Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World of Warcraft: In The Wake of Decreasing Sub Numbers...

At any point in time of World of Warcraft's history, there are a host of issues that range from greatly affecting the general state of the game to being seemingly negligible. Whether these issues are addressed depends on a variety of factors, such as how loud the community is about a given issue and whether the developers consider resolving the issue a priority. For instance, in an attempt to elicit some change that would theoretically change the game for the better, I made a large compilation of suggestions to make the game "more fun" so to speak (I wasn't quite as good at making critical statements and suggestions then compared to now) and urged others to make their own suggestions. This was directly in response to what I felt was a problematic beginning to the Cataclysm expansion that, while impressive in some ways, was lacking in others.

Strangely, Mists of Pandaria didn't elicit as much of a reaction from me. It likely was related to me enjoying the expansion more and finding many of the critical statements regarding the expansion to not be so much about the content so much as the nature of the expansion (meaning because of the pandas). I may have also calmed down a little bit after making numerous cynical statements and otherwise letting negative emotion get the better of me over the previous two expansions.

This brings us to Warlords of Draenor, which has received much praise (and thus a large subscriber rise), followed by scorn, especially after the massive subscriber drop in the first quarter that was revealed recently. I have already have discussed some of the problems that exist in the current iteration of World of Warcraft, but while recent events may help to serve as a catalyst for compiling issues, I feel there needs to be more than attempting to list said issues. Therefore, in addition to listing the (common) issues, I'm going to offer possible solutions much like back during early Cataclysm with my suggestion compilation. These issues, which will be divided into individual sections, will range widely and in some cases go beyond gameplay problems. This article will cover topics I intended to or have already written about, with the latter case discussing potential revisions to my insight and suggestions regarding the issue in question.

Before addressing what I consider to be the common issues at the moment with a plethora of suggestions, this article itself is iterative in the sense that others can freely post issues and/or suggestions in response and I may edit them into the article much like the thread I made years ago (though this won't apply to every suggestion since I'll probably end up have to veto some for some reason or another). This will help to ensure a more accurate list of suggestions and the issues they address. With that said, here's what I found to be the common issues at the moment and my suggestions to address them. These suggestions are ideally ones that could be implemented within a couple of major content patches (unless noted otherwise) to ensure the issues are addressed before the next expansion is released (and hopefully suggestions can be implemented faster than that). Also, since this is a very long read and one might only be interested in certain aspects of the game I've added links to individual sections below.

Note: These suggestions were largely thought of independently and are subject to being thought of by other, probably superior, minds at any point in time. Also, these suggestions were inspired by observing the discussion of other people, among other types of analysis. While credit or praise are appreciated, these suggestions are made in the interest of improving World of Warcraft. Also while I've proofread the article many times, there's a high chance I've made some errors I have yet to correct, so there may be some unexpected edits from time to time (pointing out errors is highly appreciated).

Note 2: I am aware 6.2 is effectively implementing some of these suggestions (long before I made them) and, from what I can tell, it's a good step towards making Warlords of Draenor better content-wise. However, the suggestions below are being made despite the content that 6.2 has to offer, indicating that more wouldn't hurt (such as a Timeless Isle-like Farahlon).

In the interest of saving people from suffering great torment by reading through a massive amount of text, in this section I will condense the suggestions I make into a bunch of brief statements for easier reading. It is highly recommended that the more descriptive sections below are read due to the higher level of detail, though some suggestions are deliberately vague to allow for what I hope is creative development. It is worth mentioning that 
  • Garrisons
    • Integrate a Master Plan-like interface into the game for better follower management.
    • Allow players to coordinate the actions of workers at the mine and herb garden from the Command Table as an alternative to gathering, with commands given in a RTS-like style.
    • Remove grey items from Salvage since it'll get generally get vendored anyways and replace the loot with gold.
    • Make NPCs in Garrison buildings stationary.
    • Increase the number of Garrison invasions by making them purchasable with Garrison Resources or other currency (among other possibilities)
  • Solo Content
    • Add a Timeless Isle-style zone for open world treasure and rare hunting.
    • Add a Isle of Quel'danas/Thunder-style zone to allow players to actively unlock content based on their participation instead of a fixed timetable.
    • More "power trip" quests where the player slaughters mobs by the multitudes would be strongly appreciated.
    • Make (more) certain rare spawns (and treasures) on Draenor lootable multiple times, with a timed cooldown between looting if necessary.
    • Implement a 1v1 Arena bracket with minor rewards for players to hone their PvP skill and/or have fun.
    • Add a weekly event for Miners and Herbalists where they compete to try to gather the most of a certain material, much like the fishing contest.
    • Add more bosses to the Brawler's Guild (if this isn't already planned).
    • Provide an incentive to go beyond Silver in Proving Grounds, such as by offering a reward based on how many points are scored on Endless.
  • PvP
    • Allow players to collect Broken Bones and progress Nemesis quests in Battlegrounds.
    • Remove the Battleground queue segregation between experience enabled and disabled characters since the landscape for twinks and a typical character is more level.
  • Dungeons/Group Content
    • Make the Silver Proving Ground achievements account-bound in terms of meeting Heroic dungeon requirements, allowing player's alts to enter them.
    • Redesign existing Draenor solo scenarios into level 100 3-man scenarios to provide additional, easily made group content.
    • If there are any plans for new dungeons (ideally there should be), try to make them shorter than current dungeons while maintaining roughly the same difficulty.
    • Add quests to leveling dungeons (that aren't tied to a quest chain) to provide an incentive for players to do them at least once.
  • Content Release Rates
    • Release smaller amounts of content more regularly, such as on a monthly basis, in addition to major content patches.
  • Handling Negative Player Behavior
    • Redesign the report feature and alert players as to when reports resulted in action (without compromising personal information).
    • Consider being more transparent and specific regarding what sort of behavior players can be punished for (as opposed to vague statements in the Terms of Use: Code of Conduct).
    • Both of these should apply to ALL Blizzard products with online interactions.
    • It may also have the benefit of making Blizzard games more attractive to play, which can bring financial prosperity in addition to happier players.
  • Microtransactions
    • Consider reducing the price of mounts, pets, and other vanity items in the in-game shop. They're frankly quite expensive for the amount of work that probably went into them, especially when compared to similar cosmetics in other games such as Ultimate Skins in League of Legends.
    • Allow players to access various services such as Realm Transfer for free but on a very long cooldown (3 months, character specific/guild specific where applicable?). Players can pay to bypass this cooldown.
  • Final Statements
    • These suggestions are for players who find themselves getting bored of the game (now and in the future).
    • When making criticism (in general), try to be as constructive as realistically possible. Insults and other unnecessary negative harm what could otherwise be a decent argument.
    • Try doing something different in-game. Go achievement hunting, solo old raids, and/or build a collection. (I have more specific suggestions if needed).
    • It's okay to just unsub and play other games while waiting for new content. Try playing The Witcher 3, for example. However, try not to be an ass about it. That's what giving constructive feedback through the forums or the unsub survey are for.
    • This article especially is subject to additional iteration. Feedback would be great, whether it's regarding the suggestions already listed, additional suggestions, or my (terrible) writing and formatting skills.

