Monday, January 4, 2010

WoW: 2009 Year in Review

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! It's hard to believe that at this time last year, many people had either just very recently hit 80 in the new Wrath of the Lich King expansion, or were still leveling their way up.

It's difficult to believe that I spent half of the last decade playing World of Warcraft. This game has changed drastically since November of 2004, and 2009 (like every year since the game was released) introduced quite a few new changes to the game.

Was 2009 a good year for WoW though? The answer to this question will be different for each and every one of the 11 million people who play this game. From my standpoint though, here are a few of the major wins for WoW in 2009... I'll talk about the "losses" later.

Wins for WoW in 2009:

-10 and 25-player raids. Although WotLK was released in November of 2008 with the option to run 10 and 25 player versions of the initial raid content... I feel that 2009 was where this option really took off. In terms of the 11 million subscribers, a very small percentage of those players were actually doing a ton of raiding in 2008, so I'm chalking this option up as a win for '09.

The option to be able to see content, and only having to find nine other players to fill the roles within a raid instead of 24 other players, was one of the greatest things to ever happen to WoW in my opinion. Don't get me wrong... raiding with 40 players, and even 25 is an epic experience to be sure... but sometimes you just don't want to have to deal with that size of a group. It also allows smaller guilds that may not always have the numbers needed to run 25's to still be able to see everything there is to see without always having to PuG.

-The Hearthstone Cooldown Reduced to 30 minutes. This may not seem like a big deal... but it is... It really is.

-Ulduar. Ulduar was, in my opinion, a truly great raid instance. It looked great, it had an interesting story leading up to it, and within it, and the bosses were very diverse and interesting.

Ulduar, like Sartharion, offered "hard modes" which were the same fights... only with an added twist to make them more difficult. This allowed the bosses to be tuned such that the more casual guilds could still down bosses, while at the same time, providing a bit of a challenge for the more hardcore guilds out there.

There may be debate about whether the bosses were too hard, or too difficult, but as an instance, I feel that Ulduar was a very well done raid instance.

-Dual Spec's. This feature changed the way many guilds raid. All of a sudden, "off-spec" loot becomes useful outside of PvP or doing dailies.

As soon as Dual-Spec went live, everyone's toon became much more flexible in terms of what they can do both inside and outside of a raid. Hardcore raiders could now spec for that "situational" spec that offered a talent or two that were incredibly useful in one situation... but not so useful the majority of the time. Players also had the flexibility to have a PvE spec, as well as a PvP spec for doing battlegrounds or arenas... without having to spend obscene amounts of gold changing specs every day.

-Faction Change. There will likely always be folks out there who "complain" about people who faction change, and whether they are "true" horde/alliance.

It's a video game. Who cares if you weren't one faction from the beginning or not. I faction changed to Horde earlier this year... and I'm loving every minute of being a part of the Horde.

Does it make me any better/worse of a player? Nope. I do however look a whole lot cooler, as well as feel much more like a badass because I get to have Hellscream as a leader come Cataclysm.

The reason I chalk this up as a win is because never before has the game been more accessible for friends to be able to play the game together... without having to completely re-roll. It's also nice for those that may be getting bored with their faction and want a change of scenery.

-Built in Equipment Manager. Not having to update an addon after a patch to manage your 19087120397 different sets of gear is a simple, and often overlooked feature that can make life much easier.

-The "Disenchant" option on the loot roll window. It's about time... enough said.

-The new cross-realm LFG system. Even though it's only been out a few weeks, I feel that this new LFG system is probably the best thing to come to WoW this year... and maybe since the game was released (with the exception of raid-wide buffs, of course).

For a guy like me, who hates questing but loves running instances... this system is a dream-come-true when it comes to leveling alts.

The LFG system doesn't only work great at level 80 either... I ran quite a few level 20-25 instances the other night. The ability to be able to quest or do dailies instead of having to sit around in a city trying to find a group is awesome. There seems to be a bit of a tank shortage, but hopefully that'll change with Cataclysm.

The only downside of this system, is the fact that you can't be queued for Battlegrounds or Raids in the LFR system at the same time. The Battleground restriction makes sense to me... but not being able to be queued for Raids when they are still realm specific and can take a while to form just seems counter-productive to me. I'm sure it's due to some technical limitation... but it'd still be nice if you could be queued for both at the same time.

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