Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Self-Reinforcing Cataclysm Subscriber Speculation

Over in the comments at Spinks' place, a blog-less poster named Simon Jones suggests that we're all treating news of WoW's subscriber blip as vindication that our personal complaints about the game are felt universally, and are responsible for the decline.  Fair enough.

My personal pre-conceived concerns about Cataclysm are:
  1. That the solo leveling content that Blizzard spent so much effort on is too easy to be fun for people who actually like solo leveling because group players need to be able to get it over with quickly to reach the cap.  
  2. That the opportunity cost of spending all that time on low level content was less content available at max level.  (This causes several additional problems - for example, dungeon difficulty gets harder to manage with fewer dungeons and therefore less room for difficulty tiers.)  
I would elaborate further, but Eric at Elder Game has done a pretty good job of beating me to these points. 

The interesting question is not what everyone with a blog thinks, but what other MMO developers think when they see Blizzard throwing cataclysmic amounts of money at revamping the neglected mid-game only to have endgame players run out of content and quit at a faster rate.  My guess is that the odds of anyone else trying anything as ambitious as Cataclysm in the near future just went down. 


  1. I would hope no one does it again. New quests in the 1-60 areas is zero content for people who already leveled an army of alts during Wrath, which was really the alt expansion (ease of gearing up multiple toons, cheap heirloom gear, long stretches of no content, etc). Nevermind how terrible the 60-78 content became comparatively.

    Cataclysm encouraged alts, until you get to the endgame where you need to sit in queues for LFDisaster runs and farm your 70 VP heroics. The current endgame is the most unfriendly alt environment I have ever seen.

  2. Blizzard's mistake with Cataclysm was designing an expansion around revamped leveling content........ in a game where leveling is meaningless. WoW is about endgame, always has been, always will be. You can't build your entire game around what happens at max level, and then ask your players to give a damn about the leveling experience.

    You also can't "train" your players to expect quick and easy access to content and rewards, which is what the entire Wrath expansion was, and then slam the door shut on them, which is what Cataclysm did. In short, Cataclysm simply broke all the "rules" that Blizzard had spent the better part of six years reinforcing about their game. And so now they are surprised that the players don't like it? Go figure.

  3. They apparently forgot part of WoW's appeal was that it was soloable.

    Now they have gone too far, and I absolutely agree with you: It's too easy to be fun.

    That also plagues LOTRO. Which elite mob + how many adds in the world is threatening to players? And Champions and some other classes apparently even get buffed.

    Too much focus on the "endgame" that supposedly or ironically lacks because they spent so much time making a new world that is so piss easy that it is boring to level?


  4. Blogger once again ate a long ass reply, when I will I get into the habit of copying those things before I hit preview?

    ADD version:

    Ten levels of content at the cap would have only lasted roughly twice as long, I don't think that's the problem.

    I suspect the problem we are seeing is that the Cataclysm endgame is harder and more grindy than the WoTLK end game. You can't cater to ultra-casual raiders for years, and then suddenly change your mind. The audience that liked your old endgame will leave in droves.

  5. Making the leveling content so linear (and making the rep from it necessary) ensured players would burn through all of it quickly.

    The bigger problem is the perceived need to race through content. This is because of the penalty of being left behind. And *that* is because it's so vital to be playing with other good players who can ruin your game experience by kicking you to the curb.

    Blizzard wants people to take their time? Make content puggable!

  6. One has to question their decision to revamp so much content while making it so easy to pass through such content at such a high speed with such little effort.

    A return to vanilla WoW levelling speeds, whilst also giving people the option to start characters at high levels would give the beginning and mid-game back to solo/casual players, whilst also giving raiders the option to skip it. Isn't that a win-win scenario?

  7. "That the solo leveling content that Blizzard spent so much effort on is too easy to be fun for people who actually like solo leveling"

    As a devout soloist, I call nonsense on this one. I can always find more challenging content. Until raiding is possible to solo naked and weaponless, merely by facerolling, I'll always be able to find new challenges. It might require making my own decisions about what I'm doing, but that's part of what a soloist is doing in the first place.

  8. @green
    "My guess is that the odds of anyone else trying anything as ambitious as Cataclysm in the near future just went down. "

    This is a real unknown right now. But you need to realize the goals that Cataclysm tried to realize.

    1) Blizzard pre Cata really believed that to get more subs or at least replace subs with equal number of new subs really needed attention.
    - the old stat that 80 percent did not go past lvl 10 was trotted out a lot.
    - The 1-60 areas were old and did not keep lore track with TBC and Wrath.

    So Cata was slated to be a "reboot" content wise for beginners.

    The problem is that somewhere along the way Blizz lost their nerve on investing so much in WOW since they thought it's inevitable it will peak decline. Thus Metzen went to Titan, Path of Titans was shelved and 12 months before Cata ship... the mediocre future was assured.

    Before cata Blizz insisted that they would only make new areas like TBC and Wrath but if they made new races like goblins... how would that work with the old 1-60.???

    I believe the real lesson will be that Blizz was right all along to make new content areas and not to re-re-do old content... because no one cares

    TBC created new low areas... why not have gone with that model???

  9. Further...

    If no one cares about revamped content... What to do with old world areas?

    And if new low level content does NOT drive either new subs or sub retention... is high level content the ONLY way to do so?

    Wrath argues heavily that high level content is the way to go.

  10. I am an odd duck, I guess. I love the old content. I'm a little lost though, when people ask questions because most of my characters are beyond doing those quests (did them all previously!) and Blizzard won't give me more slots on my current server to make new alts. (Yes, I have 10 slots full. No, I don't raid.)

    Sadly, people like me may not make up the playerbase that Blizzard is trying to reach. I think they had some great ideas with Cataclysm, but like someone said - you can't make raiding so easily accessible for so long and then change your mind. You might bring back some of those Vanilla raiders that left with "facerolling Wrath", but you'll lose all the ones that came along and got into it during Wrath. Rough line to walk.

  11. If no one cares about revamped content... What to do with old world areas?

    (1) Radically accelerate leveling at low levels.

    (2) You now have too many low level zones.

    (3) Change some of those low level zones to new max level zones.

    (4) In the future, get rid of leveling entirely.

  12. In the future rebalance all content for maxlvl, then make everyone a lvl85 char with a tutorial for new players. Don't show levels anymore.


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