Draenor’s content problem — desire vs. reward
I was thinking. I hate it when I do that — I end up writing about World of Warcraft and nobody wants that. But there I was, thinking. And what I was thinking about was max level content. What can I actually do at level 100? Well, I can run LFR. I can run normal and heroic raids. I could join a mythic guild. But is that all?
Well, no. I can run normal and/or heroic dungeons. I could run Challenge Mode dungeons. I could do Apexis dailies. I can of course do all my Garrison missions. I could go out into the world and attack Iron Horde or Sargerai forces or any of the other things at various spots in Draenor to trigger Garrison Invasions at my Garrison. I could get on the Group Finder and kill the three world bosses. I could go do Ashran, or queue up for a battleground, or even start that arena team or hit up the rated BG’s. These are all things I can do, and I’m not even counting stuff coming in 6.2 or stuff like farming old raids for mounts and transmog gear. So there is in fact a reasonable amount of stuff to do at max level.
How come it doesn’t feel like there is? Why do I, and so many other players, feel disconnected from the world that I just demonstrated is available to us?
I think there are two basic problems at max level right now.
I have never felt more isolated from my fellow players as I do right now. I never see them. Oh, I do when I queue for something, but having the Garrison be so all-important to endgame play means I rarely go to Stormshield or Warspear, the putative capitals of this expansion. By this time in Mists of Pandaria I knew the shrines in the Vale as well as my actual city. I still get lost at Stormshield because I so rarely go there, and I never go to Warspear on my tauren. It’s simply not a priority. I go there to buy fate for rerolls, that’s basically it. It’s not even that I’m opposed to going there… there’s just no need. I have a Garrison Hearthstone set to my Garrison, of course, but my main hearth is still set to the Vale and its portals, and I often jump through to Stormwind to do my AH business, because at least there are some low level players there and I see folks.
The combination of the Garrison and having the capital cities be, in my opinion, isolated out on an island I’d only ever go to in order to visit them breeds a sense of isolation. We have the group finder — we’re quite capable of finding people to play with at any time from anywhere, but the psychological impact is one of being alone. My Monday morning quarterback would suggest putting the capitals in Talador, on either side of Shattrath, so that at the very least mid-level characters would use them as staging grounds. Another possibility would be to put the capitals back in their faction starting zones and linking them more directly to the Garrison, make it so you can see people when you’re on your way to and from your headquarters.
It seems silly but seeing other players, checking out their gear, knowing that they’re out there has an effect in an MMO. Warlords got too far away from it.
Valor and Justice point farming had their problems. People felt compelled to reach cap and run the content, and that’s a problem. But in Warlords we’ve replaced that problem with another problem. Namely, no one feels compelled to do much of anything outside of whatever they can do that delivers the best possible results. Dungeons have become utterly irrelevant, although 6.2 introduces Mythic dungeons, and I hope these help with this problem. Even LFR is irrelevant if you’re raiding — its only real use is for raiding players to get their Legendary quests done ahead of time so they don’t have to worry about them later in the week. The Garrison Invasions would be interesting except that they can be tedious to trigger and again, they’ve fallen behind in terms of the rewards they offer for the work you’re expected to put in. The goal was to make it so that players could pick and choose without feeling compelled to do any particular thing, but instead players, like water, seek the easiest path forward.
Putting garrison rewards on dungeons and dungeon quests would work better if players couldn’t just run follower missions for those. Once you hit a certain equilibrium and all your buildings are up the way you want them, resources aren’t terribly compelling — you have what you need and more besides. Meanwhile, Apexis are irritating, only really useful for the quest that demands them to get your starting ring from Khadgar or in a few cases to gear up alts or side roles. Apexis essentially do the same role that Valor did, but not as well, and since you don’t run dungeons for Apexis they don’t motivate you there either.
Essentially a lot of the content at max level doesn’t feel rewarding enough to go and do it. Is this because the player base has aged and just isn’t willing to timesink anymore? Is it because the things we’re asked to grind make little sense to us or aren’t really as useful as one might hope? Or is it because we don’t really understand how these things are rewarding when we can just LFR and hit the group finder for Normal/Heroic pick up groups? Raiding has become the default, which makes its rewards the default — anything that isn’t competitive with them isn’t as useful. I mainly keep doing the Apexis daily to kill time between queues.
So what’s next? If patch 6.2 intends to combat these issues, it needs to address the way content feels as much as anything. With Timewalking and Mythic Dungeons, perhaps we’ll feel rewarded again pursuing small group content. I hope so.
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