The WoW Landscape Seven Months Later

I’ve been playing WoW for just under a week now after having been away for seven months.  Has the landscape changed at all?  No, not the geological landscape but the “how the game is played” and the “general feel” and “what people do” viewpoint of what goes on when you log in to play.  I’m not a hardcore raider, and I’m not all that interested in WoW PvP.  You can safely consider me one of the average people who plays WoW because I’ll dabble a little in everything.  I’m going to try and explain how I perceive WoW today.  Based on your views of WoW, this might be read as either an endorsement of WoW or the type of post someone makes when they’re about to quit.   It’s neither.

When I was playing WotLK back in November 08 to January 09 there was a lot going on.  People were leveling, raising their reputation, running regular instances, heroic instances, and starting their raids.  It may not seem like it, but the landscape was quite diverse and everyone was running around doing their various things.

Today, the landscape has simplified a great deal.  Reputation grinding is barely talked about, and on a whole not really important or as important.  I have not seen anyone advertising to do regular instance runs aside from the one random person asking “Anyone want to run BRD?” – I can’t help but feel bad for him since he’s about 3 years late.  What I am seeing is a clear direction:  Heroic instances and raids.  The heroic instances give you emblems which in turn give you epics.  Heroic instances also give you really good loot now that (in ToC) is better than Naxxramas and even some of Ulduar I’m told.  You can then jump right into 10-man’s and even some 25-man’s.  In a sense, the gear grind has been reset since I last played.

Getting gear is easier than ever.  Is that a bad thing?  In my opinion it’s a good thing.  I don’t want to get into a discussion, or encourage any of you to either, about the details of WoW and whether they’re good or bad for the players or even the industry, but I do feel it’s a good thing overall when people can obtain gear while experiencing the content at a comfortable pace.

WoW feels like a theme park, which we all acknowledge.  Raiding, or doing instances, or even a BG/Arena is like riding the rides at a themepark; Disneyland for example.  When you go to Disneyland you’ll have a great atmosphere all around you.  However, as great as the atmosphere might be, we can’t ignore that most of the people want to ride the rides.  We will go and stand in line for the rides because that is the best part – we’re having the most fun and the highest concentration of enjoyment while on the rides.  Some rides we’ll stand in line for over an hour to ride just two minutes and as soon as we’re done we jump in line for the next one.

That’s what WoW is like right now.  People log in and they get in line to ride the rides.  They used to enjoy the restaurants, the atmosphere, and the shops , but they’ve seen them all and done it all.  They’ve realized that the game and their fun all boils down to how many of these rides they can experience in a day.  I’ve been logging in to ride the rides for four days.  I’ve really enjoyed them.  In fact, I’ve had a blast.  I’ve been riding the Tea Cups because the lines are too long for Space Mountain (everyone loves Space Mountain).  As much fun as I’m having, something about it bothers me.  I don’t like waiting in line to ride the rides; no one does.  And it’s not even just standing in line to ride them (waiting for a group) – it’s that there is nothing else to do while waiting in line.    WoW has essentially become all about riding the rides and as a result waiting in line.  That is the extent of the game now.

Blizzard has realized this and done their best to accommodate people.  It’s now easier than ever to get on the best rides and they’ve even made the worst rides more fun.  This is what the game is all about now.   Don’t get me wrong, I like it when I’m on the rides.  Everyone does and that’s why WoW remains so popular all the time.   I’m one of those people that enjoys the atmosphere though.  Even if I don’t interact with it, or go into every shop and restaurant, just knowing it’s all there makes what I’m doing more enjoyable.  Weird?  Perhaps, but I don’t think that I’m alone.

That’s the WoW landscape in a nutshell.  The “Too Long; Didn’t Read” version would say:  No, the game hasn’t changed.  It’s simply made what it does best even more the central focus for everyone.  When you play WoW you play to raid now.  There really aren’t the “I’m a raider” and “I’m a casual” camps anymore.  Everyone is a raider.  This might be oversimplifying it, but soon WoW subscribers won’t be able to clearly identify their playstyle anymore because everyone playing will be doing the exact same things — essentially one giant playstyle:  WoW.

  • Motstandet and I started playing WoW again to fill the time before Aion’s release and we have a very similar feeling, though we knew we would have such a feeling. I actually started playing because I thought that feeling wouldn’t be a bother if I only was going to play the game for a month-and-a-half. I’ve enjoyed it so far.

