Or, how to cope during downtime…
So, Blizzard announced Legion as the follow up to Warlords of Draenor about 6 weeks ago, and whilst we were all excited to see what comes next, the announcement has had a palpable negative effect on the game as it stands right now. So how can we cope in the downtime?
Too soon Executus, too soon!
Blizzard mistimed the announcement of Legion. They announced it way too early in my opinion. Just look at what has happened with the game since the reveal back in mid-August: the population of the game as it stands has declined massively again. Subs may be active, but people aren’t physically playing right now. Is this because people no longer view WoD as current content?
Possibly, because once you announce what’s coming next, it takes the shine off of the current expansion (or in WoD’s case what little there was of it to begin with) and people just want the next big shiny content drop.
The announcement killed interest in playing the current game for far too many people, and raiding especially has massively suffered as a result. Certainly on my trio of merged servers raid signups right across the server have dropped to an all time low.
Our raid signups seemed to dry up a week or two right after the announcement, and presently we can barely scrape a 10 man side together at the moment to get anything on the go. We’re testing out joint raids with another guild on the server just to see if we can get regular games out, but it’s a largely untested premise as yet.
What Blizzard should have done was hold on, at least until Blizzcon, and done the big reveal there. At least there might have been a chance of a beta right after, igniting people’s interest even further still, because as it is, it was a brief bright burst of interest for a week or two, before dying back down to a background noise level and taking more subs out of the game.
Coping in the downtime is hard
As we continue to get closer to the Legion release date, whatever that may be (we should get it revealed at Blizzcon), continued long term interest in the game will surely wane further still.
In fact, the longer that players are out of the game for, the less likely they will feel like they’re still invested in the game as a whole, and the less chance there is of them coming back with any great gusto and renewed longer-term plans come Legion.
As this happens, communities and guilds within the game will only continue to fracture and break down as more and more players let their subscriptions lapse.
This in itself places further peril upon the long term future of the game, as subs numbers continue to decline. The subs decline over the course of WoD has been screamingly and worryingly rapid. Faster than any expansion drop off before it.
Even during the 14 months of Siege of Orgrimmar at the end of Mists there was nowhere near the level of drop off that WoD has seen during the first six months of the expansion.
Was Mists a fluke?
I read an article on Forbes the other day from a game analyst and WoW player that stated that after Wrath, WoW’s storyline was essentially done. Everything after that has felt like an added on excuse to keep the game going long after the main protagonist has left the stage. And up to a certain point, I find it hard to disagree with him.
Cataclysm was terrible, and until WoD it was the worst expansion without question. Unlike WoD however, the first tier and first six months of Cata were its strong point. Tier 11 was one of my favourite raid tiers.
The remaining raid tiers in Cata were pathetic, with minimal bosses and massive recycling of mobs and locations. Mind you we’d see Blizzard being even more environmentally conscious and recycle mounts, quest rewards and storylines in WoD…
Mists came along after Cata and whilst the so called purists hated the entire premise “Pandas, in my game? Eurgh!”, those of us who actually went with it and played it loved it.
The oft-mentioned dailies burn out at the start of Mists, and the poor quality of the Heart of Fear raid instance aside, Mists was IMO the best expansion overall, very narrowly edging Wrath out of the number one spot.
Then Warlords came out. Everyone was massively hyped for it, they loved the notion of seeing these iconic figures brought to life again, and they presented a real and credible threat not only to Draenor, but potentially to Azeroth as well.
I mean, we were going up against the pre-nascent Lich King in Ner’zhul for crying out loud, and he was only ONE of them!
Then he got killed in a 5 man dungeon and everyone went, “Erm, what? Nah, he’ll be back, he’s the fucking Lich King bitches!”
Spoiler: He, like over 5m others in the game, didn’t come back.
Levelling was excellent, as I’ve often admitted, the first couple of times through. It was fresh and different, and it seemed like there were a stack of things to discover.
But after those first few trips through the 90 to 100 journey, it slowly became apparent that there wasn’t really anything worth discovering out in the world, and the levelling process then quickly became very strained and we were back to the normal drudgery on the scale of pure quest levelling again.
The Warlords themselves were all dispensed with rather rapidly and without much fanfare. In fact the only Warlords that got anything more than insultingly minimal lip-service were Blackhand, Kilrogg and Daddy Hellscream.
