I will start this post off by giving the standard disclaimer because a lot of what I am going to be talking about here is my personal opinion and experiences and what I personally like in games. It might be close to or far off from what you play a game for but I hope that I am able to convey what I believe is missing from warlords in a way that even if you do not agree you will understand where I am coming from when I talk about it.
When I was playing with warlords on the beta I kept saying there was a lack of content at 100. I kept thinking they would add more before the game was released because it was impossible to think the game would be released with such a limited array of things to do at max level. I was wrong.
But I believe, now at least, that it is not so much the things that are missing such as daily quest hubs, "normal" reputations, scenarios, flight, etc that is what the expansion is missing. Sure it would be nice to have them all and having them all would help with what is really missing from this expansion, but they, themselves being gone, are not the problem.
The problem with warlords is the lack of feeling like you are moving your character forward.
That is it in a nutshell for me. Going into yet another reset with the same gear, for the most part, that I had 6 weeks ago, save one or two pieces maybe, and knowing that the only way I will get anything is completely up to the random number generator is what is killing the game for me.
Let me go into the time machine and take your through a history, minor one, of me with playing games. I won't bog you down with a lot of example, just two, but thinking about these games I have played in the past made me realize what is missing from warlords.
Over the years I have played a ton of browser based game while at work. Can't play something like warcraft there, it is too involved. But some point and click stuff on a browser works wonders for me. I played a near countless number of games. Most of those the browser based games that some call pay to win. Some I have spent a little on, some I have not spent a cent on. Spending or not, each and every one of them had ran its course and I quit. I quit only to move on to the game game similar to it. They are all the same really, in one way or another, just as LotR, Rift, WildStar, FF, etc are all the same as wow. Basic concept similar, implementation slightly different.
So what made me quit all those games? The same exact thing. As soon as I stopped feeling the forward motion, feeling the character develop, moving forward, getting stronger, making advances, moving up, I quit the game.
I like to see myself moving forward, feel myself moving forward. It is one of the reasons I like grinds. I liked getting the 10,000 bones for the raptor, grinding reputations, etc, all because I can see myself moving forward toward a goal. When I get that last bone, finish that last quest or kill for the reputation gain that shifts me over to exalted, it is building up toward something, it is moving forward. Once I stop moving forward, I start to lose interest.
This is where I am now in warcraft. With many pieces of gear out there for me to move forward with, but absolutely none of them within my reach, thanks for bad luck and a random number generator that just won't forget I called its mother fat some years back and still hates me and the fact I will never get to see mythic content because I do not have a group of 20 players that can do it and it is not cross realm. This all means my only way to move forward now is locked behind a door called luck, and I do not have the key.
Now to those games, and their story. One of those games I got really into. I spent a little, about fifty bucks at the start, to get me going but then once I had started I became a wheeler dealer. Making trades, partnerships, alliances, you name it. I was able to work the game better than I had ever worked a game before. The game was out for nearly two years before I joined, so I was just a droplet of water in an ocean of players when I started. But I kept working, I kept doing my thing, and I went above and beyond to see how far I could get. I was so bad I even set my alarm clock so I could check in more often. Didn't want to miss a thing.
It took me over a year, but with dedication, hard work, and lots and lots of trading, and I was poised as one of the strongest players in the game. I kept going, because I kept seeing myself moving forward. I went up to the point where I managed something that the creator of the game did not even think was possible. I neared god mode.
There was a bounty system in the game and for fun one of my friends put a bounty on me to see how many people they could get to attack me and lose. Some 4000+ PvP battles later against challengers, even being ganged up on my multiple people constantly, I could not be beaten, I could barely be touched. I had reached god mode.
What did I do? Did I keep going, did I keep pushing to remain the strongest the game has ever seen? Nope. I quit the game.
There was no where to go. No where to move forward. I reached the end of the game even if the game had no end, because in my mind there was no moving forward any more. I was at the forwrd point, people were now moving toward me. There was no carrot on a stick to keep me going. Here was a game I spent some money on, I spent serious time on, serious effort on, so much so that I woke up in the middle of the night just so I did not miss anything, and I just quit. I quit because I didn't feel like I was moving forward any more. When I left the game the creator redesigned it so that no one would be able to attain what I did, even if they tried to repeat what I did to get there.
Another example is a game I am current playing. I've spent nothing at all on this one. As a matter of fact I really like it. It is a great game to play at work. Nothing is timed so I can step away whenever I need to and not miss anything. I've been playing it for two months now and I keep moving up. This is one of those new generation pay to win games however, not like the one I mentioned. This one gives the people that pay a huge boost instead of just a simple increased energy bar so you did not need to log on as often like the previous one I mentioned. So I will never catch any of them, or I shouldn't.
