Monday, June 22, 2009

An Open Letter to Blizzard

Dear World of Warcraft Design Team:

I would like to thank you for providing over 4 years of quality entertainment. When World of Warcraft entered the market, it turned the genre on its head. Never before had there been such a vibrant, beautiful and, most importantly, accessible world to play in. While I initially scoffed at how "easy" the game was when compared to my current subscription-based game, I soon came around.

Allow me to tell you a story.

Early in 2005, I was thoroughly engrossed in the world of Vana'diel. I had been playing Final Fantasy XI for a couple years. When World of Warcraft came out, I was completely uninterested. However, something about your game buried itself in the back of my head. I kept going back and reading about it. I realized that the long, boring grind that EVERYTHING in Final Fantasy XI had become was no longer for me. There was a better way.

What led me to realize it was time for a switch?

When I was paying $15 a month for one game, and spending more time reading about ANOTHER game than playing the one I was paying for, I knew it was time for a change.

I was lucky enough to find a copy of your fine product on the shelves of my local game store and was soon a welcome resident of Azeroth. I spent the next four-plus years loving World of Warcraft. I brought friends to join me. I even started up this blog to write about my love of this game.

However, recently, things have been changing. I don't play any more because it's fun. I find myself playing just because it's what I do. If I don't play WoW tonight, what else would I do with my time? With each patch that comes along, I find myself less and less excited.

As my fellow blogger, Big Bear Butt stated in a recent post:

"Honestly, they do this, and even though a lot of the new stuff excites me, the way they make sweeping class changes with a sledgehammer, over and over and over, this ’change for the sake of change’ s***, just makes me want to log off, and not come back."

This really got me thinking. I greatly respect BBB, he was one of the ones who motivated me to start blogging in the first place. I realized that some part of me agrees with this sentiment. Now, back in the day, there were entire content patches dedicated to class changes. At the time, I thought this was awesome. What other company cares about its game so much that it dedicates valuable development time to improving existing gameplay elements?

However, another thought has come to mind. Why were Feral Druids, Protection and Retribution Paladins, Elemental Shamans and any number of other specs completely useless for the better part of two years?

Okay, okay. I'm no game developer. I have no idea how hard it is to balance a game of this scale. Fair enough. However, FOUR years after release, you're telling me you STILL don't have a handle on Paladin tanking?

Since the release of Burning Crusade, we have seen a dropoff in the number of major patches. Or have we? I don't remember massive changes in "minor patches" like we've seen in 2.3.2 or 3.1.3 back when we were receiving "major patches" every 2 months. You're trying to make it look like you're not overhauling the game every month or so while that's exactly what you're doing.

Of course, that's the Butterfly Effect. A small change to one skill or stat completely throws off the precarious balance you're trying to maintain between all the various classes and specs, both PVP and PVE. It's a daunting task, I'm sure. However, somewhere along the way, you stopped developing the game YOU wanted, and started developing the game the FORUMS wanted. I do not like this change in direction.

I don't raid, I don't seriously PVP. I don't care if a Demonologist is 0.3% higher in DPS than my Affliction. But, oh no, there are too many people out there who do.

When you start trying to make everyone happy, you end up making nobody happy.

What did I enjoy about this game? I loved building a character up from scratch.

I loved trying out a new combination of talents. However, now it's all but impossible to attempt anything other than a cookie cutter build.

I loved making gear decisions, figuring out which item would benefit me the most. Now, who cares? I'll outgrow these items in a couple hours.

I loved LEVELING. That has now become a complete joke. Who wants to bother with all this wonderfully designed content when there's EPICS waiting at the end of the road?

Well, I do.

And I accept that World of Warcraft has passed me by.

Do you know how I have come to accept this? Even though you're still getting my fifteen dollars, I have been spending more time researching an falling in love with another game than I have playing yours.

Sound familiar?

Now, I'm not one of those people who jumps ship any time something shinier comes across. I stayed true through Everquest 2, D&D Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan and many other new games. However, this weekend, I participated in a Closed Beta event for Aion, and I completely fell in love with it.

I would like to once again thank you for endless hours of enjoyment. I truly believe that World of Warcraft is one of the most brilliant games ever conceived. Twelve million people can't be wrong. It's just that, taking many recent design decisions into account, I no longer find myself enjoying the game as much as I once did.

Your fan,
Samodean


Note: Fear not, dear reader. This does not mean I'm canceling my subscription... yet. This does not mean I've stopped blogging... yet. Even if I decide to switch focus, I'm enjoying blogging too much to completely abandon it.

9 comments:

Sideshow said...

I read and looked up what I could on Aion and it looks interesting. Since you played it, I can take your word that it's not just nice-looking, but also fun to play.

Samodean said...

@Sideshow Possibly tomorrow, I'll be posting my initial impressions.

I will say, I actually preordered the thing to get my own beta key, instead of borrowing a friend's account for the day.

I work in retail, I NEVER preorder.

Fulguralis said...

I, too, have heard of the stirrings of this possible David to the Goliath that is WoW.

@Sideshow - are you still toying with EvE? ...I should go bother you on your blog, but I'm lazy and it brings me to my point: I play WoW now because of time invested and friends. I weather the storm of placating changes for those reasons. I still have fun, but it is certainly for different reasons.

Which brings me to my final point @Samo - man Final Fantasy was a grind wasn't it? Fuu and I spent a full year on that game and felt like we'd gotten nowhere. Back when I had days to waste, we could sit around waiting for a group so we could perhaps level. You couldn't really solo anything. Thinking about it makes me twitch. WoW isn't perfect, but it was a HUGE step in the right direction. At some point, though, WoW will exhaust itself... I mean there's only so much you can do with it.

I'll be anxious to hear/see your thoughts on Aion. It sounds like another game I'd like to give a try.

Kimberly said...

Final Fantasy is the only online game that has the dubious honor of making me cry.

It was the third time I died and went from level 8 back to level 7.

And I said to myself, "Self? Why are you paying for game that just made you cry?" And thus I canceled.

I often wonder what my breaking point with WoW will be.

Molsan said...

Nice post. The question you raised really sums it up: Are you playing for fun or because you have to (or because it's, as you put it, "what you do")?

If you've chosen the latter, it's time to move on. :)

Fuubaar said...

I think that a major reason why all of these games are starting to look better to us, is this such feeling.

That very moment we set foot into the World of Warcraft, we were hooked & never looked back. I've played a few MMO's and they just didn't fit the bill or I wouldnt give them the time of day.

It was an MMO tunnel vision that WoW gave us. Once you take away the horse blinders, the wide world of other *gasp* games awaits you.

Please keep us up to date on Aion if you could :D

Sideshow said...

@Fulg I actually started dabbling in EvE again recently (since I forgot to pause my subscription) feel free to visit me.

Syrana said...

Rawr. I hate to hear that anyone is not enjoying something as much as they once did, regardless of what it is. It certainly brings about mixed feelings... cancel or not... am I having fun still or just going through the motions?

I can't speak for anyone else, but sometimes I think more people do need to explore other games. It's not cheating and can help us appreciate certain aspects of one game over another.

Fulguralis really struck a chord with me about the friends bit though. It's one of the things that have made checking out new games less fun... not having that community of friends that I have in WoW.

Samodean said...

I've been running this blog for almost a year now, and my most popular post is one about perhaps moving on. I find this... interesting.

But thank you for your support, everyone.

@Syrana @Fulg: Since the only friends I still have in-game I still get to see at work everyday, it's not as much of a draw. But I totally understand. Perhaps I can lure some of you guys over to Aion, though. *evil smile*

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