WoW Musings; or, Understanding the player make-up to plan for the next party

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WoW musings are a planned series of random wanderings about my favorite MMO, World of Warcraft, and where I think the game should be headed to prolong its domination in the MMORPG world, and still keep crusty vets like myself engaged, enthralled, and entertained.
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My next WoW musing challenges players to step outside their comfort zones for a bit.

You see, most of the veteran players in WoW are suffering from a condition I will coyfully dub gamer’s ennui. Gamer’s ennui tends to happen when you complete a goal in a particular game and are then left pondering what is you will do with yourself, so you end up roaming about doing everything and nothing all at the same time, probably lost in thought as to why the awesomeness that was the Superman reboot ended up getting a worst critical consensus than the SIXTH installment in the Fast & the Crapious series (I mean, c’mon, REALLY!? Were they WATCHING the same movie I did?)

Video-Games-meme-that-moment-when-you-finish-a-game-and-just-dont-know-what-to-do-with-yourself(Kind of how I felt after The Last of Us.)

Anyhow, the WoW version of gamer’s ennui tends to settle in early, normally around the time the leveling experience is over. In the early days of the game, the journey to level 60 and even level 70 in Burning Crusade, was rather tedious. The most dedicated of players leveled pretty quickly…but the average player took a little bit of time. Leveling became quicker with later expansions as experience-boosting heirloom gear, streamlined quest revamps, and other perks were introduced. These are welcomed now as leveling a character 90 levels is still quite a bit of a journey.

But just as it did in the earlier days, the game slows down a bit after you reach cap level. Nowadays, it’s most certainly NOT for lack of content, which is a common criticism for a lot of other MMOs. WoW has done well to cater to literally every type of MMO gamer, and this, mind you, is no small feat.

Of course, one can contribute WoW’s success to the amount of time it’s been on the market. It’s had, so far, EIGHT years to find out what players like, dislike, and want to do at cap level. Before I discuss my musings for a revamp, I think it’s necessary to analyze the different types of gamers in the WoW community and delve deeper than the divide between casual vs. hardcore. I do this to demonstrate that ANY suggestion about revamps I could offer for WoW will be made taking Blizzard’s wide array of players into account.

To the charts! Yay! We love charts…

Playertype Graphic

As you can see, there are quite a number of places WoW’s players fall. The upper circles are the “casual” players and the lower circles are the “hardcore” players. The overlaps are the gray areas some players can find themselves in based on their gameplay habits and goals.

Edit July 08, 2013 09:43 PST: In sharing this with my fellow WoW gamers, I was surprised to see such a great response from the community. The common criticism I see is the fact that some players feel like they comprise elements of many of the groups outlined in here. Keep in mind this isn’t really anything official or scientific, but rather just for fun. And because it’s for us and only for fun, don’t feel obligated to keep yourself in ONE category. If you feel like bouncing around the different rooms in the party house, so be it. The only flaw about circle charts (pretty as this one is) is that it doesn’t truly capture those people who are so varied in their interests that they need multiple categories to explain how they game in WoW.

The Main Circles

The main zones are the pure forms of players. While it can certainly be said that a lot of players tend to mix characteristics of the different circles, one must first understand what each circle means as it stands alone. There are four groups:

1. Perpetual Levelers 

Perpetual levelers are the most passive in the game. They can be seen as the “friends” of those more dedicated players that were dragged into the game, even though they in all likelihood would rather be playing EVE, or Call of Duty. They jump on, play a few levels, and probably will see two or three expansions go by if they subscribe long enough, before ever reaching cap level, never really experiencing end game content. If they happen to reach cap level, it’s probably by accident; and since they have little-to-no interest in the game, they’ll likely delete that character or just start a new one. We’ll also throw bots in this category since they don’t do anything or talk to anyone and are just a nuisance to most who come across them.

2. The Socialites 

These are the players who reach cap level, but don’t really do anything in end game aside from that which will allow them to be sociable to their gaming friends or guildmates. They are chatty in guild chat (or even trade chat), and because they are logged in and running circles in the main cities, they probably share an obnoxious opinion about EVERYTHING that’s discussed in guild chat, even if it doesn’t concern them. If they’re actually playing the game, they’re likely grinding out content for transmog gear because their completed sets will incite envy and spark complimentary conversation (read: attention whores). Quite simply, they are the Joey Tribiani’s of the game, logging in, asking “How YOU doin’?” and then alt+tab back to their Facebook apps to spam their friends for extra lives on Candy Crush.

