We all view the history of the game and its expansions differently so some might not agree with the assessment I make here but that does not change the fact that it would appear that through subscriptions and feedback they are somewhat popular opinions, even if opinions are all they are.
The game started the way that MMO games worked at the time, a basic grind fest, but a more casual version of it. Enough that anyone that started playing in the recent years would not even recognize the game if they saw the original now for the first time. When the burning crusade came out it improved on the game by making things a little easier but still including some classic grinds. When wrath was added to the history of the game it all but removed the extensive grind, something needed to catch up with the desires of today's players and once again improved on the game in many ways.
A nice trend was starting here but it ended with wrath. From the start the game just kept getting better. The burning crusade was better than vanilla and wrath was better than the burning crusade. Then the growth and desire to make things better stepped to the side never to return and the last two expansion gave us nothing of the sort. However, the last two expansions started a new trend that it looks like, for the little data we have, warlords will continue.
The last two expansions and it seems like the upcoming one are all about huge additions too the game and less about trying to make what worked better like the original cycle of three did. The last two expansions gave us some of the worst decisions blizzard ever made, such as the wasted development time on redesigning the old world (something they are letting you skip now which means it is even a bigger waste than it first seemed to be) and the harder heroics that could very well be directly connected to the loss of over 2M subscribers on its own to the best decisions blizzard ever made, such as adding pet battles and flexible raiding.
It is amazing that for a game with such a rich history of great success the three parts of the game from the start and moving forward showed growth by keeping the same design but building on it, refining it, to make it better, building on it one addition at a time, from vanilla to burning crusade to wrath yet none of them included anything that would be considered as the most horrible or most fantastic addition to the game. Those distinctions are left for the last two additions.
So now we are going into warlords, the third in the second trilogy of sections and we can look back now and think will warlords buck the trend of just adding stuff and not trying to build on what works or will it cement it meaning the second cycle will be bad (cataclysm), good (mists) and bad again (warlords).
With all the early information we have seen, which I must warn is all subject to change of course, warlords is looking like the titanic. A great strong ship that is destine to crash. While there have been some interesting things coming out that we can latch on to and guess about there does not seem to be anything that would be considered a great addition to the game, like pet battles or flexible raiding was but it does seem like many of the things do have a chance to be considered bad additions to the game like cataclysm and it wasted redesign and harder random heroics.
It seems that warlords is leaning the way of cataclysm in every step of its design and it leaves me wondering why would blizzard go to the well again. They already pulled water from that well and it killed off nearly 30% of their subscribers in less than a year after they tasted it. So why go back there?
On its face warlords sounds awesome, something that would make for an amazing raid in a caverns of time sort of way, but not an entire expansion. Cataclysm let us play in places like uldum and hyjal, places that had been in the game since vanilla, there was nothing new and/or exciting about them, it was more of an "about time" feeling to them because those zones were always there and should have been open in a patch years earlier and not saved on the side to make some misconceived expansion with them.
Draenor holds the same exact distinction as hyjal and uldum did. It would be really nice to see what outlands look liked before it became the outlands we know but they did not need to make an entire expansion to show us it. A raid or some other form of instanced content would have been ample to satisfy our curiosity. So this is blizzard taking tainted water from the well and trying to make people drink it again.
Then there is the story line, just like deathwing, it is one of those stories that rings as "who cares". No really, who cares. No one gave a crap about deathwing and no one gives a crap about a whole bunch of orcs on draenor. Even the people that will respond here saying "don't speak for me I am really interested in them" well good for you but these aren't our orcs.. You should be able to get a book and read all about them. This whole expansion is a what if scenario. None of these orcs are our orcs. Anything that happens to them has no impact on us even if I am sure their writers will connect it in some way over the course of the expansion because they have to. Anything we do there should have no impact on us. It is an alternate world, these are alternate orcs. Want to make this story interesting, let us see our history. Leave the what if's to writers, not game makers. So even if you do care, the story to care about doesn't mean anything and would be better told in a book, or in this case, a really bad fan fiction. It is not something that an entire expansion should be wasted on, just like cataclysm. They went the route of telling the story no one wanted to hear before and it did not work. It won't work this time either. Even if many people hated mists, at least people wanted to hear that story.
