Are rolling WoW expansions contributing to player fatigue?

Blizzard have made it clear that their intentions moving forward with World of Warcraft are to tie expansions together (Check out mmo-champion’s recap of Gamereactor’s interview with the devs for more). This is why Garrosh lead us to Draenor for the Warlords of Draenor expansion, and why Gul’dan is taking us back to Azeroth, in order to tie in Legion. But is this really working for us? The result of these tie-ins mean that we never actually get to defeat the bad guy. And I, for one, am unsatisfied.

Here’s the thing – we are champions in World of Warcraft. We have been present at some pivotal moments in Azeroth’s history (both good and bad), and it’s these events that make up the expansions for World of Warcraft. Until recently, each expansion served its own purpose – Burning Crusade saw us holding off the Burning Legion and fighting Illidan; Wrath of the Lich King had us fighting off the scourge and watching Arthas descend in to the Lich King; Cataclysm had us cleaning up after Deathwing’s destruction and dealing with the Twilight’s Hammer, then fighting Deathwing himself. Each of these has felt like it’s own piece of story – it’s own chapter.

Then we got to Pandaria. We crashed in to the place and lead to the destruction of some of the most beautiful places on Azeroth. But worse than that – the continued bickering between Alliance and Horde contributed to the Sha’s infestation of Pandaria and lead to the corruption of the Horde’s then leader, Garrosh. Garrosh did some pretty horrible stuff before Pandaria and became worse once there. He made himself a lot of enemies, to the point where even the Horde said enough was enough and participated in the siege of their own capital city. Everyone banded together to fight and eventually capture Garrosh (which is unsatisfying on a whole other level is the topic for my next post!).

But then Garrosh got away and took us to alternative Draenor. And so started Warlords of Draenor. Here we have continued to clean up Garrosh’s mess, now infused with Gul’dan 2.0 naughtiness. With Garrosh out of the way, Gul’dan became the main focus as he causes even more shenanigans. Once again we band together to take him down, and once again the “bad guy” gets away to lead us to yet another expansion.

And this is where my problem is.

The expansions rolling together has made it feel as if the latter expansions haven’t been their own chapters – they have been a prologue to the chapter before, to the point where it is now starting to feel like one long story. The continuity is nice, in that it makes the “story” of WoW make a bit more sense. But from a player perspective, it has a tendency to make it feel like now, 3 years later, we’re still playing out the same story line. We’re in the last patch of this expansion and we’re still battling off Garrosh’s mess with the Iron Horde – now Gul’dan infused – in Tanaan.  There’s just something a little bit unsatisfying about that. Same story, different expansion.

Maybe WoD just felt a bit empty because we had so many orcs at the end of Mists of Pandaria in Siege of Orgrimmar, and then again throughout all of WoD. So even though the story has progressed a little, a lot of the characters/enemies feel the same. I’m hoping that Legion will feel like it’s own expansion, the way previous expansions have. At least we know in advance there is a lot of story to cover!

Regular readers will know this, but for new readers, here is my disclaimer: I love World of Warcraft. It is a brilliant game that I spend a lot of time playing. This post is designed to be a “devil’s advocate” post, to get you all thinking and to get some discussion going. So tell me what you think – do rolling expansions contribute to player fatigue? Or do you think the continuity makes the story make a bit more sense?

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6 Comments on “Are rolling WoW expansions contributing to player fatigue?

  1. Hmm, it’s an interesting point that I hadn’t really thought about before. I like your disclaimer and all my comments below are not designed to blizzard bash, because I too love wow even if my enthusiasm has waned a little lately 🙂

    I don’t know if I can provide a satisfactory answer the rolling story is this is what is contributing to fatigue but for me thinking through it, there is 2 parts to why there is a bit of fatigue with this expansion. For me.. part of the issue with the rolling story is that we spent the end of MOP working against Garrosh and then following him into a different time line where he actually featured very little. An issue there is that some of his story – the bridging between MoP and WoD was done entirely out of the game – so maybe if that was in the game it would have provided a better link with Garrosh’s story rather than being presented as we’re going after him but we don’t hear about him for 10levels and then he’s over and we’re into a new bad guy. Who then quickly gets supplanted by yet another bad guy which takes us in a new direction. There’s been massive changes with very little background on it, just go after Garrosh, oh he’s gone, let’s go after his dad, oops no actually now I want you to go after Gul’dan and so on. Maybe it’s more that there doesn’t feel like there is an ending because as soon as we get somewhere, the goal posts change and we’re off chasing something else.