The Garrison is the base of operations for players in Warlords of Draenor, with all goings on under their command. While the feature was interesting at first with the various facets of Garrison management - whether it involved followers, work orders, or harvesting materials daily - it eventually became a fatiguing chore that can cause players to burn out before they can even really get to go off to enjoy other aspects of the game. In addition, since the Garrison is phased with each under the command of a single player, there's not much player engagement in the pseudo-capital that players are incentivized to stay in. As a major feature of the expansion that is probably going to serve as the engine of much content until patch 7.0, improving the Garrison is highly likely improve the current state of the game significantly.

Based on the above summary, the first issue with Garrisons is that it partially serves as a replacement for solo content, yet the type of engagement is poor. To elaborate, here are a couple of reasons why;

  • Managing followers through missions won't take too much time out of one's day, but don't feel too engaging as a result. The gameplay is largely a matter of ensuring missions are successful and possibly fast depending on follower traits. After missions are sent out, the player might come back in a few hours and repeat the process that can take seconds with the Master Plan addon (and probably a couple minutes otherwise, most of which is wasted on watching animations).
    • This sort of content isn't necessarily a bad thing despite remarks on comparing Garrisons to Farmville as a result of the above feature (among others), but it does indicate that follower management in terms of content density is very light.
    • Follower management makes sense from a flavor context since the player as a Commander is ordering his or her followers to complete missions and taking (some of) the rewards.
    • Overall, I wouldn't change follower management but would instead focus on other issue(s) with the Garrison content-wise with the above points in mind. It's a decent piece of highly rewarding supplemental content that will likely remain persistent and relevant for the rest of the expansion, if not longer due to how much money it can make.
  • The herb garden and mine yield materials daily that the player can harvest regardless of whether they have the appropriate professions. While this is still superior to going out into Draenor to harvest materials, it can become quite a chore when done on a daily basis.
    • I feel this is the biggest issue with Garrisons at the moment. It's not that bad on a single character, though still about 5 minutes of someone's day that they feel forced to do to ensure they obtained the daily harvest, but with multiple characters it can rapidly become a time-consuming chore. 
      • For example, harvesting materials on my 11 characters (all with herb gardens and mines) takes about an hour. The gold returns are fantastic but I feel a little burned out by the end of it (though I'm used to this kind of activity since I do similar activities to make money in the game, so it doesn't affect me as much).
    • Aside from that point, it makes very little sense that the commander of the Garrison has to manually harvest the materials from the herb garden and mines. There are work orders to process Draenic Seeds and Stone, but it doesn't change the fact the commander has to burden himself or herself when there's plenty of workers to do the job.
    • However, solutions such as making the herbs and ore automatically harvested would promote laziness and potentially break the economy (since some players forgo this harvesting). Removing the harvesting could potentially cause the latter as well.
    • It is worth mentioning that these buildings have partially rendered two professions obsolete, but I address this in a previous article. On another note, I won't talk about professions in this article with one exception. There are issues with them but I don't consider them as significant as others at the moment (or relevant to the overarching issues I'm attempting to address).
This doesn't cover every single thing wrong with the Garrison, but it serves as a good base for my solutions to what I consider Garrison "chores." To help resolve the issues, I suggest the following:
  • Integrate a Master Plan-like interface into the game. This would allow players to start and finish missions much faster than with the default interface.
    • At the very least, add an option to the mission completion animation and click to open chest interaction requirement. Frankly, it's a pointless time waster.
  • In addition to the conventional method of harvesting materials from the herb garden and mine, the player can use the command table to directly order workers at the two buildings to harvest materials if they are at level 3. This would take the player into a minigame...
    • In the minigame the player, using real-time strategy controls, coordinates the actions of the workers to harvest material and fight off any enemies that may show up. There could also be additional tasks the player has to do, such as destroy obstacles that block worker's progress (destroy giant rocks, pull up troublesome weeds, etc).
    • While the game already has a click to move feature that could be retooled to "right click to move" much like a traditional RTS, selecting groups of workers may take a little more time to add. However, I have confidence Blizzard can implement this given how many RTS games they've released.
    • These minigames would have to be pretty quick and take no more than a couple of minutes. In addition, the scenario design would have to be randomized to some degree (whether through Diablo world generation or a pool of premade maps with more added in later patches if needed) to prevent this activity from getting too boring from repeating the same map over and over.
    • Followers assigned to work at the herb garden and mine can also be commanded in the minigame and will generally expedite the harvesting of all the materials.
    • The player can go and pick up any harvested materials and other loot at any time from the mines or herb garden from the work orders box. Like with conventional harvesting, there's a limit to how much material a player can obtain daily.
    • The minigame can be repeated even if all the materials are harvested if the player wants to do it for fun.
    • The entire purpose of this suggestion is to remove the tedium of running to the herb garden and mine to harvest materials manually and provide a flavorful vibe of the player directly issuing commands like in a RTS (unlike with follower management) and obtaining the fruits of well-issued commands (much like with follower management). It also has the additional benefit of providing players with a minigame to play.
  • Remove grey items from Salvage Crates (but not from bags) and instead award a proportional amount of gold (with an indication of how much gold was looted).
    • This issue wasn't mentioned above since it's a minor one that needs a small quality of life fix. It falls under this topic since having to vendor a bunch of grey items that are going to be sold anyways can be pointlessly tedious and salvage is obtained from missions. This change also helps reduce inventory clutter, allowing players to open many Salvage Crates at once.
    • Flavor items such as Steamy Romance Novels are exempted from this change.
  • The NPCs in buildings no longer move around and have a fixed position.
    • This is another quality of life change that has been suggested numerous times in some form. It will help expedite Garrison management slightly by allowing players to consistently access NPCs to start work orders, vendor items, bank items, and so on.
This probably doesn't solve every conceivable issue related to Garrison activities feeling like a chore, but I feel the suggestions offered will greatly reduce that burden. In addition, I will indirectly address the issue in other sections, such as on solo content.

As mentioned above, Garrisons are designed largely designed for usage by individual players. While they are populated by NPCs doing various activities, it lacks the life that a congregation of players brings. Patch 6.1 partially solves this issue by add a daily rotation that resulted in the creation of premade groups sharing various quest givers. It also added more reasons to do Garrison Invasions and summonable world bosses. However, these additions seem insufficient for bringing players together in the Garrison.

While there's some suggestions to move the Garrison to a different area such as near Ashran, implementing it would likely be difficult. There's no doubt it would help to solve the issue of players being lonely in their Garrisons since if they're next to an area that's potentially highly frequented, all they have to do is step out of their Garrison to be surrounded by other players to have to feeling of community.

With these points in mind, I have only one suggestion to increase player group activity in the Garrison: allow players to have more invasions at will. Players could buy a quest item that starts an invasion for a large amount of Garrison Resources or Oil (in 6.2), thus removing the need to go out to grind hundreds of mobs. This would then result in more boss summon items that could then be used, resulting in more group activity within the Garrison. Through this change, there's now more structured activities one can do with others in the Garrison. Also, more invasion types and summonable world bosses would be a nice addition since it adds more variety to those events, potentially reducing repetition.

