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WoW 6.0 - Living Dangerously?


Belechannas
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The pre-patch for WoW's next expansion (which implements nearly all the mechanical changes in the expansion, EXCEPT the new zones/instances and level cap increase) goes live on October 14. The expansion officially launches 30 days later, on November 13.

I've been playing in beta since driving up to LA to score a beta key when they had the event in August to announce the release date. This expansion is taking risks - a lot of them. Of course, it's still WoW, and they aren't re-inventing the MMO. But frankly, as a (semi-)fanboy, I'm a bit nervous.

The previous expansion, Mists, was an extremely conservative effort. A new class (well-received) and a new race (people were initially skeptical, but Pandas were generally thought to be well-done and were also well-received). Otherwise, no major departures or innovations from what people were used to and expected. They added pet battles, a fluff feature which some segment of the population liked, at least for a while, but predictably the novelty wore off.

Conventional wisdom would seem to argue for the Mists-style approach. WoW is a uniquely successful formula, approaching its 10th anniversary, and many players are heavily invested in it. Given trends over many years, for the game and the industry as a whole, significant growth of the current player-base is not a very realistic possibility - holding onto the players they have would seem to be a more sensible goal.

But that is apparently not the approach they decided to take with Warlords of Draenor. Tuesday is the day that the majority of the player-base will start to encounter the massive changes they've introduced in nearly aspect of the game: new character models, massively reworked and streamlined classes, stats completely redone (and "squished"), a different raid size (20-man, instead of 10- or 25-) for the highest difficulty, and an attempt to completely change the dynamics of combat, compared to the recent past.

That is just the 6.0 changes. When the rest of the expansion launches in a month, people will also get a radically different crafting system, plus the garrisons, plus no flying mounts in expansion zone, major changes to LFR loot, etc, etc. The Mists dungeons (normal and heroic) were almost laughably face-roll. The Warlords dungeons are far less forgiving. When the dust settles, it will be hard to find any part of the game that hasn't changed significantly.

Unlike Turbine's (far less ambitious) attempt to revamp the classes in HD, I don't think they are making any obviously stupid decisions, and (unlike Turbine) they certainly have the resources to pull this off. On the other hand, with so many changes, it is practically guaranteed that everyone will find something - perhaps a number of things - that they don't like.

How much change will the player base of a 10-year old MMO tolerate? Starting Tuesday, we'll find out...

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That's concerning to me. I find any major change in a game that people are used to to be a bad idea. If it's an extreme deviation from what they currently have, it could mean a lot of angry people... but I doubt they'd leave. They'll learn the new system and keep playing the electronic smack addiction known as WoW!

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I've just started playing WoW again after a 2 or 3 years away and it still amazes me exactly how much content there is. How long I continue to play remains to be seen, whilst there is a lot of content, a lot of it I ignore as I find it quite boring.

 

No flying mounts in expansion zones though! But I like flying around in WoW...

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Strange as it may sound, I actually think WoW is going down the exact same path as post-Moria LOTRO i.e. less content for more cost, ingame monetisation, and gimmick features. By the time the WoD content actually goes live it will have been 14 months since the last content update... If you had been subscribed that time you would have paid close to £140 just to be able to keep playing the same content and now have to stump up another £35 for the expansion. For a game that generates the amount of money that WoW generates this is a pretty diabolical return  and a  real slap in the face to its loyal customers. I wonder what % of the WoW revenue goes back in to the game and how much has been used to fund development of Titan, hearthstone and Heros of the Storm. Regarding content, I also understand WoD will only feature 6 dungeons which is a historic low for a WoW expansion, how many did TBC ship with? As for Garrisons they sound like a classic 'gimmick feature' which became a mainstay of LOTRO.  

 

I'm actually surprised WoW hasn't lost far more subscribers post WoTLK.

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Only 6 dungeons, that sounds low for WoW, but probably they'll just add more 5 mans in updates? No flying mounts, yuck.

