Will Cataclysm Last Long Enough?

Heading into the weekend, I like to leave us with a bit of speculation to mull over. Everyone’s excited for Cataclysm, right? It’s Blizzard’s most ambitious expansion yet and plans to reshape to legacy game we’ve come to know so well. It’s also planning on adding five extra levels to the end game and launch with more raid content than any expansion that’s come before it.

And that right there is the crux for me. Will Cataclysm be enough to keep players satisfied for the next two years? Based on this, I’d say no, probably not.

Five Levels

I’ve talked before about ten levels per expansion being a little bit much. Yet, as I’ve thought about the trek from level 1-85, the more I’ve come to realize that if you’re halving the leveling content, other things need to step up to fill in the void.

Big questions come out of this. Namely, how long will it take to hit 85, and how will they balance progress/activity to prevent it from becoming a grind? If it’s too quick, players will feel jipped. If it’s too slow, they’ll become frustrated.

The psychology behind it is important. By halving the amount of levels to be gained, a perception of less content is created. Or, alternatively, a perception of more grind takes its place. In either case, the end-game needs to be there for every single player more than ever before. It needs to shine to compensate for that change in psychology from previous expansions. And that’s true for everything, not just raiding which they seem to be aware of.


Marwyn - Halls of Reflection

Now, we all know that leveling is really just a barrier before players hit the end game. Eventually, everyone will hit 85 and go about their business. Before anyone hits the raid content, however, they’ll have to begin with heroics which, I believe, is probably the biggest issue.

With 5-levels less of a range to work with, I think that we’ll probably see fewer heroics than in previous expansions. Red alert. Fewer heroics might lower the barrier to raiding but it also lowers the barrier to burn out. Nothing will wear people out quicker than forced repetition. But, maybe I’m wrong. Yet, that would seem to raise a totally different issue.

With only five levels to work with, it’d be a lot harder to itemize for the same amount of heroics. With less of a progress, we enter into the realm of lateral upgrades. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get too excited about the option of +2 int or +2 stamina. What does it really matter? Yet, providing better itemization for some dungeons and not others, in the same level bracket, will only mean the worse ones get ignored.

The main issue is that less heroics equals quicker burn out. We all run them, raiders or not, so this is a big issue. I remember being concerned about burn out when WotLK launched with fewer 5-mans than than TBC. Sure enough, people got tired of it quicker. Cataclysm? If you’re a non-raider, it looks like the end game might just wear out a lot quicker for you.

Rolling an Alt -or- Raiding

The answer, of course, is to roll an alt and experience the new content. Personally, that’s the first thing I’m going to do; I can’t wait. But, not everyone enjoys leveling. Actually, by now, most dedicated players will probably have numerous level 70-80 characters. So, unless those players can “do it all over again” or they’re out of luck.

Raiding is the next best answer, after leveling and heroics are worn out. But, the fundamental problem that plagues not just WoW but every raid-centric game, is that it’s an activity not allowed on the player’s own terms. If you want to raid, you have to find and align yourself with a group of players in similar circumstances to your own. For a lot of players, that is the insurmountable barrier that has and will continue to keep them from progression raiding.

My Prediction

Which brings me to my most optimistic point in the article, there is an answer. There’s an answer for all of it: open the doors of raiding to players on their own terms. And how?

A Cross-Server Looking for Raid (LFR) Tool.

The success of the Cross-Server LFD tool has clearly shown Blizzard that this is the way forward. According to The Instance #181, they’re even planning on bringing the tool (single server, of course) into guild recruitment. Which begs the question: where is the Looking for Raid tool? You know it’s coming.

And my prediction is that, this technology, the one that will literally blow any non-gear barrier off the face of raiding, will come with the expansion with more raid content than ever before.

That’s the only solution in my mind. Of course, raid ID’s will need to be worked out. But, we have to be honest: you know, I know, and Blizzard knows that World of Warcraft is not the powerhouse it used to be. It hasn’t grown in two years. Letting players burn out on the end-game quicker than ever before will push it to a decline, and who wants that?

Let me be clear here, though. I love WoW. I always have. It is a good, fun, game, and I plan on leveling one, if not two, new characters through the reshaped Azeroth. As a non-raider, though, and one that wants to raid, less end-game on my end only means I’ll take my leave of WoW quicker. A raid tool like this excites me and answers all of my concerns. Here’s hoping it comes.

I’m very interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. I’m going to call out a couple of bloggers directly, though, since they have more insight than my own. So, Spinks (latest post) and Tobold (latest post), what do you think about this – will Cataclysm be enough to last another two years until the Emerald Dream expansion four?

Have a good weekend everyone!

PS: Ah, what the hey, it’s Friday. SynCaine (latest post), what do you think Cataclysm will bring?

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