  • You’ve pretty much stated the reason why I’m not going back to WoW keen: all there is to do is Raid. I wish their PVE had some more meat to it but sadly it does not. I could go back and PVP grind but to what end? No one does world PVP anymore and quite frankly I’m bored to tears with the same ole BG’s and I loath Arena. It’s gunna be a long year for me….

  • Certainly heroics and raids are much more accessible now and with the badge changes, most people, like Keen, are running as many as possible.

    But then that’s what end-game is all about. It’s that social component (especially in guilds) that makes the game so much fun. While I run the heroics and raids, I’m still PvEing quite a bit with the new dailys, bringing my alts up, farming and crafting, playing the auctionhouse. I’ve also discovered the battlegrounds again as the new ones are fun and require a little more strategy than before. The forced disappearance of twinks has also made things fairer and more enjoyable. The popularity of the new bgs (and old ones) is shown by increased queue times (at least on my server)

    Then there’s achievements, rare drops, rare pets, rare mounts and some of the enjoyable minigame dailys like the infragreen bombing runs.

    Having some different toons also helps, as changing from my druid to pally to mage to hunter with a DK somewhere in between, makes the game more varied and interesting.

    There also seems to be a lot more people playing. The raiding is enjoyable and the old difficulties of getting raids and groups together seem to be getting better.

    There’s also the removal of annoying features and the inclusion of new ones that make the gaming process smoother. E.g. swimming mounts, equipment manager, dual specs, class changes etc etc.

    The next content patch wil have Onyxia and the one coming close after that will be the final dungeons and the Lich King and we don’t have to wait long for that. Cataclysm looms in the future as well for a reboot of the game.

    So I’m still having a good time and I still have a variety of things to do to have a good time. It’s very easy to focus just on one thing in WoW and quickly become burnt out. I recommend trying new things or giving it a miss for a while until the sense of fun returns 😉

  • Great post. I enjoyed the read and share much of your sentiment towards WoW. I keep trying to bring myself to play because I have a number of friends I enjoy gaming with still playing.

    Ultimately, I’m turned off because I’ve already spent so much time riding all the different rides that most of them have really lost their appeal. When the rides were fun it was easy to justify the time spent waiting in line, as I was genuinely enjoying myself. These days, however, I feel little or no reward for my time spent in the line, and can’t help but want to do something, anything, else. Even watch TV, which is something I rarely spend time doing.

    WoW is a great game and I find myself nostalgic about some of the stuff I used to really enjoy doing, but that time has past. It’s a shame — there are no other rides I want to go on — until the 22nd at least.

    I guess I will use this time to do something productive like study for Microsoft certifications or double-fist hammer-punch myself in the groin.

  • I think it’s essentially the essence of accessibility – Blizzard want everyone to be able to do everything. So of course they have to remove boundaries and limitations and this is what has all of the “hardcore” players annoyed because suddenly even the average joe can gear up and get on the raid ladder.

    I can appreciate what Blizzard are doing. They’re kinda like on big Communist state 🙂

  • Good observations…

    Like Disneyland you outgrow it, then go there with the kids, fondly remembering your first run through the Matterhorn.

    And it is a hell of a lot cheaper to boot.

  • I see a trend that WoW becomes more and more LESS of a “world” but more a theme park of instaced rides, aptly named raids or dungeon instances.

    The interesting world becomes smaller with every expansion. Early on it was level 1-60, now it is only the continent for your next 10 levels and then soon only the few holes called dungeons/instances that keep you entertained.

    Cataclysm might try to reverse this trend?

  • I still play WoW just for the pvp though I avoid the Arenas and I just want to be saved from myself, Jumpgate Evolution, STO, SWTOR, HURRY UP, I’M OVER HERE!!!

  • “Vertical expansion” makes the theme park trend almost inevitable, since Blizzard removed the leveling game so people could get to the part of the game they payed $40 extra for.

    If Blizz slows down the leveling speed when they release Cataclysm I will probably resub. Exploring and leveling in the open world was far more fun for me than running dungeons, and it would be nice to have other people around again!

  • I quite like the Theme Park analogy, it’s one I’ve used myself.
    Yes the Coliseum (with it’s associate Dungeon and Raids and the ugprade in Badge rewards) is one of Blizzard’s period “resets” so the people who did not progress too far in Ulduar (let alone Hard Modes) can get ready for Icecrown which is the next big raid.
    When Icecrown appears more than a tiny proportion of people can attempt it because it can be balanced around an expected, common Gear Level.

