Content Sync and Warlords of Draenor

Fun. It’s an often thrown-about buzzword in gaming circles; if something is fun, you want to play it, and the opposite goes if something is not fun. This is hard to put in words, though, and in a game as big and complex as World of Warcraft, something being ‘fun’ isn’t simply it. It needs to be worth your time, especially given the importance of time and progression to endgame content.

Progression is something I can more easily quantify. As much as we may claim not to be particularly interested, near-enough everyone will be happy to get a new piece of gear and to see their stats inch higher and higher, patch-on-patch, and though there is a certain endless loop in constantly improving gear to improve gear, the concept of progression is one that it is easy to subscribe to, particularly in PvE content.

So why is some of the content in Draenor regarded so poorly, especially when it seems like a perfect answer to the complaints raised about Mists of Pandaria’s content? For me, at least, it comes down to the content being in sync – that is to say, it all fulfils similar roles, and thus it’s easily-exchangeable and everyone is able to do something that they like. This is perhaps one of the saving graces of Mists – when the content was eventually smoothed out, the playing field was very level, and regardless of what you wanted to do, it would all get you to the same place. It’s a lot harder to say that about Warlords, so I’m going to explore the content of endgame and see what works well and what does not, especially in comparison to past expansions.

Dungeons

The dungeons of Warlords are fairly varied; they involve bosses with challenging tactics, new locations and old locations, and some fun scripting and references. Croman and Leeroy were interesting experiments with content, but dungeons feel lacking. They continue, at least to me, to feel lacking. There was far more impetus to run dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, and they offered a lot more in terms of progression. We’re at neither the high-grind of mid-Cataclysm, nor the faceroll of late-Wrath. We’re in between, but everything aside from boss fights feels rather grindy. Trash is not threatening, but it is everywhere, and it is a fight for the sake of fighting. Dungeons need to be more dynamic and interesting, and there need to be fewer fights that serve nothing except being a roadblock to the good parts.

Conversely, no one wants to return to the no-trash one-room feel of 3.2’s dungeons – with regard to Timewalking, I have seen several comments that the older dungeons are simply more enjoyable. Whether it is their greater simplicity or the nostalgia factor, dungeons in the past two expansions have been less well-received than older ones. Aside from trash, the complexity of 5-man encounters is also irritating. These bosses are on a level par with Raid Finder content in terms of tactics, yet they require far more personal effort due to the smaller group size. The addition of a Mythic mode to dungeons is, in my opinion, not going to make these dungeons any more replayable – why do we need a fourth dungeon difficulty? Weren’t challenge modes meant to do last expansion what Mythic modes are now here for? Mythic modes – like I would argue with heroic scenarios – represent not a desire for greater difficulty, but a failure to properly tailor difficulty to reward.

The removal of the justice and valor points systems made dungeons much more rewarding for progression in Mists, Cata and Wrath; this system no longer exists. Dungeons would be far more attractive if they allowed you to purchase gear higher than the dungeon itself can offer. Furthermore, the issue of ‘Mythic dungeons’ is that in previous expansions, this place of ‘higher loot’ would not be served by retuning dungeons, but by adding new ones. Mists of Pandaria failed to add new dungeons in post-launch content, and so far, so has Warlords. This lack of an easier method to gear-up has led to the necessity of upping item levels on raid gear several times now, because no one has a way to gear up in dungeons anymore.

In summary, dungeons are no longer a worthwhile method of progression. Their difficulty is incorrect given their group size; their loot is not worthwhile; they are no longer the catch-up mechanism (that spot was taken by Raid Finder); there is no points system to allow for faster gearing through dungeons; despite fantastic zones, incredible scope and unique boss fights, their content is not engaging due to the growing length of uninteresting trash fights.

If Blizzard want to make dungeons more on-par with raiding for helping progression, gear needs to be better and drop more frequently, justice and valor points need reinstating as a catch-up method, bosses need to stop getting more complicated, trash needs to be kept at a suitable minimum to ensure dungeons aren’t a massive time sink, and in general a way of making these dungeons just plain interesting on their own merit needs including. Have gated story related to the dungeons – they could easily be a storytelling mechanism, but consistently – with bosses like Teron Gorefiend, Ner’zhul, etcetera – they are instead used to fruitlessly cut stories short for good.

Raids

I will freely admit that, as someone who doesn’t raid outside of Raid Finder, I have no comment on whether normal and above raids are properly tuned or interesting. What I do know is there weren’t enough.

It is not just the scenery but the progression that matters when you have multiple raids. If you have more than one raid, it is easier to swap around and gear up elsewhere when you’re stuck on a singular boss. It is also more fun, because you’re not staring at the same patch of lava every time you zone in.

Let’s cut the crap here. Blackrock Foundry was tier 2 of this expansion and Hellfire Citadel is tier 3. Highmaul, as an entry raid, was not enough. Both it and the Foundry had too many bosses in one instance to keep things interesting for a long period of time. It was criminal that there was no Titan-related raid, no Apexis or Arakkoa-related raid (A freaking SKY-TEMPLE, people) and even if there is another raid, it’s not going to be a fun side-jaunt, and it’s certainly not going to be Ulduar. It’s going to be another Ruby Sanctum.

In terms of progression, raiding has actually done well. Aside from a complete misjudgement of what item levels would be needed by Blizzard on a few occasions, Raid Finder content has been probably the most successful way to gear up and progress. The issue with that is that all raid content still has the re-roll tokens. I don’t really care what name they have; their continued existence is a damning failure of the RNG system in this game and a sign that drop rates on all raid content need improving.

