Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth

Various World of Warcraft topics combined into a single post.

Timeline to Draenor

We are getting there.  There is now less than two months to go until until November 13, when Warlords of Draenor launches. (I’m still wondering if this was all foretold in the hint we got back in January)  And the reality of the situation means that some things have to start happening much sooner.

Well, at least one thing has to happen.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Coming Soon

At some point Blizzard is going to have to drop the 6.0 patch on the game, which will roll up all the Warlords of Draenor changes as they apply to the rest of the world.  The expansion is going to affect you even if you don’t but the expansion right away.  There will be lots of changes.  Some will happy or handy.  I am for anything that gets a few more things out of my bag, so the Toy Box will be welcome.

I am still a bit worried about the stat squish however, mostly because people have been in beta and 6.0.x is up on the public text realm and yet I haven’t seen a story out of WoW Insider with something like one of the following headlines:

  • Stat Squish Apocalypse – No More Solo Raids for You!
  • Stat Squish – Everything is Wonderful!

And I realize that people in the beta are interested in the new content, as opposed to checking to see if their level 90 can still solo Onyxia, but I would be interested to know if it worked out as Blizzard promised before the 6.0 patch drops.

Anyway, given how things have gone in the past, I would expect the 6.0 patch to drop 4-6 weeks before the expansion, so we are probably a month or less away from seeing what 6.0 really brings to the live realms.

Are They Serious About Nostalgia?

One of the big things coming up this November… in addition to the WoD launch and BlizzCon… is the World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary.  That is a pretty big deal, and it seems like Blizzard, after dropping more subscriptions (~5.2 million) than probably the next couple subscription games on the list ever had at their combined peaks, has decided to play the nostalgia card.

That can be a powerful play.  SOE has shown that even half-hearted, doomed to neglect nostalgia plans like their progression servers can get a couple servers worth of players back and paying for the game.  And even if nostalgia wears thin more quickly than you might imagine, because the reality of going back is almost always just a shadow of the past, as neither we nor the game are the same (that whole “everything flows” thing), such events do get people interested in your game.  Handled correctly, the nostalgia card can get some old players back into the game.

I’m just a little nonplussed about what Blizzard has chosen to emphasize.

There is the Molten Core raid.  This is a re-work of the original that you and 39 of your closest level 100 friends can take on for a limited time.  It goes away with the new year.  This one doesn’t grab me for obvious reasons.  I never raided.  I only once peeked into Molten Core.  And, to be honest, I am not sure I can commit to being level 100 by January 6th.

But I have no doubt that this will be a draw for some, at least until the reality… or the deadline… sets in.  Or until the special prizes are secured.

And then there is the Tarren Mill vs. Southshore battleground.  I suppose another battleground isn’t a bad thing.  And at least it will be available for levels 90 and up.  But as for re-creating the chaotic and often lopsided open world battles of the old days, I am not so sure.  Once you level constrain, set up equal teams, and put down clear victory conditions, the spontaneity of the original conflicts kind of melts away.  But I am sure there will be a set of special achievements for the whole thing, which will go away with the turn of the year, so it will no doubt be popular.  But is it nostalgia?

I suppose you could argue that the expansion itself, in returning to Outland and the Iron Horde and the various Orc war chiefs is a nostalgia move in and of itself.  It certainly does get straight back to the heart of the Warcraft franchise.  But the other bits… not sure they are grabbing me.

Of course, I am open to criticism on my WoW nostalgia credentials, as going through the oldest content in the game.. Outland… has driven me to play a lot more Pokemon.

Name Wipes

Yesterday Blizzard announced that they were doing a wipe to free up the pool of available names, and they took an interesting approach to this.

Over the years various publishers have hinted or even said straight up that if you unsubscribe your characters might get deleted.  That turned out to be a bluff in the long term, as those same developers eventually realized that players in a subscription MMO will come and go.  It turns out a decent number of people are like me and don’t like to pay when they are not playing.  $15 a month in isolation is cheap.  $15 a month when you might be interested in half a dozen games or have multiple accounts or have family members playing adds up to real money fast.

And so companies have attempted to tread softly on the whole character deletion thing.

Once in a while somebody will go purge characters that are under a certain level and beyond a certain age.  But for the most part, MMO companies live in hope of our return.

