I wouldn't call it "devaluing" so much as "critically evaluating the pros and cons." In fact, Dev's often value WoW too much (hence all the "WoW clones" that have popped up in the past 4+ years). If you think World of Warcraft's prime was anytime after Burning Crusade you are sadly mistaken and not looking at the big picture. I was never a supporter of the Arena system or a fan of the addition of Resilience. In fact, that is why I stopped PvPing for the majority of the Burning Crusade expansion (well, that and the god-awful class and team imbalances in Arena) despite grinding out Rank 12 under the original system Pre-2.0. Arena was the only way to get the best PvP gear; why should I be forced into Arena, where in some cases entire classes were barely viable in any sort of team composition, to get the gear I want when there were 4 Battlegrounds that still remained in the game. Furthermore, Resilience (Valor in Rift) ruined PvP by reducing it to a competition of "who can take the most time off of real life to get ahead of the curve, and then faceroll to victory because other players do a significantly less damage to me than I do to them."
While I have always agreed that players who put in significantly more time than other players should see rewards at an appropriately quicker pace, letting those rewards severely affect game balancing at any level of play should have been completely unacceptable. I'm going to get so much flak for this next sentence but here it goes anyway. PvP at the end of Vanilla WoW was the most balanced it has ever and will ever be. Bomb = dropped. It is sad but true, because while it was very easy to kill someone in a matter of seconds, every class could do it equally well, and do it equally well in both the Rank 14 gear (best PvP gear) or in the Naxx 40 gear (best PvE gear). Hunters had Scatter/Trap --> Aimed Shot, Warriors had Mortal Strike + Sword Spec ---> Hamstring spam. Mages had POM Pyro, Warlocks had a seemingly unbreakable combination of Fear and Death Coil chains while DoTs and Shadowbolts dropped you dead. I could go on, but I think the point has been made.
PvE gear granted you better stats (more hit and damage stats) but it lacked in granting you HP, which honestly made all the difference in most fights. As unbalanced as it seems, it was a flip of a coin as to who crit more abilities, and if those critical hits were on the right abilities. Using recent 40 man raid gear gave you the extra damage to overcome the disadvantage of you having comparably little health to someone in PvP gear. Using the Rank 14 gear granted you slightly more critical hit and a very sizable boost to your HP pool to overcome the disadvantage of doing less damage per attack/spell than those using the Naxx/AQ40 raid gear. So, it truly was a flip a coin, but last I checked a coin flip is still a 50/50 (even/fair) chance. I quit World of Warcraft completely after Wrath of the Lich King so my comments on Cataclysm are limited in PvP regards, but I remember seeing a thread that asked everyone's opinion on the top 5 or so overpowered abilities in Arena. Everybody's #1 was Smoke Bomb, and then the other 4 we primarily the same Rogue and Mage abilities if memory serves right. Giving so much powerful utility to so few classes is undeniably one of the most idiotic things that the game has ever done. When the outcome of an encounter is decided before the match has even begun, be it gear or class, it fails to maintain any "pros" and as such should be devalued or at minimum listed as a "con".
Furthermore, the quality of content has been unstable at best, there were 3 fights in all of Wrath of the Lich King that in my opinion were even remotely near the level of half the bosses in Naxx 40 and Sunwell Plateau. Yogg-Saron 0 Light, Trial of the Grand Crusader Anub'Arak, and Heroic Lich King. Sure, other bosses were interesting and had some redeeming qualities, but these were the only ones that seemed to retain the quality of the earlier raids. When the player interaction in an MMO has been degraded to a point where you hit a button and get automatically put into a severely toned down and nerfed raid encounter that is 100% doable by pounding your head on the keyboard, what is the purpose of it remaining an MMO? There is none, not when everyone has the mentality of "Hey I pay for and log on the game, where's my reward?" So this too, is a one of those "cons" and general devalued which a new developer would not try to imitate. After all, why bother making an MMO if it's basically a glorified single player game; right, because you could not get away with charging $15 a month for a single player game, and since it is 100% about turning profits now, why bother keeping quality of content and frequency of player-player interaction anything above the bare minimum of general acceptability. And I do say general acceptability because it is not acceptable by anyone that is sensible and looking in from the outside.
So, what were the main points a reader should have gotten out of this essay? Lets summarize:
- it is not so much devaluing WoW as it is critically thinking and evaluating the pros and cons on the larger scope of things
- gamers love the "eSport", but when the eSport is turned into a gear grind and comp/counter-comp, where having X amount of gear allows even mediocre players with Y team composition to ride those 2 factors to victory lane, it is not competitive; at least not as a "sport" is typically defined
- when the mentality and difficulty of the game shifts from that of needing community and player interaction to be successful, to being about oneself and doing activities in the game with minimal social interaction while still being able to remain successful in said game, it is no longer an MMO, but a glorified single player game
- when the game is governed solely by the question "How much money can I make/sucker people into paying off this idea," its way of doing things no longer has merit; that is not to say some things are not good or even great ideas, but it should first and foremost be about delivering the best experience possible
So what did the Guild Wars 2 devs do when they were critically evaluating other MMOs pros and cons?
They said, "Well, eSport gaming seems to be popular, so lets give them 5v5 objective based PvP; but, we don't believe gear should matter because it is no longer a battle of strategy and skill, but a battle of who nerds out in their mother's basement longer"
They said, "Leveling the most hated process in MMOs, because it is immensely stagnant, uninteresting, and involves doing the same archetype of quests, and it is required to reach max level before end-game can start. Lets take out the quest hubs, add NPCs that actively try to take over outposts or camps and make local dynamic events out of them, and let exploration of the world around you be as beneficial and rewarding as grinding NPC kills.
They said, "A lot of games have bland, non-intuitive UIs and and give players a lot of skills early on and that hurts the ease of access for new gamers to the genre. Lets allow a little customization, but lets make it so intuitive, simple to understand, and intelligently designed that you won't want to change a lot, if anything. Furthermore, lets not make the game about quantity of the skills, but the quality of the skill based on the situation; by gradually introducing new skills, weapons swapping, and utility/elite skills, it should ease the pain of trying to grasp everything at once right off the bat."
They said, "A lot of old-school gamers seemed to like world PvP, but most games fail to implement it well, if at all. It turns into either a gank fest during questing, or kill trading to complete dailies in the dedicated zones. Lets dedicated large worlds to solely this purpose, but make it resemble an ever changing war scenario. Supply lines that allow for fortress and tower upgrades, siege equipment for strategic anti-army, and siege attacks on fortified positions, and that add a different dynamic promoting both small and large group PvP, with the possibility of some epic sized faction battles that constantly vie for control of a neutral world.
They took a lot of the things that themselves and other people liked about a lot of different MMOs and said, "Lets take these pros, and make them 'pro-er'" The stuff that people didn't like, or they themselves thought were unacceptable, they either changed them to model their views, or left them out entirely during design. So no, I don't think Devs "devalue" WoW at all, in fact most idolize it and over-value it and see a WoW clone as the only way to make a successful (successful meaning raking in piles upon piles of money) is to give the people what they already know and (somehow) still love, more WoW. When in truth, if you make a badass game to begin with, it doesn't matter what game(s) it does or doesn't copy, word will spread and people will try it, and that's all you can do with an up-and-coming MMO, is draw people to it, and make sure the stuff that is there makes them stay.
Innovation will be what forces companies to stop developing and releasing the same old pile of shit with a new cover to disguise it. And it is the only way the genre will move forward as a whole. I'm just glad a company finally had the balls to go do it, and it looks like it will pay off greatly. Good show ArenaNet, good show.