A State of Affairs – Part One.

So, as you have all probably seen in recent months, even over the past year or so, World of Warcraft is in a severe decline (to put it lightly). As of the most recent subscriber call World of Warcraft lost an additional 100,000 players to bring us firmly to 5.5 Million subscribers.

Some context, we’ve had 2.9 Million, 1.5 Million, and now an additional 100,000 players.

Along with the most recent conference call, it was announced that Blizzard will stop reporting subscribers in it’s quarterly calls, instead they aim to find another metric to judge the game by. Needless to say, this is an unprecedented move by Blizzard, a company that would pride itself on it’s subscriber numbers, even through the rampant losses we’ve sustained since Cataclysm.

So what does this say about the state of the game?

Well, to put it softly, they aren’t in a fun place.

It is very likely that the internal figures forecast for the immediate, and possibly long term future doesn’t show very good things for World of Warcraft. As one might imagine, based on discontinuing subscriber numbers, and the redaction of reporting success, that what they’ve seen has definitely spurred some big decisions down the road.

To put it bluntly, things are changing.

This move likely carries with it numerous implications. This move, as simple as it may seem, exudes what boils down to a vote of no confidence in their next expansion, “Legion”. It is entirely counter to the Blizzard we saw at the launch of Warlords of Draenor, shamelessly announcing they had broken ten million subscribers before the quarterly report broke. THAT is exuding confidence (albeit later misplaced) in your product.

Fast forward to today, and one failed expansion later, Blizzard flat out refuses to announce subscriber numbers indefinitely.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot before you can even start the race.

Legion is the expansion that’s supposed to right the ship, to borrow a line, ‘bring balance to the force’. And yet Blizzard plans on not announcing subscriber numbers for it at the time being. Confident in their product? Absolutely not. If they cannot get behind Legion as a solid title, then why should we?

If they cannot expect the title to even mirror to a degree the initial success of Warlords of Draenor, then what does that leave us to believe the quality of the next title will turn out to be?

Let’s face facts, on paper Warlords of Draenor was an abject failure. Numerically speaking the worst expansion in the history of the game. As for individual experiences? They may vary, however Warlords remains embattled at best.

So if Blizzard can go to bat for Warlords (given the quality that they advertised to us) why can they not go to bat for Legion? So far it seems to remedy everything Warlords had done wrong. It seems to have added everything Warlords couldn’t manage. The development team is the biggest it’s ever been, and it doesn’t seem to have any mysterious lack of resources or trained developers.

So.. What gives?

To be continued..

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I truly believe them. (x-post)

Late here for me, but I’ve been sifting through various WoW fansites, the official forums, and twitter a lot today. I’m not going to get into the merits of this topic, but I do however believe that they just don’t have the budget in some area to really flesh this expansion out as it should’ve been. And why it’s so strikingly lacking compared to it’s predecessors.

Seriously. I really think that they’ve got some sort of major constraint on their budget, man hours, team (still), or whatever it may be.

Take Ashran for example. It’s the most efficient, cost effective alternative to a separate Battleground and Capital Cities. It’s art seems to be very reused to a degree that suggests a tight purse or timetable, and it doesn’t offer much in the way of overall complexity as compared to a Shattrath or Dalaran. Not even as much as the Shrines, as it lacks their utility.

Even the battleground itself on Ashran speaks of tight purse strings.

What would be more cost effective? A PvP enabled area, a bunch of NPCS, and miniature objectives in the middle of an already fleshed out, pre-existing area?

Or a brand new, completely unique map that would need it’s own niche design, appeal, scenery, and mechanics? Nope, probably not that. Seems like the thing to do if you don’t have the resource budget to flesh out separate places, right?

Even flying.

The hottest topic this game has probably ever seen.

From the undertones with which some of the developers on Twitter seem to speak with, it’s almost a decision they didn’t want to go with. They seem to fully understand why it’s so divisive and infuriating to a lot of the community.

But again, if you have no budget for the time and effort it would take to make every nook and cranny accessible, every quest designed with it in mind, as well as a great deal of other assets, then well what do you do?

You cut it. Opt for a cheaper alternative: Faster and direct flight points. Plain and simple.

“Ability bloat” – “Ability prune”.. Well, see the thing about the “bloat” is that it only really seemingly hurt a handful of classes and specs. If you were to say, “well then only some of these classes are getting their bars clogged with nonsense — we’re going to cut chunks out of everybody ” that doesn’t make much sense.

But if you say, “we don’t have the budget of (money/time/people) to balance new abilities on top of the existing ones throughout the expansion, instead we’ll cut a bunch them and then just buff a few that are left as they level” only then does it start to make sense. Cost effectiveness strikes again.

Really for me, it’s quite striking if you take a step back and look at this expansion from the point of “how can we make do with less?”. You can play “connect the cost effective dots” with just about every controversial decision, removed piece of content, and suspect design.

Inaugural(?)

As I sit here and type this, I find my first post is going to be a rather easy one:

The overwhelming buzz of the day, and well, past couple of days has been World of Warcraft’s landmark decision to remove the ability to fly from the game. While I am currently unsubscribed from World of Warcraft pending the release of the new raid (yes these days I only resub to clear raid content) I can’t help but have Wildstar open in another window, this open, and just about every other piece of media related to World of Warcraft open in other tabs. Why? Because in the history of this game I don’t ever think I’ve seen a game related change generate a buzz of this magnitude.

I remember the Real ID fiasco of years past, and while astonishingly loud, it didn’t seem to span seemingly time and space as this issue does. There doesn’t seem to be a single World of Warcraft fan venue that has not descended into civil war. Unfortunately for those who oft visit the forums this doesn’t seem to be just another episode of ‘Angry over a change, taking over the forums for a couple of days’. Rather, it looks like this will be a long fought battle that will likely decide the immediate future of this expansion.

Why? Why would something so seemingly trivial be able to decide the future of this expansion? That is a pretty easy one. Because it’s the tipping point for a great many of people. By and large no-flying has been received quietly and begrudgingly, nevertheless received. Up until the past couple of days most folks had been somewhat lead to believe that no flying in Draenor was just something we were going to try for the expansion, no real reason to chalk it up as bad just yet, not against the other sins the game has committed thus far at least. But yet it was almost widely accepted that we were ‘trying something new’ and that the community still had a large stake in the feature’s future. Cash shop mounts still had the ability to fly, NPCs throughout the game could fly, you were even given trinkets allowing you to fly or glide momentarily. It was still there, and for most couldn’t be ruled out just yet.


   To the astonishment of what seems like the collective Warcraft community, Ion Hazzikostas or “Watcher”, lead game designer for World of Warcraft announced via interview that we would no longer be flying, ever. That’s right, never again it seems. Why? Well to put it shortly, it wasn’t something that had fit the design team’s ‘vision’ for the game. I can get into all sorts of critique on that some other time (rest assured, I will) but for all intent’s and purpose’s flying was scrapped. Cut low in an interview with a third party website, and into a brief commentary offering no larger, no concise explanation as to why.

And from there, the World of Warcraft franchise caught fire. Fresh off the single biggest subscriber losses in the game’s history, and the largest third party software and botting ban in the game’s history, Ion dropped probably the biggest bombshell of game change in the history of World of Warcraft: Flying was to be removed forever until further notice.