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Warcraft: Age of Changening

September 12, 2008

Random thought: Most MMO devs nowadays bend over backwards to be kind to WoW, praise how it’s expanded the market and drawn in craptons of new players, and claimed that WoW’s continued success equaled success for them all. Personally, I think that’s a bit of sycophantic slight-of-hand — you don’t see Paramount studios praising Universal for producing a smash blockbuster, but they might politely golf clap, smile, and grit their teeth while they plan to claw their way to the top. So for all that MMO devs tend to praise WoW, how much have you seen Blizzard turning around and praising these up-and-coming games/companies in return? Not so much. They don’t have as much to win from competition, you see.

I’ve been shaking my head as to the actions of Blizzard over the past couple months, empathizing with the bewilderment that current players — including many of my good friends — must be going feeling. On the surface, hey, they get a new class and expansion and other features. Good for them! But at the same time, Blizzard took another huge step forward in nerfing the leveling curve (making it easier to level from 60-70 in general, and much faster from 1-60 if you level with a friends through their new program), degrading the achievements of players who attained those ranks without a crutch. It’s a shameless move, but that’s Blizzard’s MO.

My spidey-cynicism tells me that Blizzard is planning at least one bold move for next week’s Warhammer Online launch, most probably putting out the “please please PLEASE stay with us!” 3.0 patch. However, they might have already played their hand: Blizz has also made the decision to reverse their long-standing policy by letting people transfer from a PvE server to a PvP one (for a modest $25 fee, of course). Players, to put it lightly, are not happy. This is a HUGE deal over in WoW-land, one which Massively takes as a gambit on Blizzard’s behalf to retain its PvP population ahead of Warhammer’s release.

Whether it is or not, whether 3.0 will come out next week, I’ve lacked the will to really care any more. I truly feel bad for current Warcraft players, because in trying to retain subscribers by throwing them everything but the kitchen sink, Blizzard continues to alienate the population by creating an environment of uncertainty and massive change. The PvE-to-PvP transfer is seen by the PvP servers as a huge sign of disrespect toward their efforts and achievements; now, any fool with a hunk of money can pay to bypass the hard content and get straight to the PvP endgame.

Companies like Mythic would do well to observe and avoid the mistakes WoW has done over the past few months. Players can smell desperation and pandering, and they don’t like it. Players have intimate investment into their characters, and they don’t like it when the rules are changed so drastically that it takes their efforts away (see also Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE change). Players expect a game company to stick by the rules that the company itself has made. I’m going to hold Mythic to the same standards I would out of any MMO company that I’m pouring money into, but on the whole, I’ve gotten more reassurance from them than red flags.

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19 comments

  1. There’s no question that Blizzard is doing all sorts of things to retain customers. They probably won’t disclose it soon, but I’d bet they have seen their subscriber numbers dip as of late, probably substantially. Due to War? Maybe…probably. As “evidence”, I just got a beta invite to the Wrath of the Lich King, so did a few other people I know that have recently canceled their accounts. Oh, and you need an active account to join the beta test. Coincidence? I think not…

    Now I have to go to dictionary.com to look up “sycophantic”. Thanks Syp.


  2. Dont feel bad for the WoW players, Blizz doesn’t alienate the population, it just feeds the tiny % that will vocally moan about EVERYTHING. Take 10million players, do you really think that more than 200,000 of them care at all? No, of course.

    I love wow, have done for 3 years. I don’t think blizz have ruined anything except, maybe possibly, letting people get easy PvP epics and use them in PvE, that’s it.


  3. PvP endgame? Wtf are you talking about? The only thing that happens on a pvp server that doesn’t on a pve server is ganking and the occasional fairly silly Hatfield and McCoy duel.

    But yeah, they know that their bread and butter is the casual player, and that the hardcore guys are mostly to mentally boxed in that they can’t conceive of a better MMO.


  4. Well guys, let me put it this way:

    Blizz bragged about recovering 40% of the players who quit for Age of Conan.

    Of course, Age of Conan is a dead game walking, so where’d the other 60% go? The fact they only got 40% back from Failcom indicates that a large chunk of the WoW population is ready to leave, and that even more people would seriously consider it. Not to mention all the ex-WoW players who are coming out of the woodwork to play War.

    WOTLK is a double edged sword too. Sure, some people are pumped… but these are the ones who are pretty happy with the game anyways. And it provides those who aren’t too happy, and are going to see all their hard work in BC wiped out AGAIN a perfect place to go. And everybody who prefers PVP will be gone. Not to mention that the pre-Xpac doldrums pretty much kill virtually every guild. There’s just not a whole lot of reason to stay, especially when you can spend a month or more playing War and suffer absolutely no long term damage to your characters, since everything is going to get rebooted anyway.

    Having played AoC and War, I can safely assure you that Blizz’s recovery rate on war is going to be well south of 40%.


  5. Ah, lets be honest. What “achievement,” other than a lot of patience, does it take to get to 70 on a PvP server? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very skilled at PvP. I can pwn people who don’t know what they’re doing, but real PvPers eat me for breakfast. And yet, I have a 70 and a 60 that I’ve been playing on a PvP server for six months.

