Sunday, December 18, 2011

Returning to the Open World (of Warcraft)?

WoW's Winter's Veil holiday is up and running with one minor but interesting change from last year.  Two years after introducing a dungeon finder and allowing most players to spend all their time in cities, Blizzard is actually trying to move things back into the open world.

Blizzard has turned the Abominable Greench into a daily boss mob, complete with the obligatory daily loot box containing 24 Justice Points, previously retired presents from previous years' events, and the possibility of a new holiday minipet (a rock elemental representing a lump of coal).  Unlike the revamps they just finished applying to all of the other holidays in WoW's calendar, however, this new event is not run using the dungeon finder.  Instead, you have to physically fly to Hillsbrad - yes, in the actual open world - and wait for a tank and a healer to arrive. 

The fight itself is intentionally easy; any tank and healer combination can probably duo the boss if necessary, but you won't have to.  So far, I've had suitable "groups" form in under 10 minutes every day, morning or night, that I've attempted the event.  I use quotes because you don't actually need to be grouped - all players in the area during the fight, or who show up for a minute or two after, can get credit, even if they are not grouped with the player(s) who killed the mob.  It's even a rare occasion for cross-faction cooperation - the healer needs to be the same faction as the tank because you can't heal hostile players, but DPS from both sides are free to pitch in. 

Towards Pandaria
Given that the event only drops cosmetic items - other holiday bosses also have loot - its popularity is probably a minor success.  I'm even working on Archeology, since I'm flying by zones that have relics in them anyway.  That said, it's possible that Blizzard is using this as a trial run for promised open world content in Pandaria. 

If so, the real question is whether players are willing to accept being forced to go back out into a world that so many have been so quick to abandon since the Dungeon Finder arrived.  Blizzard's lack of success with selling players on the concept of challenging 5-man dungeons in Cataclysm, after the easy zergs of Wrath, may bode poorly for the popularity of extending this trend from optional holidays to WoW's core gameplay.


Carson 63000 said...

Out of curiosity, are you on a PvP or PvE server?

And if it's a PvP server, what's the faction balance like?

I can imagine this idea providing very, very different experiences on different server types. I'm not currently playing WoW but I suspect trying to do the Greench as Daggerspine Alliance would be an exercise in frustration.

Ahtchu said...

Any design that gets people into the world in an MMORPG is a step in the right direction. I suspect, however, the reasoning behind the design isn't wholly gameplay related.
We know MoP will bring pokemon battles to the game. And largely, this will take place 'in the wild'. The world will be turned into a huge setting for this mini-game. Going on a second tangent, we know that pets will be tradeable via the new online AH, for real cash (Blizz getting a cut).
It would normally be admirable to learn that the company is getting people back into the world... But knowing Blizz, and the very carefully crafted planning behind every design move to generate cashflow (minus the ReadID hiccup), it's hard to be appreciative. For the singular event, however, a kudos is in order. Good to learn people are enjoying it, as well.

Green Armadillo said...

@Carson: I play on Hyjal-US, which is PVE, and I can see the potential issue on PVP servers. In this particular case, you can always wait as a ghost until the other faction kills the mob, loot the bag and talk to the reindeer quick, and get your credit even if the enemy chooses to occupy the area continuously. That said, this could definitely be a problem for more traditional content.

@Ahtchu: I suppose it's telling that I'm asking this question, but have you actually seen an official source saying that WoW will have a real money AH? I was under the impression that this was currently a DIII-only feature, I'm asking more because I'm surprised that I hadn't heard than because I don't think Blizzard would do this.