The amount of changes I've offered for improving the Garrison from a content standpoint seems rather underwhelming. However, aside from other reasons, many suggestions I could provide for the Garrison, such as adding more base location options or overhauling the work order system, would likely take too much time to work on. Instead, the philosophy of the above changes is to add some slight tweaks and a moderate, optionally accessible overhaul to reduce the tedium of Garrison management, thus reducing the "fatigue" the activity can cause. Meanwhile, additional suggestions will focus on other types of features, such as solo content, to keep players engaged outside of the Garrison.

This is a topic I addressed in my previous suggestion compilation, indicating that back in Cataclysm I felt Blizzard needed to add some more content players could do by themselves. I feel they listened consider a number of my suggestions were implemented in some form such as the Brawler's Guild or Proving Grounds, though in some cases the content wasn't as persistent as I would've liked. Despite all this, it seems that solo content once again needs to be visited in a big way. Before going into the suggestions themselves, let's review some of the solo content Warlords of Draenor added:
  • The zone quests (until level cap), which were generally perceived to be fantastic
    • I can agree that they were because storylines within zones generally encompassed doing a few quests, advancing to the next area to turn them in and repeat, making for far better flow than running back to the base.
    • Also, quests sometimes had advancing objectives where the player completes a set of objectives and receives another set of objectives until they eventually complete them all and turn in the quest. It's essentially the equivalent of doing a scenario and is an excellent method for streamlining the questing experience.
    • There was also a lot more usage of the "click to turn in" mechanic where upon completing a quest the player receives a notification that allows them to finish the quest and oftentimes receive the next part. This further streamlines the questing experience.
    • Overall, questing while leveling is a decent experience, but the content cannot be repeated on the same character and for altoholics, the experience is going to get repetitive. Both of these factors indicate leveling quests (at the current time, at least) aren't persistent content, which makes sense due to the nature of the content in question.
  • The weekly Garrison campaigns, which could be done at level 100 and unlocked gradually over time (all of the currently available ones are unlocked).
    • These quest chains serve to extend the storyline of Draenor at level 100 and while they seem to do an okay job (the quality is roughly the same as leveling quests), they can generally be completed in a single sitting, meaning that they aren't going to have much impact in terms of content density.
    • Much like with follower management, the Garrison campaign is decent supplemental content since it's gated by a weekly requirement.
    • Unlike follower management, Garrison campaigns aren't persistent content, meaning that eventually players will have no more quest chains to do in that regard.
  • In response to the outcry of Mists of Pandaria having too many daily quests, daily quests took a bit of a seat on the back burner this time around.
    • The most notable daily quest in 6.0 was the Apexis Crystal daily, which was okay to do in groups, though patch 6.1 prevented players from being able to progress the quest in a raid group and Apexis Crystal gathering is gradually becoming obsoleted due to new missions and other content (including some to be added in 6.2). The idea of an open-ended quest where nearly any action done in the area progresses towards completion is a nice idea, however.
    • 6.1 added a couple of extra dailies that can be perceived as actual content so to speak (the trader dailies don't really count and the pet battle daily takes minutes to do inside of the Garrison).
      • The Treasure Hunter dailies generally followed a similar structure as the Garrison campaign but while they award a decent amount of money, they seem to only be worth finishing once for Harrison Jones. I feel 150-200 gold isn't enough of an incentive to get players to do a chain of daily quests especially since gold is more plentiful than ever. Therefore, the Treasure Hunter dailies are essentially the equivalent of having six more (smaller) Garrison campaigns.
      • The group quest daily probably takes around 10-15 minutes maximum and might not even require a group to finish. They too don't provide a notable reward beyond gold. The daily was probably intended to award a satchel much like the weekly Garrison quest to kill a raid boss but this was scrapped.
      • In conclusion, the daily quests added in 6.1 don't provide much incentive to do them beyond the first time if at all, making them almost irrelevant as solo content.
  • The rare spawn and treasure hunting format from Mists of Pandaria has been adopted for Warlords of Draenor in a big way with some significant differences.
    • Treasures in Draenor work about the same as in Mists of Pandaria. The type of loot can vary from vendor trash to equipment to other interesting things. They can typically only be looted once per character.
    • Rare spawns work a little different from Mists of Pandaria. While there are far more rare spawns than in the initial Pandaria release, most can only be killed as rare spawns once. Rares that can be looted repeatedly generally don't provide notable loot that justifies farming the rare spawns, unlike in Mists of Pandaria (at least not enough to justify farming them after finishing the reputation grind).
    • Therefore, while there's a lot more treasure and rare spawns to hunt, players will eventually run out of treasure and rare spawns to hunt and it might not be too productive to hunt down certain treasures and rare spawns (such as the rare spawns that can be repeatedly killed for item level 620 equipment).
While this list is surprisingly extensive, all of the solo content listed, which encompasses a vast majority of the available content a player can do alone (meaning no Ashran, Dungeon Finder, or LFR, even though they can be done "solo") is not persistent, meaning that eventually the content will either be not worth doing due to lack of incentive or because the content can only be done once. I deliberately excluded the Brawler's Guild and Proving Grounds because they are returning pieces of content and while the Proving Grounds is effectively persistent (since there's something of a high score for Endless mode) and the Brawler's Guild can be expanded, the former largely has an incentive to only be done up to Silver while the latter can only have so many bosses to beat for rewards, effectively making both pieces of content not persistent.

The problem is clearly a lack of persistent solo content that, ideally, will be enjoyable to do whether the player does it for the first or 50th time. Keep in mind that even though content is persistent, it's still possible to get burned out because of the sheer repetition or general player fatigue, meaning there's plenty of content to consume but the player is burned out and potentially disinterested due to consuming it so much, which can happen to the best of games and the most patient of players. With these points in mind, here are my suggestions regarding solo content in the game, with a focus on persistent content (or at least long-lasting content).

The Timeless Isle, introduced in patch 5.4, built on the previous implementations of the Mists of Pandaria's rare spawn hunting, the Isle of Thunder's weekly loot, and altoholic-friendly additions. While some parts of it were weak, such as the agonizing rep grinding that involved the slaughter of many of Ordos's supporters, other parts brought players back to the Timeless Isle repeatedly to hunt for its many treasures and loot. I would argue it had strong potential as persistent content, though it is in need of additional innovation. Tanaan Jungle may bring a similar experience but given feedback on 6.2 content, it bears similarities at best, not to mention there's plenty of room for more Timeless Isle-like content.

