In with the Newb, Out with the Old: The Future of World of Warcraft
It was an interesting week for outside sources, with
an interview featuring Tom Chilton on IGN
a very in-depth examination of WoW's subscriber woes at Gamasutra
The catch? Both of them deal with the future of Azeroth in different ways. Gamasutra analyzed the shortcomings of Cataclysm, interviewing players and even Blizzard employees to figure out what's in store. IGN took a more basic approach, going directly to the source with both Tom Chilton and WoW's art director explaining everything in their own words without leaving room for speculation.
IGN With Tom Chilton on 4.3
Chilton didn't waste time getting to the point in
. He immediately started dropping juicy tidbits about the Deathwing encounter, saying: "The fight takes place in multiple different environments, you'll actually potentially get loot at different points in the encounter so it's broken up into larger scale overall. Players will start at Wyrmrest Temple and then eventually it progresses to players fighting on back flying towards the Maelstrom, trying to wrestle him to the ground, basically."
He explained further, turning to the three 5-man instances that have been on many players' minds. "They tie in from story standpoint," said Chilton. "Really the five man instances are all about building up to the Deathwing fight in a lot the same way that the five-man instances in Icecrown were building up to the king, so all of them are very tied together story-wise."
The interview then switched onward to transmogrification, where art director Chris Robinson gave his two cents. He said part of transmogrification's inspiration came from how he found TBC's armor to mismatch, even going as far as to call them "clown suits."
Robinson also explained the importance of class identity in WoW. "We do have to be careful about iconic class looks bleeding into other classes," he said. "That's one reason we have that restriction with transmogrification that you wouldn't be able to take a class-specific item and apply it to something for an item with a different class. I think that's important to protect integrity. When you see those demon wings you know 'Okay that's a warlock,' you know you can apply that to his tier twenty-one armor but it's still a warlock." Personally, I think anymore restrictions on transmogrification besides tier and class intended armor type (i.e. cloth for casters), and you have a feature that is too narrow and restrictive for players to truly enjoy. Why not let a Paladin wear a DPS warrior's offset pieces if they want to? What does the game lose by offering that?
Shortly after, Tom Chilton returned and explained void storage, dismissed Mists of Pandaria, and talked very candidly of World of Warcraft's decline. "If you look at, if you look at the way the population breaks down, we're at a point in our history where there are more people that played World of Warcraft but no longer play World of Warcraft than currently play World of Warcraft," Chilton admitted, before wrapping the interview up by focusing on future ways to help player retention and the growth of WoW.
Gamasutra on WoW's Decline
Staying on the same topic but switching both gears and participants,
Gamasutra posted a piece
after talking to dozens of prolific World of Warcraft developers, researchers, and players about the decline of World of Warcraft. The end result shines a lot of light into Blizzard's subscriber numbers, Cataclysm's changes, and the playerbase's ever-growing divide between "hardcore" and "casual" players.
The article in particular touches on a prevailing problem for World of Warcraft: Most people dislike Cataclysm. Even more problematically, most people can't explain why exactly--they just dislike it. Some players throw out difficulties as a reason, others blame the 10 and 25-man divide, and even talk about Titan taking away all of Blizzard's talent.
But what's the
source to blame? And can we fix it?
The game's age is the real issue is what Gamasutra ultimately concludes. Cataclysm had some failures that made the balance out of tune, but we're all in the same boat whether we're casual or not: the game is in decline because it's starting to reach a stale point. It needs new features and explorations at rates Blizzard can't keep up with. It's also hard to predict the future as World of Warcraft is sailing into uncharted territory--a place where no MMORPG has been so successful for so long in and one that ultimately is hard to maintain.
As for the second question, no one knows the answer. Gamasutra fittingly asks: "If WoW's mechanics are at a saturation point where adding variety doesn't add new complexity, and its charms as a social network are waning in comparison to other platforms, is this the beginning of the end?"
Of course, no one's willing to throw the towel in so soon. But it is an interesting thought to expand on. At what point does World of Warcraft end up like the iconic EverQuest did--do all virtual worlds inevitably have to die? Will it still be here in ten years? Fifteen? At what point does World of Warcraft retire to let another MMORPG into the limelight?
And what will really kill World of Warcraft in the end?
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