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New Races are Bad Content

I think I might be missing something, crew. I simply don’t see why adding new races makes for an exciting expansion pack. This isn’t specific to WoW, either. This applies to every game that’s ever added a new race as a selling point for a new product. What is it about adding a new skin, ready to hide under new armor, that makes someone say, “I’ve got to play that?”

The natural reason would be lore, I suppose. That assumes, however, that the lore is compelling enough to make me replay the same content just to experience it. Though this isn’t MMO specific, let’s take WoW’s TBC expansion which added Blood Elves and Draenei to the game. Each race, I assume had some kind of background in the RTS series. Yet, much like works of short fiction, content within MMOs should be able to stand on its own, outside of external sources. I would argue that both of those races had very little basis in Warcraft the MMO. So, other than sheer aesthetic, what compelling reason is there for a WoW veteran to give up their main to re-roll? Racials. That’s it. A few tiny skills that will go unused at the later levels.

The only way new races make good content is if they offer something new to the player. Unfortunately, the player’s expectations of balance demand homogonization. You can’t have give certain races meaningful bonuses without also buffing the existing ones. Not unless you want public outcry on the forums, that is (though, I personally think we cater too much to the vocal minority). So, the result is a re-skin plus a couple of throwaway skills/traits. Extra gold for goblins, anyone? That might have been good four years ago, but, today, it’s less than compelling.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly think it’s possible to make a new race interesting enough to play. You could make a new class fun with a few simple aesthetic skills, like the Worgen wolf-form. The problem, though, is that visual tricks lose their shine over time. Longevity is the key to making a new race worth playing.

There’s also something to be said for simply adding more options. The hope is to always acquire new players, after all, and it’s nice to see more than a few standard options at the character creation screen. Yet, such small additions to the game seem like a better fit for a patch than an expansion. In that case, I might even understand get excited about it too. Races, at their core, are nothing more than a customization option and don’t really require their own starter areas. That’s the kind of addition that looks great on a content patch and “alright” on an expansion list. I want features with expasion packs.

In their current state, however, the addition of extra races into a game is little more than a gimmick. It’s a bullet point on a features list that needs padding. I respect the time and effort that goes into modeling and programming new models, but I have to think that the time would be better spent including more meaningful additions to the game.

New classes, though, now there’s an idea…

7 comments

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  1. Hmmm, I think I would agree with you in most cases, but from what I remember, Blizzard was looking to add some interesting racial abilities with the goblins as well as revamp the older ones; they won’t be as generic and pointless as they are now.
    I would definitely agree that new classes would be a much bigger step forward, but they’ve pretty much said that after the trouble they had balancing DK’s, a new class wasn’t likely anytime soon.
    Of course, new classes wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t insist upon balancing PvE and PvP at the same time.
    It’s pathetic that they’ve only added one new class in 5 years.

  2. Ferrel

    Generally speaking I believe the new races entertain people because it offers something different. You now have additional choice. You may not like your current race options or be bored with them. I’m excited, even though I don’t like WoW, because I like wolf type characters. That isn’t around a lot so I get the opportunity to play something I like.

    The biggest benefit to this is that you can generate that type of response without over committing your game. When you add a new class you have to find a niche for you. You now have more loot to put into the game. You also have a more complex balance issue. New races just don’t really bring that. In essence it is almost a freebie when it comes to something different.

    I wouldn’t expect anyone to reroll for a new race but WoW is a very “have 40+ max level character” game so if you have an alt of every race you now have a new one to work on!

  3. Ardwulf

    I’ll agree that new races, at least as Blizzard has implemented them, are not really ‘major content’. But what they do is add replay value – they make alts more attractive. And that’s got to help with player retention, which you’d think would be a concern of Blizzard’s, although WoW is already fairly strong in this regard.

    Then again, I don’t think the new Cataclysm races are being presented as anything more than new options and some new low-level content, which I think many players will find their way around to playing through at some point. Existing players with endgame characters are likely to focus on getting their mains established in the new top-end content first, and I’m sure the devs realize that.

  4. We Fly Spitfires

    Meeeehhh… I think I have to disagree ­čÖé I think new races are fun and often create a whole new feel to a game. Look at the new AoC expansion: although there’s only one new 20-40 area, having a new race has revitalised the game and given everyone a chance to try out new race/class combinations.

    I’d also say that the Blood Elves and Draenei were a great addition to WoW, moreso than the DK, because they opened up new class opportunities, introduced their own starting areas, and added an entire thing feel to the game. I don’t think I’d be playing WoW today if it didn’t have Draenei ­čÖé

  5. Professor Beej

    The reason I got into the Draenei in TBC was simple: I was Alliance and wanted a Shaman. So it acted as a way for me to get a double-dose of new content, since the Shaman class was unavailable to me before.

    Regarding Cataclysm, I don’t intend to play a new race. The goblins and worgen are both really “meh” to me, and I want something else. /If/ I stick with WoW through Cat, I will roll a Dwarf Mage, the class/race combo I loved during Beta but was removed before the game went live for lore reasons. It’s not new, and I could very easily play a Mage now, but I don’t particularly want to. The combination of the race/class I want to play with the revamped low-level content will help me experience the new content they’re adding that I would otherwise completely miss.

  6. boatorious

    I do agree that new races are overrated by players, but the “content whammy” is really the new starting zones. The new BE and Draenei zones in TBC were a sizable percentage of the new content added, and the only new low-level content added. Cataclysm will see low-level content revamped but I’d imagine that the Worgen and Goblin starting zones will still be the best.

  7. Professer

    Coming from a non-WoW player…

    I agree mostly that new races are bad content, in the sense that it is just a new skin to replay through existing content.

    On the other hand… I could personally see why a new race could appeal to a roleplayer. Playing in character as a human is much different than as a orc.

    There is also the cool factor.

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