World of Warcraft

Character Progression in BfA – Why People are Quitting the Game

tl;dr People are quitting the game not because of a lack of content but due to the lack of meaningful character progression available to them.

I’m making this post in response to u/Eowyndra’s post about content and content pacing, which I think is pretty cogent, but doesn’t address the reason that people are leaving the game. However, I am writing this with full acknowledgement of my bias as a mythic raider, and with full understanding of the fact that my community is very small, and the fact that issues that affect us may not affect the rest of the player base. Here is a link to u/Eowyndra's post if you haven't already read it.

I do not believe people are quitting the game due to a lack of content, or content pacing. The quality of the content is certainly a reasonable position to take. The thing is, many people complain about a lack of content despite there being about half a game worth of content that they have never done, or even considered doing. If you have never stepped into a raid higher than heroic, and you think there's no more content, go look at mythic. If you've never done pvp, go do some pvp. If you haven't done every dungeon on +10, look into getting that done. Bear in mind the barrier to entry to both of mythic raiding and +10 keys is to find a nice guild that raids regularly. If you haven't gone transmog/mount/pet farming, go do that. Have you tried a project 60/70/whatever toon? Have you farmed out old achievements? Have you got Loremaster? Have you got every class to level cap? Unless you have engaged in all of the content the game has to offer, then you can't really say that there is no content to do. What people mean to say is: "I specifically like this area of content and do not enjoy the other areas, and the specific area of content I typically enjoy is not fun for me at the moment.”

Let's get things straight here. I am not saying you should do and enjoy all possible types of content in the game, but I do not believe there is a fundamental issue with the amount of content available in the game.

Furthermore, I do not disagree with u/Eowyndra’s comments on the quality of content or content pacing, insofar as they specifically address new BfA content, but in an MMO, you are not limited to simply playing new content, you can go and engage with 12 years of past content that holds up in its own right. There is a reason people want to play Classic and TBC private servers, and a reason that WoW Classic is in development.

People are quitting for a number of reasons:

  1. Class Design: We've lost a lot since legion. We've lost talents and some of us have lost artefact abilities. We've lost legendary effects. We've lost tier set abilities. There is no new talent row to compensate for any of these losses; nothing has been added at all that provides a real sense of character or class development since Legion. This means that most if not all classes feel like a pared down version of what we had previously, and classes just don't feel good to play. You do not gain anything between 100 and 120 other than a necklace and a piece of gear with a Random Proc buff at 110. Arguably if you have a raid geared 110, you feel more powerful than you do at 380. Currently, enh shamans are pretty livid because they were promised a rework in 8.1 and all they're getting is numbers tuning. The GCD change is another element of class design that has been railed against. The main purpose it served was to make it so that you don't just use CD macros to pop all of your CDs at once. This is a fundamentally flawed way of dealing with CDs. Because CDs stack multiplicatively, you will always do more damage if you use them all together rather than staggering them out. Putting CDs on the GCD does not change this, it just makes it more clunky to do. If you want to fix this problem (if you think it is a problem, for which there are certainly some compelling arguments, although I don't think it's a problem personally), you need to fundamentally address the way CDs work, not just put them on the GCD as some sort of awful bandaid fix that has not achieved the goal it was supposed to achieve. In short, class design is not good right now, and if you have to play something that is not fun to play, chances are you will stop playing it.
  2. Meaningful Character Progression: There isn't any. The one source of character progression in game at the moment is the number on your azerite necklace. Personally, for levels at a time, I have forgotten what it is until it unlocks the next level on my gear. I just hit 33 so I can use all the traits on my shoulders. Did that feel meaningful? No. Because at the end of 32 I was doing pet battle world quests for scraps of AP. I don't enjoy pet battles. I think they're an interesting part of the game and I've done them in the past. I have a significant number of pets, but I don't enjoy pet battles. For me, and for many others in my environment, the only meaningful source of character progression is a number on a 3rd party website. I am only playing the game at the moment to see my raider.io score go up incrementally every time I beat a dungeon on a higher level, and to push my guild further up my wowprogress realm rankings for mythic prog. For the record I am by no means a top level mythic raider, not even top 500.
  3. Gear: This point deserves to be put on its own but it's still to do with character progression. The minute you start caring about gear, your experience falls of a cliff. There is no way to have control over the loot you receive. You run a mythic+ key, and at the end you open a lootbox. It may or may not contain a piece of loot you need. For me, such a piece would have to be at least a 385TF, if not higher, so most pieces I receive get DE'd. You open your weekly cache, whether that is for m+ or pvp, and you get to open a lootbox that may or may not contain something worthwhile. My last 3 weeks of weekly caches have contained 380 gloves with various different stat blocks, none of which have been upgrades. To put it like this, one of the hunters on my raid team received 4 weapons in 4 weeks, 3 of them Main Spec upgrades, and 1 a significant upgrade to his survival offspec. Personal loot in raids does not help either. On our last fetid kill, someone got a staff they did not need, but couldn't trade due to it being the highest level staff he had received, despite having a better mh/oh combo. If ML still existed, that piece could have gone to one of the many people who needed it, but instead it was disenchanted. Furthermore titanforging poses huge problems to character progression and player agency. Points on titanforging really merit their own long post, and frankly, I can't bring myself to open that can of worms at the moment.
  4. Azerite Gear: You may be seeing a theme here. There is no way to target the only thing in BfA that Blizzard has given us to replace all the things we lost in Legion. You either get lucky in raids, or your weekly lootbox, and you can only do these things once a week. In addition, the majority of the traits are things that we have no control over. I am running 2x Archive of the Titans and 1x Thunderous Blast. I have 3x gutripper in my t2 trait slots. I can't control any of these things in a meaningful way. They are just random buffs that appear on my buff list, or on the enemy's debuff list and that is it. It is so uninteresting and unintuitive that the only way to tell which random buff/proc is better is to go and sim it or look on a 3rd party resource. Furthermore, some traits are shit, and some traits are good. Let's face it, you don't want a piece with your worst possible azerite trait on it. It's just not a good feeling, even if it's an ilvl increase. I have managed to circumvent any of these feelings by playing blood dk, a spec for which nothing matters except ilvl (broad generalisation), but as soon as I switch specs or classes, that feeling of futility comes rushing back.
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I am sure there are other points to make. Perhaps the comparative level of difficulty of m+ right now, such that failing a key or a mechanic feels much more punishing than succeeding feels rewarding. Reputations and world quests are not super interesting. There is no Suramar-like zone, although in general the storyline in BfA has been pretty interesting. Island expeditions aren't bad (in my opinion, if you do them in a premade group,) but they do not live up to the expectations of a piece of flagship content. However, overall I think that I have outlined the perspectives of most people in my environment (and I do completely understand that my community is vanishingly small – only 3.2% of players at 120 have Mythic: Zul source. )

Bear in mind, I have lost a huge number of friends this expansion, due to people I care about and have raided with for over a year getting frustrated with the issues I have raised to the point that they just let their subs run out – my bnet list is full of people whom I haven't spoken to since Legion, and of the 20 people I ended legion with, only 7 are still on my raid roster.

I would honestly attribute all four reasons that I laid out to be different aspects of one overarching problem with the game: lack of meaningful character progression, and lack of agency over that progression. How on earth an MMO has managed to fall this far from the mark astounds me, when they are supposed to provide the ultimate experience in meaningful character progression. A prime example of the effect this has had on the community is Asmongold, whether you like him or not, who has spent the last month watching and reacting to videos on stream, and who has finally just started playing other games, such as Dark Souls. And, whether you like him or not (I do, by the way), with 30k viewers, he is the face of the WoW community at the moment.

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edit: found a typo

edit: tl;dr in bold

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