Pandering or Providing?

News news news!  3.2 news is coming out faster than people can blog about it!  There’s changes to the quest system, discounts for epic flyers, homogenizing the tier tokens, making emblems of conquest the new standard emblem for lower level raids, all sorts of changes for the pre-existing systems.  There was even the announcement that in the future, not yet determined when, players will eventually be able to switch factions, which I believe will lead to a service allowing you to switch your race among your current faction as well.  I mean why not?  It seems as though lately whenever players ask for something or complain about something else enough, Blizzard will eventually make the change to placate them.

You see, part of what makes WoW great is that there is an increased amount of player input compared to MMOs back before WoW was the standard.  The devs listen and respond and try to make changes to the game so that they can give the players what they want and therefore ensure less frustration quits.  It’s a fantastic business plan because it demonstrates to players that they do have a voice in development and serves to endear the game further to them, keeping them playing and paying.  But there’s also the uglier side of that model, because though input from players is great, it’s usually not the most well thought out of plans for the game.

Nevertheless, every time Blizzard does implement a change that was called for by the masses, there’s inevitably the cry of pandering and the idea that Blizzard is trying to make things easier rather then better.  One player from my former guild referred to a lot of these upcoming changes as Blizzard’s own version of No Child Left Behind, because it was catering to the kids who play the game and want instant gratification.  The changes to the mount cost especially rankled him as I’m sure it did most people who had already purchased their epic flyers, possibly on multiple characters, only to now see the price drop depending on your faction.

Of course, there’s a small validity to that argument, but not as much as some of these guilds and people who play would have you believe.  It’s natural for people to feel it’s unfair that they had to do something to progress in the game that subsequent generations of players will not because in a way it’s not.  But most people will also be able to take pride in saying that they were there “back then” when men were men and and monsters roamed the land that you tamed with your bare hands while walking uphill in a blizzard to eat a single bowl of dirt for dinner that you were grateful for!  Damn kids these days don’t know how good they got it, with their rock music their Poke ee Mans.  I just don’t trust that lightning squirrel.

He's up to something

He's up to something

Ahem.  But though those may be valid points, there’s also the idea that this is actually a necessary step in the evolution of the game.  Is it truly pandering?  Look, I played Everquest, and I was an old schooler, buying the game back before the first expansion.  And one thing about leveling up and gearing out and doing almost anything in that game is that it took time and effort, and I mean a LOT of time and effort.  But no matter how much the player base complained that upper levels would take you hours and hours and excruciating hours of grinding away at mobs for measly experience rewards, the devs never made sweeping changes to improve it.

That was what eventually did it for me.  The world was too stagnant, other than maintenance and the occasional adding of quests or professions recipe, the old world never changed, the rules never changed, things were always what they were with maybe an addition thrown in.  Of course, I only played through the Planes of Power expansion, so I’m not sure how much they improved past making travel and auctioning easier.  Then came WoW, a world where if things were broken, not in the sense that the mechanics were bugged, but by the idea that players hated it in practice, then Blizzard changed it, tried to improve it and give their players what they want.

This sense of providing is what sealed the deal for me in the game.  After literally three months of playing, I could see that the devs were doing things to actively improve my play experience and the turnaround time on them doing that is only getting quicker lately.  I feel this improves my gameplay experience even though at times I do think they may go a little too far and make things a little too easy.  Though I will reap the benefits of the mount cost and level changes, I do think they may have trivialized mounts a little too much, but in for a penny, in for a pound seemed to be Blizzard’s thought process on that one.

Either way you look at it though, you must acknowledge that Blizzard tries damn hard to keep their players happy through new content and retooling of old class abilities and talents.  The game doesn’t just change, it evolves, constantly recreating itself to the point where WoW in Wrath of the Lich King context is not even the same game as Vanilla WoW, even in the old world.  This sense of dynamic change that involves not only ideas from the devs but from the players as well only serves to further cement the game as number one in the market today and possibly for a few years to come still.  Now maybe if I go complain about the upcoming priest nerfs…



7 Responses to “Pandering or Providing?”

  1. 06/30/2009 at 12:07 PM

    “One player from my former guild referred to a lot of these upcoming changes as Blizzard’s own version of No Child Left Behind, because it was catering to the kids who play the game and want instant gratification.”

    Well… NCLB isn’t so much instant gratification as it is “the biggest amount of douchebaggery this side of the 21st century towards educational systems”. But I digress. I enjoyed the comparison.

    I, too, use the “back in my day” phrase when I talk to someone who just came in for WotLK.

    “Well sonny, back in my day, I had to walk my ass through your fancy pants mount-enabled furlbog tunnel. I also remember Tranq. Shot rotations on Chromaggus. Oh, and did you know Tranquility was a talent once?”

    ALSO: Pikachu is my favorite.

  2. 2 Jack
    06/30/2009 at 1:06 PM

    I don’t buy the argument that “dagnabit, I had to wait until level 40 to get my mount and it cost more than the loose change in your pocket!” I mean, sure, newer players can now get mounts earlier and cheaper . . . but Blizzard also has a valid explanation that new players have further to go, both in terms of levels to progress through and virtual ground to cover all over Azeroth and beyond.

    It would kinda’ be like my grandpa complaining about all the tax money going to subsidize new expensive airports. Why, in his day, they drove across the country! Of course, in his day, most folks rarely left their state of residence except for a life altering move or once in a lifetime vacation. Today, my siblings are spread out over 3 states. Travel needs have changed over time, old man.

    Personally, I like levelling slowly. I like digging into the lore and questing and whatever. Apparently I’m in a minority, though. I really can’t think of a good reason to force everyone to play at the pace I’d prefer.

  3. 06/30/2009 at 1:27 PM

    Excellent post.

  4. 4 Scrat!
    07/01/2009 at 10:10 AM

    I think we should have sections of Azeroth that we vote IN GAME for changes, and then those changes take effect in those sections of the game only.

    So you have your home Orc district, and a representative for that district who rally’s for votes. then there’s a voting day.

    pretty great idea.

  5. 5 Isiene
    07/01/2009 at 1:57 PM

    I recently decided to switch to horde, and I’m leveling up a small army of characters via RAF and multi-boxing. When I’m done, I’ll probably end up with 6-8 almost naked level 60s. So as someone who’s already gone through the 1-80 trek once and still wants a whole platoon of alts, I LOVE these changes. Imagine buying old epic mounts for all of those chars *shudder.*

    I knew that I hated leveling/questing in old world the first time around, but it actually took me 40 more levels of quest grinding on a second (but hordie!) priest to realize, “No thank you — I’d rather pull my hair out.”

    And so I very happily took the route of paying Blizz a boatload of money to RAF, and boost my lowbies through instances via a DK on a third account. It’s crazy; I have SO much fun leveling now with 3x exp. Maybe it’s the feeling that I’m not beating my forehead against a brick wall, and the fact that I personally regard levels 1-79 as an extended training for the real game at level 80.

    I’m not sure if this would qualify as pandering or not, but having this RAF method simply saved the game for me. In the end, I don’t really see all of this as “making the game easier,” but more as, “providing more flexibility for more people to play the game as they want to.”

    Blizzard “provided” for me, and now they’re probably going to make a boatload of money when I transfer all my RAF chars back to my main account. My wallet screams, “Damn you, Blizzard!”

  6. 07/02/2009 at 9:05 AM

    I just don’t want it to become “pay $30 dollars and receive a level 70 character” one day. Death Knights come close enough.

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