I’ve been playing WoW since mid-2005 and began my Warcraft journey in Tides of Darkness. I’ve been through many ups and downs throughout WoW’s history. For the first time during yesterdays Q&A, I felt completely disillusioned and disheartened with the direction the game is headed. I’ve been disappointed and frustrated before, but there is an overwhelming sense that the Dev’s just don’t get it. Every decision seems to be coming from a Developer mindset, not a Players mindset.
It became clear to me that the core fundamental issues of the game aren’t going to be addressed any time soon because they aren’t even on the Dev’s radar. I have my conjecture as to why that is, but it’s not really constructive to the discussion at hand. I intend for this post to be constructive feedback, not an assault on why the Dev’s seem to be disconnected.
So let me address the Q&A point-by-point from the perspective of a Player (the ones that effect gameplay design):
(1) RNG. No one likes it. Not casuals. Not hardcore. Not moderates. We all know that RNG has been a part of the game since the beginning, however, it was not the bedrock that the loot system was based upon. Telling us that RNG has always been a part of the game is a partial truth, at best.
Its RNG if I get a gem socket. Its RNG if it has Leech or Indestructible. Its RNG if I warforge/titanforge. Its RNG from the boss drops. Its RNG from the weekly chest. Its RNG from the World Quests. Today, every single piece of loot is RNG based. RNG dictates everything.
It’s obvious to all of us that you are trying to trigger the dopamine receptor action(s) from random rewards just like a slot machine in a casino or a Hearthstone card pack. That is fine in regards to rare items (ie; mounts or the scythe off of Argus), but not when every single piece of gear in the game is subject to degrees (plural) of RNG. It makes the game obfuscated and confusing even to veterans. The goal should be to make the game more intuitive, not less.
When I look at a loot table, I want to know if an item has a gem slot (TBCs colored gem socket bonuses were awesome by the way - bring that back!), what it’s item level is, and what secondary stats or procs it triggers. I don’t want there to be any guesswork in the item. The only RNG should be whether the item dropped or not. Period. I’d rather run a dungeon a 100x with something I know that I need (see; Maw of Souls) then random dungeons a 100x with no guarantees that I will get what I want.
In regards to rewards we work towards, like World Quests or Weekly Mythic Cache, I’d rather get a known quantity of Residuum than any random items. When I open a chest 3 weeks in a row and get 3 belts in a row, it makes me want to quit this game forever. It is that frustrating. If I wanted WoW to be an RNG extravaganza, I wouldn’t have been playing WoW in the first place.
(2) Gear Reset. The power gap between tiers has become insane. People are doing more than double the DPS in regular BoD (20k+) than they were in regular Uldir (roughly 10k). This is unacceptable. That stat squish is a bandaid that covered the infection underneath without treating it. Not only that, but you completely made Uldir gear obsolete.
Uldir is now trivial in difficulty to most of us. We could carry our friends, who lack the skill level, through Uldir for gear if it wasn’t a complete waste of time because a World Quest chest over in Stormsong offers high ilvl than Heroic G’huun! It’s absolute madness. When raids become more trivial, its also a great training ground for players just not up to par for current content. In Cata, we used to do the old raids that were one tier behind for casuals so they could get the experience of the raid and the comradery of being part of a guild event. Now, if those people want that experience they get to do the current raid, but its in LFR with a bunch of random toxic strangers. Hardly a community experience. When I was a casual in WotLK, I had no problem running Ulduar to catch-up with gear while the serious people were in ToC. When did this become a problem for Devs? I never used to hear casuals complain about casuals not being able to set foot into the new raid on Day 1. For most of us, it was a month or two before we did and we were OK with it.
We, the players, have been telling you, the Devs, that we want all Tiers in the current expansion to be meaningful. If I’m coming into BFA today, I want to have a reason to progress through Uldir before I ship off right away to BoD. Its part of the story and the immersion. Anyone hitting 120 right now in BFA won’t see Uldir, and thats a shame. I loved having a reason to go back and raid Karazhan all expansion long. You’re trying to fill that void by having 4 difficulty levels in a single tier. Problem is, there is nothing exciting about defeating Jaina in Normal or Heroic if I’ve already beat her in LFR.
I understand that you don’t want us feeling like we need to go back and farm an old raid to progress in the current raid, but there are ways around this. You already experimented with it, perhaps unknowingly, with Reorigination Array that benefits it only in that new raid. If you’re worried about a particular piece of gear outperforming new loot, slap an incentive like Reorigination Array (ie; instance specific buff) on the new piece to discourage the old piece you’re worried about. You avert the problem Dragonspine Trophy caused if you put something like Reorigination Array on Madness of the Betrayer while you’re in the Black Temple instance.