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3. PVP Elitists 

Delving into the hardcore bases, the PVP elitist is the hardcore player totally dedicated to PVP, in all aspects. From leveling through battlegrounds, to gearing through random BG grinds, to dominating the arenas and rated battlegrounds. They live for death, feeding on the tears of lesser geared (and on occasion, lesser in level) players, find satisfaction in the increase of their honor kill count and gain fuel for rage when they themselves are defeated. They sport their arena/rated BG titles and mount their PVP reward mounts not from the satisfaction they get from having earned such marks of distinction, but for the utter fear it instills when other players come across them, friend and foe alike. They care nothing for the PVE aspect of neither the game nor any other character and are likely to be holed up at the Orgrimmar gates in Durotar, or flag’s posted on any green surface between Goldshire and outside Stormwind endlessly dueling in between arena battles and BGs.

4. PVE Elitists 

Conversely, the PVE Elitist is the hardcore raider. They have a set time and place to be logged in. When they aren’t raiding, they are doing dailies, pugging via the looking for raid and looking for dungeon tools trying to max out valor earnings, or doing guild profession duties for consumables at raid time. They do this with the sole intention of maxing out every aspect of their character for the purposes of completing and defeating those most demanding PVE content. Like the PVP elitists, they tend to ignore such game features as transmogrification because they WANT people to immediately know how geared they are, or what they earned in current tier raiding. They mount the rides only begotten from raid completions or raid-related meta achievements, not out of satisfaction, but to boastfully display and inspire those who raid that one day, they might, JUST might, be able to accomplish such awesomery. And because they’re PVE purists, they despise PVP much like Amanda Bynes despises Drake’s face, and will avoid it at all costs. Most of their game time offline is spent watching strategy and world first videos from the more cutting edge guilds.

The Single Overlap Zones 

The next four categories place characters in between the main subzones as we begin to look closer at where players fall in terms of desire and behavior.

5. The Altoholic 

Altoholics find themselves sandwiched between the Socialites and the Perpetual Levelers. They play the game because their friends do, but their addictive personalities have triggered an inability to break away from it after reaching max level, for which they have no desire to raid or PVP. They simply make a new character and level that from 1-90, probably in a different faction, on a different server to expand their social empire. Or, they discover friends who play the game and simply must have a character on their respective server in order to interact with them and bring order to their otherwise chaotic-ADD-ruled world. If you see them online, they’re likely to be on an entirely new toon than from the last time you saw them like they were Taylor Swift entertaining a future ex-gentleman caller that will eventually have a song written about him.

6. The Twinkers 

In the space between Perpetual Levelers and PVP Elitists, these are the players who have obtained all the statuses and achievements in PVP one can aspire to and simply must do it at the lower levels. Or, they are the ones who can’t achieve PVP-God status, and have discovered that at the lower levels, heirloom gear and other accoutrements can be bestowed upon their lower level alts, leaving a trail of blood and tears of the unfortunate souls who don’t know what a “twink” is as they unwittingly venture into lower level battlegrounds. The twinker will find the “sweet” spot of whatever class they are playing and hold them in that level bracket for as long as possible before eventually giving way to the XP gained in battlegrounds. After which, they simply retrieve all heirloom gear, delete said toon, and rinse and repeat. Each class has a level bracket they dominate so the levels they rush to will be determined by the class choice, i.e. hunters dominate the lowest pvp levels, healing classes after that, death knights in the 50s, and so forth. This scene has especially picked up of late because of the shared achievement system, which allows all toons to contribute to meta achievements and, most especially, honor kill count achievements.

7. The Lorewalkers 

The Lorewalker finds him or herself nestled between The Socialite and The PVE Elitists. They’re the players who thirst for knowledge, seeking out artifacts and clues about Azeroth’s history, much like the actual in-game faction. The mere fact that there isn’t an NPC in game based on the likeness of Anne Stickney is still one of the greater mysteries of this world (I mean, the famous red shirt guy from Blizzcon 2010 got his own NPC…I think Anne should get her own as well…especially since there’s an entire faction in game created solely to stimulate the intellects of great minds like Anne’s; I’m sure Sean Copeland has some pull in this, no?). You’ll hardly find them in a player tête-à-tête as most of their in-game time is spent leveling or questing while ACTUALLY READING quest text. They raid simply to learn the story first hand and document their adventures with their collection of gear, mounts, doodads and wingdings that don’t necessarily show off, but moreover tell a story. Most have rejoiced in the addition of a tool like Looking For Raid as they can now enter a raid to see the end game PVE content without the often demanding restraints of a more committed raid group. The social aspect of their nature will be expressed in the conversations both in real life and in game about the fictitious history of Azeroth as well as their metallic helm musings on what the future holds for the war-ridden world.

8. End Game Elitists 

The End Game Elitists fear neither player nor NPC. They care little for side taskings like periodic world event achievements, and only concern themselves with one thing, the class they play. They know said class backwards and forwards both in PVE and in PVP. When they aren’t raiding, they are PVPing in some form or another, and vice versa. When they aren’t testing their DPS rotations on the raiding dummies, they’re in the dueling areas laying the smack down on those who would think to challenge them. And because raids and PVP are all they care about, if they did have alt characters, they were likely ones they enjoyed playing once upon a time, but fell out of favor as a result of being beat too hard with a nerfbat. In any case, they favor neither PVE nor PVP, but participate in both because of their devotion to the class they play.

