in WoW, you get more xp in instances if the group size is larger so it was actually good for all of them that we had a few alts with us), I picked up a load of city rep for quests and a few stacks of runecloth.

It just doesn’t really feel like boosting when you’re in a win-win situation like that. But it was definitely more fun for me to have people along with whom to chat than it would have been to go on my own (I know, social player etc). And I’m glad to be able to help my husband out from time to time with his alts, he does the same for me.

Also it turned out that one of the other guys collects runecloth as a hobby (!) and sent me about 10 stacks afterwards as a thank you. It’s by this kind of gesture that my guild ‘enforces’ a helpful culture.

The appeal of long distance travel

The other thing I’ve grown to appreciate over the weekend’s rep gathering is what long distance travel can add to a game. Zipping around the old world in search of various quests really made me think about working out the best routes, how long I had left on my hearthstone, where the nearest inter-continent zeppelin base was located, and so on.

It was an interesting (if time consuming) mini game of its own, and I enjoyed the minor added challenge. I think this is the appeal of the holiday quests WoW sometimes throws in that ask you to visit every town in the game. It’s a DIY travelling salesman problem.

I don’t want new games to let me just teleport straight to anywhere I want to go. I enjoyed working out my routes and using my world knowledge to plot out the best time savers.