You’re breaking the pacing of the game and the importance of Gear/Loot in it. Gear is the fundamental cornerstone of any RPG. When the gearing in it is bad, the RPG is bad. It is why BFA is in the state it is (not good). When people say BFA is worse than WoD, they are being hyperbolic. BFA is a good expansion with a terrible gearing problem. There are a ton of great things in BFA (lore, story, zones, music, art, questing, raids), but none of it matters. Why? Gearing in BFA stinks. It is so incredibly clumsy and unintuitive. We literally need addons for our addons to understand Azerite traits and which secondary stat is on what piece. Imagine being a new player whose never touched WoW understanding this gearing system. Good luck! I struggle being a 14 year veteran.
There are too many difficulties per raid tier which is part of the cause of this problem. A normal and a mythic are all we need. In many cases in Uldir, I actually found normal groups faster in the new LFG tool and ran it faster, easier and with more community interaction than LFR. LFR has outlived its usefulness. Heroic is barely harder than Normal, so it really doesn’t fill a purpose. The new Normals difficulty should fall between current LFR and Normal for the first half of bosses, and between Normal and Heroic for the last half, with a transitional boss or 2 in the middle.
(3) Fun. Stop using engagement as a metric. Just because a lot of us are doing something does not mean that we are enjoying it (see; ilvl 400 Warfront loot). Just because we are logging in to do a specific piece of content doesn’t mean its fun to us. It means its the path of least resistance to get what we want.This is the main point where most of us feel the disconnect with the Dev’s. If they were actively playing the game and as passionate as we are about it, the problems the community has would be self-evident. They would never make it past Beta or the PTR. Being at the complete mercy of chance isn’t fun. Doing mindless activities (Islands and Warfronts) just because they have gear/transmog isn’t fun.
Legendary items were fun. I loved them. I just didn’t like how I acquired them. There was no potential way to target them. They should have been all craftable through professions. They could have still been a low percentage RNG drop if we could just acquire them eventually over time through farming or by buying it on the AH from a crafter. It would have given an endgame progression to professions in this game (which are in an abysmal state, I might add, not that WoWs professions have ever been good compared to other MMOs). Instead of ironing out the one wrinkle of the system, you threw it in the bin instead. All it took was a little bit more iteration. The system was almost there, and now its gone. Blizzard has a long history of abandoning great systems that work to force new systems that don’t. Striving for streamlining and accessibility is coming at the cost of engagement and enjoyment. I have no clue why, but it’s very frustrating to me. The endless quest for streamlining and balance is just sucking the life out of the game for me.
(4) PvP Rewards. The very fact that you had to explain that the little bar you fill on the top of PvP LFG is a participation reward reveals its unintuitive. Many people that want the reward probably don’t even know that bar is there. Perhaps its time to give us a new button on the Micro Menu that tracks progress on Mythic Caches, PvP rewards, season rankings, etc. A one-stop-shop for everything we need to know and follow. Please include the Island Expedition weekly bar in there as well.
To be fair, most of the UI at this point is unintuitive. It’s stuck in 2004. The very fact that we have to mod it through AddOns just to make it palatable shows how much work needs to be done to it. It’s a bit like how Bethesda relies on its community to fix its bugs in Skyrim without patching it themselves. Blizzard has relied on its community to fix its lackluster UI through self-modding for too long. It’s time to bring the UI into 2019 and make it module without AddOns, like SWTOR does.
With all of that said, I’m sad that Random BGs hold almost no value now. At least in Legion I had a chance of getting a Legendary to drop in them. Now, it’s just a complete waste of time. It’s fun, but pointless. There is nothing I can get in it that I can’t get faster or easier somewhere else.
(5) Item Stats. Haste. Mastery. Crit. Versatility. Boring. All boring. I’m not excited when I get a specific stat. I don’t care what it does.Once upon a time I was excited to get a big Haste item for my Shadow Priest and Crit for my Fire Mage. The right or wrong stat compositions would result in a HUGE performance difference - anywhere from 25% to 150%. That time is long gone. There is no reason to care now unless your a Mythic Raider. Most of the time, I find myself just looking at item level because I can’t be bothered, because min-maxing optimization versus just selecting whatever is just a 10-15% difference. Ambivalence is not a great feeling in an RPG.
