There's been a lot of discussion the Preach interview with Ion, and it took a rewatch for a comment early on by Ion to give me a small epiphany about what I think might be THE fundamental problem with the direction of WoW class and game loop design. In the interview its right here at 14:15:
"Do you feel like it's an ideal end point for every Hunter who's doing a Mythic Raid encounter, across the world really, to basically be the same in terms of their stats, their abilities, and the only difference among them is who can push their buttons more effectively, who can execute the mechanical aspects of their class?" – Ion Hazzikostas
I can honestly understand why this is a genuine question in Ion's mind, with an implied answer of "No" based on the context of the rest of the conversation. But maybe because of the era in gaming I grew up, it seems like a question with such an obvious and straightforward answer that to get it wrong means to make the mistakes we've lived through the last 2 full expansions. I'm 25, never really had consoles growing up, and didn't have a proper computer for games until towards the end of high school, about 2010. My friends were winding down from Wrath and mega hype for Cataclysm, and I joined in, had a great time leveling, but never really got into raiding and mostly played on and off until Legion. WoW has always been my game for when anything else tilts me too hard, and I need a self-paced experience, and #2 in my heart always. I was never an RPG fan, and if you put the best AAA RPGs in my hand I'll put it down 20 hours in and never remember it was there. What I cut my teeth on for 5 straight years were those first few seasons of League of Legends, then Overwatch on release, then back to League, and now autobattlers (TFT). And if you want to play any online game with any desire to improve there is an axiom you have to live by:
"You are not smarter than the sum total of all the players in the game".
Metas exist for a reason. Thousands of people, all using whatever tools are at their disposal, all able to see each other's progress, all able to iterate on each other's work, will find an optimal way to play any game. Its not perfect, and there are always people who find counters or overlooked strats. But you, no matter who you are reading this, whether a casual player, serious player, or game developer, you are not smarter than the collective player base at figuring out how to play, and the people who try to outsmart the collective sit in lower ranks than their skill warrants. And its not just top tier players who try to do this – anyone trying to improve is going to look at a guide, or watch a streamer, or do some sort of research whether they realize that's what to call it or not. WoW is becoming more and more unique as one of the games older than popularized streaming itself, and it seems to me like that is reflected in the greybeards of the Dev team who do not fully understand the impact of community game solving their game was critical in creating.
WoW is an MMORPG, yes. WoW does not compete with RPGs for players. I do not believe that when players leave the game for something that isn't a different MMORPG, they are leaving their friends behind to play Skyrim or Dark Souls. WoW competes with LoL, and Fortnite, and CS:GO, and Overwatch, because secondary to the fact that it is an RPG it is a game that can be played with real friends and against real enemies. That's the draw for the player base. The only thing that WoW needs to feel like an RPG compared against these games is the individual progression that character acquired power gives the player. Gear is the only thing WoW has ever needed to feel like an RPG in the online space. Every other game on that list, and many more in the online-gaming sphere, players start out on equal footing. And guess what every one of those games has in common when guides provide information on load-out? The only difference among
I'm very disappointed in the tone Ion takes, and the general opinion Ion seems to have, about homogeneity in the game being a negative. It might very well be the sign of a poorly designed RPG game, but it is the inevitable outcome of the bio-mechanical computer that is the player base of a multiplayer game, no matter the competition level, and to say that it only exists at the highest levels of play is dishonest to every stream watcher, icy-veins and wowhead reader, and wow dev twitter follower trying to get better at the game. Homogeneity of systems puts the full onus of the question of "who is the best" on the players. And probably most importantly for the sake of the player base who just want to go an expansion without their class being in the gutter, a homogeneous "end-game" power level gives the class team the balance target they desperately seem to need. The Devs need to realize what all the best players in their game have to realize, that they are not smarter than the collective of their player base, they cannot out-balance them to have multiple variations of the same spec at the top of the charts, and by attempting to do so they have had to create a detrimental layer of complexity that is doomed to fail both its job to de-homogenize the game and its job to give us a fun experience.
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