Warlords is going back to the well again to repeat a mistake that cataclysm made that cost it over 2 million players at one time and a lot more during its run. They are making harder heroic dungeons and still allowing people to queue for them. They would not be a problem what so ever if you needed to hand assemble them as we do with heroic scenarios now and there was no queue option ever for them. But allowing people to queue for them, even with the ridiculous requirement of having a silver in proving grounds, will still make them a nightmare.
The heroics in cataclysm were not bad only because people were bad, they were bad because they were too hard for random groups most of the time. I was 85 on day one and queuing up for the heroic dungeons and getting into fail group after fail group. Those first people to 85, I guarantee, were not bad players. What bad player would be able to get to 85 that fast? And even if they were a bad players that just grinded it out so they were one of the first ones to max level for a new expansion I am sure they could grind out a silver too. Silver will not make harder heroics easier. Random groups, even random groups of decent players, will always have a harder time with content. Not because the content is hard, but because it is a random group. This will not end well.
They could make you have to have a proving grounds of gold in the role you queue for and it still would not help in any way, shape or form. Perhaps on a boss like the last boss of grim bartol having damage dealers that could down the guys going for the eggs fast enough would have made the fight easier. But it would still be a random group. There will still be the guy that thinks, the others can get it, I am staying on the boss. There will still be the guy who goes to the wrong side. There will still be the guy that has a slow but refuses to use it because he thinks he is so awesome he can kill it without wasting a global on a slow and he will be wrong. Just because having a proving grounds gold would assure your damage dealers can do decent damage on demand it will do nothing to show they can actually work as a group of random people.
For some other things, like corla's beams, having a proving grounds of even a gold would mean nothing. What about the proving grounds would teach you to do top DPS while watching for an interrupt, and a timer for when to step in and out. And even if the proving grounds did teach that, what is there to speak for lag issues, ego issues from the guy that doesn't want beam duty, or just someone that does not know what to do or when to do it? Or how about the fire elemental that everyone needs to switch to and the person that it is on that needs to run. Would people switch to it or would they all think the other guy will get it? Will the person not run because they expect a group of all gold proving grounds damage dealers to be able to down it fast enough? Well they should but in a random group that does not mean they will. Or how about the person who has to been in the robot in deadmines. What exactly does a proving grounds teach you about that, or about deciding who has to do it?
Random hard content does not work. It is not because it is hard, it is because there are random people in it and you can never guess what a random person will do. Will he switch to stop the mob from getting to the egg or will he think everyone else got it. Will he step out of the beam in time or will he judge it wrong. Will he let his ego get the best of him and think he doesn't need to do something because he is so uber and can tunnel the boss?
Having the queue system even with a proving grounds of silver as a requirement is a recipe for disaster. There is no arguing that fact. Random content and harder content do not belong together. That is part one. Part two now becomes those people that can not manage to get a silver. So you have it on both ends, people in them and people that can not get in them, that will be hating on these harder heroics. Not because they are harder, but because you can queue for them.
When you have something you can queue for everyone wants access. When you need to hand assemble a group, people accept that they need to make friends to do it if they want to get it done. I suggest heroic dungeons in warlords go one way or the other. Make them harder and you can only go in with a hand assembled group or make them face roll from the start and you can use the random queue system. One or the other blizzard, not both. Hard & no queue or easy & queue.
The heroics in warlords should not have a queue option. This is not about the proving grounds silver crap. This is about the fact that harder content should never be part of the queue system. I loved the early cataclysm heroics once a few days past and there were more guild mates at 85 and we were doing them as a guild group. They were not hard at all, but when I was in a random, they had the potential to be a nightmare. Even later in the expansion, if you got a group that did not know the beam you could still wipe on corla. And that is exactly why there should never be an option to queue for anything with even any minor level of difficulty.
I would rather not even get started on the raid or die attitude blizzard has created for gearing this expansion and their push to make it an even more randomized loot system with no safely net in warlords but it can not be just avoided. Valor gear is good for the game and seeing how it was implemented in the burning crusade and made better in wrath and seeing the growth of the game during those periods should show blizzard something.
