But even more than that was the overwhelming sense that we had been there before, done that, and that Blizzard still needed to dumb it down. The mechanics of playing a class had never been so simple. Returning to my Death Knight reinforced how basic skill rotations have become. There is a subtle mastery to playing a World of Warcraft class but after leveling 85 times, downing legendary bosses, and slaying hundreds of enemies in PvP, the “accessibility” of Mists of Pandaria was a little insulting. If Pandas weren't enough to turn the returning player off, the literal 1-2-3-4 of combat might have.
Questing further proved just how little Blizzard expected of its playerbase. Most quest givers were only seconds away from their objectives. Finishing a hub was often walk ten seconds, fight, walk back ten seconds. The world, exploration, and any sense of meaningful movement took were shattered. Players had long felt that questing was just filler before the “real game.” The design of Mists of Pandaria proved it beyond doubt.
The raid finder, good in so many ways, added to the perception that WoW was becoming casualized to the point of irrevocability. Organization and planning were no longer required for raids. It didn't matter that LFR gear was lower quality. Players were able to see the content, look cool, and do so with the least investment possible. Raiders felt devalued. PuGs felt even less of a need to communicate. It was a game of iLVLs merely for showing up. This wasn't the case for everyone, of course. But who can say that they've played WoW lately and haven't felt the pressure to 'gogogo' for some needy stranger?
This is all to say one thing: World of Warcraft cannot afford another Mists of Pandaria. Mists did many things right but even with its best efforts still can't stem the tide of hundreds of thousands of unsubscriptions every three months. There is an old argument that WoW has more subscribers than any five MMOs combined! but I'm here to tell you not to make it. You're stating the truth the same way I could take your feet and tell you that you have hands left. It doesn't help anybody, least of all World of Warcraft and its remaining players.
Which is why I was so impressed with Warlords of Draenor. For the first time in ages, Blizzard actually seems to be listening. Gone are the days of their developers swaggering onto the stages of Blizzcon like rockstars on parade. We have our new character models. We have our player housing. We have the lessons of Pandaria. We're going back to Outland, an instant tug at the heartstrings of older players. Warlords is an open call for lost players to come home again. If they do, and Blizzard wants them to stay, these changes in attitude need to stick. Blizzard does not know best, but they might. If they keep listening. A year of growth, not loss, is just what World of Warcraft needs. Here's to a quick, excellent expansion.
Christopher Coke / Chris began playing World of Warcraft in 2007 just before The Burning Crusade. He has fond memories of mushrooms as tall as skyscrapers and floating islands in Nagrand. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight
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