Weekend Wildstar Wrap-up: It’s all Blizzard’s Fault

If there is just one observation or rule that, after almost four years of meta blogging, I may declare applies without fail when there are two sides to a passionate debate, it’s the following:

Both sides of the argument want exactly the same. That’s been the case each and every time I’ve experienced engaged and complex discussions on this here blog or elsewhere; two or more people arguing for the same thing but believing in opposite ways of achieving it. Your prime example for this is the ‘grouping and facilitation’ debate where some will argue pro enforced grouping for more community while others believe grouping, in order to be the real thing, needs to happen naturally and dynamically. It’s important to understand that on the most basic level, these players all want the same thing.

Quite an entertaining phenomenon in retrospective, it usually takes a moment to sink in. Once you’ve distanced yourself from a topic, you’ll detect such patterns a lot more clearly even if that won’t bring you any closer to a satisfying solution.

In which Blizzard gets all the blame

In what has proven to be a universally divisive topic for Wildstar this week and probably for a while to come, I argued that the 12step attunement needs toning down in order to accommodate a wider variety of both casual and hardcore players. While my argument in favor of inclusion wasn’t my only point, it’s as important to me as it is obviously to others. Liore followed-up disagreeing with pretty much most of my logic, explaining why to her the attunement chain adds direction, content and more playstyle variety. Bottom line: we both argued in favor of diversity/freedom, albeit for different target audiences that are sadly all too often mutually exclusive in MMOs.

That brings me to a second, more vexing matter: World of Warcraft’s continued influence on our perception of design dynamics and as a consequence, its impact on our not-so carefree experiences of new games such as Wildstar. Liore makes an explicit WoW reference in her article, in which she equates not having hard attunements with “being just… like… WoW” because well, like me she’s played and seen a lot of WoW. Just like that, I referred to WoW attunements in my own post and ended up responding (guilty..):

Funny enough unlike for you, to me this [read: the current status of the attunement] is all exactly like WoW and not unlike WoW. I raided in vanilla and it was considered hardcore, the way WS raiding seems right now.

And today, in an interesting update over at Tobold’s, the comment section is full of arguments, speculations and assumptions inspired by past experiences in – you guessed it – WoW. All the while, somewhere else an anti-Wildstar brigade is forming within WoW’s disgruntled and bored community as we speak, because apparently Wildstar is appealing to many of that same demography. Shocker.

wowglass
Our WoW glasses need to be smashed.

….It’s all WoW. WoW, wow, wow. Whether we’re for something or against it, whether it’s totally cool because different from WoW or dangerously close to being like WoW, WoW is the all-encompassing factor and ultimate perspective. Apparently we cannot free ourselves from the mind print that this MMO has left in our collective memory. If something happened in WoW, well it’s probably gonna happen in Wildstar, right? Wrong!

To close a week of intense feels: it’s clearly all Blizzard’s fault. Happy weekend everybody – to the Nexus as well as Azeroth! Stay classy!

21 comments

  1. Jaedia

    *applaud* Thinking about it.. I’m not sure that I’ve referenced WoW in this debate yet. :o Therefore, I shall play the part of the one smashing everybody’s WoW glasses.. except you just did that. Damnit. At least I have Aurin Soup.

  2. Redbeard

    You know what’s funny about all this? League of Legends, although technically a battle game, dwarfs WoW subscriber base. And yet everybody continues to chase WoW.

    I’m surprised that nobody has created a battle game with an MMO pasted on it instead.

  3. Asmiroth

    @redbeard a few have tried, all have failed because LoL owns the MOBA market. You’d have to be a better MOBA and then add MMO on top. Games of Glory is the only one still in the pipe that I know of. Plus there are tons of MOBAS out there. Good ones too. Space is tight.

    People compare to WoW because everyone and their mother has played it. It looks like an easy foundation for discussion. But the folk who played BC had a much different experience than MoP. Practically 2 different games.

    • Redbeard

      @Asmiroth– Exactly. WoW reinvents itself each expac, so any developer using WoW as a baseline is chasing a ghost.

