Thursday, June 28, 2012
What Blizzard Needs to Do
What Blizzard needs to do with World of Warcraft is similar to the thing that the music industry needs to do in order to become profitable again. World of Warcraft is arguably, being ruined by the fact that we can fly. There are a couple conclusions that I stumbled upon that I would use to reinforce my argument, like the fact that having flying makes us consume content at a faster rate, makes the game easier, and detaches us from the immersion in the world itself. It allows us to pick and choose our battles for the most part, and this leads to a detached feeling from the world. When we were ground bound, it took longer, because we had to get there. It's weird going back to an alt without flying, because actually getting there is like half the battle until level 60. What Blizzard has also done, that has made this game easier, and therefore more boring (to some. not me, but some) is they had reduced the number of items required for something, like material gathering quests or kills for reputation gains.
Now that the game is easier, how will Blizzard sustain its playerbase and not lose people because they either dont like it or run out of things to do? Blizzard will have to innovate. It will have to make content interesting enough that we will want to experience it. And so far from what I have seen, they are. They make quests that make intricate use of the flying mount, and I can tell you it's really fun to be able use my flying mount for the quests. But they have to create new game mechanics that are entertaining and engaging enough that are not the old style MMORPG quests. I don't know if I can think of another MMO that uses flying like WoW. WoW is an old school MMO at heart, at least when it began. It took a turn after Burning Crusade and the release of flying mounts. At first, flying mounts were hard to obtain, but because of the nature of expansion packs, they became the norm. By nature of expansion packs, I mean, by being an expansion pack, one assumes that the characters will be advanced in level beyond the level cap of the previous game. So, when Wrath came out, everyone needed to get to level 80. If the flying level is 70, its necessary that everyone who experiences new content will have obtained flying at some point. So, therefore, flying becomes normal. If flying makes the game easier, that means that everyone will have an easier game. After everyone experiences this easier game, no one is going to want to go back to the hard game. You can't go back. It will always be seen as a downgrade, and not up to the game's full potential.
What Blizzard needs to do is make us want to play the game for other reasons than the traditional MMO reasons. The tradition of old MMOs is wanting to collect something for the purpose of being a compulsive collector. What WoW needs to do is make the MMO fun. They need to make you want to collect things, but for different reasons. They have to make us want to keep playing after we've collected the things. That is something that the Star Wars: The Old Republic and (probably) The Elders Scrolls MMO haven't figured out yet, and this is why they failing. WoW is making it easier to play (Dungeon Finder, Mounts, PvP queues from anywhere, less reputation for factions), so that if you want to collect, its so much easier. We've all been trying for so long, we should just be given what we want. Why make it hard?
I don't have any suggestions really for how to make it better. But I do think that Blizzard recognizes this fact and is acting upon it. Like I said, I think their questing mechanics reflect this trend. Deepholm makes good use of flying mounts, as does the Twilight Highlands. Especially the parts with the city on the rock, The Krazzworks. They use vertical space well, and they make it useful, but not impossibly easy to complete the quests there. I think adding fighting to flying would make the game a lot different. It would add that sense of danger back into the game. It would make it so you can't AFK in the middle of the world.
Of companies I know that may be up to the challenge, Blizzard is one I expect to rise to the occasion. They needs to innovate, and that's what I see them doing. But I think most importantly, they have to deal with this flying problem.