Blizzard won’t be deleting characters.  They want us all to come home to Azeroth at some point and are not too worried about the size of their database.

But they do appear worried about new players being able to pick a name.  Problems in that regard have become a punchline to some jokes.  So they are doing a name purge.

If you have not logged a character in since November 13, 2008, it will have its name wiped when the pending 6.0 patch goes live.  Whenever that is.  But it will be reasonably soon.

I probably have characters on some server somewhere that meet that criteria.  I don’t know how to check, but I suppose I should just log them all on.  Or maybe I won’t, just to see what happens.  I suspect that, should your name get wiped, you’ll just have to pick a new one when logging that character in again.

But I was curious about the date they chose.  Okay, November of 2008 was… the Wrath of the Lich King launch.  But it also happened to be the peak subscription point for non-China WoW players.

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

MMOG Charts 1 million Subs and above

The total WoW subs went on to peak right after Cataclysm, but November 2008 looks like the last big spike in the west, though we lack the data to pin that down.  The fact that Blizzard chose that as the cut off though seems to be a hint that November 2008 is some sort of tipping date, at which point characters no longer being logged in started to add up to significant numbers.

Or maybe somebody in the office said, “If they haven’t logged in for six years, screw ’em!  Take their name away!”

Why Should I  Watch BlizzCon?

Finally, BlizzCon is coming up (November 7-8), awkwardly shoved in between the 6.0 update and the Warlords of Draenor launch, a position that makes you wonder what they are going to talk about when it comes to Azeroth.

I am not one to say Blizzard shouldn’t have BlizzCon unless they have a big announcement.  I am sure that everybody who goes has a great time.  It is a fan event and that can be enough.

But if Blizzard wants me to spend $40 for the Virtual Ticket so I can watch along from home, I need a bit more enticement than an in-game pet and another StarCraft II forum avatar.

Available Now!

But why?

Last year was totally worth it, as the big Warlords of Draenor announcement was a highlight along with a bunch of good panels going into the gory details.  But now, a year later, with the Warlords of Draenor expansion showing up literally a week after BlizzCon, anything they have to say about that lands between “I’ll see it soon enough” and spoilers.  I’ve already bought the expansion, I’m a sure thing.

So what is in it for me?  Why should I want to watch BlizzCon?  What would tempt me?

I am not big on StarCraft II, their MOBA… well… I cannot even remember what it is called so that should tell you something,… isn’t a draw, and while I would be mildly interested in some Diablo III news, it isn’t that big of a deal.  I could wait for the day after press for any of that.

But there has been a bit of background noise about Blizzard getting itself in gear and not letting the game sit for more than a year without any sort of content again.  It has been a long, hot summer for Blizzard, and they have had to pull out some tricks to support subscription numbers, like insta-90s with pre-orders and “log in soon to get a corgi later” calls.  I am sure they would like to avoid that again and keep us all subscribed for longer stretches going forward.  So I am going to guess that we will hear about one of two things at BlizzCon.

The first option would be an updated and more aggressive post-expansion content schedule.  Basically, with their Mists of Panderia experience behind them, they should have better refined what works and what does not.  Arguing against that is the current state of affairs where it doesn’t sound like there will be a lot of post-expansion raids and such being added.  But that could change.  Maybe they are holding back just to have something to announce.

The second option would be Blizzard totally breaks with tradition and announces the next WoW expansion along with plans to get it out the door in something less than two years this time.  This would be a big win in the whole “sell more boxes and keep people subscribed” column.

Of course, Tom Chilton, who was hinting about content getting out faster, is also on record saying:

By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back.

WoW isn’t in the horror show of ~2005 EverQuest and the confusion of too may expansions to keep track of, but pumping out more expansions isn’t going to reduce that barrier or solve the “I haven’t played since Burning Crusade, what do I need to play now?” questions.  Yeah, I know the answer to that one, and you probably do to, but it likely isn’t obvious to somebody returning cold.

Of course, in that same article he also says that the insta-90 thing solves the barrier problem.  So does that mean we’re going to get a new flavor of insta-levels with each expansion?  Because I am not sure Blizzard is ready to do a WoW expansion with no increase in the level cap yet.

