It’s dead Jim…

.. or is there still hope?

It’s been seven months since my last blog post.

Whilst it’s true that I don’t tend to write too often, seven months is a long time since my last musings and much has happened in that time that has made it difficult for me to know exactly what I wanted to write.

In that seven months we’ve seen Blizzard’s legal troubles and the fast decline of a once great game in Shadowlands take centre stage and the rise of an old, over-looked competitor to pre-eminence in the MMO gaming sector.

It’s no secret to those of us that have been playing WoW for the last decade or more that the game has seen a general decline in recent years.  As the founding developers and managers of the franchise have moved away to pastures new we’ve seen a change of focus from the new developers and managers, moving on from the players and the well laid out and structured plans of those who had the original vision of the game to focus instead on acronyms like MAUs, FOMO, real money generation and P2W micro transactions.

Today, the game is one where we’re dangled a carrot to buy a six month sub in periods of content drought and with each new patch, pushed to ramp up our activity for a new set of ever more temporary borrowed power systems and gating reputations. 

Rather like the fashion industry after the advent of ‘Fast Fashion’, no longer do we have the usual slow rotation and obsolescence each expansion inevitably brings, but rather a new series of grinds with each incremental patch.  Grind it, reset, grind it, reset all based on the FOMO concept.  Fear Of Missing Out being the driver rather than you know, actual content to enjoy.

Understandably, despite the best efforts of our alleged lizard overlords, people aren’t hamsters and this process has become tiresome and insulting to many.  It leads to faster and faster burnout each cycle and the natural desire to find something new where players are treated like you know, paying customers and human beings and not like patients or junkies that don’t know what’s good for them until Blizzard makes them consume it. 

Have a carrot, buy a store mount.

This, admittedly with other factors such as age (player base and franchise) and the economic law of diminishing returns, prompted a rise in interest in the long running but hitherto very much second place occupying Final Fantasy XIV by Square Enix. 

This sudden exodus, exacerbated by the defection of pretty much every WoW streamer, content creator and Mythic world first raiding guild to try out FF and then report back that it was indeed a superior product.  So, we have a “where is everyone going?” moment of unprecedented proportions which when combined with the moral, creative, lore and game-playing dead end that WoW currently wallows in could not have come at a worse time for the game.


The last year has seen several of our longer term members move over to FFXIV, hell even my son Rag is playing it now and I spent a day or two as a sprout to see what all the fuss was about before deciding I’m too old and too set in my ways to start over again in a game that doesn’t really have any appeal for me anyway.  I have never understood mangas or people that like them which is weird considering I love most other aspects of Asian culture and am a relatively competent chef in Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine and used to keep decent enough collection of true bonsai for it to be worth stealing.

Anyway, I digress.

As if this weren’t enough by itself we have the fallout from the lawsuits having a real and visible effect on the game itself at a time when things are already very fragile.  The lawsuits have polarised opinions into employees vs corporate or presumed ‘woke’ agenda devs vs ‘toxic man baby players’ (as we’ve been referred too as by more than one WoW dev) and so we’re seeing WoW adrift with only a series of short-term polarising changes announced rather gleefully to much confusion and concern from the players whilst we receive no news on the game front that gives us hope that the future will also see game issues rather than personal, ideological or company changes being the focus that a seemingly oblivious group of devs feel is the most pressing change required.

The ship is sinking and they’re busy painting it in rainbow colours and patting themselves on the back rather than patching the holes in the hull.

Running a guild like Weekend Warriors through such an unprecedented drop in interest in the game, its stagnant and repetitive end game content with its increasingly long and usually unsatisfying patch cycles is not easy.  

Guild activity has dropped from the usual 20 a day online with 40 or more on raid days to sometimes only 5 or 6 during the day and pretty much just the raiders online during raids.  Many players whether they be progress or flex raiders just raid log at this point, hoping to push another kill before attrition starts calling raids more out of a sense of duty to the team than out of a real desire to actually continue playing and raiding.

It’s pretty grim, I won’t lie and personally as a 56 year old GM and Mythic raider, I don’t actually trust the current crop of developers and Blizzard beancounters to make decisions and changes that will convince me that the game is still aimed at players like me.  A player of 14 years standing who has never bought a 6 month sub or pre-ordered a game but has never once dropped his sub for even one month in all that time.

Obviously, did I not feel a sense of duty to the people in this guild and to the legacy of Weekend Warriors, its past, present and hopefully, future then I’d most likely have chucked in the towel before now such is my disillusionment with the way the modern game has evolved.

