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Failure, Challenge, and the Decline of WoW

October 6, 2011

This essay is a collaboration between Wowhead CM Perculia and guest poster Hamlet. Hamlet has been raiding since 2005, and is best known as the author of several Druid guides on Elitist Jerks. He can currently be found on Twitter at @HamletEJ.

Update: Their replies to comments can be found here and here.

Introduction

If a game asks nothing of its players, what’s left of it as a game? It’s a harsh question, but it’s also the most informative lens through which to examine WoW’s current problem. Somewhere along the way, WoW has betrayed the spirit of games, by abandoning the fundamental concept of applying oneself to overcome challenges.

While we were writing this post, Blizzard implemented nerfs to the Firelands content, causing a newly invigorated furor over the appropriate difficulty level of the raiding game. The ideas we’re writing about though have been brewing for much longer, and if anything, we worry that the timing of this post will make it look like an obvious or even trite rehash of the WoW news item of the week. What we hope to express, however, are thoughts on the direction the whole game has been taking for a much longer period of time, at all levels of play.

We can’t talk about this without cutting through a number of well-worn forum tropes, none of which we find informative on any point: “casual vs. hardcore,” “risk vs. reward,” “people want to see all the content,” “raiding is easy” (that one could merit an equal-length post all on its own), and all the others you’ve seen. Let’s simply look at how WoW gives any individual player their perception of progress as they continue to play the game. The players’ perceived progress is the beating heart of the MMO experience. No matter what walk of WoW life you’re in, you log in hoping to add something to your character sheet before you log out again, something tangible when you log in the next time. Though the reward mechanisms vary between low-level and max-level WoW, they all exhibit the same pattern: rewards have become increasingly detached from the player’s ability to overcome challenges.

Background: Yin and Yang

“Games” covers an enormous breadth of media. They can involve one player or more, cooperatively or competitively. They can have a clear end point and a winner (StarCraft, chess) or not (SimCity, World of Warcraft). In all cases though, what defines it as a game, as opposed to a passive medium such as film, is that the player makes choices in an attempt to reach goals. Those goals can be set by the game, by other players, or by the player himself, but in some manner the way the he plays influences whether he reaches them. And yes, sometimes he fails. His StarCraft plans are outsmarted by his opponent and crushed, his SimCity collapses into depression, or his WoW character is overwhelmed and dies. A point to be emphasized early on is that it’s very hard to imagine a meaningful game which is devoid of at least occasional failures. Any chess player will tell you that losing games teaches you far more than winning them. In the case of single-player computer games, nothing makes a game so irrevocably boring as to realize that nothing has a chance of killing you anymore.

RPG’s in particular are driven by the twin engines of progression through content and improvement of your character’s abilities. These are the yin and yang of WoW. Each brings about the other, and conversely, neither is possible without the other working in counterpoint. And when either is missing, the game stops. Steady progression through content rewards the player with commensurate bonuses to her character sheet, and those increases to the character’s power level allow for further progression into increasingly difficult content (without requiring any sudden jumps in player skill). The bulk of this essay discusses how modern WoW has broken away from this bedrock, detaching progress and upgrades from each other. In doing so, they have ousted the player from his position at the helm of his own gaming experience.

The Raiding Game: Progress and Reward

In low-level WoW, progress is given by experience points. This singlehandedly solves the need for tangible rewards from a play session, no matter what activities you take part in. The problems with the low-level game will be discussed below. Once you reach the level cap, however, that all-encompassing incentive vanishes, and the designers are challenged with providing the player an incentive and reward structure to participate in various activities. The first major point is that gear is the only mode of actual improvement of your character. We’re going to put side cosmetic rewards and achievements for now, because they’re a side activity that each player values according to her own idiosyncrasies, but they don’t tie into the underlying RPG engine described above.

Then: If at First You Don’t Succeed

On the scale of one individual player, there is an ideal, natural method for gameplay to progress. That player should master a piece of content, obtain gear for doing so (generally by farming the content for some amount of time) and take her newly improved character to the next piece of content. Each iteration flows from the last in a robust, continuous, organic, RPG advancement. The player has a meaningful investment in the character that grows over time because each step was tied to the last. One point that’s not initially obvious, but which winds up being absolutely critical: after enough cycles of that process, the player finds that something truly magical has occurred. She has learned to play the game better than when she started. That improvement is a slow, inconsistent, and invisible process. But all readers (and there are still some of you out there) who at one point struggled at Magmadar only later to kill C’Thun, Illidan, and The Lich King need no further proof that somewhere along the way, somehow, they got better at WoW.

