World of Warcraft Players: The Unshakeable Backbone

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Yesterday, I celebrated seven years of talking about Warcraft. In all that time, one factor has remained constant: the people. A phenomenal number of players have come and gone during that time period. I’ve lost count of the individuals who decided one day they’d just had enough and left. However, on the flip side, a remarkable number of others remain, often completely unseen by anyone. These are the characters who don’t blog, or won’t use social media to express their feelings about current design choices. They have no need to, their obvious joy and enthusiasm about Warcraft is abundantly apparent whenever you talk to them. That, for them, is all that matters. So today I want to talk about the people in Azeroth, the players behind Warcraft’s silent majority. They’re the ones who don’t have a problem waiting until September for an Expansion, if that’s how long it takes. They’ll all be back regardless.

World of Warcraft players are the backbone of Warcraft’s enduring success story.

First up, I have to respect the Raiding Community. I’m not talking about those who think its cool to diss anyone who’s not min/maxxing, or to throw rocks at casual players who have no interest in that side of the MMO’s content. I’m looking at the groups who are still plugging away at Archimonde in all his particular flavours, or indeed any of the Hellfire Citadel content that was released back in the summer of last year. For them at least, this game is far from over and done with, quite the opposite. Of course, it’s not all about the raiding either: I listened to a very good friend on Friday wax lyrical about the joy of Challenge Modes. Her passion and obviously boundless joy on how these things can be min/maxxed in their own way was a revelation, and made me realise that there’s a side to this game I no longer see, and had forgotten matters.

You see, for her at least, winning in raids is a pretty much one track affair: gone are the days of encounters like the Paragons of the Klaxxi, which never had simply one set means by which it could be defeated. The decline in those kind of fights is one of the reasons I lost a lot of my love for the raiding mentality back in the day: when it became apparent there really was only a set method to defeat everything, the concept lost a great deal of its allure. Now, my friend gleefully informed me, Challenge Modes are her ideal because they absolutely demand that players bring their own particular skills to the table. You could do a CM Dungeon with 4 Warriors and a Healer, she expounded by a roaring coal fire on a cold January night, what is needed is to grasp what has to be completed in the time allowed and then to ensure your team is capable of dealing with the consequences.

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Blizzard clearly understand this mindset is something they should be capitalising on, with CM’s being replaced by a more relaxed attitude to the whole concept plus 5 man ‘modifiers’ called Keystones in Legion which allow the player different experiences in the same space. Most importantly however, the clock is gone, and you’ll no longer be penalised for completing the content slower than your compatriots. For someone like me that’s a godsend, but I know my friend will be sad at the loss of another part of game-play which has slowly been eroded over time, replaced by a very real need to allow large-scale content better accessibility for a wider player base. That’s what aggrieves the more vocal parts of the Community: why can’t we go back to the days when things were really hard? The answer is damning: if we did, a lot of the lower ability players simply would be unable to take part. That’s not how accessibility works, after all. This is about getting as many people as possible involved.

Then, there’s that other silent majority. They know they should be keeping very quiet indeed, but there’s a couple of vocal members on my Twitter feed, desperately trying to warn everyone else of impending doom. These are the moneymakers who know that once Legion hits, Garrisons and Shipyards will be nerfed to oblivion and beyond. I’ve seen their graphs and read their guides and really, more of you should be listening than are. Because not only are they right, but they are making enough money to keep them in subscription tokens for as long as they wish. It’s as simple as just logging on, on any given day. That’s what I try and do now, because I’m well aware of the truth in their pronouncements. Thanks to both Garrisons and Shipyards I’ll break my first million earned in game ever, probably by the time that we reach Valentine’s Day (more on Love is in the Air next week, seasonal event fans.) That’s no mean feat for someone like me who basically never held onto enough gold to get that far. I’d always be buying vanity pets or stuff to keep my alts in top shape. Now I can still do that and have buckets of cash to spare.

As we mentioned last week, even the thought of having to spend 100g for a spec change was enough to put certain people into panic mode. Heaven help those same people if Blizzard decided to start taxing away gold generation sources in Legion, because those nest eggs won’t last long, especially for raiders who’ll burn through stupidly large sums of gold just to repair after fights. Then you have to wonder if the company are already deciding that this Expansion will be the one where gold really does become the go-to currency for everything and anything: Apexis failed as an experiment, and suddenly we’re back to Valor as reward. Except, after a while, people get frustrated at no being able to keep up. You can already buy boosts for real cash: how long before in-game gold becomes an option for those too? Would Blizzard introduce a series of gold-purchase only mounts in an attempt to level the field? Needless to say you gotta hope they look better than the ridiculously horrendous Alliance Chopper, which I still see many people riding around believing it as some pointless status symbol. Yeah, you paid 100k for what ended up for many as an in-game joke. Good luck with that.

 

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The gold makers have long been considered as the poor relation of the Community (no pun intended) because they’re playing a game that was never meant as legitimate. You don’t turn up in Azeroth to manipulate a virtual auction house and claim virtual monopoly on a sector of the marketplace: this isn’t Wall Street, after all. I’ve heard many people complain that these people should be banned for clear exploitation of gaming mechanics, and I am aware that certain addons that are often used to facilitate quicker gold-making hover close to being against the game’s lengthy Terms of Service. The fact remains is that the more Blizzard attempt to marginalise the ability to make gold, the more certain people rub their hands together in glee and attempt to expose and capitalise on it. In the end with Warlords Blizzard pretty much conceded the point: all Auction Houses are now linked, you have access to everything, the rest is up to you. However, I’m not sure even they grasped just how much damage could be done when they gave Garrisons gold missions and allowed players to play the multiplier game with Shipyards.

That damage may already be done; only time will tell. Blizzard are taking a fairly big risk with everything this year, especially the belief that people will return when an Expansion is launched. We have no idea, for instance, just how many people have purchased the game in advance and will ensure they turn up for their free month’s worth of gameplay. If the game is released before June of this year, it is sending Legion into a period of time where traditionally fewer people play games to begin with. The summer has always been the time frame when players use vacations, don’t take part, and generally have other things than MMO’s on their minds. Blizzard must know this, and that that ‘on or before September 21st’ date that is our only current indicator of intent is becoming an increasingly realistic benchmark. Unless something major happens in the next two weeks, and with the game undoubtedly remaining in Alpha for the rest of February (or at least until all the specs and artefact quests are complete) the chances of you seeing the game before that final cut off are becoming less and less likely. Oh, and yesterday, Amazon finally released sale details in the US of the Collector’s Edition. I’ll leave you to guess when they’re offering it for release.

That won’t matter to the core of the player base. They’ll take Legion when its ready, or Soon (TM) just as they have every time before. They’re not concerned with anything other than just playing Warcraft, and that suits everyone just fine.

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