Patch 6.1 has landed for WOW. Unlike in the past it isn't a patch to put in another big raid but rather a big batch of random stuff. I actually really prefer it that raids are added between patches rather than rushing to fight new bosses at the same time as trying to sort out new mechanics and content. One thing that stands out is that Blizzard is determined to get us to play together while making it possible to totally ignore everybody else if we want to. They want us to see that we *can* play solo, but to group up anyway. I think this is a great idea from a marketing perspective because people stay in the game for their friends but they don't want to be "forced" to group up to do stuff.
One example of this is the addition of new ways to get heirloom gear. You can get tokens to upgrade heirloom gear by doing daily heroic dungeons and this is a good way to leverage people back into the heroic grind. The game is much smoother when the queue is jammed full of bodies so Blizzard needs to keep finding ways to make that happen. I don't have proper stats yet, but by my guesstimates the new tokens you get for upgrading are worth 300g per run in a heroic. That is a massive incentive for people to do a quick run even if they aren't getting relevant gear and for hardcore players who have a ton of heirloom gear for their alts it is an incentive that will last for months. Also the new heirloom vendor must have been a ridiculous gold sink in the first day he was active... I spent maybe 40k gold immediately and I could easily have dropped another 100k to finish upgrading all of my heirloom gear. I probably will spend that money over the course of this expansion and that is an enormous gold sink the likes of which has never been seen before.
The other thing that is an obvious kludge to get people to talk to other people is the rotating vendors. Each day there are five random vendors that are chosen and each garrison gets one of the five. You can visit friends' garrisons though so it is easy to get access to all five as long as you talk to some people. What this means is that people are going to be looking at each other's homes, seeing the monuments, looking at the great stuff other people have, and wanting it. It is a combination of building social bonds and giving people something they can work towards (or be envious about, if you are being cynical). It is a bit silly to have this set up instead of just having all five random vendors appear in each person's garrison but it will get people connected to some extent and that means cash in Blizzard's pocket.
It *works*. I talked to some random folks to give them the quest giver I had and got their stuff and had perfectly pleasant interactions. I am currently sitting in a pretty much dead guild so making a few connections and getting me into someone else's guild where I can collect some friends and start doing things with people is definitely going to extend my subscription. Blizzard's obvious tactics to keep me engaged are working. Which I don't mind, really, because the game is being a lot of fun. The semi casual experience where I grind up gear over a variety of low commitment techniques like cash, professions, Looking For Raid, dailies, and followers has tons to keep me occupied at all times and I don't even have to do progression raiding to fill my days.
Have I mentioned how much I love being a general who organizes missions for my followers, sets up their gear, and manages resources and priorities for an army? I love it. Instead of killing ten rats, I send my dorks out to kill ten rats. They level up, find cool stuff, get gear, and I feel like a commander instead of a peon. Well done Blizzard, well done.
Also I am looking for a guild that wants a middle aged former hardcore raider who probably wants to do some raiding again but who totally isn't in for four nights a week of committed hardcore raiding. More like I will show up sometimes and not stand in fire and hopefully my guild mates won't stand in fire either and we can beat up some enemies and gear up and have a good time. Also flexible raiding means that nobody has to be there all the time to make it work. Anyone on Vek'nilash server think that sounds like a good deal? If so, email me or reply to my recruiting post on the forums. Please be the sort of guild that isn't full of teenagers, religious fundamentalists, or drama between guild leaders. I would say been there, done that, but I haven't been there because I never want to do that.