Monday, December 29, 2008

Future of WoW

I've just read a great post from Tobold. Shame I did not found his blog earlier, it's really good. In this post he pointed out that hardcore players are unimportant to Blizzard: "They pay as much as everyone else, unless they multi-box, but use more resources in terms of server capacity, bandwidth, and customer support."

He is completely right that "Their function as a role model only existed in their own minds. This was especially evident this year when Warhammer Online came out, followed shortly by Wrath of the Lich King. WAR had more success with hardcore players, while WotLK was a bigger hit with the casual players. In spite of all the hype on many blogs and game forums on how superior WAR impact PvP would be to the carebear version of WoW, in the end the casuals didn't follow their "role models" to WAR."

Completely true, these HC players are mostly viewed as no-life losers living in their parents' basement, although it's usually not true. They are envied and hated by most, not respected.

However his conclusion "If Nihilum would tomorrow announce that they will quit WoW en masse, that'll get them a headline on WoWInsider, but will not make any noticeable dent in Blizzard's subscription numbers." is wrong. There are more here than meets the eye!

To attract players to a Massively Multiplayer Online game, you need several things.

At first you need lot of content. That's obvious. The content cannot be unconquerable, or people will leave in frustration. The content also cannot be trivial, no one will pay and spend time for one-shotting wolves. (Sometimes I'm unsure about this statement when I see morons killing critters but still).

The content need to be "multi-player". To quest up from lvl1 to 80 you need nobody else. The questgiver gives you a task and you do it. It can be exciting and new to complete tasks in a magical kingdom but definitely wouldn't last for months. And after all, a single player RPG is much better on content since you will have choices, you can affect the world, while here you have no effect, even if you refuse to do the quest. What keeps the people here is the multi-player enviroment. You fight alongside with friends (real and online), and while doing so, you also socialize, you chat about not just bosses but RL things too.

Here comes trouble: to make WoW attractive for a casual, Blizzard must create a multi-player enviroment where he could connect anytime! While HC players have raid schedule, casuals, according to their names, play now-and-then. If you are a casual, playing an evening/week, and just met with another such casual, and found him a nice person, it takes 7 weeks to meet again if you log on randomly. And as casual, you do log in randomly, according to your RL schedule. So the casual have very little chance to see the same friendly face twice. Not that social enviroment you get connected to.

Here comes the solution: soft-core players ("player" as opposite of "casual"), like Tobold himself, or the great Larísa, or practically anyone from my blogroll, including myself. We don't push raids 6 hours long 6 times a week, we will never kill Sartharion with 3 dragons up (granted I already told my guild that 1 dragon must live or I won't go heal), nor clear Naxxramas with no one dies *shakes fist towards the slime-globs between Patchwerk and Grobbulus*. Yet we are online often, ready for a Heroic, premade BG or to tank/heal/lead a raid.

We
are the friendly face the casuals see, we are the core of the guild, we are the names on his friend list that are not always grey. Without us the casuals would always be PuG-ging with complete strangers. We are the ones who know and explain the boss tactics, give advices on talents, can craft a rare item, and above all, we know the greatest of secrets: where is Mankirk's wife.

But what is there for us? I remember running countless Karas and Heroics giving great time for casuals who barely knew the way. Was I a Good Samaritan boosting them? No, I was collecting badges. Every badge bought me closer to my personal goal, downing Mrs Naga. Granted, finally I had to pay to a HC guild for a spot (was in a hurry to meet her before 3.0.2), but I still smile on the story that involved Mrs Naga on the ground, my healing meter position and a blurry explanation from the HC guild's druid class leader about "we are slacking now on farm content".

Now I don't run HC-s at all. Guildies who whisper for "can you heal HC XXX" get a scripted answer, "Sorry, I can't go to HC now, I'm busy with my own stuff". And I am. Writing blog, reading blogs, seeking business opportunities, leveling alt. While my green letters are there, I am not there for them. I'm still running raids, yet with less and less enthusiasm. After Malygos will hit the ground, I doubt if I raid at all until the next content patch.

We are softcores and not casuals because we want something more from the game than just 4 hours/week escape into a magical kingdom. Some wants challenge, others enjoy theorycrafting, others want adventure with friends. If we bash content so easily, why would we play? To boost casuals?

The ultimate nastiness: we, softcores use the resources the hardcores create. While they are definitely not role models for us, we watch their videos and read the tactics they write. While they are elitist jerks, their talent and spell descriptions are good, isn't it?

Granted, Blizzard guys could create official guides to bosses, but it would turn the game into some ridicoluous menial task: pay $15 for repeating the steps described on the official page. Now, we are defeating the content with the resources of the community. We're just following advices of peers and not commands of an authority.