WoD was a major gaffe in many departments, but experimenting with Multistrike, Indestructible, Avoidance, Leech, Speed… those were good things. You should have continued iterating on that instead of scrapping half of it. We need more of this, not less. It makes gearing more interesting. This handholding that Blizzard is doing for the sake of the “average user” (since casual is a dirty word to Blizzard) is who this hurts most - the average user. The hardcore only care about min-maxing. Stats are just and end to a means for the hardcore. Its the average user who would get excited for hitting their Defense rating or Hit cap back in WotLK. I understand why things like Armor Penetration was removed for balance, but at the same time it made the game feel like a gutted RPG when it was taken out. It made the game lose its flavor.
Fun is more important than balance, and lets be honest - a game as vast and complex as WoW is never going to be truly balanced. Striving for perfection in balance leads to homogenization and uninteresting gameplay. I’d rather be lousy for a raid tier and be unique than to have my classes all feel the same. Every class has a builder and spender now. We’re all Rogue-lite. We all have some version of Combo Points. The classes and specs that aren’t Combo Points seem to be Proc based. Those are our two play styles now. It just feels bad. My Fire Mage feels like my Elemental Shaman. My Ret Paladin feels like my Rogue and my Death Knight (all specs).
(6) Portal Removal. This is going to be unpopular with many reading, but you made the right decision on removing most portals. This is an MMO world and instant traveling anywhere was a problem. With that said, this decision was premature. There was no need to implement it at a time when there is really nothing to do other than farm old raids in these areas. If we had current content in these areas that effected 110-120 gameplay. The fact we don’t have World Quests across Azeroth to me is a bit mind boggling to me. I believe that is why most were excited for World Quests when Legion was announced. I hoped it would reinvigorate old zones, not just replace Daily Quests.
(7) Allied Races. When you announced the Allied Race system, people were hoping for races like Jinyu, Ogres, Vrykul, High Elves… the races we’ve gotten to quest for and with over the years. Tom Chilton once said adding Draenei was a mistake because they weren’t built-up. He said that Blizzard learned their lesson and wouldn’t make that mistake with adding a new race again… and then we received Void Elves. I get that the creative-minded artists want to do crazy, new, interesting things, but I’m not going to get excited over adding races I’ve just found out about like Void Elves (which had no story before they were added) or Kul Tirans (which are a retcon to Warcraft 2 and 3) in the same way I was excited for Nightborne, who had story build-up before hand. I want to care about the race I’m playing, or it just feels like an empty shell I’m running around in. To be fair, you’ve done a decent job making up for it retroactively with Void Elves with the War Story in Zandalar.
(8) Leveling. While I would like a level squish, it doesn’t fix the underlying problem that leveling in WoW is not rewarding. This is just another band-aid solution. Making less levels doesn’t mean you can give us something more interesting. I think that is a false logic. Not only that, but now its going to take 2x as long for people to gain a single level. It will feel like walking through mud to people who’ve become used to speed at which they gain a level. Personally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I highly doubt the community would be thrilled with this.
The Dev’s really need to study what Elder Scrolls Online is doing in this department. While ESO isn’t perfect, I always feel rewarded for spending time and effort on my character. There are only 50 levels in the game, but there are another 810 levels once you hit 50 (ie; Paragon in Diablo 3) that give you small, incremental rewards. That’s all people need. It’s not about the size of the carrot-on-a-stick, it’s about having any carrot-on-a-stick. WoW currently doesn’t have one. It’s psychology 101.
I could write a book on all the things I would like to see improved in WoWs leveling, but I’ll refrain for another time. It used to be what attracted me most to WoW. Now it’s the thing I like least about WoW. The entire process needs to be reworked. Creating a brand-new toon and running through an empty Kharanos and Ironforge makes the game feel dead to new and veteran players alike. It’s a bad experience. If I was a new player today, I would think the game is dead and promptly quit. One of the successes of Cataclysm is that new players felt like they were part of an alive world. Players of all levels were all around them as soon as they left Northshire Abbey. That’s important in the immersion and attraction of an MMO. I strongly believe this philosophy of concentrating players in a few select zones is outdated, especially with the new phasing technology. Its a philosophy stuck in a time when we were all relegated to one server. I think that needs to be rethought. I really believe spreading players out would be better for the game for immersion and interaction, but also server performance. These 20v20 WPvP battles in Kul Tiras/Zandalar shouldn’t be bringing the servers to their knees. No MMO should perform poorly in that scenario.