      What would be most interesting –to me, anyway– is just how many of WoW’s current player base date to Vanilla, BC, Wrath, and other expacs. That is the sort of data that Carbine (and Bioware before them) could have used to find out exactly how to tailor their games.

      • Redbeard

        Of course, Blizzard famously keeps all of their data to themselves, but if you’re truly interested in data mining, you can hire survey teams to acquire some data.

        I’ve seen the WoW infographic presentations, and I’ve also seen the unsub screen, and I think that data is woefully inadequate to get an accurate picture of why people unsubscribe from WoW.

    • Shintar

      Indeed, WoW makes for an easy practical example because 1) everyone and their mother has played it at some point and 2) they keep releasing sub numbers so we can theorise about what works and doesn’t work to keep players in the game, based on what changes we see in those numbers. With most other MMOs, 90% of the people in the discussion won’t really know what you’re talking about since they’ve never played it or not nearly as much, and it’s even harder to make a guess about what works for any given game when they don’t release any metrics about their success (or lack thereof).

      • Redbeard

        I think in the realm of MMOs, yes, just about everyone has played or tried WoW. But we keep forgetting that MMOs are a small slice of the video game pie, which is why D3 for the console was an inevitability.

        And that’s also why WoW is a small part of Activision’s balance sheet, when compared to CoD and Skylanders. WoW is a huge part of Blizzard’s balance sheet, not Activision’s. We in our little silo tend to forget that.

      • Liore

        Yeah, what Shintar said! For better or for worse, WoW is the assumed universal language of MMO mechanics and properties. Even ArcheAge, which is very much unlike WoW in its goals, has quest givers with exclamation points over their head. I could say “These long quest lines remind me of the Water Saga” but only a few RIFTies will know what I’m talking about.

        That being said I agree with you, Syl, that (the collective) we compare other MMOs to WoW too often, even when not appropriate.

  4. Aywren

    Makes me wonder whether it’s a good or bad thing that I played so little WOW that it really has no effect on my view of MMOs. I rolled a couple of characters right after WOW launch, but never got past level 20 on any of them.

    Don’t remember why it didn’t catch me at the time. I just never got sucked in. Then again, I’d been playing MMOs for years before WOW came out, so it may not have been as shiny-new to me as to other folks.

    But anyhow, I don’t know enough about WOW to compare anything to it. Maybe that’s a rare thing, but from what I’m reading, it actually might be something positive!

    • Syl

      It’s definitely positive at times. A lot of experience with different games certainly informs us – but it spoils us too and makes us anxious at times.

      A common analogy for MMO commitment is the love affair / longterm relationship (which is often used when players talk about breakup woes with a game and its community); I think in that same way, we need to give that new crush a fair chance and keep an open mind without comparing too much. I’m very good at comparing myself into mysery. ;)

  5. Paendamonium

    I think it would be very interesting if Blizzard released more detailed information on subscribers, perhaps as a WoW autopsy (so maybe in another decade or two). More numbers such as the number of brand new players subscribing as well as former players resubscribing would help give a much clearer idea of how the market is reacting to Blizzard’s decisions. I recall reading in one quarterly report from Blizzard that the number of people up subscribing from WoW has actually always been fairly steady, and that fluctuations in subscriber numbers are more due to the number of new and returning players. If that is true, a statement like “WoW peaked during BC or Wrath and has been downhill ever since, just look at all the people who left the game” wouldn’t be accurate. Instead, it could indicate either that WoW has saturated the market, or perhaps that the last couple expansions have not been as appealing to new or lapsed players.

    For my own two cents, while I disagree with some specific decisions the WoW team has made, and my fondest memories of the game were definitely during BC and Wrath, I would say that the current iteration of WoW is a superior game.

    • Syl

      Interesting. It’s very hard for me to judge WoW post-WotLK since I only really played into very early Cata and didn’t like it anymore by that time. Many ex-raiders agree TBC was prime time but as you say, nostalgia always plays a role and ‘fun’ is a very abstract and obscure quality to measure, too. WoW is probably superior today by many measurable standards but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most enjoyable, hehe…..