As for story, the raids haven’t been brilliant, but they haven’t been terrible. There has been far less Cho-exposition, which means we have a chance to discover things for ourselves; but there has been far less to discover. The ogre Breakers were explained in a short story, rather than in Highmaul. Cho’gall’s plot death was not included in any difficulty except Mythic – a terrible omission of a story which played a gripping role in Nagrand, and ultimately leaves the Pale storyline without a resolution many players will see. Kargath’s death made no sense – why weren’t we fighting the two ogre-lords who’d overseen the Ring of Trials and the Highmaul Coliseum? Why did they just let us waltz in?

Blackrock Foundry was coherent, but not exactly thrilling. There was no new lore to discover, not many fun mechanics, and some things that made no sense (why was Gruul there except to reuse mechanics? Why did we kill Oregorger when the goren were damaging the Iron Horde? Why was Kromog on their side if we own the Heart of the Magnaron?) There was only one lore character in the raid, and it was Blackhand – the raid had nothing to stand on lore-wise outside of him. At the very least, the bosses should have appeared in the Pit at some point. Blackhand’s floor mechanic was the most interesting thing about the place, in my opinion.

I have no comment on Hellfire Citadel because of its release schedule; I won’t get to kill Archimonde until late August. That’s really unnecessary gating. I’m going to have cleared the first wing what, 7 times by then? I’ll be burning out by then!

On the whole, raids have not been at any historic low; they have not improved from Mists of Pandaria or Cataclysm at all, though.

Scenarios

This will be a quick one, because there were no scenarios. All the hype in Mists of Pandaria, all the talk about how quick they are to produce, and we got none at endgame. They were used in questing a little, but not much.

The garrison invasions are sort of a scenario, but they’re not exactly the most intriguing content, and the reward is based on how well you do, which doesn’t lend itself well to progression.

Scenarios should absolutely have been used. After their role in gearing was smoothed out during MoP (and that was expected due to it being a new content form) they should have featured in Warlords extensively. The story would have been better and the gearing would have been better. It’s a complete failure that there were none.

Questing

Apexis dailies. I will shudder every day at the thought of doing them. Their mechanics were too close to 5.4 – do what you want and something will eventually happen. Compared to the rich and successful levelling questing, this was a left-field blow that really has put me off the game. There is absolutely no guidance – and the 5 whole dailies of 6.2 are little better, especially as they involve you doing three apexis-style areas.

This was a complete overreaction to Mists’ early daily content, which was also a complete overreaction to Cataclysm’s. Blizzard seems to do this a lot.

Questing should be fairly exploratory and random with a central strand to guide you; not a railroad, not a desert. There should be clear objectives rather than vague ones, but they shouldn’t be on the micro level of three felfighters, two felbreakers and one felweaver. I, personally, would rather the model of ‘get all these quests at once and do them’ than ‘do two at a time until you hit the boss’, but both work better than whatever happened to the Warlords content cycle.

I will never forgive the fact that we spent a year in Siege and the Timeless Isle with no content for THIS. Since 5.1, the biggest voice I have heard from people is that that was the best daily questing model – Blizzard seems to not want to hear it.

Questing needs to be dynamic, engaging and play a role in the story and the factions it involves. It did not at all.

Reputation

I shouldn’t have to separate this from dungeons and questing. Here we are.

Reputation failed this expansion. It was too grindy, it did not tie into progression in a meaningful way, and the easiest faction was the PvP one (something I have never said before and never intended to say).

Having one grind-only faction was bad enough in 5.4; having the majority be grind-only has almost killed my love for filling up bars.

The mounts erred on the side of too expensive. There needs to be championing again, and not once every 5 weekends. Give us tabards or dungeons with rep gains permanently. It will incentivise dungeons. Give reputations decent gear for gearing up and they will incentivise rep-gaining. Reputation needs to be a path for alternate progression again. And make them cost gold. I do not want to pay 80000 crystals for a BELT.

I’m fine with multiple ways to gain rep. Let one faction be the grindy-one, and one a turn-in one, but please let them all have quests and storyline and multiple ways to gain rep. I shouldn’t have to grind for hours in this game. It’s 2015.

Garrisons

And at last we come to this.

Garrisons were a terrible idea that have gone against everything Blizzard wanted to promote. People stay here instead of going out into the world, people rely on them for gold and professions and gear instead of the content pre-established for this, and they just don’t serve a purpose.

Missions are something I should be doing. Give me mission scenarios where I go and do them instead. Halve the reward, I don’t care. I want to do it. The treasure missions have sped up inflation but I still don’t have an inn to access them, so the inflation is just hitting me harder.

The profession buildings have brought the slow crisis of outdated professions to a head. Now you can stay inside one building and farm up 700 levels of a profession you’re not going to use the first 699 of. Professions need a fundamental and complete revamp and they need one now. We can’t have a third expansion of fast-level bandaids.

The shipyard was such a good opportunity. Wasted. This is the equivalent of my followers perma-dying if they failed a mission. I don’t need another resource to waste on things, I don’t need missions that take THREE DAYS and still might FAIL. It should have been travelling Draenor and cool encounters and charting the seas and story and instead we got another mission table.

Please never include garrisons in this way again. Give me a ship and make me sail it. Everywhere. Make me responsible for my success, not randomly-generated numbers and icons.

In summation, the content in Warlords is out of sync totally and completely. Raids are the only good way to gear up, there is no incentivising of reputation or dungeons or leaving your garrison that brings them up to a par with raids for progressing. There haven’t been nearly enough fixes, and the radio silence of Blizzard on these issues since Siege was released is not inspiring confidence. It is not surprising to see that three million players have quit; I didn’t play between finishing my 6.1 legendary chain and 6.2’s release. I’m four days in to the patch and I’m not enthusiastic about anything except Yrel. I can’t even play the raid for weeks.

If blizzard wants to fix it, they have to tell us what they’re doing. They have to communicate more. Or people will turn off.

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