Friday, May 16, 2008

Why make us play SOOOOO much?

WoW is lots and lots of fun. We all know that. That's only slightly interesting to talk about. The interesting part to talk about is the 10% of the game you dislike, or even better, the 1% of the game you hate.

Raiding is one of those really fun parts. Excitement at boss kills, the fun of working together and duplicating what's illustrated in other people's guides figuring stuff out together. Even when farming stuff we can do in our sleep, its fun to push faster and faster to get more done in a single night.

Ok, so what's the problem?

No, this one isnt about loot, don't get me started.

Pretend for the moment that you're interested in raiding as your primary thing you want to do. Not everybody wants this, but just pretend.

WoW lets you do that. You can raid.

Ok, cool, so I can pay $15 bucks a month, and log in 2 or 3 nights a week for 2.5 or 3 hours each and raid?

Well, kinda.

See, if you want to raid, you're going to need consumables. Ummm, a lot of them. And lots of different types.

You're going to need gold for that. Or lots of time to farm and have stuff cooked/brewed for you.

Ok, I got my potions and foods and what not. Now can we raid?

Well, kinda sorta.

See, you're wearing some gear. Its not quite good enough for those raids. You're going to have to get gems for all those slots.

You're going to need gold for that. Or lots of time to farm gems and have them cut for you.

Ok, I'm fully gemmed. Can I get a summon?

Well, kinda sorta maybe.

See, your gear has got some sparkly gems, but I think you might want to cast some magical spells on your stuff that makes it stronger still. And that'll require lots of powders and shards.

You're going to need gold for that. Or lots of time to farm gear and disenchant it for mats.

Oh, and don't forget to save some more gold because you're gonna be wiping and the better your gear gets, the more repairing those wipes is gonna cost.

You get the picture. Bottom line is, that they "encourage" you to play the game way more than you want to.

And I don't fully get it?

I mean, I'm paying the same software purchase price and monthly subscription fee in North America whether I play 24x7, or if I never even log in.

You'd think Blizzard would want to find a way to keep you interested enough to pay the fee, but then not use expensive server resources by logging in. I can imagine some internal study at Blizzard of the optimal balance point between a player's entertainment value and his hardware cost to the company.

So why set the system up such that we typically play more than we want to?

My first thought is that those consumables serve as barriers that slow you down through the content. Since they want us maintaining the subscriptions, they gotta make sure we dont just burn through the game and then cancel our accounts.

But do the consumables, enchants, gems, etc, really slow us down? Maybe at the entry to Kara point, the gems and enchants slow you down a bit as you farm some mats and gold for the enhancements before you even start raiding.

Other consumables, the ones you need each week, what's the point here?

By keeping the Raid ID weekly reset timer thingie, they've effectively put a throttle on our progress through the dungeons.

Why add in hours upon hours of non-raid activities that we're forced to do if we actually want to raid? The weekly reset is the thing that sets the pace of progress, and all the other farming and stuff gets crammed around the raid week.

I'm still paying the same fee whether I'm farming, or raiding, or farming and raiding. I want to log in and raid. I don't want to log in and kill buzzards, fish mudfish, collect/buy herbs, arrange for the brewing of potions and elixirs and flasks, do any of a dozen gold-earning activities to make sure I can afford all the stuff I can't farm or craft myself.

I like doing some of the farming and questing and other stuff. Just not quite as much as is required to support my semi-casual raiding habit 2 or 3 nights a week.

I dont see how Blizzard makes more money by keeping me in-game as much as they do. I'd think they'd be better off letting me log in 15 minutes before my raid, jump straight into the dungeon, and get off their servers and out of their RAM the moment I'm done. That still requires me and 9 of my friends to buy the game and pay the fee.

The only thing I can think of is that they want me addicted, so that they deny their competitors any money. If I was able to get my WoW fix satisfied with only the 3 nights of 3 hours of raiding, I just might be thinking of spending some money on another game to play on the other nights. And we cant have that, now can we.

But it feels like its counterproductive for Blizz, because the way they do it a person might burn out and cancel their subscription, rather than be able to concentrate on their favorite activities and keep their subscritpion alive for more and more months.

So then the mind floats over to gold selling and RMT. Luckily, I have a giant horde of gold stashed away from before I became a raider and started feeling these strange emotions :-)

But I could easily see how a person would be willing to trade $100 bucks in real life money in order to be free of having to spend the time to farm that gold, and be able to cut right to the chase and start raiding.

Of course, then there's all the rep grinds and other time sinks that RMT wouldn't even solve for you.

So when is Blizzard going to figure out that there's a big enough market of people like me who would pay $30 monthly fee to play on a server where either (A) dungeons are tuned to not require anything but the gear on your back or (B) you need all the fancy stuff, but there's a free vendor right at the dungeon's portal that provides any and everything you need, because we want to have fun raiding, and not not-have-fun farming to support raiding.

Real Life is where you're supposed to do unfun stuff during the week so you can have fun on the weekend. Our fantasy games should break free of that pattern.

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