Monday, June 14, 2010

Blizzard's Perfect (Shit)Storm

So, Blizzard announced this weekend that they are cutting previously announced features from Cataclysm; the most notable of these are Path of the Titans, and Guild Leveling/Currency. As I can recall, Path of the Titans was an alternate way to progress your toon once it hit the level cap other than doing PVE and PVP content, in addition to augmenting your character's stats and/or capabilities in PVE/PVP. This would intersect with the new Archeology secondary profession and let people get really into the lore of the warcraft universe.

Guild leveling would allow guilds to generate experience by doing raids, instances, battlegrounds, and achievements in order to make the guild a stronger entity. This would include a guild talent tree where points could be spent in order to increase proficiency at whatever the guild's goals were oriented towards.

These cuts feel like the removal of something that would make the game feel new and fresh again. Cataclysm seems like it is going to be more of the same. The developers are streamlining raiding with unified 10/25 raid ID lockouts, gear and talents are getting streamlined, and I don't see many new raid mechanics coming down the pipeline (but I could be wrong). A lot of the complexity, for better or worse, that exists right now is being taken out of the game.

I was really hoping that Path of the Titans would breathe some fresh air into the game and give the game something new to replace what is being removed. Even if it resembles a Farmville type (Do something, wait a bit, get reward, do something else) system, it would still be a little more fun than the current raiding environment. I am still pulling for Archaeology to add this type of randomness to a game that is getting more and more formulaic.

I can dig the new talent trees, but I still think they look too much like WOLK trees. I guess the huge shakeups from Vanilla -> BC -> WOLK in the talents have put me in a position to expect more. I might also be biased that I am comparing the trees that I play as alts and the Paladin tree might just get completely upended.

Behind all this it seems like Blizzard has overextended itself. It tried really hard to be all things to all people, and for that it has succeeded. Blizzard wants this game out by the end of the year, and it probably needed to cut what it did in order to make that deadline. The price that was paid was fun. I really think WoW is going to suffer from Activision syndrome this next expansion. They know what works, and they are going to keep milking that cow until the milk sucks. I fear that Cataclysm is going to drive off a lot of the veterans, and the WOLK babies are going to get what they have always gotten.

These cuts needed to happen. If the game goes for much longer without new life breathed into it, people are going to leave in droves. If we have to keep farming ICC until say march of next year and we ended up getting the Path and Guild features, I don't think the influx of people would offset how many people would leave. It is a numbers game at this point and they have too many people invested to take that chance. I would say that half the player has gear addiction and needs their fix.

The Cataclysm WoW population is going to be a cess pool of people of whiny jerks who are only in it to use each other to get better gear, pretty much what the LFD has become. I am leveling a bear druid through LFD and I have done dungeons where I nobody says a word throughout the entire thing. Everyone in the dungeon has shut down the higher functions of their brain and tries to get through it as quickly as possible, so they can get their gear.

This is a little tangential but it is an example of this behavior. Guitar Hero 1 was arguably the best game in the franchise in my opinion. It had personality, challenge and it was something fresh and new among all the platformers and sports games, and shooters. None of the music was licensed, it was all covers and they sounded good. I would argue that some of the appeal in the game was the covered music because it let the player get into the game more by knowing they weren't trying to be the stars who wrote the songs, they were just pretending. It didn't take itself too seriously, and it was a labor of love for the developers. All in it cost over 100 bucks to buy the thing and it still flew off shelves, cause it was something new and fun. Guitar hero today is just formulaic, homogenized and streamlined. Sound familiar?

The Big Crits crew are all amazing people, and right now it is because of them that I am probably going to keep playing. Getting H-LK down and getting people their drakes, no matter how futile it seems is what is driving me still.

Okay time for a nap for this old man. Gotta get my energy up to yell at those damn kids.

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