This past week there have been many, many posts on the WoW official forums regarding reactions to patch 4.0.1 and the new direction of World of Warcraft. It seems to be a very love it or hate it situation; you have players threatening to quit, and others who are absolutely ecstatic over the changes. There is always a middle ground, but typically you only hear from the very vocal and passionate players on the extreme end of both sides.
I do want to say that I understand the feelings that the unhappy players have to a certain extent. After playing a single game for a long span of time, years for most of us, you get attached to it. It’s comfortable. It feels homey. You enjoy playing it, you get attached to your characters, and you have fond memories of all the people you’ve met and fun times you’ve had.
So when that game changes, especially in a big way, it’s disorienting. It feels different, strange, not-so-comfy. Sometimes it can feel downright scary and disturbing.
I’ll admit that I’m a Warcraft fangirl. Note, that’s not the same as a Blizzard fangirl… I don’t really give a whit about Starcraft or Diablo, but I do love the Warcraft universe. Blizzard has done a lot of really good things with WoW. They’ve also done a lot of really stupid things with it. I’ve been burned out, I’ve been frustrated, I’ve declared “that’s it, I’m done with this game!” more times than I care to admit. So when I see people declaring that Patch 4.0.1 is the End of WoW™, I understand those frustrations, even though I don’t agree with them.
There’s two popular sentiments that I’ve been seeing.
This patch is dumbing the game down and making it too easy! Even a six-year-old could play it now! The talent trees are too simple, the builds are all cookie cutter, and some of my old abilities are missing! It feels like WoW Lite!
This patch has made things too hard! My class isn’t the same! I’m a tank and can’t hold aggro any more! I’m a healer and keep going OOM! I’m a DPS and keep pulling aggro off the tank! Change it back or I’m quitting!
Think about those two complaints for a moment.
Honestly, if half the complaints are that it’s too easy and half the complaints are that it’s too hard… maybe the reality is that Blizzard struck the right balance, for once. Fear of change is probably the real culprit here, because there’s no one overwhelming issue that everyone can agree on.
It seems that Blizzard is attempting to return the game to it’s roots with Cataclysm. Not just by returning the game to Azeroth, but by the changes they’ve made to the game’s mechanics. The shortened talent trees are reminiscent of what existed during WoW Classic. The new combat pace isn’t “new” at all… we were doing this during both Classic and TBC. Moving through dungeons slowly, marking mobs, using crowd control, and focusing on skull-x-square… this isn’t new to WoW and it certainly isn’t new to MMOs in general.
As a matter of fact, the WotLK heroic instances were an anomaly in the MMO world, and probably will end up being classified as one of the “stupid” things that Blizzard has done. Currently, heroics are of no use to anyone except to farm badges. They’re not fun, they’re not exciting, and they don’t prepare you with the skills you needed to begin raiding. You could easily go from 1-80 completely solo, then gear up entirely in the LFD tool, never talking to another player and certainly not learning any strategy or teamwork skills other than chain-pulling and AoEing everything.
That’s not good design, and it’s not fair to the players who then get to raids and don’t have basic raiding skills… like following directions or knowing when to get out of the purple glowy poo.
Cataclysm heroics are designed to be that training ground for raiding that we were missing in WotLK, and they’re going to be the “end-game” for those of us who don’t raid. They’re going to be hard. You’re going to have to mark stuff. You’re going to have to discuss strategy. You’re going to have to work with your teammates. You’re going to have to think about what you’re doing. You’re going to have to put the success of the group above your ego.
But I promise you, it’s doable, and it’s worth it. There is no better feeling than going into a dungeon where there is no guarantee of victory, where any number of things could go wrong and your group could wipe horribly, and coming out victorious on the other end. It feels epic, it feels fun, and it makes you a better player.
Those are the kind of moments that you’ll remember 5 and 10 years from now. Those are the kind of moments that old-school players talk about, not just from WoW, but from the original EverQuest and Ultima Online. Those moments helped shape the MMOs that we play today.
Certainly, Blizzard is moving the game forward. We’re finally seeing the world change in a very real and substantial way. We’re seeing the lore progress past the point of rehashing everything from the original three Warcraft games. We’re seeing classes change. We’re seeing the game UI change. At the same time, they’re moving it backward in regards to combat and mechanics, to go back to that old Classic feeling.
Ultimately, the players will benefit. They’ll spend less time perusing websites looking for that one cookie cutter build that will give them +.5% DPS, and more time actually playing the game. They’ll spend time meeting their fellow players, developing teamwork, building their player skills.
Change is here. It’s big and it’s very real. It may seem difficult at first, but give it a chance. Usually the best decisions we ever make in life are when we step out of our personal comfort zone and do things that seem hard.