 

But if I understand that raid size change correctly, and they are going to 20 man raids without 10 man version for the same raids, that's an awesome change. 10 man raids was part of what chased me away. I loved big raids, but many people started settling for 10 mans, and that hurt big guilds too. I ended up going through 3 guild deaths or mergers, and in the end I just lost interest.

 

What are they changing about crafting?

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I'm pretty sure WoW can weather this storm. Remember, they have a much larger playerbase to work with than most MMOs, thus a much larger "margin of error", when it comes to making major changes. Their core playerbase, the folks that won't leave no matter what, is huge, bigger than most other MMOs have for their entire playerbase in total, so even if the changes are received poorly, Blizzard will still have that core playerbase to keep things rolling along, until the ship can be righted.

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Mists brought a fairly big mechanic change which a lot of players didn't agree with (did away with skill trees) which was a big change.  WoW also officially lost more subscribers in the 12 months after Mists was released than the 12 months after Cataclysm.  I personally don't think the Pandas or the entire expansion worked out too well for them, and I welcome the move back to Draenor.  

 

Have to remember that unlike other games, WoW has a vast number of former players who devoted a lot of time to the game.  I'm assuming this expansion is an attempt get a lot of these back to offset any losses and to avoid the fate of the last two expansions (ie large subscriber drops in the following 12 months.  Nearly 2 million after Cata.  Over 2 million after Pandas).  Whether they will be successful will be interesting to see.  Personally I'm far more excited about Draenor than I was over Pandas.

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I think in the end what will matter most is how fun the content is. And from my experience from the beta... It's pretty fun :D I resubbed because I got my hands on a beta key. I want to do Siege of Orgrimmar before the expansion came out but it was extremely difficult for my muscle memory switching between beta and live constantly. With the pre-expansion patch coming out that should be a lot easier and hopefully I'll be able to get the item level to see the raid. 

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Sounds a lot like a CU/NGE type of change and those based on past experiences have mostly been bad.

I would consider an "NGE type of change" to be something which is an obviously misguided attempt to cater to the players (or some segment of the players). I don't think the changes coming in WoW really fit that description.

 

Strange as it may sound, I actually think WoW is going down the exact same path as post-Moria LOTRO i.e. less content for more cost, ingame monetisation, and gimmick features. By the time the WoD content actually goes live it will have been 14 months since the last content update... If you had been subscribed that time you would have paid close to £140 just to be able to keep playing the same content and now have to stump up another £35 for the expansion. For a game that generates the amount of money that WoW generates this is a pretty diabolical return  and a  real slap in the face to its loyal customers. I wonder what % of the WoW revenue goes back in to the game and how much has been used to fund development of Titan, hearthstone and Heros of the Storm. Regarding content, I also understand WoD will only feature 6 dungeons which is a historic low for a WoW expansion, how many did TBC ship with? As for Garrisons they sound like a classic 'gimmick feature' which became a mainstay of LOTRO.

WoD is shipping with 8 dungeons, which is more than Mists, and 17 raid bosses (not counting world bosses), which is also more than Mists. My impression is that everyone who has seen the new content (including me) thinks its high quality. From what they say, WoW has more people working on it today than it ever has.

You are right though that there was a long-ish content drought; Blizzard says this is because 1) they had to add a lot of people to the team, and 2) this took longer than they expected, and 3) WoD is 6 months later than they planned. The Mists content does lend some support to their claims, as the raids were about 6 months apart, and if they'd released WoD 6 months earlier, the last tier would have been 9 months, which would have been reasonable (my guild only finished clearing the hardest difficulty about 9 months after the raid was released...). 

 

Only 6 dungeons, that sounds low for WoW, but probably they'll just add more 5 mans in updates? No flying mounts, yuck.

 

But if I understand that raid size change correctly, and they are going to 20 man raids without 10 man version for the same raids, that's an awesome change. 10 man raids was part of what chased me away. I loved big raids, but many people started settling for 10 mans, and that hurt big guilds too. I ended up going through 3 guild deaths or mergers, and in the end I just lost interest.