On the off chance this content isn't already planned, there is a good opportunity to add a Timeless Isle-like zone with similar content in Warlords of Draenor regardless of how many tiers there are. (Even if there is,) I would suggest the following:
  • Make Farahlon the Timeless Isle-like zone.
    • This zone was is said to be available during Warlords of Draenor, with it apparently being scrapped from the release version.
    • It is also not being added in 6.2, meaning it may come in a later patch such as 6.3 or 6.4, which will be likely be when the end of the expansion is (assuming 6.2 somehow isn't the end of the expansion, which would be a major disappointment to say the least).
    • This is largely a recommendation, but as long as we have a zone with the following I don't mind too much.
  • Like with Timeless Isle, populate the zone with treasures.
    • Some of these treasures can be looted only once, much like Draenor or Pandaria treasures.
    • Other treasures, much like with the Timeless Isle, can be looted weekly. To further innovate on this design, other treasures can be looted daily or may even spawn several times a day, with the latter concept being similar to old treasure chest spawn rates.
    • Treasures that can be looted repeatedly should generally award consumables, reagents, currency, or other miscellaneous loot (maybe even account-bound equipment tokens!), such as Apexis Crystals or a new currency added with the patch. These items should ideally be worth looting on a somewhat regular basis, even in later expansions (like a daily chest with about 300-400 Apexis Crystals, some gold, and some random reagents).
    • Randomize the spawn of some the timed treasures for the treasure hunting enthusiasts. Despite the randomness of the spawn location, these treasures should still be phased so all players can loot them and change locations periodically on their own as opposed to when a player loots it.
    • However, to prevent it from becoming too frustrating, add items and quests that ease the treasure hunting experience. Items and quests don't necessarily have to involve marking the minimap but could borrow mechanics such as the cold-hot tracking during the green fire quest.
    • However, treasure hunting may essentially become a glorified version of gathering professions, so mix things up by making the treasure hunting more challenging through other means beyond finding said treasures. For instance, the Timeless Isle rope chest had platforming elements (some Draenor treasures have this too).
  • The Timeless Isle had a bunch of rare spawns as well, so add them to this new zone.
    • Like with Timeless Isle and Isle of Thunder, make rare spawns in the new zone have a special set of drops that are only obtainable once per week.
    • The rare spawns themselves should also have some interesting drops that make them worth repeatedly farming, even if it's a bag of reagents like with their Pandaria equivalents.
    • To further add intrigue to the hunt, have (some) rare spawns have a chance of drop quest starting items that can lead to special treasure or some other decent reward (such as equipment, follow upgrades, etc). Some of the drops can even associate with the treasures mentioned above. For instance, a weekly chest could require three special key pieces combined together to open and they have a reasonably high drop rate off of rare spawns.
    • "Shared" drops like the aforementioned key pieces and special drops mentioned in point one should also be obtainable in other ways, such as by killing normal mobs, completing quests, gathering, and so on. This makes the content accessibility more open-ended.
    • The spawn rate and conditions of rare spawns can vary wildly. Timeless Isle had some rare spawns that rarely showed up at all and others had to be summoned through events, items, or other interactions.
  • Add non-quest events that a player can participate in for rewards.
    • The one that comes to mind for the Timeless Isle is the Neverending Spritewood which allows players to kill friendly imps for various loot including a pet.
    • Innovate even further than Timeless Isle when it comes to these events. For instance, instead of just having events that summon rare spawns, have them summon special bosses almost akin to a world boss that can drop gear and more!
  • Further points will be made in the following section...
The purpose of this suggestion is to have a zone with a large amount of persistent content in the way of activities players can do on a regular basis. It's undeniable that there's some frustration factor to this type of content, such as finding a treasure only to see it despawn or watching a rare spawn die as you come near it. However, this type of content has the benefit of increasing social interaction and thus the general liveliness in-game. While this may not have been the experience for every realm, I found that players on mine frequently called out rare spawns and events in addition to the typical General Chat banter that usually moves in from Trade Chat while on the Timeless Isle. This content can also have the benefit of feeling rewarding if you spend a few minutes or a few hours in the zone since within a few minutes, you might have found some treasures or killed a few rares, and within a few hours, you might have hunted down many rare spawns and treasures and participated in some highly rewarding events.

The Isle of Thunder was a refreshing return to a concept initially introduced in the Burning Crusade's Isle of Quel'danas. Through daily quests, a realm gradually progressed towards unlocking more and more content. In the case of the Isle of Thunder, new daily quests and scenarios that unlock areas became available as the realm made progress. This gating system could potentially see a return to incentivize players to do activities in an endgame zone (or zones) to see "what happens next", though some additional innovations may also be in order. Implementing Isle of Quel'danas-like content could go like this:
  • Make the zone the same as the one in the idea above.
    • The zone in question doesn't have to be Farahlon, but it's relevant to other parts of this suggestion.
  • Consider making the progression region-wide (up from being server-wide).
    • By making progression region-wide, players may be able to rally through forums, pre-made group finder, and other methods to accelerate the progress, possibly bringing the entire region together as a community (or at least a large amount of it).
    • Smaller realms usually struggle with progression without accounting for a weighing system, but with region-wide progression, they'd enjoy the advantages of enjoying unlocked content without having to transfer realms or waiting longer.
    • However, the drawback is it might detract from realm communities rallying to increase progress on the realm itself to unlock content. To put it another way, it would almost feel as if the content is unlocked at the whim of many players as opposed to a select group of them which could be unappealing.
  • Add additional methods for increasing progress with a currency turn-in system.
    • The previous two iterations of unlocking more content in the zone solely involved doing dailies, which not everyone might like. With this implementation, dailies would award some amount of currency.
    • In addition, currency can be acquired elsewhere, such as by killing normal enemies and rare spawns or finding treasure. This is similar to Timeless Coins but they should have more purpose this time around.
    • Regardless of the source, turning in the currency to the appropriate NPC helps to progress towards unlocking areas of the zone. As more of the zone unlocks, there should be vendors that for the currency in question or other ways to dump the currency, such as currency conversion, so that players have a use for the currency when it cannot be turned in for progression.
In addition to all the points above, having this system in place is beneficial because content that normally doesn't last long such as reputation-associated daily quests can unlock slowly over time, extending its lifespan. In addition, the suggested progression system makes persistent content such as the previous section's suggestions more attractive to participate in, effectively increasing the lifespan of the overall content further.

As I implied above, quest design has improved greatly from back when I made my previous set of suggestions. However, while the quest design flows well due to the various facets of streamlined design, certain types of quests don't seem to get visited that often. Maybe it takes a bit of work to program, but "bombing run" quests, which I am now renaming to "power trip" quests, still seem few and far between. One of the most noteworthy quests of this type is near the conclusion of the Tanaan Jungle starting area where the player blasts down waves of Iron Horde enemies with a tank cannon. By adding such experiences where the player can plow down many enemies with varying methods, they can experience a feeling of great power. Said content, if allowed to be repeated, can potentially last for a very long time, especially if it's reasonably rewarding to do.

Aside from that, the only other remark I can make on quest design is to continue to go beyond the generic "kill/gather" style. While I would argue such quests aren't necessarily a bad thing since they add structure to what would otherwise be a killing or gathering grindfest, too many of these quests can make for a boring grindfest in itself.

As I mentioned above, rare and treasure hunting in Draenor is a nice feature to bring from Mists of Pandaria, but due to the fact most treasures and rare spawns only yield noteworthy loot once, it likely won't keep players engrossed for long. Much like with the Timeless Isle suggestion above, making some treasures and rare spawns worth hunting on a regular basis in (the rest of) Draenor may be enticing to some players to the point they'll actively attempt to farm them. Out of the available treasures and rare spawns in Draenor, there are some excellent targets for this feature such as the rare spawn Dr. Gloom, who drops a consumable item. Even treasures and rare spawns that drop equipment can be made worth hunting again with the addition of uncommon universal drops such as a bag of random loot like with Pandaria rares (not rare ones like this bag of toys).  Such rares (and treasures) should have lengthened spawn times or a cooldown (such as a daily one) linked to the player that prevents them from getting loot multiple times within minutes since both usually respawn pretty quickly.