Even Garrosh, the reason we were here to begin with, was killed off cheaply in a cut scene. Naturally by the green Jebus himself, kill stealing a major villain in a cut scene for the second time (Deathwing anyone?), robbing players of any agency in his demise. Criminal.
But then again, robbing players of agency was something Blizzard has excelled at in Warlords, but I’ve spoken about that already at great length…
How to cope with lengthy downtime periods?
So how does one cope with these periods in WoW, where raiding is for all intents and purposes dead in the water, and progression is by and large finished? Especially in an expansion like Warlords, where non-raid content was already very thin on the ground to begin with?
Well, if you’re anything like me you are a bundle freak, and you more than likely have an embarrassingly large pile of neglected games on various services, most likely Steam. At this present moment my Steam collection numbers over 620 games, and according to SteamDB, I’ve not played 72% of those.
Now a large percentage of that 72% will be games that came in bundles that I have absolutely zero interest in playing. Similarly I have about 50+ games in my Gog.com account, only a handful of which I’ve played at all, let alone completed.
That’s one of the reasons I was trying to run game giveaways several months ago, but given that that initiative fell flat on its arse I knocked it in the head. I guess people just don’t like free games…
So the obvious route to go is other AAA games, even other Blizzard games. However over the past couple of years, I’ve found I’ve gotten a lot more joy from playing games from the more Indie end of the gaming spectrum. Games like Ori and the Blind Forest, A Story about my Uncle, Her Story, Pillars of Eternity (currently 50% off!) etc etc.
In fact the only AAA game I can remember playing recently outside of the Blizzard stable that I’ve really enjoyed is the one I’m currently playing, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (hence the header image, make sure to use this -23% voucher though!), Hideo Kojima’s final MGS game. One that brings the MGS storyline full circle, and is seemingly Konami’s last big release outside of yearly PES updates.
Quick side note: If you’ve been completely in the dark about recent goings on over at Konami and why Castlevania and Silent Hill and indeed MGS are now all but dead franchises, I thoroughly recommend you go watch or indeed read yourself some Jim “fucking” Sterling son. PS: #fuckonami
But Bundle websites are a great place to build a game collection if you’re only starting to do just that. Likewise there are some great websites to visit in order to get really cheap games outside of the obligatory Steam sales.
Places I recommend:
- Bundle Stars
- Humble Bundle
Indie RoyaleJust found out this bundle service died a few months ago. I has sad face.
- Is There Any Deal.com
- Green Man Gaming (nearly all cheaper-than-Steam deals)
I’m sure there are hundreds of other smaller bundle and sale sites out there, and if there’s any I missed let me know (comments are working now!). Just be aware that quite a lot of bundles will have one or two gems whilst the rest of the bundle is filled out with complete dross. Caveat Emptor and all that jazz.
Looking to the future
Looking on the bright side for WoW players, we have several things to look forward to. Legion of course is released next year, the earlier the better for the long term health of the game as well.
The Warcraft movie is due out next June, and whilst I have serious misgivings as to the quality of the movie itself (in all honesty I think it’s going to be a car crash, sadly), I’ll no doubt be a good little fanboy and toddle off and see it in the cinema, and cringe alone in the dark…
Legion will of course bring with it promised lore and answers to some long standing questions, prime amongst them for me: What is it about Azeroth that makes it so important in the Warcraft Universe? Yes it’s the planet we call home in the game, but beyond that, what is it that makes this particular planet so interesting to the Burning Legion, demons that we’ve found out in WoD that have easy access to multiple dimensions and versions of reality?
The caveat I’ll place on that though is that we were promised new Blood Knight lore in WoD, and we’re still waiting….
So yeah, not holding my breath 100% on answers to any of my burning questions.
Of course there’s the usual end of expansion things to take care of, such as farming old content for mounts, pets, titles and so on, as well as old transmog gear.
And for transmog junkies like myself, of course Legion bears the promise of a Diablo/Wildstar style transmog system, which alone will free up something ridiculous like 90% of my storage space!
So how are you guys coping with the current downtime, especially as it looks like it’s going to rattle on for another 6 months or more while we wait on Legion? What other games are you playing at the moment? Any good sites for deals on individual games or bundles that I’ve forgotten? Let me know in the comments below!