And there is a third option for BlizzCon, which is just the status quo.  We’ll get a few hints but there will be no WoW news for another year, until another BlizzCon rolls around, while Blizzard plays on our hopes of something new to get us to grab the Virtual Ticket this year.

So, aside from an all new property, what would make watching BlizzCon worthwhile?

 

11 thoughts on “Nostalgia, Name Wipes, and the Next Expansion in Azeroth

  1. spinks

    Anything they announce will be all over the net in about 10s anyway. So get the ticket if you enjoy the livestreams and pets etc, not for announcements.

    Like

  2. Level Whimsicality

    Interesting that the name wipe condition is any character not logged in since The Burning Crusade. I would think any Wrath toon would greatly expand the pool. They are probably just being very conservative, plus they now have a marker to do the purge annually.

    Like

  3. NetherLands

    Regarding the Stat Squish:

    they’re putting in a system that gives huge bonusses versus lower level opponents to compensate.

    Which is nice if you want to do ripe raid content with a max level character, but plays absolute havoc on characters that tackled same- or higher-level content by spending more time and resources on gearing, also because they

    a) keep in Miss chances, but not only ramp them up even more for higher level opponents but also remove Hit Rating buffs ‘to keep people from tackling higher level content’ so e.g. people end up being even more helpless against max level griefers than they already did from Cataclysm onward

    (up till Wrath, you could with some luck at least fire off a Poly on them , since +/- 4.3/ Cata you migth as well forget about it, even with like +20% Hit; note +20%, not just +20 Hit Rating)

    which is somehwat odd considering the attention to WPvP though might be chalked to a faulty desire to sell boxes, not subs

    and

    b) they will be squashing gear not from ripe Raids much, much harder than moldy Raid gear.

    Currently for example on 85+ people can skip the whole DS business with player interaction (284/415 Craftables, AH in general) and content others can’t spoil (Archeology, Black Market AH), but post-Squish the MoP Gear available to 80+ (iLevel 409+) will be reduced to be much weaker than the ICC (80) and DS (85) Gear.

    Which will overall not so much lead people to play those Raids more as the numbers simply aren’t there (though it might for some time cause some raises in Boosting activity ) but to quit bothering with it, and eventually the game, especially those who paid 65k+ for items like the Sun-Lute only to see it nerfed into oblivion.

    Overall, much like the WoD Recipes needing hundreds of mats (a nasty surprise they don’t like to tell people) and the move to even more RNG in gearing , it seems they only want to make the Gear Treadmill run faster/ the game more grindy (as every Expansion means the whole race starts anew).

    At least that is what I get from the PTR/Beta news (ironically, a Twink-site like Twinkinfo gives the most information on levelling nowadays) in regards to PvE

    TLDR: if you’re not playing max-level characters, get whatever you can grab while you’re not yet neutered

    Like

  4. Raziel Walker

    My character had a history. Cataclysm wiped away half the reason for my existence in deleting achievements I cared about deeply (exploration and quests).
    If I hadn’t read your post well enough I would whine about the deletion of my chosen name forever removing any trace of my previous existence from memory. I spent as much time in Wow as I do on EVE and in both games the characters I created have their own history. Deleting their names would be equal to removing their gravestones.

    Hekathe@Stormrage and Carrot@Shadowsong

    Like

  5. SynCaine

    Nice of Blizzard to unofficially confirm what ‘some’ of us have been saying for years; WotLK was indeed the start of the downward spiral. At least sliding down the spiral was made ‘accessible’.

    Also you have to love that the only time WoW had open-world PvP, southshore, it was by mistake rather than design, and now to ‘honor’ that stumbled-into luck, Blizzard is instancing it. That’s almost SOE-level hilarity and incompetence.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Can we close the book on ‘accessibility’ now? | Hardcore Casual

  7. Coreus

    Diablo III lost 9 million players, making it a far worse game than WoW for a few years at least.

    But anyway, I quit playing when they added those silly mooing cow-people in the game. Why can’t they just take it seriously..?

    Like

  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Coreus – But Diablo III is a buy the box and you’re done game. Blizzard would literally be better off if nobody who bought the game actually played. When somebody stops playing WoW, they stop sending $15 a month to Anaheim.

    Mooing cow people? Are we talking about WoW or Diablo III?

    Like

Voice your opinion... but be nice about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s