    I think also your comment “same story, different expansion” is really highlighted in that so many of the bad guys are now towards the end of WoD, are familar faces from BC content. We’re fighting against Archimonde and his bodyguards Anetheron/Azgalor who have already had their own fights. I’m not saying it’s badly done, but we have seen these guys before. 2.0 is better than the first version but it’s not a brand new thing. Will moving forward into Legion, where Illidan is a big part of it make it feel even more like the same story, as he was there in BC and now in the 5th expansion since he was introduced we’re right back there with him again. Is the next logical step that we’ll loop around again and find ourselves facing Lich King 2.0?

    MoP felt so very fresh because what we saw at the start of the expac were all new names and npcs. While we had familiar NPCs along side us, the bulk of the npcs and the environment was all new and exciting. Here at the end of WoD, it feels a lot like we’ve done it before.. which is a bit odd because I wasn’t actually around to raid in BC but I have leveled through the content and seen the npcs many times before.. they aren’t new.

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    • Yeah I agree with the Garrosh comments – it felt like such a let down to chase him all this way, then all of a sudden he’s gone. But at the same time, everything else that we’re doing in the game is still a direct result of what he’s done. For me it feels weird fighting the Iron Horde (which Garrosh created) but Gul’dan is the bad guy and Grom is suddenly on our side. It just feels awekward.

      I can’t comment much on seeing the same bosses because, even though I’ve done them all now at max level, I never did those fights as current content. So to some degree they feel new-ish to me. My issue with them is that they feel out of place.

      I’m hoping with Illidan around that it won’t be another case of “same story, different expansion”, and that maybe it’s a different approach (I really need to read War of the Ancients!)

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  2. Great article. For me I think wow has always suffered from expansion and world discontinuity with stories not flowing through and WoD addressed this poorly but at least they attempted. Below are some thoughts

    I really felt they did the game a huge disservice having major lore in books not in game. I’ve not encounted this in other mmos and I don’t think it works well.

    They put players as second string bit players to npc in most critical moments in the story.

    It felt like they abandoned the story when u got to 100

    And I agree with the nothing felt new comments when it came to WoD.

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    • I couldn’t agree more about too much of the major lore being held in content outside of the game! I’ve heard quite a few people comment so I’m hoping that Blizzard are paying attention. At the same time, it looks like there’s going to be a LOT of story to cover in Legion, so it will be interesting to see how they make that all fit within the game.
      And yes – NPCs coming first is a pain (that’s the next post I’m working on!)
      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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  3. Nice article. When it comes to player fatigue I think Blizzard has really dropped the ball. They have lost touch with why we play their game and what we find interesting and compelling content.
    The fact that their expansion content wasn’t compelling enough to get players interested enough to leave their Garrisons is a huge failing and pretty much sums up how I have felt about WoD.

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    • I do get curious about how the ball got dropped (oh to be a fly on the wall in the Blizzard offices!). Did they just think that the story of chasing Garrosh would hold over without having to add anything to it? (Which seems stupid given the guy gets killed early on).
      People blamed garrisons for WoD not being great, but I think you’re right – the lack of motivation is what did it. Whilst there may have been stuff to do outside of the garrison (which there was little of story-wise), there was no motivation for our characters to do any of it. No story pay-off. Other than the weekly story missions, all other quests just felt like transactions – go do this thing, now have some gold/apexis crystals. Kinda makes me feel like an unappreciated hit man.

      Anyway, I have high hopes for Legion – I think they’ve been paying attention and will take it on board. 🙂

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