|Put it all on Red, it'll come up Black...|
There's been a couple of days to let the dust settle, and I notice that my one of my favourite podcasts Realm Maintenance is asking this question for the next show:
|Despite what you think, this is not a cynical bid for Podcast glory...|
Well, if we look back on the last week, I've not been that short of opinion on everything, including Flex Raiding, spoilers and the general speed of patching progress. What I've not done thus far, and I'll thank Rho for prompting, is focussed some personal thoughts on these potential changes. There's a reason the wheel is up there, at the top of the page, and it's all wrapped up in the element of chance this game seems to maintain a relationship with, back since the first days of Vanilla.
Blizzard do seem to get lucky more times than they lose the spin, at least thus far.
If we look at everything that's been handed to us in 5.4 previews thus far, it could be seen that Blizzard is directly targeting areas where the community has stated there are problems. Flex Raiding, quite apart from the concept, is pretty much being sold as the LFR equivalent for people who want to organise themselves. Proving Grounds could be directly seen as Blizzard's answer to teaching people how to play their classes, and being rewarded for doing so. Scaling enchants to work on any level gear is perhaps the biggest indicator that the Devs want people to be able to use item enhancements regardless of level, and that the 'quality of life' is becoming a huge motivator in what drives not simply the pace of current expansion, but what gets changed and where.
My husband pointed out last night that the Engineering Trainer in the Dwarven District can now repair gear. I'm not sure when this was changed, but if it's enough of an alteration for him to notice, then such upgrades are doing their job. Similarly, in the Brewmoon Festival Scenario Mr Alt's Pally tanks (yes plural) would have a terrible time trying to tank the Water Elemental boss and would consistently fall into the water. Magically this patch that bug has vanished, and I know it won't have been listed as an issue anywhere. Once upon a time, stuff simply remained broken in game. Although this may well still be the case for the older expansions, I'll freely admit that when summat gets bust in Pandaria it appears to get fixed considerably faster than before, and I think the patch progression is also extending to ensuring that the wheels keep spinning faster and longer when those issues do arise.
If we also look at the [SPOILER STUFF] in 5.4, these massive alterations have not actually impacted on existing quest givers: Aki is still alive and well, and the Golden Lotus dailies appear to have been shifted to a safer location. Even though there is traumatic change, the things people still need are accessible. People's concerns are being listened to, and it is very rare these days that something gets tweaked without a decent warning. When the PvP nerfs to Stampede happened this week, for instance, it was one of the VERY rare occasions where people got little or no warning this was happening, and that is very much the exception. I got cross, which I normally never do, and that's only because I know Blizzard don't act that way any more, there's far more planning and thought involved in announcing stuff that changes.
Blizzard no longer rely on luck to keep their player base content. There has been a deliberately structured and very decisive shift in the last year away from content that does not appear to listen and react to the concerns of Warcraft's subscribers. Although there are still those who argue (mostly via Twitter and the forums) that their concerns fall on deaf ears, most of the casual playerbase should be able to find something in 5.4 which will have them interested in the future of the franchise. Speaking as one of those 'target' players, it is really rather hard to pinpoint anything that I don't like or am not looking forward to exploring once the patch hits. However, if I were a more serious raider, there might be some alarm bells ringing. I've seen mutterings from some that Flex is the final nail in the Hardcore coffin for many, especially with the plethora of free-to-play MMO alternatives in the marketplace. However, Summer is coming, an that is always traditionally the time that the game as a whole suffers from loss of numbers. If the massive raid potential for 5.4 can't pull in a large cross-section of players over what is the most difficult period traditionally for gaming longevity, Blizzard might yet see an even larger reduction in subs to report in their Q3 Shareholder Call...
I have to say, looking at my space in the Blogsphere, the reaction to 5.4 thus far is a great deal more positive than I'd expected to see. I'm seeing people actively considering resubbing, some already have, and dormant blogs are springing back to life. I'm also picking up encouraging signs that more and more people could start blogging about the game for the first time (especially a number whose more analytical view would be a great addition to the collective.) All in all, I think this is the best place Warcraft has been in for quite some time.
I don't think luck comes into the next patch's equation at all.