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Vertically Challenged May Not Be So Bad.

With Chris being gone and the readers of Game By Night at the mercy of whomever stops in and posts, I have decided to make my move and subject you all to yet another rambling from the dark recesses of my skull.  God Speed readers.

Recently, I have been reading a lot of posts about the coming of Cataclysm to World of Warcraft.  That is, the expansion, not the downfall of the MMO giant.  One of the things that I have come to realize over the years of bouncing between two personalities (the one that is a total fanboy and the other that is imagining what type of pitchfork to storm Blizzard HQ with) is that WoW is really boring just before expansions.  Even with the recent additions of Ruby Sanctum and the relatively new ICC content, the game just slows to a halt. Something about knowing  all of the work you put in now, will mean nothing in a few months time makes the experience… meh.  This seems to be the nature of any game that increases its vertical game rather than it’s horizontal.

Cataclysm is going to revamp the 1-60 and provide new content post 80.  It is arguably the best expansion, imo, they have come up with yet.  Mainly because they are refocusing in on the leveling experience and not just the meta end game.  And this is where my brain started spouting what ifs.

Cataclysm is adding both and endgame and the new content, so we know that it is possible for them to pump out content on both fronts.  Yet the WoW path pushes you into only two valid options for extending your game time: Raiding and PvP.  Everything else is just utilized to get you to these two end game goals.  Where is the time spent on making the rest of the game enjoyable for non-raiders/pvpers?  I can’t think of any.

As the industry giant, it surprised me to see that they have not been more innovative on this front.  Sure they add new dungeons to explore, but most of the time it is more in line with a tool to get you into the next raid more efficiently (also read skip over older raids) rather than something to promote a longer more enjoyable game play scenario.  Ive mentioned this to people before and have often been confronted with the option of, “Well do some of the older raids if you want a new experience.”  The problem is the fact that I am trying to find something fun to do and it seems like the only option is a raid, be it old or new.  Don’t get me wrong, I love raiding.  However, when I need a break, doing an older version of the same thing feels like being handed a pencil when I am sick of my selection of crayon colors.  Sure I can scribble away creating new varieties of the color gray, but in the end Im stuck with something dull and crappy colored that was more or less a watered down version of the initial experience.

This isn’t meant to be a slam on World of Warcraft, but AAA endgame focused games as a whole.  I look at the games that I have the most fun playing and it tends to be the games that offer me a variety of experiences outside of the holy trinity.  No not that holy trinity, the Raiding, PvP, Crafting holy trinity.  Games that deviate and offer fun things to do like decorative housing, vehicle racing, music options (go lotro!), heck even gambling are largely more entertaining on a day to day basis.  Call them mini games if you want, but I find that these can be great mini experiences that really add flavor to a game’s entrée.

If WoW continues on the same way it has the last two expansions, we will see minor innovations and large reskinnings of the same experience we have had the last few years.  Exploring the changed lands of Azeroth will be AWESOME!… the first time through.  Maybe even the second.  And then we are right back where we started with content we have seen and nothing to do but level and get to cap so we can raid or pvp.  Even that will eventually lose luster and we will be sitting in the same spot we are now. Unmotivated to take on content that will easily be erased by the next expansion.

If the expansions were more horizontal in nature, we would have so much more to do as a whole on just the raiding front.  Say the game stayed with a 60 cap.  All of those zones, raids, dungeons, experiences would be options for your end game rather than requirements to get there, or passed over unused content.  Making alts wouldn’t be a chore as much as a new experience.  One path would turn into 60.  All that gear? Interchangeable adding new flexibilities to your personal looks and customizations.  One raid wouldnt stand out at THEE raid.  Players could enjoy what they thought was the most fun and still continue to participate in the newer content without taking a huge DPS/Healing/Tankage hit.

It may just be me but I really think this would improve how the game is played, not take away from it.  I guess deep down I am just tired of seeing the ceiling get higher while the walls of boredom close in on me. Come on developers, let’s see some expansions that add to the game rather than trading old content for new. The funny part for me is that the most innovative titles in this area seem to be the in the “less quality” F2P market.  Go figure.

What do you all think?  What are your thoughts on the Horizontal/Vertical Expansion?  Do you think a change like this would add or take away from your game experience? Would it increase the longevity of a games fun for you?

Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Yogi

6 comments

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  1. Syl

    An idea I would’ve liked to see implemented in wow, rather than raising lvl caps, is hero classes. open up more ways to individualize classes, a variety of class-related quests, maybe even more customization of a cosmetic nature, why not. If horizontal means adding depth to the game and making it ‘wider’, rather than abandoning old content and replacing it with pretty much the same, new content for higher levels, I’m all for it yes. it’s sad how we lost touch with the old world and lvl60 instances – that said cataclysm is trying to revive those. but I would definitely love to see depth added to the game (there’s also a lot of other features I’d like to see, guild- and profession-related for example) in the future, quality instead of sheer (shortlived) quantity. I could imagine that from a developing point of view, it would be the same or maybe even less effort required (I can be wrong there ofc).

  2. Pitrelli

    I think Cataclysm is a kind of one off and unique expansion for WoW and Blizzard, being in beta (and only seeing a small part so far)really has opened up my eyes in how much Blizzard have put into this one. Trust me this will not be repeated as the amount of work must have been mind boggling.

    I think expansions for any game need to take into account the direction in which it needs to go. In WoWs case it needs to retain the players who leave after 10 levels and the only way to do that was restructuring the whole levelling process and learning curve aka make it more fun rather than a grind and battle to get to end game – at the same time they need to add more content for their current players, in this case 5 levels and an unprecedented number of raids at launch.

    So yeah different expansions for different games and circumstances in my opinion.

  3. Andarien

    I think what you’re describing sounds amazing, but would be nigh impossible to implement in a game like World of Warcraft. Simply put, the game has built upon itself so many times (a la Microsoft Windows), unless it was rebuilt from the ground up, all we’ll continue to get in future expansions will be new coats of paint.

    I liked how they tried to emphasize the crafting/gold-making aspect of the game with the Remote Auction House. And with the help of 3rd party services like The Undermine Journal, it’s really quite a lot of fun to make money now, but what I’d like to see is more ways to interact with players and the game world itself.

    In my opinion, the way LOTRO allows players to make and play their own music in game adds to the Role-Playing aspect of the MMORPG genre. Player and guild housing has always been a big request in WoW, but for some reason they keep refusing it. I was reading a blue post about the overcloak mechanic, and how it would set a precedent that they don’t want to propagate, i.e. a cosmetic set of gear (LOTRO), and it really seemed to me as if they’re resistant to change.

    They’ve found what they believe to be the magical formula to maximize the enjoyment:subscriptions ratio and I think they don’t want to change the game for fear of losing hold on that. In fact, with 12 million active subscriptions, they really have no reason to change.

    One mechanic I’ve seen in Ragnarok Online and Aion which I personally enjoyed very much was the ability for a player to open their own store. Setting up shop in Orgrimmar and Stormwind where players could walk by and check your wares as if you were a vendor sounds like a step back from the auction house, but would provide more interaction between players. I don’t know anyone who enjoys selling their wares or services over trade chat.

    Gambling also sounds like a very interesting mechanic, and it’s inherently multiplayer. They could set up casinos in basements of pubs for a bit of atmosphere and you could sit down at a table to play some Texas Hold ‘Em or Blackjack with NPCs or other players.

    Mechanics that change the entire game world persistently for every player in the game would be quite interesting as well. I don’t mean something on the scale of Minecraft or Love, just something where a player could leave a mark on the world. For instance, over fishing an area could make that water unfishable for a while. Also, maybe they change the way things are gathered, such as herbalism. Let’s say you could pick an herb, convert some of those herbs into seeds and plant them in a planter or some farmland. Player created content is very central to role-playing and I think people have lost sight of what that term means.

    All in all, Blizzard is tunnel visioning on the same features WoW has excelled at for so many years and ignoring all the other possibilities. Their idea of continuity involves releasing new content and shiny new gear when they should be focusing on broadening the gameplay itself, read: introducing new features. They’re sticking with what works but that won’t work forever.

  4. Yogi

    Thanks for the comments!

    @Syl Taking the example that wow had stayed at lvl 60, it would be easier to implement hero classes or heroic skills earned off achievements done in the game. Of course I don’t want to say anything too powerful, but maybe slight perks to the skill that make them have a bit more utility. More options and class balancing would’ve been easier given that the core stats associated with the skills would not be climbing so high.

    @Pitrelli I absolutely agree with that last part. Different games cater to different types of expansions. However, I still feel that the game WoW couldve been had they gone with a horizontal model, wouldve been much more fun and utilized more of the world they have designed. As I said in the post, I do think this is the best effort they have made with an expansion thus far. I hope they keep it up for future content patches and expansions.

