Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Warcraft's Ends (Part 2): At The End Of It All

After my last post on ending stories in Warcraft, we're looking into what we can expect technically for the next expansion.

Let's get down to brass tacks because I've got a lot to cover.

What's next for WoW ?
One does not need to be an oracle to get a vague idea of what's coming our way.
What we cannot divine are the precise shapes these ideas will finally turn into when they become real.
The answer's always in the way the game is progressing, in the feedback from the community, in the direction the story of the game is taking us.
So to divine the future, we have to study the past and examine what brought us here.
Hint: It's mostly because of causality.

Typical Blood Elf...

The Sha of Dailies
The epitome of success with dailies has always been the Isle of Quel'danas.
Players ate those, the rewards were varied and interesting enough, the dailies were all over the island and were generally considered to be rather fun.
Every since, Blizzard has tried to experiment and develop the concept into various forms and types of dailies to create engaging content that could appeal to as many types of gameplays that the game offers.
Before Pandaria, the biggest daily hub was the Molten Front. (Don't shiver all at once)
A phased daily hub was interesting and the tiered unlocking of content was an interesting experiment, as was as the one-day choice of a set of dailies you could do.
The problem was that players burnt themselves out on them because the rewards were locked behind a very high number of dailies, so the feedback was kinda negative.

On top of that, people were also doing other dailies, whether they were from current content or from past content (a lot were catching up on Argent Tournament for mount and pet collecting), and were hitting the maximum cap of 25 dailies per day, and were not happy about that.

So for Pandaria, they decided:
  • to have multiple daily hubs
  • for each daily hub to have sets of rotating quests (and even the Celestials were in different zones), so you have a large roster of dailies you could do without getting bored of them
  • to remove the daily cap.

Other Cataclysm complaint: Valor points were restricted to very specific activities and you were forced to only do them, which meant that Blizzard was 'forcing' players to repeat those activities even if they didn't feel like doing those activities.
Answer to that: Put small amounts of valor points in dailies and spread them around with all the other activities, with the rule of "the more effort is required of you, the more Valor points you will gain in the end".

Other Cataclysm complaint: Players missed reputations. More specifically : reputations that you can grind for a long time, and that have satisfying rewards at the end.
Their answer to that: Reputations all around, with most of them tied to dailies.

Other Cataclysm complaint: More varied mounts, with less re-colorized versions of same mounts.
Answer to that: Varied mounts at the end of all the different reputations.

Note that all of the answers to these player demands were originally met with answers of pure joy and happiness and everything.

The problem with Mists of Pandaria dailies: they put gear at different tiers of the reputations, and they could only be bought with valor points.
That was the crucial mistake, as everyone already knows.
It made everyone 'have' to grind dailies to get their reputation levels and their Valor points to get their gear to start raiding.
The result: people got sick of dailies and everything that came with them.
The sad part was that the players that asked for all the other previously mentioned requests didn't have any fun doing dailies because everyone 'had to' rather than them being something that you could do at their leisure.
The sadder part: because there was no more limit on the number of dailies, players that felt they 'had to' do dailies also felt they 'had to' do them all, and they burnt out very very quickly.
The even sadder part: all the fun aspect of dailies tied to reputations was lost on most players because they were angry, tired and burnt out.

What to expect in the next expansion
Gear not tied to daily quests, obviously.
Everything else was perfect, except for that part.
Daily quests are here to stay, but what comes with them will change.
I think they're not going to put a daily limit cap again.
The lid's been blown off and there's no way of putting it back, because when Blizzard usually take a step in one direction, they usually don't back down but instead try to find another way to veer the situation in the right course while owning up to their choices.
Ghostcrawler has admitted that this also played a big part in the player burnout and probably shouldn't have been done.
So they will have to find another way to limit the number of dailies that will be more hardwired in the next system of dailies they're working on for the next expansion.
What will it be? It's anyone's guess.

But look at what they've done for the Isle of Thunder and the Darkspear Revolution.
The Isle of Thunder dailies is quite closer to the model of Quel'danas than it's ever been in any other iteration of a daily hub, and in my opinion it's almost perfect.
Hubs were not tiered behind reputations, but behind server progression, which feels like a more "healthier" solution.
Maybe they need to have multiple quest hubs like Isle of Thunder in the next expansion ? (I'm just throwing that out there.)
Interesting fact: What people forget - because they feel they were 'forced' to do them - is that the Golden Lotus dailies worked pretty much the same, just with a little less dramatic feeling (I mean come on - the Thunder dailies were set in war skirmishes).

And with the 5.3 patch, they've added even more quality-of-life changes that can let you totally avoid doing the daily quests prior to the Isle of Thunder dailies.
And Darkspear Revolution introduced the Weekly quest, which involves group and solo options to complete the quest, with esthetic and fun rewards at the end of them.
You have a whole week to get it done, you can chill, relax, not be stressed about it.
My guess is you'll see many more weekly quests in the next expansion.

My point is: every major complaint that will arise from the community will be addressed.
The way they address those concerns is their own to decide, depending of what projects they've got cooking on their end.
Remember that the World of Warcraft development team is thinking ahead, but they can only work with the feedback and tools they can get their hands on.
So they have many pots and kettles and recipes in their kitchen and sometimes it's just a question of letting an idea stew long enough, or waiting until you manage to find the right spices, the right ingredients, the right time of the day, before they decide it's time to present you with your next meal.

Also, every new system that's added to the game is an experiment, and the success or failure of the system, is a test, a prototype for an even bigger idea they might have.
But all of that is to provide solutions to players' concerns about the game and how they're having fun or not and they will respond to that.
Every new thing they've added in the game in terms of systems since the Wrath expansion is a direct response to community feedback.

So that's why I say it's not that complicated to see what issues are going to be addressed in the next expansion, because players have been very vocal about what they liked and what they didn't like in the Mists of Pandaria expansion.
What we don't know is how they will do it; what shape will those changes form into when we log into the next expansion.
They've been getting really experimental with the game and I like it.

I remember someone asking Ghostcrawler over Twitter what we should expect in the next expansion, and his answer was "Continuation of what worked: The new talent tree and glyph design. Challenge Modes. Wrathion. Cho. Less teleporting; the world feels like a world. Bonus rolls. Large raids. The farm. Brawler's Guild. Pet battles."
This sums up pretty much everything I like about Pandaria, plus Scenarios.
(I wish I could say Challenge Modes myself, but I've only stepped in one so far. But hey I totally loved the 45min Baron runs, so I'm on the bandwagon.)

So what can we expect to get in the next expansion?
The same thing, but better.
Yes, as simple as that.
It's getting really hard to think you know what they're going to do, because they're getting quicker in their response times in regards to player feedback, and they're pulling some stunts that we would've never thought they'd pull two years ago.
They're almost to the point where they can adapt major systems in real time.
That's impressive.

But what really got me interested in Mists of Pandaria is the story.
And I'm really looking forward to what they'll serve us next.

In Part 3, I'm flexing my lore muscles and shaking my magic 8-ball to find out what could be in store for the story of the next expansion.

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