I know that everyone is eagerly waiting to hear what someone who hasn’t posted in 5 months has to say about the game, right? :) My time in WoW is slowly nearing its inevitable conclusion. I log in solely for raids, and the only reason I do that is to help out friends that are still interested in raiding. If they could find a viable replacement, I’d be done entirely. So, how did I go from someone who was fascinated with WoW and looking for any opportunity to raid, to someone who wishes his guild would recruit another healer to put him out of his misery? I think I can narrow it down to three factors: demoralization that comes with nerfing current-tier hard mode raids, lack of investment in the WoW story, and the sense that there is very little new to learn about the game.
I am primarily a player who is motivated by challenge. When I first started playing this game, I was fascinated by the idea that people were out there fighting in something called the “Black Temple” or the “Sunwell.” From the perspective of a solo player, new to MMOs and leveling up at the tail end of the Burning Crusade, the idea that there were people who had the time and skill to work on these raids was captivating. I knew that their knowledge and experience of the game had to be much higher than mine in order to work on this content. I was just trying to hit level 70, gear up as best I could, and maybe see the inside of Karazhan.
It’s quite possible that I’m in the minority, but I was never annoyed that there was “content” in the game that I wasn’t going to see. The complete opposite was true. The existence of this entirely different level of play made me significantly more interested in the game. This was an alternate universe, one where you could see hidden but important encounters if you had the time and/or skill to do so. That’s fascinating to a person like me, and motivated me to get into early Kara runs even though I had no idea what I was doing.
At some point, however, Blizzard has shifted towards a philosophy that everyone should be able to see the content. And not just next expansion when it becomes much easier, but while it is the current tier of raiding. While I understand the appeal of following the story to its conclusion, the idea of raiding as a tourist has never appealed to me. And if you’re just talking about seeing content, as opposed to experiencing it as it was designed, you are a glorified tourist. This distinction between seeing content and really experiencing it is critical, but has become muddled.
The normal mode/hard mode split was supposed to solve this problem (although it created plenty of problems on its own, for people who didn’t want to kill the same bosses twice, the second time on annoying mode). In Tier 11, Blizzard massively nerfed the normal mode raids as Tier 12 was coming out. This allowed more people to see the content, and from what I can tell, was a great success. Seeing the content after the nerfs was not a huge draw to me, but I can understand how others would have really enjoyed it, and it didn’t impact me at all. Win/win.
In Tier 12, however, Blizzard has taken things a step too far, and in the process shown a real lack of understanding about what motivates players like myself. Instead of nerfing last tier’s normal mode content, they significantly nerfed both normal and hard mode content in the current raid tier. Why they would do this is beyond me. At the beginning of Tier 12, I was in a more hardcore progression guild. We wiped over 100 times to heroic Rhyolith will learning the fight. Finally getting him down was a huge achievement for the guild, and meant that all 25 players were at the top of their game. At the time of the nerfs, I was in a smaller, more relaxed guild. We went in and got Rhyolith to 2% on our first heroic attempt. We downed him a few pulls later.
Did I take any satisfaction in that kill? Of course not. There was no struggle involved. We screwed up all kinds of things and still comfortably defeated the boss. This was a boss we hadn’t even attempted before the nerfs because it was too hard for us, and now it was a glorified 5-man boss. Rather than letting me experience the content, Blizzard took away my chance to defeat this difficult encounter with my guild. I got turned into a tourist, rather than an adventurer.
I hope that helps explain how nerfing current hard mode content can be demoralizing. It takes something that was a challenge and required our best performance, and turns it into just another check box on our progression list. Yes, there are still several hard modes we have yet to kill, and I know that Heroic Ragnaros will still be an epic challenge if we get that far. But honestly, changing the rules of the game halfway through has ruined the thrill for me. Raiding now seems to be mountain climbing, where the mountain constantly gets shorter, the weather improves, and the path gets easier. It’s one thing to clear a nice path for some weekend hikers, so everyone can enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise. But would anyone feel accomplishment in climbing Mount Everest if it was anything like Tier 12, where a large group of serious climbers had the mountain give up on them halfway to the top?
Lack of Investment
The second issue sapping my will to play is the complete ambivalence I feel about Deathwing as an end-boss to this expansion. I have never been a huge lore person. At the same time, I believe that Blizzard needs to find some convincing way to interest players in battling the enemies they trot out for us. I remember when Trial of the Crusade came out, and it was a similar situation. We had been battling an Old God in Ulduar for months, trying to save the very existence of the planet. Now we were supposed to get excited about a silly tournament that never made much sense in the first place, and felt extremely like rushed content without any purpose.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing Cataclysm, and I really just don’t care about Deathwing. I’ve never seen him out in the world. He’s supposed to have “destroyed” Azeroth, but I mostly like the things he changed. He kind of spruced things up, to be honest. If I never kill him, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I will completely admit that I share some of the blame here. I’m sure if I read all the quest text closely and put my heart into it, I could talk myself into wanting to kill this big old dragon. But really, he and his friends just represent a new tier of epic loot to me. Another set of items that I need to research, earn, gem, enchant, and then replace again with the next patch. There’s nothing inherently wrong with gear progression, but when there’s no compelling story involved, it becomes rather meaningless.
The final reason I’m no longer excited about WoW is not Blizzard’s fault at all, and is completely inevitable. One of the things I’ve always loved about this game is that I was constantly learning new things. Even after 2 years of playing, I felt like I was still learning new things almost every week that improved my ability or understanding of how the game worked. I’m the kind of nerd who would have just stayed in school forever if that was a viable career path (note: becoming an academic is sadly not the same thing as being a lifelong student). So for me, a big draw for World of Warcraft was the fact that this was a whole separate world that I could learn about.
Now, over fours years later, I find there are a lot less things for me to learn. I’ve played just about every class and role in the game. I’ve played on PvP, PvE, and even RP servers. I’ve raided with casual guilds, with hardcore progression guilds, with 10 and 25 man guilds, and with efficient progression guilds. I’ve done enough PvP to thoroughly declare that I just don’t enjoy it. I’ve learned about macros, optimal rotations, and maximizing my play. I’ve taken apart the default UI and rebuilt it with addons. I’ve been a new recruit, a class leader, an officer, and a guild leader. I’ve experienced content that pushed me to my highest level to perform, and I’ve spammed chain heal through ICC normal modes one too many times. Throughout it all I was learning new things about the game, and enjoying almost every minute of it. Now, it all seems to have lost its appeal.
So, I’ll continue to log in for raids for a couple of months, but after that I will likely be done with WoW for the time being. I can’t say I’ll never return, since it’s still a great game that could capture my interest in the future. But for now, I’ll be transferring my interest to Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s a whole new galaxy to explore, with characters and stories that I’ve been excited about since I was a little kid. At some point I may start up a SWTOR blog if I find that it would be helpful to anyone, but for now I’m just going to enjoy playing the game. If you want to look me up, I’m Wugan on the official forums, and I’ll be helping to run a progression raiding guild on the Republic side.
Thanks to everyone who commented on and supported this blog, especially in the initial weeks when I was trying to decide if anyone would be interested in what I had to say. WoW has a great community, and I really enjoyed being able to be a small part of it in my own way.
Best of luck in all your further adventures,