Wednesday, April 12, 2017

[WoW] Invading on a Schedule

7.2 (re)introduced the concept of Legion Invasions, and all-in-all the one that I did was enjoyable enough. A smattering of world quests in phased zones that gives the impression the Legion is legit invading was pretty cool, and the wrap-up scenario felt somewhat like the scenarios back in Mists of Pandaria, which is a huge plus for me.

However, said Legion Invasions appear once per day, at a pseudo-random time during the day, and only persist for 6 hours. Which for those of us who have a job and who need to sleep is a bit vexing. Ironically, I am too busy making video games to play them much these days. I get to play WoW about two times a week, and half of that is running a raid, so hoping that a Legion invasion is up on the day that I get to play and not raid is frustrating.

You will not be fighting the Legion today.

Which leads me to the question of scheduled gaming versus random limited-time events. Ostensibly, to make the world feel like a world, things should happen with or without your intervention. MMOs have been doing this to a basic degree since close to the dawn of time with rare spawns, holiday events, and launch events. Time-limited things that you have to be in the right place at the right time to experience.

World of Warcraft over the past few expansions hasn't really gone beyond the above-mentioned "scheduling", allowing players to largely set their own schedules in game. You can raid when you want to, run dungeons when you want to, run dailies when you want to, and so on. Sure, there's weekly or daily lockouts on a lot of content, but Blizzard doesn't dictate when during the day (or week) you must perform these activities.

Time-Limited Content

Last expansion, Blizzard introduced Timewalking dungeons. Unlike FFXIV's implementation, Blizzard originally only allowed you to do Timewalking over a single weekend for a given expansion. Folks complained--rightly so, too. Not everyone's "weekend" falls on Saturday/Sunday. Now Blizzard makes these events a whole week long, splitting the difference between gaming on Blizzard's schedule versus gaming on your own.

In 7.2, we have two major pieces of time-restricted content: Legion Invasions, and Broken Shore Buildings. The buildings are up for 3 days, then get blown to bits until the community rebuilds it (in the same place, no less, because we are not very bright defenders, apparently). 3 days is a bit short still for some schedules, but you're more likely to have at least a little while overlapping in that time period. Compare that to the 6 random contiguous hours every 24, which I've yet to ever have more than 1 overlap with my playtime in two weeks.

Now, the issue around invasions being "required" has largely been mitigated, thanks to the removal of that content from the requirements for flight. It's really just a matter of occasional optional content--extremely lucrative content, mind you--that you may hit or miss. Which isn't unlike many mobile games these days, except mobile games I can load up in less than 30 seconds, tap a few things, and deal with the limited-time content. WoW takes me over 5 minutes to load (including from Order Hall to Dalaran, assuming the game doesn't stall on the loading screen forcing me to restart the process all over again) before I can actually start doing anything, and I have to be at home, and on my computer. It takes significantly more effort for me to go after time-limited content in WoW than in a mobile game.

On the other hand, if they allowed the Legion invasions to stretch longer (say, 12 hours instead of 6), they'd probably need to make them less lucrative, as more people would be able to do them. Making them time-limited is a method of gating those resources for the vast majority of the population, and one that feels more natural than just saying, "You've already done this today, you are locked out."

Preferred Playstyle

I'll fully admit this is probably just me and my preferences, but when I play WoW, I expect largely to play on my schedule, and content that's billed as something you're expected to do semi-regularly but unavailable on my schedule rankles. It makes me feel like despite putting in the same time I was before the patch, I'm falling behind because my game time doesn't line up with rando-events. There's a fuzzy fidelity line somewhere in the "acceptable time limit to do this thing you're expected to do by the designers," that feels like it should be greater than 6 hours, but almost definitely okay in the 1 week time limit range.

But to be fair to me, WoW over the past 12.5 years has largely allowed us to play on our own schedules for the vast majority of content, so there is an expectation there built into the game that the WoW developers are intentionally breaking. We can't expect them to never try anything new--that would be far too stifling--but if they're going to break convention, they should ensure they're doing so for good reason. For me as a player, as far as I can see as an outsider, it doesn't feel like a good enough reason and made me annoyed (and again, that annoyance has been largely mitigated by the removal of the requirement to do that content).

I feel the buildings are in a strange place, because 3 days feels borderline too short, but at least I can say, "Oh, building is up, I can adjust my schedule to play an hour in 2 days", versus Legion Invasions which might be another 2 weeks before I can play another just because it doesn't line up with my play time. Versus other World Quests which are, as Ornyx put it, "largely interchangeable". Missing a couple World Quests is no big deal, because there's always like 30 more available at any given moment.

So overall, while I like the content well enough, I'm really not a fan of the current time gating on Legion Invasions. But I don't like it enough to go out of my way to drop other things in my life and screw up my IRL schedule to go do a Legion Invasion when it is up.
#WoW, #GameDesign

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