The Myth that One Raid Endgame Fits All

scrusi posts today about why he thinks the Lich King endgame leads to boredom, and underused raid instances. I read this, and I think about the TBC endgame, which also led to boredom and underused raid instances. (Ask anyone whose raid was stuck in Serpentshrine for most of the expansion.)

I suspect that all raiding endgames, when stretched out over months or years, will lead to … boredom and underused raid instances. The only difference is who gets bored, how quickly, which raid instances are underused, and which guilds feel most of the pressure.

So what is the ideal?

  • Raids become a regular hobby. The raid group becomes like a sports team with scheduled games, et al.
  • You should always have something to do, and something to aim for both individually and as a raid group.
  • Your group should be able to replace any members who leave so that it can keep raiding.
  • If you come late to the expansion, you should be able to join a group of your friends.
  • There should be enough new or varied content that people in your group don’t get bored.

To my mind, the big issue with raiding endgames is that players have to balance up group progression vs individual progression. If all raid content consisted of PUG raids with relaxed gear/ ability requirements and there was a lot of solo (or small group) content where players could go for progression, then we could have a setup in which one endgame fits all. It might be that newer games try a version of this model. It’s probably easier to support and would make a lot of players much happier and less stressed.

And yet, progressing as part of a group can lead to a deep and rewarding gaming experience. For a lot of players, it’s key to why we enjoy MMOs, because we can play alongside team mates and friends for weeks, months, or even years. If all players started at the beginning of the expansion and progressed alongside their raid, then they’d be able to take on the content when it was introduced. Given enough difficulty sliders, they’d get through it somehow at an appropriate pace. But this doesn’t always happen. Some players start playing later into the expansion. Some change groups for social reasons, scheduling reasons, or play style reasons. Maybe you want a more hardcore experience. Maybe you decide you would prefer to raid with your mates. Maybe something comes up iRL and you need to switch from raiding four nights a week to one.

There are no easy answers. Either progression is less important, so newer players can catch up easily with established groups. Or else progression is king, players are forced to raid with other people at a similar progression level, and guild hopping returns as the recommended way for people to ‘jump a few tiers.’

Accessibility means that Blizzard have prioritised letting newer players gear quickly and raid with their friends in Wrath. Those friends have no need to go back and run older instances again, and (more importantly) they don’t generally want to because they already burned out on that content.

In TBC, recruitment posed a different type of issue to guilds. It was harder to just gear up the new alt or new player and let them join. Guild hopping was recognised as the best way for a new player to manage this, which probably suited some people but made others a lot unhappier. Ultimately, forcing progression raiders to go back to older instances to gear or key new recruits certainly didn’t help with avoiding burnout for them. Using less progressed guilds as feeders to more hardcore guilds (ie. they recruited new people and trained/ geared them, who then left to join more hardcore raids) also gave them a demoralising level of turnover. It wasn’t a better raid system, it just hit a different group of players more harshly.

We know that players can be enticed to run content by suitable rewards, but that adds an extra element of pressure into the game which won’t suit some groups. (Imagine if the rewards for running Naxx, Ulduar, and TotC in the same week were so high that competitive raiders felt pushed to do as many as possible.)

Weekly raid quests have been fairly successful. PUGs form quickly. But it’s not really the same experience as running those old raids when they were new, with a bunch of similarly geared people.

For all that some people complain about WoW’s lack of innovation, Blizzard have tinkered a good deal with the raid game, and how new content is introduced into the end game in general.  They’ve made changes during Wrath that would have really eased pressure in TBC. For example, being able to extend the locks on a raid instance means that even raids on a very casual schedule aren’t pressured to clear everything in a week before it resets,

So why don’t new players form new raid groups?

So if people who aren’t burned out on the older instances still want to run them for fun, what is stopping them?

The answer is, because you need a group. And because a lot of people don’t want to organise one, especially not with other new players who they may have to teach. Only at the very start of an expansion do raids start from the beginning (and even then, a lot of them will be full of experienced raiders from other games or expansions.)

Logic says that raid progression is an old and outdated mechanic. The type of progression that groups can earn via rated battlegrounds will probably work much better for WoW. Gear matters but good play and tactics mean that a skilled team can work around it while gearing new members. But that’s PvP.

And yet, some of the best experiences I’ve had in MMOs have been watching entire raid groups grow and learn together. Very soon, I suspect, we’ll rate these experiences alongside waiting 17 hours for a boss to spawn or crippling death penalties: memories of an earlier and more hardcore era.

