Following the Yellow Brick Road!
Progression in World of Warcraft
Over a year has gone by and still the 5.5 million player fan base game, World of Warcraft reigns supreme over all the rest. Blizzard had created a winner with WOW, it had fixed many MMORPG problems, created many new ideas, and has set the stage for all other online games to come. With all this playing time, hard work and hours logged from the gamers, how do they see the progression of WOW? Is it terribly noticeable from when they originally started to play? How hard was it to hit the level cap? The raiding and PVP, have they progressed at all since the beginning? This week, TTH takes a look at the in game evolution of several topics in WOW: Raids, PVP, Leveling, and the play experience at 60. How have these topics have changed and evolved, and how they affect you!
Hitting 60: Capping and the Climb
"The single most important thing to remember when creating a game is that it must be FUN. When someone sits down to play your MMO, they are doing so to be entertained. An MMO should not feel like a job or obligation. It's very important not to fall into that trap of trying to manipulate your community, as if you're trying to run an ant farm. As a designer, it's your responsibility to create a world that's exciting, challenging, and FUN. It's not your job to play god over someone's play experience." ~ Blizzard
You have just finished installing WOW onto your computer, installed all the patches and updates, registered your account and hit the character screen for the first time. What excitement! Everyone is playing it, your friends, your older brother, even some guys and girls at your school, finally it is your chance to play! You pull out the list of character names and server title that your pals have given to you, and you log in. For the first time, you see your character options, your factions, your classes, and you are amazed at the choice and almost wonderful cartoon like animations that your favorite company has given to you. You make your character the way you want it to look, you pick out your own personal name, and you hit create, followed by enter world. From this point on, you are thrown into a completely new and incredible land, one that you have grown up with, Azeroth and Kalimdor! They are there before you to enjoy, explore and to visit and reenact everything neat that you found in the Warcraft series. If you found the death and decay of the original death knights to your liking, a Undead Warlock will suit you, for those Grunt hearted people, Warriors are your calling among orcs, everything and anything is waiting.
The starting areas are a very different experience for all players, a safe place to learn the game basics, and start questing with your character, to enjoy and gain some pride in your class and race, and to see a glimpse of what is to come. Leveling in WOW was made very simple by Blizzard, something they wanted available for anyone to attain. The only thing it requires from you is time, and time, be it months or weeks determines you hitting your cap.
There is great storyline, towns, animation, content and instances available throughout many many places in the Old World, no matter what your level. Experience can be gained by finishing the quests with a group or by yourself, grinding and killing mobs in large or small sessions, or PVP'ing in Battlegrounds. There is no right or wrong way to level your character, and no set time frame. The only difference between people when they reach the level cap, is equipment, nothing more. Up to level 20, you can achieve this in a a good night or two of solid playing. You learn all the basics, get a feel for group dynamics, and really see how this game will progress. Class roles begin to become apparent, and all is well. By level 30, you will notice that it takes quite a bit longer to gain your experience and the time you usually put in, may seem to do very little to your experience bar. Your mount is coming up soon at 40, as well as possibly your new armour type, and these 10 levels are filled with saving money, and really starting to be able to collect good items. You seem to be living on a cloud at 40, you have your mount, your new plate or mail, your new abilities, but then you realize there is still that bit left to go. This gap to 60 is the longest void to cross. The progression from 40-50 is the longest in my opinion, accomplishing quests and instances, grinding and PVP'ing where you can, but it just seems to take forever. By 50 you are so very close, and there are many areas in WOW that cater to this group, for whatever their play style, and the last 10 levels are again, just a matter of time.
The average time played till level 60, is a very general 20 days of playing time. This can be done in a few weeks and hit at 13 days, or spanned out over the last year, all in all, at the end, you hit 60.
"An MMO should not feel like a job or obligation. It's very important not to fall into that trap of trying to manipulate your community, as if you're trying to run an ant farm. As a designer, it's your responsibility to create a world that's exciting, challenging, and FUN. It's not your job to play god over someone's play experience." ~ J. Kaplan
Raiding and WOW
".... Wow at 60 is a different game. You play because you feel you have to. Game content is something to be endured, not enjoyed."-Kazgrim
In the 1-59 game, players have fun choices for advancing their character and have a very large variety of quests and missions to keep them entertained and happy. WoW never felt like work and never felt like you were forced into any particular direction. On the other hand, there are only a few options upon reaching the endgame and level 60: 1) Raid, 2) Grind for Reputation, or 3) Grind for PvP Rank. Most people agree that neither of these three are fun. They say that raiding isn't fun and no one would do it if there were other options.
"The single most important thing to remember when creating a game is that it must be FUN. When someone sits down to play your MMO, they are doing so to be entertained. An MMO should not feel like a job or obligation." ~ Blizzard
While that is a wonderful statement, sadly that is exactly the opposite of the present endgame.Now that you have hit 60, what can you do? At 60, you have several different raid options, the first is normal dungeons doable in 5 man groups, but you use sometimes up to 10 people for select few, and the second is the large scale end game dungeons, that take anywhere from 20-40 people to tackle. Gamers can log on at any time and have the ability to find a group to Scholomance, LBRS, UBRS, Dire Maul, and Strathholme without knowing anybody, or having the best equipment. They can go there and have fun tackling the content and strive to complete the very attainable rare sets. Doing these activities amuse some, but others are beginning to realize, there is little hope for them to go from here and even if they do achieve to finnish there set and buy their epic mount, they really hunger for more. These runs to equip your character have no value of FUN what so ever, it is very comparable to work and are slightly mentally frustrating seeing and doing the same thing dozens of times over and over again
The end game content we have come to know includes places like Molten Core, Onyxia's Lair, Black Wing Lair, parts of Sithilus, Zul Gurrub, AQ and several out raid encounters. In order to be successful and take part in any of this, one usually must be a part of a serious end game guild, with high expectations to it's members about attendance and gear. This is where many gamers feel slighted. In order to enjoy most of the level 60 content, you must be able to put in the large amounts of time required (usually anywhere from 4-5 hours several times a week) and have farmed the lower instances (Scholo, Strath for example) to have the gear to move on. How fair is this to the level 60s who want to take part in the content, but are disallowed by the guild's restrictions? Who are made to only have mediocre gear in comparison to a hard core Raider. Yes they may have put more time into their character (and the ones who live at home without a job usually do).
