Hey, you guys still there? I know most of you will currently be busy in Draenor, now that the servers have calmed down a bit and the queues are not THAT long anymore (I hope). However, as I promised three articles in celebration of WoW‘s 10th Anniversary, I still owe you one. Last week we talked about how people change, the week before that we discussed how times change, and this week we’re gonna look at how a game changes, as that topic is more than fitting for the days after the expansion has hit us.
When I started playing World of Warcraft, the game was a lot different: each faction had only four races, and Azeroth had not yet seen any playable Death Knights or Monks. While being a smaller world, travel took longer because of sparsely scattered flight masters and being limited to ground mounts. Most importantly though, the game was far from being streamlined: while being one of the best MMORPG’s on the market back then, some things just had not been thought entirely through. The early days of the Honor system? Utter chaos. The opening event for Ahn’Qiraj? If you think Warlord of Draenor‘s launch has been rocky, you should have seen the servers tremble when Ahn’Qiraj was about to open. As good as the game was back then, it would still require a lot of polish and tweaks.
That’s exactly what Blizzard gave the game. Over the years, the developers tried out different things with varying results. Some changes were for the better, others made the game worse. Don’t ask me to give examples for these categories, for that is highly subjective. I believe that the best addition to the game have been the linked auction houses, while I’m convinced that our current Talent system is rather bland. However, ask a hundred other players, and they will name a hundred different changes they liked or didn’t like. Different folks, different strokes.
What we can agree on is that the game has changed. Every patch and every expansion has brought some degree of that, and no one can deny that these changes have kept the game in our minds. While active players have direct contact with these changes, those of us who have taken a hiatus from the game are also not unmoved by them. When I told my brother about the features of Warlords, he smiled and we talked about how he thought that would impact the game. Mind you, my brother dropped off the surface of Azeroth in early Cataclysm, but he keeps at least half an eye on the game. Who knows, he might one day see something that has him return to the game. Changes to World of Warcraft keep people talking about it, playing it and possibly returning to it.
Of course, changes also drive people away, but the blame for that cannot be put entirely on the game alone. Times change and people change too, but a change in the game can be the catalyst for someone to recognise such changes in himself. If a change to a subsystem like Talents is enough to drive you away from the gam, were you not already halfway out the door, but did not yet have a good excuse to leave?
MMORPG’s offer persistent, living worlds. Part of life is change, and MMORPG’s cannot escape them. Without some form of change now and then, things would become boring and stale. Yes, a change can cause people we love playing together with to leave, but it can also bring them back. People change, times change, and games change.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.