[Guest Post] The first three seconds

(Salanna is a mage who runs in the same raid group as Spinks, for her sins. Her hobbies are drinking, setting things on fire, and reminding tanks of their own mortality.)

Hi. So, Spinks is away, and has rather unwisely turned her blog over to other people. People like me. A mage. Spinks situates herself in front of the boss, helmet on, shield up, perfectly placed and nailed there with tent pegs, whacking the boss with a fishing pole to show how hard she is. I’m just inside her line of sight, zapping four kinds of hell, with nothing between me and the world but a blue bar, the 130% aggro threshold, and my chef’s hat that I forgot to take off before entering the instance. Tanks taunt the boss, but mages taunt the tank.

Now, about that aggro threshold. Spinks and I, we have a funny relationship with that. This mage, see, has been working on improving my own DPS lately. A DPSer’s trade is never fully mastered, of course, but I’ve had my share of catching up to do. Now I’m not going to get stuck into the whys and hows here – there are plenty of resources for that – but I spent a good while following all the good advice, and it wasn’t clearly helping. Couldn’t work out what was wrong. I was beginning to think that I needed to hit the buttons harder.

Then I started paying attention to the very start of the fight. You know the bit. The tank has no rage yet, they’ve maybe landed a sunder, they’re moving around trying to position the boss so it doesn’t insta-kill the clothies – and those same clothies just let loose. The boss goes on a rampage, the raid leader emits an audible sigh on teamspeak, there are general exhortations in /raid to give the tanks time at the start without naming any names, and we all ress, rebuff and try again. All for the want of one second’s worth of patience from the DPS, on a fight where we’re nowhere near the enrage timer. Absurd, isn’t it?

Except. That’s the one moment in the fight where everything is aligned for those DPS. Particularly for a class like a mage where mastering your role is in large part about maximising the use of cooldowns, the start is the only place in the fight where all the cooldowns align. The macroed abilities (and mages do like to stack their macros), weapon procs, trinkets with mismatched internal cooldowns, more often than not a Bloodlust – this
is where they all stack, and stack multiplicably.

Which means that if you fluff that part of the fight, you’re not just missing out on a couple of seconds valuable damage time, but you are missing out on the highest potential damage per second in the entire fight. If you don’t keep up here, there is nowhere else in the fight that you can catch up. For a class like a mage with its many cooldowns, the difference does seem to be astonishing – in the right fight it can be the difference between being in
the top third and the bottom third of the meters.

I discovered that the rest of the effort I’d put in before was making a difference – but until I got the beginning of the fight just right, any improvement was getting lost in the noise. I had lost the race in the first ten seconds and could no longer make a sensible comparison.

Which gives me to wonder if this is an intentional design. Competition between DPS is a crucial part of keeping the overall DPS of a given raid group good and healthy. But when the difference to the outcome of the encounter is so small – there are very few fights in any given raid these days where a couple of seconds off the enrage timer is the difference between success and wipe – it seems absurd to put this level of tension between the DPS I reckon it is deliberate at least in principle, if perhaps not fully intended to have turned out the way it has. I can see that there is, and should be, a benefit for DPS and tanks who get to know each other well.

Asking the designers to remove that benefit is unlikely to be successful – and rightly so. But I suspect that how it has turned out in practice is, at least in part, a victim of the funny scaling of threat versus damage. Right now, this problem is bodged by non-tanks who help with threat by means of Tricks of the Trade and Misdirect, and nowhere is that help more important than the start of the fight. But this takes some responsibility for one of the most intricate parts of the fight away from the tank, leaving them with another five minutes of “three-stacks-taunt.”

That’s not a good thing. My raid’s tanks are all great, experts at what they do. I want them to be able to show that skill. I don’t want them to feel like they’re taking the place of an adequately buffed voidwalker. But I’m caught directly between showing proper respect for the tank, by giving them the little time they need, and showing respect for the raid as a whole, by learning to up my DPS.

So Cataclysm will cure all ills, right? Well, maybe. If the level of tension today really is a result of 64 ilevels of threat vs. damage, then it’ll benefit both from the gear reset and from the developers’ work to try to address that scaling in future. Both the risk of pulling aggro and the consequence of it is likely to be lower in a first tier Catclysm raid than in the end dungeon of Wrath; and DPS’ dependence on nailing the first few seconds of a fight will be lower thanks to the proportionately smaller procs and buffs at that tier, so the pressure to ride the edge will be eased. I reckon the measure of a successful outcome here will be if that tension between DPS and tanks can be ramped up a bit over the lifetime of the expansion, without having to resort to outside hackery again, and without sending us all back to Outland to farm the materials for Subtlety enchants for our cloaks.

