A rare post has made its way to the Avenue today. It is my genuine hope, you will read it, add your thoughts and contribute to it.
I know, that it won’t just take a few seconds to read – and that many of my blog posts, that have a lot of writing in them, might tend to get skipped.
But I will really appreciate your input, so if you could just bookmark this for a dull moment during your Monday, then I hope my gratitude for you taking your time, will be worth it. 🙂
This is not a post made to criticize World of Warcraft and the current state the game is in. This is meant to get us talking; and to make myself wiser, on what is going on behind the scenes of Blizzard, and maybe in particular, behind the scenes of me. And you.
A feeling of disconnection
I’ve been thinking for a while, why I have felt so disconnected, when playing World of Warcraft lately.
Legion captivated me enormously; I cherished the whole theme of it, the zones, the Dungeons, my Class Hall, the story lines in particular – and those, the stories, are what keeps me playing the most. (I had long periods of breaks from MoP and through WoD, but both expansions had their moments.)
“But lately, starting with the pre-patch of Battle for Azeroth, I’ve started to loose interest.”
I feel no real “drive” to log on and play; in fact, some evenings I prefer to just keep my computer off.
But why? I have not been able to put my finger on it, precisely, at all. And that is rare. Granted, the story of the Burning of Teldrassil was not easy to digest; it still is not. But I made peace with it, I moved on, and I hoped into Battle for Azeroth with a positive mindset.
What is at play here exactly?
The stories of Battle for Azeroth – seen on their own – are nothing short of great. Immersive and clever, they are engaging and entertaining, especially Drustvar as a zone, interesting and captivating.
I still enjoy my Restoration Druid, as a Class.
The new zones are possibly more breathtakingly beautiful, than any other zone, I have ever seen in World of Warcraft.
The Dungeons are fantastic, the encounters are well thought of, and the Raids too (I have not raided myself though.)
The music is okay, though I feel it lacks the touch of Russell Brower, but maybe I just have not listened to it well enough, since the CD no longer comes with the Collector’s Edition.
So what is missing?
I could go into great depth discussing the systems of Battle for Azeroth and how I feel they lack “refinement”, how getting an upgrade should never leave us confused, and I could go on about how communication from game designers and to players could be done differently.
The launch of Battle for Azeroth could have been handled in another way too, but the last days of activity and the last two videos released were really positive for me, so the past is in the past, and I believe great things are to come, concerning those systems, azerite and what not. I want to believe, I choose to believe.
“We all learn from experience, Blizzard does too. I have empathy, for how hard they must be at work right now, trying to figure this out. No company is interested in alienating themselves from the player base.”
So no, I will not go into depth on that, but instead, I am trying to take a different approach.
Another store encounter
I had an experience in a store in town the other day, where I observed a bunch of teenage boys – my guess is they were around 15 years of age. They were there to purchase a keyboard, and searched for it.
They joked about it, stating it must be very “rare”, or even “epic”, since they couldn’t find it in the store. I chuckled to myself and my inner nerd, because I instantly knew, what they were referring to; the quality of items in World of Warcraft.
I stealthed around them a bit to listen (in Cat Form, obviously), and I discovered, that two of them had just started playing the game in the last year.
This really made me think, in the days that followed.
Those boys. They play the same game I do. Some children might have started playing this game, when they were 3 years old, sure. But let’s pretend they didn’t. Chances are they started a few years ago; that was the impression I got, from the chat they had. Maybe even later.
So here you have me, an almost 36-year-old woman (who played the game for 14ish years)
And you have a 15-year-old boy (who played the game for 1-2 years)
“How on earth do you tell a story – and design a game, that appeals to these two player segments at once? And which player segment is going to bring you the most income to your game? Which one should you focus on the most?”
I am genuinely asking.
Player segments / Target audience
So, is that, really, what is at play here? Have I simply moved away from one of the player segments; the target audience of Blizzard Entertainment – when it comes to their storytelling?
If you are an author, and you write Children’s Books for a living. It is not expected of you, that your writing develops with your readers. You are not expected to suddenly start writing for teenagers later on.
And if you write for teenagers, chances are, not many adults will enjoy your books. And you are fine with that, because, it is not your target audience.
Many authors stick to one target audience, and that really makes sense, because we appreciate different things, depending how much we have matured, and where we are in life.
