The uproar that has occurred over Blizzard’s proposal to reward tanks for dipping in a toe into the LFG system has been very interesting. One comment that I have seen come up over and over again is that Blizzard has to encourage, (bribe), players to do things in the game that are not fun. Which is astonishing for a couple of reasons. First of all, 5 man instance runs used to be, (a long time ago I might add), one of the most enjoyable things to do in the game. The second reason this is astonishing is the simple fact that Blizzard has designed the Cataclysm expansion around Heroic 5 mans. So we have a problem here. Blizzard has even admitted in the patch notes that doing these things might not be very fun. It’s all a giant head-fuck really because, I thought so anyway …
… that a game is supposed to be fun.
A while ago, a couple of expansions to be exact, Blizzard decided that they didn’t want to lose any players at all, even those who were regular nasty ninja trolls. Because those types of players still pay their monthly subscription, and there may well be a lot more of them than we realise. But because those players couldn’t get a dungeon run on their realm due to their terrible reputation, Blizzard thought up the LFG system.
The above is partly true. It leaves out one bit though; the fact that a lot of other players wanted the LFG system as well. It’s called instant gratification. The problem with it is that you can not only never get enough, but each bit that you get makes the next part less gratifying. I originally wanted to title this post, “No Retard Left Behind”, but it’s just not accurate enough. This game was not about the accumulation of shinies as an end in itself. It was about a game experience that sometimes rewarded you with one or two shinies as an added bonus. WoW has become the MacDonalds of videogames.
The LFG system promotes anti-social behavior, the dual spec system opens up tanks and healers to have a DPS spec, and the homoginization of classes means that any DPS is as good as the next one. The solution to the problem of there being very few tanks willing to brave the LFG system is going to have to come down to a lot more than a bag of goodies. That is unless Blizzard has already thrown in the towel. I’m of the opinion that WoW is not fixable anymore, for the simple reason that the core player base has changed so much over the last two expansions that attempting to take it back to what it was, essentially rebuild the WoW community just wouldn’t be feasible. People have been saying to take away the LFG system and revert back to a realm only search engine, but that just isn’t possible with today’s playerbase. They tried it in a half hearted way by making Heroics difficult again this expansion and look how well that has turned out.
Successful businesses are like successful people; they learn from their mistakes. So what can Blizzard learn here? They could learn that a game’s community is quite possibly the single most important aspect of an MMO’s success and that you tamper with that at your peril, and that hopefully they will take that lesson across to their new Titan MMO and not make this same mistake again. That’s the response most of you would like to see me write, yeah?
However, there is another lesson that Blizzard can learn from this. Tampering with a community to try and appeal to the lowest common denominator will certainly fuck up in the long run, but while it lasts you can make a hell of a lot of money.