Monday, February 22, 2010

Can This Sugar Kick Really Last Until November?

Something's been going on for a while in the Blogosphere, but it wasn't until last week that it became clearly viewable: the small, but distinct signs that we've hit the next phase in this expansion. We're approaching the No man's land - the time when you're done with the current content, but there's nothing new incoming anytime soon.

Decrease of Energy Level

There's been a distinct decrease of energy and activity in the community. Our dearest hunter blogger Pike is leaving. Not because she's done with the game - she still assures that she's as hooked as ever - it's just that real life is calling her. Still the effect is the same. It's sad to see the veterans go.

Others are not quitting entirely, but are openly talking about cutting down their time spent on WoW radically. Nibuca wants to spend more time on other hobbies, Mike Schramm is going into an hibernation period, Brigwyn is having doubts about his future blogging and Dechion is most of all longing for Cataclysm. To be honest this WoW lethargy debuff seems to have effected more or less everyone, at least in the part of the Blogosphere where I dwell. Last week it was as if people had run out of things to talk about. The blog roll showed more and more blogs not updating for days or several weeks. And once they update, the bloggers are rather talking about other games such as Star Trek and Starcraft 2, which still have some novelty aura around them, than about WoW. It's as if the spark is gone now that the initial enthusiasm for random dailies have worn off, and the holiday events are more or less the same procedure as last year.

Candy to cranky children
However, just as I was about to write a post complaining about the lack of spirit, something happened that cheered us up radically. Blizzard seems to have felt the same vibes as I did, and quickly tossed out some news about incoming patches, and especially about the next raid dungeon - Ruby Sanctum . They're tossing a piece of meat to the barking dogs. We don't have any clear schedule for it, but the very knowledge that it will come is enough to make us excited.

Actually it reminds me a bit of what happens if you give candy to cranky children. Their moods will instantly raise to a distinctly higher level. And that's nice of course. The only problem is that it's far from sustainable. The jump-up will inevitably be followed by an equally sudden and deed fall-down, as soon as the effects from the sugar kick has worn off. The cranky child will be back - and this time he or she is in even worse shape than before.

And I'm afraid that this decrease of atmosphere will come far sooner than we would like. Remember Onyxia? It didn't take many goes before we decided that we were done with her again No one's doing her, no one's talking about it. I fear Ruby Sanctum will be about the same, with the difference that there is a hardmode available.

What to do until November?
Back in October Elinia, my former bartender, did a prediction that Cataclysm would be released on February 1 2010. He was dead wrong of course. I guess it was an effect of wishful thinking. Being a non-raider he was running out of content way earlier than a raider like me.

Long after it stood clear that the prophecy was wrong, readers of the PPI have kept discussing this issue in the comments to that post. It's been suggested that it won't be launched until November. And even though I'm an normally an optimist I wouldn't be surprised if that turned out to be right. It makes sense to release a game with Christmas sales not too far away. At least it makes more sense than if they'd try to sell Cataclysm in August/September, when there's still summer temperature and everyone except for the most dedicated enthusiasts would rather spend time outdoors than powerlevelling their toon to 85.

I can understand the reasons for Blizzard not to rush the expansion. It's not only about timing to maximize the sales; they've got a reputation for high quality to care about. So far the playerbase has so far been very forgiving about the slow pacing of content, as long as they keep up their standards. This time around the community as well as the expectations are bigger than ever. Perfection takes time to execute.

However, I can't help feeling slightly worried about the long wait. Let's say we get this new raid instance in April. I don't think that's a rather realistic guess. And let's say that it keeps us occupied for a month or two, as a complement to ICC to give us more variety in our weekly raiding.

What will happen next? It's just like with my rogue when she was combat specced - I pushed that adrenaline rush button and it really improved the game play for a while, but it only lasted ever so long, and when it was gone it was gone and it felt kind of empty.

There's an evident risk that players - among them probably some bloggers - will go on a hiatus, at least until the 4.0 pre-patch of Cataclysm, which we could expect a month before it will be launched. I don't blame them, but I'll miss them.

