Monday, June 24, 2019

I Probably Won't Be Playing Classic WoW

Classic WoW is coming soon and there's a fair amount of hype going into it. Those eager to play may be doing so out of nostalgia, curiosity, community, because they believe the overall experience to be superior to live WoW, and so on. Among those looking forward to Classic WoW are a few of my friends who have also asked me if I was going to play. While I was tentative at first, I have thought more about why I would want to play Classic WoW by taking external factors and information regarding the release into account. This has led me to a more definitive answer in line with this article's title: It is highly unlikely I will play.

This doesn't necessarily I will never play Classic WoW ever, but I have come up with many reasons as to why I'm not that interested. If the game, by some slim chance, were to change like Old School Runescape has over the years, then my opinion may also change. At the same time, I may also question why such theoretical changes weren't applied to the live version of WoW since I stand by my stance that all versions of WoW are surprisingly similar to each other and, at the very least, not horrendously blemished by fundamental gameplay overhauls or detrimental pay-to-win microtransactions.

In any case, this article will at least serve as a way to respond to my friends looking to get me into Classic WoW by explaining why I personally won't find the game all that enjoyable. This article is not meant to drive other players away from Classic WoW.

The Reasons

The Issue of Community

As I've pointed out in previous articles, I currently have a low opinion of the gaming community. Fortunately, this opinion has been gradually improving lately since I've recently had increasingly positive experiences in multiplayer games. However, a major exception to this positive trend is that my opinion of the World of Warcraft community, if not the Blizzard fandom itself, remains exceptionally low.

In regards to WoW's community, the primary reason for my low opinion for this is because negative player behavior has had a history of going unchecked and festering as time goes on and such behavior tends to worsen significantly when the state of the game and/or Blizzard itself is at least perceived to be poor. The period of worsened behavior ranges in duration, lasting for the duration of a content patch series to the duration of an expansion. Such a phenomenon has happened at least a few times throughout history so far depending on who you ask and each time it does, my patience has expended a little further. The behavior I am specifically referring to consists of elitism, player abuse, hostile and destructive dialogue, a general tendency of being impossible to please, fickleness, and other similar behavior. Furthermore, I have observed this behavior to be so pervasive that it goes beyond players still playing the live game. Because of this and more, I find it difficult to believe a version of the game that supposedly encourages more social interaction will somehow stop players from behaving in such ways.

While it may be true that Blizzard appealing to instant gratification, along with similar criticism, played a part in reinforcing such negative behavior, I believe they are given too much of the blame because the negative behavior in question is something I observed before I even played WoW, which was during a time well before many of the features and services that are considered socially detrimental were implemented in a major way. I also personally experienced and observed many instances of this negative behavior when playing the game early on. Furthermore, I believe there are other reasons as to why negative player behavior was allowed to fester. For example, the Gearscore addon was a player creation that ultimately made it easier for players to act as gatekeepers who rapidly began setting absurdly excessive requirements to join raid groups, which in turn is a tradition that has stuck around and will likely continue to do so. The point I'm trying to make is issues of negative player behavior and it worsening are not that strongly tied to whether socially detrimental features and services were available or not. To be fair, Blizzard could stand to better manage player behavior in their games in general though.

Even if everything I said in the previous paragraph is untrue, Classic WoW in itself may also not do much in terms of encouraging more healthy socializing. For instance, the game is very old, meaning there are already resources, such as online databases and guides, available that help to trivialize the game and reduce the need for players to seek help or be helpful to each other. Additional resources will likely be added to approximate features that Classic WoW does not and likely will not have, such as an equivalent to Openraid that would allow players to form dungeon and raid groups with relatively greater convenience. Player mentality may also shift towards a more efficient mindset like in Old School Runescape and live WoW due to factors such as the accessibility of knowledge and "encouragement" by other players to utilize said knowledge. This in turn may decrease social interaction further or increase unhealthy social interaction as players behave with only themselves and maybe their close friends in mind. All of this isn't to say healthy socializing can't happen in Classic WoW, but in my mind it seems unlikely that there will be a significant increase.

With all this said, I am normally willing to tolerate the negative player behavior that may occur when interacting with others in the WoW community because there are plenty of neutral and positive interactions to be had. However, as I mentioned above, players seem to perceive the current state of the live game and Blizzard's state as a whole to be poor, which means the prevalence and intensity of this behavior appears to have increased. Furthermore, there are some fairly vocal fans of legacy WoW that have a tendency to preach rhetoric on live WoW that, much like the Nostalrius staff when they issued their ultimatum, seems more interested in showing contempt towards live WoW and those who play it rather than conveying anything remotely constructive. This rhetoric is similar to how some vocal Old School Runescape players treat Runescape 3 and its players (along with Jagex at times) and I'm grateful that these vocal legacy WoW fans will spend more time playing a version of the game they like instead of slightly worsening the live WoW experience and likely making themselves miserable as well.

