Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cataclysmic Agoraphobia

Cataclysm will be ending soon™ and it has me looking back on the expansion. I don't play the game right at this moment so my gripes aren't going to be as current and focused as they could be, but looking back on my play time I still think I have enough material for a post. So here we goooo...

Stormholm Syndrome

By far one of the biggest gripes I've heard, either emanating from my own mouth or from others is "all I do is sit in SW!" (or Org if you're a dirty, dirty horde). People want to get out and see the world, but Blizzard has put so many systems in place that simply teleport you wherever you need to go, that no one really has much reason to leave the comfort of the city.

To some extent, I blame this expansion's daily quest design, specifically rhe cooking and fishing dailies. The one-size-fits-all nature of those quests really bugs me. A max level character shouldn't be doing the same cooking daily as a level ten. For one thing, it's boring, and for another, it's a little degrading. I'm a slayer of dragons, and here I am running around from inn to inn asking "got any sugar?" Shouldn't I be grilling a steak on the back of a dead elemental lord? Or harvesting rare ingredients from a the back of a dangerous, cultist-infested cave? They don't have to be that involved, but a max level character's cooking daily should probably involve more than running around the city like an errand boy.

But I've gotten a bit off track here. The real point is all the cooking and fishing dailies take place either inside to the city walls or in the immediate outskirts. The quests don't force you to go anywhere.

Give Me Something To Grind

Another reason folks don't get out of the city much is that Cataclysm lacks prolonged grinds. I'm talking about the kind of grind where you go out and mindlessly kill mobs four hours on end. There was plenty of that in BC. Almost every faction had something you could collect from mobs in order to advance your standing. Either that or you would do their daily quests. Nowadays I doubt if anyone bothers a faction's dailies when it's so much easier to simply slap on their tabard and go about your business.

Blizzard doesn't need to get rid of the tabards completely, just don't make them the best way to rep up a faction. If it takes 25 dungeon runs to get to exalted now, make it 50 or 100 runs instead. Just enough to make people understand "Hey, this is really slow! Maybe I should look into other ways of repping up this faction." Force them to do some dailies and put more mobs in the game that can be slain for rep or drop an item that can be turned in for rep.

I understand, to an extent, the reasoning behind the tabards. Repping up factions is considered a  chore by most. They even annoy me at times. I need Therazane for my shoulder enchant, Ramkahen for my head enchant, etc. And I can't do them at my leisure over the course of an expansion. They need to be done yesterday because every day without them my DPS isn't what it could be.

Alternative Grinds

But every grind doesn't need to have a direct impact on your proformance. A great example would be the Nertherwing quests in BC. It was a grind you did and in the end you got an awesome mount. It's a cosmetic thing that you could take or leave, and you could do at your leisure. A more recent example would be the questline for the Wintersaber trainers added in 4.1 which culminates in a Frostsaber mount. Blizzard should do more of these fun, optional grinds.

Another idea they could steal from BC is to put certain crafting recipes on mobs out in the world at a low drop rate. I don't know how prevalent this was for other professions, but there were a few enchanting formulas could only be acquired this way. For instance Enchant Weapon - Major Intellect would only drop from Sunfury Researchers out in Netherstorm. So if you wanted that formula you'd have to kill a bunch of researchers until it dropped. It was a great way to get out into the world, kill some time, and also take a more active role in acquiring your profession's recipes.

Archeology Sucks

I think this profession was created with the express purpose of getting people out into the world, but sadly it's such an RNG-laden grindfest that people tend to avoid it. If Blizz would work on improving this profession I think that would give people a reason to get out more, because it's not the flying from place to place that gets me, it's flying from place to place only to dig up another fossil site and create my 15th Shard of Petrified Wood.

See the World? I've Already Seen it!

The problem with all this "see the world" talk, however, is that most of what you fly over in Cataclysm isn't very compelling. Yes, Azeroth has been revamped, but it's still the same Azeroth we've seen a billion times before, just with a bit more polish. Most of the zones you fly over don't have anything of value. I don't have to watch my minimap when I fly over Duskwood because I know there's nothing down there.

This is the downside of the fact that the news zones aren't connected geographically as they were before. In times past, everything you flew over was interesting and new, because it was an entirely new. Plus, if you had a gathering profession you could swoop down and get any mats you may find on the way, or perhaps synchronize your trip with another set of dailies you wish to accomplish, but that sort of thing is hard to do when the max levels zone are literally scattered across two continents.

In BC and wrath it was way better because flying to your daily hubs was an option. In fact, flying was the best option. We didn't have a portal to every zone, so if you wanted to do your dailies you would plan out a flightpath and fly it yourself. I fondly remember my BC route. I'd fly to Nagrand for The Multiphase Survey, then up to Blade's Edge for Maintaining the Sunwell Portal, and finally over to Netherstorm for Sunfury Attack Plans. Then, I would hearth back to Shattrath, and head over to Shadowmoon Valley for Ata'mal Armaments. Good times.

Point is...those quests forced me out into the world, a world that was cohesive and I could go from place to place without flying over leagues of fluff. This is one of the reasons I'm greatly looking forward to Mists because it will solve this problem with the entirely new continent of Pandaria.

Flying is the Problem

Another reason I think people feel as though they don't see enough of the game world is that we all just fly over it. You see treetop and spires, but it's not the same as navigating on the ground. When leveling up in Cataclysm I had my flying right from the start. I kind of regretted not being able to experience the game on the ground.

Think about assaulting a cultist stronghold in Deepholm. There's all  these cool ramps and fortifications that serve absolutely no purpose. Instead we simply fly over all that to the back of the base to dispatch the leader, then go on our merry way. This is another reason I'm greatly looking forward to Mists, because we'll all be earthbound until max level.


Blizzard is constantly striving to make the game more convenient for the player. They want to spirit us to the content as fast as possible, but they've forgotten that some of the enjoyment is in the journey. Blizzard is already making changes in MoP to ensure the player sees more of the world, and I hope they continue this trend and ensure we have reasons to venture out beyond the city walls.

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