The rise and fall of features in World of Warcraft

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|07.17.14

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The rise and fall of features in World of Warcraft

I've been playing World of Warcraft since its inception. As a result, I'm as likely to view the game through the lens of my experiences as any player. One of the reasons I'm so thoroughly anti-nostalgia is because I'm actually incredibly nostalgic. If I don't stop myself, if I don't actively make an effort not to, I'll drown in falling down the well of this is how it was and just spend hours annoying the crap out of people who started playing after me. In one guild, I remember doing exactly this - I would spend all raid reminiscing with the other old hands (there were like four of us) and driving the newer raiders crazy comparing fights to raids from BWL to Blackwing Descent. Remember - every fight can be compared to Omnotron. Every fight.

One of the ways this shows up is when any new feature is introduced to the game. As a writer for the site, I always try and stay objective about a new feature, and often, I come to love them - I'm a huge fan of transmogrification, for example, and when they announced reforging a few years back I knew immediately it was going to become a mandatory and huge part of gear strategy. But the fact is this - on an emotional level I hate every single new feature as soon as I hear about it, because they're not my World of Warcraft - it takes an effort on my part to be open minded and I don't often succeed.

As an example - I've written multiple posts essentially defending the decision to remove flight for a while in Warlords' 90 to 100 zones and leave it out. But the fact is, flight was introduced back in The Burning Crusade and I've gotten used to it. I understand and I support the decision from a design perspective. But emotionally? Emotionally I have flying mounts and I want to fly on them. I just plain like being able to shortcut all the things on the ground, even while I get why the design doesn't support it. This divide between what's new and most probably better for the game and my own desires while playing the game isn't limited to wanting flight, either.

To use an example from a class perspective, I find the modern shaman class almost unplayable. I grew up dropping totems situationally. I played around with totem twisting, I'm from the era when Sentry Totem was a thing. The class has changed so much (for the better, almost exclusively) and I accept that. But it doesn't make me want to play a shaman any more. Frankly, I don't know how I keep at it with the warrior after all these years and all these changes - I guess my love for smashing and yelling can weather any storm.

But my point isn't that change is always good and I'm wrong to be nostalgic - to some degree, what you love can never actually be wrong, at least as far as games are concerned. One example that brings this thinking to light for me is the incoming garrison feature. I see a lot of people react with fear or trepidation to the idea of the garrison, and a lot of that fear or dislike is based in the idea that the garrison is or isn't something that the specific player wants. And I can relate to that, because while so far I've liked the garrison when I've gotten to test it, it's a new feature and one that makes a pretty significant change in terms of how the starting zones play out. The garrison is like a personal hub city, the followers add a new kind of gameplay, you're required to interact with it more and you gain more followers and plans as you play through the zone, complete quests. Getting Fiona and the Paladin Pals in my garrison was a huge shift for me, made it feel more welcoming, and finally swayed me to actually liking the feature. But it wasn't an immediate love affair.

The fact that we're rolling back flight in Warlords for at least a while and we're getting rid of reforging shows that not all new features have the results the developers wanted. Sometimes, they also don't have the results players want. And I think it's important to recognize this. The garrison seems designed to minimize discomfort, if that makes sense - to a great extent leveling it is an almost seamless part of the leveling game itself. So I'm comforted in that, but it is still a concern to me and I'll personally watch the feature as the beta expands into new zones.

In the end, forcing myself to be open minded has served me more often than not, but it's not wrong for me to feel like stuff was better before, because it's such a wholly subjective place to be. The game is always going to be a week of raiding Molten Core and BWL to me, in some deep part of myself. That's where I learned it.
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