    @Andarien It is too late for this type of model to be worked into the game wow has become. But if you compare the two models (theoretically speaking) horizontal vs vertical, I think that World of Warcraft would have been a much more expansive game than it is now. As it sits there is a tone of content in wow, it just that how the game is (intended) to be played pushes a very liner and blinded path upon the player. Especially after 60. You bring up some interesting points about the player stores and player generated content. I would love to see mechanics that promoted your farming example, however I think on a large scale that would be rather difficult to achieve in an open world.

    Thanks for taking the time to share.

  5. justin

    I think it would be much more fun if I had the option, and the real option of doing bwl over, say, ICC, but at the same time you would have to be bettering your spells not gear in some way in order to continue growing. I think the problem is basically that when you hit level cap and do new dungeons you are experiencing new things, but also growing. your character gets not new and better gear, but new and better gear and spells and knowledge. your experience is enriched, you feel a connection to your game of choice. you feel that experience is linked to your class and your lore.

    perhaps, i’m thinking, that instead of levels they could have something like, i don’t know, “sagacity”. the more dungeons you do and things you learn, the more capable your character is, instead of “you are eighty level so you can wear gear x, y, and z, and you can reasonably do dungeons x, y, and z. so you would do bwl instead of ICC because your character hasn’t learned that instance, and learning that instance will allow your character to grow, and that’s why your character has ability x, y, or z, not because you killed enough monsters and you are a certain level and you trained your character at the catch all, level 40 master of all shaman/druids/warriors (and still somehow not elite and underleveled).

    in this model, people would go to the new dungeons not because of the new gear, but because they’d get their abilities. people could prioritize certain dungeons based on what spells they think are more important than others. people who pvp would have to learn those skills and make it through the pve before they could stand a reasonable chance against someone who might be considered an elder. so instead of having an 80 who jumped straight to ICC after some various dungeons, you’d have a person who had killed c’thun because…..they had to, or else they never would have learned rank x fireball. or rank x healing touch. you could have insane challenging quests like the one for benediction, and earn your weapons instead of just grinding the way to them. each class would have a specific feel and lore.

    and you would retain all the great things about commitment to a game. “hey, that guy just blew the crap out of me with spell x, he must’ve played through the entire x quest line, and also went through the entire x instance. wow, i wish i could be like that”. and not, wow, that guy just blew the crap out of me he must have gotten badge gear with no real skill and decided to go destroy lowbies. those people are going to exist. if they’re going to exist they might as well be people you somehow admire. it used to be that way, but it was gear based. they had spent x amount of time and got x amount of gear and you didn’t have that gear so you could belly up and take it but that was it, but at the same time you thought in your heart of hearts, i wish i had that gear. nowadays you can, but you can do it safely in an encapsulated box instead of having to, in some way, earn it.

    casualness has not killed wow, but pandering to the mediocre has made wow mediocre. that being said, i don’t think you need to make your game mediocre in order to snatch up people that are. pedestrian stuff will exist forever. it should be easy enough to pander to medicore gamers and let them have their own box. randomly some of them will want to go beyond that, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to play in their little world. let them have ikea, just have a sign at the end of the gallery that leads to artisans on the outside that do the same stuff, who get paid by the same company, but is just a little bit better in ways that the thousands you leave behind you won’t recognize.

    what do you think.

    came here through your posts on lagwar. really like your posts there. very intelligent.

  6. Yogi

    Thanks for the comment, Justin. I am actually not the guy who posts on Lagwar, that would be Chris. He runs this site and always writes really intelligent and informative stuff. You just happen to catch one of my guest postings on here :D

    As far as your comment goes, I was on the same page as far as character progression. I think that skills should be acquired from achieving certain levels in raids. Such as taking down Nefarian (sp? been awhile) would get you a heroic level version of healing touch or heroic strike as a warrior. I think it would be wise of them to avoid buffing each specs ‘talent skill’ except with final boss downs. I don’t think wow is a bad game, but the way it is set up now, I personally can only play it for a few months at a time before needing to move on. I come back for each expansion but once the meta grind sets in, I get bored. I think things would be different if we had a more horizontal game.

    Thanks for stopping in and commenting. Ill let Chris know you like his stuff just in case he misses this.

  1. Tweets that mention Game By Night » Vertically Challenged May Not Be So Bad. -- Topsy.com

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BaronJuJu, Gavin Townsley. Gavin Townsley said: Check out my latest Contribution to @Gamebynight talking about Horizontal/Vertical Expansions. #mmo #blog #expansions http://bit.ly/bvxxCI [...]

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