To conclude, I do not like the current state of the WoW community right now because issues of negative player behavior have always been present and, in my opinion, became problematic for a wide variety of reasons. Said behavior tends to worsen when the game (and/or Blizzard itself) is perceived to be or actually is in poor shape. This circumstance has happened in some form with a great enough intensity enough times at this point that I tire of it and wish to minimize my interactions with the WoW community for the time being. I also believe the WoW community benefits from this decision since it minimizes how problematic my own negativity is for other players. Also, I do not expect Classic WoW to be a significant remedy to the aforementioned issue and fear player behavior has the potential to be worse in that game without some form of intervention.

The Emphasis on Group Content

Now that I have established how much I dislike the World of Warcraft community in all of its forms, this brings me to my next issue: WoW's emphasis on group content. Group content tends to not only be the most prominently featured type of content when it comes to WoW, but it, especially when it comes to raids, tend to be the most rewarding types of content even in the present-day iteration of WoW. There are also many features that emphasize group content such as the Dungeon Finder (previously LFG, which was added in the Burning Crusade), Raid Finder, and Premade Group Finder, Mythic+, and so on. For the record, I am considering matchmade content such as Battlegrounds, Dungeon Finder, and so on as group content since it forces interaction with other players and by extension, the community that I have lost my patience with.

To be fair, WoW has also added much solo content and during Mists of Pandaria in particular, there were so many solo activities to do that it caused me to burn out. However, despite these strides in providing some sort of solo experience in WoW beyond quests that can only be completed once, I consistently find development focus on solo gameplay to be seriously lacking especially when it comes to the poorly designed reward systems. Specifically, solo activity variety is lacking and poorly maintained compared to other MMORPGs and rewards scale poorly with challenge, with the few instances of challenging solo content having a tendency to feature cosmetic rewards and lacking replayability instead of consistently awarding other rewards such as gear, which are often inconsistently awarded by other, less challenging solo content instead. This is why many of my posts emphasize suggestions involving evergreen content and features that at least benefits solo players while sometimes adding a bit of a challenge and/or consistency.

While some may object to having solo content in their multiplayer game, I have two reasons to offer as to why a game like WoW needs solo content:
  • The first is that solo content is capable of appealing to both solo players and group players simultaneously. This doesn't apply to every possible type of solo content since instanced content and other content that forces players into a solo environment such as the Brawler's Guild inherently prevent group play. However, solo content, especially in the overworld such as World Quests or the Elite Subzone suggestion I made a while ago would allow and encourage grouping while still being feasible for solo players to complete.
  • The second is that solo content allows for significantly more personal freedom within a game they generally enjoy playing. For example, players may want to take a break from social interactions in the game without having to play something else such as a single player game. Players may also wish to relieve themselves of the pressure that group content can cause, such as having to make specific time commitments. Players may also have free time where they can't do group content because other players in their guild, friend group, or the like aren't able to do so, but they still want something to do without joining or making a pug or doing matchmade group content.
Up to this point, all of this criticism is largely being made of the live version of WoW, which I have an unfavorable view of in terms of the solo content being offered. This is especially apparent compared to other MMORPGs I have been playing such as Old School Runescape, which strongly emphasizes solo content in general, or Final Fantasy XIV, which offers a wider variety of better maintained solo content that is even available for a trial account. When it comes to Classic WoW, I have an even less favorable view compared to live WoW in regards to how much solo content is available.

The reason for this is fairly simple: I have done most of the solo content that Classic WoW has to offer and the replayability of it is lacking. This is because most of said solo content is in the form of one-time quests, most of which aren't worth doing again especially since a high amount of them feature generic kill or gather objectives. In fact, the few quests that would be interesting to do again involve having to do a significant amount of group content such as the Hunter-exclusive quests that are provided by the Ancient Petrified Leaf. To be fair, this is nothing new since every iteration of WoW has featured one-time quests as a significant form of (leveling) content.

