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Time to Depart WOW

I've been playing World of Warcraft (WOW) since (Nov 2004) when it first came out, and I've had a blast. Never before have I had a game that has held my attention for well over a year. But as was bound to happen, I finally cancelled my account 2 weeks ago.

For all of WOW's achievements, there are a few things that they do very wrong.

1. The first is Burning Crusade.
Now don't get me wrong, Burning Crusade is an excellent expansion and I'll be the first to admit that its awesome. But it got the end game completely wrong. In the original WOW, once you hit level 60, the end-game content was raiding. Molten Core, Black Wing Lair etc. Raiding is fun the first few time you try it, but after that it becomes something of a job. You can't raid alone, you need a guild of about 40 people (pre-BC). Also, you can't expect to complete an end game instance in 1 weekend. It takes guilds months of weekly raids to learn, gear up and eventually complete an end-game instance. But the benefits were worth it. You got bragging rights, and tons of very cool gear for everyone.

Post-BC, raiding is still the end-game. But now things are different. In order to even enter the end-game instance of The Black Temple, you literally have to complete countless raids in no less than about 8 instances to build up your reputation with over 6 different factions. I won't go into detail but they literally drew flow charts to show you the progression for The Black Temple. That's not fun, that's a 2nd job. Now this in itself should not have mattered since countless gamers had been doing this very thing pre-BC. But here the rules have changed yet again.

The number of persons in a raid dropped from 40 to 10/25. Now organizing a guild is no easy task, reorganization of a guild is a nightmare of significant proportions. The end result is many guilds were disbanded or went through very unpleasant reorganizations. An added unpleasantness was that the difficulty of the encounters increased fairly significantly. With fewer people, everyone now has to carry more of a burden. They have to be better prepared and the margin for error is reduced. The result here is higher repair costs, more time spent preparing for these raids, and more trips from the graveyard.

Finally, the worst transgression post-BC is the loot. Now if you have a good enough incentive, you can literally get anyone to do anything. Sadly the end-game loot post-BC is lacking. Sadly sadly lacking given the effort of raiding. Now, Blizzard did upgrade all end-game items 2 weeks ago in patch 2.10, but even after that I was left very unimpressed, at least from the perspective of a Priest.

2. Development of new content
I love that Blizzard's products are very polished. There is no other gaming company that get's how important this is and get's it right every time. Let's take for example Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest 2. I tried both these games recently and while I will admit that they have their strong points, They were not as polished. This word ... "Polish" is almost an X factor. Many people in the gaming industry have started spouting how important it is, but I'm not sure everyone understands what it is.

To me, its attention to every aspect of your game. For example, movement. I'm one of the 10-20% of the population that get's motion sickness after playing FPS's and sometimes MMORPG's. But I never had an issue with WOW. Not a single time. Playing Everquest2 however, I encountered this after playing extended periods (over an hour) and Lord of the Rings Online while slightly better still made me feel queasy. Other examples I can give are WOW's extremely customizable interface which is not reflected in either LotRO or EQ2.

Regardless, this polish that is delivered with every Blizzard game seems to be a hindrance in MMORPG's. I'm paying a monthly fee to play and support a game that gives a content update only once every 3-6 months? And only releases expansions once every 2 years? I know that Blizzard made mention of releasing a new expansion every year, but it is now June 2007. Do you truly believe that Blizzard will release the next expansion for WOW in Jan 2008? Especially since they have not even announced the name of the expansion. I think that June 2008 is a more likely release date for the expansion, possibly later.

To be fair to Blizzard, my gaming style is not typical. I leveled to 70 in the first 8-9 days of the release of Burning Crusade. And it took me 3 months to reach level 60 in Jan 2005, this was before the days of hitting level 60 in a week guides were released. So my constant search for new content works against me, but I think that waiting over 3 months for new content and 2 years for an expansion is simply too long.

3. Replay ability
There are many individuals out there who have 2 or even 6 alts and all of them are at the level cap. I envy these individuals their ability to grind alts. Personally I've have 2 characters in outlands at 70 and 65, a Priest and a Mage respectively. My other alts are stuck at 30's - 50's.

The reason being that from level 25-55, you are forced to grind/quest the same zones over and over. Eastern and Western Plaguelands, Burning Steppes, Blasted Lands, Un'Goro Crater, Winterspring, Silithus, and Tanaris to name a few. Is anyone sick of these zones? I know I am.

Despite all of Blizzard's faults, and WOW's current age of 2 3/4 years, it still has an appeal that no MMORPG released recently can touch. And I'm sure I'll fire WOW up again eventually and certainly when the next expansion is released. But till then I've been signing up for the numerous beta's currently flooding the web for the next big MMO. And till then, I'm dusting off my PS2 and playing Disgaea 2.

Thanks for listening to me rant, and happy gaming.

PS. I should also mention that the straw that broke the camel's back for me was my guild which existed since WOW's beta imploded leaving me flapping in the wind. On the bright side, I now seem to have loads of time in the evenings to read the 20 or more books that have piled up in the past 2 years.

PPS. Here's another Game blogger who shares similar feelings about WOW. His post in entitled Why TBC Killed End-Game WoW for Me and a Plea to Blizzard. Its a good read.

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