WoW Factor: Impressive Influence and the ongoing half-hearted Battle for Azeroth apology

    
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I don't think there's enough sorry.

To my great disappointment and chagrin, Blizzard turned out to not catch the same winds (of wisdom) that influenced the extending of experience boosts in World of Warcraft. Impressive Influence is gone, and with that goes a lot of my desire to play the game with my max-level characters… and the motivation that was there mostly concerned getting the reputations for Allied Races that I didn’t already have. On the bright side, I did actually get two of the three reputations I cared about finished, so that was a positive.

It’s pretty clear from the upcoming changes for buying Corruption that the team is still trying to motivate people toward the top end right now, of course. But I feel like the two approaches have one clear winner and one clear loser, and the reason that one worked and one didn’t ties into stuff that we’ve talked about before. So let’s talk about the difference, starting by pointing out that in about half a year, we all know this isn’t going to matter anyhow.

Here’s the thing about farming for gear at the end of a WoW expansion: It always, always suffers because of the simple reality that the designers know not everyone will bother. Rather than creating any kind of steady slope, the reality is that you either have top-end raid gear that’s not getting replaced for a couple of levels, or you’re replacing your old gear immediately and you’re still able to handle the early quests just fine. For most players, it’s probably going to be the latter, so farming new stuff is kind of pointless.

This problem is compounded in Battle for Azeroth because there’s not much else to get. You could see the end of the fight with N’zoth… but it’s an incredibly brief ending, helped in no small part by the fact that the entirety of the buildup against N’zoth is hideously bungled and not compelling. The actual antagonist of the story to date left the building a patch ago. This doesn’t feel like a culmination so much as a declaration that now we’re fighting this guy because reasons.

Remember how I mentioned that we’re all just farming Nature Resistance gear now? Well, Corruption is the most Nature Resistance-y gear possible. It’s gear tied to mechanics that’s going away without much utility as soon as you replace it with better things that aren’t going to hurt you for wearing them. Once Shadowlands comes out, you’re going to stop caring about it even more than you already don’t care about the Heart of Azeroth.

This is a problem, because it further increases the people who just aren’t playing at the level cap. And allowing people to buy specific Corruptions isn’t really addressing that, because… well, it’s Nature Resistance.

A dispatch from the days when I bothered.

By contrast, look at the end of Legion. Yes, farming for gear then was still going to have the same problem… but you had new appearances, cosmetic rewards, three new zones to explore, easy catch-up gear, and a story that was actually wrapping up a larger meta-arc. And then once you had finished a good chunk of that, you had access to another system for your Artifact along the way. It was all solid and fun enough that it was easy to actually forget that you were getting gear you were going to replace soon enough.

And the funny thing is… they actually did help motivate people to play more at the top level with Impressive Influence. Because that felt like a key to unlocking things that would stay relevant.

Yes, there is the datamining/rumor that we won’t need Exalted reputations for Allied Races in Shadowlands, but in lieu of an actual announcement I’m not betting that way. And even if that plays out, hey, Allied Races now instead of later. These races are unlocked and ready to go. Mounts and cosmetic stuff, hooray! This is going to actually serve a lot better in the expansion than pieces of gear that will get thrown toward a vendor at high velocity.

You’ve probably noted that I’m conflating a reputation buff with an endgame progression buff. And there’s a reason for that because both of these things feel like they derive from the same root goal of apologizing for Battle for Azeroth. It’s just that only one of them actually works.

Allied race reputations are easily one of the most loathed elements of BfA. (I’ve also talked a lot about how those requirements made sense for Legion but didn’t work now, just in case I hadn’t made enough deep cuts to prior columns yet.) The reputation requirements for Pathfinder, similarly, seemed to generally be regarded in much the same way as you would treat a tonsil infection. So the offering of a series of buffs to make both of these elements significantly less obnoxious? That’s noteworthy. Players who aren’t enticed by other stuff are going to care more about this.

Similarly, Corruption and cross-account essences are also hated systems, so that being changed is also a positive thing, right? It’s something players didn’t like about the top end being made easier, that’s good! But… it’s missing a very important element along the way because this apology doesn’t matter any longer.

Dead in the water.

The reality is that none of the systems being added to “fix” the Heart of Azeroth have ever really done anything of note. The problems with Heart of Azeroth are so deep-seated that no one was ever going to like this thing. Essences were a patch on a system people didn’t like. Corruption was a patch on a system people didn’t like. The issues with these systems were transparent from a while back, and the problems were never purely mechanical but philosophical.

