After a MMO’s honeymoon phase is over and the grind sets in, a major reason we keep playing is our belief in that MMO being a persistent world. Grind is work. Grinding instances for gear, grinding reputations for mounts, grinding professions for gold, grinding achievements for titles is only worth it if we believe there will be new content for us to use our gear, run around in our mounts and spend that gold, and other people playing to admire our achievements. Continuing to play is pointless if you believe that the MMO is no longer persistent, that it is dying, on the wane, losing popularity and population, and funding for updates. What was the point of all that grinding if the servers could be shut down any day? If your friends are deserting the game or openly thinking of other MMOs?
When we lose hope in the future of a MMO, we can no longer think of playing it.
I have come to that point with WoW. What? – you might wonder. How could I think WoW, the most popular sub-based MMO on the market, is dying? Aren’t they releasing a new expansion this year? Yes, and I still think WoW is done for. Yes, WoW is the most popular sub-based MMO out there, but it’s population is steadily declining. Yes, there is an expansion possibly coming out this year, but one that has been heavily delayed, stripped of features and shoddily produced. Meanwhile as this expansion is being developed, WoW’s current players have had to spend the longest period in the entire lifetime of the game without any content updates at all. WoW might not be dead just yet, but it has one foot in the grave and it’s on it’s way out. The population is inexorable decline, the update cycles are getting longer and longer, the expansions getting less ambitious, the funding is drying up and the game is sliding into maintenance mode for the few incorrigible addicts that remain.
The upcoming expansion for WoW, Warlords of Draenor, is what concerns me the most. It doesn’t feel like Blizzard have their heart in it. It doesn’t feel like Blizzard are out there to design an expansion that will put WoW squarely back on top and show to everyone in the world that Blizzard is king. It feels like Blizzard no longer have a vision for WoW anymore and simply want to make money with it for other projects. Blizzard are taking away what makes WoW unique (such as flying) and putting in a mish-mash of new ideas (that probably tested well in focus groups) from recent MMOs, such as action combat with MORE mob telegraphs and simplified combat rotations (stripping away half of many class’s abilities – to be in line with games like TESO or Tera, where you can only use a few abilities, with their combat designed for console controllers), questless and public event focused leveling (a la Guild Wars 2) and housing from Wildstar. Of course all this is done in half-measures or as cheaply as possibly, like garrisons which lack much of the customization of housing in other MMOs. It’s as if Blizzard doesn’t have an idea for what they want for their game. They just want for it to appeal to as many people as possible so they can make as big a cash grab as they can.
It feels like Blizzard are saving their money with this expansion, using it for other projects and coming out with filler content to placate their playerbase. The new content doesn’t feel like it came from the most well-endowed gaming company in the business. Just take for example the new character models Blizzard are gracing players with. Firstly it uses the obsolete setup of allowing us to only choose from a number of preset facial shape options (whereas MMOs these days have been allowing us to freely customize faces with sliders, ever seen 2008’s Age of Conan, and most recently in TESO and Guild Wars 2). Secondly, they’re just not that good. The same ugly faces are reused that look worse than MMOs from 2008.
And are far outclassed by today’s character customization:
I only have to compare Blizzard’s reaction to how Wargaming have steadily updated World of Tanks. Given the challenge of War Thunder Ground Forces’ visual fidelity and general improvements in graphics with the years, Wargaming came out swinging by releasing High-definition tank models surpassing War Thunder Ground Forces, a lighting and sound overhaul, and released a set of visually spectacular maps (Kharkov and Hidden Valley). Meanwhile what does Blizzard do to update their game in 2014? We get character models from 2008 and worse.
If Blizzard expects me to be impressed with Star Wars Galaxies graphics in 2014 they can go shove it where the sun don’t shine.