So… That’s That
I realize this screen shot is a cliche. I joked about it with Matticus the other day. It’s as striking as it is matter-of-fact, but definitely over-dramatic. Many have traveled this path already, and their departure is no different than mine. And, hey, I could have included a shot of the sun setting in Stormwind Harbor, or a mock photo of me slashing my wrists, but each would have been in poor taste.
I’m sure by now most of my readers knew this day was coming. I’d already stopped playing the game, and the only reason it remained on my hard drive was so I could get screen shots and video footage for the Cataclysm review.
I’ve already discussed most of my reasons for quitting the game, but I haven’t really talked about one of my reasons. So let’s summarize:
- I’m generally burnt out on WoW. After seven years, that’s what happens.
- I think WoW is becoming outdated and hasn’t changed fast enough.
- I’m not optimistic about the future of MMOs.
- I want to focus on more than just WoW.
I don’t want to dwell on most of these points, because I’ve already written entries about them. But the second and fourth points deserve some elaboration.
On the Rate of Change in WoW
Recently, Ghostcrawler (Greg Street) posted a blog entry on the World of Warcraft community site talking about how they approach development. In this entry, he was very forthcoming about their philosophies when it comes to making changes to the game. Specifically, he talked about the concepts underlying changes that are implemented in new expansions.
We hear from players who say “My dude hasn’t fundamentally changed in years,” and they want something, anything, that makes them look at their character in a new light. We don’t want to fix things that aren’t broken of course, but we do want to make sure that a new expansion feels all new. Expansions are opportunities to reinvigorate the player base and the gameplay itself. Therefore, you shouldn’t always view a class revamp as meaning your character is horribly broken and adrift on a sea of designer ignorance and apathy. We probably won’t ever reach a point where a particular class has reached perfection and no additional design iteration is necessary. Change, in moderation, is healthy. (Source)
That Greg would write this particular entry immediately after I finished my review of Cataclysm is as coincidental as much as it is convenient. It allows me to get in one last comment on the issue before I close up shop.
Over the past couple years, I’ve come to really like Greg. There was a time I didn’t, but I’ve warmed up to him with each intelligent post and each project he’s worked on. He’s proven he best understands what the game needs and what the players want—things like closer oversight of class balance and quality-of-life improvements that come with systems like the dungeon finder. He’s also proven he is aware of some of WoW’s issues, both existing and developmental in nature.
In this case, he leaves a lot unsaid, because he is toeing the company line. He doesn’t want to reveal to us what changes he personally thinks are needed, because that can be perceived as acknowledging explicit weaknesses in the game, which many investors and company men view as “bad PR.” But he is forthcoming about the fact that changes need to be made to keep the game fresh, which is more than what many employees of a company will publicly admit. And I like that sort of honesty.
One thing I do contest, however, is that “Change, in moderation, is healthy.” Personally, I think more than moderation is needed. When TBC was released, the amount of change was enormous. Heroic dungeons were introduced. Raid bosses were more complex and challenging, across the board. Resilience, the arena system and a linear honor system were added for PvP. Off-specs were made much more useful than they’d ever been. Raids were downsized from forty to twenty-five players. And the entry raid dungeon only required ten people. These were all incredible changes, and some were shocking. And what happened? The number of subscriptions increased. In part, due to releasing the game in other countries, but also because the game was improving. But we haven’t seen this degree of change for a long while.
I’d argue the amount of change needed now is very large. The quest system (at least for the end-game) needs to be revamped, with introductions and conclusions playing out using the in-game cut-scene engine (or some variant thereof). Of course, the ability to skip these scenes and to check the quest log must remain for players with short attention spans. The way abilities work could also do with a fundamental overhaul to make them more enjoyable. A nice start would be to either scrap or change abilities that cause players to lose control of their characters. However, I don’t think changes to abilities should be limited to just this. I’d like to see more emphasis put on the abilities you choose to use. Not in the sense that one spell does more damage than another, and then goes on cooldown, forcing you to use other spells. I’m talking about making each spell different in style, like using EMP with a ghost in Starcraft 2 on cloaked units, or against units with energy. I’d like to see some radical changes made to certain abilities, like making (for example) pyroblast work like a targeted projectile, exploding on impact with the ground (maybe even bouncing a few times before it resolves). Things like that. As it stands, most abilities fly at your targeted unit and simply do damage or perform a simple function.
Of course, I realize some of these proposals might not be technically possible with the current server-client architecture. But then that’s why Blizzard needs to be able to change that architecture to meet the demands of desired game design decisions. I also realize Blizzard might disagree with my specific proposals. That’s fine with me. I just want Blizzard to be aware of the fact that I think the degree of change with each expansion needs to increase. And the quality of changes need to be better. Don’t rush things, as it seemed Cataclysm was. Take your time. That’s what you’re known for. Sure, some people might get a little impatient while they wait for the next expansion, but the game is already bleeding subscriptions with the current approach. So take a chance and see how it works out.
On Focusing on More Than WoW
When I say I’d like to focus on more than just WoW, I mean that in two ways. In one sense, it means I’d like to write about more games than just WoW. In another, it means I don’t want WoW to impede some of my goals in life—to possibly go to graduate school or get a second degree; to possibly work on a running vlog where I go around and show people all the trails they haven’t found in the south bay; or to possibly get a full-time job.
In many ways, WoW has always tended to get in the way of my goals and desires. Though, for a while, that was fine with me. I enjoyed playing WoW. And I enjoyed critiquing and writing about it. But when the joy is no longer there, you have to move on.
And so this is where I stand today.
The End of Lume the Mad
This entry marks the end of my time writing for Lume the Mad and my time playing WoW. I don’t want to say I won’t ever return to WoW, because I might buy the next expansion just to play through the leveling zones. But I won’t ever play it to the same extent I did before. Not unless the game changes radically.
Where I go from here is left to be seen. Currently, I am leaning towards launching a general gaming blog. But I could very well end up writing about movies, books, games, running, or some combination of these. Or I could end up doing something completely different, like embarking on a second degree or starting a new job that demands my full attention. I’m still hammering out my plans.
Whatever I end up doing, I will no longer be writing analyses of WoW, guild leading, druids, or anything relating to WoW on this blog.
It had a great run, and I thank you all for everything. And I especially want to thank those of you who have stayed with me until the very end. I really appreciate your support. It means a lot to me.