Is WoW too easy? I have put myself in a position to not be able to raid as I am just coming back to WoW after a hiatus and burnout of the Shaman class. My favorite class is the Priest with shadow flavor and upon returning I've decided to play a Priest again, even if it means leveling. I have an Undead Priest ready to go but...my friends play on the Alliance. Ugh.
Anyway, the reason I ask if WoW has gotten too easy is because I keep hearing bloggers and podcasters say so. The people I know in RL that raid would disagree. Yet these same people are pugging raids. RAIDS! Sure, there was some pugging that took place at the end of BC, mainly post content nerf, but not right after launch. So lets dissect this deal.
First off, Blizzard claimed something like 1.2% of the entire player base saw the Sunwell at its prime. That means that of 11.5 million people (even though the numbers were lower then, but for sake of argument...) only 138,000 people were "bleeding edge raiders" who were out of things to do. The Sunwell came out with 2.4, which was March 25, 2008. That was a year and two months after The Burning Crusade launched. Its safe to say that this raid was a major content patch and was probably under some sort of development at TBC's release. If this is true, Blizzard put over a year of development into a 25-man dungeon that only 138,000 played. Wasted resources? Sure sounds like it, BUT, lets not forget thats the total player base for a lot of MMOs. It's true that 1.2% of your population controlling the direction of PVE is silly...or is it?
In my opinion, no. Thats your hardcore player base. They push the envelope and find tiny little secrets that the developers weren't aware of. Having those hardcore people happy, generally mean the rest of the subscribers reap the benefits. It is the trickle down effect at its greatest. Back in TBC I knew I would never see the Bleeding Edge, but I could have fun with the raids I could complete in time. I'm by no means hardcore. I have a wife and three small children. I play once they go to bed or when they are out of the house for some reason. For all intents and purposes, I play from 9pm est to midnight and then off and on during the weekend. My 15-20 hours a week prevents me from being bleeding edge. I'm ok with that though.
With Lich King a new mentality has taken over Blizzard (or is it pressure from the Activision side of the merge?). Any Tom, Dick, or Harry is able to be bleeding edge. Has Blizzard really thought this out? Think of the danger. In a pre-expansion interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime (which of course I can't find now, i think it was on massively), he said they were having trouble keeping up with the player base's appetite for content. Seems to me this the perfect example of rock and hard places slamming together to make a bad situation.
On one hand, you make the content easier and open it up to a lot more people. You change the face of what it means to raid and allow a broader scope of participants. To counter this for the hardcore folks you put in "hard modes." The problem with this is you know going in that the casual types that you are now gearing toward aren't going to clear the hard modes, but they have a very good chance at being at the end of raid content. This of course means more QQ about nothing to do and Blizzard feeling even more overwhelmed then they've already admitted to. Is this a good idea? Only if Blizzard steps up the content releases.
Games like Lord of the Rings Online have large and somewhat game changing patches on a regular basis. They aim for one every two months with one paid expansion per year (which comes with a "free" month of game time, another complaint I have with blizz). So by Turbine's, LoTRO's development company, philosophy 3.1 would have likely been broken up into two patches. One for dual spec and one for Ulduar. Blizzard is probably so big they work on a lot of things at once and this model wouldn't work. They've said they want these big patches to cater to everyone. Why? If they release a patch every six months, then yeah. If they spread them out the game would feel like its constantly changing and in my opinion would help keep the game feeling fresh. Having those patches every other month is a great thing. Sure, sometimes your playstyle isn't being catered to, but it still feels like the game is ever changing in small little bits and pieces instead of big game changing moments like WoW's 3.1. This isn't Blizzard's plan and I feel that near the end of LK, there will be more people drop off than near the end of TBC. The fact that WoW has seen it's first stagnant quarter as far as growth goes is the first shred of evidence. This can also be taken with a grain of salt because they didn't release it in a new country/region, did they?
Anyway, my point is that Blizzard is busy nerfing everything to cater to the casual player but if they aren't careful they'll nerf WoW's growth. MMOs evolve at a blistering pace. If the game feels stagnant to its players, the numbers drop off. It is the classic story of not balancing the fine line. Developers don't make changes and basically come across as just milking the game as long as they can, or they make radical changes to fix or save the game and see people leave in droves. For the first three years it seemed like Blizzard was riding it perfect. Lately it seems they're leaning more one way. For the sake of those of us who enjoy the game, lets hope they're right and these worries are for nothing.