Friday, March 18, 2011

Best WoW Improvments

When World of Warcraft launched people were amazed by its easy to learn yet difficult to master approach to mmo gaming. It, as any mmo, wasn’t perfect but throughout the years has been polished to waxy shine. Here are my top 5 World of  Warcraft improvements in no particular order.
1. Random Dungeon Finder

In my opinion this is the single biggest improvement blizzard ever made to WoW. It freed us from the horrors of LFG chat and got tons of people interested in instances and raiding. While no system is perfect (I still want to be able to friend people cross server) the RDF is a close to mmo perfection as a gaming tool can get. Anyone who raided/instanced in Vanilla/BC knows the pain of hanging out in the LFG channel spamming for hours on end hoping to get picked but some group out there and praying that group was competent enough to finish the dungeon. While queues for DPS may still take a while it sure beats the alternative.
2. Making Healing Hard

I know many will disagree with me on this but making healing challenging has had a very positive impact. One of the reasons, at least from my perspective, for healer burn out was the way healing was done; Go in, spam heals without regard for mana, and support the people who were doing the actual work. Healing mechanics still need a lot of work but they're getting better. Compared to tanking or dpsing healing just doesn't feel "heroic." Making us actually have to sing, or at least hum, for our supper has gone a long way towards adding more depth to the role of healer. With resource management a much higher priority in cataclysm it's like a mini-game within the game. Having to constantly be doing something makes me look forward to raid healing.

While this only affects healers directly it has a huge impact on the player base as a whole. If we can throw a little water on the burned out healers it lends to more players who are willing to take on that role. The foundation of a raid is your tanks and healers and this goes a long way to keeping a good solid base.
3. Heroic Dungeons & Badges/Points

In the beginning raiding was only for the hardest of hardcores. To get enough loot to see the inside of the lowest level raid took weeks or months of mindless dungeon farming. In BC we were given Badges of Justice and it was good. With these beautiful little emblems we could purchase enough gear to become Karazhan ready. The system was a little rough around the edges at first and took some refining (and two more expansions) to get to our current system of justice/valor points.

The other half of this equation are the heroics themselves. Taking all of the dungeons for the current expansion and making a "heroic" max level tier with appropriate challenge/gear levels was brilliant. Not having to design several max-level dungeons from scratch had to be a boon to the development team allowing them to focus on other issues while presenting players with an adequate challenge and appropriate reward before raids helps keep the game fresh. With the addition of later heroic dungeons it allows new players and players returning to the game from an absence a chance to get current tier raid ready without having to grind through previous content too heavily.

The fact that these dungeons and point systems make raiding accessible to the majority rather than the minority is, in my opinion, a big reason for WoW's continued dominance of the mmo market.

4. Vehicles

Love 'em or hate 'em there's no denying that they've had a huge impact on the game. I think they're one of the top improvements as they've been included in Quests/PvP/Raids. They haven't always been implemented perfectly but continue to improve as WoW gets older. I think they added another, albeit small, layer to the gameplay. While I don't believe WoW has every suffered from a lack of depth there are always ways to improve and this was an excellent way to add more variety to the game.

5. Phasing

The biggest problem I've had with mmos since I started playing Ultima Online way back in the day was the lack of impact your character had on the game world. It didn't matter how many dragons I slew or spaceships I blew up (depending on the mmo) the same mobs would respawn just a few moments later. Phasing is going a long way to fixing this. While it's farm from perfect and, in my opinion, is still in its infancy seeing the impact of my character's actions when I fly to Mount Hyjal or take a trip to the Wrathgate help me immerse myself in the rich world that is Azeroth. I think if given another expansion to mature we'll see great things from phasing.

What do you feel has had a positive impact on WoW? Do you disagree with any of these listed? Let me know in the comments below! Also tune in next Friday for my Top 5 WoW Shortcomings.

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