Ideally, this addition won't be overshadowed by the Timeless Isle-like zone suggestion. For instance, it was still worth hunting Zandalari rares and such in Mists of Pandaria even when the Timeless Isle was around since Timeless Isle rares didn't drop too many bags of reagents, so implementing a similar concept would make both this section's and the previous section's content relevant (and hopefully long-lasting).

The previous sections have largely gone over exploration and PvE activities. However, not every player is interested in finding treasure to loot or rare spawns to kill. While I'll address other PvE activities at later points in the article, there's one PvP-related activity worth addressing within this section as opposed to the PvP one below. Much like with my previous set of suggestion, I am once again suggesting the addition of a duel (or 1v1) arena setting in this compilation of suggestions as solo content.

Like before, the duel arena is intended to provide players with a structured system besides the front of Orgrimmar or Stormwind to practice their ability to 1v1. Like with the previous iteration of this suggestion, the rewards wouldn't be significant, but would be enough to potentially incentivize players who normally wouldn't try it. For instance, participating in the duel arena would award Honor Points with a victory awarding bonus Honor. Participating in 5 matches within the same day awards a bag with some Conquest Points and a chance at rare quality PvP gear.

In terms of matchmaking, the game would try to find players of a similar level and item level (since the duel arena can be accessed at lower levels for lesser rewards). While all roles are welcome to join, battles in the duel arena would follow standard arena rules (no long cooldown abilities). To make the matches reasonably quick, a modified version of the Dampening effect (normally applied in arena) will apply at 3 minutes and stack once every 6 seconds, with the debuff reducing healing and absorption by 5% per stack.

While the experience might end up becoming frustrating due to imbalance issues, it should end up becoming a simple, but potentially appealing piece of persistent content.

Gathering contests, which are another suggestion I previously made in my last compilation, have a significantly greater amount of relevance now compared to back in early Cataclysm. This is because gathering professions, especially Mining and Herbalism, are considered worthless due to the Garrison allowing players to easily gather (and stockpile) ore and herbs. As I mentioned above, I address issues related to these professions partially in previous articles about professions and intend to further do so in a future article. However, there is a way to create content out of these professions through gathering contests and thus, if more Garrison-like content is implemented in the future, gathering professions at least won't be rendered nearly irrelevant.

Much like the fishing contest currently available, a gathering contest is a periodic event that brings together Miners or Herbalists to gather a specific ore or herb, the nodes of which are scattered across a specific area. The event would take place during the weekend much like the fishing contest but the three contests should not have time conflicts with each other to allow players to have a chance to participate in all three. The first person to turn in enough of the ore or herb wins the contest and can earn really potent rewards, though other players can continue to gather and turn in during the event for lesser rewards such as gold, reagents (ores and herbs), and consumables, including exclusives such as a potion that increases gathering speed and yield for a time outside of the event area.

In the interest of allowing lower level players to participate, the area could be accessed by talking to specific NPCs in capital cities that would transport players to the location. There is also only a level 1 requirement to gather the ore or herb, which can provide skill-ups all the way to maximum skill level (though the chance decreases at higher skill levels). Like with the fishing contest, nearly anything goes, including flying mounts. However, in the interest of allowing for some fairness based on race and class, there would be some balancing. For instance, Druids cannot gather in Flight Form and the Tauren's Cultivation passive would be disabled in the area.

While this contest isn't as accessible as any of the others on the list and it's about as periodic as a Garrison campaign, it is an event some players can look forward to and it has the bonus of making gathering professions a bit more useful to have.

In this massive section I suggested content that attempts to cover multiple spectra from exploration to zone PvE to PvP to professions in an attempt to provide solo content for players with an emphasis on persistent (and long-lasting) content. As I mentioned near the beginning of the article, seeing all of this content implemented within this expansion in some form would (greatly) increase the amount of endgame-level gameplay that players can partake in for not only Warlords of Draenor, but future expansions.

I would like to close with a couple more small suggestions:
  • Add more bosses to the Brawler's Guild. Preferably, they should be Draenor themed to match the expansion's content.
  • Add more incentive to do Proving Grounds beyond the Silver Rank. For instance, players could earn a reward that scales with their score on Endless Mode to at least provide them with some compensation for the time they spent.
These suggestions are an attempt to refresh some existing solo content (aside from the rare spawns and treasures), giving players more to do. In the future, the suggestions I made above will also likely need refreshing in some form, whether through re-implementation or changing incentives.

PvP as a whole is apparently not in too great of a state this expansion. While it seemed to start strong with never-ending bloodbaths in the new zone, Ashran, and players joining in through the benefits of the Gladiator's Sanctum, PvP could almost have been great. Fast forward to a few months later and the focus of PvP is on a worsening Ashran, the Gladiator's Sanctum's yields have been nerfed, and the PvP season seems to drag on since while the Blackrock Foundry came out for PvE players, not much new PvP content has been introduced since the expansion's release. In addition, there's also complaints of imbalance, though to be fair imbalance is practically a norm, not to mention PvP balance has had a history of being terrible at the beginning of expansions, probably due to drastic changes (no citations for this, but I can provide plenty of explanation for those who are curious).

Regardless, this section won't be making any suggestions on addressing PvP imbalance. Not only do I consider myself unqualified, but the balance could easily be broken in a future patch or hotfix. Instead, the focus will be on other PvP gameplay elements, such as battlegrounds.

I've already extensively discussed my issues with Ashran in this article but a few points bear repeating, among other things. For instance, Broken Bone farming and Nemesis quest progression should not be confined to Draenor, which essentially means Ashran on non-PvP servers. While Battlegrounds have some additional incentive for joining them, it almost feels like a waste compared to what Ashran offers. The fix to this issue is simple: Allow Broken Bones to be farmable and Nemesis quest progression to advance anywhere or at least in Battlegrounds.

Ashran in itself is apparently seeing some changes in patch 6.2 through the addition of weekly quests and new methods to obtain Conquest Points. I would still have preferred that they considered my suggestions in the article linked above, but I am cautiously optimistic about the changes.

Overall, there's not much more to say. I just wanted to acknowledge that there's still an ongoing issue with Ashran in this article and that there's plenty of suggestions made to improve it. Considering Ashran is probably intended to be PvP content that lasts for the whole Warlords of Draenor expansion, it's important to take note of it since it can determine how much the player enjoys the game (especially PvPers).

Twinking has been having it worse and worse over the years in terms of allowing players to dominate low level PvP. While I think the scaling mechanic in patch 5.2 actually could've things better for twinking since gear and skill still mattered despite the change, separating the good twinks who could best anyone at their level from the not-so-good ones who took pleasure annihilating players below their level. Said change also effectively fixed issues of level-based stat scaling, especially between levels 80-90 where health gained with each level increased by a staggering amount. However, the change, when coupled with the decline in twinking due to previous changes, probably enhanced the decline.

