"The magic of this game is gone.
Like a battered and abused wife crawling back to her first love, I made my annual summer return to World of Warcraft earlier in June of this year. The last time I played this was the summer right before MoP, and the last time I played before that was from vanilla through Burning Crusade, right before WotLK.
I'd like to contend that at this point in the game, there's really very little left to keep players playing. This isn't anything new-- we've all seen the myriad of what we consider to be the vocal minority posting their "AFTER X AMOUNT OF YEARS, IM DONE" comments lamenting about this that and the other thing, and why this game hasn't aged well or whatever. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is about this game that made it so addicting, and so appealing six or seven years ago, but what I can tell you is that everything in this game feels so EMPTY now.
Community no longer exists.
I'd like to touch on guilds, the lack of a static community and the commoditization of every single thing in this game in a separate point.
Here's the simple fact: you never have to open your chat window, ever-- and you can progress to the end of the game. Try it, make a new character, unbind the chat key (enter by default), and see if you can get the best gear short of normals/heroics in the game, you can probably reach 530 ilvl without a problem. By streamlining the game to the point where nobody really has to communicate with each other, there's very little incentive to ever say anything. In Guild Wars 2, one of the biggest complaints players have about world bosses is that the individual feels so insignificant, as if you might as well not even be there and nothing would change. I'd like to argue that this same problem has reared its ugly head in the form of LFR-- you don't actually have to do anything or SAY anything to anyone about anything when you're in an LFR. You literally just have to sit there, spam your primary attack or heal, and collect loot. That's it. Messed up on your rotation? Forgot to DPS the adds? Who cares? It's nearly impossible to die in LFR anyway and the incentive is so meager and unattractive that it's not even worth putting any effort into.
This brings me to my second point.
The Downfall of the Special Snowflake
I'm making this argument as a casual (if that gives me any credibility at all [it doesn't, but I'd just like to mention it])
Exclusivity breeds addiction-- plain and simple. The name of the game for Blizzard is addiction. If you cannot keep players hooked, if you cannot keep players addicted, you will lose players.
I played a hunter in Vanilla, and I remember inspecting guys in full Dragonstalker with the BWL crossbow and absolutely losing my mind. I also remember that because back then I was young, dumb, and a horrible player, it took me years before I got 7/8 Giantstalkers. But here's the difference between then and now: back then I savored the moment I got every single piece of gear that my character got-- because it wasn't easy. There was something almost mythical about having epic gear. Like having epic gear completely bought me onto a whole new level of gameplay or something. I remember getting the Blastershot Launcher off of Golemagg in MC and completely (and silently) losing my !@#$ to myself in my bedroom.
What's the difference now? You tell me. Does anybody really go wild over getting a couple LFR pieces? Who even cares now. There's a set route to get to a set item level to enter a dungeon and play the lottery. I remember picking up the 522 valor necklace for my warlock after a couple weeks of casually doing heroics and feeling utterly and completely unmoved by it.
Gear has to be exclusive. Gear has to mean something in this game folks. If getting the best gear in the game is the standard, if getting the coolest looking armor is par for the course, there's no incentive to getting it. On my 503 ilvl hunter I asked myself: Why even bother getting more gear to do normals? Normal or heroic gear does absolutely nothing for me as a player. It doesn't give me an advantage in battlegrounds or arena, it's like barely recolored at all, doesn't even look any different, and all it enables me to do is do the same exact content on normal/heroic that I'm doing in LFR anyway... why bother??!?
Community Doesn't Exist (Part 2)
It doesn't. Why be in a guild? We've seen the countless threads on here of returning players wondering why nobody talks in guilds. I was in a guild before when leveling some of my alts (for the bonus exp and heirlooms.....) and there was just this one guy who was always saying "grats!!" when other players would finish achievements. And nobody responded to this dude. It was the saddest thing I experienced coming back to this game, to see that people are desperate to interact with each other, and yet people are only in guilds for the perks.
Blizzard made guilds into a commodity-- just like they have made everything in this game a commodity. Guys, communities (not just games) need intangible factors in order to thrive. You can't put a price tag on systems which enable and encourage friendship, bonding, and teamwork. What I'm saying is, by adding in guild "levels", and that horrible Cash Flow perk, Blizzard has effectively put a price and tangible value on something that encouraged people to band together for a common cause, be it playing arenas, ganking in world pvp, raiding, whatever. Guess what happens when you put monetary value on anything? Gee, well duh it's gonna get exploited, diluted, and personal benefit will be put at the forefront of everyone's motives. The guild master gets free gold from the people sitting in the guild, and the people sitting in the guild get the bonus experience, reduced hearth, etc. etc. all without ever having to say a single word to each other.
The last point I'd like to touch upon are achievements. This point is somewhat of a difficult subject for me to wrestle with because while I personally love achievements in games, I think these could have been handled a bit better.
The implementation of achievements into this game mirrors a very real problem that many college graduates right now (me, heh heh..) are facing. Does this sound familiar to you???
"But how do I get experience if everywhere I'm applying to requires me to have prior experience!?!?"
If you're in college or have recently graduated college, you've without a doubt heard this one a multitude of times. Sure in the real world there are alternatives in unpaid internships, being a teacher's assistant, helping professors do research, etc. But there are NO UNPAID INTERNSHIPS IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT. Which isn't a bad thing because to begin with, because unpaid internships are facing a myriad of moral and ethical challenges right this minute. But what I'm saying is that if you don't have that achievement link that says COMPLETED ON xx/yy/zz, then you're screwed. Try finding arena teams that aren't just fishing for quick conquest cap, or a normal/heroic raiding guild as a new player-- it isn't happening man. It's just not happening.
Ironically enough, this point seemingly conflicts with my argument for the "special snowflake" before-- but I'd like to contend that Blizzard somehow maintained a balance during vanilla and Burning Crusade that not only allowed for the exclusivity of raiding epics, but also gave new players a chance to experience that if they wanted it enough.
After all, if some 14 year old running around with Ice Barbed Spear and a blue level 51 crossbow could get into a raiding guild that eventually progressed to the steps of Nefarian, something was going right on Blizzard's side.
My subscription ends in two days and I won't be renewing it; which is oh so bitterly funny to me as I finally have all the time in the world to play games now. I won't be heading back to school this week or next week because I've finally graduated-- but the game that I once loved just isn't the same anymore. I logged on my alliance hunter today for my daily queue of Heroics, LFR, and Battlegrounds while spamming chat for an arena partner willing to push 2k on my 1800 2s team. Nobody wanted to play 2s, and a feeling of overwhelming dread of the drudgery and boredom of another LFR hit me as my queue for ToT popped so I simply stopped and uninstalled. Thanks for the good times Blizz :D"