Thought of the day: On ownership of group achievements

Assume that you turn up to a PUG one evening which downs the first few bosses in a raid. The next day, the raid leader continues with a different bunch of people and clears the rest. Do you feel that it was a joint achievement – we cleared raid instance X?

How about if it was a guild run, and you were on reserve the second night?

I think most people would feel a sense of ownership for the second achievement but not the first, even though they might have put in exactly the same amount of time personally.

A first look at LOTRO raids. And tentacles are tentacool.

I never set out to raid in LOTRO. I’m not even sure what I exactly set out to do with my shiny new lifetime subscription, aside from hang out and just enjoy the game world from time to time.

But with much encouragement and help from Arb and friends, a few hints on how the dailies work, a lot of help with crafted gear, and being patiently brought along on a couple of 6-man instance runs, my burglar now finds herself with 50 radiance on her gear.

I am lucky to have guidance, because the endgame of LOTRO still feels vast and oblique to me. There are several 6-man and 3-man instances which give different types of token as reward. There are also a variety of 12-man raids. But these instances and raids don’t get outdated as quickly as the Warcraft ones (in which people are mostly just interested in the latest tier). Moria and Lothlorien (still, confusingly, in Moria) instances still give tokens which can be exchanged for useful endgame gear. In fact, some of that gear is best in slot pre-raiding.

So there’s not really a clear order in which you need to run these instances. All of them give useful tokens. And this is without even getting into Moria hard modes – which I haven’t yet touched. Anyhow, some of the raid leaders in my kin were also starting an ad hoc group to encourage newbie raiders to dip their toes in the water – literally – beginning with a raid on The Watcher in the Water. The Watcher is an Onyxia-style raid, with a single multi-phase boss, and no trash. The requirements: 50 radiance. So I signed up.

watcher20

Our raid leader had the patience of a saint. I am very grateful to everyone who came along, both newbies who wanted to learn, people on alts who wanted to try some raiding, and more experienced players who came to help anyway. We didn’t kill the beast on this occasion, but a lot of learning was done and we got through to the final phase of the fight a few times.

I have (briefly) attended previous LOTRO raids, but this one shows that the devs have been learning. It was a step up from anything I have seen previously in that game.

So, a fight in several stages. People needed to run around and be aware of where they were standing. Lots of adds, which were dealt with differently in the different phases. Random water spouts which meant that everyone had to stop what they were doing and run to the sides of the room. If you want to see a rundown of the watcher tactics, check here. But this could easily have been a WoW boss fight. And I think it would be a fun, popular one if is it was. There’s plenty for everyone to do, and who doesn’t like being picked up and waved around by a naughty strangling tentacle? (Yes, shades of Yogg there although I believe this came much earlier.)

One big difference is that classes have more distinct roles in LOTRO. A champion, for example, isn’t interchangeable with any other melee dps. My burglar can put out decent melee damage but she doesn’t have the AE capability that a champion would. And so in this fight, I have a different job to them for some of the time. There are debuffs/ corruptions to be removed, lots of different adds to be dealt with, combat buffs/ debuffs which need to be kept up, and if you get bored you can always throw in a Conjunction. Another difference is no addons. You’re stuck with the base UI and so is everyone else.

The Watcher has been criticised as a fight for the reliance on ranged dps. It’s not actually all that reliant on ranged dps other than, “Yes, bring some. There are a couple of adds which need to be taken down by ranged.” But this was an issue earlier in a game which didn’t have many ranged dps classes and only 12 slots in a raid.

Again with LOTRO, Turbine weave the title/trait/achievement system far more tightly into all aspects of the game than Blizzard ever have. Most achievements have two stages – stage one will reward with a title and stage two (more of a grind) will improve a trait. And these are currently balanced so that stage one is very accessible. My character got a title for fighting Watcher tentacles in our one night of efforts, for example. And this goes a long way towards encouraging you to feel that a wipe night wasn’t a waste of time.

And if any more inducement was needed, Arb informed me that it is possible to get a trophy from The Watcher that lets you put a pool in the garden of your in-game house. Complete with tame tentacle that might pick people up if they walk too close. Now I realise that first age weapons and radiance gear are all very desirable loot drops, but the notion of a tame pond-tentacle motivates me much more than any gear ever could!

