WoW Factor: The Iron Docks and the bare level cap

    
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Looking closer.

I really didn’t want Massively Overpowered’s inaugural column about World of Warcraft to focus on the negatives. But I can’t in good conscience ignore the fact that patch 6.1 for Warlords of Draenor is not getting the Iron Docks that many players were expecting. It’s not that I think it’s a grand betrayal of player trust; it’s not. Things get shifted around in development. Stuff gets held back for the next patch. It happens. This feature was never promised for Tuesday, and it isn’t coming out then. Seems fair.

No, the problem here comes down to one of perception, presentation, and the simple fact that there’s plenty to do at level cap in Warlords of Draenor… but also absolutely nothing to do.

It seems ironic that an expansion that led to an enormous subscriber surge is also seemingly tone-deaf on a number of points, but it also seemed ironic when Cataclysm followed Wrath of the Lich King by undoing a good portion of what made the prior expansion so popular. So why is there so much negativity, even from people who do like the game? How can a game be replete in things to do while at the same time have nothing to do?

It's a little weird to cheer the removal of pandas when you added the pandas in in the first place.To understand the issue, I think you have to cut into the dark heart of WoW and design philosophies over the years.

There’s an old adage about military planning that generals are always preparing to fight the last war, not the present one, but some of that is just human nature. When your romantic partner breaks up with you because you were too distant, you go into your next relationship working overtime to not be distant. If you got a poor job review last year for not taking part in meetings, you go overboard trying to take part. We adjust our behaviors to solve the problems we did have because it’s harder to solve the problems that we may or may not have at the moment without realizing it.

Warlords of Draenor is very much an approach to solve the problems of Mists of Pandaria. The endgame had a problem there, too. There were too many daily quests, too many reputations, and too much sense of grind in general. So here we are! This expansion features almost no daily quests and a mere handful of reputations, and the developers have even gone ahead and altogether removed justice and valor points from the game so you don’t have to worry about them! Don’t like undergeared people in heroics? No worries; there’s a skill barrier now to queueing up!

The problem there, of course, is that part of what made the base game and the first two expansions so beloved is that the solutions were not this extreme. Instead of gutting systems, the devs refined and addressed them. Reactionary overcompensation leads to things like removing two perfectly functional currencies from the game and introducing a totally different currency (Apexis Crystals) instead of asking why there was a problem with the existing currency in Mists of Pandaria.

The Iron Docks may have just been a single quest chain, but it felt like something that the game desperately needed: structured content with tangible rewards. Even if the point were never to have the area provide more than a single quest chain, players wanted more.

When Mists of Pandaria launched, the game was replete with daily quests and reputations that were annoying not for their mere presence but for the way in which they were presented. You had a hub that sent you to another random hub, and you had to raise one reputation to unlock daily quests for another reputation. Tabard reputation gains were eliminated. The problems there had nothing to do with daily quests and everything to do with how those dailies were used and structured.

It also didn’t help that your reward for raising those reputations was the ability to purchase equipment for Justice/Valor — equipment that in previous expansions would have been available to all. By making reputation rewards so required to make use of currencies, the net effect was to make the path upward feel less rewarding and more chore-like.

Yes, I'm nostalgic, but for good reason.Assuming that the Iron Docks were meant to be a new quest hub may or may not sync up with reality, and I will entirely agree that Blizzard may never have intended to give that impression. But the mere fact that people were excited to have it there speaks to the simple reality that Warlords of Draenor, right now, does not feel like a rewarding expansion for several reasons. Players wanted that chain not just to have something to do but to have something to do that felt like actual forward motion.

Combine all this with the fact that Warlords of Draenor ended a 14-month-long content gap for WoW and players are just a little bit leery of feeling as if there’s nothing to do. The reasons players do feel that way is the sort of thing I could spend months of columns elaborating on, and I almost certainly will, but none of that is germane to why people are upset now.

I’ve joked on Twitter and elsewhere that it’s really hard not to feel as if any game’s offerings are thin after more than a year of supping on Final Fantasy XIV‘s overloaded buffets. Patch 6.1 is a perfectly serviceable patch, but it feels small. With nothing more than an update to the legendary ring line, that sense of not having much to do at the level cap is not helped in the least, especially when the big headlining features of the patch — the heirloom collection and the updated Blood Elf models — were supposed to be in the expansion’s original launch.

