Fun Police: Portal Division

This morning I am taking a break from my normal Anthem love fest to complain about another game.  This time it is World of Warcraft something that I have not played since the beginning of November, but am still subscribed to it because I guess my theory is that the urge might hit me again at some point?  As such since I am a paying customer I do feel like I’ve earned the right to complain about things from time to time.  Now I am one full patch behind and there is a new patch on the PTR that information has been trickling out about on the various data leak sites.  I personally found out about this through a conversation between my friends Dom and Gloria, which lead me down the rabbit hole last night of trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

It seems as though the Blizzard Fun Police have struck once more and removed a bunch of portals from Stormwind/Orgrimmar, and cleaned things up a bit in the form of a new “portal room”.  I am going to use the Alliance as an example since I have spent more time in my life playing in that area than in the equivalent Cleft of Shadow area in Org.  Both the Mages Tower and Cleft of Shadows became the dumping ground for portals that were still useful but not necessarily associated with the current expansion.  The newly renovated area now contains the following portals.

  • The Exodar
  • Shattrath
  • Dalaran (Northrend version)
  • The Jade Forest
  • Stormshield in Ashran
  • Azsuna
  • Boralus

What is missing from this portal area are…

  • Caverns of Time
  • Ironforge
  • Blasted Lands
  • Pandaria Shrines

If I am reading this correctly on the Wowhead article it also seems as though the axe is being taken to a bunch of the other portal options that had still managed to survive to this point.  The other areas that have had a pass by the Fun Police are…

Dalaran (Legion)

  • IronForge/Thunder Bluff
  • Darnassus/Undercity
  • Caverns of Time
  • Dalaran Crater
  • Karazhan
  • The Exodar/Silvermoon City
  • Shattrath
  • Wyrmrest Temple
  • Vale of the Eternal Blossoms

Shrine of the Seven Stars/Two Moons

  • Shattrath
  • Dalaran (Northrend)

Dalaran (Northrend)

  • Caverns of Time

Essentially this is going to leave us with no way of getting to the Caverns of Time quickly… and practically no ways of getting to certain areas of the world quickly.  I keep using the words Fun Police on purpose because so much of the decision making that goes into World of Warcraft always feels that way to me as a player.  They announce some system that seems awesome at first… but the closer we get to the release of that system there is always some aspect of it that sucks.  For example… I remember being super amped about the release of the item appearance collection system to feel Transmogs…  but then also being super disappointed when I found out that you could not collect items unless you were on the right class when an item dropped.  Similarly the Transmog system itself is just a significantly worse version of the cosmetic systems that other games have had for years that didn’t have weird restrictions placed upon them.

This effects me personally because I still had a good deal of my alts bound at the Shrine of the Seven Stars because it gave me quick access to move around the world and hit the content that I wanted to spend my time doing.  It also made farming older raid content for transmog drops simple…  given that I HAD to do that now on multiple characters to collect various gear sets for them.  What makes all of these feel worse is the grossly out of touch commentary that came along with it from Community Manager Bornakk.  The initial response is as follows.

I understand that changes can throw people off a bit at first, but I also think they help keep the world of Azeroth feeling alive. When there are fewer portals, does the world feel a bit bigger to you? Do you like that? How difficult is it to get to the locations you mentioned without a direct portal (talking to everybody who isn’t a mage here 😉 ) ?

The thing is… no it doesn’t make the world feel bigger, it makes the world feel more tedious to move around.  There was a time when I had to spend 30 minutes or real time crossing the Ocean of Tears in Everquest.  This was not something I considered valuable, and it could be longer than that if you happened to roll up on the docks at exactly the wrong time.  This was passive time sitting there either waiting on a boat… or passively riding a boat…  and god forbid you alt tabbed to do something else and got engaged in it… and missed either getting on the boat or getting off of it.  This did not make Everquest seem like a bigger game… it just made it seem like a game that relished wasting my time.  Removing portals from World of Warcraft that were already in place and widely utilized…  just tells me that this game does not respect my time as the player.  The horrible response was followed up with a possibly even worse one.

I wasn’t being sarcastic. Apologies to you and others who felt I was dismissing them in any way.

For how I personally play and enjoy games, I like when I feel like I need to travel for a few minutes to get somewhere. For me, it is more rewarding when I complete the task that way and I wouldn’t want to be able to get everywhere instantly but there is a good medium to find (but continuing to pile up various teleporting items feels strange). Traveling over large areas reminds me of how vast the world is and I often reminisce while flying on a flight path or a mount. Sometimes I have even just used the port to Timeless Isle and taken the flight path to Shrine (instead of going straight there) as I can enjoy the view and relax.