On Solo Rewards for Group Challenges

Group content of any kind in a MMO can be seen as a social challenge. If you want the shiny mount/ quest reward/ epic then you need to find 4/9/24 other suckers to come and help you get it. Now, the standard way to do that is to either pledge your loyalty to a guild which will require some kind of ongoing commitment. Or maybe chance your luck with a pick up group, or asking random people on the trade channel. Or persuade some friends to come along.

And people enter into guild pacts because they know that they all will benefit. So where do legendary weapons fit into this scheme? One person in the raid has to be chosen to receive the main reward. I guess the social challenge for the rest of the raid is to pick the right person and hope that s/he will stay with them afterwards.

I wonder though what legendary weapons might look like in the new Cataclysm scheme of guild design. If it is possible to have guild bound items – something Blizzard have already been discussing with reference to crafted heirlooms – then how about a guild bound legendary item? You could let different people use it from week to week. So if you helped create a legendary that was of a type your class could use, you’d share the reward.

But people do also love solo rewards. They’re the only progression for soloers, and the main progression for everyone else. So there has to be a balance between guild rewards and individual rewards; how heavily it is tipped towards the individual will control how trapped people feel by their guilds. Would players even want shareable legendaries, and to give that power to a guild (guild leader, even) rather than to an individual player? Or will it make them feel less ‘used’?

My experiences with Shadowmourne

shadowmourne

(These are some bad screenies of the legendary weapon in action)

I’ve been musing on legendaries lately due to a couple of experiences with Shadowmourne – the current WoW legendary axe.

The first was the guy who broke Gearscore, shown in the pictures above. I zoned into a random PUG with my Death Knight, and there was a player with the legendary axe. He did about double my dps, which wasn’t all that low to start with. And he was a nice guy too, he told one of the other dps to stop whining about healing. Everyone was ogling that weapon and asking about his guild. And when we left, everyone wished him luck on the hard mode LK25 fight.

The other was that we’ve been making a Shadowmourne in our raid group, which involved tackling some of the raid encounters in an awkward way to let him complete the quests. I think working together on a group achievement like that is something to be proud of, and wish him the best of luck with the rest of it. I think we’ll all be very proud to see a Shadowmourne in our raid too.

And yet. I’ve never owned a legendary weapon on any of my alts, although I have been in guilds which helped to create a couple. And frankly, even if there had been a tanking legendary this expansion, I would not have been first in line to get it (purely for attendance reasons, if nothing else).

I wonder if it’s selfish to wish for raid bound legendaries, just so that I could see what it’s like to carry one …

How to switch to being more casual

I have played hardcore. I have played casual. And let me tell you, switching from one style of play to the other is not just as simple as only logging in for a fraction of the hours. It involves  a change of the way you view yourself in your MMO of choice.

Being a casual or hardcore player isn’t just about the hours played or the raid schedule, of course. You can put in lower hours and still play like a pro. You can put in longer hours and bimble around with your alts. But switching from 5 nights a week to 1 night a week is still going to require a change of mindset, as well as of logging time.

It is also completely normal for people to re-evaluate their play schedule when a new expansion is coming up. Do I want to be less hardcore in Cataclysm? Would I like to try to get into a top 100 guild, and what would that involve? Would I like to do things differently in the next round? Has my life changed (new job/ university course/ baby/ relationship) and does my gaming need to change too?

For example, if you are used to playing in a heavily scheduled, hardcore raid guild, you probably see yourself as being among the elite of the server. So what happens when you have to cut your playing time? Your raid may need to replace you by someone who can make all those scheduled raids. It won’t be personal. It won’t be a comment on your failure to get out of the fire in that one raid last year.  But you may still feel like a failure, and see the raid options available (apply to a more casual guild? PUGs?) as being beneath you.

Similarly, if you’re used to being one of the mainstays of a highly social or RP guild, having to cut your hours means you simply won’t be around as much. People will talk to someone else instead. Friends will still like you and be happy to see you when you are around, but you will feel as though you aren’t the centre of the guild any more because you just aren’t there as much. You will be very aware of all the exciting RP that goes on when you aren’t there and probably quite jealous, even though it’s no one’s fault that you missed it.

So if this sounds a bit like a 5 step program, it’s because most people will be shaken in their game identity if they have to play less. So if you’re going to make this switch (which you may have no choice about), AND be happy, you have to come to terms with a few basic facts. And learn to enjoy your decision and your new playing schedule.

