Thursday, December 10, 2009

WoW is dead, long live the new WoW

Bold statement, I know, but as far as I see it the WoW we have grown to know for the last 5 years died with the 3.3 patch and the changes it brought.

Take a moment to reflect on that.

As everyone and their mother-in-law are charging through Icecrown Citadel's first wing in all possible group sizes and both difficulties, my interest is in the 'minor' tweaking which seems to have gone almost unnoticed in the blogging: the new, improved LFG tool.

I have told earlier that I have a low level warrior on pvp server. He's actually a tank to be in a static group I started with some old pen and paper RP friends, and we're -coincidentally- playing on Wednesdays. Yea, the patch day.

So the Icecrown madness and the high end gaming was off of my list when I learned the basics of the LFG system:

  • you can enter as a group
  • random instance system works on all levels
  • the system is battleground wide instead of the earlier server wide system
  • you get teleported to the instance from within the system.
So we, at our tender teens, decided to roll in. Four characters, so not a full group. As I know that Ragefire Chasm is the lowest in level requirements, we decided to try that one out. One of the major interests in there was the fact that two of our group -being hardcore Alliance players for the last 5 years or so- had never visited the place, this provided the excellent opportunity to do so.

The tool is fast and easy to use, quite unlike the earlier one. The group was filled with the much needed dps (human warrior from another server) and the group balance was excellent. Despite the fact that warrior at low levels is a pushover and not much of a tank, yet.

Why I claim that the WoW we have learned to know is dead? And that WoW is going to live long and prosper due to these changes?

First of all, the tool opens up all the instances and dungeons at their appropriate levels to both factions.We teleported directly to the Ragefire and directly back to where we left from. And you could do that while in instance, so you can go and empty bags, repair and all while in the instance group!

This feature alone brings all the instances to the easier reach of the players, and the battlegroup as the player base makes sure you will find your group in no time, around the clock. This makes the grouping  easier and more available to the casuals and un-guilded people!

As I mentioned in the Attention Span post, people are looking for faster content and in smaller chunks at a time. Preferably meaningfull and fun experience. Now the easy to reach instances provide this possibility to everyone in the game, not only those in guilds and raiding. Blizzard brought the content to the players and took away the toil to get to the content.

World of Warcraft is now much more casual friendly than ever.

I'm prone to the doom and gloom thinking, and I see some problems with this system. One is the fact that this alienates us players from the server/faction community even further: you group up with people you may never meet again and if they behave badly there is nothing to do about it. If you leave from the group, you get the 15 minute debuff keeping you out of the LFG system for that time. Voting someone out requires the rest of the group to agree. Ninjas are not dead, they will come in with the system.

The other thing is in the RP servers: this may be a boon or doom. You see, in roleplaying and fantasy literature the actual travel may be even more important than the destination. Think about The Lord of the Rings: Dropping the ring into the chasm was pretty simple thing, but Tolkien spent three huge volumes describing what happened on the way there. As the system takes away the need to travel anymore (how do you explain the instant teleportation in RP server? Beats me!), the travel to there loses it's meaning. People tend to take the route of least resistance, as we have noticed. If you have direct tap to closer to the leet loot, you are bound to take it. If you have faster way of gaining better gear you take it.

Which leads to the next thing: questing will get a punch in the gut from this. The WoW we have learned to love, the questing game which it evolves around, is dead as the most efficient means of levelling up. This is pretty strong and harsh, but in our group we witnessed almost two levels in one Ragefire Chasm run, my toon being 1/3 in lv15 when starting and 1 bar below lv17 when we logged out: way faster than questing in group at that level, at least in our group. It took us few seconds to put the LFG up, few more to select the ready check roles and a bit more than a half an hour to complete the dungeon. Not probable in questing, IMO.

And the loot was better, at least 3 blues for the group.

In a way this means the questing is -if not quite- dead, but received a strong competition from the people instancing their toons up. Which is great in a way it provides variability.

But it kills the story.

So, all in all, Blizzard surprised me completely with my pants down. I love the change due to the fact that it brings all the instances to my reach to run.

Thank you. I'm a happy camper for now!