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World of Warcraft Burnout. No, I'm not talking about some sort of game where you race your mount at extreme speeds around Azeroth and crash it into other as many other mounts as possible to create gnarly devastation (although that would be awesome). I'm talking about feeling like, for me, World of Warcraft may be done.
I've been heavily into WoW for a few months now, and don't get me wrong, it's been a great game. But Blizzard made several design decisions in creating the game, which I can summarise as follows:
1) Obtaining the most significant in-game rewards will require regularly repeating the same significant challenges in the hopes of the rewards being randomly chosen from a table of possible outcomes (normally in the form of loot drops).
2) In all cases, investment of time and effort into play will be rewarded much more heavily than skill or talent.
3) The amount of time and effort necessary to obtain the highest level of rewards is an amount which is not compatible with holding a full-time job.
4) The most significant challenges in the game will require the coordination of groups ranging in size from 5 to 40 people and cannot be undertaken in whole or in part alone.
5) It is desirable that the player remain at the keyboard without significant break for periods ranging from 90 minutes to six hours in order to finish the most significant challenges. While in theory these lengths can be done over several nights, or can be broken up into "mini-tasks" to be attempted individually, there are significant organisational and efficiency disincentives to approaching the game in this manner.
There are more such design elements hard-coded into the game design, but these in particular are the ones which have been making their presence felt on me. There may be good business reasons for some of these decisions (such as the random rewards), they don't have much to argue for them in terms of fun.
In playing the game the way it was intended to be played, I have been staying up very late at night, I have been giving my girlfriend less attention than she deserved, I have been neglecting a variety of other leisure activities including playing several other games I've been wanting to try out. All this has resulted in me regularly being significantly more tired and grumpy than I'd like.
I've been holding out largely because of the excellent guild I've had the pleasure to be a member of, and also because of Blizzard's continued promises that "it'll get better soon, honest". Well, I've yet to see any sign that things will get better, despite two major patches while I've been playing, and in point of fact the changes to the raid game in the latest patch have made things much worse.
So I'm going to be leaving World of Warcraft for a while. Sure, I still need to pop in and check out some of the patch changes, and I'll probably be back for the expansion, but I can definitely feel that feeling that tells me that I've achieved all the goals currently available in this game that I can be bothered striving for.
Before I go, let me repeat once again my quick-and-easy solution for fixing all the endgame ills in WoW. I've posted this before in a variety of forums, and I've yet to have anyone disagree with a single point.
1) All new dungeons should be multi-winged along the lines of Dire Maul or Scarlet Monastery. No single task in a dungeon should take more than an hour of non-stop play from the dungeon entrance to achieve, and nor should there be significant efficiency bonuses for doing multiple tasks in a row.
2) Existing dungeons should have about 85% of trash mobs removed; the only remaining trash mob encounters should each have a unique tactical flavour. Clearing the same unchallenging enemies repeatedly for no reward is not considered by anyone to be fun. (Hint and evidence: the fact they're almost universally referred to as "trash" mobs.) The fun in dungeons comes from the bosses - the rest is just padding that there's really no need for.
3) Epic scale and atmosphere should be achieved through the use of music, art, and scripted sequences, rather than merely epic numbers of mobs. A minute of well-written sound effects can be more effective than an hour of mob-clearing.
4) Drop rates should be changed so that, although particularly good items remain rare, the amount of trips through any given dungeon needed to gear up enough to advance to the next level of challenge never exceeds (to take an arbitrary number) six - or maybe even one! There is no inherent fun in repeating challenges that have already been overcome.
5) The longer existing dungeons should immediately have a halfway "save point" implemented. I refer in particular to (as far as the endgame goes) Blackrock Depths and Blackrock Spire. (Particularly BRD.) An example of this already in the game occurs in Maraudon, where a player can use the Sceptre of Celebras to instantly move past the "quest" portion of the dungeon straight to the "boss" portion.
6) Every dungeon should have the option to take more people into it than the dungeon is tuned for. A dungeon tuned for 5 people should allow the option of a raid of 10. Incentives should be applied to make dungeons more rewarding the less people you take into them. This preserves the freedom of players to play in the style they enjoy while still encouraging players to challenge themselves as much as possible.
I don't expect to see any of this happen; but you never know.
Thanks again, Blizzard - despite some bizarre fundamental design objectives, you still made a hell of a game. I guess the question now is whether you solve the riddle of an inclusive and enjoyable endgame yourself, or whether you let a competitor do it for you.
(This post has been cross-posted to my Guild Forum, and also to the WoW General Forums.)