A Philosophy of Fail

Colin Brennan, over at Massively, pulls no punches in describing the World of Warcraft’s current state of the early game.  I also do not understand Blizzard’s decisions with the features Colin sets forward.  I do know that Blizzard makes some incredibly polished content, and I do know that running through ~70 levels before getting to the “actual” game is not very fun.  New players want to know they have a fun game from the start until they catch up to their friends.  Not a fun, brief start then agonizing, lonely grind even if it is quicker than it used to be.

The failure, I feel, is that Blizzard is not trying to cultivate an enjoyable journey through the whole game for new users, newly returning users, and alternate characters to enjoy.  They are pushing players past some really good (old) content at ever increasing speeds.  Without the raid treadmill, or similar content gating, every long wait that ends with Blizzard making more content grays out a lot of the prior content.  And, in the end I just see a pile of band-aids.

–Ravious
just a flesh wound

20 thoughts on “A Philosophy of Fail”

  1. Yes, I think Blizzard is stretching into the gulf where the journey from level one to their end-game, which is their design choice that the end-game is where it’s at in WOW, becomes more problematic with each expansion and level cap increase. The first twenty to thirty levels are sweet and then it’s let’s get to sixty please god please. Then you have some nice level in TBC until you hit, Lord please let me hit 70 and now WOTLK. So for a new customer or someone who never made it to 60 in Vanilla WOW, you’ve got a LOOOOOOOONG stretch to cover. And where the old time players were at least doing the instances in those old zones along the way, not so much now in the old world so those players are crap out of luck.

    I would have liked to try a Mage as the last class I had the vaguest interest in playing but no way in hell would I level up from one again after 70 x3, 60 x1 and 40-ish x 2. I think the answer is max level characters or near max. As much as some people whine about the idea the DK is pretty darned close and I see a day when that option is available for any class. Out of the box at 55 or 65 when the cap moves again. You have some green gear a questing area to get you started in learning the class and some chain that provides your first mount. That is where they are going with WOW. I can see it now. :-)

  2. Dunno, really – I actually enjoyed levelling up my alt because they sped it up – it meant I could flat out skip the annoying quests.

    Oh, and the ‘go-here-next’ mod helped a lot, too.

  3. Contrarily, I have been a long-time player of alt-friendly games with little to do at the level cap, like City of Heroes. Most people seem to enjoy the early levels more, and the leveling game is the game, not something that stands in the way of the game.

  4. The endgame has very little interest for me. I’m all for the “leveling” game, accelerated or not. Actually, I like acceleration, since it means I don’t have to sub for as long.

    Still, if the beef is about Heirloom items, aren’t those tied to the account? Low level characters are alts almost by definition, rather than new players. How many new people does WoW get these days, anywho?

  5. Great article!

    I so totally agree. If WoW didn’t have the the ridiculous grind and effort required to get to the end game, I’d probably still be playing. They need a PvP only type of character similar to how Guild Wars does it, because it sux if you want to play Arena but don’t have a max level char.

    /cough *bad game design* /cough

  6. It is bad game design, and a lot of MMOs do it. Companies keep piling on content to the endgame and it gets top heavy fast. Those of us who don’t stay at the max level are left with the same content that’s been sitting around for years. And, if you make an alt, you’re typically running through the same stories and the same quests you did before. There’s no real incentive to jump in again, and nothing new to see if I want to come back.

    Blizzard just floors me sometimes. They’re swimming in cash, and they can’t afford to update the early stages of the game in five years? They can’t on alternative zones for the early levels? At best, you get a new race tacked on with a new beginner zone.

  7. My favorite zones are still the earlier ones – Goldshire and surrounding areas. Someone suggested awhile back a way to recycle older areas. Maybe with phasing technology a rehashing can be done.

    Good article.

  8. A few points:

    – I notice the slight notion of WoW being easy now. This is not the case. WoW has *always* been easy. It was easy in 2005, it’s easy (easier?) in 2009 and it will be even easier for 2-3 years more.

    – There’s also the notion that Blizzard is now focusing exclusively on the end game. This is also not the case. Blizzard has always focused on the end game, and this goes back to the time Molten Core was the hardest instance available. How nice 1-59 was is not the point. The point is that level cap was where Blizzard’s focus has always been.

    – Personally I’d much rather have Blizzard (or anyone on any game, really) use their resources to develop new content rather than revisiting old content to spice it up for those doing their second, third or fourth lap. But that’s just me and that’s opinion.

    – At the end of the day it’s up to the player to take that 1-59/69/79 at the speed of his liking. Nobody forced the author of that article to equip those heirloom items and unbalancing his own game, just as no one is forcing people to multibox their alts and gain gobs of xp via the refer a friend deal, just as no one is forcing anyone to go to wowhead to look things up.

