Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In World of Warcraft, the game evolves with patches released every few months. After the most recent major patch, 2.3, many areas became significantly easier, the UI became more helpful, the item rewards got better, and it took less time to “level up”. When the expansion was released, the “regular” items in the expansion areas were often better than the “elite” items in the regular areas. People who played the game in the early days sometimes comment on how easy things are now. (“When I was a kid, I had to walk uphill in the snow…”) The question is, is this a good thing?

I think in the context of a game like WoW, it is a good strategy.

Players who are more skilled or have more time to play get lots of rewards, and later players who are less skilled or play less get those same rewards. It seems unfair. This happens in the tech industry too. Last year Apple released the iPhone for $600, and later lowered the price to $400. Many people were upset by this. But price drops are common in the tech industry. The iPhone will be available for $30 in five years. Does that mean nobody should buy it now? No! What you're paying for it not just the product itself, but getting it earlier.

It's the same in World of Warcraft and other long-lived games. What was expensive before is cheaper now, except instead of the “cost” being in terms of money, it's in time and skill and effort. It doesn't even the playing field though. Just as the top items become available to more people, new top items are added that beat the old ones. There's a new iPhone out now. And Patch 2.4 will add new cool items for the top players to get. Those who had the top items before will find it easier to get the new items. Without these changes, I think the game would stagnate. Everyone will reach their peak potential, and there will be nothing more to get. You need change to keep the game exciting to existing players and new players, and Blizzard seems to be good at doing that.

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2 comments:

schnalle wrote at September 14, 2008 6:26 PM

i think, the value of this approach - item "resets" through expansions - lies in the possibility to "catch up".

in wow, the success of your char depends heavily on the time you invested. a player with less skill but good equipment can beat a skilled player with bad equip (not only in terms of pvp, but being valuable in pve too). so if you're starting a new character and leveling up, it still takes a long time to be able to play in the upper class again - until you farmed enough good equipment, that is.

extensions like the burning crusade, which introduced a lot of new, high quality equipment, have pros and cons:
cons: players that farmed a long time for top-notch equipment are frustrated, because noobs suddenly have as good equipment as they have.
pros: the noobs and twinks have the possibility to catch up.

i think, the pros outweihgt the cons.
one big advantage here lies in the twinks. there is no motivation for a pro to level up another char if they know they'll never get to the top.
furthermore, players that don't invest a lot of time suddenly have the possibility to play in the top leagues and experiance new content (even if that won't last very long). and powergamers know they'll be at the top soon enough, while they'll welcome to make their twinks valuable.

one example: a friend of mine twinked a draenei shaman after TBC, while having a very high ranking main. soon the twink overtook the main and is now one of the best equipped (pve-healing) shamans of the world (end yes, he did indeed quit his job to have more time for WoW). without the tbc-resetting, the other players would be so far ahead of a newborn twink, it never had the chance to catch up, making the game a lot less diversified.

Ross wrote at April 14, 2009 9:43 PM

One philosophy could be to add the concept of loosing. For now, players can't loose something by lack of effort or skills. it could be a are of reward (beware of abuse :) )