World of Warcraft: A Reply Gone Awry
Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
Last week, I watched a video from the YouTube channel, Bellular Gaming. The topic of the video (found here) focused on ten concerns Bellular has with the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion. About midway through the video, I decided to share my thoughts on a few of his concerns in a comment. I had written responses to two of his points before a misclick here and an accidental key press there sent me to another video, killing the comment I had been working on. So, instead of attempting to rewrite my comment and risk my fingers stumbling all over themselves again, I shall share my thoughts regarding a few of those points here.
Legendary Gear and Power Creep
The first of Bellular’s concerns that caught my attention was the possibility that Legendary gear found throughout the Legion content would introduce power creep to World of Warcraft. Power creep, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is a process in video games that occurs when newly added content surpasses older content in effective power. This will typically lead to players abandoning the older, less powerful content in favor of the more powerful options. In the case of World of Warcraft, the content in question is the gear players acquire while leveling, running dungeons, and progressing through raid content. While I share Bellular’s concern for the existence of power creep, as I don’t enjoy seeing it in the games I play, I couldn’t shake the feeling of confusion I felt as a thought hung in my mind. When has there not been power creep in World of Warcraft?
For as long as there has been a World of Warcraft, there has existed power creep within World of Warcraft. Power creep is a core pillar of the game’s design, and it is what drives players to chasing the ever moving carrot that is the best gear in the game. Any time the level cap is increased or another raid tier is added to the game, the highest possible item level that can be achieved increases, and the pinnacle of power creeps just a little further out of the players’ reach. Players who have already been hooked by WoW’s carrot will have to play through the available content in order to earn the new powerful items only to replace them after the release of the next major update or expansion. Those who have stepped away from WoW are able to see the carrot for what it actually is, a shiny turd.
Power creep is one of the reasons why I haven’t returned to World of Warcraft since Cataclysm. I’m not enticed by the endless gear treadmill that drives the content, and I have no intention of wasting my time playing a game intent on wasting my time (also see Diablo III). The only meaningful aspect of gear is bigger stat and damage numbers, but even as those numbers increase they steadily become less impressive. For instance, it will be possible to surpass one million total health in Legion, which should be a big deal. However, since most gear provides Stamina by default, the novelty of possessing that much health will hastily wear thin because it won’t be difficult to achieve and will merely be a product of Legion’s design.
We also have to keep in mind those large stat and damage numbers must be squished every other expansion because they keep reaching ridiculous heights (more info on stat squish found here and here). This begs the question: why do the Blizzard developers keep scaling the stat numbers so damn high with each new expansion? If the numbers are getting out of control, just revamp the progression of item levels across the entire game. Once the next expansion starts, the players may freak out their top-tier Legion gear is now Item Level 430, but at least the developers will have some leeway to screw up the numbers again in future expansions.
The next issue I had found interesting was the concept of major updates released over the course of an expansion making older content irrelevant. Unfortunately, much like power creep, the chronic irrelevancy of older content has been a facet of World of Warcraft for many years, and it is a skill the WoW developers have become quite proficient at. While the major updates may make current dungeon and raid content less viable by introducing stronger gear in the new content, this is only half as bad as when expansions increase the level cap, which makes the dungeon and raid content from the previous level cap completely worthless. The WoW developers have become so proficient at making their content irrelevant that it is even affecting big features they use to promote their expansions. Granted, the first time we will see such a spectacle will be on the day the Legion pre-patch goes live.
I am, of course, referring to the inevitable irrelevancy of the Garrisons feature. This feature, implemented to the game with the Warlords of Draenor expansion, was supposed to be World of Warcraft’s answer to housing. Unfortunately, it was destined for the same fate that had befallen so many dungeons from prior expansions. Since the Garrisons were built on the alternate universe Draenor, and their narrative purpose was to hold an army against the Iron Horde, this feature was only ever going to be relevant during the WoD expansion. Now, the Artifact Weapons aren’t limited by their place of origin like the Garrisons are, but their present design makes me doubt they will be relevant outside of the Legion expansion. This kind of makes the Artifact Weapons yet another big feature used to promote an expansion that will inevitably become a big waste of everyone’s time.
All those Doomhammers and Ashbringers being passed out for Christmas, and they are already destined for the landfill.
No New Battleground or World PvP Zone
My short response to Bellular’s concern that there is no new battleground or world PvP zone coming with Legion is, “World of Warcraft is not a PvP game, and it has never been a PvP game.”
Despite the fact the Warcraft universe was born to a genre that often sets players against each other, it appears the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde is rarely, if at all, taken into account during the development of the World of Warcraft expansions and their accompanying narratives. Presently, I cannot recall a story arc since the Burning Crusade expansion that didn’t have the supposed opposed factions working together to defeat a common foe (Illidan, Arthas, Deathwing, Garrosh, Garrosh again, etc.), or, at the very least, having a common foe that detracted from the conflict between them. Unfortunately, the lack of attention paid to the narrative conflict between the two factions bleeds into the actual conflict between them, i.e. the player versus player features. While the Honor system is being redesigned for Legion, and the PvP team have built some new tuning knobs to balance PvP behind the scenes, there is no new content for those players who devote time to PvP. The very least the developers could do for those players is to remake, and possibly tweak, all of the old battleground maps to bring an air of freshness to their stale PvP content.
While I haven’t cared to play World of Warcraft for several years, I can understand the concerns presented by Bellular. My only issue with the specific concerns discussed above is they have been longstanding problems with World of Warcraft, and not newly developed issues brought about by the Legion expansion. I had very similar concerns during the tail end of the Burning Crusade expansion, and well into the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. It is these concerns that drove me away from the game in search of anything that wouldn’t make me feel like I was wasting my time. Until the announcement of Legion (and its features), I had held some small hope World of Warcraft would eventually find a new path and maybe become a good game again, but the developers are fully content with the path they are on, as they leave a wasteland of content in their wake.
What concerns do you have with the Legion expansion? Do you share any of Bellular’s concerns? Do you agree/disagree with the thoughts I’ve shared? Join the discussion below.
Bellular also released a video called “14 Awesome Things About WoW: Legion” while I was writing this up. Be sure to check that out if you enjoyed his other video.
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War Fist out.
Posted on July 13, 2016, in Game Design and tagged Blizzard, Game Design, Gaming, Garrisons, Legion, MMO, MMORPG, PC Games, RPG, Video Games, War Fist, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.