I’ve been an iPhone owner for almost two months now and a World of Warcraft player for almost two years…sort of. I’ve actually been on and off WoW for a while, and most recently I started playing it again to check out the Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack.
In Lich King I felt that the grind from level 70 to 80 was significantly easier than from 60 to 70 in The Burning Crusade. The new dungeons all feel shorter, and this time I could fly at epic speed at level 77, making it much faster to get around for the final few levels. As for how much comparable experience points per level and number and size of zones in LK compared to BC, I’m sure someone more knowledgeable than I can tell you definitively in which expansion pack it was easiest to hit the respective level cap.
Assuming empirical tests could somehow prove the LK grind is about the same as the BC grind, then one could argue that being a more experienced WoW gamer this time around is the reason why it felt faster and easier to me to hit the new level cap. I’ve been told it actually is an easier grind in LK, but let’s just pretend their equal. So why was LK faster?
The actual reason hit me recently as I was trolling for apps on my iPhone. I was looking for an app that was similar to the free, in-game add-on called QuestHelper that tells you where to go and what to do to complete quests. I liked the idea of using waiting room time and other empty periods when I couldn’t do anything else to strategize. I couldn’t find anything, though to be honest I wasn’t expecting to, because you really need to be connected to the actual game to look up quests on your in-game map etc.
Anyway, it was in that moment in the, um, bathroom, that I recalled that I started using QuestHelper right at level 70 over a year go when I hit the BC level cap. Duh. No wonder the 70 to 80 grind was faster…it was the infamous QuestHelper.
But this got me thinking that an iPhone, essentially a mobile touch screen computer, could be a great resource for WoW players to do out-of-game research when they can’t get to their computers. And I don’t mean simply using websites such as Thottbot, Allakhazam, WoWarmory in Safari. Instead, we need applications for specific research purposes that require very little typing and don’t use the Safari browser.
Sure enough, some free apps do exist that are useful. The first one I found on the day I bought my iPhone was the Characters app. It is very similar to the WoWarmory in that it lets you look up your character sheets and check out your stats, gear, reputation and such.
A month ago I found Warcraft Chest, which allows you see what loot is available from dungeon bosses or available from PVP, reputation and special currency rewards. That was really interesting, because I could search through potential gear upgrades, something WoW players constantly think about.
Finally I found WoWTalent, an app that duplicates the talent tree builder for all classes and specs. It’s a little slow but it basically does what you’d expect and is a great use of the iPhone’s touch screen.
These gave me ideas for other apps that would appeal to WoW players.
This would an upgraded version of the existing Characters app that goes all the way and duplicates much of what the online WoWarmory already does, except not on a browser page but in a more intuitive touch screen interface that is optimized as an iPhone app. Searching for item upgrades in the Safari version of WoWarmory is tough on the iPhone, as the site simply isn’t built easy to use on a mobile screen. A true app would hopefully have much of the items and art assets loaded into an efficient database in the memory of the iPhone to minimize data pulls from the internet, but that might be a pipe dream (pun intended). The point is to have an interface that allows you to explore what you already have and then quickly suggest potential upgrades.
Taking this further, once you see an upgrade you like the app should, as WoWarmory.com does, tell you where to find the item whether it’s a boss drop, world drop, sold by a vendor or crafted. If appropriate it should have a link to an interactive map of the game world. If the item you want is crafted and in your profession, the app should go all the way and tell you where the recipe comes from and where to find reagents. If the upgrade is a reputation reward, it should show you your exiting rep with the required faction and if you are short, should provide a link to help you figure out what you can do to build that rep. For example, if you wanted the Dragonfriend Bracers that require Exalted status with The Wyrmrest Accord, the app should show you all the ways to get rep for it, such as the Dragonblight quests you haven’t completed already or estimates of the number of dungeon dailies you need to run if you have the Wymrest Tabard.