The long wait for Cataclysm
In my mind I'm already preparing for a very, very long wait for Cataclysm. I can't rely on the community buzz or an abundance of new extra content to keep up my energy level and enthusiasm for the game. If I want to play all the way into the expansion, I have to find out the fun stuff, the lust, the sparkles, the motivation by myself - especially when we've reached the point when we've downed Lich King and done the hardmodes that are within our grasp.

So what to do? Well, I can always go back to my things-I-want-to-do-before-I'm done-with-WoW-list. It's actually really good. Yesterday afternoon I rolled a troll shaman, and to my own amazement I had a ton of fun just casually doing the quests in the starting area. I pondered over how to use totems - without looking at advice on EJ and other places, just trying to figure it out for myself. I died quite a few times and I haunted the lands in the form of a ghost, with a smile on my face. I got lost in the very first cave, just as I did with Larísa so long ago in Don Morogh. I admired my discrete tusks and I enjoyed the game music in the troll villages, suddenly falling in love with this race, just out of the blue.

It's new content. A LOT of new content, just waiting for me to come and devour it. I don't know how long this sugar kick will last me, but it definitely looks promising.

What about you? Do you think you can keep up your passion for WoW if Cataclysm won't come until November?


Magma said...

I'm currently working on my 3rd 80, a paladin. It's pretty fun but really it is the only thing sustaining me right now. I casually raid but I've grown bored of it despite only doing it so often. I really hope cataclysm ends up coming out early summer, or I might end up quitting till it hits. (Or FFXIV gets released)

Klepsacovic said...

Thus is revealed the benefit of rarely writing anything useful or relevant: it doesn't rely on being interested, having fun, or even actually playing WoW. And the benefit of clearing raids 'slowly', that I still have a lot of ICC to see. And I could go back for Ulduar hardmodes if it gets too boring.

Christina said...

You forget - beta content will also stir enthusiasm. Once they open the beta, current content will be halfway obsolete as everyone hungers for information from beta. Its like another raid dungeon for reviving flagging interest.

scrusi said...

I see WoW community content slowly declining and not just temporarily until Cataclysm. Things like the shutdown of wcradio happen all around us. There's less and less to talk about that hasn't been there yet.

Personally, I'm writing less and less about wow and the blog is turning more and more towards gaming. For me, the time of playing one great game is pretty much exclusively is over - and it seems others feel the same way.

Perdissa said...

I don't know if there are other people like me around. I'm actually an altoholic, and have recently leveled up my 4th lvl 80, and 3rd tank (warrior). This expansion has been a bit frustrating for me, due to the very rapid pace the patches and new raid content have been rolled out.

I mean, I was at General Verax in Ulduar when TOC came out, and we've never been back since to down Yogg Saron still. In TOGC, we're not even halfway through. Likewise, we've not downed any (previously) limited attempt bosses in ICC, and hope to do so in the distant future.

My point is not just that my progression is slower than new patches being pushed out, but that my alts are having problems catching up. Back in BC, I had all the time in the world to gear up alts after my main has been well geared. Now, my alts are languishing in line behind my main, whom I'm still struggling to gear up in the newest raid.

SO.. yeah, I'm actually glad to hear that there's a bit of a lull between now and Catalysm.

Teej said...

November is probably the latest we'll see Cataclysm, but I have reason to believe we'll see it earlier than that.

While none of this is proof of anything, it was a little under 8 months from the release of 2.4 to WotLK's launch. If Cataclysm was to follow a similar trend, we'd expect it in late July/early August.

Season 8 is also expected to be the final arena season, as any further Arena seasons would surpass the quality of gear found in even heroic 25-man ICC (devs have stated they don't want PvP gear to surpass the best PvE gear). The average arena season length is 20.5 weeks (18.3 for WotLK seasons), which would put Season 8 ending roughly in late June. We expect Season 8 to end the day 4.0 goes live, which would be roughly a month before Cataclysm launches, and once again we end up looking at a late July/early August release of Cataclysm.

