There came a point during Mists of Pandaria when I realized my tailoring alt was wasting away by not having learned how to make Royal Satchels, which was a shame because the sole reason I even have a tailoring alt is to craft bags. Thus I began the daily grind to earn exalted reputation with the August Celestials, as that was required to purchase and learn the bag pattern. This was late enough in the expansion (sometime in 2014) that I could leave my main parked on the farm in Halfhill and funnel cloth to my tailor. I would log into my main, harvest the cloth, plant the windshear cactus seeds for tomorrow, rush over to the Silken Fields, throw down a guild chest, stash the new cloth, and head back to the farm to log out.
Next I would log in on my alt (usually parked at Halfhill Inn) and head over to the Silken Fields, pull the cloth out of the still-present guild chest, and craft my daily cooldown limited Imperial Silk and Celestial Cloth. As patch 6.0 approached, I realized that sending my main back to Halfhill daily for cloth would be a waste of time, so I next focused on getting my tailor exalted with the Tillers, and since then, the whole process from planting the seeds to crafting the bags has been handled on that single character who is effectively now a permanent resident of Halfhill.
With this system I can make a Royal Satchel every twelve days and earn about 2000 gold, giving me a steady income stream. Yet this revenue is entirely dependent on me logging in every day. While I have enough cloth that missing a harvest will have minor consequences (I’m hoarding for when I finally do send my alt through the Red Portal so I can keep crafting while in Draenor), the loss of the Imperial Silk cooldown is damaging. Every day I fail to log in and craft is one more day before I can throw a bag on the auction house and earn my gold. This is nothing new – crafting cooldowns have been in place since The Burning Crusade, but the ease of farming materials was one of Mists’ great innovations. Since then, Blizzard has expanded on the farm concept and provided us with the garrison.
In many ways, the farm and the garrison are similar. At first, there are many actions that can be undertaken, as the farm includes the daily quests for the Tillers, grinding out individual reputations with the characters spread around Halfhill and the Valley, and even improving the cooking profession. It can take a while for a player to figure out exactly what is and is not worth doing with any regularity. While it used to take almost fifteen minutes to get to get my cloth and craft with it, I can now log in, harvest, craft, and log out in under five minutes.
Similarly, garrisons can be overwhelming with the mine and the herb garden and the work orders and follower missions and the assorted daily quests offered. It took me a while to realize just what truly required my attention, and now I can run around my garrison and complete all my tasks in about ten minutes. This is great on days when I don’t have much time to play WoW, but that’s still a daily requirement of fifteen minutes spent on just two characters. It is a small enough window that it can easily be attended to each day, but its large enough that I can start to wonder what else I might be doing during this time.
Like many players during the Great Content Drought of 2012 after Dragon Soul, I stopped logging in regularly. I had reached a point where I had done most of what I wanted to get done, and lacked any steady daily requirement to log in. During Cataclysm, I had leveled three characters to 85 and completed the Loremaster achievement. With those goals complete, there was nothing compelling beckoning me to log in. If not for the Annual Pass, I might have considered letting my subscription lapse.
Yet, when the Great Content Drought of 2014 arrived, Blizzard did not provide an Annual Pass as incentive to keep players interested in the game. I was entrenched enough that the daily cooldowns (as well as the looming threat of the Legendary Cloak’s removal, and a new boosted- 90 alt) kept me busy and engaged in the game. That may have worked for me, but prior to Warlords of Draenor‘s launch, World of Warcraft’s subscription numbers were at their lowest point since 2006. I was not the only player presented with daily content tempting them to log in, yet many players failed to heed the call and left the game during that time.
The problem with daily quests is that while they can become a habit, once the habit is broken it loses its power and can be broken for good. With few exceptions, I have logged in every day since learning that Royal Satchel pattern to handle my crafting. Sometimes, that was all I would log in to do. But last week, I was busy enough that I didn’t log in for two days. Not only did I not log in to WoW for two days, but I also did not log in to Hearthstone or Destiny, two other games that use daily quests and rewards to entice players. This daily habit spread across three games was broken, and I could examine the pattern and consider whether it was worth continuing.
Daily quests are usually viewed as a great way to encourage players to log back in and stay attached to a game. They usually provide a reward after a set number of days, with each day requiring steady interaction. While this seems beneficial to the game, the problem is that once a player breaks that regular interaction, the daily nature no longer feels as urgent. Players can feel compelled to log in, for example, due to the curiosity about what Daily Garrison Visitor or which follower missions are now available can inspire a player to excitedly log in. Failing to do so results in the feeling of missing out. The content becomes mandatory, and this is often what leads to players comparing games to drugs and claiming an addiction. Game designers call this “stickiness”.
But like anything sticky, once you destroy that initial bond, it cannot be re-applied so easily. Reuse a piece of tape enough times, and eventually it stops sticking to anything. Games are the same way. Once a player goes a day or two without logging in – without completing the daily quests – it is easier for that player to continue not logging in. In that regard, Daily Quests are just as dangerous as they are enticing. When a player loses that feeling of NEEDING to do the quests each day, the thought of falling back into such a pattern can drive them further away.
I have still been logging into WoW, but if another day comes when I do not, I will not feel guilty. I am not compelled to find fifteen minutes for WoW on days when I am otherwise occupied. Given that WoW has a monthly subscription, missing a day or two is not critical, but these brief gaps are the sort of events that can lead to players not logging in for weeks or months, and eventually lead to lapsed subscriptions. Daily quests can seem like a great way for games to ensure a steady player base, but when companies over-rely on them, they can wind up encouraging players to leave.
Its been a while! We covered most of the news in this week’s WoW! Talk! http://mashthosebuttons.com/podcast/wow-talk-26-more-wow-token-azeroth-armory-and-patch-6-1-4/
. . . except of course, for Patch 6.2. But that’s not really big news or anything. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/18539917/62-ptr-patch-notes-4-13-2015