1. People with less time have to make hard choices, you will miss out on some things

In many ways, players with limited time are the only ones who get the opportunity to make real choices in MMOs. People with virtually unlimited time can pretty much do everything that they want. They have the time to level all the alts, attend all the raids, practice all the trades kills, make all the in game networking contacts. But you will have to prioritise. Other people may not be under the same pressure.

So although your choices do matter more, you must accept that you have to make them. Events will also happen that you will miss, and some of them you will have really wanted to attend. You need to learn to live with that.

You may also end up feeling less engaged with the game. You’re putting in less hours, doing other things as well. It is sad to step back from something that was an important part of your life, but people change and it’s natural for priorities to change too. You’ll always have the memories.

2. Pick your goals smartly

Because your choices matter more, you need to pick sensible goals for yourself. What do you actually want to accomplish in the game? Will your current group/ guild let you do that? If your current guild is making you miserable because they are based on everyone playing a lot and you can’t keep up, then maybe it’s time to look around for a group that suits your circumstances better.

It’s not easy to leave a social group behind. But infinitely better than staying and being miserable because you can no longer fit in. Plus there are plenty of people knocking around who have made the same decision in the past and will understand where you are coming from.

If you want to raid, would you prefer to find a casual friendly group that has a relaxed schedule? Or switch to a server with very frequent PUG opportunities? (A high population server with a lot of raiders will offer infinitely more raid PUGs than a low pop, less progressed one.)

Some goals are inherently more casual friendly. PUGs and battlegrounds can be hopped into at any time. Solo play can be taken at your own pace. You’ll soon find out if any of your goals aren’t feasible because you’ll be frustrated all the time you are in the game. If this happens, look harder at your current goals.

Plus, of course, it’s easier to make sure that events happen when you want them if you can organise your own.

3. Picking a suitable class/ tradeskill

Some people will tell you that tanks or healers are more casual friendly because they don’t need to wait so long for instances. Or specifically healers if you want to PUG raids – they’re always needed. Others will suggest DPS because it may be an easier role to learn, and more of them are needed.

I’d say that the best notion, as usual, is to pick the one you love. But if you’re looking for a regular raid spot, it will be a more uphill struggle with a tank.

And while hybrids will give you many more options, it also takes longer to gear each role and learn to play it. Having said all that, the answer to anything in WoW at the moment is probably paladin. Great at soloing, very forgiving, can tank/heal/dps, not too difficult to learn, no competition on the healing plate.

Trade skills are another matter. Understand that the actual crafting skills are usually time sinks and players with more time will have maxed them out long before you get there. You will make more money in less time by going with gathering skills. This is not to say that it’s a bad idea, just something to bear in mind when picking goals, and don’t expect to be the only enchanter in the village.

4. Try to be happy

Don’t be jealous of people who have more stuff or more time in game. It is hard to adjust from being one of the time-rich ‘haves’ to being more time-poor, but hating on random people won’t help. If you are used to being one of the people who always helps everyone else, it can be tough to switch to being the one who is asking for help.

I think it’s the change in mindset which is more painful than actually having less time. No one minds crafting stuff for you if you ask politely and give them the materials (and a tip, if appropriate). It just can feel harsh if you are used to being able to make everything yourself.

Still, there is plenty of chilled out fun to be had. You can do pretty much all of the things on a casual schedule that people could do with more time (it may be that cutting edge raiding is off the agenda, for example). But you have to do them in different ways and maybe a different timescale.

It is just the nature of these games that more time = more stuff. You could also look for alternative games where this isn’t such a factor. Just bear in mind that Blizzard have been trying to even things up for people who play less right since the game opened (e.g. rested xp, limited boss attempts) and people with more time have consistently found ways around it.

5. Find people to hang out with who understand where you are coming from

If you spend your time in game with a bunch of hardcore gamers who raid five nights a week, you will also spend a lot of time comparing yourself with them and being miserable about how much you are missing. As a casual player, you will very likely have more fun and be less stressed in a guild which has a good mix of people and is less focussed.

It doesn’t mean you can’t play with the same people. A fixed levelling group or regular casual-friendly PvP evening will put you on the same footing as everyone else who turns up. But that takes buy-in from everyone. A guild which makes active use of bboards during the day will make it much easier for you to keep up with what is going on and feel involved, even though you may not be in game so much.

Don’t stay in a group or game which is making you unhappy, though. Instead think about why it’s making you so miserable. Are your goals incompatible with your availability? Are your friends on a different schedule?