 The Specialized Subsets 

In our quest to get to the center of the diagram, the next three groups comprise the specialized and more defined groups of players. They are the result of multiple overlaps from the main circles of players. The common aspect of these three groups is that each group involves The Socialite circle. Hence, they are the most vocal and expressive when it comes to their gameplay. You’ll likely find them, when not in game, on the official WoW forums, other fan site forums, or the authors of their own blogs about their respective class. As one can see, these three are the smallest of all the groups because as it has been noted by WoW’s developers and community managers, the most vocal in the community are usually the smallest demographic in terms of the bigger picture.

9. The PVE Platoon Generals 

The PVE Platoon Generals combine the Perpetual Levelers, The Socialites, and the PVE Elitists. Think of them as the altoholics with a purpose. They level several toons one by one and aim to have them equally geared. If they can’t gear a particular toon, that toon will have an alternative purpose of leveling a profession that will benefit the other toons that are geared. In short, all the toons they level will have a clear and distinct role in supporting the player’s main characters for the sole purpose of maxing out a player’s output in PVE. One would find most of the players in the cutting edge PVE guilds in this category.

10. Class Experts 

The ONLY difference between the Class Experts and the End Game Elitists is the fact that this group adds in the socially communicative aspect of behavior. The Class Experts aren’t afraid to be vocal about their class in game and on the forums. This group is the most likely to host and/or author their own blog about all things related to their class which has two goals: the first is to teach players new to the class the ins and outs; and two, to dissect and deconstruct the class’s abilities and shortfalls and how each will be affected by developer-proposed changes. Again, their knowledge of their respective class is broad focusing on BOTH PVE and PVP.

11. The PVP Fairweatherers 

The PVP Fairweatherers, unlike their PVE counterparts, are toon hoppers. They are, in essence GREAT at PVP, but have the least amount of allegiance to a particular class if things start looking bad (Dallas Cowboy fans come to mind). They jump from class to class based on their perceived notions of “overpoweredness,” and have no problem leveling a toon just to be able to take said toon into the arenas to cause pain and heartache. The social aspect of their behavior is that they tend to frequent the forums to decry any perceived nerfs or to throw shade about the perceived nerfs of other classes. Not all are trolls, mind you, but their competitive drive to be a PVP-God tends to rub against people like Devon Banks awkwardly lusting after Kenneth the NBC Page on 30Rock…awkward to say the least. The one thing I find enviable about this particular subgroup, though, is their ability to quickly adapt to an entirely new class on a whim and display an expert hand as if they had only ever played that class much akin to Johnny Depp’s ability to throw himself into any oddball role…he’s so multitalented.

12. The Achievement Whores 

Unlike the other groups in the specialized subset, Achievement Whores aren’t particularly sociable. This isn’t necessarily because they’re creepers or your typical gold-selling bot spammers. This is because of their slow-burning determination to see the toast of achievement long sought and the resulting “gratz” spam from guildies in g-chat is about all the social interaction they’ll ever see in game. This is likely the most brilliant show of awkward nerd-dome that is either grandly amusing and inspiring, or something to be greatly feared…kind of like a Will Ferrell movie. They eat, sleep and breathe all things Warcraft, but if and ONLY if there’s an achievement attached to it. PVE, PVP, world event, pet battles, cooking, fishing, questing, /love-ing critters and traveling all over the world; they bear titles like “The Insane” because you’re not quite sure if they are just that, insane, or just insanely dedicated to their gameplay.

The Center

What’s at the center of any blackhole? Well, not even scientists have been able to discover beyond theory the answer to that question. I however tend to think it’s not actually black, but rather, a blue room with a conference-style round table where Ghostcrawler, Zarhym, Felicia Day, Fox Van Allen, Mike Morhaime, Henry Cavill and RuPaul dressed as Jaina Proudmoore are seated playing Cards Against Humanity sipping mimosas conversing about the artistic differences between the different “Real Housewives” shows on Bravo while Jinkx Monsoon dressed as Little Edie is tickling the ivories in the back of the room *deep breath*. Uhm, welcome to my brain. 😉

So in a nutshell, finding a balance not only between classes, but amongst the varied types of players that WoW has, is among the many reasons WoW is still the top MMO on the market. There are quite a few contenders that have made great contributions to MMO gaming, but Blizzard remains king when it comes to successfully addressing ALL player types. What this means is that the only true enemy Blizzard has with regards to WoW’s viability and relevance is itself. Now that you see the different types of players the game has, one can understand that suggestions can’t just come from nowhere and benefit only one type of player. They have to be precisely calculated to accommodate as much of the playerbase as possible.

There are a few interesting suggestions I have that do just that. We’ll explore them in later entries.

For now, a sick and twisted cat classic YouTube treasure.

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