That being said, I know I can be a bit strange and I’m often not bothered by things that bother others – that’s why I ask a lot of questions. I want to understand the different play styles and opinions of others so I can better discuss them both with you and internally. Getting to the fundamental impact is important for me as the solution sometimes requires a different approach. Hopefully I can avoid the feeling that I’m just talking at you and want to be talking with you. Cheers!

I am glad that Bornakk enjoys having their time wasted.  However I feel like that maybe shouldn’t be the scale by which we judge content?  I realize we all have hot button issues that don’t bother others… for example I have talked at length about how much I hate item management…  and then Bhagpuss will come along and talk about how organizing his inventory is his happy time.  While that discussion can be esoteric, and I have addons to help me clean my bags…  limiting access to the world by removing portals feels significantly less esoteric.  Gloria also brought up the point that I immediately thought of last night… in that Final Fantasy XIV is a game that feels massive in scale, but it is also a game that has instant travel to any number of Aether crystals that are scattered conveniently around the world.  The vastness is not harmed by the fact that I don’t have to start in Gridania and travel by Chocobo to all of the destinations in the shroud.  The scale of the world still seems extremely impressive as I am popping my way into conveniently located hubs that allow me to play the game in the manner that I want when I want to play it.

Now I realize this is not the first time that Blizzard has come along and axed a bunch of portals.  I raged against the action the last times it happened, and I am no less annoyed today than I was back then.  I think it is a dumb call…  but I continued playing the game because there were other aspects that I really did like in spite of the frustrating decisions that kept being made.  I’ve talked to my friend Grace at length about this…  that while I keep one foot back in the community to keep tabs on what is going on…  I seem to only see the bad in the actions that they are taking right now.  Battle for Azeroth was an expansion that went completely in the opposite direction that I would have wanted it to go coming down from the high point that was Legion.   Legion pretty much dethroned Wrath of the Lich King as my favorite expansion that Blizzard has ever done… and in many ways it is because of the focus on class fantasy and giving us a bunch of interesting and unique content tailored towards that specific fantasy.

Battle for Azeroth… other than the cool troll and loa storyline…  has been a pretty hollow experience that I keep finding plenty of excuses not to return to.  Limiting my access to the one thing that did seem appealing…  which was farming transmog gear in older areas of the world…  really doesn’t help that desire to return.  However as a player, watching the game go down a path I have no interested in going…  I am mournful of the version of World of Warcraft that I did love.  I would love to see a complete change in attitude within the WoW team and a focus on the fun rather than frustrations.  However much like the fact that at 42 years old I am pretty set in my ways…  a game that is 14 years old is fairly doomed to keep traveling on the same heading.  As such I think this is another title that I can add to the list like Dark Age of Camelot and the original Everquest… that I remember fondly…  but have no desire at all to return to.


11 thoughts on “Fun Police: Portal Division

  1. I’m just throwing this out but one thing that keeps crossing my mind with all this is the similarity to the flying and land riding debates. Much of the talk revolves aound individuals and what makes it quicker or easier for the individual to do their individual thing.

    We have lost much of the interaction and community within the game and I dare say much of that is due to how we play. Porting point to point flying over every little thing that doesn’t interest us and so on. We only group when necessity demands it and then we barely even say hi to one another most times.

    I am one that has really enjoyed being grounded again and I often think back on the fond times in WoW when I would run into interesting things or people as I travelled the world. Much of that nostalgia heck the vast majority of it would neveer have had a chance to even present itself in the portal rish fly over everything game we have today.

    Maybe there is something in that for the change s we are seeing. Just a thought. <3

    • So this is absolutely true. However I present to you again the example of Final Fantasy XIV that has a way more cohesive community… but also has instant teleportation to practically any area in the world. It is also a game that goes out of its way to bribe players into doing things that are positive for the community, like putting items that people want behind a commendation system that allows you to reward a single player with your commendation upon completing any content. It is a game with both instant teleportation and flight, but also various areas of the world that are geared towards players collecting there even though there are fully fleshed out housing areas. Even with the housing though, there is a sense of community since it is in short supply… you tend to get to know your neighbors. There was a time period where we knew everyone in the houses around the one our Free Company owned, and regularly would do raid content with them for the fun of it.

      The problem is not the systems but instead the stewardship of the company building them.

      • I to play FFX!V and whilst I would have to agree there is more of a sense of community this is community is fostered by its systems and difficulty.

        The housing is a great example of this as it is smaller enclosed communities that you can’t help but bump into others as you come and go and the diversity of content therin often fosters communication of praise or interest.

        The portal system out in the general world really does impact the general life of the world as people often just swosh by and disapear. As a fresh player in FFXIV I see little difference.

        Where I do see the difference is in the design ideas that keep hubs and cities relevant and lively. I also noticed higher levelled players needing to traverse the “lowbie” lands quite regulary. Mind they never interact but one expects that of higher leveled players.