WoW raiding in years past was far from perfect, but here we want to talk about what it did right. Even though the class balance, encounter design, and surrounding aspects of the game (e.g. consumables) were not up to today’s standards, the game allowed for deeply rewarding experiences because it remained true to the above ideal. Raiding in The Burning Crusade provided a perfectly good example. Freshly capped characters could run Karazhan, Gruul’s Lair, and Magtheridon’s Lair—easy, entry-level instances (putting aside the initial tuning difficulties those fights had, which are irrelevant here). Raiding the next tier, Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep, required completing some or all of the first tier (initially by attunements, and later simply due to gear requirements—again, details of the implementation are not critical). What matters is that SSC and TK were “open” long before the vast majority of players were done with the starting tier, and each each player (with her guild) was able to move into those zones at a time determined by one factor: when she was ready.

Whether the player was ready was determined by a variety of factors: how much gear she had from the prior tier and how strong her raiding fundamentals were, most importantly. Notably, back then, relevant gear from the boss came from the previous tier (not from 5-mans), and conveniently, farming more gear also caused players to practice their raid skills. She found out whether she was ready for the new boss in a simple way, by attempting it with her raid team. This process required some effort from the players involved, and may have been frustrating at times. But what we want to emphasize is that it was genuine. Bosses provided a ladder of progression, and you prepared as much as you needed in each rung to ascend to the next. Ascension was determined by merit only: the player could kill the next boss or she couldn’t. Some people might need more gear than others, or more time building their skills on easier bosses. Some groups may kill a new boss earlier simply by having the drive to attempt it for longer. In any case, it was always there waiting for her to either kill it, or not. And for that reason, and that reason alone, when she killed it, it meant something.

And if she didn’t kill it? That meant something too. It meant she had to figure out how to improve in one or all of the above ways. How she went about it was up to her and her guild, but when the next tier was up for grabs as soon as they were ready to claim it, there was no incentive but to try to find a way there. This wasn’t even a state of failure—after all, there was always an upcoming boss yet to be killed (unless you were in a tiny minority). It was simply the order of things, and any given time, the goal was use what you had in term of gear and skills to take another step forward. The player described here was having a true gaming experience: each goal was attained whenever she found a way to reach it.

Now: Success, on Schedule

We come now to the thrust of this section: how the current system fails so completely to create anything approaching what’s described in the last paragraph. Our focus here is the lower-end raider, the one who takes some time to work through Normal bosses with his guild, and who is intimidated by Heroic bosses long after the mythical uber-guilds have killed them, and for whom the final Heroic boss of each tier may even be a pipe dream. How can we describe this player’s RPG progression, in the context of the above discussion? New content comes and he clears partway through before it becomes difficult. He gets gear, mostly by running 5-mans for Valor Points every day, time spent not practicing raid encounters with his raiding team. Gear acquisition is steady but slow, mostly unrelated to progression through the content (first red flag). Eventually the content is significantly nerfed, allowing him to suddenly complete some more bosses, progressing through content for no reason related to either character strength or player skill (second red flag). The kicker, though, is what happens when a patch hits and the whole system is blown out of the water.

New content arrives. Valor points now give gear commensurate with the new raid content. The player has a steady income of this new gear from clearing 5-mans and/or older content (now nerfed with extreme prejudice). He jumps into the new content, regardless of where he was in the prior content, what gear he has, or how good he is. He gets new gear steadily, regardless of his ability to master any part of the new content, and certainly without having to master anything more difficult than what he’s done before. In initial 4.3 Valor Point announcements, Blizzard stated that Tier 13 set items would not be obtainable from Valor Points, a hint of a welcome reversal that proved to be a red herring: later announcements clarified that VP can now buy T13-equivalent gear in nearly every slot. Yin and yang have unraveled at both ends—progression and reward neither feed each other nor even pay attention to each other. The player plods along getting gear and seeing content, both at a predetermined rate. And the saddest part of all is what’s not in this picture: nowhere is it the slightest bit relevant whether, from one tier to the next, he improved at the game.

Summary: Heroes No More

It should now be clear how vastly different these two worlds of older WoW and current WoW are. In the former game, the player experienced a game that was ongoing and natural, and most importantly, honest. At each step she succeeded or failed, and consequences flowed from that. She was Theseus, using whatever resources were available to overcome each foe. In the current game, without the chance of success or failure, there is no such drama. Blizzard, in their wisdom, have sought to protect the player from the dreaded nightmare of his own failure. In doing so, they have turned him into Sisyphus: proceeding along ever upwards, but with no ability to influence his own fate.

The Low-level Game: From Quest Progress to Progress Quest

Below max level, WoW is a different game. This is actually the game the majority of players play, and in particular it is of paramount importance to Blizzard, who has to draw new players in perpetually. The problems discussed so far are particular to the raiding game, but we find that low-level players are ultimately subject to the same fate. They have been overwhelmingly sheltered from that green-eyed monster: failure. And the result is the same. Without a chance of failure, there is no challenge. Without challenge, all that is left is a hollow shell that once contained the essence of a meaningful game.

