Battle for Azeroth broke me a tiny bit.

The Past…

I would imagine that most people who know me also know that I am a pretty big Blizzard fan. While I don’t play most of their games anymore I do really appreciate the quality therein. I really enjoyed my time with Starcraft II, yes all three parts. Sure the highest difficulty single player content was terribly designed but that was optional and everything below it was great.

Diablo III was a great experience for me from beginning to end. With the release of the Switch version I’ve come back to the game and really like it all over again. My love for that game is partly why I was disheartened by the announcement of Diablo: Immortal, a disappointment that has only grown with time and information.

Hearthstone while not my cup of tea is full of beautiful artwork and lots of great jokes. I love the playfields and appreciate what it brought to the table. Do I forgive it for feeling like it was the cause of WOW TCG ending? No, I will be a petty baby about that for the rest of my life. But I’m glad it is around.

Heroes of the Storm is something I could probably play single player forever and still have a great deal of fun. I love all the heroes, I don’t think any of them is designed in a way that doesn’t appeal to me. IT is just a lovely game all around and the only MOBA I’ve ever actually had fun playing. Not for lack of trying with DOTA or LOL either…

Overwatch, like everything else, is a gorgeous game. The sound design is stellar, the heroes are super fun, and the gameplay is fairly engaging. Sure I got off that ride a long time ago because of the loot boxes but I appreciate the game outside of that paradigm.

And this isn’t even to mention all of the games that came before this. Warcraft I and II are still incredibly fun to play. Warcraft III is good enough that I already ordered the remaster. Starcraft (alongside Warcraft II) were life changing experiences for me as a kid. They, along with their illustrated manuals, are why I got into writing and world building in the first place.

They filled me with wonder and dreams.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, believe it or not the point of this entry, has been largely a great experience for me. I didn’t play it during the (arguable) height of its zeitgeist, starting at the tail end of Burning Crusade. By then there were already rumblings that it had another expansion in the chamber before the barrel would blow.

The vanilla content was lovely, Burning Crusade was pretty darn fun, and I absolutely fell in love with Wrath of the Lich King. It was with the release of Cataclysm that we saw most of the Warcraft community experiencing what I am now experiencing.

Wrath was probably the easiest the game has ever been in my opinion. Most of the content you could access basically died if you so much as looked at it. Dungeons was incredibly easy and death, for an expansion surrounding the theme, was infrequent. I wasn’t a hardcore player but I was easily kitting out my characters and running out of things to do. The world was beautiful and haunting but it was a stark difficulty drop from Burning Crusade and a god tier drop from Vanilla.

Cataclysm took things in the other direction. No longer could you let a spell get cast in a dungeon without interrupting. You could no longer pull entire hallways of mobs. Encounters were dangerous and they were terrifying. While I actually loved this experience the world as a whole apparently did not.

Image result for wow population over time

This graph from MMO Champion always stuck out in my head. As you watched the game basically flatline in Wrath and then immediately crash the moment progression was stunted for players. Do I blame anyone for leaving? No, I think Cataclysm reminded people that they have other things they’d like to do with their lives. It pulled the wool back and revealed the wolf beneath. I really like World of Warcraft and it has never really impacted me negatively but I can appreciate the trappings therein that can be very destructive.

The moment the pill feeder wasn’t dropping snacks anymore folks realized they were being played by systems that weren’t there for their fun. Progression was glacially slow not because it made the game more engaging but because it made the game take longer. The further away the grass was the further you’d have to travel before you realized it was just as green as the grass you had stood on six months prior.

While the numbers certainly did not reflect it for others, I absolutely loved Mists of Pandaria. Talk about a beautiful zone. The intro cinematic is incredibly memorable and enjoyable, the music is absolutely stunning, and the story for a time was very good. It wasn’t until the seemingly endless Siege of Org that people seemed to lose hope. Once again you were grinding for not much of anything. There was nothing to work towards.

While Legion would provide many different ways for progression the most pivotal pieces of that progression were entirely randomized. Your luck determined if you were going to be an asset or a liability in team based content. This was an awful feeling and one that didn’t level out until long into the expansion. Which, again, was likely the point. You keep racing forward hoping for something better but ultimately you just reach a world where everyone else is just as strong as you are. The grass is just as green.

The Present…

It wouldn’t be until Battle for Azeroth that I’d finally be broken though. I had consistently filled up two servers with either max level or nearly max level characters. One side for alliance and another for horde. Often many of these characters for be raid tier geared and I’d love swapping between them. I’d even love swapping between specs within individual characters.

Now though. The RNG has reached a fevered pitch. Because of the introduction of Azerite gear I’ve felt like most progression is wildly stunted. Often I’ll get a piece of gear and contemplate if I should wear it now or wait. The rationale given for the removal of a system called Reforging a few expansions prior was that it caused this. Making players wait was scene as antithetical to the experience of World of Warcraft. I look back on that now and how freeing reforging felt when you got a bad piece of gear and see where we sit now.

It is not a very comfortable seat.

The general progression is just not very fun. I think Battle for Azeroth has given me time to realize this. I ran the latest Raid “Uldir” and felt a lot of the familiar history that I’ve had with the game. The environments are all eye candy. I want to learn more about every place that I enter. I found myself reading the dungeon journal entries for the bosses to find out about their history. The fights are engaging and the voice acting spectacular.

But then came the death of the bosses. A little red stone and some artifact power. Over, and over, and over. I kept looking at the loot tables of all the neat things I could get and then seeing the nothing I had in my hands. It felt terrible and reminded me of the removal of reputation from raids in almost all Warcraft expansions.

Reputation in raids means that you are always working towards something and that knowledge means that you never got “nothing”. You were always getting a little closer to a cool toy, or mount, or even some high level gear pieces. So naturally that had to be removed for some reason. I don’t know why, perhaps it was too much fun.

When I beat the final boss of Uldir, a being of cosmic threat. A horror that would live on in the dreams of all who witnessed it for a thousand years. Nothing happened. A little red stone falls into my inventory and that’s it.

All those deaths meant nothing. I left that fight lesser than when it began. I was out a few hundred gold and a half hour or more of my life. For what? I realized my character has been stagnating for ages now. The avenues for gearing up no longer very enjoyable.

I realized with that run of the raid that I’m no longer really ok with this model. I’ve had my Cataclysm moment. I don’t like getting nothing for a raid boss. I’ve got some ideas for how this could be better that I might put in a different post. But for now I’ll just say that it broke me. I’ve been going to Blizzcon every year and, if I can get tickets, will go this coming year.

But I think I’ll be there more for the people than the games. At least for now.

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