        This speaks to better evolved and richer sytems that WoW is indeed lacking. Most everything Blizzard has done is geared to making it easier for people to do just about anything on there own. I think they need to take a page out of Sq/enix’s book in that regard.

        Still I have to agree the stewardship of WoW has been poor and the state of the game does in general display that. How they can fix that is difficult to surmise but I think in making many of these changes they are trying.

  2. There’s a huge amount of difference between “gogogo” and travelling quickly for me. I hate travelling in MMOs. There’s a reason I bought the expensive epic flying upgrade in TBC on 3 or 4 toons and it cost me most of my money. There is no experience. I want to arrive at the destination and then enjoy my game. Not enjoy the damn scenery I am not interested in right now. I am interested if I quest there, not if it happens to be there.

  3. Well written.

    Some of these blue posts makes me so… they are out of touch.

    I can’t understand why removing portals is necessary. What’s the harm in keeping them.

    This will affect me too. I used to use the portal to Darnassus all the time. Then it became Ironforge. I just do not like the crowded Stormwind.

    But hey. Once we had no portals, right? I just feel as if the game has reached a point where spending a lot of time travelling is discouraging. But maybe I’m acting spoiled.

  4. One thing that just occurred to me is that as a long time player I have access to rings and tabbard’s that allow me to get most anywhere in the game quickly. If I happen to see in guild chat that someone that is leveling needs some help getting somewhere, I will, if I am not working on something, drop what I am doing and take a quick trip over to give them a ride, even running old content that is beyond easy for me while passing on all the loot. I am willing to do so because it is not inconvenient for me to get to where they are. Now that they are starting to consolidate the beginning point to a portal room, and are removing some such as Caverns of Time, I certainly may find myself replying to requests with a sorry, can’t help.

    Now Caverns of Time being removed does bring about some speculation. Why remove a portal that only took you to the entrance. There are not a lot of old quest chains that required you to go back, but it is a hub for occurrences that involve time travel. I wonder if there is something coming that will require us to go there and they are looking at establishing a new way to fit the story better.

  5. I think the issue here isn’t whether slow travel is good or bad. People will have widely varying opinions on that and it will vary game by game and era by era as well. No, the issue is whether removing options people have gotten used to and come to rely on is good or bad.

    Because players often don’t understand their own best interests very well, sometimes things they’ve become used to doing *do* need to be changed. The developers, with their access to metrics, may be able to see negative trends developing that could damage the game in the longer term. That’s something that happens relatively rarely and when it does there’s already usually a strong undercurrent of complaint amongst part of the playerbase *against* the bad habit.

    This change to portals doesn’t sound anything like that. It sounds much more like the thing we see all too often, which is a heavy-handed, unilateral response to something the dev team or even just a single dev does not personally approve of. Of course, there may be more to it than that. I don’t play WoW much so I’m not overly familiar with most of these places the portals go to. Is it even possible that the devs are actively seeking to reduce the use of those locations by making them more obscure and harder to get to? Perhaps with a view to removing them altogether at a future date, by when few will remember or care about them?

    Either way, I think taking options away from players is generally a bad idea and always a bad idea when those options are otherwise harmless to the health of the game. WoW hasn’t been about “the journey” for a very long time. Bit late to start reverse-energineering it now.
    bhagpuss recently posted..Here’s Where The Story EndsMy Profile

  6. I will add in that earlier in this expansion, perhaps even at launch, I forget when, they removed all of the capital portals from the Shrine and only left Org. So I was a bit annoyed by that because it was my secondary hearth to get places after New Dal.

    If they had come out and said we need to do this because we are working on something down the road. It may have been a little more palatable, and would have generated speculation on what could it be. The explanation they gave seemed almost scripted.

  7. I didn’t buy BoA until well after release. I played for maybe a month when i remembered I’d have to grind out flying AGAIN. Which is worse when coming back to WoW from FFXIV. I’ve been waiting for it to lure back like it always has, but as i said on twitter, they just keep pushing me further out. They clearly land on the side of the player base that thinks there’s vno place for casual players without an excess of spare time.
    Jess recently posted..The Case of The Cursed MittMy Profile

  8. Funny thing is, I often return to EQ and it’s a nice change of pace, soloing with a class, killing slowly, resting between. The not have to “go-go-go” spam ability fest of most MMOs. I log into p1999, find a quiet, safe corner, and grind out some mobs. It’s actually relaxing.
    Isey recently posted..The Other Side of the Coin : AnthemMy Profile

  9. In some cases I agree with the idea that hoofing it has its own charm. In UO I decides to not use runes to travel, so when I decided to leave my home in Vesper it was a Big Deal.

    But that was my decision. Removing options and forcing people to feel something that they might not feel (and feeling annoyed instead) makes no sense.

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