Will the current content tide people over until November? Heck, if I remember the wait for WotLK, I don't know if even the current content will hold some people off until August. But I think Blizzard knows this. They've begun the slow-drip of Cataclysm to us. The PTR's show that there are some pre-Cataclysm events coming in a future minor patch. The Ruby Sanctum is a precursor as well.

Neth said on a thread (in a reply to me begging for info, actually!) that "We have plans for getting you all Cataclysm information "Soon-ish". Don't worry. ;) You think I've just been away from the forums off and on because I was avoiding you? pshaw... We're workin' here!" Now, I know Blizzard is notorious for "soon", but "soon-ish" is a brand new term, so who knows, heh.

Here's my guess though: Early April is about when we're going to start hearing more (and seeing more) about Cataclysm. The next issue of the WoW magazine comes out then, I expect a major spread on some new info. 3.3.5 will probably come out around then, beginning the events slowly leading up to the Cataclysm. I also expect Beta to start around in April.

I know people will disagree with me, and that's fine. I remember when everybody was convinced WotLK wasn't coming out in 2008, and thought I was stupid when I said it would. ;)

Dwism said...

Im considering realm transfering one of my toons to a RP realm.
I always loved the RP scene. But the places i've tried have either been forked up -sporregaaaar, where people thought that RP-PVP stood for Rapid progression and not roleplaying. Or i've been alone.
This time however, im going to find a guild that will suit me and try that out.

Gevlon said...

That's the problem with easy content: it's consumed too fast by everyone. Despite there was a year between BT and SWP, most people were busy as they still not killed Illidan. In a month, everyone who cared to log in will have Arthas killed and noting to do.

Except of course those who find unique or strange ways of playing, like a very new alt (like your troll shaman) or going for PvP ranking, or our blue raiding. We'll still have things to do.

Vorne said...

I have plenty to keep me going till Cataclysm.
My main is doind his dailys and making the gold to support my other 80's. A priest and Dk also i have transferred my Rogue to a PVP realm where he is enjoying Playing hide and seek with the other faction.
But i am leveling a warlock and having a blast doing it as well, i have found this to be the most entertaining class to play since starting my hunter back in 2006.
Plus running alts through instances to gear them.
December sounds good to me )

Shy said...

You forget one thing that comes before Ruby Sanctum and that will infuse new players into ICC....the buff that will come.

It will make it much easier for people to enter into this instance, and I wouldn't be surprised if we'll see more pugging into ICC10 by then.

On top of that there have been blue posts already about making the LFD thing work for 10s.

tufva said...

I am loving the game at the moment. I am actually on an official holiday from the raid team (though I still raid once or twice a week, when they need me to fill a spot) and I just can't find enough time to do all the things I want to do!

I am levelling a baby mage on another server Horde-side cause I want to see that half of the game. She is great fun (never played a mage before, they seemed too complicated). I aim to get her to 80 and get Loremaster.

I have a recently dinged 80 feral druid that I would like to gear up to T9 and maybe attempt some tanking with.

My priest main needs frosties for gearing up to contribute better in ICC. I also still have many old raid and general random achievements I want to do with her.

I want to level a baby paladin. Partially to try low level tanking and partially cause I want to get a herbalist/alchemist alt (those flasks are going for silly prices).

And then there's the warlock I want to try out one day.

I'm actually longing for a bit of a break in the raid pace to allow me to do all these things.

I guess whether the game will keep hold of you is whether you can find your enjoyment yourself or whether you need new content for that.

GL with the shammy - that is a class I have not tried yet - maybe one day... ;-)

Grim said...

Keep it up, as in keep playing, at a level considered "hardcore" by non-players? Indoubitably.

Log as many hours in three months as I do now that my guild is finally starting hardmodes? Probably not.

Still, I think I fall in the optimist cathegory that's hyped for Cata.

Joar said...