What makes Corruption so bad isn’t that it’s hard to get the Corruption you want; it’s that it removes the one positive aspect of Titanforging and replaces it with an all-downside variant. Being able to control that now is a good change, but the problem is how the fundamental system is designed from the ground up.

Combine that with the fact that we all know this gear isn’t going to matter, and the whole thing feels like a fix that should have been rolled out back when the system was introduced… which, you know, people were saying even at the time. Catching on to it months later after people had already moved on is not much in the way of an olive branch.

Do I think that players would have been happier to just have Impressive Influence extended? Yes, but I can understand why it might not be ideal (if you can start chaining out Paragon chests at max level, things get messy). But there’s still a lot of space for buffs that would actually motivate people to play more at the top level. It’s just that those buffs aren’t going to be about doing the top end of content. If someone hasn’t done that now, the window for that has long since closed.

Ah, well. Another week, another bad decision. Who’s feeling super hyped about the next expansion right now? Maybe I should write about that next.

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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Ashfyn Ninegold

When I started playing MMOs, the time frames were months, not weeks or days, to accomplish things. Which were sticky and mattered for the gameplay for months if not years ahead. I now see very little of value in jumping through hoops to get things in MMOs, especially WoW, where everything you just did becomes meaningless. I do not like games to take things away from me that I have worked for or enjoyed and WoW does this continually. Farms, garrisons, artifacts, hearts.

Perhaps I’m not the only player who feels why bother? It’s all going to go poof. LOTRO at least got that part of Legendary weapons right, even if they relied too heavily on both grind and the cash shop. And it was nice, when they first implemented them, when the pain stopped of having to discard an excellent weapon I had worked hard to craft just the way I wanted it.

There’s no permanence in WoW, no housing, no guild halls, no followers, no nothing. It’s all just disposable. I literally pay no attention to anything whatsoever in the game because it’s all going away in 18 months, so why bother? Even the storyline is so fungible it, too, will be unrecognizably altered. There’s no point in even caring about the skill set, just read Icy Veins and do that and you’ll be fine.

To sum up, I’m curious about Shadowlands, but not excited or hyped. I’m hearing some things I like, but the background noise hasn’t changed enough. Blizz is still developing to spreadsheets and participation curves and for once, I wish they would just think about making the game fun.

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Robert Andle

It’s the lack of permanance that bothers me, too. The reset we get every expansion wipes away all my progress and makes me wonder what the point of it is. Nothing I do now will matter one bit once the next expansion rolls around. I could be the hardest of hardcore raiders or the filthiest of casuals, yet I’ll have pretty much the same gear as everyone else a week into SL.

Blizzard need to design content that remains relevant no matter how old it is and not simply abandon it every year or two. There’s no incentive to put time and effort into clearing content when it’ll all be abandoned a year from now.

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Utakata

…the only silver lining about the last chapter of BFA is it’s a good reminder of how not to do solo instances.

Meanwhile my endgame kick is purging Corruption gear I get so I can play with my normal spells and abilities, lol. Lots of fun! >.<

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Lucky Jinx

I came back to BfA after skipping both Draenor and Legion. After doing the class hall quests and the damn Breaching the Tomb achievement, I gotta say BfA is pretty good. Also did the Nightborne unlock, which was more Suramar than I ever wanted. Completely underwhelming all the way, but then again, I don’t play for the lore, I just play because some classes are fun to do stuff with. Only thing I really dislike in BfA is the corruption crap. That was completely unnecessary. But once again, I’m a filthy casual, so the top end crap does not interest me in the big scope of things.

My personal quest to acquire Solar Spirehawk and Pureblood Firehawk mounts continues as usual. :)

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Ryan Allgood

I resubbed for the rep buff because I wanted to unlock a few allied races. But I’m having a hard time staying motivated even with the rep buff. So it really sucks that it’s going away. Might have to cancel the sub again and just wait until Shadowlands. I wanted to level a Zandalari troll before Shadowlands.

I really hate how they implemented Allied Races. It was a really cool concept that they just had to go and shit all over with the time-gated bullshit. I hate that it’s such a solo centric task too. It’s grindy and boring. But the races themselves are cool.

It’s a moot point for those that have been playing daily the whole expansion, but it really sucks to come back and be like “here’s these cool races, oh but you need to grind daily on solo quests, on a different character you might no longer want to play anymore, for a month to get them”.

It just feels like a cheap trick to keep you subbed. Even with the rep buff it feels like an annoying chore of a roadblock. It doesn’t feel like you achieved anything, just that you wasted a little bit of time taking out the garbage each day.

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Giggilybits

I think it would have been better (unlocking the Allied races) as a Lore quest. Similiar to that of acquiring your Artifact weapons in Legion.