The badge / emblem / point gear system was perfected in wrath and abandoned in cataclysm to a straight out buy system where everyone could get the same amount of points. It spoiled people so much that they could get to cap even without raiding whereas in wrath, toward the end, it was balanced as it should be. Non raiders could get some emblems while raiders got a lot more. There was no cap(that I recall), you got what you could get, the cap was how many things you could do to get them. This meant non raiders could still work toward gear, albeit a great deal slower, and it gave them a reason to log on and do their daily dungeon to get the few emblems they were capable of getting each week. It let non raiders get a piece every so often and let raiders use emblem gear for what it was intended for, a safety net for bad luck, because they would have a lot more emblems because they were raiding of course.
So cataclysm broke the system that did not exist in vanilla, was added in burning crusade and made better in wrath. Now warlords goes a step further and not only breaks the system, but removes it completely. Why remove something that everyone liked? Something that even non raiders had a use for? It makes no sense and shows a serious lapse in judgement.
Now on to talent trees. Cataclysm gave us a complete revamp which while it was entirely needed it was a huge change for many players, even more so for the ones that are not like us, the ones that do not read about this stuff online and did not know what was going on. It was a shock to the system for many players to experience such a sweeping change like that.
Now warlords decides it is time for sweeping changes again but not with our talent trees but with our talents themselves. Thing like recent tweets where they said they were removing 20% of the abilties. To people that do not read up on this stuff having some of their abilties gone is going to be a huge shock. Add to that fact the tweet yesterday that mages have 12 new spells and 28 spells in total, over all three specs. So this means they removed 20% and then added a bunch more which are changed versions of old things or completely new ones.
How do you think this is going to affect the average player, and folks, we are not the average players, we read about this before it happens. The average player will log on to find his abilties either gone or changed for the most part and have no clue what the hell he is doing. Not exactly a fun way to log into a game. But hey, at least we will be prepared because we read. But we are not the ones that pay the bills. If every warcraft player that actually reads this stuff beforehand quit it would not even come close to the amount of people the game lost because of harder heroics in cataclysm. We are the minority. Sweeping changes scare people.
Speaking of sweeping changes how about the stat squish and the removal of stats. Cataclysm had a massive removal of stats. Armor penetration, spell power, attack power, defense, etc. Now we see the removal of hit, expertise, doge and parry. While I agree they should all be gone because they all served no real purpose that is another change when tacked on top of the previous ones seems a little overwhelming for the average player to handle. All that and they will see themselves going from doing 150K to 15K, if they happen to even have recount, and that will surely go over as well as someone packing a fish in your luggage before a long flight so you get a surprise when you land.
So story wise, random heroic wise, change wise, redesigning wise, everything we see coming from the early information make warlords seem like a worse version of cataclysm. I did not even think that was possible. I did not feel excited for cataclysm and never thought I could feel as bad about the future of the game as I did then but I do now.
Another little thing that has nothing to do with anything but I felt like mentioning was the announcement that garrisons would be tied to the warlords expansion only. With followers we need to level, buildings we need to build, and all the work we will be putting into it, I would have liked garrisons and my followers to be like my pets. Something I can keep with me forever, something that will always be useful. With all the time we will put into leveling followers and all the gold we will put into building the buildings, I do not want more throw away content. Not when there is "leveling" involved.
I am looking forward to the expansion after warlords more than I am for warlords because in my mind warlords has already failed us as players and it is not even in beta. Actually, the fact that it is not even in beta is a failure in and of itself. I should be playing warlords now, or soon, the release, not the beta.
Here is to hoping that the next trilogy goes more like the first one, making things better as it goes along, and less like the second one, bad and good and bad with all additions and no building on what is already in place to make it better.
I would like if the expansion after warlords picked up right where wrath left off and we can forget the trilogy of cata, mists and warlords with their good and bad jeckle and hyde impersonation. We have to go back to where we were, the keep moving forward approach.
Writing this reminded me of something I saw at the end of wrath that always made me giggle. Years later when I think about it I can only think, they were right.
"Tell the world the lich king is dead, and the world of warcraft died with him."