Having fun playing WoW

The title is appropriate.

Now I’m not anymore so upset of having lost the honor points bonus of the last month. And all those players who ground honor points for two months now see the result: some less fun playing the expansion. The same applies to raiders. You get some fun before, and some less fun after. A compromise.

I’m quite happy of my own. The very first two introductory quests in the Outlands are already offering me upgrades to my relatively crappy gear (and I even did some raidin’). I’m taking this veeeeery slowly so that I can play for a bit longer before hitting the raiding wall again.

But this is also the main topic now. The mudflation. Raph wrote a few things about this. But he talks about the economy, where in WoW this aspect is completely IRRELEVANT. He obviously speaks a bit in general, but WoW has other problems, concretely.

It’s not necessary to make a big list, because WoW’s economy is the one that works better. And it works well because it’s very simple (and we can argue whether this is good or not). It’s all ruled by money sinks and, imho, applied even too diligently. My 60 warrior never got more than 40 gold during his lifetime and I also had to go farming (something that I really despise) in a few cases because I was completely broken and couldn’t even afford repairs. Epic mount? No thanks, I despise buying money more than I despise farming.

What are the main money sinks in WoW? Training skills as you level up, repairs and “maintenance”. Maintenance including all the added money required to support high-end activity such as raiding.

That works. The economy works even too well. But, again, it’s pretty irrelevant for the player. What instead matters in WoW is the CONTENT mudflation. And the content mudflation works on different premises.

Mudflated content (in my own definition) is content whose functions overlap. Two pieces of content have the same function in the game, one is clearly better then the other, and it replaces the other. The result is: content is removed from the game.

Also: path of least resistance. When we have two paths, one is preferred over the other. Such are games.

We design games with content reduction in mind. I already underlined the absurdity of this concept more than two years ago, the week that Blizzard announced the expansion. I also pointed out what was going to happen and why:

The rise of the level cap is a quick “fix”, both in the sense of game-drug and as a functional and effective way to give back to the players that experience that they loved along the way and that faded when they hit the top, when they had to adapt their habits to the bigger raids and guilds. It works basically like the nostalgia. It’s like if you are warped back ten levels without even remembering to have gone through them and have to repeat the experience like if it was the first time. In this genre the possibility to refresh the sense of awe and achievement is definitely something precious and satisfying for the players. So: why not?

While we can argue whether the current content will go or not right in the toilet, what is sure is that the current *progress* will.

We could assume that the players will retain their current gear for most of the hike to 70 but if this is true Blizzard would lose one of the strongest “fun” points: the sense of achievement. In the current game levelling is fun because you acquire new skills, spend talent points, get access to the mount and acquire progessively and constantly new gear. If the next 10 levels become just a grind with each level just giving out higher stats and nothing else, the “magic” would vanish easily and the expansion would finally feel rather dull. A game where you retain the same sword for 10 levels is a game that isn’t fun. So what could happen? Where is the line that will part the brand new level 60 character ready to move to 70 and those other players that have been at 60 for more than one year and collected all sort of powerful items? From my point of view the expansion will HAVE TO replace the gear for *all* the players.

And the implicit contradiction: why we burn and remove content when content production is the bigger problem we have today? Scott Hartsman offered the answer to this:

All of that “database deflated” content is called “shared experiences,” and they’re critical to a game’s success in the era in which they’re relevant. In the long run it loses value. That’s a given.

However, it’s absolutely critical to have it there in the short term, in order to get a game to the point where it can actually lose that value. That’s a problem of success. We should be so lucky to have that content beginning to lose its original value.

What happened in WoW with the expansion? The first result is obvious. It completely erased all the content from level 58 and above. Every instance past BRD is now completely USELESS. And I’m not exaggerating.

In particular. The most useless piece of content of the whole game is now that “tier 0.5” they added about a year ago after all the protests against the raiding game. Completely. Useless.

The point is: the mudflation from the perspective of those who build these kinds of games isn’t THE PROBLEM. The mudflation is THE SOLUTION. Read Raph with this in mind.

And if you are a good game designer you would also notice that for a new player the quality of the game is inversely proportional to the mudflation. The more you open the gap between the early and late game, the less players around, the more the solo grind is prolonged.

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