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Are expansions ruining World of Warcraft?

First, The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft was announced at BlizzCon 2005. Next, the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was announced two years later at BlizzCon 2007. It got us thinking that BlizzCon 2009 might be the perfect time for Blizzard to announce a third expansion for WoW. With all the hype and anticipation for StarCraft II and Diablo III, news of a third WoW expansion would only further strengthen Blizzard’s already mighty death grip on PC gamers around the world.

Whatever the case, all this speculation over what will be shown at this year’s BlizzCon got us pining for the days when we used to raid till our eyes bled in what is now known as “classic WoW,” or “vanilla WoW” – that is, World of Warcraft before The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions. But as we began leveling a fresh new character with a few fellow ex-WoW addicts, we realized that we had forgotten how bitchy WoW players (including ourselves) can be. MMO fans invest so much more of themselves into their game-of-choice than any type of player out there. Think you logged a lot of hours perfecting your Fallout 3 character or leveling your Final Fantasy party? Ask any hardcore WoW player to tell you how many hours they’ve put into their main character, and you’ll begin to understand why some are so demanding when they quantify answer in terms of weeks, months, and years instead of mere hours.


Above: Are expansions ruining WoW? Or are the naysayers just a bunch of sour trolls?

Maybe that’s why - despite the overwhelming thumbs up given to Wrath of the Lich King by fans and critics - there are still those who argue that more content from expansions don’t always mean more fun - especially if you’ve got 60 levels to grind through before you can enjoy the new stuff. So we decided to check out some of the most common complaints we’ve seen about the impacts the last few expansions have had on WoW, and looked at how the experience of rolling a new character has changed over the years.

So how could more content possibly be a bad thing? Well, most complaints we’ve heard seem to stem from the general way MMO expansions tend to funnel a majority of the population into its new areas, rendering old content obsolete. For example, The Burning Crusade provided players with a new level cap of 70, and introduced Outland, giving level 60-plus players a new – but comparatively smaller set of zones to play in.


Above: The world map for the original World of Warcraft featured two huge continents with tons of zones

A mass exodus to Outland was partially balanced by the addition of two new races and classes for both Horde and Alliance players. Since both factions had brand new options for starting a new level one Paladin (for the Horde) or a Shaman (for the Alliance), there seemed to be a healthy amount of players to group with on the way to level 60 in “classic” WoW when TBC released.


Above: The Burning Crusade moved most players to the seven new zones in Outland

With the introduction of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the argument that expansions actually reduce the size of World of Warcraft’s world seems to hold a little more weight. By now, the novelty of rolling a Blood Elf Paladin for the Horde, or a Dranei Shaman for the Alliance had worn out. The mass migration to WotLK’s new zones in Northrend had begun, making ghost towns out of major cities and hubs in “classic” and TBC zones.


Above: Is WotLK’s Northrend the new Outland, the only set of zones that truly matter anymore?

So did the WotLK expansion really suck all the life out of the older WoW zones? Is leveling a new character up to 60 as lonely as some naysayers report? We started a new Blood Elf Priest to find out, and have found complaints of under-populated zones and cities to be exaggerated. It certainly does seem that there are fewer players stomping through fields in lower level zones and you won’t have much luck finding groups for the most challenging pre-expansion raid instances, but major cities like Orgrimmar and Ironforge still have as much hustle and bustle as they used to.


Above: You won’t find as many random players dueling outside of Ogrimmar and Ironforge, but they’re far from ghost towns

52 comments

  • Nekochan - December 15, 2012 4:27 p.m.

    The Lich King was the last good expansion WoW had. After that they decided to play with the formula in the Cataclysm expansion that made certain classes what they were, for instance the Hunter went from being a mana based pseudo-caster to a focus based pseudo-rogue which radically altered the play style, Before hunters started their shot rotation with their big hits and worked their way down resulting in fast takedowns of most mobs that kept them at range and balanced the fact they were wearing chain-mail. After the changes hunters had to start with their small hits and work their way up to big hits if they could get them off before the mob got to them. It effectively turned a class that was a lot of fun to play into a completely different class that was significantly less powerful, several weeks after the expansion came out there were mass ejections of hunters from every guild on the server I played on as the class was written off as useless and rather than reroll another character and spend a month or two leveling it up and gearing for raids I simply canceled my subscription.
  • Memph - August 3, 2010 7:16 a.m.

