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WoWSep 18, 2018 1:00 pm CT

My Battle for Azeroth isn’t necessarily your Battle for Azeroth

This post was originally published just for our supporters, but now everyone can read it. Enjoy!

In some ways, I’m done with Battle for Azeroth until the next patch. In others, I’ve never had more to do at max level than I do in this expansion. Both are true statements, despite their contradictory nature. Content and its consumption have been at the heart of the success and failure of every expansion in World of Warcraft history. Battle for Azeroth is shaping up to be no exception to this rule.

So what do I mean by that contradictory statement? Well, it all goes to the heart of the issue — the amount of content you wish to consume and the rate at which you consume it are individual decisions based on individual circumstances and preferences, and there can be no universal standard that can possibly meet all player’s needs. There are players who will clear Mythic Uldir soon (which opens today), players who will maybe get normal finished by November, and players who won’t even go into LFR. There are players who will push Mythic+ dungeons, and players who might PUG a Mythic once in a while, and players who will never set foot in a Mythic.

World of Warcraft is something a little different for all of us.

How do we play?

Some players are altaholics who will be working on their third or fourth alt (or even more) by now, others will be lucky if they ever get a second character to 120, and there are players right now who aren’t 120 yet on any character. A few will play for the entire expansion and end up with a series of characters in range of max level but never actually get there.

It’s not just that all of these options are valid — by now I’d hope that discussion is settled, the validity of player choice cemented in the game’s very design — but rather that each option and many that I haven’t listed creates a design challenge that makes any expansion akin to the Beachhead World Quest. You’re trying to shoot down the gulls coming in to eat the baby turtles, but if you lose sight of the crabs, those eat the turtles instead. Only instead of gulls and turtles, you have raids, dungeons, quests, and their various subsets to consider — a much wider array of moving parts to keep track of.

That challenges the developers to stay creative and make content that can appeal to all of the different players in the World of Warcraft community.

Keeping up with the content grind

Making everyone happy means making a constant stream of new dungeons and raids to clear, new things to collect, new environments to explore. But it also means new kinds of content for new kinds of players.

Warfronts, for example, aren’t PVP content. Neither are Island Expeditions. Both are PVE content that’s aimed at bringing the Horde/Alliance conflict into the PVE side of the game. Neither are dungeons or raids or quests, although there certainly are quests involved in the Warfront experience. And on the PVP side of things, random battleground, random epic battlegrounds, rated BG’s, and various arena sizes are all separate and require their own design and implementation. All of these systems provide different content and they do so for different tastes.

When looking at all of this there are questions we have to ask ourselves. Does a new raid difficulty count as new content? If you’re in a raid that’s pushing Mythic Uldir, is that really new content? It’s the same bosses with new and harder mechanics and better loot with the same names. Do Mythic+ dungeons count as new content over Heroic dungeons? No two players will have the same opinion, but the game has to be designed and balanced for both as well as for players who will literally never set foot inside either.

The game I don’t play is the game you do

Earlier, I said I was effectively done with Battle for Azeroth. I don’t literally mean that. I’m having a great deal of fun playing the game even if World Quests giving my Fury Warrior a 330 fist weapon when she is never a tank baffle and irk me. But I’ve finished the War Campaign and the main Alliance story quest chain, done most Mythic dungeons and seen Uldir. I haven’t leveled Horde side yet, but honestly I’m invested enough in my three Alliance 120’s that I’m not worried about how long it takes my Tauren to make the climb. But is story all that content is? If I’m still having fun playing the game, still seeing new World Quests and grinding rep and running Mythic dungeons and raiding, isn’t that still content?

That’s a call every player will of course make for herself. What interests me is that wide variation in player experiences — just in the group of people I play with there are people who seem to blaze through everything at speeds I find incomprehensible and people who are still working to get their first character to 120. Designing for this broad a spread of player interest and engagement, with some players super focused on gearing up and others far more interested in story (and with so many different flavors of each, like that one player who loves pushing Mythic+ but also loves spending hours just exploring and finding out of the way places) requires almost continuous innovation. Think of it this way — in 2018, if a game designer decides to put in a complicated easter egg or even a series of them, they know there will be the Secrets Finding Discord working feverishly to unravel it as soon as they catch a whiff of it existing, and that’s content for those players.

WoW’s fourteen years of evolution

Battle for Azeroth has in some ways padded things in its own favor. By having the leveling experiences in Zandalar and Kul Tiras be unique to each faction, there’s a built-in series of more quests and more stories and more cinematics to experience once you’re done with the first faction you chose to play as. Likewise, while dungeon and raid difficulty doesn’t always strike me as the most innovative way to stretch out the freshness date on that content, it can’t be denied that it means Uldir will be challenging for progression raiders and more relaxed groups at the same time. The design of Battle for Azeroth applies lessons learned over and over again over fourteen years — there are hundreds more World Quests than you can see at any given moment, for example.

The difficulty lies in this very individuality. Each kind of content from the new Warfront (requiring a redesign of Arathi with new art assets, for example) to each WQ to every dungeons and raid and every island expedition and all the new PVP systems and War Mode… it all requires time and resources and in many cases massive expenditures of both for content not everyone will see or care about. I, for example, do not ever do pet battles. But a lot of players do, and so new pets and new quests must be designed for those players — that’s content for them, and it requires time and effort to make it.

My expansion is not yours

All content in the game is the result of several people, at the bare minimum, working very very hard to bring it into being, and then many of us never bother with it. So while it’s possible to be done with Battle for Azeroth, that’s only because we only ever consume a fraction of the content available to us at any given moment. If I literally did everything I could do every single day I’d be playing World of Warcraft all day with no sleep and very few bathroom breaks and that doesn’t sound healthy.

It’s always worth keeping that in mind, I believe. My World of Warcraft and yours are vastly different games. The things I do, the content I consume, the game I play may share quite a bit with what yours is, but there will always be variations, and all that content one or both of us isn’t playing? Someone else is, and it took just as much effort to make it.

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