Personally, I think it started with Blizzard introducing the ability to disable experience gain. While disabling experience gain should technically be very favorable for twinks, especially since Battlegrounds were changed to grant experience at the same time, it was not for a simple reason. When experience gain is disabled, players could only face off against other players who turned their experience gain off. This concept is bad because the amount of players twinking isn't exactly large and split over all the various low-level brackets, of which there are a total of 18 at the moment. Even if the amount of players twinking was large, those players would be divided into 18 groups, making for a matchmaking nightmare.

In addition, the system of attempting to match twinks up against each other can also be gamed. It takes a bit of extra work. but a player can level up a twink and, with their experience disabled if needed, gear them out somewhat. The player then takes the character into Battlegrounds with their experience enabled. When a team is about to win, they leave, denying a significant amount of experience gain that is associated with winning or losing. This greatly extends the time a player can spend twinking at that level bracket, though it will not last forever and eventually the character will level up and the player can either level another twink to that level bracket or move on to the next one, among other possibilities. I personally accomplished this act of pseudo-twinking to great effect, stomping the level 80-84 bracket in Warsong Gulch for many weeks before inevitably leveling up.

Like with the last time I made this suggestion, I am once again suggesting that all player, regardless of whether they disabled experience or not, queue for the same Battleground. I'm unsure as to how many people care about twinking (from what I remember, twinks are generally hated), but the landscape for twinking has dramatically changed since the pre-Cataclysm days of watching level 19 Rogues slaughtering level 10s by the truckload. Between the addition of heirlooms, the Dungeon Finder system, which makes acquiring rare-quality equipment more accessible than ever, level brackets being changed to 5-level intervals, and the change above that scales player stats up to the highest level in the bracket, non-twinks stand a decent fighting chance against twinks. Furthermore, the system intending to group twinks together seems misguided not just because the community is small and effectively cut into many pieces due to brackets, but also because it can be circumvented.

In conclusion, let players who want to twink disable experience without getting punished for it. That way, players who regularly twink will be able to enjoy themselves without having to jump through hoops every once in a while and players who don't might potentially pick up twinking as a side hobby when they get tired of endgame content or the like.

To be honest, I can't think of too much to suggest in terms of PvP, whether it's content or balance. Ideally, PvP is an excellent source of persistent content since while the objectives in PvP are always the same, the experience is different due to the nearly endless class, specialization, and playstyle combinations that get pitted against each other. However, when there's imbalance or the content itself suffers, PvP as a gameplay medium suffers as well, which is a shame.

Aside from possibly considering my suggestions as well as the feedback or numerous other players, I hope PvP improves to allow (more) players to (once again) enjoy the medium.

Dungeons, which typically serve as the first PvE group content that players typically experience during leveling or in the endgame, has seen better days in Warlords of Draenor. In a way, the content seems to have an equal number of pros and cons. While Blizzard seemingly slacked off in terms of dungeon design because they released eight dungeons (compared to nine in Mists of Pandaria), it's arguable they didn't since they released a number of larger, original dungeons. On the other hand, dungeoning while leveling through Draenor seemed like a bit of an afterthought due to the low number of available dungeons or quests associated with those dungeons outside of quests associated with the Inn. However, the quest and zone design in Draenor overall provides players with a fantastic leveling experience that would be missed if one were to dungeon.

While Blizzard is attempting to address some issues associated with dungeons, such as by making it relevant and rewarding through Mythic dungeons since Heroic dungeons can effectively be skipped in favor of the more rewarding LFR, I have a few suggestions to offer regarding this format of group content (meaning in this section for the sake of simplicity: content done in a party).

Heroic dungeons in Warlords of Draenor require that players finish Proving Grounds Silver (at level 100) for a specific role to enter. While this requirement, at least to me, is reasonable since it ensures players demonstrate some level of skill before diving into heroic dungeons, it can also be punishing in some ways. Specifically, for players interested in gearing up their alt characters, they have to meet the requirements of the equivalent of attunement to enter Heroic dungeons even if they have already done so on another character in the same role. While I understand that classes are different, the entire purpose of the requirement is to show that the player is capable, meaning that while they may be playing a class that they're a little less familiar with, they've shown that level of skill already. For example, though there are other reasons, I personally forgo doing the Proving Grounds at all on my alts and instead gear them up enough to do LFR, skipping Heroic dungeons entirely (though I'll probably go back eventually to do the legendary ring quest chain on many of my characters).

What I'm essentially trying to suggest is that if players finish Proving Grounds Silver for a specific role, they never have to do it again on any character on the same account. Since account-bound achievements were implemented a while ago, it would be easy enough to check whether an account has met this requirement or not. This would allow players who have clearly shown their skill at least once and are just geared enough for Heroic dungeons to start them without wasting time for the few runs they'll need to get geared to do LFR (if at all, especially in patch 6.2 and beyond) and the legendary ring quest chain.

Edit: After a lengthy discussion with a friend regarding this topic, I believe I should clarify why I posted this particular suggestion. I think it's fine for players who have gotten Silver in a role in the Proving Grounds once to skip it since they have shown some capability through class and game knowledge. While repeat attempts on other characters have some value in terms of learning more of such knowledge (with an emphasis on class knowledge), the effects have a strong diminishing return since due to the game knowledge the player has learned, it's highly likely that they'll realize understanding how to play the class is a priority objective compared to when the player started playing. Because of the aforementioned diminishing returns and improved game knowledge (among other factors associated with developing another character), the Proving Grounds becomes more of an annoying task as opposed to a test meant to assess ability.

It is also worth mentioning that in certain situations I'd consider such a requirement fair even for players repeating the task, such as when Heroic dungeons are extremely significant to character (gear) progression (at the moment it can be bypassed completely through normal play) and/or the method of assessment is less time-consuming (without skimping on the difficulty), among other possibilities.

Scenarios, which were initially added in Mists of Pandaria, were another form of group content that involved three players completing various objectives to progress through a short instance. While this design was abandoned in favor of solo scenarios that were seamlessly entered while questing, such as the Battle for Shattrath, it eliminated a possibility for group content that could still see some relevance. Making group scenarios at the current time is a decent way to add some group content without much effort since a few quality scenarios or scenario-like quest lines already exist in-game, reducing the total amount of original scenarios that need to be created to have a sufficient amount of content. Four that come to mind are the battle for Grommashar, the Battle for Shattrath, the defense of Karabor, and the battle for Bladespire Citadel (though there are far more possibilities than this).

Redesigning these quest lines into group scenarios would involve a bit of work in the way of altering the design of the original scenarios. For instance, the Battle for Shattrath would likely need an extra boss since there's only a couple of major encounters. Bosses would also need some mechanical tuning to add a bit of a challenge, especially for multiple players. In the case of faction-specific scenarios, allow players of the opposite faction to access them much like before. By recycling quest lines into scenarios like this, players can experience major storytelling elements that they may have missed out on while leveling.

Scenarios themselves may also need some re-tuning in terms of rewards in comparison to their Mists of Pandaria equivalent. For instance defeating bosses could award some Apexis Crystals, Garrison Resources, and/or Oil along with other rewards such as gold, bags potentially containing equipment, and so on. Finishing a scenario would award a larger amount of the aforementioned rewards, notably with a bag that always has equipment for the first completion in a day, which is similar to Heroic dungeons at the moment.

