Long-time players of World of Warcraft will have noticed fundamental changes in the way the game is handled.
I think this is because of changes in management and their vision of the use of the game as leverage for company value.
Indie versus "big label" ∞
So-called "indie" games have a completely different feel, not just in the game itself but in the way the developer/company interacts with its users.
Indie games are often cited as having a smaller user base. There's a closeness and responsiveness which is obviously impossible with a larger player base.
However, there's more to the situation than just a user base. There are fundamentally different approaches to pretty much everything.
It's not just a smaller user base which brings indie developers closer to their users, they are often hanging by a thread and /need/ to continuously work with users to appease them. Sometimes this is because there isn't the budget to complete a game without some income, and burning alpha-users would kill the game.
A label-game probably has a budget to complete the game and can think more long-term -- burning their early users in preference of long-term goals.
Blizzard isn't Blizzard ∞
Long-term goals become completely different at the big-label scope.
Indie games think about ideas, initial funding, critical reception, advertising, uniqueness and the like. Big-label games additionally worry about copyrights, patents, law suits, scaling, peripheral services. Small companies either don't have the resources or perhaps simply lack the awareness to think about large company problems.
When I say that Blizzard isn't Blizzard, I mean that their early concerns have changed into a new set of concerns. They've positioned themselves to look appealing to purchasers. Concerns stray away from the artist's ethics toward the perfect work into concerns about appearance on paper.
Blizzard Entertainment was purchased by Activision Blizzard some time ago. An argument could be made about how that could change things, but it's been stated that Blizzard "retained its autonomy and corporate leadership". I seriously doubt that, but instead think about what sorts of changes have to happen /before/ a purchase just to make the company more appealing.
Activision itself has been largely bought by the French company Vivendi. Starting at 61% ownership, it seems that Vivendi has been purchasing more since that initial time.
How a company looks on paper does influence the way things work in a company and the way games (and its users) are handled. There's a big difference between the indie, the funded-company and the bought-and-sold-multiple-times perspectives.
Changes to the game ∞
Here's where I get to shit all over WoW.
Nerfing the world
The whole game world got nerfed. Elites were removed, patrols were removed, packs were thinned out.
The whole game world got nerfed again. Aggro radius got changed, dismounting when running through mobs was reduced.
The whole game world got nerfed yet again. An expansion with expensive flying became an expansion where everyone could fly became an expansion where everyone could fly everywhere. This allows people to bypass content.
Quests were changed from being potentially-difficult, sometimes group quests, to being a hurdle in the way of racing to max. level.
Quests are becoming more and more vehicle quests, "playable cutscenes" and pushover wastes of time. I can understand some early quests being like that, just to help baby players.. hey wait, this game has swearing, violence, drugs and drinking in it.. it's not for kids.
Levelling used to be the game, and "end game" was a holding pattern for advanced players -- until the next expansion gets released.
It's since become entirely about end-game. The problem with doing this is the massive collision of garbage players who have been brought out from kindergarden into the university of end-game players.
Now all content that's created is all about end-game. Additional patches are just to appease the now-massive population trapped at end-game. Rep grinding of every sort, dailies, daily heroics/scenarios, LFR, raiding.. it's meant to never end.
Blizzard is even GIVING AWAY levels. People are now starting the game at level 80, and these clueless losers are pissing in the pool.
I am truly offended at the idea of a new expansion coming out and everything I've ever worked on and for gets thrown away. So I've archived my previous characters.
It's ridiculous that past content has not be made to scale up. This idea has already been tested with challenge-mode dungeons, where gear item level is scaled to a specific point. In these events, gear doesn't matter. Entire zones, quest lines or expansions could be made to do the same thing with gear and the effective-level of the character.
My needing to store my old characters means I've run out of character slots. I'll need to reroll on another server next expansion. I'd be forced to wave goodbye to my guild. Cross-realm works for some things, but it's inconvenient at best, and would need direct support from the game itself to actually work.
Pay to transfer characters? On top of paying for the game + all expansions to date and a new expansion which should be free, and a monthly fee which should be replaced by micro-transactions?
Back to the notion of 20% time. This is spending a bit of time on "other things". Cool ideas, fixing long-standing issues, making changes to old content and the like. This is a significant chunk of effort which can be redirected to shoring up the pseudo-bitrot of past content.
Where was I going?
I don't know.. I'm bored now, let's publish. Can't be any worse than the rest of the random crap out there..