    I’m surprised you’ve heard little about rep but then maybe most of the people who wanted rep already did that grind, people looking at it now realise there’s more fun and profitable things to do.

    I myself am a Raider and with so many different Raid Lockouts now I am finding it hard to allocate time for my remaining Reps, Loremaster (completing practically all of the game’s quests) and Alts! But I will completed the Reps and Quests before Cataclysm – it’s a personal goal with no in-game reward.

    If you dig into the 25-Man Raids and certainly their Heroic counterparts and some of the moreexotic achievements I think you will find evidence of some of that old-school raiding where only a few dedicated groups make good progress.
    That part sometimes feels like a full time job….

    I keep creating new “Retirement plans” for myself such as “When Arthas dies” but then something like Cataclysm gets announced and I want to see the new less-vertical progression models (Path of the Titans etc) and see Deathwing down and so on and I find myself recalling Bilbo Baggin’s words:

    “Don’t adventures ever have an end?”

  • One of the major thing that has always kept me from wow has been the starting areas. I am sure if i was in the initial rush a few years back i would enjoy wow today and get into it. But for some reason every time i start it i can’t keep myself engaged in it.

  • I don’t see the difference between WoW and any other MMO out there. They all have the grind. You grind PvP, PvE, Faction, gear, intances, ect. I think all these other games have not lived up to expectations because people fail to see, it is going to be the same as WoW just different game. WoW has taken every angle of the grind and put it in their game, others just focus on 1 and people get bored fast. WoW has everything open in the theme park, you just have to figure out what line you are going to stand in. Once people realize all MMOs are a grind, they will be happier and stop hating other MMOs.

  • Good write up. However when I want good theme park rides I definetely don’t choose Disneyland, its more for kids. I want the hardcore brown-pants rides, thus why I won’t return to WoW.

  • “Good write up. However when I want good theme park rides I definetely don’t choose Disneyland, its more for kids. I want the hardcore brown-pants rides, thus why I won’t return to WoW.”

    So where’s your 25 Yogg 0+, Algalon, ot Sarth 3D achievements?

    …Ah just kidding, I would never have the time to devote to such things, let alone actually raid.

  • @Salbos

    In May I actually went to Disney… and I live 5 minutes from Six Flags and have a season pass there.

    Lets assume WoW = Disney Land and WAR/AoC = Six Flags.

    Disney Land was a blast. I loved the atmosphere even though it was marketed towards kids. It was fun and brought back a youthful feeling. The rides were all well done, and logically placed in each “themed” area. Nothing was really stomach turning or brown pants making, but every ride was enjoyable.

    Six Flags is fun. The rides are more extreme but the over all flow of the park is incongrious. It just doesn’t flow well. You stumble across a good ride, then like 3 or 4 bad rides. Now the “extreme” rides blow any Disney Land ride out of the water but the over all lack of quality rides wears on you after awhile.

    In summary. If Six Flag (WAR/AoC) had a higher consistent quality of rides and not just a few it would be more popular. If it was more popular the atmosphere would improve because more people would be present. (Assume the rides require other people to be fun)

    Disney Land (WoW) was not stomach turning, but every ride was good. There were lots of people which made it fun in it’s own way. The atmosphere of the park flowed and they have something for everyone.

    California Adventure is in my opinion going to be like Blizzard’s new IP. It is going to take everything they learned from Disney Land and target it for a different market while still keeping alot of the greatness of Disney Land. (California Adventure is a blast btw)

    I think that could have been summed up in two sentences but this was more fun.

  • LOL, I actually love disneyland (and WoW but won’t return) especially when I’m with the family. Haven’t found the ‘extreme’ ride either, yet. Every time I watch my son playing WoW now I never see enough ‘new’ to bring me back and the social aspects I used to love so much have long since disappeared for an old fart. I played WoW too long and now its become one of those games I love to hate to love to hate.

  • Interesting take on the situation, Keen. Along those lines of thinking, I think Blizz is working on streamlining the “wait in line” part by offering cross-server PUG queues for instances in the future. Should force people back into using the LFG tool, decrease wait times for PUGs, and remove the “pain” of watching /2 for “LFM/LFG” messages, plus just speed the whole process up a lot. It’ll be more like BGs; join the queue, work is done for you.

