World of Warcraft hasn't stayed on top of the MMORPG scene by resting on its laurels, and part of that success can be attributed to the transparency of Blizzard while delivering game-altering content. Blizzard has a long history of in-depth, meticulous patch notes accompanying most of World of Warcraft's updates, and players are usually given a number of weeks to prepare for changes. Oddly enough, however, one of the biggest changes to the world of Azeroth in recent memory was delivered in Patch 7.2 without anyone realizing it at first, as enemies now scale with players' item level.
In a post on World of Warcraft's official forum, a player suggested that enemies were scaling with people's item levels once they hit 110, the max level cap in the newest Legion expansion. This was noticed as a group of friends who were at drastically different points in gearing for the end-game observed the same enemies with different amounts of health while they were grinding. An official post from Watcher, World of Warcraft's Game Director, revealed that the players weren't just imagining things, and that Blizzard had a very real reason for sneaking the content into Path 7.2:
"It was not to be deceptive; we know it's impossible to hide a change from millions of players. But the system was meant to feel largely transparent and subtle, just like level-scaling does if you don't stop and really think about it, and so we did want players to first experience that change organically."
While it's odd that Blizzard felt the most transparent approach to a fundamental change to World of Warcraft was simply not telling the players about it, Watcher oddly has a point - World of Warcraft players, more than most, are notoriously resistant to change, and the development team clearly felt that fans would be unfairly dismissive of the change unless they played with it a bit first.
Watcher also took the time to explain the philosophy behind the change, which has, predictably, split the World of Warcraft community into groups supporting or decrying it. Watcher notably seemed very concerned that the end-game content in World of Warcraft was getting stale over time as people fell into the same routines that had been established in previous expansions, and part of that was because global enemies were trivial once a player had run a few raids at level cap:
"Our goal is basically to safeguard against the degenerate extreme...the intent of our change in 7.2 was to smooth out that progression curve a bit, not flatten it out, and certainly never to invert it. If you get a great set of item upgrades that make you 5% stronger, maybe the world gets 1-2% tougher. Perhaps instead of getting 400% stronger over the course of the expansion relative to the outdoor world, you only get 250% stronger."
It seems like Blizzard is being careful not to invalidate the amount of time World of Warcraft's players spend gearing themselves, and the developer is making an attempt to still preserve some of the over-powered feel that comes with having elite weapons in the MMORPG. Still, it's a massive change to the way Blizzard is approaching World of Warcraft's end-game, and it will be interesting to observe over the next few weeks how players ultimately respond to such a dramatic change.
World of Warcraft: Legion is available now for PC and Mac.