Friday, August 29, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold

So here's a quick question.   We've said that after ten years of adding more and more abilities to our WoW characters, it's become too much. We can't continue doing that and expect the game to hold together.

Now, take that statement and replace that word "ability" with class or race or with capital city or  zone or ... pick a word and throw that in there.  Is there a point at which the game itself is simply so large that you can't continue to add to it?  Can you have too many races, like we have too many buttons?

At some point one of two things happens:  either there are so many elements to the game that
the game itself simply collapses from all the minutia, or you stop adding things to the game and it begins to stagnate. Currently, we have 13 races in World of Warcraft and we could easily add a couple more.  Could we add six more?  I can instantly recognize all of these races right now, but I don't think I could do it for nearly 20 of them.  The nature of the game will have changed at that point.
"It's important to remember that the point of these changes is to increase players' ability to understand the game, not to reduce depth of gameplay." Beta patch notes. 

On the one hand, you can have so many races that you can't keep them straight.  Any newly introduced race would incrementally erode the distinctness of all the others.  It may not be in our best interest to continue to expand the lore laterally, adding new continents and new civilizations.

On the other hand, the fate of any new race might become the same as that of the Worgen, where they have their beautifully designed starting area and then we never hear from them again.  Is it a race, if the race never takes any major part in the world?  And does the developer have an obligation to that race to include it in future world events?  And if you don't, have you really added that race to the world or have you just given the players another cosmetic skin on the order of importance of a new hair color.

It will be a different world, certainly.  And there are other possibilities.

Blizzard has been almost draconian in streamlining the leveling experience up to this point. I think it might be difficult to speed it up even faster and still maintain any coherence in the existing zones. We've certainly already minimized the importance of many areas in the game.  At least two or three zones in each expansion are already rendered inconsequential by the speed of leveling.  We are, in effect, removing those zones from the game.  The developers have purposely removed the necessity to visit Shattrath or Dalaran, and declined to put a major city in the more recent expansions, giving us shrines instead.  In addition to removing buttons, we're also removing cities.

Have we seen the last race introduced at level 1? Any character you roll up after Warlords drops will have to level from 1 to 100, just to get to end game.  We're likely to see the price of level boosting come down quite a bit, but what about other options.  Perhaps in the future you can simply choose to start your character at level 60, or 80 or 100; just check the box at character creation. Or pass a proving grounds trial to instantly gain 10 levels. Maybe it's time for a new level-100 heroic class in the manner of the Death Knights.

Clearly all of the preceding is merely wild speculation.   I think, however, there is a kernel of truth in the idea that the traditional experience we're all used to from WoW and other older games - basic handful of races and classes with level 1 starting areas and normal leveling curves - has already begun to change.

This is post twenty-nine in the Blaugust challenge to post once a day for the 31 days of August.

2 comments:

  1. Hayyo,
    I found your post to very Interesting. Good handful of people want new races but why not introduce high/master specialization classes, this way we have a new goal to work to. But as you have said, why not add a kickstart race or class? it's a good idea to think about, with a new race that does start at level one, you gain new lore and new exciting features. Now take that Idea and set it in "Warlords Of Draenor". We could explore the bird-like people that we saw in outlands. Already we see in the Trailer of "WOD" that some Arakkoa have been reformatted to be humanoids. thus I wonder if, in later patches of WOD, that the Arakkoa will become a playable race. So I come back to what you have written, Why not have a race/class that is already level 60, 80, 90.
    As always thank you for another interesting topic

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  2. Thanks for reading, Anon. I think the Arakkoa would be a fascinating race to explore, especially since this is the second time we've seen them, and Blizzard already has already developed a lot of background, and history for the Arakkoa in Burning Crusade.

    Like you pointed out, the bird men in Warlords are not the same hunched and 'broken' Arakkoa we fought in Outland. It's interesting to contemplate that races other than just the Draenei began to degenerate as a result of what happened to the planet. Obviously the Draenei weren't the only species exposed to fel energies. Thanks for your comment.

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