The point is there's an untapped vein of group content that could return despite an attempt to shift away from it. As a final note, if scenarios were to return, there should ideally be some original scenarios to flesh out the story of Draenor further and reduce the feeling that group scenarios are simply recycled content in an attempt to be lazy (meaning that adding scenarios would be a half measure of "laziness" as opposed to a full one).

Dungeons introduced in the middle of an expansion is a concept that hasn't been visited since late Cataclysm. In Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard opted to release new scenarios instead of new dungeons and while I think they did a reasonably decent job with storytelling, group content still felt lacking despite the addition of Challenge Modes. Character progression  at level 90 in terms of equipment generally involved the Timeless Isle, Throne of Thunder LFR, and Siege of Orgrimmar LFR, with a giant void where group content is supposed to be since Heroic dungeons and scenarios were rendered obsolete long before then. Heroic scenarios could potentially have had some relevance in gearing up characters, but due to the fact players had to have a premade group of three to do them, it likely saw little use for gearing up compared to the aforementioned methods due to accessibility.

With the addition of Mythic dungeons, group content should see some relevance at least in 6.2. However, this may also be a good time to consider adding a few new dungeons as well, since while Mythic dungeons do make group content more relevant and rewarding, it doesn't necessarily address issues that might be present with the dungeons themselves. At the moment, quite a few dungeons are quite time-consuming to do due to the sheer density of enemies within the instance (such as Upper Blackrock Spire and Everbloom) among other factors. By adding a few shorter dungeons into the pool that are ideally slightly longer than the scenarios listed in the previous section, dungeons may be able to compete even better with LFR when accounting for "fixing" the entry requirement as mentioned above. Also, the dungeons should ideally maintain roughly the same type of difficulty as current dungeons (challenging to the point that players need to pay a bit of attention, but not outright frustrating) and, in the interest of providing more variety while leveling, some of the new dungeons could be available while leveling on Normal mode.

While I don't have any specific dungeon ideas at the moment, I could probably draft a few based on 6.2 content or Farahlon if there's some demand.

The practicality of doing group content at the moment is shockingly low given that Warlords of Draenor is still in its first tier. Its inaccessibility (to altoholics) and lacking rewards make Heroic dungeons worth skipping more than actually doing. The general amount of group content available is also a bit lacking and frankly more time-consuming than it needs to be, meaning that there's a large gap between endgame content that can be done in a very short amount of time (Garrison management, quests) and endgame content that can take a "significant" amount of time to do (LFR, Battlegrounds, current Heroic dungeons). By suggesting the addition of scenarios, more accessible Heroic dungeons in an appropriate manner, and new, shorter dungeons, more players may be willing to participate in the content due to the reduced amount of time it takes (8-10 minutes as opposed to 15+).

Before closing out this section, I would also ask that something is done regarding leveling dungeons in Warlords of Draenor. At the moment it's an unrewarding experience that (accurately) reflects poorly on the current state of group content and fixing it is as simple as adding a few quests to the four dungeons available while leveling. This will help to serve as a quick fix that will at least make leveling dungeons worth experiencing once.

When I initially joined World of Warcraft in early Burning Crusade, I found the game to be very rich with content. However, within an expansion, I saw a potential concern with the rate at which content is delivered into the game because while I was still having a lot of fun, running Icecrown Citadel for the better part of a year with little content up until Cataclysm's prepatch seemed inherently problematic to the health of the game. As each major patch came out afterwards, I began to notice with increasing clarity how long it took for new content to release even without a pre-expansion slump. I felt the practice of releasing content in larger amounts every few months or so made for a predictable pattern where content will inevitably be consumed and (some) players will get bored. While persistent content ideally should combat this problem, it won't appeal to every player. Ghostcrawler's recent reflections on the state of content provide some insight into this issue, specifically on releasing episodic content.

However, should the content be as "episodic" as every few months like it is now? While some content lately has been paced out with gating such as weekly Garrison campaigns, why not implement smaller amounts of content every here and there that add a few quests like Runescape, serving as a bit of an addition to major content patches? It could potentially be a bit of a programming nightmare, but on the other hand, major content patches as a whole could be developed faster with more of the bare-bones content, such as a raid tier, and other details could be fleshed out later. This article provides a good example of how content could be released.

As it is, the current model of releasing large content patches every few months (or many months) ensures players may (resubscribe and) play for a little bit, then potentially unsubscribe along with other possible unpleasant results such as anger at Blizzard regarding the lack of content or the like. Maybe it's okay to keep this model if the idea is to keep players playing for a bit of time and accepting the losses during slumps in content release cycles, but the aforementioned idea has the possibility of bringing great financial gain due to the game always having a trickle of content, which helps with player retention due to them enjoying said content. It would at least reduce the time of slumps in a content cycle to the point that if a player were to unsubscribe due to a lack of content, it probably wouldn't be for long.

On a related note, if manpower is a problem when it comes to developing content in this matter (to be honest, it probably shouldn't), I'd be up for lending my inexperienced hand (though a word of warning: I'm horrible at programming and even worse at coming up with or expressing ideas).

World of Warcraft has a plethora of content, mostly due to its age bringing a legacy of numerous expansions and patches. One form of content that has grown with this legacy is the playerbase itself. It's no secret that given that the game's genre is literally called "Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game" that the game would strongly benefit with a high number of social interactions. However, given the nature of online interactions, especially in an environment where anonymity is increasing at an alarming rate due to more cross-realm activities, player interactions can range from making a new friend to ruining the experience of many. Interactions that err more on the latter category are generally negative, hurtful, and/or destructive (at the very least such interactions are usually far from constructive).

I've frequently discussed how players should treat each other and what could be done to handle such behavior outside of players reforming by themselves. Riot Games (a company I bring up frequently when discussing this topic), for instance, actively tries to reform those who are consistently "toxic" for the benefit of all, since an individual acting in that matter effectively brings themselves to ruin as much as, if not more than how much they ruin the experiences of others. I have asked Blizzard to take a similar stance regarding the type of behavior Riot Games tries to reform since at the moment, the former group seems laissez-faire. This is especially concerning since the Terms of Use urges players to not mistreat each other.

It's weird that the report feature for Blizzard games in general isn't specific enough to cover activities such as griefing. As I mention in the article linked above, a more extensive report feature would make reporting feel more effective because by having specific entries, it shows Blizzard has experience in handling those reportable behaviors. In addition, being transparent about the effectiveness of reports is a simple matter that doesn't have to breach player privacy. For instance, Blizzard could issue a message to the player saying that the report on a player resulted in action, but not disclose any information regarding the player. It would also be great if Blizzard were to publicize their stance and actions aggressively (without disclosing private information, if possible).

The purpose of all of these suggestions is to attempt to empower players against negative (reportable) behavior by making it correctly subject to disciplinary (ideally reformative) action. Ideally, by managing the aforementioned behaviors, playing with others will be a more enjoyable experience. It may also improve the general perception of the community of Blizzard games (since the suggestions would definitely have to apply to all Blizzard games with online interactions). Also, on the off chance these suggestions are misinterpreted, I am not talking about censoring criticism or the like as it's possible to be critical without being negative or hurtful. I am also not asking for heavy-handed actions such as perma-banning of negative behavior, since that's not likely to do any good, which is why Riot Games tries not to use such discipline.