5 Challenges for Cataclysm

Chris at Game by Night is dubious about whether Cataclysm can really keep Warcraft players occupied for another two years (the average time between WoW expansions up till now). Yes, there are new races and new levelling content, but once people have worked up their new alts … what then?

In many ways, the most surprising thing about Cataclysm is how little we have heard about it. It’s going to be released this year, but when? Is it in beta yet? Where are the screenshots or artists impressions of the new zones? Maybe a picture of a well known zone seen from a flying mount? How about some more information about the dance studio (i.e. ability to choreograph your own dances) which was mentioned at Blizzcon?

Just for comparison, the first beta leaks from Wrath were in April ‘08, and the expansion was released in November of that year. If Cataclysm is aiming for a release before Q4, we should start hearing more about it very soon. The longer they delay, the more likely that the expansion won’t go live until the end of the year.

Aside from that, there is a question of what exactly it really would take to keep WoW players occupied for another two years.

For raiders, I’m sure Blizzard can dole out the raid content at the same rate they have been through Wrath. For alt-fans, an old worlde revamp, new races, and 5 new zones will certainly keep people busy for awhile. Blizzard have also mentioned reworking some of the old dungeons as high level heroics – if they did that to all of them in addition to any new instances then that’s a lot of instanced content also. Plus the rated battlegrounds, which I suspect will be one of the really big features in practice.

So, same old same old. More zones, more dungeons, more races, more battlegrounds. But is that enough? And if not, what exactly would be enough?

Here’s the five main challenges I think the expansion will face.

  1. Rated Battlegrounds. How well will these take off? If this plan works, then it will throw a nice chunk of both content and challenge at raid guilds who are bored of running the same raid four times a week. Plus should be fun for the more casual guilds too. They will need to find a way for people to opt out of the ratings if they want to go run a random battleground or else the whole casual friendly, solo friendly nature of bg PvP will be lost.
  2. People who can’t raid or don’t want to raid. Wrath opened up WoW raiding to more people than ever before. Some will be hooked and raring to go on Cataclysm raids. But what about the people who decided that actually it isn’t for them? It may be that some form of cross-server LFR tool will make raids a fun, casual friendly option. But as I’ve said before, I don’t think a regular tuned 10/25 man raid would work for a cross server PUG.
  3. Hardcore disengagement. Hardcore raiders have worked within the new hard mode /normal mode framework for raid instances. But how much do they actually enjoy it? Do they want to sign up for another expansion of more of the same? More working their guts out to beat hardmodes, when the majority of the player base just doesn’t care any more and isn’t especially impressed because they are happy with their normal modes and get to see the same fights anyway. How many will decide that it’s just not worth it?
  4. Levelling through Outland and Northrend. Now, Outland and Northrend both offer very cool and fun levelling experiences. But how are players going to feel when they leave the revamped old world and have to chug through 20 levels of unchanged content before they get to the new Azeroth zones? How many of those new alts will actually make it to endgame?
  5. Class Balance and Hybrid Vigor. Wrath has seen hybrids winding up with a good deal of in game privilege. They get the extra flexibility of multiple roles, at very little cost (apart from the extra time and effort to gear up). We know that Paladins and Druids (and Death Knights, natch) have all been gaining in popularity – last armoury survey showed that over 15% of all level 80s were paladins. I’d expect this effect to become even more marked as more people create new alts in Cataclysm. Druids will get vastly more popular because … worgen druids. Plus of course, a class talent revamp for all classes could unsettle everything.

The big problem of course is boredom. People who are bored of the game are not going to be enthralled by more of the same, and Blizzard has shown no signs yet that Cataclysm will include anything other than more of the same.

And really, they have to go with ‘more of the same’ for the players who aren’t yet bored – plus they will want to increasingly save their new ideas for the unannounced MMO that is yet to come. This isn’t to say that WoW is being short-changed, but that the original design might just not be welcoming to some of the new things designers want to do.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I think they will at some point figure out how to make fun cross server PUG raids. I think the rated battlegrounds will be wildly successful, more than most people are expecting.

I think that the new expansion will struggle to hold a lot of existing endgame player’s attention for more than a few months. This happens anyway with any new expansion, but the drift will be faster than ever, and it won’t depend on new games coming out. But remember, a lot of new or returning players will be coming back to start again with Cataclysm. They won’t all be bored yet. They will enjoy the more accessible instancing and raid content. Blizzard is banking on the new wave replacing the old. Time will tell if they are right.