As someone that doesn't raid consistently, and still hasn't reached my personal goal of a toon of each class to lvl 80, there's still plenty for me to do and plenty of different ways to do it. I'm about half way to the goal, and still planning on having 9 out of 10 by the time Cataclysm drops. And that gives me plenty to do and enjoy between now and then.

Hatch said...

Hopefully the timeline will at least resemble:

Cata = late September (still close to holiday season)

4.0= late July

Still a long stretch, but not as bad as if they do 4.0 in October and Cata in November.

Won't bother me because I'll be too busy with Starcraft 2! Squeeeee!

Larísa said...

@Magma: well, I'm not bored of raiding myself. There's still plenty of challenges for me. But the lethargy of the community wears me down a little. It's de-energizing.

: Oh yeah, the ulduar hm. Would love to have a go at firefighter. But I miss the banter between the blogs in this decline of energy and activity.

: the beta, you're right. That will definitely stir up some activity. Although tbh, I won't engage myself very much in it, not wanting to play the game on beforehand. It's not as if I'm avoiding every single spoiler, but I don't actively try to figure out everything about the expansion before it's here either. It's nice to keep some stuff as surprises.

@Scrusi: Yeah, I'm noticing. I guess I'm the exception. I don't play any other game than wow and I have no plans on starting doing it either. To me it's a riddle how the people behind those general-gaming blogs and podcasts can find time to try out not just one game but a whole bunch of them, keeping up with general news about gaming.

: wow. Even though I have one more lvl 80 char and one at 75, I don't dream of actually gearing them up to the level of my main. It's absolutely impossible to find the time for it. But I understand it must be a bit frustrating if you have that ambition.

@Teej: well: it sounds a bit optimistic to me and I fail to understand why anyone would launch a computer (inhouse activity) game in the end of July. It doesn't make sense. But noone is happier than me if I turn out to be wrong!

@Dwism: oh, RP! Following my blog you know that I'm a closet RP at heart. One day I'll make reality of it, I swear... Hm... come to think of it, maybe I should reroll my troll shaman and create it on an RP realm instead? It's only lvl 6 so far, so it isn't really to late to change...

@Gevlon: yep, finding your own path is definitely the way to go. It takes some strength and courage to withstand the group mentality, but once you overcome it, it pays off I believe.

@Vorne : Sounds like you're having a blast there! Great to hear you have so much fun and can keep yourself occupied until December. Now spread the good vibes in the community, please!

@Shy: oh the buff... don't talk about it. I think it's kind of depressing, just like the final gigantic nerf in TBC was. It was such a shame we couldn't get Illidan down before they nerfed him to non-existence. Given a couple of more weeks we would have.

Yeah, LFD tools for 10-mans will definitely give bloggers a lot to talk about. Just imagine all the fail raid pug stories...

@Tufva: mage... complicated? Am I missing something essential there... Probably I am. I'm a crap mage tbh. Sounds as if you have plenty of stuff to do. Good! So... please blog a bit for us about it. :)

@Grim: Yep, I'm hyped too, but can you really keep up the hype if it won't be launched until November?

@Joar: Oh, one toon of each class! That's impressive. I can imagine you've got plenty to do then. And then what's next? One of each class of each faction perhaps?

@Hatch: Hm... time will show if you're right. I'm afraid I won't touch Starcraft myself. I'm STILL climbing the learning curve of wow- there's room for a lot of improvement there - and I can't imagine myself splitting my time and attention with another mmo. One's enough. And when I'm done with wow I'm probably done with gaming at all. Probably. You can never be absolutely sure, can you?

tufva said...

Mage is complicated. :-)

My main is a priest.

Cast spell, cast spell. Mob gets close = bubble, cast some more spells.

With a mage I have to pay attention and frost nova and actually, you know, move... :-)

Gronthe said...

I definately can. The reason is I have been playing wow for only a little over a year now. One of my goals is to be able to take my Shaman into ICC (& geared) as Elemental, Enhance and Resto. Not an easy task.

