Design Progression in World of Warcraft, An Illustrated Guide

Diagram of requirements needed to enter Black Temple, the penultimate WoW:Burning Crusade instance, prior to today’s patch:


Diagram of requirements needed to enter Black Temple, the penultimate WoW:Burning Crusade instance, after today’s patch:


Not everyone is happy about this.

Blizzard no longer cares about the hardcore gamers, be that the raiders or the pvpers. Well, we’re done with it. It wasn’t just one thing really. While we were all excited to get some tier6 for our freshly 70 alts from this new badge gear, there’s a part of you that just has to feel some pain when you look back at all the time you spent farming instances…for nothing.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, silly. It’s silly to expect game developers to create content that 50 people on the planet can access. OK, so that’s an exagerration. According to Wowjutsu, 286,000 people have entered the Black Temple, and 121,000 have finished it. Still, that is 5% of a given fairly hardcore population… to show up on Wowjutsu, you have to be in a raid that has completed some portion of Karazhan. Just as a comparison, those figures above are compared to 2.2 million players that watched the Shade of Aran blow up their raid.


It’s obvious that at least someone (probably a community person, they tend to develop black humor as an on the job requirement) at Blizzard had a pretty clear picture of where they eventually wanted to take things from this parody, complete with this world event:

The Illidari Invasion: A major attack is launched on all major cities, both Horde and Alliance. Repel the invaders for 6 hours or lose the chance to face down Illidan in the Black Temple for one month. Additionally, repair costs in cities you fail to hold go up by 20% due to tax increases.

And you know? Some players would defend that. “THAT IS SO COOL, THE WORLD IS RESPONDING TO OUR SCREWUPS.”


It’s an interesting pattern, actually. As the playerbase in general progresses in mudflated power, content is trivialized so that more people can experience it. What was the domain of the l33t a short time ago now becomes content that’s conquered on the test server before it even goes live.

This isn’t a bad thing. If you make your game’s endgame challenge dependent on how fast your content designers can crank out ever-increasingly-difficult challenges, you either have a game that no one can finish, or a game everyone can eventually finish, given enough investment of time.

Which makes some people unhappy. Raiders denigrating casual players in WoW has a long, storied tradition, after all. But casual players pay the bills. I fully expect Wrath of the Lich King to have a hideously complicated attunement sequence for taking down Arthas at the end. I also fully expect that sequence to disappear a year later. And someone will post a snippy letter on their guild page about how they are totally leaving WoW for some other game because no one understands the purity of their vision any more.

Which also has a long and storied tradition.

(Hint 1: Second entry on the list.)

(Hint 2: If you’re confused, check with your devstalkers.)