    Played a few years with a small guild, but wotlk eventually killed it for me. Besides Wintergrasp (which was ace, for a while) it just all gets too old far too bloody quick. Instances require all the tactics of 'run in and spam aoe' whether playing tank or dps and healing dungeons is ridiculously boring now that mobs stick to said aoe-spamming tanks like industrial strength uberglue. Noone has to crowd control, inturrupt, kite and anything below full-blown raiding, which requires far too much time (and by time i don't mean sheer hours playing, but i do like to be actually playing, not standing around waiting for 25 people to get their shit together) becomes a souless, challengeless grind of literally outgearing any skillfactor of the game. Achievement elitists were so rife (on Draenor anyway, you couldn't go anywhere or do smeg unless you had gear so good you didn't even need to go there anyway). I always loved the cooperative/social aspect of play, but these days i'm far more partial to L4D, or AS, or something that's actually going to exhilerate a bit more than clicking the same few icons over and over, or box me into playing a specific role so tightly I don't actually get to have any fun. Tbh i reckon the necessary class mechanics of mmos are archaic and holding the entire genre back. No bugger wants to heal, fewer want to tank, everyone wants to swing an massive axe and fling spells at things.
  • Jputz69 - June 26, 2009 6:41 a.m.

    I have been playing WoW for 4 years now and by my observations, the expansions did nothing but help the game and make it more interesting. It's true that the lower level zones are much less populated than before, but its inevitable. I agree with the idea that they should turn the "Old World" (Pre-BC) into a world PvP area. That would make the game more interesting, and it would increase the population flow in all of the zones. It would be interesting to see people fighting over land and cities to earn buffs and Honor. One thing that absolutaly killed the PvP experience for me is the removal of the Rank System. Before Honor Points, players would fight eachother and each honorable kill would get them closer to the next rank (Private, Corporal, Captain, etc.). If Blizzard implemented a world PvP battleground in the classic content zones, and brought back the rank system (not by removing honor points but by giving extra incentive to PvP), then I believe that WoW would bring in even more players and provide endless fun and excitement to even the seasoned players.
  • anduin1 - June 1, 2009 5:21 p.m.

    they don't ruin them by a longshot but sometimes what they add is totally bogus. I mean WotLK really didn't do anything that we didn't see in BC. Blizzard IS getting lazy because they have too much money and know people will keep playing anyway. I think the game is about to hit a decline in numbers as they have announced their new MMO and basically admitted WoW has a limited shelf life now.
  • solsunforge - May 28, 2009 9:25 a.m.

    my mistake that was the guy below you with the fallout avatar my bad its 5:30 a.m even still my point is valid sequels are often a good thing except whe they are forced.
  • solsunforge - May 28, 2009 9:24 a.m.

    Authorityfigure your funny. Seriously dude(i assume) Your avatar is from fallout. Lets count how many iterations of fallout there are. Fallout 1,2,3,tactics,bortherhood of steel for the ps2 all the dlc for fallout 3(3 dlcs now i think) and a workings for a sequel. Now I love fallout but to say sequels ruin games would cause you to be a hypocrite.
  • digby2 - May 25, 2009 10:26 a.m.

    I agree, but it does help with making guilds more socialable, whenever someone acheives one they all congratulate, then talk about it.
  • AuthorityFigure - May 25, 2009 6:49 a.m.

    If you argue that expasnsions ruin the game, then I say that it's your own demand that causes the company to make these expansions so viable. Playing mainstream games like this will always end in that empty disappointed feeling because they inevitably run out of ideas... I'd stay away from the Coca-Cola of gaming (Blizzard) if I wanted to keep my gaming self-respect.
  • Skykid - May 24, 2009 12:14 a.m.

    Wasn't it already ruined when it first came out? OHHHHHH SNAP, I just roasted every fan of the game. I am the greatest.
  • solsunforge - May 23, 2009 11:42 p.m.

    Im tired of everyone casual player whineing. You can only dedicate so many hours to wow. Ok fine I understand that but im sure if you had time to get to level 80 in the first place then im sure you can spare a few hours to do a raid or a heroic or 2 a week. If you dont have time to even do that then i9m sure mmo's arent part of the plan for your gaming time. Finding a group for the lower instances is never a problem. I reccommend downloading the mod called always lfg. It is what its called your always in looking for group. So no excuses.
  • Tomcatt - May 21, 2009 5:19 p.m.

