Since coming back to the game from my little hiatus, I have been enjoying the game immensely. I have done none of the things that were bothering me just before the 5.3 Patch dropped. The issue of WoW's declining number continues to be talked about, and I am just as quality as everybody else. I stated on my return I would review the patch to see if any of these issues have been fixed.
WoW Insider recently conducted some rough research on what is wrong with WoW. Using these categories we can compare them to Patch 5.3.
- Age of the Game
- Lack of New Players
- Alt Unfriendliness
- Questing With Friends
- Not A Unique Experience
- Low Population Servers
- Time Wasting Mechanics
- Not Enough Sandbox Content
- All of the Above
The age of the game in terms of how it looks, is something that Blizzard improves periodically. Patch 5.3 contained no such enhancements to the best of my knowledge, but is is well known that they are working on the original Race models, to make them as animated as the Pandas and Worgen. I personally have no issues with how the game looks, however it may deter new players. The age of the game is probably adding to the drop in subscription numbers, never in the history of computer gaming as a game survived this long in the same format.
Patch 5.3 provided some respite from the daily grind. To the best of my knowledge there is no additional dailies and only one weekly. Dailies are not the problem per se, it is the way they combined into a gating technique with rep, valor and rewards. In some respect the staggered implementation of dailies is a necessary, and the new Patch seems rather empty without them. At the end of the day we need something to do whilst waiting over an hour in the LFR queue.
I am not sure there is a Patch in the world that could fix this problem. The best and the worst thing about an MMO is the players.
Lack of New Players
Are there any new players left to try WoW? There can only be a small number of people who want to play that have not tried it, and the number 12 year olds now old enough to play the game may see the cost of numerous expansions and the 90 levels too much of a mountain to climb. If numbers are return to early Cataclysm levels then it will involve attracting ex-players and not new players.
The last 3 patches have tried to erode the huge barrier of content, grinds, dailies and reputation that MoP introduced. This patch introduced a large incentive to move those level 85 characters into the endgame by reducing the XP required to level by 33%. One can only surmise that there are as many characters between 85-89 as there are at level 90.
The Reputation barrier for the Golden Lotus as been removed, and the next logical step would be to make Reputation Account-Bound. Mounts, Pets and titles are already there, and considering the amount of hoops we have jumped through on our mains, this seems like a relatively small concession.
Questing With Friends
This was not touched by the current Patch, but judging by comments from the Big Bear Butt, scaling is already a feature in the game. I think it is a subject that needs careful consideration if it was ever implemented and for this reason Blizzard are in no rush to implement. The number of lower level characters is quite small, and Blizzard have already started to populate old raids with soloable rewards, for the mount and pet hunters out there.
Not A Unique Experience
This is about class quests, which were in fact a feature of vanilla WoW. They all got destroyed during the Cataclysm, but many Hunters pine for the Rhok'delar quest chain, in the same way that Warlocks are now enjoying the quest for Green Fire. Blizzard have stated many times that development time is better spent when it is seen by the majority of players. With equal distribution you would expect only 9% of the players to be any one class (of course we have alts too), and this is considered niche content. No change under the new patch.
Low Population Servers
This immediately conjures up WoW players with placards saying no "Cross Realm Zones". With declining numbers Blizzard needs to start consolidating Realms with free Transfers. CRZ is not providing the fix that intended and if anything it as only rattled the hornets nest of discontentment.
On most servers there are more people in Halfhill than in Ironforge and Thunder Bluff. Portals killed the Capital cities during Cataclysm, and besides we can all see that there are less people logging on each day.
This is a niche request if ever I heard one. The Lore is expanded with every patch, and it is no surprise that some stories get left behind. Blizzard also came under fire for the Theramore debacle where the main Lore story was in books or other media and not in the game. The Lore is there purely to shape the game, it is not the Game of Thrones made flesh. Besides Star Wars suffered from being too storyline driven.
A recent twittering from Greg Street suggests that he would prefer to see more time wasting. He wants to see us more flights taken from the edge of one continent to the other, with less use of portals and would prefer it if Flying Mounts were removed from the game. Needless to say the new patch does not reduce the time wasting aspects, in fact the new portal to the Northern Barrens dumps you in Ratchet not in Durator near Vol'jin.
There are many detractors who blame everything on the Pandas. In my opinion they are no dafter than Space Goats, or Werewolves. Most people like the new continent of Pandaria, but as stated on Wednesday, the stereotyping of China and other Asian influences might be construed as patronising to it's inhabitants. It is safe to say that Pandas have not been eradicated in patch 5.3
Not Enough "Sandbox" Content
If I read this correctly it incorporates the Auction House junkies and crafters in the game. The crafting aspect of WoW has got worse with every patch. The Epic research path has created a load of new recipes but nobody has access to the materials to make anything really useful. I never seen any of these items on the Auction House and they would cost more than Stormwind to make in the first place. Haunting Spirit is the culprit and I have managed to accumulate one so far, and the cost on the AH is a few thousand gold. There are no changes in patch 5.3 to crafting, only the ability to level gathering professions in Pandaria.
According to WoW insider this is not about the difficulty levels of raiding or the cesspit that is LFR, it is about the right of Raiders to Raid without doing rep grinds, so that they can show off their gear and mounts. Ok, I think this is possibly the most ridiculous thing said in the entire argument. Perhaps we could have Raiders housing so that all the Raiders can sit around measuring the size of their man parts.
The real problem with Raiding is LFR, and the fact that people can not follow basic steps and even worse than this is waiting over an hour for privilege of spending time with these people.
All of the Above
Ultimately the question is did patch 5.3 improve the current malaise in the game? In my opinion there is much to commend the new patch. There is very little in the way of new content, a few new quests, a new battleground and new scenarios. The big winner here is Heroic Scenarios, but there seems to be a big difference in the difficult of some of the Heroic Scenarios. The make up of the party will make a huge difference in how easy they are to complete. At present they offer reasonable rewards and plenty of Valor, which will make Valor capping easier and will free players up to do the content that they want to.
PvP has become more accessible, with the problem of upsetting the genuine PvPers, who are no longer head and shoulders than people stepping into a battleground for the first time. I expect some additional tinkering in the next few weeks/months.
Alts have been better catered for with the levelling XP reduction, the removal of the Golden Lotus gating mechanism and the shortening of the Wrathion requirements. Lesser charms are falling out of the sky with level 90 mobs all having a random chance to drop.
Loot specialisation was introduced with half an eye to producing more Tanks and Healers for LFR. This might be the case but it also means that Tanks can now go in and DPS and win their Tanking gear as Off-spec. It is unclear if this is a net gain or not.
I like the patch but I am not sure if there is enough content. If there is not, then I can state now that I will have 11 characters available to Kill Garrosh.