  6. Paendamonium

    @Syl That’s why I think it would be interesting to have more detailed subscription info, so we could have an idea if new players actually are sticking around for less time. If the facts show that during each expansion a brand new player stays for roughly the same average amount of time, it might indicate that the reason the WoW subscriber base is diminishing is due to a combination of market saturation and diminishing marginal utility, not that the game itself has worsened.

  7. Mercury

    I think it’s fair to reference WoW so much since 1) 17 WoW employes left Blizzard in 2005 to found Carbine and I would assume their experiences there continue to influence their design and 2) WoW sticks out in everyone’s mind as that 800 pound gorilla that took the Everquest process of keying/flagging, called it “attunement,” and essentially advertised the information necessary to complete this series of tasks in the quest log. Contrast this with the days of MUDs when members of the community preserved “arcane” knowledge by not publishing it. I think WoW represents a pivotal shift in the general attitude toward what information should be made publicly available to players and this is one of many reasons those seminal experiences are being trotted out in these discussions. What other games should we be talking about in terms of raiding attunements, if not WoW? I mean, it’s not like this is the first time the attunement debate has popped up, e.g. from the Rift Forums in 2010: . It’s just that WoW has a large subscriber base, is mature, and presents a wealth of accessible information on this topic. (In any case it’s easier than sifting through Geocities era bullet-point Word documents on how to break into the Plane of Fear.)

    • Syl

      I don’t know – designers to me are real people with different potential. You can definitely see some of that TBC flair in Wildstar’s graphics, there’s the commitment to polish etc. but at the same time I doubt this bunch of folks left Blizzard to go create “just another game like WoW”. I am really not very interested in making assumptions about Carbine equating Blizzard-style designers; I don’t know them and I haven’t read anything about them aspiring to be WoW 2.0.This is exactly where I think we’re overdoing it with the WoW angst. If we don’t know anything about a design team, we tend to be more open-minded?

      Where I agree with you is that WoW IS the big gorilla and therefore we have a common reference in these debates. WoW has a notorious attunement history, so we can use it as an example. At the same time, WoW also has huge emotional impact on pretty much anyone who’s ever played it longterm and witnessed different changes, and strong experiences like that affect our ability of rational comparison. If we draw conclusions about Wildstar based on what happened in WoW (which I have done myself) or because we want it (read: “need” it) to be at least different from WoW in XY, we stop seeing the new game for what it is_right_now or what it could be.

      I don’t know if that makes it any clearer for you or not but it’s where I’m coming from in this topic. The fact that WoW makes good MMO comparison material is beyond doubt, it’s people and feels that always make this a mixed debate. ;)

  8. bhagpuss

    Some of us who both played MMOs before WoW and didn’t play WoW on release (or in some cases ever) don’t see things quite the same way. For no small number of bloggers the benchmark against which all MMOs are judged is UO or EQ or DAOC or CoH or even the original Guild Wars. WildStar draws heavy comparison with WoW because it was made by designers who defected from Blizzard and because it overtly set out to mirror WoW.

    Having played WoW I would strongly contest many of the claims made on its behalf. Even the claims that it is the biggest MMO ever seem dubious when judged outside of a particular sub-section of the MMO marketplace. Those who started out in WoW or found in it the first MMO that really worked for them, however, seem cursed forever to judge all other MMOs by that experience.

  9. Mercury

    *takes off WoW glasses* Sorry, I’ve been wearing those for so long that I thought they were part of my face.

    I guess it would only be fair to stop comparing Wildstar to WoW so relentlessly. It doesn’t really give the team a fair shake. I played MMOs before WoW, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind given the mental associations I’ve built up based on apparent relationships. I guess I’m guilty of “typecasting” the Carbine development team to a certain extent. I’ll sit back and let them do their thing and try not to ride the World of Wildstarcraft bandwagon too hard.

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