Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Wandering Eye

Unlike his big sister, my son plays Final Fantasy XIV these days. Part of the attraction is his love of the FF series, which he's played every iteration (as far as I know), and the other part is that all of his friends play FFXIV. I've walked by his room --door shut, naturally-- hearing him working out an instance with his friends, all the while smiling to myself. 

So when he mentioned to me that yeah, they've been seeing a big influx of WoW refugees lately, that intrigued me.

I'd bought the game during the Steam Summer Sale --there ya go, Syl!-- so it's been sitting there, waiting for me to download, but that interest in FFXIV far predates the current issues with WoW. As my son pointed out, I'd had it on my Steam Wishlist for several years now. So when I began to pay attention to all of the posts and videos about people leaving for FFXIV I felt simultaneously ahead and behind the curve.

But this particular video attracted my attention, because it was done by Jesse Cox, whom (along with WoWCrendor) at one time I'd linked to over in the links section of the blog.*

Yes, it really did attract my attention.
Be warned, it's 1/2 hour long.

I knew Retail was in trouble, but not to this extent. 


The thing is, I can see the origin story of a lot of Retail WoW's current problems in TBC Classic.

Just look at the endless grinding of dailies --normal and heroic instances-- for badges, for rep, to unlock said heroics, and to unlock the various attunements. Were it not for the retail inspired Meta of chain running instances, rushing to max level, and total grinding to get all the attunements and rep grinds done ASAP, I'd likely have never noticed the obvious connection between TBC and Shadowlands' rep grinds and gated content. The emphasis on spreading out and making people grind to get the mats to craft gear --particularly in Tailoring-- has created an environment where people would find grinding anything preferable to the crafting grind.** The grind and the speed of leveling has encouraged and/or required the leveling of alts so you can do all the things, and alts are still very much a huge part of Shadowlands today.

And I haven't even touched on the reputation of the player base either. 

Even some of Retail's narrative problems can be traced to TBC era WoW, as the WoW comics began publication during TBC, and their storyline directly contributed to the TBC storyline. That last part is critically important as Blizzard had published novels before, but until that point these non-video game publications hadn't become required reading to figure out what's going on in the current WoW story. This effectively offloaded a significant portion of the narrative, which meant that the WoW devs could spend more time working on what became the holy trinity of WoW: raids, dungeons, and PvP.***


Are other MMOs a panacea to the problems WoW has? That is a question I can't answer. I haven't played FFXIV (yet), and the single player centric nature of Elder Scrolls Online won't necessarily appeal to everybody. SWTOR continues to hang on with their niche audience, as does LOTRO, and the original storylines for both continue to impress me the longer time has gone on. There are other new MMOs on the horizon, most notably (for me) New World, and they will have their time to shine too.

But all good things do come to an end, and right now WoW is more vulnerable than at any other time in their past. I'd never count them out, but outside of deliberate scheduling tricks --something WoW has done in the past on a fairly frequent basis-- their well of goodwill is currently dry. They've got their endgame raids, dungeons, and PvP, but I don't think that's enough to keep a decent portion of the player base. Maybe that's the portion of the player base that the WoW leadership cares about, but that alone isn't enough to keep WoW viable for the long haul.

*I swear, Blogger, get yer act together and support more native controls for other Google applications. This isn't hard, people. If Wordpress can do it, surely one of the largest corporations on the planet can do it. And if they need programmers, I happen to know one who's pretty damn good at her job.

**Enter LFR in a later expac, after crafted gear became less important in Wrath and Cata. There were times in both expacs where I felt that I was the only one who even bothered with crafting gear in those two expacs, particularly with the introduction of Heirloom gear in Wrath. 

***I could add a fourth pillar to that trinity: the rush to max level. Sometimes I wonder why WoW devs even bother with the leveling process if the whole point is to just raid, run dungeons, or do PvP.


EtA: Corrected some grammar mistakes.


  1. BC Classic has certainly made me appreciate why certain things were time-gated later down the line... because people burning through everything within a month isn't just bad for sub numbers, it also wreaks havoc with things like balance and community.

    The FF XIV hype has been interesting. I've never played a FF game and am not a fan of its anime/cat girl aesthetic, but with so many WoW content creators talking about it, it's been hard not to learn a little bit more about it. Mind you, my main takeaway after watching someone play through the starter experience was that it's definitely not for me, as the awkward cut scenes and stilted dialogue just made me cringe. But still, people popping out of their "WoW bubble" is always a good thing. Even if they go back later, at least they'll have more of a perspective of what else is possible in the MMO genre.

    Unfortunately for Blizzard, they really seem to have hit an all-time low in terms of customer goodwill right now, stumbling from one problem to the next, and now this sexual harassment lawsuit... it's hard to see how they could fully recover from this.

    1. Within a month? Well, if you include Nightbane and having all three raids on farm, yeah, but pre-raid? That was more like a week or two for a good portion of the player base.

      Time gating things --in TBC Classic's case, using phases-- makes sense, but if I were the Classic team I'd have started with a Phase Zero, allowing people to get themselves up to raiding capable, and after a month to month and a half open up the Phase 1 raids + heroics. Basically, it's taking the pre-patch, doubling it in length, and then moving it to when the Dark Portal opens. With the raids and heroics not open, there's not as much as a rush to endgame because the endgame isn't available yet, which will in turn force people into dealing with the leveling problems of Shamans/Blood Knights and the healers.

      In our own Monday raid starting the 26th, we still have about 3 or so toons on the team not all the way to L70 and ready to go into Gruul/Mags. The leveling Shamans all made it --the last one the last week-- but people who agreed to level other toons for our raid found themselves behind because their mains took far more time than they expected. We've also had people take a pass on raiding due to real life taking up far more of their time, or simply looking at the requirements and saying "yeah.... nah." This churn is far greater than we experienced in either AQ40 or Naxx, and it tells me that the TBC experience hasn't been peaches and cream for everybody.

      (You'd never guess it based on guild chat, however. From what I've seen, TBC is apparently the best thing ever.)


      As far as FF XIV, you just hit on the main reason why I held off all this time: the anime aesthetic. Dialogue aside --and WoW has had its share of real "winners" in the dialogue department too-- I am not a great fan of anime graphics. WoW has its share of ridiculous looking gear and weapons too, but at least the people don't look, well, anime-like in their design. I get that anime is the current dominant standard in cartoons (or it feels that way), but outside of early anime (Speed Racer and Star Blazers) that I got into as a kid I always had a "meh" at best attitude toward the anime look. But if the narrative is as good as it sounds, I'm willing to look past that and see what FF XIV is like.


      I'm planning on a post on the lawsuit, and I've been reading the docs that are readily available online. Holy crap. I can't believe that Blizz let that go on. Okay, I can, but my brain simply can't comprehend the concept of people thinking that this was okay. It is abuse that makes my stomach churn, and makes me wonder whether these people have ever understood women in the first place. But I guess they never considered women to be people in the first place.