Granted, Blizzard could tune the instances even more down, but the one-shottable content would not satisfy a casual. A casual is not dumb, just play rarely (most dumbs are softcores, playing a lot because they suck at life - and they suck at WoW too). He can and want to face strong opponents, just don't have enough time to prepare for it properly. So he just reads his part on the guild forum and follows the raid leader. If there is no part for him, just "go in and solo it", he will also be disappointed, and soon leave. How many people go kill Onyxia? Would a dozen Onyxias be able to keep even the casuals in the game?

So the food chain:
  • casuals pay money to Blizzard
  • softcores provide the social enviroment, and in-game help for the casuals
  • hardcores provide expert game information and an example of possible progress for softcores. Even if most don't take it, it must be there.
Pull out the fundation and your building start to sink. It may takes a year to go down, but it's only a matter of time.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post,

Are you saying that WoW is going to go down?

How would that process start? With the departure of the hardcores?

Gevlon said...

@Anonymus: yes, unless the next instances will be properly leveled.

On the Ensidia homepage there is "Much has been said so far but we hold off judgment till 3.1"

If the new content in 3.1 will be just as crappy as the current, the HCs will leave in masses and the process begin.

ecr2 said...

I'm in a top US guild, and I know I will depart WoW if 3.1 Ulduar turns out to be retarded like the game has been so far in wotlk. My guild clears everything (including 3D sarth in 5 hours in 1 night). Seriously, a joke.

Larísa said...

I think you're very spot on. I've stopped trying to classify myself in the terms of casual or hardcore, since neither term seams appropriate. But "softcore", why not? That's a good description of my attitude to the game.

I'm quite soft, but I'm pretty dedictated. Just running a blog like this is quite a sign that you've lost your heart to Azeroth, isn't it?

It's a little saddening reading. I think you may be right. And I really hope they'll find up some bigger challenges in the next patch to keep the interest of the elite. We need them. And they need us. As a matter of fact all the dommon complaing about the other categories is pretty stupid. We really depend on each other.

Now I'm just wondering: how hard can it be to make something hard? I really hope Blizzard understands that they need to do something and do it quickly. Thanks to the achievements there's plenty of content for casuals to dwell on. But the hardcore raiders definitly need something more to chew on.

Esdras said...

Ive been saying for a long time that unless the chanllange comes back a lot of people will leave.

I myself get frustrated at how easy everyhting is becoming.

Raids/heroics are easier than they used to be, you can just buy pretty much your epix and anybody and there brother can spend half an hour and go get a title.

They need to balance it out and get more challanging raids on the go.

Cuthbert said...

I'm a slowpoke. I still haven't hit 80 yet. Playing WoW during the holidays would have caused serious girlfriend aggro no amount of feign death would have been able to overcome. (We had guests.)

I have no idea whether your analysis is right or not, but it is interesting.

The stratification of the three groups sounds about right.

Softcore makes me giggle and think of late night cinemax.

Chris said...

I think the whole harcore/casual argument is just another example of a lot of the WoW Economics talk.

To me, there is no hardcore/casual, only bad player/good player.

WoW is NOT a hard game. None of the bosses are hard (Sunwell was really the only hard instance, and it wasn't really "hard", just "hard-er").

To raid end-game content, you don't need to farm consumables for hours or do 3 hours of dailies to pay for repair bills. You just need to not be a complete moron and move out of the enormous, slow-moving lava waves of Sartharion. Or not Die In A Fire on Archimonde. Or stand still during Aran's Flame Wreath. Or dodge a huge glowing ball lobbed in your direction from Loot Reaver.

The same people who die from the above things are the same people who don't realize that crystallized fire x10 costs more on the AH than eternal fire x1. They're the same people who buy Milk from the AH for 1g each, when the innkeeper sells it for pennies 20 yards away.

If you are a smart person, you can spend less than 4-5 hours per WEEK on this game, be rich and get plenty of raiding in. If you're a dumbass, then you'll continue to Die In A Fire and complain that the elitist jerk that runs your guild's raid is an asshole because he's yelling at you.

ecr2 said...

@Chris

Your post was long, but it didn't really say much. What is your point or what are you trying to say?

Rytis Petrauskas said...

This is absolutely correct. I remember myself a year ago - i`had quited WOW (and quite lots of my guildmates too), because we almost did everything. We had top top items, arena achievements, mounts and so ever.
Im back again with the expansion, cause it was interesting. But im not back to my old char :), no - i made a new one, in oposite faction.. Cause im too bored to get back to it!.. Maybe sometime later - maybe never.

Tesh said...

So the argument is that we need elitist jerks and GameFAQs for the unwashed hordes to enjoy a game? If that's the case, I'll argue that the game's design is a failure.

A mainstream MMO banks on its ability to get a critical mass of players invested. Catering to the tiny percentage of envelope pushers isn't the way to get a lot of people playing your game.

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