Hello there. I’m a player who’s played WoW since the beginning, and still has a strong love for the game. I came back to the game about 3-4 months ago, having stopped my sub due to both not having the money nor the people to play with around the Uldir raid being released, and still find the actual gameplay to be enjoyable. I’ve made good friends in the guild that I’ve joined, been able to push myself in mythic raiding to improve my performance (I was stunned to find that simulations were a thing, and that they were as detailed as they were. It was a pleasant surprise, and really made improving much easier).
I’m currently on track to obtain my mechagon mount soon, and I’m making weekly progress on obtaining the crab mount as well. I found both zones to be enjoyable for different reasons, and being a mere two blueprints away from a reward that required a great deal of patience felt good.
All that being said, through my time spent getting my main geared up, and with the introduction of the essence system, caught up with essences, I’d begun to notice problems with the fundamental ways that the game is currently structured, and this has only been further exacerbated by the introduction of Korrak’s Revenge, which has allowed many players, myself included, to level up many alternate characters (and by extension, be able to try out many different roles and playstyles that are a part of each class) and fill up their roster with as many max level characters as they’d like, patience and diligence permitting.
Now, I’ve noticed major issues regarding PvP, and I’ll get to those later, but for now I’d like to discuss how there’s a design dissonance that exists in the way the game is designed, and that this design dissonance actually serves to defeat the goals established by the other systems present in the game, primarily that the player can always have something to do, and that the variety of content available ensures that players can invest themselves into something new or meaningful.
Over time it’s clear that the development team have been working on this design philosophy more and more. There are PvP brawls meant to spice up PvP in ways that aren’t otherwise easily achievable, the weekly bonus rewards (pet battles, battlegrounds, etc) serve as incentive to try out new content for players who otherwise might not, and world quests (with achievements/reputation/rewards tied to them) are meant to encourage players to enter the open world and actually engage in the environment that the game offers (though, this too is defeated to an extent via other game mechanics, but that’s a different topic).
The overall message of this is clear: we have a lot for you to do, and we want you to do as much as you’d like to do, as often as you’d like to do it. With raids of many different difficulty settings available, with flexible raid sizes, with mythic + dungeons becoming different every season with new seasonal affixes (and the various non-seasonal affixes mixed in making it even more varied), the player vs enemy component of the game is running strong.
Well, with one hiccup. It’s a hiccup that’s been mentioned before by many different players, but I hope to explain as thoroughly as possible how it has impacted me (and I would assume, many others) in terms of what I want to do, what I’d like to do, and what actually feels feasible.
The essence system. At first glance, it’s a system that works to provide additional incentive for the player to play through content that they might otherwise do for different reasons. Nazjatar and Mechagon have cosmetic rewards, and tied to both of these areas of content are power rewards as well, in the form of dungeons/raids/azerite/catch up mechanics. You obtain essences by going through the content, and it provides a fairly steady power curve for a player to go through.
The first time I went through getting my essences as a rogue, I enjoyed the feeling of getting the power ups that came with it. I have plans to continue to earn the rank 4 essences over time, and they’re pushed me to do content I otherwise might’ve been on the fence to do. This in itself is a good thing: I was able to set this up as a goal for myself, and what content I wanted to do, I did, and earned what I wanted at a pace I enjoyed.
Now, however, herein lies the problem. Upon returning to the game I leveled up a druid, a zandalari druid, and found that I actually had a strong love for healing. I still preferred my rogue, and also enjoyed tanking (which I later learned I enjoyed the most with my warrior since I got practice doing so level up to 60 until I did Korrak’s Revenge), but this was an entire avenue of the game that became open to me.
To an extent, that is. When my druid reached max level, what awaited me was a lot of what I could amount to being forced to experience content “for the first time”, all over again. I had Benthic gear, which I think is a fine mechanic (sockets excluded) but knowing that if I wanted to actually play my Druid anymore in the higher end content, where I could continue to learn other roles and classes, I would need to do daily grinding just to “earn” things I’ve already earned. The first time was completely fine: it was my main, and I wanted to experience content on my main FIRST, and then on my alternate characters.
Because of the daunting (and irritating) task of needing to do daily content that’s partly time gated, I relented, knowing that I didn’t want to lose what enjoyment I had for the game by forcing myself to put up with repetition constantly, and decided my druid would simply be another attempt at earning G.M.O.D every week (and other mounts, if I felt like farming them).
Unfortunately, as I leveled up many, many alts over the duration of Korrak’s Revenge, I realized that the same fate would befall them. I would be willing to get them up to item level 350 to run the LFR wing to earn G.M.O.D, and that was about it.
It’s intensely saddening to know that I have all of these classes, all with enjoyable playstyles, and know that the game itself has systems in place to help alts catch up with gear, and yet still be unable to push myself in terms of my ability to play them and learn the class, lest I decide to put my time and patience to the grindstone to prove myself and earn something I’ve already earned, doing content I’ve already done, that in no way particularly tests anything other than the time I’m willing to commit.
I don’t want to spend more time in WoW. I spend as much as I can to begin with. I want the time I spend in WoW to be meaningful. I want to have the ability to decide to continue to work on my skills as a monk, or a warrior, or a druid, or whatever class I feel like playing, and not feel hamstrung by the one remaining system in place that discourages me from doing so.
There’s much more to be said on this subject, and while the easy (and I also consider to be the correct approach) solution is to make the essences account bound, I understand that it comes with design questions. Not being an actual part of the design team, I cannot say what minutiae you should deal with and how.
However, as a player that loves playing WoW, and as someone who has watched the game go through it’s high moments, and it’s growing pains, I implore you to make the essence system account wide. It would allow for much more flexibility in terms of what your players can reasonably do, it would encourage further experimentation with other classes (and by extension roles, which may help with queue times, further reducing annoyances that players need to deal with), and would also help set a more positive tone in BFA’s twilight hours.
I hope you’ll do this not only to make the remainder of BFA’s lifespan more enjoyable, but to help further set the tone for Shadowlands’ approach in the coming year. The general vibe of the game right now is that it’s enjoyable with significant, notable caveats, and with what time remains now is a good opportunity to reestablish good faith with the playerbase who remains loyal and determined, and to help further prove your dedication in making the game as accessible, enjoyable, and varied as possible.
Thank you for reading my giant wall of text. I understand not everyone will agree with my thoughts/points, and that’s fine. I wrote this in hopes that it will spur some kind of change, and to have a place to put out thoughts and feelings that’ve been stirring inside since I started playing again.