 

What are they changing about crafting?

The popularity of LFR (matchmaking for raids on very easy difficulty - a bit like the revamped raids in Lotro, but with a working group finder) kind of made dungeons largely irrelevant in Mists. Most runs were "Challenge Mode" which give titles and transmog gear. There were no new dungeons in Mists after release. They are trying to make Heroic dungeons relevant as an alternative path for gearing this time, and they have said they plan to release new dungeons and even harder/scaled up difficulty versions of dungeons in Warlords. The "Scenarios" (sort of shorter, easier and role-neutral dungeon-lite) introduced in Mists are apparently not considered a success (I didn't care much for them) as they are being used only for story-telling in levelling quests this time around.

Concerning raid sizes, during Mists a "flexible" raid size (10-25) was introduced, with a difficulty slightly below "normal", but not faceroll like LFR. This was very successful, so they are extending it, and since "flexible" isn't a difficulty, they are relabeling things:

LFR (remains fixed at 25)

Normal (was "flexible" difficulty in Mists: now scales from 10-30 man)

Heroic (was "normal" difficulty in Mists; now scales from 10-30 man)

Mythic (was "heroic" difficulty in Mists; fixed group size at 20-man)

Another quality of life change is that all difficulties have different lockouts. All but Mythic have loot-based lock-outs, so you can run them as many times as you want (e.g. to help friends/guildies) but can only get loot from each boss once a week.

The fixed group size for Mythic is motivated by the difficulty of tuning really hard encounters for two different group sizes; in particular, a 10-man raid cannot have one of every class, while a 20-man raid probably should.

The crafting changes (in a nutshell) are somewhat tied into the garrisons, and mainly revolve around nearly everything being tied to an untradeable component item that has a very hard limit on the number that can be made per day. I believe the cap, including garrisons and the personal daily c/d, is 22 per day; items like armor and weapons require 100 of them. The best gems, enchants, flasks, etc also require them, so there is a maximum output per character per day. Also, your crafting skill level no longer determines what WoD recipes you can make; all items are craftable at skill level 1. Rather, your crafting skill level determines your efficiency for making the cooldown-limited items. A garrison building can also produce a small number of items for a profession you don't have.

They have not explained the rationale for the new system yet (which is odd considering how good their communication has been on other changes in the expansion). It may be intended to stop botters from dominating the marketplace; in effect, the output limits mean there will be a lot of Mom and Pop crafting businesses, but no Wal-Marts who can dominate the market (a max level Alchemist can only make a maximum of 11 of the best flasks per day, for instance). Making skill level determine how much you can craft rather than what you can craft has the effect of making the expansion a sort of "crafting reset" in the same way it is a "gear reset" - it removes the major barrier to someone coming into the game using the WoD crafting recipes, although somebody who was max-level when the expansion comes out will still have huge advantages.

Apart from a few minor things, I think the crafting changes will be OK with time, if people don't just rage-quit when they don't initially understand them.

 

Mists brought a fairly big mechanic change which a lot of players didn't agree with (did away with skill trees) which was a big change.

True, although by now, I think nearly everyone who has played with the new talent system agrees that it was a major success and the right thing to do.

 

I think in the end what will matter most is how fun the content is. And from my experience from the beta... It's pretty fun :D I resubbed because I got my hands on a beta key. I want to do Siege of Orgrimmar before the expansion came out but it was extremely difficult for my muscle memory switching between beta and live constantly. With the pre-expansion patch coming out that should be a lot easier and hopefully I'll be able to get the item level to see the raid.

Heh, I've had the same problems with switching between beta and live keybinds! Fortunately, only on my offspec.

There seems to be pretty near-universal agreement that the quality of new zones, quests and instances is extremely good. There are a lot of complaints about nearly everything, but "Draenor sucks" isn't one of them.

Although they have (unwisely in my opinion) really pushed the "Iron Horde" (orc villains) angle of the expansion, having a Draenei main character, it is nice to see Draenei society before they were practically driven to extinction (which is the situation in Outland during Burning Crusade).