(9) Old Design Philosophies. I’ve been banging this drum since early-MoP. This game has completely streamlined almost every single element of an RPG out of it. The analogy I liked to use with my friends is that Classic WoW was this delicious loaf of Sourdough bread. In an effort to streamline and make it more digestible to a larger audience, it has been slowly flattened over time. Have you ever tasted a squished loaf of bread? How about pureed bread? I used to work at a Nursing Home. I’ve tasted it. It’s not bread anymore. It loses all of its character, flavor, texture and nuances. Its effectively not bread anymore. WoW is effectively not an RPG anymore in the same way.
Here is an example: Players liked the immersion of ammunition (or soul shards/relics), they just didn’t like the inconveniences that came with it. There are ways around that, however. Hunter ammunition was annoying because you couldn’t stack enough of it and you’d have to fill your bags with it before a raid (in Classic, my Mage was like a second quiver for one of our Hunters). Instead of scrapping quivers though, maybe it should have gotten a unique slot like a Paladins Relic where you could customize and augment the ammunition you used for extra range, procs, a larger quiver, longer trap durations, etc. It helps separate the Hunters from the fantasy of other classes. If Hunters could have held larger stacks of ammunition or have a way to acquire ammunition mid-raid (like collecting X% of arrows back off the boss/mob you just killed or summoning an ammo vendor [like a spotter for big game hunters - carries the ammo and binoculars]), this would have never been a change people would have cried for. The fantasy of crafting ammunition as an Engineer on my Hunter was a huge draw to playing the class and the profession together. It could also be an interesting way to differentiate guns from bows and cross bows (bullets/arrows/bolts). Heavens, it’s what made Thori’dal, the Stars’ Fury so awesome in TBC - partly the convenience, but also that it gave you something special if you acquired the weapon that made you unique compared to other Hunters. Again, instead of iterating on how to make Ammo work, it was scrapped.
(10) Guilds and Communities. When Ion said (paraphrasing) that guilds were the most important part of WoW, I’ll admit I laughed a bit. Everything Blizzard has done since Cataclysm has been to disempower and undermine Guilds and Guild Leaders in lieu of the single-player crowd. For Master Loot being scrapped, to convenience systems like LFR and LFD, to having a Guild Recruitment tool developed during the MySpace age… Blizzard has effectively let guilds and the importance of guilds wither and die. Many people who currently play Modern WoW like that guilds are irrelevant unless you Mythic Raid. There are also many people who quit the game when guilds and communities stopped being relevant. There are even quite a few of us who still linger in this game who want to have a Guild, but shrug and say to ourselves “What’s the point? Everyone is just going to PuG or instant queue everything solo anyways.”
During this Q&A when Ion states that community is the big thing they are taking away from Classic development, but they want people in Modern WoW to still be able to solo everything… that’s never going to work. That philosophy is trying to mix oil with water. You either want to make this a Co-op Online game or you want to make it an MMO. You can’t have both. The reason the games community is so toxic and floundering right now is that fact that every one can solo everything. I don’t need anyone else to kill a Rare mob, craft a flask or gem, or organize and lead a group. I can do it all myself. Convenience is the enemy of engagement and immersion. If you want to foster a strong community in WoW, people are going to have to interact with other people. That means forming groups organically, not through random matchmaking.
In regards to the Communities feature, lets be honest - it was a half-baked attempt at social media in WoW. It’s great for WoW content creators, but it does nothing that Discord doesn’t do better. If you want to make it relevant, find a way to let it interact with Discord, Wowhead and Raider .io
(11) Gold. If anything in this game needs a squish, its Gold and Golds value. When was the last time you thought about how much Copper or Silver you have? WotLK? They’ve become as important as a Penny. Can’t remember the last time I used one of those for a transaction. I think I only receive them as change now. When I’m repairing my gear now, I feel like I’m spending Japanese Yen. ¥700 for a Big Mac isn’t expensive, but it feels like it looking at it at a glance, although it’s really only $6 US dollars. That’s what buying things in WoW feels like right now.
I agree that Blizzard will never be able to control markets in WoW, all you can do is regulate them. Banning them just leads to sketchy underground markets. With that said, there is ton here to do. Gold making used to be a huge part of WoW that isn’t anymore. It used to be its own endgame progression for a lot of people. When professions ceased being relevant, the only thing that kept it afloat was Potions, Flasks, Transmog items and Pets.
