The lights are on
Power Member - Level 9
I've been a large fan of World of Warcraft for quite a while now. I began playing the game shortly before the first expansion, titled The Burning Crusade, was released in North America, and immediately I fell in love with the feel of the world as a whole. Adventuring through unexplored lands, meeting actual people running around the same world, and learning of the ancient lore that was left for us to find were some of the greatest moments in my video game playing life that I can recall, and all of my friends were able so share those moments with me as well.
A year later, when I finally understood what was required of me to get further in the game, my friends and I found a raiding guild and began tearing through the forces of Karazhan, and at the climax of my raiding career (in that expansion), I stood on top of the corps of Gruul's body in his very own lair. When I recovered that precious epic shield from his dead body, a feeling of invincibility overtook me and I was more enthusiastic about playing than ever. Sadly, however, the expansion was approaching it's end and less and less people wanted to raid soon to be 'old content'.
After this expansion, each pack, as well as patch for that matter, introduced new features to the game as a whole. The option to do either 10 or 25 man raids, auto queuing for dungeons without the need to coordinate the group yourself, easily obtainable gear with each patch, and so many more things were added, increasing the appeal to newcomers. Here we now stand, at the top of the MMO pile, with countless ways to appeal to all of the players who cannot spend that incredible amount of time once required to progress far, begging them to join the world, yet the overall player base has receded to approximately half of what it was at it's peak. Where does that leave us now? What happens to the rest of us? Why did this turn out the way it has?
I have my own ideas as to why, and what I wish would happen. The rewarding feeling that I got when I killed Gruul after almost a year of raiding is a thing of the past now. I've taken multiple breaks between patches just because I didn't find the tier intriguing, and with the new features that are in the game, I'm able to get myself caught up to a decent gear level and into the 'easy mode' of current tier raids in less than a week. This expansion, I left about a month after launch, and waited until the fourth patch was about three weeks away, and here I stand now, almost ready to do the third patch's content that quickly.
Dungeons. Where as in The Burning Crusade I would spend time to find a group to attempt a heroic dungeon, and then, even in my impressive at the time gear, I would have the fear of death in over half of the available dungeons. Now, I click the queue button, go grab a beverage, come back and watch the news for a moment until the 'It's ready' sound plays and I press '1' until everything is dead. Leave and repeat.
My point comes back to a conversation a friend and I had recently. We both enjoy Dark Souls very much. The difficulty and complexity of the game's mechanics, as well as some of the intentional ambiguity challenge and intrigued us both to get to the end. Difficulty in a game is a dying thing. You can pick up a Call of Duty game, years after your last play, and dominate a match with anything given to you to start with. The motif is no longer 'kill and survive', it's more like 'kill and respawn'.
Blizzard could use a comeback, and I think the best way for them to do it is go back to the basics. Stop giving into the easy going crowd for profit and kindness. Don't reward people for a lack of time and the will to return when they can, instead, refrain from punishing their absence, yet reward their endurance and continuing efforts. What shame is there in saying 'Classes started so I can only play half as much. Though, we got through the first two tiers of raiding, and half of the third'. I would feel more accomplished by this than saying, I never raided for the first two tiers, but my friend got me into their guild on third tier, so I cleared all the hardmodes on that one'.
TL&DR: Go back to basics Blizz. Don't let the community run you, lead them on the journey. Give us a challenge, and we'll give you our money. That's always what it'll boil down to.