"There are set pieces for the classes, people are clamoring to get them. Iron Forge is filled with look alike's, which is disappointing. To make the most of your character you need to 'get' the pieces. Whether you raiders admit it or not, there are tons of people who are paying monthly fees for your content, but who get none of their own. There is an RPG component you conveniently ignore. What is 'Role-Playing' about going in to a dungeon for the 20th time and killing the same boss you have killed interminable times before? LOTS of people play an average of several hours a day and don't like the repetition of RAID dungeons." -Linlithgow
A long as you have the TIME to put in, your life at 60 will be great, you can progress, you can gain new items, Raid new content, and have a blast. For those who do not, they are left with very few options.
PVP Grind, It Should Come with a Warning Label
"There are many achievement oriented people that play MMORPG's, and that is precisely who the Honor system is attempting to hook into participating. Just as the game itself is potentially psychologically addicting (just like a gambler’s addiction, which is very real), the Honor system is even more so. The need to get to that next hurdle or accomplishment to prove to oneself that one is progressing can be extremely strong. This type of compulsion will not show up in everyone, but that is simply due to the fact that every person is different. What affects one person mentally is not guaranteed to work on another. This can lead to decisions that adversely affect the self, just like a gambling addict that sells his car for money to take to a casino. The Honor system is not something that is either healthy or constructive. Blizzard has created a system that people can abuse themselves with, and should make changes to it so that the intensive, consecutive time requirements currently in the system are no longer the case. This would be both to show care for their PVP oriented populace, and to retain the customers that often quit after either finishing or no longer wishing to participate in the system. Compete at your own risk." -Grantham
A lot of people have very high hopes with PVP. They spend and put in a lot of time and effort to try and achieve Field Marshall or High Warlord and is a goal easily obtained... or is it? From personal experience, the game's PVP aspect has changed the most since it's original release. Back then, you saw entire Armies of Horde and alliance, hundreds of toons fighting each other, their cities, developing tactics, strategies, all large scale. Now it is a controlled, precise equation that Blizzard has put its stamp on. What most players don't realize, is that Blizzard uses a very different way to place PVP ranks. Unless you can play on average, 55-70 hours a week farming kills, you will not be able to achieve higher levels of rank. The people who do, do this, endanger their own health and outside lives. Blizzard has promised us new ways to PVP in the future, to help stem the slow and unhealthy grind inside an unfair system.
Looking back at the Way Things Were
There was no 60's, there was no previous knowledge of content, boss pulls, areas, quest secrets, it was all brand new, fresh, and gave equally opportunity to all. Now, it might as well be a whole different game. Large guilds of any type under the sun have formed, a virtual economy has implanted itself firmly, gold farming and bots have found their way in, all things to be expected in a online game. The fun you had leveling and questing is now coming into short supply as you reach 60, as it become a very different game.
As for the small things that have changed in the WOW world since the beginning, many are noticeable, and many go unseen by the players who are too new to notice. I remember a time when the biggest struggle was to somehow collect 10 gold to buy a tabard design, and that was with an entire guild funding and pooling! These days, no one would ever have that feeling. There was a lot more helping each other, ESPECIALLY in the lower level quests and instances, now, people couldn't care less about you unless you are a leveling Priest, or level 60. Personalities and End Game Hardcore guilds have formed and act like corporations, many of which stole and destroyed in the beginning the essence of family guilds by luring the higher levels away with incentives. An in game economy has risen greatly and now is well established.
"Now the main thing we need to do is get The Burning Crusade out. Players at 60 who do not wish to raid want more of what they had in levels 1-59 which was Questing With a Purpose. When we can add a suite of new content and raise the level cap, we can give players the sense of progression they are looking for. They'll get more of that WoW experience that they came to love. The Burning Crusade has a very balanced combination of solo/group/raid/pvp content. There will be brand new, non-max level dungeons. There will be max level 5 man dungeons. There will be a 10 man raid, something we've never done before (at least endorsed). We're very aware of what people want and we're going to deliver on those needs." -Blizzard Community Manager Tigole
The Expansion places on our table a very new and slightly frightening realization. With all the End Game content being created for Outland, are they going to even bother with 5-10 man 70's instances? Everyone who is only forced to go through and play in Scholomance, LBRS, UBRS, Dire Maul, and Strathholme will have a very hard time keeping busy when they hit 70, as there will be little content available to them and their time frames. As well, we don't know yet if in order to keep advancing through Outland, you in fact need a lot of the gear from the early on end game content (MC) which would destroy many people's chances in having fun with the new content. It hardly seems fair to cater an entire expansion to the top 15% of your fan and gamer base. Though there are many promises of hours and hours of content in the expansion for both Casual and Hardcore gamers, I have a large feeling it will be the later that will come out on top.
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