Thursday, May 9, 2013

Remember back in the day? Player Base Culture Then and Now

People change, they row, they come and go. Games do the same. WoW is certainly no different here. What I find interesting is how the player base and attitudes have changed since my return from back in 2011. For that matter, going all the way back to pre TBC days. I here the constant laments of how much mroe difficult it was back in the day compared to now and how the game has gone EZ mode.

I have also heard a ton of doom sayers claim the deathknell of the game due to a loss of 1.8 million players this last quarter. Hmm...that's a huge number and WOULD destroy any other MMO. Ok, the player base has declined. The game is 9 years old. Most MMOs completely die out after about 6 years...tops. For an Elder of a game, I'd say it's no where near life support stage. I've played a lot of lesser MMO's in my sabbaticals from WoW and here is what I find:

~ First 90 days, population boom. People burning through content, figuring out the game mechanics, leveling battle areas into virtual glass ashtrays....

~ 90 days to 6 months; Players have gotten pretty comfortable but the new shinies aren't as shiny anymore. Progression raids have been fullfilled, pvp brackets have been maxed and...what is there to do again? Oh yeah, try out new classes and spec trees etc. BUT...player base starts to go away due largely to discontent of what the product promised vs. what it delivered upon launch.

~ 6 months to Year 1; Die hard niche players and guilds hang on together due to friendships or progression. But, subs decline at this point. Sometimes fast...othertimes slow. But, the first doomsayers make thier mark in the forums. they blame everything upon the dev teams and how no one listens to the players. This creates discontent and foments general toxic attitudes that create forum wars and often turn off new prospective players that haven't tried the game out. Ahhh the joys of the Mob mentality. Now, some companies have money to push out new Xpacs and new content. Of course in thier rush to  push out the content, they innevitably screw up coding and make life hell on the player base. which repeats the cycloe of toxic attitudes.

~ Year 2; Only the die hards remains, but by this time we start to see servers chut down, merge, and game becomes life support for the curious and the few fans. Players will traverse for miles and miles without seeing another face. PvP becomes non existant. Instance groups become rare occurances. Less meaningful content gets pushed out. This is about the mark in my experiences where a game dies off.

Now...World of Warcraft....9 years, new content on reasonable time tables. Not everything appeals to ALL players. But there is enough variety within the game to cater to just about everyone. 8 Million subs still active. For a Grandfather of a game that hasn't really updated it's graphics base I gotta say hats off to the business model. It works. It is still a juggernaut, just a very matured one.

So why all the glum feelings of loss and what not?

In my opinion, it has to do with the changing virtual culture base. It also has to do with folks just plain old moving on. There in lies the key. When we develop relationships, even virtual ones, there is an emotional investment that most people are very uncomfortable tlaking about. Those who have been around have seen thier old buddies move on to other things. And the new player base (relatively speaking withing say Cata to MoP) has a very different attitude in progression, challenge vs. reward and social interaction. Now some may blame this on game design. I don't think that is entirely it though. There is more to it than simple design mechanics exploitation. It is the culture of the people that has also changed. Old veterans remembered long ago glories and how much harder it was to obtain things as simple as a mount. They remembered the difficulty of putting together 25 - 40 member raid teams and keeping them focused. These veterans remember even simple dungeons requiring skill vs. BoA gear run throughs. Yet now, many of these challenges are overcome simply to level fast to see the End Game.

New players want everything now...and FAST. Attention spans have significantly shortened. Get it now or I'm out. And social relationships? What the heck is that? These are some of the challenges as aged as WoW is has to deal with. So there is a cultural clashing here that I feel often isnt mentioned.

In the end, the game has to remain fun for people. I actually had to re evaluate WHY I played and WHAT I enjoyed, player culture be damned. As I write this, I am looking at my toon list which is growing. Some of these toons I have rerolled already, but 3 or 4 are definite keepers.

I love WoW, and though I may periodically take breaks from it, I enjoy what it has to offer. I look forward to the future of the game as it approaches it's first Decade mark. But if you find yourself at a loss, rememebr not so much that you HAVE to do ABC in that order, but to skip and play a bit.

Till next round, I'll see ya out there in Azeroth

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My return

Well, after a rather long hiatus I decided to return back to WoW. About 4 months ago I decided I had done everything I wanted to do in Age of Conan and shut down my Hyborian Rage blog. The game was as always an epic vista of beautifully rendered landscapes and epic battles. But, there just wasn't enough player base left to enjoy the game the way I used to. Furthermore, the community had become highly toxic. The final straw was that I ran a raiding guild there that due to interpersonal conflicts split and died. It was a good run, but I finally closed the gates to my Keep and retired my characters. I had become tired of waiting for game fixes and updated crafting systems so it was time to pack my saddlebags and allow my little town to live or die on its own. No regrets, just time to move on as many do in the MMO community.

Jump forward to now. My wife and I decided to revive a bank guild of ours and just make it our own little place. We don't have members, we don't have serious goals, just playing for fun. It's actually a lot more fun this way for us. We still interact with folks that we choose as friends, but we stopped dealing with the stress of guild management and social drama. Now we pick and choose what we want to do. No burn out, just having fun in a solo/couple guild.

So re rerolled most of our toons and started from scratch. Well, more or less scratch. We had some BoA gear and a small lv 1 guild with a couple of bank  tabs. Since starting over, our little project has gained us an additional 2 bank tabs and guild lv 5. Doesn't sound like much but then we don't play it as hard as we used to. The first couple of months back we didn't even work that guild. Most times I guild hopped on Emerald Dream trying to find that right magic or place. I met a lot of fun folks both Horde and Alliance. Many were very helpful and sociable. I just didn't get the same feeling per se. A couple of guilds wanted to power level me and get me up to their end game but it wasn't really in my nature to do so. So I drifted a bit and finally settled down with my wife to just run what tso people could do together.

To date, it's actually been pretty fun. On the pvp side, we both made prot warriors and rofl'ed at the nerd rage of being double shield slammed. I know a lot of folks hate this but to be honest, eventually it will get nerfed and some other class will be flavor of the month. In the meantime, we just have fun with it and she has been having a blast there when we work side by side.

So there it is. I have returned as the bedraggled stranger into Azeroth where very few remember who I am or what I have done in the past. I plan on writing more here again and hope perhaps a few will read up and comment. I suppose we shall see. But anyways, the doors to The Rusty Blade have been re opened and the bar is restocked. Hail to the old veterans, and cheers to the new folk!