I realize age does not define that on its own, but, you know.
When you make a movie, rarely is the sequel to that movie aimed at viewers in a completely different phase of their lives, than the viewers you had in mind, when you made the first movie.
A book I read, when I was in the beginning of my 20s, might not be a book I enjoy now, that I am close to 36. The same thing can be said about movies, theater plays, anything, really.
“How many of the things I enjoyed 14 years ago, are things I continue to enjoy today?”
Yet I keep circling around World of Warcraft.
Creating a game, that appeals to many different player segments at once must be close to impossible. I have thought of systems in WoW lately, a lot. Many I have not experienced fully, because I have signed them off as too RNG – and with my limited time to play, it’s not for me.
But what about the story?
It puzzles me, why I have not thought about the story of World of Warcraft from this perspective until now, but I am beginning to feel, as if this is one of the main reasons for me to feel so disconnected.
Being selective made impossible
I always looked at various things in WoW made to appeal to many different players.
You have Mythic+, you have Looking For Group, you have gorgeous zones to Explore, you have Achievements, you have hardcore Raiding in bigger groups, you have Pet Battles, you can engage in PvP or PvE, you can be casual, free of choice – and you can just have fun, with whatever you want.
“One thing never rules out another – the World of Warcraft is yours to conquer in any way, that you want.”
I select carefully, what I spend my time on, because of limited time, but also because of what I find enjoyable.
If I do not like the speed of M+ and if I am not fond of World Quests? Simple, I just don’t do them.
But what happens, if the story gives me the same feeling? I have played one race from the very beginning. My “relationship” with them, but also in general with the Alliance, the Horde, the zones of World of Warcraft, the NPCs, the important leaders of both factions is many years old.
This brings me back to those teenage boys, I saw in the store. Who have been playing for a few years at best.
They cannot be expected to feel the same way about the game as a whole, as I do. Perhaps even the contrary. Quite possible, even the contrary;
they might have relished in all the “drama” as of late. In the stories. They like it, when old NPCs gets “spiced up”, perhaps they even took joy in the genocide, that happened, because it fits their mentality more, maybe they liked how NPCs that play an enormous part of roleplay and story are killed off, reanimated, then killed off, risen as undead, and so forth. They might not search for deeper meanings with all of it; they just go with the flow.
“They naturally do not have the same connection to the game, as I do; who have played it since the beginning.”
They probably do not care much about zones being destroyed, because, let’s face it, how much time do they really spend in zones not from the current expansion?
Times were a lot different, back when we used to hang around in main cities, in search of a group. We naturally spent a lot more time in every single zone of the game too, because of the slow paced questing, and our curiosity and exploration-desires. In general we were a lot less focused on achievements, because of the 10 points they give today; we did it for the experience (not the XP, but the experience), and we spent a lot more time “bonding” with the story of the NPCs we quested for, because of that.
So maybe that is what is at play here?
“Without realizing it; Does the story told in World of Warcraft no longer appeal to me, because of how long, I have played this game?”
Do I just care too much? Am I just “getting too old for this shit”?
Or is the story no longer the core of the game, but has been developed into something, that comes later on in the game-making process, to fit the systems of World of Warcraft instead? Something minor, to make it sound “cool”? I feel a change in the overall theme.
Faction War and reactions
The teens I observed in the store, appeared much more “right in your face” tossing around swear words, and had a much more direct, yet obscure behavior, than I do.
I imagine, that they find the “Faction War” much more captivating and “awesome”.
Whereas someone like me; I really dislike it. I particularly hate, what it is doing to people;
“I hate seeing players fight each other on social media, making the Faction War personal. Granted, that does say a lot more about the players on their own, but is there really any reason to light the fuse?”
I hate how a small, small part of me have this feeling of “unfairness”, and the only way to make things even between the Alliance and Horde would be, say, to…
Kill off “Zappy Boi”
See what I did there? I just mentioned this as an example, but am I not right in assuming, that the idea of that alone;
the idea of the Alliance slaughtering Zappy Boi – Zekhan, just for the sake of it, just for the “let us cause an uproar, just wait and see, it will make sense in years ” – plot, is causing a reaction on your side?
