Friday, July 25, 2008

Does WoW Criticism = WoW Hate?

Oakstout raises an interesting topic in the comments of this post by Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual. Oakstout wrote “I just feel that when I read blogs about how great WAR will be and how much WoW sucks now, it tends to set me off a bit. WoW sucks no less than it did at launch [..], its just that people burned out on it so quick they just can’t bring themselves to say anything positive about the game[.] Now for some reason there are all these flaws that WAR is going to fix, and I’m saying that’s a pipe dream.” On Oakstout’s blog, he continued the rant and even echoed some of my own sentiments that bored players want variety and WAR is not the end of the World of Warcraft.

For my own part, I don’t want to be mistaken. WoW is a great game. I’ve played it for 3+ years and I still continue to play it and write about it in this blog. WoTLK will come out and I’ll buy it and play it and write about it for at least 3 months while I quest and explore. I’ll take at least one of my 70s to 80 and likely even a Deathknight. WAR, on the other hand, is a complete unknown. I *think* it offers what I want to see in my next MMO, but I really won’t know until I play it. To this point, all I can really say when comparing the games is that the WAR Public Relations team kicks the shit out of Blizzard’s PR team.

However, I strongly disagree with Oakstout that WoW criticism is unwarranted or unfair. I suspect the reason why many people like him are tired of hearing people be critical of WoW can best be summed up in one of his earlier in the comments over at Hardcore Casual. Oakstout wrote that “No need making WoW the bad guy, if your bored because you’ve done it all, its not WoW’s fault, its basically the players.”

So wait... It’s not Blizzard’s fault I got bored with the game, it’s mine? It’s my fault that it takes Blizzard 2+ years to release expansions? It’s my fault that the top end-game content is limited to a small % of the player base? It’s my fault that they don’t provide alternate progression paths or a deeper end-game that isn’t loot driven? It’s my fault they have introduced one battleground in two years? It’s my fault that most guilds can’t make the progression leap from 10-man to 25-man content? It’s my fault that all but a handful of crafted profession items are actually useful? It’s my fault that Rated PvP matches are limited to Team Deathmatch? It’s my fault that they haven’t updated any of the old world content to make leveling up another character fun?

It’s simply a fallacy to blame players for Blizzard not being able to continue to entertain their audience. I place the blame on lack of foresight and planning. For crying out loud, Blizzard hasn’t even fully planned out WotLK and it’s in beta, yet alone what’s the next expansion after that will provide. How can they possibly anticipate what will continue to keep the audience entertained 2 years from now if they don’t plan for it? I’m not saying this is easy, but with a subscription based MMO, you absolutely 100% have to be thinking about how to keep the majority of your audience entertained in both the near and far future. If you fail to do that, then you deserve every ounce of criticism that you receive.

Whether or not WAR will be a great game is really besides the point. The crux of the matter is that no matter how good Wrath of the Lich King is going to be, it’s simply not going to hold my interest for more than a few months. If WAR is what I hope it will be, then great – I know what I’ll be playing next year. If not, then maybe I’ll just watch more TV. Either way, I’m not going to be playing WoW and that is why they deserve the criticism.

Too little, too late indeed...


Scott said...

I'm not a WoW hater by any means. I no longer play and never will again, but I'll still highly recommend it to others.

However, without putting words in Oakstout's mouth I'll give my own take on the "it's the players' fault" idea.

Sure, Blizzard is to "blame" for new content coming at a glacial pace. Blizzard is to "blame" for designing the game as totally gear-centric, focused on the end-game. (Many of WoW's designers came from an EQ background, which was also heavily raid-focused, so it's no wonder.)

But is Blizzard to "blame" if you, say, didn't notice that the game is focused on gear and end-game raiding? (For the sake of argument, let's just say their PvP grind = raid grind and call it even.) Is Blizzard to "blame" if some players incessantly burn through content like warm butter, or play for 10 hours a day every day and have therefore seen and done everything in a short amount of time?

At no point did Blizzard ever try to play off WoW as anything other than an end-game focused MMO. Other than their annual-ish expansions, the bulk of what little content they release is typically a raid. Yes, raiders make up the smallest percentage of the population, but Blizzard (slowly) takes steps to reduce the barrier to entry so more and more of their population can experience what Blizzard considers the real game.

It is absolutely not Blizzard's fault if yesterday you loved WoW but today you're bored and "hate" it. The game didn't change; the player did. In attitude, outlook, social factors, or the need to consume new content that isn't there, it's the player who gradually or suddenly changed.

In typical ADD fashion I just totally had a brain fart moment and lost track of the other bullet points I started with so I'll leave it alone with those first few thoughts.

sid67 said...

I can agree with most of that, Scott. It’s certainly not Blizzard’s fault that I am grew as a player and they certainly never tried to sell me a bill of goods I didn’t want. But let me ask you, am I the only one that has become bored? No. Quite the contrary, most of the player base is or has experienced similar feelings. In a subscription based game, you simply can’t afford to let the bulk of your community become disenfranchised with your game.

Take a step back for a moment and pretend you’re not a gamer, but someone who had a financial stake in the company. If 1+ million US players left WoW over the next year and a half, would an investor blame Blizzard for not anticipating the needs of their consumers?

As a company, you can’t just simply tell your investors that it’s not your fault your consumers changed. It is the duty of the company to evolve with their customers. This is where I feel Blizzard has failed and continues to fail. They mistakenly believe that I’ll continue to buy the same bill of good I already bought.

Bonedead said...

sid67-> I couldn't have said it better myself, so I'm glad you said it before my retarded self tried.

I have a bit of a point to pick with Scott though.

You say the game didn't change and that the player did, but I just don't know if that is true.

I think that no matter what game it is, the average player will ALWAYS get tired of the repetition at a certain point. So they're not changing, they're being themselves.

If the game wants to avoid this mechanic of the player then the game itself needs to change.

But I guess it only needs to do that when it doesn't have 10 friggin million zombies paying it money.