Dec 8, 2007

[Is Raiding Hurting WoW?]

A thought-provoking article on TenTonHammer discussing whether WoW's current endgame model is actually doing anything good for the game as a whole:

"Here are the percentages of those guilds in the completion of various WoW raid targets:

Karazhan (99.45%)
Zul'Aman (32.00%)
Gruul's Lair (70.98%)
Magtheridon's Lair (30.63%)
Serpentshrine Cavern (33.81%)
The Eye (33.22%)
Hyjal Summit (5.37%)
The Black Temple (4.59%)

Karazhan and Gruul's aren't looking too bad, but four other raid zones have been completed by only about 30% of the guilds. The two hardest have been completed by only 5% of the guilds. Now, keep in mind that these numbers represent only the top 2 million players which are currently in raiding guilds-- WoW has 9.3 million customers, 7.3 million of which have never even defeated a boss in any of these zones. That means that the six hardest instances of the game have been defeated by only about 6% of the total WoW playerbase (about 600,000 players).

That's six whole zones, with scripted events, painstaking itemization, and hundreds of hours of development time and artwork paid for by money from subscribers that 94% of World of Warcraft players will never use, seeing as the Burning Crusade has been out for almost a year now and the next WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, is right around the corner (bringing a new gear wipe with it that will make these current raid zones obsolete, much like BWL and MC are now).

...When almost 80% of your players aren't using content that you define as your "end-game," and 98% of your players don't even use two whole instances that you spent a lot of time designing, are you really catering to the needs of your players?"

This is a very fair question. WoW's playerbase is a mix of Blizzard fans who never really wanted to play and MMO before this one, and actual MMO fans. These two camps want different things from the game, and as time goes on, the question of whether Blizzard can adequately make both camps happy looms larger with every new expansion. But in my mind, this trend of MUDflation cannot continue:

"Because of the extreme gear disparity between raiders and non-raiders, the designers had a choice with Outland: balance it for raid gear, making everything in the expansion practically impossible for 80% of their player base, or balance it for "casual" gear (from solo play and 5-mans), making everything in the expansion absurdly easy for 20% of their player base with some raid gear. Either way, players were sure to cry foul. Instead, they did the smart move: Level the playing field by dropping raid-quality common items on new mobs and quests and balance everything for the new minimum. It made the most people happy while creating only a minimal fuss, and everyone happily went off exploring the new content.

Unfortunately, it also had the nasty side effect of making all the previous high-level instances totally worthless. Why would you bother with hard 5-mans or harder 40-man raid instances when easy greens with significantly more power are only a few levels away? Say goodbye to Stratholme, Scholomance, Blackrock Depths, Blackrock Spire (Upper and Lower), Dire Maul, Zul'Gurub, Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Onyxia, and Naxxramas [as well as both the Ahn'Qiraj Ruins and Temple].
Not only did MUDflation remove all incentive to go through some of the coolest 5-man instances in the original game-- it also made sure that there was no point for non-raiding players who hit the new level cap of 70 to go back into instances like Molten Core or Zul'Gurub and see what they missed the first time around.

That's a lot of work to ruin (and a lot of your subscription dollars wasted) just because raids are available to a game community that largely doesn't use them."

If the same amount of content development gets flushed (thirteen instances in Old World alone!) for every expansion of WoW, I cannot see it as a positive thing. It's a huge amount of effort and creativity being rendered useless in order to make each expansion's content scale with the gear of the small top raiding population. In other words, the minority is having the game's content being balanced to match their gear, rendering content that was used more by everyone else, instant trash. It's not an equal value trade off. It's not a healthy pattern.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

After our large raiding guild dissolved, I took a break from WoW and then came back for BC. It was horrible to get some random green drop that was better than the Wrath gear that had caused so much drama when I got it. Now I pvp. That's all I do. I got back my purple but it's all merciless, etc. My endgame experience ended at MC, ZG and Ony. I will never see anything Kara and beyond because the current system is set up so that well-organized guilds progress and people like me who can't commit to a raiding schedule, do not belong to well-organized guilds. While I appreciate them dropping 'em down from 40s, the gear is obsolete. I'm bitter about it. But it's kind of the nature of MMORPGs that the world ages and if you're not in at the beginning, or (in my case) consistent with play, you're not going to be one of the elite. /sigh