    I’d add that WG and BGs can be fun rides, too, btw. And while you don’t see people doing the rep grind now (most are maxxed with new factions), that’s been replaced by doing argent tourney dailies. If you haven’t messed around with it, you should give it a look. Its about a 30 or so minute commitment per day, will end up maxing you out with all core horde/alliance factions, and then give you a nice chunk of daily money and champion seals which can be used for all sorts of nice perks (heirloom gear, remote vendor/bank access, etc).

  • Gevlon brought up an interesting point with cross server pugs. Are the amount of Ninja Looting’s going to increase because with the lack of acountability.

  • ninja looting might go up for a bit, but think of it. you have almost as much recourse to a ninja on your server as you have to someone on another: Don’t group with him and post his name on your/his server’s forums, spam in trade chat. whatev.

    in the end, if someone goes to your server to ninja, the biggest losers are the people on his home server, because they might not find out he is a ninja as easily as the people on your server after you announce his nefarious deeds.

  • Wow, sounds incredibly boring… I relish the days before TBC where people explored all parts of the world, all the dungeons were always being done, there was so much life in it. Now its the same ol song and dance streamlined into.. hey run these 4 dungeons and raids over and over.. have fun. The end.

    Glad your having fun but I think God that there are some better MMO’s out.

  • Yea I loved the idea they put in DarkFall that placed random treasure chests all over the world. For me random Open world encounters were the best part of WoW. I’d love a reason to get folks outside.

  • Well put, Keen. That’s exactly why I find myself playing less and less and why I’m likely to let my subscription lapse soon.

    “It was fun while it lasted…”

  • It all comes down to what you want the most. If you’re fine with just standing in line to ride the rides then WoW is probably fun for you now and will remain fun for you.

    If you want more out of your experience than just the instances/raids/themepark rides then you’re better off look elsewhere. WoW is all about the rides now and will remain that way until Cataclysm — the point where the rest of the game matters again (until they move back to being about the rides).

    I’ve come to recognize that this is neither good or bad, but just the way this particular game plays right now. Me, I enjoy instances A LOT (and raids) when they’re happening. Top notch content all around. It’s the downtime between them where the reality of my situation comes to mind.

  • This is probably one of my favorite posts from you, Keen. You’ve captured the current situation in WoW perfectly. This is the reason I canceled my account.

  • “This is probably one of my favorite posts from you, Keen. You’ve captured the current situation in WoW perfectly. This is the reason I canceled my account.”


    You do know that Keen was explaining how good things are at the moment, right?

  • Just joined Wow to after a half year of being away.
    Re-opened my account and played like 30 minutes on all my caracters and already get bored of it again.
    There is just nothing to do if you aren’t in the End game of WoW anymore.
    Is it PVP or PVE, if your don’t have the gear, your nothing.

    So I think this month was a waist and I’ll wait for Aion to happen.
    A pitty because I used to love WoW.

  • @Hazzerd

    Technically he was just explaining how things are, as impartially as possible. If you like what WoW has to offer or not is irrelevant to what type of game play WoW has to offer.

    Keen likes what WoW has right now. Anjin doesn’t. To each his own.

  • I’m glad that people are confused as to what I think about the current situation because that means I accomplished what I wanted with this post.

    The reality is, I like it as much as I dislike it. Weird, right? When I’m playing with friends and doing the actual content – like actually inside the instance/raid – then I’m having fun. When I’m not, I don’t like the game at all in its current state.

  • @Hazzerd – Nobs was exactly right. I thought this was a balanced view of the game in its current state. Since I don’t spend any time in raids or instances and that’s where the best part of the game is, I’m not getting what I want out of WoW anymore.

    Just as a general observation, I think it’s awesome that Keen is enjoying himself as much as he is. Just because I’m not playing the game anymore doesn’t mean I don’t want anybody else to. How selfish would that be?

  • You forgot to mention that the heroic gear is not only easier to get now, but heroics themselves have been ridiculously simple since Wotlk. No CC required. All tanks can Aoe tank. Paladins have more damage mitigation. You coast through instances. People have to be particularly retarded, or screw up on one of the few tricky spots in order to wipe.

    With dual-speccing everyone dualed healer or tank, so the only difficulty is finding someone who can actually do both successfully. And, finding groups ‘waiting in line’ is easier than ever.

    I don’t consider myself a hardcore player, but I had all the heroic loot, two sets of naxx gear (dps and healer), and full pvp set, in a relatively short period of time.

    Wow was great. It wasn’t too hard, it was engaging and challenging at times, but then they screwed everything up. It made me sad. It made me quit. I hate Wow now, but probably only because I used like it so much once upon a time.