Last night, in what is beginning to seem like a bizarre reenactment of Ground Hog Day, we doggedly wiped over and over again on the second boss in Heroic Crucible of Storms. No, we did not kill him. What with the July 4 holiday and all, we basically have one more raid night left before the next tier comes out. It is remotely possible we will eke out AotC, but it seems extremely unlikely.
I play on a rather friendly, non-competitive server. (It is technically an RP server, though almost no one treats it as such.) Anyone wanting to push world class raids or Mythic+ would never even consider my server as a home. My guild is routinely in the top 10 on the server in terms of raid progress, but we are rarely if ever in the top 5. I say this to point out that while we are not exactly World First material, we are not sloppy slouches either. In recent expansions we have pretty much confined ourselves to Heroic progression, and getting AotC has never really been an issue. In fact, we usually get it early enough that we can carry many of our non-raiding guildies through so they can get the achievement.
In Legion, our server had something on the order of 25 or more guilds completing all bosses on heroic for the last three raid tiers, and maybe half a dozen with full or partial mythic completion — and the relative unpopularity of the server resulting in scarce numbers of raiders was the main problem holding many of the heroic guilds back from completing at least early mythic bosses.
Looking only at raid progress by guild on my server, Nighthold in Legion marked the point after which raid completions began a drastic downward spiral. My guild held its own pretty well through the first tier in BFA, but the number of guilds on the server completing heroic steadily and dramatically decreased starting with Tomb of Sargeras. For my own guild, the average number of hours per boss kill has increased noticeably since Nighthold. We are at 9 weeks and counting on Crucible of Storms, and we still have not downed the second boss — in fact, we are so unsure of ourselves even on the first boss that we just keep the raid lockout going so as not to have to waste time downing the first boss again, because it is not a given. In Battle of Dazar’alor we never got to the point of farming it, the only people we got through AotC were core raiders.
And the number of guilds on the server completing heroic (not even to mention mythic) raids has gone from the Legion mark of 25 or so to 8 for Battle of Dazar’alor and a dismal 5 for Crucible of Storms. (A grand total of 0 for mythic CoS, not even one of the two bosses.)
Why am I going into all of this? Because the most recent raids in BFA seem part of an overall pattern of Blizz making the game less and less accessible, more focused on professional players, and less and less rewarding for raiders.
CoS is an exceptionally difficult raid, and even if you complete it, the gear rewards are terrible. You can get better gear running one medium-level M+ per week. You can get comparable gear by doing warfronts and maybe getting lucky once or twice on upgrades. These activities take far less time, organization, and commitment than raiding. No wonder guilds by the dozens are giving up their raid teams. It just is no longer worth the time and trouble unless you are involved in world class competition. Just as a reminder to Blizz, if they care, more than 99% of their customer base is not in that category.
I am left with no explanation other than Blizz is deliberately doing to raiding what they did to Survival hunters in WoD: Consciously destroying it by making it so unpleasant and irrelevant that people abandon it.
Take a look at raid food in BFA, something that used to be simple. (I miss noodle carts!) The pre-8.2 feasts were onerous and expensive to make, but the 8.2 feasts are simply beyond the reach of all but professional guilds who have full-time raid suppliers. The initial skill level requires multiple mats, including one bind on pickup kind of fish (!), as well as 3 of the Mechagon spare parts crates (750 spare parts) — for one lousy feast. Skill level 2 can only be obtained once one is Exalted with the Mechagon faction, and skill level 3 is — yes, you guessed it — an RNG boss loot table from the Mechagon dungeon.
Seriously, soulbound fish as a mat for food?
The raid scene is just an example of what seems to be Blizz’s deliberate road to destruction of this game. After just a couple of nights in the new patch, drawing on personal experience as well as comments from readers and my own guild members, it is clear the patch is a stinker, at least as far as the new zone structure goes. Large swaths of mob-choked Nazjatar, for example, are declared “inside” caves where you are dismounted. (In spite of the fact that nearly-identical locations with almost no mobs allow mounts. Yeah, right.) Let me be clear, once I get flying, I will never go back to these areas. Even my hunter has problems with these mobs, I shudder to think what would happen to my mage. Last night I kept track, and just to get to one world quest required me to fight more than 50 non-trivial mobs.
And let us remember that this situation will certainly become the norm in the next expansion. Now that Blizz has effectively forced every player to fight every stinking mob in the game at every turn, they will apply that principle with vengeance in 9.x. If there is a 9.x. (Not for nothin’, but whatever happened to the idea Blizz used to tout, that if you stuck to roads you were much less likely to encounter monsters? Now the whole purpose of roads seems to be to funnel you through as many as Blizz can cram into the area.)
Players who have been loyal to this game for many years are simply leaving. Even the ones that have not left have stopped logging in except maybe once a week or so. The game has just become too damn annoying, too damn overwhelming, too damn hard, too damn time consuming for lousier and lousier rewards. At every turn, Blizz seems bent on sticking it to players, whether it be through ridiculously hard raid bosses, curtailment of movement, hoops upon hoops upon hoops to jump through for one lousy player perk, effective destruction of the entire armor crafting mechanic, applying layer upon layer of RNG to every aspect of the game, massive gating of content, immeasurable complexity of gear approaching chaos theory, god-like selection of winner and loser classes each expansion — well I won’t go on. Anyone left playing the game is fully aware of what I am talking about.
This was brought home to me by recent game reactions from two of my readers, players I admire and respect. The first was a post by reader @Marathal, an excellent blogger in his own right. The post was a poignant expression of his frustration with what the game has become, and what is undoubtedly a long lingering farewell to something he has loved — it is gone, but like many of us, he is loathe to fully admit it yet, easing his way out while probably hoping against hope that things will turn around.
The second was a comment on my Wednesday post. The comment was from @Hecubus, someone I briefly raided with in a previous guild, and who I know firsthand is not only a dedicated and excellent player, but also a fine mentor, generous with both his time and his insight. I urge you to go back and read his comment, because it, too, is a kind of sad resignation in the face of the demise of the game he used to love. His words struck a chord with me:
After the first night trying the new WoW patch, I went back to playing Elder Scrolls Online. Likely I’m going to delete WoW this weekend until they get a new game director or at least lose the ESports at all cost focus.
Hey Blizz, if there is anyone left who cares about this game beyond a corporate bottom line, will you for crying out loud take a look at what you are doing? And if it is deliberate, at least have the balls to admit that publicly, to say you are winding the game down in favor of big-dollar esports and mobile apps. For once in your recent history, be honest with your players — the people who made you what you used to be, the customers who have stuck with you through all the bad times as well as good and who now have had enough.
I will be taking an extended early summer break starting Monday and returning July 16. Normally I would not take such a long break this early, but honestly my heart is not in this game lately. Maybe by then I will have determined the new raid is awesome and exciting, and Blizz has seen the light. Maybe. Equally likely, by then I will have won the lottery and have become a tall Nordic blonde supermodel…