Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Great Nothing: The Months Before World of Warcraft Cataclysm

Few things inspire a fierce foaming of MMORPG nerd rage than the following image:

Many people who play the amazingly expensive and time consuming MMORPG World of Warcraft are keenly aware of the coming expansion; Cataclysm. Upon release the face of Azeroth will be forever changed to reflect the destructive explosion of explosively destructiony doom that the evil doom dragon of doomy doom DOOOOOOM Deathwing shall bring to the world. With a higher level cap, new quest zones, new races, and new race/class combos there is a huge bit of MMORPG ahead of the fans of the series but the question becomes...What the hell do you do until it is released? This article isn't about how awesome Cataclysm may or may not be, nor is it about the myriad features that have been and will be introduced as a result of it. No my friends, this is all about the terrible doldrums of the pre-expansion blues. I'm going to tackle each of the key issues that guilds, players and marmosets face in the twilight of an expansion and try and figure out why it seems worse this time around.

Raid Burn Out: For raiding guilds, such as my own, there comes a point where nihilistic sentiment as well as Camus level existentialism brings a bitter halt to "current content" raiding. Inevitably your players will wonder what the hell the point is to actually going to Icecrown Citadel and defeating the Lich King YET AGAIN for the off chance that the one piece of loot that somebody may possibly still need will drop out of Arthas' pockets. This problem was only stemmed off a short while by the "hard mode" version of the ICC raid dungeon fights whereupon you do the same exact fights you've been clearing for months with a gimmick that makes it "zomg harder". Unfortunately adding a ooze bomb mechanic or a disease passing game in the middle of a boss fight you've done for 4 months doesn't exactly lend itself as "new and interesting" content. This means that the fights, no matter how many gimmicks you add to it still appear as the same stale content to the raid team. Consequently no one seems to care at all whether or not you actually beat it in the last couple of months before Cataclysm.

The raid burn out is made worse by the implementation of an extremely lazy, and in my opinion, poorly done final raid content patch. I speak of course, of the infamously stupid Ruby Sanctum. In the previous expansion (The Burning Crusade) players were given an entire new area, plus a 5 man heroic, plus a full on and very challenging raid dungeon (Sunwell Plateau). That's a lot of things to keep your pre-occupied for the coming expansion but that's not what we got in Wrath of the Lich King. Instead we got the copiest of cop outs in the planet. A single dungeon, that consists of a big circle, three mini-bosses (no loot) and one actual boss fight. One might wish to justify this terrible dungeon's existence by suggesting that Blizzard was busy working on Cataclysm content which I guess is ok. But honestly they need to remain aware that they have players that are still playing before their baby is released to the world. Then again I'd like someone to explain Naxx 2.0 (aka Naxx 1.0 with more health) and Trial of the Crusader (Aka another one room dungeon that was as stupid as it was booooooooooring). I guess Ruby Sanctum was par for the course in the lazy WoW expansion raid content.

What was my point? Oh yes, bad dungeons, recycled content, and an awful final raid patch caused the raid burn out in this expansion to be even more severe this time around.

Why level an alt now?: Cataclysm presents a unique dilemma for WoW players that they have not previously experienced. With the new expansion the entirety of Azeroth is going to be changed. This means that leveling a new character in Cataclysm will be an entirely new experience than leveling a character now. Considering that a lot of players have been leveling characters since vanilla it seems rather silly for them to want to level another alt now. Why slam through all of the old content you've done six times over when just waiting a couple of months will allow you to have a whole new game experience? Consequently many people are holding off on leveling alts until the next expansion comes out. There have been times where I logged on my low level warrior, played for about 20 minutes and then decided I much rather wait for the new content. As such, I find myself even more bored than I was at the end of The Burning Crusade where I at least had a hunter to level for my own amusement. Damn you cataclysm, making me want to waste my time leveling a character I wont play at a later date! Very crafty...

Battlegrounds? Lol!: With the close out of arena season, players are given the options of world pvp or battlegrounds. Unfortunately for us all Blizzard decided to release some game breaking talent trees before the release of their next expansion. A PVP scene that was barely balanced to begin with has become a nightmare the fight in. Sure some classes still function the same and people have bigger health pools, but damage is so high that your face gets melted off in nano-second. Or maybe I just suck....That's probably more likely. Either way battlegrounds have become annoying and stale. I can only play Capture the Flag so many times before my eyes fall out of their sockets and roll into the garbage disposal. World PVP is a nice distraction for a day, but once you've occupied Orgrimmar for three weeks and the Orcs are paying you tribute in the form of gold bullion it's time to go home.

Let's raid super old content!: You can have a little fun doing some old ass dungeons once or twice. The guild logs onto vent, you tell jokes, someone pulls the dungeon and you AoE the poor level 70 mobs down before they have a chance to inform you that you have killed Illidan. You hope to get some legendary weapons in a vague attempt to conclude an achievement you heard that is coming on mmo-champion only to realize that it may or may not actually count at release. Well shit, there goes that idea. At any rate, old content is easily blitzed through, with few exceptions not much of it is a challenge or particularly fun. (I will say that yogg'saron one light and no light are still an interesting bit of fun to have, but nothing else really is). Most guilds will exhaust the fun out of this idea in a matter of weeks meaning that everyone will still be bored. In this expansion it was even worse given the fact that most raids were sort of...completely lame? Ulduar being the only credible source of good raid design in the entire expansion made trying to conquer old glory a short lived hurrah.

Achievement Unlocked (You're out of achievements prick): Achievements, ever since their introduction have been a good way to stem the tide of boredom before the coming expansion. The problem with achievement hunting is that by this time in the game your main toon has most of the achievements you would have gone out of your way to get. Everything left is a horrible, stupid, and pointless grind. Why the hell would I want to go hug all the bunnies in azeroth? Why would I want to grind to exalted with Shen'delar? Who the hell wants to try and finishing LOOTING 25,ooo GOLD?! You can only knock out so many old world dungeons before you decide that doing anymore might compromise your sanity. You'll also find yourself asking what exactly made you think this would be fun in the first place once you've actually managed to be OMG OVER 9000!!! Now that I think about it, I'm sort of angry I am even close to 9000 and therefor mildly considering going after that arbitrary goal. Why oh WHY?! DAMN YOU CATACYSM!

It's So Rare it Takes 10,000 Years to Get!: Some of the things people want to do before the coming expansion is waste their time fishing, cooking, fishing, fishing and of course fishing for the off chance that they might get something cool. They'll stab 60000000 bear cubs in the forest if it means they might be able to loot a magic egg that summons a slightly differently colored cockroach. Oh the joy. Need I even explain why THIS is boring?


For the WoW community the Cataclysm can't happen soon enough. I've experience the pre-expansion burn out of vanilla and TBC but the current burn out is an all new monster. People don't seemed interested in doing much of anything. And those who you can rally to do something off the wall or mildly entertaining are few and far inbetween. Rosters are cut in half, players are sitting in Dalaran lighting lanterns, running dungeons for mounts, fishing for turtle and praying for an end to the drudgery. Oh deathwing, please deliver us from this evil!


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