WoW: The Ceiling Effect

Updated Fri, Sep 11, 2009 by Xerin

It’s a fact that millions of players play World of Warcraft endlessly. They never stop except to maybe take a break to jump over to another game only to return (here is an excellent Loading by Shayalyn on the subject). What keeps them playing? Many would say the endgame; the proverbial carrot on the stick that offers an amazing amount of content and endless supply of shiny loots to obtain. I would say differently. It’s a ceiling that players are unable to get through that keeps them playing.

There is always a ceiling over your head when it comes to WoW’s endgame. That might sound like crazy talk (hey what if I’m outside; there is no ceiling there!) but it’s not. There is always something stopping you from moving up to the next tier of content. This provides the feeling that the game is never “finished” and that you must continue to play, yet you’re unable to access any of the content from the point you’re stuck at.

So players work endlessly trying to overcome whatever ceiling they’ve reached. They knock hard and loud on it trying to bust through, but are unable to for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s the gear that they require to advance up to the next level. Sometimes the player’s real life comes into the fray preventing them from having enough time to get something done. Whatever the reason, players sit there staring at a ceiling that they can never bust through and continue to attempt to with little to no chance of success.

A good example would be when you hit level 80. You might be in blues (quest blues), but you’re not able to run heroics or go into any raids. You don’t have the requisite stats to do any damage or heal anyone or keep from being shred apart by the nefarious foes that wait. Other players, stuck at another part of the game, do not want to waste their time dragging around what they consider dead weight. It takes a lot to get past here and a lot of players just reroll characters or do one of many other things to do (collect gold, help lowbies in the guild, work on achievements, etc.)

Sure you can run normal ToC and get a few pieces. You can also get PvP gear and hope no one notices (that of course assumes you have the time to grind honor). Reputation rewards are out, usually, since you need to run heroics to grind reputation at any speed other than slow as molasses. So what do a lot of players do when confronted with this? Continue to play trying to do something to get over that wall and into the next.

Sometimes they blame their character and make another one. That’s at least 4 days /played to get to 80 again (but more along the lines of 7-10 days or about 240 hours). Sometimes they farm gold endlessly and try to beg to get into a guild that wouldn’t mind carrying them about.  Sometimes, they get lucky and do find that guild. The cycle doesn’t stop though.

CAT CLIMBING WALL

Yes, you too can try to run endlessly against a wall spamming LFG for a chance to get better gear and experience to get into a raiding guild endlessly. That way you have content left to do, but can't do it until you waste considerable time working towards getting there.

The time they wasted getting into heroics is now met with a new roof above their heads. You can’t raid without enough time, dedication, experience, and gear. So the cycle repeats. Another endless grind waits those who make it this far. It’s not as simple as doing X and getting there. It’s a grind that many can’t do. Even then, if you get there, you’re going to get stuck at hard modes.

Less than 5% of the raiding guilds out there have Yogg-saron down on 25 man and way fewer than that have advanced past that point. Of course, about 35% of the raiding guilds out there have done Flame Leviathan with one orb up. I imagine that 50% or more have done Naxxramas by now. Now think about how many players want to walk around with gear from encounters that less than a tenth of the raiding community can even attempt.

It’s like a building with multiple floors, each floor bigger than the last, with ceilings above that require a certain amount of strength to break through. Everyone is somewhere in the building. The few that find the elevator to the top can enjoy the view for only so long. Afterwards, they’re met with another extension that makes them have to work through another ceiling. It’s a never ending cycle with lust as the main fire within everyone’s engines.

You might say, “that’s a carrot on the stick right?” but I would say maybe. That proverb doesn’t really cut it because the carrot is always eaten at some point. You do catch it, even if you don’t try for it, because the latest patch always feeds everyone what they want. Did you want to get into Ulduar? Well the latest patch now gives you enough free loot to rush in there and do whatever you wanted to do. Of course, it adds something else at the end to keep you craving more. A new carrot, if you will, is dangled in front of you that you won’t catch until the next patch comes along.

Take patch 3.2 for instance. It gave very, very nice loot from heroic instances now. Loot that is even better than the loot you can get out of Naxxramas. It even gave a new 5 man instance that spewed out free loot. Naxxramas is now phased out, for the most part, except as a loot piñata for badges and cash.

Everyone hoping to get into Ulduar can now walk in and start getting everything from there. After all, at one point one orb Flame Leviathan was only done by 10% or so of the raiding guilds. Everyone running Ulduar and having trouble can now gear up with loot that’s almost comparable to the stuff dropping within Ulduar’s hallowed halls. Finished Ulduar? Now there is Trial of the Champion.

Is this a bad way for the game to run? No, I wouldn’t say so. I mean we all play, don’t we? Sure, some play it for the fun of just playing but I bet loot is still a major motivator for everyone in the endgame. An instance is only fun the first two times around before it becomes work, or at least that’s how I see it.

Perhaps, though, it’s that little bit of magic mojo that other games never steal. They see it and think to themselves how horrible it is to be stuck progression wise. Sitting there within a capital city seeing everyone waltz by with what you want, but can never have. So they try to make their game better by removing that pain. In the end, though, that pain is what drives the human spirit to continue to progress.

So, I leave you with this question. Why do you play WoW? Do you feel frustrated sometimes that you can’t advance any further or do you feel content with where you’re at. Click the “comment now” button below to see what my answer is.

* Small note: The statistics here may not entirely accurate, but should be close.

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