Monday, March 31, 2014

WoW Analysis: The Starter's Edition Redux Part One: Lifting Restrictions

Nearly two years ago, Mists of Pandaria was in the late stage of its beta and players, both new and old, were beginning to play World of Warcraft in anticipation of the upcoming release. During this time of innovation, I felt it was a good time to offer my suggestions for improving the Starter Edition to bring even more newer players into the game while making older content that was more or less obsolete relevant. The suggestions generally received various criticisms which I accepted as logically reasoned arguments against my ideas and content introduced in Mist of Pandaria and its patches made some of my suggestions irrelevant (for instance, old raiding content is now a great way to farm pets, whether for wealth or for pet battling).

However, I feel I have developed some insight by my constant analysis and criticism of WoW and other games. In the following two WoW Analysis articles I will go over the Starter Edition and suggestions related to it. The first article will contain suggestions directly related to changing the Starter Edition, such as by lifting or easing restrictions. The second will cover related suggestions, mostly in the form of a potential idea for a "Premium Edition" of WoW that requires no subscription but only a one-time payment to access some of the game's content. These suggestions are largely in response to the upcoming release of Warlords of Draenor and frustrations with the restrictions while trying to bring friends into the game. With that said, let's begin.

Allow Incoming Mail

I mentioned this in my previous article but it's worth iterating this suggestion again especially since in this particular case my stance is unchanged. While there's certainly an issue with allowing Starter Edition players to have full mail privileges (i.e. they can essentially send gold to full accounts, effectively making them possible mules and so on), in-game systems send mail to your character sometimes. For instance, the Postmaster will send unclaimed loot (because your inventory was full or you left an instance but won a loot roll) but it's impossible to pick it up as a Starter Edition character.

The potential consequences of lifting this restriction are twofold. Firstly, Starter Edition characters potentially become proverbial black holes for items and gold if a player accidentally sends things to them since it cannot be returned. In addition, C.O.D. could potentially be abused if the restriction is lifted incorrectly without blocking Starter Edition characters from sending gold via C.O.D. The former can be fixed by adding a warning for sending gold and items to Starter Edition characters, if not any other character (i.e. make sure you typed the name correctly, etc) that can be disabled in the Interface options. The latter shouldn't happen at all: just somehow prevent C.O.D. mail from reaching Starter Edition characters or prevent Starter Edition characters from paying a C.O.D. The reason I don't just say "allow system mail only" is because I don't find much harm in someone sending items and gold to a Starter Edition character.

Add An Exclusive Auction House for Starter Edition

My previous iteration of this suggestion involved giving Starter Editions a limited amount of transactions on the Auction House. However, this was rapidly brought under fire because of Starter Edition/full edition trading (which could be very beneficial for malicious entities such as gold sellers) and a new suggestion arose that I can get behind. This suggestion is to add an exclusive auction house for Starter Edition. This adds a medium of trading for Starter Edition players without disrupting realm economy, though it may end up being sparse and implementing region-wide auction houses just for Starter Edition would be tough. However, I still wish to see this happen because the ability to trade at all is a plus.

About Starter Edition Level and Gold Cap


This is the topic of changing the Starter Edition that came under the most fire when I initially provided suggestions to change the level and gold cap dramatically (such as from level 20 to level 60 for the cap), effectively providing a free-to-play version of World of Warcraft. This ideal has changed. While I wouldn't be against the idea of raising the level cap to 30 or 40 and the gold cap to 20 or more, they aren't necessary with my other suggestions not to mention the Premium Edition suggestion will cover the concept of level cap and gold cap better.

Showcase Content to Motivate People to Buy

While adding incoming mail is a necessity to allow Starter Edition characters to grab loot from dungeons they may have missed and the like and a trade system that doesn't hamper the game economy is a good plus, I haven't provided too many suggestions in the way of lifting restrictions. This is because instead of lifting or easing restrictions unnecessarily, I considered the idea of making the Starter Edition into something of a passive marketing tool that has content that adds to the Starter Edition without touching existing restrictions. For instance, a few ideas of showcased content could be as follows:
  • Add a low level raid for level 20s or so that introduces players to the concept of the high tier PvE content, such as by teaching players to avoid hazards placed by a boss encounter and so on.
    • This also has the bonus of teaching newer players about raiding just as much as it shows off raiding to Starter Editions. In fact, it would be great to have something like this regardless and have it scale with player level.
    • By suggestion of a friend, a scaling Proving Grounds would suffice in introducing Starter Edition players to raiding and key PvE mechanics (as well as lower leveled players).
  • On that note, while battlegrounds are a feature that Starter Edition players can access, trying the arena system is but a pipe dream. Given that fact, it would be great to see a return of skirmishing in arena that isn't just in the form of War Games, especially considering arena skirmishes existed prior to War Games. As the article on arenas mentions, skirmishing can be done at any level and thus would be enough to give paying players as well as Starter Edition players something new to try out at any time in their WoW career.
  • Remove the restriction on pet battles. It was strange that the price to learn pet battling was reduced to an amount equal to the Starter Edition gold cap but was then restricted to full accounts. I don't see any problem in particular with allowing players to have access to a side game that would become increasingly harder to progress in due to the level 20 cap (since you have to run through much higher level zones to raise pets and progress on the pet battle quests).
As the header for this section suggests, the additional content can help provide "free" marketing (via advertisement) to prospective players of World of Warcraft by showing off content they otherwise couldn't access until they purchased the full game. This could potentially boost sales while enriching the Starter Edition experience.

What's to Come

As mentioned before, in the following article I will discuss the implementation of the Premium Edition. Many of the older suggestions related to lifting restrictions from the Starter Edition will probably end up there in some form since giving such content for free may be undesirable but at a one-time cost the content and lifting of restrictions may make a lot more sense.

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