    Those are resources available to those who want to speed up their leveling (and they do speed it up tons). I’m finding it hard to sympathize with players who knowingly take shortcuts only to complain about how short the road becomes when you take them. By all means, if you wanna take it easy then do so. Myself I never used the referral, never got heirloom items, and I’m leveling my fourth 80 off and on like that. I don’t blame those who take shortcuts either, it depends on the circumstances and the player’s goals.

    – If we’re always going on and on about how awful grinding is, then there’s not much room to complain when you’re given options to shorten that grind. And yes, enjoyable as it might be (and it is, in my opinion), leveling can justly be considered a massive grind when you’re doing it for the third or fourth time.

    – If the goal of a game design is to have people play the game (as opposed to people not playing the game I guess), then a design that nets you millions of players is not “bad” by any stretch of the imagination. We might like it, we might not like it, we might like parts of it and not some others, but just calling it “bad” is a step I’m not willing to take myself.

    Likewise, and I say this with a lot of love, if those shortcuts are still in place it’s because a lot of people use them. And if a lot of people use them it makes sense for Blizzard to keep those shortcuts and not waste time/energy/money redesigning old content for the minority. I agree it would be wonderful, and given infinite resources I’d love for them to do it, but they won’t. Designing for the minority is bad however you slice it, be that minority at level 80 or at level 1.

    – I’m not kissing ass here. There are many, many valid issues to take up to Blizzard and ask what the heck is going on. But this one isn’t one of those.

  9. Julian, he speaks the truth.

    There is so much content available in the old game that a new user is unlikely to see it all on a first run and will need to level alts just to see some of the other areas. The slow bit probably comes between 20-40 but in saying this, I’m also aware that I may well not have explored other areas fully. Only the other day I found a huge swathe of STV that I had never done before in 3-4 years of playing.

    What this content can’t do is address your perception that levelling 79 times prior the level cap “isn’t fun”.

  10. Julian said: “At the end of the day it’s up to the player to take that 1-59/69/79 at the speed of his liking.:”

    This is my biggest contention. I think that purely on a black and white objective level you are right. However, I think that when you look at all the grays like the blob called community, which is quite hard to put a finger on, Blizzard is creating a culture through it’s game mechanics (and how the community uses them) of trying to run through 1-59+ as fast as possible.

    So yes a player can take his or her time and see all the little quests and explore all the hidden places, but that person will have to go against the huge, IMO, oppressive weight of GET TO THE END GET TO THE END.

    Anyway thanks for the great in-depth reply. :)

  11. The problem is the traditional server setup … with that the low level game will degrade as the game matures. If the new players can’t find each other they will have to group with the people rushing to 80 … even launching a non transfer server only helps for a very short while, unless you have enough signups to do it every few weeks.

    EVE and DDO present alternatives …

  12. Ravious: No doubt. There’s a lot of peer/design pressure to get to the end fast. But hey, so what. There’s always pressure to do things one way or another in-game and the sky is not particularly falling because of this.

    At the end of that day it’s always up to the players. Blizzard is not generally known for doing random, spur of the moment stuff; if those mechanisms are there it’s because they found out a large chunk of their players requested them. Players by large do see repetition as grind, however well intentioned and attractive it might be. So when faced with the prospect of 2x/3x/4x leveling grind all over again, they asked for ways to shorten or skip that. Heck, even here in these comments Saylah mentions the DK as a way to skip 50-odd levels.

    Even my roleplaying friends and guildies, whom are typically recalcitrant “stop and smell the roses” kind bitch and moan about having to level their alts.

    I think on this one Blizzard is largely responding to player demands and not the other way around.

  13. Julian I agree, but Ravious’s point is what about new players? While leveling up my alts I feel like “ugh i don’t want to do this again” but the first character of each faction I leveled it was all new and amazing.

    I remember so many great memories leveling up, grouping, outdoor quest chains, doing instances with the appropriate levels. That is all largely gone to be replaced by a grind. Maybe that’s just nostalgia… but I imagine for a new player the game must seem pretty boring for 70 levels.

    And I don’t know if this is a side effect, but I notice now almost everyone wants to pay to be run through instances. No one wants to actually do an instance with the levels it was designed for. It used to be only a few players were like that, now it’s everyone. I think because they’re now thinking of instances as yet another grind/chore to get through as fast as possible, not something to have fun doing.

  14. I enjoy leveling… but only if there are other people to play with. Every game with level gated content and an “end game” focus at the highest levels always ends up with an empty low level game. When the “end game” gets going is usually when I quit. What’s the point of playing an MMO if I am playing it solo all the time?

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