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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Monday, April 10, 2006

World of warcraft has issues

I know. Obvious to pretty much anyone who play the game regularly. However i'd like to discuss some issues with WoW's infrastructure, and touch on why i can't seem to get hooked on it at all.

Everyone's familiar with the queuing issue, when realms started choking and Blizzard were forced to implement the population full status, effectively denying any new players.
At the same time, Blizzard has realized that to keep the players that are filling up these servers, they need to supply more high-level content.

In the first bout, this resulted in the battlegrounds and improved honor point system, supposedly incentive to keep PvP where it belonged.

Secondly, the intensified raid focus, leading to huge sprawling and admittedly epic quests that have given some players their best experiences with the game.

Third, the expansion pack, providing a whole new high level world of sorts, as well as new character races.

All of these enhancements have, paired with the barring of new players to full realms, in my mind at least, effectively doomed the game to an endless cycle of creating new realms, and endlessly enhancing high level content. As a gamer who has always been quite happy being around the half-way mark with x number of level 30 characters, this ensures my experience with WoW is a solo affair. I'll elaborate.

The last time i played WoW, i played on Neptulon, lazily pushing a character up to level 20, before i realized i was bored to shit with the experience of endlessly "killing stuff while being on an irc with more advanced smileys". Recently, having seen a number of patches and updates to the game, i figured i'd give it another go. I found that Neptulon was now a full realm, but my character was still intact. The problem is, everyone else on the server is levels 50 through 60, meaning every single area i could safely go to was populated by exactly nobody, leading to an incredibly lonely experience. In the same way, why would a level 60 reroll on a server to go through the same lonely junk i was? In this way, the low/mid level content is completely wasted, and the server is dependant on high level content to keep its appeal. It doesn't help that so much low/mid content almost requires a group, meaning if anyone wishes to go through said lonely grind, they'll have to do so against terrifying odds. Not cool.

So this gets me thinking.. Where is WoW heading? What is even the point of the low level questing anymore? New players are barred the full experience, veterans stay for their buddies and the prestige of the PvP. What made WoW so amazing to me was its genuine *content*, it's hand made feel and its willingness to really make you care about its world. All this is essentially forfeit now, to keep a hard core group of dedicated players.

In the same way, the increased focus on gigantic raids has excluded a great number of players on inferior hardware, who could handle the game normally but feel the utter pain of 1fps when they join a large raid; WoW's technology can't *handle* the raid sizes required in some cases. Some players who were drawn to WoW for it's scalability, that they could actually get it to run and look good on their old rigs, these players are effectively excluded from a great deal of the content.

Going around alone on Neptulon, grinding my way through yada-quest after blabla-quest, trying to reach a point where i can actually SEE all these players that are filling up this realm, it's hard not to quit the damn thing and play a game that actually offers an experience on its own without the assistance of lol-ing powergamers. What good is an MMORPG that bars the general public from enjoying it?

Actually, without the people, what good are MMORPGs at all? What can developers do to ensure that their game doesn't reach critical mass like WoW is rapidly approaching and instead have an organic, open appeal that isn't limited to those who are the most dedicated?

As much as i loathe Second Life's presentation and weird reliance on real money, i believe they are touching on something WoW is missing sorely: the player's ability to manifest. This lack of reality and consequence to the player's actions pulls the rug from underneath the game's suspension of disbelief. An example of Blizzard's disdain of this is the addition of the instant quest text of a recent patch, which lets players breeze through quests paying no heed to the carefully written briefings. This caters *only* to the veterans who want to get through quests again to quickly level. All this builds on the feeling that everything you do is meaningless other than the quest reward and XP, and that's a fallacy that made me leave AO back when, and get into WoW in the first place. I wanted a single player calibre experience with my friends, and for a long time i got just that.

I want WoW to give me an experience other than levelling and chatting with strangers. Is this too much to ask?

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