Oh it’s what every expansion is supposed to do lol.
To be fair, SL was, on many levels, a very good expansion. Classes improved in playability and fun. The new approach to leveling, especially by questing, was clearly a massive upgrade and modernization. The visual design and themes/stories, as well as quest flow and activities in the new zones was a lot of fun. The new dungeons were well-designed. The Roguelike dungeon system was also pretty damn cool.
Sounds great right?
But the problem is that you only really get one of fun, reasonable time expenditure, or worthwhile, at least once you’ve got to like the proper endgame. The first few times you do stuff things can be all three, but soon thereafter, it’s only going to be one. This is an eternal challenge for MMO devs and few MMOs escape this issue (GW2 sure doesn’t, for example, it even worse), but WoW has pretty much always been willing to sacrifice fun, and that’s become a bigger and bigger problem over time.
Yup exactly. I did enjoy Heroic Dungeons, weirdly, but it was clear to me that most people doing them definitely did not enjoy them, at all. They liked that me and wife could shepherd them through them, and get good gear, but they didn’t really enjoy them in terms of gameplay, they enjoyed that they were getting good stuff and bragging rights (we were particularly good at the supposedly “too hard”/“not worth it” Heroics, like SLabs).
Weirdly Blizzard accidentally hit on genius in Warlords of Draenor in having this ultra-hard category of dungeons with purely visual rewards, but they never repeated that design, and M+ which came later, started off really well, and then, because it was timed, and timed tight (ugh, never time things that tight), it gradually descended into a shitty “GO GO GO” fest where you were expected to know every dodgy skip, exploit and so on in the book, rather than, y’know, playing the game well.
I am convinced you are 100% correct.
Blizzard was run, from 2004 to about 2016, by what amounted to a bunch of fratboys, and it was particularly bad with WoW (and perhaps seemingly least bad with Diablo, possibly also Overwatch later on), and they existed in a total echo-chamber, where only a very narrow range of opinions were seen as even worth considering, and those were the opinions of a few backslapping lead devs, which were from a very narrow category of opinions. This became obvious early on, and in the early days, whenever Blizzard was challenged on design, they were dismissive and contemptuous, indeed often outright rude and aggressive. For example, Tom Chilton outlined the initial design of WoW’s PvP ranking system. It was obviously deeply flawed and obvious that certain outcomes would occur. A particularly well-spoken and polite poster on the Blizzard forums drew up a list of expected issues and potential solutions. Chilton came on to the thread, called everyone in it morons, totally dismissed all the concerns as unreasonable, and generally acted like an ass. Less than a year later every prediction had come to pass, and when Chilton “fixed” the system, it was exactly along the lines of the potential solutions. And then this happened again with TBC and the Arena system. It was practically a re-run. System is outlined. Flaws listed and potential solutions suggested by players. Players told they’re idiots by devs and that none of that will happen. All of that happens. Devs fix it along lines expected. And it kept happening with various systems and setups - not all of them. Random Dungeon Finder had totally unexpected impacts, for example. But RealID which I often mention was the perfect example.
Blizzard had been thinking about how RealID, i.e. effectively surfacing your real name to anyone you did /friends with (which was used at the time mostly as a way to list people to do content with, not like, actual trusted contacts), and indeed to people they were /friends with too (!!!), would solve loads of problems, because surely if people knew your real name and stuff, they wouldn’t be jerks.
This was pure echo-chamber culture. They’d worked on it for over a year, had lots of big meetings, and somehow no-one had told them about the obvious flaws, namely that this would encourage the harassment of women/minorities (where obvious from name), and allow massive cyber-stalking.
Blizzard, like a bunch of frat boys, saw no problems with this, because I guess in their minds, despite their own figures showing like 30-40% of people playing WoW were female, and so on, everyone was just a white guy in a backwards-facing baseball cap listening to Limp Bizkit or whatever.
So they demoed it at Blizzcon, expecting a rapturous “You’re geniuses!” welcome, and… that is not what they got. Eventually someone literally used the RealID of one of the devs to get his home address, name of wife and kids, and other details, and did so DURING a panel about RealID, and this forced them to finally reconsider, and they implemented RealID in a pretty different form and indeed have dialled it back from even that.
Oh yet another example - WoW was developed to be about raiding, but after MC and BWL, basically increasingly tiny numbers of people went on raids. Less than 5% of player accounts even saw the inside of Naxxramas (as opposed to like 40% for MC and 20-something for BWL, IIRC) during vanilla. TBC was even worse across the board, and The Sunwell, the final raid saw less than 1% of players even down 1 boss in there. WotLK was better, but the figures were still too damn low - and yet they kept at it. It wasn’t until late in Cataclysm that they finally realized it wasn’t working. They were super-bitter about it too, basically taking a “The penny-pinching accountants say we can’t keep making raid content unless we fix this because you guys aren’t playing it!!!”. They’ve tried various solutions but never entirely fixed the problem, because they won’t try the one which would work - making raids easy and fun, which frankly, MC and BWL were (as was practically every popular raid). Instead they always have to be complicated and difficult.
Now around 2016 things seemed to change a lot. Not sure what happened there but suddenly they seemed to be trying to track what players actually wanted a lot better. But they still just didn’t go far enough - they always got hung up on trying to make people keeping playing for extended periods, not because WoW was fun, or WoW was social, but because there had to extended, painful treadmills to force you to keep playing - and they made those less un-fun, but they were still not fun.
So yeah long story short, they were for a long time an echo-chamber culture, and totally incapable of understanding people having different reasons for doing stuff to themselves.