It is undoubtedly World of Warcraft week this week, with the launch of the last major update to World of Warcraft before the game’s next expansion, Cataclysm, which is due out some time next year. As with every new update, a number of new controversies are generated due to something Blizzard did or didn’t implement in their game. For this week’s Community Spotlight, we are focusing on a thread started by forum user alecbr entitled, “patch 3.3: What SOE did to SWG Blizzard just did to WOW”.
In the thread alecbr asserts a somewhat sensationalized, though salient point. He draws a comparison between the scope and impact of what he believes was SOE’s conversion of Star Wars Galaxies from a sandbox game to a “themepark” game with the introduction of the NGE, to what he believes Blizzard has done with the newly introduced Cross-Realm Dungeon Finder feature of patch 3.3, namely turn World of Warcraft from a massively multiplayer game, to simply a multiplayer game.
Alecbr explains his point:
“SOE changed SWG from an sandbox MMO to a theme park MMO. Blizzard with patch 3.3 just changed WOW from a theme park MMO to a multiplayer game. But where SOE failed Blizzard might just succeed.
I'm talking about the cross realm looking for group option. I didn't thought this option was important when I heard about it. I thought it was just some small change to make the game a little bit more user friendly.
But I was checking the whole evening how my girlfriend played WOW after this patch 3.3. She is an ordinary WOW player. She has several characters. She is leveling them as quickly as possible. She has joined some guilds and made a lot of friends. She doing instances and raids with her friends almost every day - playing about 5-6 hours every day.
That was before patch 3.3. After the patch she just loves the cross realm looking for group option. The whole evening she is doing instances with this option. She isn't playing with her guild or other friends, she isn't chatting with them. She almost completely forgot them.
…When I asked her why isn't she doing the instances with her friends she answered that it is more efficient this way and you level and gear up more quickly. You are doing exactly the instance that you want and you are doing it immediately. This is the fastest way to level up and to gear up. During the evening she checked with some of her friends. They were doing the same.”
The post is indeed a bit alarmist in tone, claiming that this change will single handedly destroy guilds and such, but there is a point to be made here: Is Blizzard’s philosophy of breaking down barriers to entry a boon or a bane to their game, and to MMORPG’s?
Undoubtedly, the new feature is and will continue to be popular. Dungeons no one ran previously, especially lower level ones, will, and likely already have seen, a huge uptick in activity, as they are much more accessible now. However, does that accessibility come with a cost?
The new system is so easy to use, you could consider it almost like console match-making. You simply plug in what you are interested in doing, queue up, and in most cases, within five minutes you are whisked away to your desired instance. This sounds great, but it also makes me think of early Warhammer Online when scenarios were the best way to get experience.
Warhammer Online introduced the cool new idea of public quests, which required people be around to complete. So it was not without a sense of irony when the general game world was empty (before the mass exodus of players), due to the effect of the much more accessible, and rewarding, anywhere, anytime scenario queuing.
Will World of Warcraft suffer the same fate? Will people start disappearing from the actual game world, endlessly churning through dungeons, many times with people they don’t know or will ever see again? I’
To that end, user TJKazmark brings up an important point about the effect the introduction of this new system will have on the approach Blizzard took with Cataclysm:
“This brings up a concern I have for WoW's world and quests. How is it going to affect normal questing? Will players abandon the areas and storyline all together for the advantage of almost constant instancing and gear? I realize that the coming Cataclysm expansion is meant to give the world a face-lift and breath life into old content, but it still concerns me as to how this will impact the overall immersion and enjoyment of the game.”
Blizzard is, for the first time, emphasizing horizontal over vertical expansion with their newest expansion, by revamping the World of Warcraft's “old world”, the 1-60 experience of vanilla WoW. If this new dungeon finder feature is as popular as WAR scenarios were, however, will anyone actually care? If players can level up and get awesome gear, all by pressing a button and teleporting to their desired dungeon, why would players want to run around in the newly revamped old areas? It is certainly something to consider, and to watch for.
User Metza doesn’t see things as potentially negative; instead, he sees this as a great opportunity for more people to get into raiding:
“I see this making the pure "RAID" guilds even stronger as there will be more people that have top gear from the 5 mans to make more teams within one raiding guild or multiple raiding guilds that are able to tackle the raids because of gearing up being so much faster with this option. Blizzard may even start to increase the difficulty of the raids due to the fact you can get 5 man geared up so much more quickly than before. “
What about those of us with little time to play? The dungeon finder is surely a great and convenient feature, as our own Garrett Fuller (who is an avid WoW player) explains:
“I actually think what WoW did was a good idea. I had 30 minutes this afternoon to play and was in a group in like 3 seconds and in the instance in no time.
Makes getting to the game play easier.
They will wait until Cataclysm to change the open world game play.
Right now for long time players this definitely makes things faster.”
It seems in the end it comes down to a culture clash. We have many members in the community who are attracted to MMOG’s mostly or at least in part for the potential to create and maintain social bonds with other players, and this clashes with the advent of instant gratification, which is a trend that seems to be growing.
Whether this latest new feature will be a positive or negative for you all depends on your perspective on the game, and why you play it. If you’re simply there for the addicting acquisition of gear, the dungeon finder feature will be a godsend. If you are playing WoW for the reasons mentioned above, there is some potential that it may affect your experience. I suppose we’ll find out in the coming months!
Are you noticing less people in the game world proper? Or do you have any experiences like Alecbr’s to share? Let us know in the comments below!