There are two additional features I’d include. The first is allowing you to research item enhancement upgrades including gems, armor kits, and enchants. The second would be to allow you to see class specific stats for items, such as how much DPS, threat or healing bonus it would translate into depending on your class, spec and stance. In the game Druids have an addon that allows them to quickly see how much feral DPS and bear mitigation an item has, often the deciding factor on choosing between items to equip.
This app alone implies potential other WoW apps. The first, iWoWmap, would be an interactive map like Google Maps of the game world with toggles for all kinds of information like flight points, predicted mob locations like on Allakhazam.com, mineral deposits, plants you can harvest, skinnable mobs and etc.
Already this is merging into another app, iWoWprofession, which in addition to interacting with iWoWmap would tell you all the recipes for a profession, material requirements, suggestions on where to go to find the materials, locations of trainers, info on key quests related to a profession and specializations.
Yes, this is a lot of integration to ask for. But think about how the iPhone has good integration between the Calendar, Phone, Contacts, Google Maps, Safari and other apps. Everything works together and shares data where it makes sense. This fantasy iWoWarmory should work like that, even if would have to be broken up over a suite of apps.
But why stop there?
Yes, there are many great websites that have detailed information on dungeon/raid strategies as well as thousands of YouTube videos that tell you how to do everything. Technically you can get to the same sites in Safari, but it would be really interesting be to have a Myst like point and click visual walkthrough of dungeons that explain trash mobs, loot, boss encounters and tips and tricks you need to know to optimize your raid experience. In more complicated situations, particularly the bosses, it should have popup links to short YouTube videos that explain finer points.
Now imagine iRaid had integration with an iGuild app that allowed you to simulate a dungeon run putting specific guild members in raid spots with their current gear sets. Now this would be a lot of item lookups and data crunching, but imagine if you could calculate average DPS, healing, threat and damage mitigation to simulate how encounters might go depending on the level/classes you pick with specific specs and gear.
We’re getting into the world of theoretical uber-nerdness, but if you are a hardcore raider and an own an iPhone, it would a compelling app. And if it’s easy to use, it would be interesting for even a casual player to mess around with. In fact, it would be a weird sort of stand alone simulation game like a mini real-time strategy game.
Simulating runs in an application external to the game, be it on a desktop or an iPhone, is pretty far fetched. Even if the simulator only took you through boss fights and showed you basic animations of what happens in a fight it would be interesting. It could show you what the raid needs to do at each moment depending on the group roster, something guild and raid leaders always want to know.
To be clear, WoW is doing just fine without these ridiculous fantasy iPhone apps. The question is, how many people who play WoW own an iPhone? I have no idea, but Blizzard is boasting 11.5+ million subscribers right now and we know Apple has already sold more iPhones. There has to be some overlap, right? Is it thousands of people? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?
Sure, many WoW players are in China and I don’t know how many of them own an iPhone, but at some point the worldwide WoW and iPhone user base overlap will be high enough that bits and pieces of my fantasy wowPhone agenda might make sense.
Hopefully apps like these would be a profitable business. I would suggest that compared to annual cost of playing WoW, paying an additional few dollars here and there for one time downloads of cool apps that help get more out of the game might not prevent many players from buying it. Another option is to make such apps free and supported by ads like many other iPhone apps are doing these days. Of course, if these apps were so amazing, perhaps Blizzard could commission them and make them a monthly subscription service? Hmm, that might be stretching it.
In any event, the iPhone represents interesting opportunities for Blizzard, as well as other publishers, to enhance the value of their game properties by extending aspects of them to the iPhone that are not mere iPhone versions of the actual game. The iPhone is a touch screen computer, not a gaming device like the PSP or DS that both have buttons for precise control under the game mechanics of traditional video games.
— Jeremy Miller
Jeremy Miller is founder of Strategic Game Consulting, a specialized company focused on helping video game industry clients create higher selling products though industry leading NPD data analysis, game accessibility consulting and individual and team Executive Coaching services.