However, for Classic WoW's there's not a lot for a solo player to do beyond those one-time quests since even features such as daily quests weren't available until BC. If I had to consider activities I would consider doing once my curiosity has worn off even when taking group content into consideration, Battlegrounds may be an option, especially when it comes to Alterac Valley. After all, I often joined Battlegrounds after exhausting the solo content available in BC and Wrath. Unfortunately, I doubt the experience on Classic WoW would be comparable to my forays into Battlegrounds in the past because of the aforementioned issue regarding player behavior, especially in regards to how the mentality of players may be shaped by knowledge of the Battlegrounds. For example, I foresee Alterac Valley turning into a zergfest for faster Honor and especially Alterac Valley Marks of Honor despite the battles inherently being slower because Patch 2.3's changes, at the very least, would not be implemented.

Finally, Classic WoW's roadmap has been revealed and the plan appears to be an attempt to recreate the Vanilla experience by releasing all of the content it had to offer in phases. The major content listed for each phase further reinforces my point on how little solo content there is in Vanilla WoW that would interest me since the overwhelming majority of the listed content are dungeons and especially raids. With that said, it is possible Classic WoW may eventually follow the same path as Old School Runescape and feature new content additions that include more solo content, though I find this unlikely because I believe the situation Runescape is in is different from WoW, as I explained in a previous article. Also, as I mentioned near the beginning, I would rather that the live version of the game gets some attention in regards to the addition of solo content even if Classic WoW is considered a priority.

To conclude, I generally favor solo content in the games I play and this especially applies in a situation where I want to avoid interacting with a specific game's community. However, World of Warcraft in all of its iterations except maybe Mists of Pandaria fails to satisfy my desire for solo content. In the case of the live version of the game, while the expansion's major features consisted of group content in the form of scenarios and the focus on group content remains strong, a fair amount of solo content is also featured with more to come soon in patch 8.2. These updates will maintain my interest in WoW somewhat, but other games such as Old School Runescape, Final Fantasy XIV, Monster Hunter World, and so on will be where I will spend more of my time gaming for the time being. Classic WoW is far less promising because the little solo content it features holds little interest for me and doesn't seem that worthwhile. Furthermore, future content additions through phases fail at grabbing my attention because the overwhelming majority of it is group content.

A "Minor" Problem of the WoW Token

As I stated in a previous article, one reason I continue to play World of Warcraft is because of the ability to buy WoW Tokens for gold and converting them into subscription time and balance. I would go as far as to say the WoW Token feature saved the game from complete ruin because of its introduction during the Warlords of Draenor expansion, which had serious gameplay issues that drove players away. While I do not believe Battle for Azeroth is as bad as Warlords of Draenor and I am willing to support that point with evidence and reasoning if someone wishes to dispute it, I also stated that the expansion is in need of serious improvement. The point I am trying to make here is that if WoW doesn't interest me much at some point in time, I can at least maintain a subscription to the game without paying my own money and potentially "profit" a bit by doing gold-making activities that maximize enjoyment, require little effort, or have a balance of those two qualities.

On the other hand, it is unlikely Classic WoW will get its own WoW Token any time soon. Not only are some players resistant to the idea, but potential issues may arise that contradict what players seem to want from Classic WoW. For example, the WoW Token has the potential to cause issues between realms. If the WoW Token gold price is region-wide, then gold can effectively be transferred between realms. If the gold price is tied to each realm, players may flock to realms with cheaper WoW Tokens and potentially make some realms far too crowded and others too sparse, much like live WoW's realms are. Finally, while in-game currency still isn't as important compared to a game like Old School Runescape, there are a few major benefits that can be unlocked with gold that I doubt players would appreciate being trivialized by the addition of the WoW Token.

To conclude, while this may not be a big deal to some, paying for a subscription adds up especially when other monthly upkeep is taken into account. It's also nice to be rewarded for my knowledge and dedication to a game by not having to pay for the game subscription fee myself. Classic WoW, and other games such as Final Fantasy XIV by extension, lack such a feature and because of how frugal I am, such a factor plays a significant role in determining which games I choose to actively play.

Closing Thoughts

To restate what I said above, this article is meant to convey my own personal reasons for not playing Classic WoW at the current time with the intent to share it with friends who ask me whether I'm playing or not. While I have tried to include factual statements to support my reasoning, such as WoW having a strong emphasis on group content, I hope I properly distinguished them from my opinions. I also recognize other people have different, equally valid opinions such as having a preference for group content or believing Classic WoW will have a healthier community.

...I only hope others will respect these opinions, if only because I would like to think they aren't harmful to anyone else in any way.

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it with this "Group content tends to not only be the most prominently featured type of content when it comes to WoW, but it, especially when it comes to raids, tend to be the most rewarding types of content even in the present-day iteration of WoW."