WoW! Thoughts! — On the Shallow Feeling of Hitting 100

Thoughts on how Blizzard mishandled level 100 quest content.

Because I spent the early part of the expansion focusing on my main, I did not reach level 100 on my first alt until after the launch of patch 6.1. Though I took my time to level, upon hitting max level, I went from playing at a leisurely pace to suddenly feeling overwhelmed by everything that was suddenly available to my character.

If there’s anything to legitimately be gleaned from the April Fool’s Patch 6.1.4 Notes, it is that Blizzard is acutely aware of the criticisms directed at them regarding Warlords of Draenor’s shortcomings. Yet the accusation that there is a dearth of max level activities to do feels incorrect. Upon hitting level 100 and rushing back to upgrade my garrison, yellow exclamation points appeared everywhere. I immediately went about trying to upgrade various buildings and determining the quickest path to upgrading my gear. Even so, there are still quests for the garrison jukebox, plus unfinished business from Spires of Arak and Nagrand, as well as the Garrison Campaign and the Legendary questline. Being presented with so many activities at once shows just how much there is to do at level 100. I remember having the same initial feeling on my main back in November, and that was without the addition of the (admittedly few) activities that 6.1 provided.

The problem is that all these new quests do not last as long nor provide the continuous level of engagement required of them. The jukebox quest can be knocked out in an hour or so, as can each installment of the garrison campaign. The only activity requiring long term effort is upgrading the various garrison buildings, as they require patience to acquire the money and/or resources to progress. On my main, money was never an issue, but resources were the constraint on developing my garrison. This alt, by virtue of sitting alone on a separate server, had banked a significant amount of resources, but could not share in the wealth of my other toons.

Yet thanks to the introduction of treasure hunting followers, players have figured out how to make hundreds of gold daily just from garrison missions, and so my once poor alt is now on his way to becoming a tycoon. And once all garrison plots are maxed out, the demand for resources inverts to a surplus. The rate at which the game of garrison development goes from requiring patience and planning to trivial drops as rapidly as if it fell off a cliff. In the case of garrison management, there is no long tail of involvement as the “game” is utterly destroyed.

Blizzard has tried to adjust for this by adding various items to spend garrison resources on, such as Scouting Missives to grant daily quests, or Follower Retraining Certificates. Despite this, there are only so many assault quests to run and only so many followers to retrain. At the very least, resources can be used through the trading post to acquire crafting materials. Anyone merely leveling through Warlords for the first time may struggle to acquire resources, but once a player has an alt, that character will sit unused for multiple days doing nothing but generating resources, so that the resource cost for any transaction can essentially be ignored. Players can adjust their rate of resource income by selecting buildings to burn resources (the War Mill, for example, which converts resources to follower gear tokens), but even then, a successful mission with scavenging followers can more than offset any cost.

When Patch 6.2 first hit the PTR, there were reports that it would cost 6000 resources to build the shipyard, which many players decried as too high. Yet with no announced date for the patch’s release, there is ample time for any max level character to focus on just acquiring resources. Garrisons generate 500 resources every 3 days, so it would only take 36 days to get to 6000, without any other source. Completing a  few scavenger missions should subsidize that amount and reduce the required time to a few weeks, and that is without accounting for the fact that Blizzard said the 6000 resource value was merely a placeholder and would be lowered.  Despite the patch already appearing in the background downloader, there is still ample time for anyone to prepare.

Garrison management hearkens back to games like Animal Crossing or The Sims. These games give players a steep financial hole to climb out of with the expectation that overcoming that debt provides compelling gameplay. I remember the feeling of success after paying off Tom Nook for the first time, or after my Sims had enough money that I did not know what to buy next for them. But the great thing about those games is that their systems were designed such that there was depth to ensure compelling gameplay even after the debt was paid. Now that I did not have to keep collecting bells for Nook, I could explore the village and do what I wanted; now that my Sims had disposable income, I could buy some real luxury items. Players built the level 3 garrison relatively quickly, and then had nothing to do with the system. It is a surprising oversight by Blizzard.

I have heeded Blizzard’s advice, as dispensed by the Pandaren, to “slow down,” before. I waited until late in patch 5.4 to kill Garrosh. Even on my alt, I have yet to travel through Arak (despite my anticipation at experiencing Admiral Taylor’s Garrison as the proper faction!) and I have been casually doing the garrison quests. Turning 100 and feeling overwhelmed by the quests is like having a birthday and getting lots of cards. Its easy to look at the envelopes and assume each one contains $20 or $50 and ruminate on the cash to be received, only to open them and find each card containing $5 if anything.

Blizzard’s quests are the same way. They are best experienced slowly and dragged out, to prolong the life of the game. I can approach the game this way because I have no plans in the near future to quit. It is not surprising though, that players have burned out on content after 3 – 6 months, and will wait before coming back, to gorge again. This type of binging results in the subscriber bump and drop we saw surrounding Warlords’ launch, rather than any prolonged growth.

Blizzard needs to find a way to provide enough non-raid content to keep players engaged for months at a time. But the problem is that it may be impossible. As Lead Game Designer Ion Hazzikostas admits, “Our player base is voracious when it comes to content, and it’s impossible to ever make enough.” And thus, that is the lesson Blizzard has learned after ten years of MMO development. Rather than try to give players enough to do, it is easier to just give them what they can, and accept the results.  As Ion says, if players return for a few months and leave, then, “to some extent, that’s OK.”

Feeling overwhelmed at seeing all those yellow exclamation points in my garrison turned out to be a shallow feeling.  But so did the feelings that resulted from seeing 10 million active World of Warcraft subscribers.  In a short time, the exclamation points disappeared as I completed my quests, and as other players completed those same quests, millions of subscriber accounts disappeared as well.  Blizzard can’t please everyone all the time, but maybe they should try harder to focus on pleasing the 7 million that are sticking around and expecting more content.  That level of effort, to some extent, would be OK.

WoW! Blurbs!

The Mystic Runesaber mount is now available.  Prior to 6.0 it was called the Heroic Runesaber.

Blizzard posted a Dev Watercooler about Itemization in Hellfire Citadel.  Because dealing with 4 different ilvls for each raid tier wasn’t fun enough…

Blizzard banned a TON of people for using bots like HonorBuddy. It should have been called Honorlessbuddywhosnitchesyouout.

Blizzard and Carbot Animation are hosting a SELFIE Scavenger hunt.  Because if epic loot won’t keep you playing the game, epic iPhone 6’s will!

Wired posted some pictures of Orgrim Doomhammer from the movie.  HE’S NOT WEARING THE TRADITIONAL DOOMHAMMER ARMOR THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO BE TERRIBLE #JUNE102016WORSTDAYEVAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Polygon had a preview of the Tanaan Jungle.  Someone said something about flying or something, but its not important enough to recap here.

On that note, Welcome, Moorguard!

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

The Latest from Mash