Also, I've got other alts that I want to get to 80 and gear up and be ready for Cataclysm. Given that I don't have a lot of playtime available during the week, not only will I be busy but I'll enjoy every minute of it. But not everybody is the same, so I can understand if some get bored.

If I do get bored, I'll try pvp (even though I suck at it). Maybe practice will make me better and I'll learn to enjoy it.

Teej said...


Well, even I think July might be a bit too optimistic. But if I were to bet on a date, I'd say sometime in August. Heck, just for fun, I'll call August 12 :)

I've never really bought into the "nobody releases video games in the summer" idea that people have about the games industry. Sure, the general trend is that it's the slowest time of the year, but several big-name titles have been released in the summer before, even by Blizzard. Warcraft III was released July 3, Diablo II was released June 29, several WoW patches with raid content (1.11, 3.2, etc) were released in the summer, etc. These are just some examples.

While Blizzard has never released official activity numbers, has been doing unofficial tracking of player activity across several realms worldwide since April 2005. It's the closest thing we as the public have to understanding activity trends in WoW. Not surprisingly, the spikes in player activity seem to match up to major content releases, which leads me to believe people come back for content updates, regardless of time of the year.

Since TBC launched, the four lowest months with player activity are Sept 07, Oct 07, Sept 08, and Nov 09. I find it rather interesting that the lowest player activity months all fall in Sep-Nov.

Also, not totally related, but interesting nonetheless, is that this is the first January they have recorded that has not set an all-time high for activity.

gnomeaggedon said...

Baah... I haven't even seen Ulduar and probably never will.

I don't care what they do or when as long as they introduce a Kangaroo mount before it's all over.

Ohhh tip for new Shaman...

You can't smack a mob over the head with a totem.... But they will trip over it if you are messy and will come looking for the shaman to sue.

Nibuca said...

In my case it's not a clear A leads to B as far as "bored with the game".

When I started playing WoW I was a smidge depressed and looking for escapism. My other all-consuming-hobby(medieval recreation) had just turned into a massive case of drama+burnout and I'd just realized that I'd made the biggest financial mistake of my life (buying a house at the peak of the housing bubble).

These things caused me to focus on WoW almost to the exclusion of all else. It's a happy bonus that I liked the game and found it fun and distracting.

So now we're ~3 years later. I've almost entirely gotten over my burnout and the drama has all dried up.. and going to the event two weeks ago reminded me how much fun it could be to actually create physical things instead of just theorycrafting. So I'm interested in playing at Medieval recreation again. THEN you add to that the fact that I've had time to get used to the idea that I'm financially saddled with a house I paid WAY too much for and have actually gotten to the point where I can contemplate making upgrades to it without feeling like I'm going to vomit.. and well.. it is outside influences that are pulling me away. In my case.. I'm going to call it a good thing.

I want to go from spending 5-6 days a week focused on WoW to 3-4 days a week. It's a healthy change.

That said.. if we were in the middle of a new expansion I might not be able to do it. But at the moment.. yeah.. I've done all this.. and because of that I'm ok with taking my eyes off it a little bit.


Joar said...

Larisa - exactly. One of each class for each faction will be the next project. Although, I'm sure it'll take time to get everyone to 85 post Cataclysm long before that becomes an issue.

Fitz said...

For those of us who were essentially WOTLK babies (although I'm just old enough to claim TBC since my main was level 68 and dragged to Kara before the plague crates arrived), catching up on leveling alts is what we will be spending our time on. you have a bucket list, I have a list of achievements I always go back to when I'm bored or want to do something different. Right now I'm stalking poor old Baron Rivendale in Strat for Argen Dawn rep and the chance at a mount.

And I also just wrote my first RP blog entry, so I'm using the time to try and grow different writing skills despite my irregular posting. So much to do, so little time!

Carra said...

I still stand by my end of the year estimate. That way it won't overlap with the SC2 hype. And christmas is a great period to release games.

Until then? Play more single player games.