Microtransactions in World of Warcraft, especially when coupled with the game requiring a subscription to access the vast majority of its content, has caused it to come under scrutiny time and time again. I have personally been very skeptical of it when I learned about it due to the introduction of the Celestial Steed, though not enough to make critical statements on it at the time (incidentally, I happen to have that mount but I received it as a gift). However, for a while I've been considering publishing a detailed critique of the current state of World of Warcraft's microtransactions. While they may not directly affect the state of the game (it shouldn't reduce the amount of content being made, for instance), it can be damaging to the players' perception of Blizzard, which is important too.

This section in particular is going to contain a lot of opinionated remarks that borderline on being emotionally fueled. It may also some probable ignorance due to my lack of knowledge regarding development, game design, server maintenance, and so on. Corrections are strongly appreciated since I would much rather make criticism from ignorance and realize I'm an idiot than continue to be unknowingly ignorant.

Update: It is worth mentioning that Blizzard's practice in this sense is roughly the equivalent of the developers of the War Z.

As I mentioned above, the Celestial Steed was the beginning of my skepticism when it came to microtransactions in World of Warcraft. Short of paying for a few services, I have rarely touched microtransactions for a simple reason: it's too damn expensive. At the same time, I'm not against the idea of purchasing cosmetics since I have bought many skins on League of Legends, which seemed to have fairer prices for their cosmetic goods overall (despite having some other issues in terms of marketing such as rune pages).

For example, the newest mount: The Mystic Runesaber, costs the usual 25 USD at the in-game store. Were the same amount of money converted into Riot Points, a player could buy an Ultimate Skin with a little extra RP left over. Ignoring the fact that League of Legends is free to play, meaning that arguably, their goods should cost more to help financially support the game, was the work that went into the Mystic Runesaber (or any store mount at 25 USD) the equivalent of the work that went into an Ultimate Skin? I personally don't think it comes close.

Let's consider the following (purely opinionated analysis since I'm not highly knowledgeable in game design or development):
  • The amount of man-hours that goes into making an Ultimate Skin is absolutely staggering. Aside from modifying the model, ability animations, and sounds of the champion receiving the skin, but more likely having to build custom assets from (near) scratch, Riot Games has to hire voice acting work, compose music for the login screen, and generally put in a lot of work to the point that such a skin is released annually.
  • The amount of man-hours that goes into making a mount is probably significant since there may be custom animations and a new model built for a game that generally has to look better from every conceivable viewpoint (as opposed to top-down like in League of Legends). However, this is the probable maximum amount of work since some store mounts are reskins of existing mounts.
The point is that the amount of work that goes into a store mount is probably more comparable to the work that goes into a 975 or 1350 RP skin, with emphasis on the latter given the more recent mount releases. This means the appropriate price for a store mount is probably closer to 10 USD, or over 50% less than it's currently priced. Given this pricing discrepancy and World of Warcraft's current place in the MMORPG market, the practice of overpricing cosmetics in this matter seems outright exploitative. Given that the price of mounts is inappropriately set in my opinion, altering the price of pets and other cosmetics by an equivalent amount would likely be logical were the price of mounts to be reduced.

To reiterate what I've stated above, I don't mind that cosmetics are being sold at the in-game store, even if it's otherwise unobtainable and counts towards certain achievements. However, the items in question are overpriced in comparison to other cosmetics that took roughly the same amount of work to create, which is especially terrifying given that there's already a subscription fee tied to playing the game (even if one's using WoW Tokens, someone else is paying for the sub).

Update: I talk more about my stance on Blizzard's pricing of cosmetic goods here. Hopefully it helps to provide some perspective.

At the end of the day, I may be overthinking when it comes to complaining about the price of cosmetic items I can easily ignore. While I probably talk to myself too much about the issue and should drop it, one issue regarding microtransactions I cannot drop is the price of services.
The services in question (and probably the only picture in the whole article)
As of this writing, a simple name change costs 10 USD, with other services being more expensive. At the risk of sounding entitled, it seems like a travesty that players have to shell out to perform what are frankly basic functions for money. What's more frustrating is that the money is largely pure profit since all Blizzard has to do is code the service (if needed) and allocate some server space and other resources (when needed), which probably costs a small fraction of the service itself. Ultimately, this practice coupled with World of Warcraft's current standing in the MMORPG market again comes off as exploitative, potentially resulting in a very unfavorable reputation in the future (example of this in action at the moment: U.S. ISPs such as Comcast or public perception of EA, which Blizzard is increasingly becoming compared to).

I strongly recommend players have the ability to do all services for free, but with a long cooldown on a character by character basis (3 months, for example). Some services would incur inclusive cooldowns or be merged together due to their similarity. For instance, an appearance change, race change, faction change, and name change are rather similar, so putting a cooldown on all of them at the same time might be appropriate.

Paid services would still exist in the form of allowing players to bypass the cooldown on a service (not reset, just ignore), though some prices may need changing. For instance, paying 25 USD to transfer to another realm is pretty steep in general. By reducing the price and allowing players to occasionally access the service for free, they may be more willing to use the service frequently, potentially yielding financial gain but almost certainly making players as a whole happier. It is worth mentioning that paying for a service should have its own time-based limitation to deter players from potentially doing something damaging like breaking server economies and so on, though it would be shorter than 3 months.

I probably made the remarks in this section a bit more scathing and speculative than is appropriate for an attempt at constructive criticism. However, I strongly feel it cannot be denied that the current practice of Blizzard's microtransactions has some sort of hidden premium applied to them that makes goods and services cost more than they have any right to be. I would like to think I make these remarks because I care deeply about a game company that I've enjoyed the games of for over a decade. I would also like to think Blizzard is capable of doing a lot of good, but at present and in the future they may be remembered in a more unfavorable light purely due to what looks to me like greed.

I hope the developers strongly consider the entirety of this article and other critical statements made regarding their game, practices, and the like. However, I would like to close by addressing a probable majority of individuals reading this article: the players.

Firstly, I would hope that you're not part of the group making negative, unproductive remarks (e.g. "fire Holinka" "this game sucks and the devs are morons" "fuck this game" "Twitter integration and selfie camera cost us a raid tier") but instead are trying to be critical without the pointless negativity, preferably with detailed feedback. Secondly, while the game may (hopefully) change for the better in the future, particularly in terms of content, there may be a lot of content you're missing out on, which I highly urge you to try. For example, consider running through some old raids, taking up pet battling, or looking for hidden secrets in the world of Warcraft. If that really isn't your cup of tea, it's fine to take a break and play other games or take up other hobbies or even quit if you feel that's the appropriate course of action. Just because you spend $15 a month doesn't mean you have to be logged on enjoying content every second. However, much like with the first point, it's better to go on a break or quit with grace rather than emotionally fueled anger and hatred.

I'm probably hoping too much at this point, but I hope you, the reader, also found this entire read coherent and mentally stimulating. I watch the comments like a hawk, so any feedback will not be missed (still going to delete gold seller ads and such though). Furthermore, much like with my previous suggestion compilation and as I've mentioned above, if one wants to submit a suggestion not already on this list, I may end up adding it, though suggestions in this particular article are intended to be implementable prior to the next expansion and ideally within a content patch's worth of time from the time the suggestion is read.

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