But I am, or should I say was, moving forward nicely. Each day I log in, I do my things, I can see my character getting slightly stronger. I get further in the endless battle, where waves of mobs keep coming until you die, I move up the PvP ranks in one on one and tournament, my battle rating keeps rising, my rankings for weekly honor and silver keep moving higher, and over all I can feel myself moving forward. But only two months in and I already feel the slow down, the painful slow down, and I am starting to lose my desire to log in. The steps forward keep getting smaller and smaller. I see it getting to the point soon where I will not even notice I am moving forward. Sure, I will be moving forward, but in such small increments it will start losing its attraction because I won't feel like I am moving forward. I will most likely be quitting before I finish the third month of playing at this rate.
Once the feeling of forward motion stops, or starts slowing to a crawl, it is time to move on. It has been the way I have handled each and every one of these games that I have played while at work. I enjoy them for a few months, they slow down, I quit and move on.
I just used those two as an example because I can probably go through 50 or more games I have played like that over the years. When I stop feeling the forward motion, I quit and move to the next thing.
That is the feeling warlords is giving me. A feeling of not moving forward. The story does not feel like it is moving forward. My character with bad luck does not feel like it is moving forward. My alts, being I do not have time to pug raids, even with the group finder as there is only so much time in a day, do not feel like they are moving forward. I feel stagnant. That is not a fun feeling.
If it were not for the fact I am so invested in the game in other ways, time, money spent for all these years, buying mount and pet trading cards and in game mounts, my guild, the friends I've made, and the history of all I have done, I would have already dropped this game just as easily as I dropped all those others I played, even the ones I did spend a fair deal of cash on only to walk away if not for those additional connections that keep my playing the game. I would have walked away because I do not feel as if I am moving forward.
I figured out what could fix the game for me. Valor.
Seriously, something that simple would fix everything for me. Have it use the same criteria as garrison missions do. You buy xxx level gear and once you kill X number of bosses at one level you can now buy xxx level of gear.
That would mean, even with my bad luck, if I log in each week and keep busy and valor cap, I have a feeling as if I am moving forward. I know that even if I kill 8/10 again this week and win nothing I will have collected valor. Maybe in another week or two I might be able to buy one piece of gear.
Even when it gets to the point where I do not need any valor gear I will still have the feeling of moving forward by the fact I could exchange my valor into conquest and start my PvP set. I would also feel like there is once more a reason to play my alts. I could now do things with them to get valor and slowly gear up that way.
If I hit a wall gear wise on an alt I could then make some time to get into pugs because there would be more motivation to do so. Right now the only motivation is really to get some kills and then maybe, just maybe, win something. Which the way things have been going I would not count on. But I would get the better cache in time, which is little, but that is not much motivation as that is one piece every 2 or so week, and that too is hindered by being random and knowing you can get the same piece 4 times in a row, so that is no way to gear up. However, if it upped the gear I could buy with valor, I once again have motivation to play my alts. I once again have motivation to pug with my alts. I once again have more reason to log in whereas right now I don't because I do not feel myself moving forward.
I am at a wall, my alts are at a wall, the game has become stagnant, it is just sitting there doing nothing but waiting for me to log in on raid night, kill a few internet dragons, get nothing from it, and then wait until next week to do it again.
No forward motion at all. The game has completely stalled. Valor could fix that.
I said it when they originally announced that they were removing valor that I did not believe it would not be a good idea. For me the realization has come, even if I had already known it, that removing valor was the worst move they ever did for this expansion for a player like me, one addicted to moving forward, even at a slow rate, as long as I am moving forward, because valor offered relief from the game getting stagnant. It helped you feel as if even if you did not win something you were gathering a resource from the work done that would buy you something. Add into that the new idea from blizzard to increase rewards based on a set number of kills, that makes valor even more valuable, if you ask me.
If they added that kill number increasing rewards it would mean that valor would remain attractive much much longer. While valor was always the motivating factor for my alts to help gear them up, on my main it was usually useless in short time, and I started to convert it to conquest. But with this new system valor would serve a greater purpose for my main and an increased purpose for my alts, more so even when you consider it might get me to pug more on my alts as well.
Over all the missing ingredient in warlords is not flight, that was removed, it is not scenarios, that were removed, it is not mythic being locked for only large groups now, it is not the lack of daily quests, that were removed, it is the loss of valor and its removal because valor was what helped, me at least, feel as if I was moving forward.
In all other expansions when I am "done" with my main, like I am on my hunter now basically outside of raid night, I always "kept moving forward" by gearing alts with valor. Without valor, I am not moving forward, and without forward motion, there really is no reason to play the game.
That is where I think warlords made its one critical error. Not the removal of flight, scenarios daily quests or any other debated argument people come up with for why warlords feels blah. Warlords feels blah because it is blah. It lacks sufficient forward motion. At least for me it does.