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Targeter

Imagine having to grind a reputation to play Blood Elves or Draenei in TBC.

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Kendall Sanders

Whatever happened to just having fun in a game? I swear to god. The gaming community has descended into this never ending cycle of displeasure and unhappiness. Whenever I play WoW, it’s a blast even when I’m playing solo. I’m the kind of player that I’m never really caught up due to outside responsibilities so I’m always busy and loving every bit of the game. I truly believe people need to take a step outside every once in a while and remember what is really important in life. Then and only then I think people will care less about things that don’t matter.

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Bruno Brito

I truly believe people need to take a step outside

Good idea in a pandemic.

And just an small edit: WoW is a subbased game. You pay money for it. Maybe it doesn’t matter for you, but for some people, paying money to enjoy a game gives them the right to complain about deceptive systems made exclusively for inconvenience, outrage and time wasted.

Your positive 15 bucks aren’t worth more than my negative 15 bucks.

And i got a therapist, thank you, i don’t need your armchair advice.

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Giggilybits

Too be fair BFA overall is a bad expansion. It has some redeeming qualities for sure but overall a huge letdown IMO.

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Utakata

You’ve seem to have answered your own question there. So if you’re having fun with WoW, what does it matter what others think of it? o.O

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Sarah Cushaway

When I’m forking out that much money for a box price and then a sub on top? It had better be something worth my money or I’m going to be a bit peeved.

BFA was garbage. I regret buying it. I regret the 1.5 months I was subbed to it. As a paying customer, Blizzard gets to hear my feedback even if they don’t like it. And a LOT of us don’t like it. Maybe the fault is with the company/gameplay and NOT the playerbase.

Sedanis_Landale
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Sedanis_Landale

I loved BFA, playing a ton of Classic since it launched, looking forward to both Shadowlands and TBC.

I do wish this column reflected both on positives and negatives of WoW. Effusive praise would be weird, but so is reading article after article about how the game you’re passionate about is downright awful.

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Bruno Brito

Ok, but what positives, tho? Because the positives of WoW right now are few, while the negatives aren’t just many, but they’re also present on their core design philosophy.

One of the huge negatives is Blizzard still catering to their bullshit “each xpac, one experience” crap, where every xpac we get new features that then go completely irrelevant when it ends. Why? Who the hell thought that was good?

What are WoW positives? Good raiding, sure. Yet, the rest of the game lingers in obscure mediocrity. Pop? Eh, debatable. The game is littered with cross-server and phasing, so while your experience is that there are lots of people in the world, the way of interacting got waaaaaay narrower.

The problem with WoW positives is that they’re tied with waaaay bigger negatives.

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Dug From The Earth

For both legion and bfa now, WoW’s “catch up” system was so much better than their “core” system.

Maybe they will learn in shadowlands.

Had BFA led with all the improvements and changed that are in the game right now, it wouldnt have been that bad of an expansion.

AmittaiD
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AmittaiD

As of this posting, the rep buff is still up.

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Utakata

…as of post this, not anymore! /bleh

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Utakata

Edit/Erratum: As of this post*…proper.

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Ironwu

I am sick to death of the WoW reputation grinds. Period. Do not care how they attempt to bandage over them, just not acceptable to me anymore.

I have not heard anything about this new expansion that indicates to me that the suits and developers have listened to the customers or learned anything from the complaints.

So, hard pass on WoW for me.

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Sarah Cushaway

This, right here.

I just can’t do the gated boring-ass tedium grinds any more. They aren’t fun and I’m not paying 15 bucks a month to be bored because developers can’t think of a system that’s fun AND rewarding.

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TomTurtle

Except it’s not an apology and more likely one of many planned changes to keep players chasing that carrot on a stick. Blizzard leans heavily into power progression at max level, always have, and they’ve only leaned into it more and more in the past few expansions. Doling out “fixes” on an incremental basis is part of that power progression. You get people who will grind out this stuff early on, notice when they start to taper off and then nudge more players along with a “fix” to encourage more engagement and rinse and repeat from there. It’s a business-motivated ethos, pure and simple. How effective that is in the long run is debatable because it certainly turns off many players.

That aside, I’m glad I missed out on the launch of 8.3 before many of these fixes were put in. Even with an expansion coming, I still enjoy having some level of progression to work on my main. Or at least I would enjoy it more were the method of progressing not such a failure in learning from the past. There are still open world dailies that suffer from problems we saw in 8.2, some of those still exist as well even. Blizzard really likes stretching out content as much as they’re able to without players throwing up too much resistance.