WoW: Heroism For Sale

by Wolfshead on May 13, 2008

You’d think that killing uber bosses such as Onyxia, Ragnaros, Nefarian, Hakkar, Gruul, and Illidan would be considered heroic. Sorry, that’s the wrong answer in Irvine, CA these days. Perhaps completing a long epic quest that lets you permanently transform your character into something different would be heroic. Wrong again! Spending $50 for Wrath of the Lich King and leveling a character to 55 — now that’s what Blizzard considers to be a truly heroic feat.

Finally we have the smoking gun that illustrates how the Blizzard team has taken complete leave of their senses. It’s found in a video interview with former Star Wars Galaxies producer,  J. Allen Brack the current lead producer on Wrath of the Lich King. He explains what Blizzard considers to be the definition of “heroic”.

Here’s what he said about the upcoming deathknight hero class to G4TV interviewer Morgan Webb:

J. Allen Brack: The idea behind this is that there is some kind of heroic thing you have to do as a player to unlock it. And in this case, it’s reach level 55. So if you have a level 55 player then you’ll be able to create our first hero class called the deathknight and you’ll actually start at level 55.

Morgan Webb: Okay, so the theory is that if I have a character right now in my arsenal level 55 or over, I can go out and buy Lich King and that very second I get home I can start playing with the Deathknight?

J.Allen Brack: Absolutely.

It’s astonishing to me that Blizzard can make patently absurd statements like that and get away with it. There is nothing heroic about the proposed mechanic of becoming a hero in WoW. It seems that heroism is now for sale in WoW. Notions of challenge, sacrifice, and courage are foreign concepts to Blizzard. Asking players to have to endure any hardship toward attaining the title of hero is just too much to ask in this age of coddled, short attention span gamers.

Here are some definitions for the word “hero”. See how many of these apply to the effort it takes to play a hero class in the upcoming expansion:

  1. Myth., Legend a man of great strength and courage, favored by the gods and in part descended from them, often regarded as a half-god and worshiped after his death
  2. any person, esp. a man, admired for courage, nobility, or exploits, esp. in war
  3. any person, esp. a man, admired for qualities or achievements and regarded as an ideal or model
  4. the central male character in a novel, play, poem, etc., with whom the reader or audience is supposed to sympathize
  5. the central figure in any important event or period, honored for outstanding qualities

It’s unfortunate that they’ve taken it upon themselves to warp the definition of a hero to include someone that purchases an expansion and has a level 55 character on their account. Yet Blizzard is no stranger to mangling the English language. Their ineptly titled “Honor System” had absolutely nothing to do with true “honor”. It seems that words exist as convenient marketing tools to be twisted and shaped in order to sell more products.

The bizarre way that Blizzard seems to be giving everything away lately is a real cause for concern. It’s like they are dismantling WoW one feature at a time in order to be popular with their subscribers. They remind me of politicians who bribe people with their own tax dollars. First it was welfare epics, now it’s welfare hero classes. What could be next? Perhaps free levels for your friends?

Something at Blizzard has changed lately. No longer are the principles of good MMO game design like challenge and risk vs. reward holding sway. They are eroding away before our very eyes. Instead, they’ve developed an unhealthy imperative for doing all they can to gain new markets and new demographics. Instead of focusing on innovating the MMO genre, Blizzard seems to be more interested in creating trading cards, motion pictures, figurines, sword replicas, and e-sports then focusing on creating and maintaining a solid MMO that has longevity. What we are witnessing is the transition of a gaming company to an entertainment company.

As a person who has been an enthusiastic participant of virtual worlds for many years, pardon me if I long for better days. It seems that all that was good and noble about MMO’s seems to be evaporating before our very eyes.

-Wolfshead

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