Let there be no doubt, that I adore this troll! I just used this example to highlight, what the Faction War might trigger, when it comes to emotions, in the players, who engage in it daily. Because it involves our race, our alliances, our faction, our zones. Not just hostile NPCs we have no deeper connection to; not just a supporting role actor.
“Is it positive?”
I think there is a chance, we react this way, because we are not standing together in overcoming a joined foe, but instead we deal with meaningless slaughtering, while we “wait”.
Perhaps the reason beind all of this is to make us hunger so much for the hostility between us to be over, so that it will fill us with enormous relief once it ends, and we will be able to play across factions. But is the journey to this a good experience?
The stronger the feeling, the better the reaction?
“At Least It Made You Feel Something” – was a good read for me, over at Co-geeking.
“Feeling something” is not always a measure for succes, I think. Sometimes things need hard work, in fact, most things worth going for, does. A feeling of relief, immersion and joy can only happen, if there is drama somewhere along the lines, I get that. We need excitement, so we do not find it dull. We need to be hooked, we need to care.
But isn’t it about the right balance?
Isn’t it about the journey, and not so much about the destination, where it all – apparently – finally makes sense?
“If I feel disconnected to a movie, I stop watching. If I feel disconnected to a book, I stop reading. I need to feel enjoyment, while I watch, I need to feel it while I read. – and not just in the last part of the movie, or on the last page of the book.”
If I do not enjoy it, I simply just say “Okay, hey, this is not for me, it’s for another type of viewer/reader”.
But what of the story of World of Warcraft?
I feel as if, it is a whole other thing to not chose the story of the game. I cannot avoid choosing the story, since it is the core of the game. (Is it?) And I do not want to either.
I frequently see this meme around, with words similar to “The less I care, the more happy I am.”
Is that the solution? Can I pull it off?
Trimming Target Audience
Are Classic servers meant as a salvation for those of us, who feel this way?
And us going there, will make it easier to focus on fewer player segments in the future in the current version of the game?
I said it before; We all know the rose-tinted goggles are strong, there is clearly a market for it, but releasing Classic servers is not just about listening to the devoted fans, who have played on Illegal servers since Cataclysm. Something larger must be at play.
“Are we seeing a shift in more and more aspects of the current version of the game, optimized to appeal to fewer and fewer player segments, that are more likely to finance the game best?”
“Spreading yourself too thin” is never a good idea, so it might be what is happening? (Right expression?)
I mean, trying to please multiple target audience at once must be getting harder and harder, when we all mature, age, grow up, while also seeing new players, teenagers, entering the scene.
I do know and realize, that many still enjoy the game, so:
Is it my age or is it how my personality has developed since the launch of the game first and foremost, that plays a part, in how I view the ongoing development of World of Warcraft – and hinders me in enjoying the story of the game anymore?
Note, I use the word hinders, because I sincerely want to get back to a much greater feeling of immersion, than I have right now.
But down to my very core, I feel a disconnection to the ongoing story; it’s simply not for me.
And even if it turns out, that two years from now, Chromie appears and just manages to rewind time two years, or everything suddenly makes sense, and we find out, that everything had to happen for a reason – I just want to emphasize, that for me, it is the journey that matters.
“Just like an end to a great show, like How I Met Your Mother, can taint the entire show, if it goes against all of the development of the characters up until that point – just as well can an ongoing story taint the end of that same story, even if the end is extraordinary.”
It goes both ways.
Just for the record; I am still enjoying myself in Battle for Azeroth – mostly because of the friends I play and talk with, and I have several very positive “Look how great this World of Warcraft is!” and “Choosing to stay positive; How it helps in the game” posts ahead of me. This time of year is where I craft my annual “Well done” poster to Blizzard as well. Again, this post is not a “flame war” towards the game.
But this subject has been on my mind for so long, that I needed to get it out there.
I am more than open to the fact, that it is my head, that is on backwards.
“And today, more so than ever, do I wish I had the intelligence and ability to bring this discussion on a much greater level and add much more depth to it, than I am able to. I wish I could toss in a lot of facts, charts and what not, to support what I say.”
I did my best though, so thank you so much for sticking with me all to the end of the post!
What are your thoughts on this?
I am sincerely interested in everything you have to say.
Merry Monday to all of you wonderful bloggers and readers, and thank you again, so much, in advance. 🙂