|Warlock HQ. Could do with a makeover... ^^|
We interrupt this barrage of Beta News to address an important question, posed by everyone's favourite upright mammal, Cynwise. He asks: Where did all the Warlocks go in Cataclysm? His answer is frankly spectacular. There are graphs, and statistics, plus a ton of proper maths. I cannot do it justice, and so I felt obliged to first bow before its awesomeness before offering a slightly more frivolous alternative response.
He informs us that Warlocks are less popular now than they were at the end of Wrath. They're not particularly hindered in the DPS department either, despite what the Naysayers in Trade will have you know. People are still levelling them too, but somewhere between rolling and Endgame, something happens and people stop. Cynwise concludes therefore with a simple answer to his question:
People don't like playing Warlocks. They're just not fun.
This would appear to be born out by the changes I'm seeing to Locks being implemented in Beta, but really I don't think this gets to the real root of the problem. I believe the answer to Cyn's question is far simpler to rationalise, and we should look instead to basic human psychology for an answer.
People don't like playing Warlocks because (in this game at least) they're the REAL Bad Guys.
'Hang on!,' I hear you cry, that's not how it works. We have two factions, and at any given point if you're in one you're likely to consider the other as the Bad Guys. It's Horde v Alliance or vice versa? Well, that's true to a point. Yes, we are conditioned from L1 to beat the stuffing out of each other, because that's a requirement for the basic Game Mechanics to operate. However, it's very rare that one side is ever the real enemy: there are atrocities on both sides, and over the years the lines between Horde and Alliance have often blurred and overrun. There is one uniting Source of All Evil however that crops up again and again, without fail, and has existed on Azeroth since The Sundering.
The Burning Legion.
Demons are dangerous, wherever you go. They've done the Big Bad gig on various occasions, they've corrupted all and sundry across Azeroth, Northrend and Outland, they're the Go-To Guys when you need summat to turn purple/green and smell nasty and Warlocks are their mates. Locks are the ones with the Fel/Shadow Energies at their disposal, and however you like to dress it up, they're one step away from the utter evil that consistently screws Azeroth on a daily basis, and I think this association is the real reason why they're never going to win the Azerothian Popularity Contest. However much the head of the player may consider their Warlock to be loyal to either Horde or Alliance, the environment pushes them back to being one step away from the thing we're told needs to be destroyed.
I have a Lock who I've staunchly stuck with almost as long as my Hunter: they were levelled to do Garr in MC, as it happens, back in the day when you would banish all of his adds and release them one at a time to kill them. In those early days the taint of long-term association didn't exist, we were all still finding our places in the World, and Locks had real skills to contribute. Over time as CC has become less important across all classes and players have instead considered those who are easiest to play as more preferable to those who rely on thought and understanding... well, Locks have never been a one button class, let's face facts. Playing Demo currently is not something you can do without thinking, but as Cyn points out and I know from practical experience that's not a reason for decline, it's just a reason for people to complain it's too hard. Pandaria brings some genuine and much-needed change for the class and one can only hope this will encourage people to grasp the potential... assuming they will look past the stigma.
In my mind I consider W the Lock as a long way away from Evil. I know what energies she is capable of wielding, and instead of picking shadow or demons as her weapons of choice it's always been fire for her, the least demonic of the three trees. I realise having read Cyn's awesome post that this is why I feel comfortable coming back to her, and I'd play her regardless of any facts that might indicate the class was in decline. If I role played, she would always make sure she was one step ahead of any corruption: if she felt herself moving to close to the Legion's influence she would be strong enough to walk away. Having killed so many demons in her time there is a clear distinction between what is Bad and what is Right, and I wonder if that only comes from having played long enough to be able to see a larger Game World picture. The Casual Lock might end up having some real issues separating out being Good against coming from the side that is so obviously Bad wherever you go...
Warlocks aren't bad, they were just wireframed that way. Maybe it's time to stop worrying about making them more fun, and instead we should be distancing them from the real enemies of Azeroth. Let's hope that in Pandaria we can find an enemy that's not being sponsored by the Burning Legion for its firepower... ^^