On the other hand, now is a fine time to jump in if you’re just getting back into the game, so there’s something to be said for that.

Feedback, as with all of the columns I write now or in the future, can be directed to the comments or mailed along to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next week, I’d like to write the column I actually wanted to write this week before the whole Iron Docks thing, all about how WoW gets a bad reputation it doesn’t really deserve.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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Klaus92
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Klaus92

eLdritchMD ManastuUtakata usagizero I wouldn’t say that. I murdered the fuck out of it as Demo. Pretty much if you’re trying to play anything other than Demo you’re absolutely fucked though.

spellotape
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spellotape

Grimmtooth Here’s a two-days-late reply: the veteran mode is already live. You can create/play anything up to level 20 and join any guild your other characters are already in. After that you have to resubscribe.

Grimmtooth
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Grimmtooth

For me since Cata, Blizz has been progessively picking more and more sections of game play and saying NO NO NO your doing it all wrong players. This is the only Blizzard aproved way to play and then they change the approved way every 2 years. I actually more intersted in the Veteren free to play mode than buying WoD. I only ocasionaly subed during MoP to keep up with guildies. Is there an ETA on the Vet mode release?

Actintous
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Actintous

eLdritchMD Actintous The simple answer is – if you don’t like a game – don’t play it. There are many many other really good games (and I include non-MMos) out there.

I have a long long list of MMO’s I don’t play because they don’t suit me or I think they are not well-made games. And yes I spent some time in WildStar, ESO, ArcheAge, Lotro, Rift, etc etc. apart from GW2, Landmark and so on which I still play. But some people thrive in those games (you and Eliot like FFXIV). Which is great.

To make generalised statements that “players don’t like xxx” so game is bad is sloppy – Apart from raiding with my guild one night each week I plan to go through the old dungeons get one of the 18 new battle pets as well as the music scrolls for the juke box. SOME OF US LIKE THAT TYPE OF CONTENT.

And this is the WoW column on massively, and as WoW is one of the games I dod play then it is probably OK for me to read and comment especially as I have been playing the game continuously since just before burning crusade,

Golden_Girl
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Golden_Girl

Actintous Golden_Girl The whole “endgame” concept is weird  -and it’s been warping MMOs for years now.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Eliot_Lefebvre chriskovo 
They won’t be adding it in 6.1. More likely towards end of the expansion, with certain zones still restricted. And fully flyff going into the next…though the next will unlikely to have flying at the beginning. At least in my prediction.

chriskovo
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chriskovo

Eliot_Lefebvre chriskovo  I was on the fence about getting the expansion at all until they stated that It would be coming back in 6.1, think it was one of their devs or community mangers basishok or something that said it.. That made me buy their expansion with that promise then they retract it.   Thats not bait and switch?    I grinded out the hell that was my Nether Dragon in BC, did the same for the Dragons I wanted into Wrath, hell I even bought a 25 dollar one from their store cause it looked good and now I cant even use them at all in their winged role?   That’s just BS!  They even added more flying mounts into their store after the no flying announcement and you don’t think that is nefarious?   I used to think Blizzard was an upstanding company that put out good products.  Now I just see them in the darkest light possible.   Those Diablo 3 micro transactions they are playing with in Asia, you don’t think they are coming over to the us in future to gouge us some more?   Sorry they just trashed their own reputation and its now coming to bite them in the ass, everyone is getting tired of their BS.

Eliot_Lefebvre
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Eliot_Lefebvre

chriskovo I honestly agree with the general development philosophy that flying should arguably have never been added to the game as it currently exists.  I’d argue that the cat’s out of the bag now, though, and you don’t get a rollback.

However, I can’t call that a “bait and switch” when they said that they might add it in 6.1 or might never add it, since that’s… exactly what’s happened.

Rohirrim
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Rohirrim

Eliot_Lefebvre It will be an interesting article. Looking forward to it :)

Eliot_Lefebvre
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Eliot_Lefebvre

Rohirrim Eliot_Lefebvre No, the decision has most definitely been to promote raiding over dungeons in all things.  The core of the issue is that every subsequent development has been aiming at making raiding ever more important and dungeons ever less important.  Compare and contrast the variety of activities available for equivalent rewards in FFXIV, which feels more like it took Wrath’s “tokens for everything” approach and ran with it – people have felt more free to do what they want on the dungeon-vs.-progression-raiding axis.

Again, I’ll be expanding on this in the future.