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I've just started playing WoW again after a 2 or 3 years away and it still amazes me exactly how much content there is. How long I continue to play remains to be seen, whilst there is a lot of content, a lot of it I ignore as I find it quite boring.

 

No flying mounts in expansion zones though! But I like flying around in WoW...

 

I've been playing for a few weeks now and find the game too easy and the levelling is insane. I've done barely anything I'm now level 42. The instances I've done don't seem to have any mechanics at all - they all seem tank and spank. I was impressed when I first started playing but have started to find it boring and think that it is far easer than LOTRO. I'm out levelling the content and the story seems very poor. I prepurchased the expac but got a refund yesterday as the game isn't doing anything for me.

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I've been playing for a few weeks now and find the game too easy and the levelling is insane. I've done barely anything I'm now level 42. The instances I've done don't seem to have any mechanics at all - they all seem tank and spank. I was impressed when I first started playing but have started to find it boring and think that it is far easer than LOTRO. I'm out levelling the content and the story seems very poor. I prepurchased the expac but got a refund yesterday as the game isn't doing anything for me.

Well, unlike LotRO, levelling really isn't the focus of the game, because there's an endgame. Although there has been some revamps, you're still pretty much talking about 10 year old content at that level...

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I've been playing for a few weeks now and find the game too easy and the levelling is insane. I've done barely anything I'm now level 42. The instances I've done don't seem to have any mechanics at all - they all seem tank and spank. I was impressed when I first started playing but have started to find it boring and think that it is far easer than LOTRO. I'm out levelling the content and the story seems very poor. I prepurchased the expac but got a refund yesterday as the game isn't doing anything for me.

 

Yep, the leveling is where I think Blizzard have really dropped the ball with regards to their game.  Myself and two friends have made it interesting by doing all the dungeons 3-man as soon as they become available.  We're lvl 72 now and the boss mechanics are getting better/more interesting at this point.  It's a shame that they decided to make the leveling such a faceroll really.  I think they tried to revamp the leveling process in Cata and when it didn't really work, they threw up their hands and ignored it going forward and just made it as easy as possible to get people to end-game as quickly as possible.

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I've played WoW on and off since release in a fairly large progression guild spread across two servers and recently we had a big discussion about WoD, how it would effect us, and about the sub price increase. Almost to unanimously we decided to cancel our subscriptions and move on to other games, the majority vote was GW2 so now we have about 25 to 30 people in a new guild in GW2 with another half a dozen or so waiting for the money to buy GW2 and another dozen or so trying out other games but maybe coming to GW2 later. Just from the guild I'm in they've lost around 40 subs alone.

I know that's just a drop in the ocean to Blizzard, but it makes me wonder how many more are of the same mind.

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Does Blizzard wipe characters on starter accts after awhile? I downloaded WoW again and can't find my toons.

I don't seem to have any chars on my trial account either, so I don't know, maybe. It's been a few years, it's possible that I just forgot the server.

My main account chars are all still there are a 4 year absence, so at least they don't delete those.

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I don't seem to have any chars on my trial account either, so I don't know, maybe. It's been a few years, it's possible that I just forgot the server.

My main account chars are all still there are a 4 year absence, so at least they don't delete those.

 

I think they deleted some characters that hadn't been played with for a certain number of years recently.

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I think they deleted some characters that hadn't been played with for a certain number of years recently.

I googled about their char deletion, it seems that they delete characters under 50 on non-paying accounts after a few years. So that explains why trial chars are gone. I guess this probably means that my bank alts will be deleted too. 

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Some of that could be people returning prior to WoD to catch up and make themselves eligible for beta to check it out, I know a lot of people did that.

 

Of course.  Still it's an indication of how many people are interested in the new expansion (and a blow to those who continue to preach about the demise of the game).  In the quarter before Mists was released, there was a fairly hefty subscriber loss.  Proof though will be in the next quarter and the following couple of quarters.

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