    Getting a good PuG for the high level raids in LK is difficult but not impossible. I finished all the 25 man content via PuGs, but I was lucky on Malygos. I created a new Pally to level up and I had a very difficult time on my server finding a group to run it the lower level quests with. It seems to me that people always want someone to run them through the lower level instance instead of working on beating it with like level players. The worst part to me about TBC is that there's only 1 entry point into Outlands for your new character - HFP. The ability to get to level 68+ in Outlands means you'll be doing pretty much the same zones and quests with every new character your raise. In Vanilla Wow you could level to 60 exclusively on one continent if you chose to. At least in LK there are 2 paths to 80 for a small amount of variety. Outlands now is mostly a ghost town. I was in Shat not long ago, and I was one of only 3 PC's there, the other 2 were Hordes. I flew around the entire city and didn't see another player but the 2 AFK Hordes sitting near A'dal. Sure, Ironforge and Stormwind have some life in them, but that's mostly due to the AH's. Darnassus is dead, it's rare to see more than 15-20 players there unless it's the Horde coming in for a raid. Of course Darnassus has always been relatively dead, my main char is a NE and this bothered me, but still. In several ways I miss the days of a spread out population instead of everyone being clustered in one city like Shat in TBC and now Dal in LK. The world felt more alive when the raids were scattered about more. Are expansions ruining the game? 11m+ subscribers say no, but the way they bunch up the population into such a small area has for me. Raiding has gotten old - they were super easy for the most part, Ulduar is proving some difficulty until it gets put on farm status. I've cancelled my accounts as of 4 days ago and probably won't resubscribe again until a new Expansion comes out. Then it'll be like before - hit the level cap, see the end content, cancel. Maybe when you can kill Arthas I'll try again, but not until.
  • srky13 - May 20, 2009 11:47 p.m.

    but dont gudge
  • Sebastian16 - May 20, 2009 11:37 p.m.

    Horde or Alliance?
  • srky13 - May 20, 2009 10:52 p.m.

    excuse my spelling i should have double checked
  • Auron - May 20, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    I thought Burning Crusade was an awsome expansion for WoW.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - May 20, 2009 9:05 p.m.

    OK, stop dots.
  • epitaph - May 20, 2009 7:37 p.m.

    This is not a new question at all. Ask anyone who played Everquest. Did all the expansions kill EQ? I would say yes. Ask anyone who was into Magic The Gathering, did the half dozen expansions a year kill MTG? I would say yes, at least it did for me. As someone who took a 6 month break from WoW and trying to get back into it, WOTLK definately killed it for me. New content is fine, but the amount that the core game mechanics has changed and is constantly changing is frusterating and annoying. Why would I want to relearn the game I thought I knew when I can go and try something else like Warhammer?
  • Endo - May 20, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    The problem they're running into right now is that you can't have an MMORPG that delivers for both the "hardcore" players (or players that have lots of time) as well as "casual" players (players with a lot less time) AND have ALL the content be accessible to both groups. Ultimately, the biggest problem is the "casual" players that demand to be able to play through ALL the content before the next expansion comes out. Sorry, if you have less time to play, then you should not expect to be able to play through as much of the game as the players that have more time. Wait until the expansion comes out and the level cap goes up, then you'll be able to play through the older content more quickly. If there's really enough "casual" players to make it worth the money to cater to them, then you shouldn't have any problem finding enough of them to do old content with. TBC when it first came out had the difficulty and content amount pretty much exactly right. There was enough hard content there to keep the hardcore players busy almost until the next big content patch, and there was enough easier content to keep the casual players busy as well. And they changed the PvP gear situation so you weren't forced to do the hardcore endgame content to get it. Apparently though that wasn't good enough, as now everything is designed purely for casual players, and anyone that has more than 10 hours a week to play has long since blown through it all and is looking for another game.
  • marshymon90 - May 20, 2009 3:46 p.m.

    i can see how the expansions are ruining the game just a little bit, but when is it going to stop? how many expansions can they present and still expect to be respected by the gaming community? eventually it just becomes overkill. pre-BC, a friend of mine was #2 pvp on his server and as soon as BC came out, his rank plummeted, almost seems unfair.
  • Sash - May 20, 2009 12:31 p.m.

    Very interesting read. Not relevant to me in the WOW side of things since I play Warhammer Online, but I have to admit it seems like this happens in a lot of MMOs. As new content comes out they focus on the higher tiers rather than focussing on helping people who are lower or rerolling.

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