Still, I’m here, still logging, still raiding if needed rather than actually wanting to be in on each progress kill.  I’m not getting any younger though so this is realistically coming to an end soon.

The most worrying latest nail in the coffin seems to be Activision’s president Bobby Kotick accepting wholesale his developer’s demands in terms of positive discrimination affirmative action hires over ability or arguably the fairest and most effective strategy in terms of ensuring excellence, namely “blind hiring” policies.  This will only serve to ensure that hires have an eye first and foremost towards meeting mandatory quotas rather than practical qualities and almost always lead to a decrease in the quality of the team and the rise of the deadly ‘group think’ mentality that leads development to some very subjective places indeed.

We shall see in the coming months but I fear that with FF Endwalker imminent, Blizzard turning in on itself and navel gazing rather than actually shaking things up things don’t look good at all.  

What they should be doing is bringing in some new blood and transferring out or firing some of the dead wood that got us where we are today and who obviously have nothing new or different to offer than that which has already failed in terms of story, class and game design or some personal agenda to ‘fix’ a game they see as problematic rather than one they love. 

Without such drastic measures it’s hardly surprising that many observers and players think this will be their final expansion if they even finish it at all.

Sadly, this time this includes me.

To return to my Star Trek reference above, I’ll add another: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one…”.

Focus on your players Blizzard, It’s the only solution.

Thanks for reading.

Founder and Warlord of Weekend Warriors.

3 Comments

01/11/2021
As much as I'd like for the game to get back into a state that it is enjoyable there is a bit of an issue with the solution you propose. It is absolutely the way to go, but I think they have burnt far too many bridges already, not going to touch too much on the subject of the lawsuit, but it helps paint a picture of a company that is already pushing talent away. Back then it was a place people wished they could work at, where Quality was put ahead of quantity. With Activision in the lead this declined and in fact turned to worse and worse, they don't want quality, they want quantity to please their investors. Record money at the end of the year? Great, fire 800 people, that will help demoralize talent. I am aware that the fired people were mainly from the "expendables", QA testers and staff working on e-sports related stuff, it still has a chain effect inside the company too. Afraid I'm one of the people you mentioned who moved to greener pastures. But after the massive burnout that BFA was I just hit a point where I could not justify running two subs at the same time and once I took a step back from Mythic raiding there was just less and less reason for me to push on. Mythic+ for me overstayed it's welcome with it's design in BFA, with classes constantly in a state that they needed some kind of bandaid to make them tolerable. It does not help that I have always been a person who focused on one character (you got a taste of how bad I am when it came to BFA), which was Shaman, all my progression was there, but the changes that happened in Legion had killed the fun for me with the class. It was not apparent at the time, because the artifact weapon gave us a lot of good things to make us forget, but the spec that I like is nothing but a shell of one that I used to like. To cut things a bit short, yes they'd need to do a huge change within their development circles to pull the game back and take a deep look at what made the game fun before and it is ain't borrowed power that is for sure. But I have my doubts they have it in them to pull the game back and the stark difference when you compare it with FFXIV, which was inspired a lot by WoW...perhaps it would be time for WoW to swallow their pride and take a good look at what makes the game good. When you got a product that was made to make money and not because you have a passion for it that is doomed to fail. All those who had a passion for it left already as you mentioned and Activision mandates leave little room for this to change. Who knows if they will turn it around, but with all these factors there I do not think it is going to happen.
2
01/11/2021
Thinking about how much this game has helped me. Through some pretty shit times I can tell you. Escapism when your life is down the toilet is an important part of distracting yourself from the nightmares you face. I try and remain positive and upbeat, try to remind myself there is loads to do like collect pets and achievements etc. But with the best will in the world this has got to the point now where even I am thinking of ditching out of this shitshow. Having been part of the corporate world for as long as I have, these knee-jerk responses to litigation and criticism have become a part of my professional life. I don’t need them in the world I run to when the devils own satanic cattle herd shits all over my life. Trouble is, I can’t bring myself to tell Viix this is the end. It’s a ridiculous anthropomorphism but it’s like she is almost real I have spent so long developing the character even a kind of quirky personality that it breaks my heart to think it’s all over. I don’t know what to do, I really don’t. I thought about appointing myself “morale officer” and trying to raise peoples spirits. Trouble is all the game has to offer us right now is not worth the sub. How can this go on much longer?
4
01/11/2021
I know exactly what you mean Viix.
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