There are so many levels to what went wrong it would be impossible to blame one person. It would be impossible for one person to fix it too. Ghostcrawler was a part of pushing the game towards greater homogenization, lowering the price of entry to gated content, and creating hard-mode vs casual-mode content.
At a glance, all of these things were initially pretty well received as evidenced by subscriber counts. Many of the traditional RPG mechanics in Vanilla/Burning Crusade sucked. Some classes were legitimately low standing citizens (not just specializations) and a lot of content wasn't being consumed by the majority of level-capped players (not even considering the people who weren't level capped). Arenas were receiving a lot of love for being new and running through the MLG circuit.
However, these concepts that were initially good for the game got pushed too far. Content is too cyclical now. Casual versions of raids reduce the perceived value of "hardcore raiders". In Vanilla/TBC there was constant need to run older raids and scaling was tight enough that people a tier behind didn't feel like they were in a different stratosphere. Classes have become too homogenized; their once defining characteristics feel so bland now. What is wrong with having flavor abilities to put on your hot bar? Nothing.
World of Warcraft got tipped too far in favor of streamlining content and classes, while reducing the need for its social systems. A lot of what has changed in World of Warcraft over the years come from designers acquiescing to the desires of vocal players (not us, but the casual majority). Most of the time, what people think they want, is not what's good for the game.
Blizzard needed to put their foot down and maintain the foundations of what made their game so good. But the profit model worked so well, there's no way you would convince the company to stray away from the status quo. A game of this scale really needs an authoritarian to make design decisions for the sake of the game, not the company's bottom line.
Edit: I'm sure there are tons of qualified people working at Blizzard. I'm also sure there are people already working/have worked there that are capable of making good design decisions. Making meaningful decisions requires too much clout. E.g. A PvP designer is never going to triumph over PvE rules, but PvE designers can never completely ignore PvP either. It's a mess and needs strong leadership to go anywhere.
SyiaMember Since 06 May 2008
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