    As I said in my latest post, I think that the PvE/PvP barrier has been more of a hindrance in letting people play with their friends and a way to give bored gankers targets than any heroic achievement for people seeking a real challenge. What challenge is there in getting killed a lot by people you can’t run away from or defend yourself against?

    This was a good move for them from a community perspective. Also, now the real PvP players have more clueless 70s who don’t know how to fight OR run to gank for fun.


  6. I was actually part of the 1 and only in their history allowed transfers from PvE servers to a new PvP server (due to overpopulation) way way way back in the day pre-BC (Zul’jin and others -> Black Dragonflight). It created quite a stir at the time espicially since at the time the pre-eminent horde raid guild on Zul’jin was Fires of Heaven which had a former/current developer or something as a GL/officer.

    It was great bit of luck for me because that was the first server I rolled on and it was before I really knew what I was getting into, I just rolled there to play with a friend who introduced me to the game and would have rather played on a PvP server. Ah the good ole days.


  7. I think the thing about the migration to PvP server decision is that Blizzard always previously swore blind that they would never allow it.

    Even though it was fairly obviously a sensible idea.

    So the players who are outraged now aren’t coming out of nowhere. They’d been promised this would never happen. And a lot of them are people who rerolled from PvE to PvP servers because transfers weren’t allowed.


  8. @him

    i think it’s funny that people say they are “easy to get” pvp weapons. It still took weeks of at least 10 games, honor epics took even longer unless you played bg’s for 5 hours straight.

    anyways, i think those pve players that transfer to pvp servers and try to join a pvp guild or arena team are going to be disappointed at the reception they receive. The general feeling towards pve server pvpers in general was less than friendly, i could see a lot of them being blackballed unless they change their name too, and even then, i see some troll digging up who they were pre-transfer and making a big deal about it.

    I have a feeling the patch will go live when warhammer is released, you can already pre-download it, so everyone will already have it on their computers ready to have it activated.


  9. I have a feeling we’ll see more of this. Gender changes, racial changes, faction changes, and so on may be coming down the pike in the months to come.


  10. “It created quite a stir at the time espicially since at the time the pre-eminent horde raid guild on Zul’jin was Fires of Heaven which had a former/current developer or something as a GL/officer.”

    FoH was never on ZJ. Transendwnce was always the top ZJ guild, before they broke up a while ago.


  11. I’m going to just say it. War is a superior game to Wow. Period. The classes are more fun, the atmosphere is way cooler, both the PVP and PVE aspects of the game are superior. Wow has pushed so hard to move up that they’ve missed out on nurturing the lower levels. I imagine those blizzard employees who have been playing the BETA, and you know there have been some, are now just a little worried. They’ll probably stay the biggest kid on the block, but I can see War taking a chunk out of their hide.


  12. […] Blizzard in a Panic? Syp over at Waaagh! has an interesting piece on Blizzard’s recent decision to allow players to transfer from PvE Realms to PvP Realms. […]


  13. ya it is a odd coincidence that a long standing PvP related rule is being bent so close to WAR’s release…

    but i don’t think its fear thats driving that decision.. more like the final realization of its player base’s wishes..

    cry foul all you want but a transfer is a transfer is a transfer.. i pay i should be able to go where ever i want.. why cause im paying

    i for one am glad they did it.. not that im going to use it but it gives me options if i choose to use um


  14. I canceled my WoW account a couple of weeks ago. The process asked me a few questions as to the reason I was leaving. My response was that I was leaving to play Warhammer. Blizzard came back with something to the regards of ,”We are sorry to hear that you have fallen for the gaudy promises of another developer, but did you know that Blizzard has been working hard to provide the best gaming experience blah blah blah…..”. It then went on to ask me if I still wanted to cancel my account, my answer was yes. Ironically, I received an e-mail from Blizzard yesterday inviting me to join the WotLK beta. Funny thing about this is that a friend of mine canceled his account, and shortly thereafter got his invitation to the Wrath beta as well. What a coincidence. So, if any of you WoW enthusiasts are interested in getting into the Wrath beta, just cancel your account. OMG…I have to go…there are people wearing Blizzard ID badges at my front door:O…I must hide…


  15. I really don’t get the pve sucks guys. The max level you could possibly have experienced is tier 2. Can anyone say with a straight fact that the pve in WoW up to level 40 is a ball of fun? At absolute worse WAR is about the same. People compare the lowbie content to the current lvl 70 content… that’s not fair.


  16. I feel like if some studio kept putting out movies that made four or five billion dollars that the rest of the movie industry would think that was really cool.


  17. Hard content being dodging bored max levels and only occaisionally having a private war with someone near your level.

    Their life truly was a hard knock one.


  18. You mentioned the dark name NGE…I NOW DEMAND YOU BURN SMEDLY IN EFFIGY!!!


  19. The people who got an invite this week after cancelling your account, it’s not because you cancelled but because they sent a massive wave of invites for the testing of Lake Wintergrasp. I can’t think of any reason why Blizzard would panic over the release of WAR. Ok, they will loose some players, I don’t see them lossing enough to hurt them really bad. People are making too much out of this. The leveling nerf had to be done if you want anybody new to come into the game. 80 levels can seem very long. WAR and WOW are 2 great games, 2 very different games and I know I’ll be playing both!



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