With all the problems WoW currently has, I strongly believe that the state of professions is what is hurting this game the most. It hurts the games economy. It hurts character immersion. It hurts character progression. It hurts raiding. It hurts casuals. It hurts Gold Makers. While WoWs professions have never been as good as other MMOs (IMHO), it was a huge endgame draw for “average users” - more so than Raiding or Mythic Plus. If Blizzard gave each profession the same sort of love that Class Order Halls in Legion received, it would reinvigorate a huge portion of the game for most players. I miss being a Gnomish Engineer and it adding flavor to my gameplay. Being unique is what draws me to RPGs. I would hazard a guess that is true for most people playing MMOs as well.
Some additional feedback on the Q&A:
Lore, there is no need to (man, do I hate this term…) “mansplain” to the community watching. Please stop interpreting what the question is, rewording it, and paraphrasing it back to us. Sometimes you even do this to the answers Ion gives. We don’t need you to translate for us what is written or spoken in plain English. We don’t need it spelled out for us. Both you and Ion professed those who are watching are the more hardcore WoW audience. To be honest, most of us probably play the game far more than you right now. When you spend that much time streaming GTA 5 RP (which you’re very good by the way - love Legs MacCready) you can’t have time for WoW at the level most of us play. That’s fine, but you shouldn’t be scolding or preaching to us about your Shamans rotation or how it took you X long to get X item in Black Temple when you’re not actively engaged in the modern game. The points you make are irrelevant to the question and it’s nothing more than giving us a “whataboutism” answer. Moreover, it has nothing to do with BFA. These responses come off as nothing more than condescending and sometimes even snide. Smug tweets aren’t helpful to this image either.
Also, we understand how casuals experience the game, but just because they log in for an hour or two once-in-a-while does not mean the game needs to be tailored specifically to them. Just because they pay for a subscription doesn’t mean they are entitled to gear/mounts/titles/etc. This entitlement and socialism culture is not beneficial to an MMORPG. Ironically, I’m pseudo-socialist IRL, but it just doesn’t work in WoW. This is an MMORPG - a genre that is all about status symbols. Time and effort are a currency here. By its very concept MMORPGs are a hardcore gamer genre. Trying to appease the non-MMORPG audience means you appease no audience. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a space for casuals, but designing a hardcore game and genre to target a casual audience is akin to selling a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves (+1 point if you get the reference). It makes no sense. They aren’t your target demographic. They aren’t the group that stays loyally subbed for 15 years straight. Don’t try to sell Miley Cyrus to a Death Metal crowd.
Some quick-fire suggestions to improve BFA
Island Expeditions: Move all the RNG in BFA to IE, and take all the RNG out of everywhere else. Have Normal give 340 ilvl, Heroic 355 ilvl, Mythic 370 ilvl and PvP give 385 ilvl cache with chances of extra transmogs/mounts/toys/pets. Add a single IE “boss” that whoever defeats it, automatically wins. It gives it a catch-up mechanic, you can remove the Mario Kart rubber banding, and teams will have to pay attention to make sure the other team isn’t trying to kill the “boss”. For this to work, the boss will have to be very difficult to kill with 1-shot mechanics that will eliminate you if you mess up. If you have a weak team, it might be best to just avoid the boss and collect azerite off the smaller mobs in the IE. In other words, the boss is optional, but you need to at least defend it from being defeated.
Warfronts: Make it a story mode. Right now its LFR for the people who think LFR is too difficult (are there really any of those people out there?). That’s fine, but make it lore and story heavy, not light. I want random dynamic lore events that happen spontaneously, but don’t always trigger. I want to interact with Alliance soldier on the frontline and hear their stories. I want to follow Trollbane around the rebuilt city of his ancestors and talk to me about it. I want Warfronts to be an ingame novel covering the characters in it. Even the story of the land. Lets get some lore about the Troll Wars, for example.
Azerite: You’re already working on the necklace, so I’ll let this be until I see what you have in mind, Blizzard.
Professions: Make Expulsom and Breath of Bwonsamdi BoE. Making it BoP just funnels people into raiding who don’t want to raid. Not all crafters are raiders. Give Gold Makers a way to make gold in BFA. Let us use Residuum to upgrade our crafted items in steps of +5 ilvls. This will keep crafted items relevant against loot drops.
There is more I could add, but this is probably far too long as is. Thanks for reading. Throw your suggestions back at me. Happy to discuss and debate anyone being respectful.