New Cataclysm Quests: Grey and Green

A controversial aspect of Cataclysm was the decision to revamp the level 1-60 questing experience in Azeroth. This new questing experience streamlined the flow of many zones, and in the process, heightened faction tensions and killed off beloved characters. Each zone now provided properly-itemized rewards for all classes, questlines that logically progressed, and minor conveniences such as additional flight paths and mailboxes. These changes were helpful and allowed players to quest without irrelevant distractions. Each zone traces several relevant lore figures with unexpected twists, even in the starting zones, providing an effective narrative as well as decent rewards. The revamp was handled well, except for one part: the XP curve.

This new leveling content is touted as one of the most important parts of the expansion. Players won’t be experiencing it, though, if they take advantage of any XP bonus. Heirlooms (helm, chest, cape, shoulders), guild perks, and zone-wide or holiday buffs are utilized by most players. Gathering nodes provide experience boosts that quickly add up over time, as does Archaeology. Taking a break from questing to run any dungeon or participate in PvP will find the player several levels higher with a mix of grey and green quests in his log. Even without doing any of these, players so far outstrip the quest curve that it’s difficult to complete zones properly. Because of Blizzard’s zeal to make absolutely sure no player following the scripted path will ever manage to encounter a quest that’s even slightly above level, the new zones can’t even be experienced in full without becoming trivial and pointless. The fear of challenge is so extreme that it ruins the content.

Combat: God Mode, or Deal with the Devil?

Even if a player is missing some appropriate-level gear after skipping a few zones, it hardly matters: combat is much more forgiving in Cataclysm. A player wearing imperfect gear and using subpar skills/talents will still not struggle to kill outdoor mobs, and even this is a huge understatement. Better to say, a player wearing a complete mishmash of gear and using clueless skills/talents can pull a large group of outdoor mobs, haplessly slaughter them, and come away completely unscathed.

While instances currently serve as a vehicle to quickly obtain rare-quality loot and complete quests for large amounts of experience, before the addition of LFD, clearing instances with an at-level group required additional amounts of planning. Wailing Caverns and Sunken Temple had additional confusing wings. Deadmines required players to navigate a maze of Defias even before stepping foot in the instance. Everyone has fond memories of aggroing too many trolls on the Zul’Farrak stairs. Something as simple as removing keys from several instances demonstrates how expectations have changed for low-level characters. Instead of preparing for an instance and then learning how to do it better each time, there is now only one requirement for the accelerated rewards given by dungeons: show up.

Two iconic quest chains were removed in Cataclysm: the Hunter and Priest class quests for Rhok’delar and Benediction, respectively. While it may be argued that the removal of these quests was simply an unfortunate casualty of reworked zones, the loss of quests forcing players to sharpen their playstyles has deeper repercussions, than say, wondering where Nibsy the Almighty has gone. These quests presented players with meaningful failure. Priests aiding Eris Havenfire were forced to wait 15 minutes in between failed attempts, and their failure was broadcast throughout Eastern Kingdoms with a yell. Hunters, after being defeated, were unable to fight the same demon again for several hours. This type of failure forced players to read up on strategies, min/max even on solo content, and learn patience. Compare this to current legendaries, which are acquired in roughly the same way as the Molten Front title. Show up daily for several weeks, receive weapon components from ordinary Normal-mode bosses, and have your diligence rewarded with much fanfare.

The cycle of mindless leveling leads to monotony and stagnation, where success and failure are measured in terms of hitting max-level quickly with the proper heroic-level accoutrement, instead of learning how to master a character. Leveling is not an meaningful process for many, but rather an accelerated experience for alts. After a player has finished grinding out Valor Point gear on his main, they are encouraged to buy some BoA gear and repeat the process on an alt while waiting for the newest round of raid nerfs. Much can be written about the evils of maintaining a bevy of alts, but the relevant part is that repeatedly rushing through leveling to endlessly grind Valor Points on each new alt has become the expected mode of progress for many players.

It is tempting to react cheerfully to every new announcement that makes things superficially easier: nerfed content, better epics, a new quest hub with vanity items. Players who are overwhelmed by the large amounts of required daily grinds outside of raiding are only too happy for some temporary relief. But it is important to note that these short-term changes are a result of the game’s current environment: if the existing situation were different, these drastic changes would not be needed. While many view heirlooms as a convenience and may find this section perplexing, it’s really the same principle as the problems with Valor Points: immediate benefits mask long-term problems. It’s a Faustian bargain, where characters easily gain impermanent power at the expense of genuine player knowledge, in a vicious unsustainable cycle.

A Look Back and a Look Forward: Ah, Fresh Meat

The best piece of low-level content ever created by Blizzard is found not in current WoW, nor even in old WoW, but 15 years ago in Diablo. The Butcher.

Every NPC in town warns you about The Butcher before your first trip into the dungeon. In case you didn’t bother talking to them, just outside the dungeon entrance you find the previous adventurer who tried to delve in, bloody and dying. Before killing your first mob, a villain is set up. The first half hour of dungeon crawling goes by uneventfully. But somewhere on the second level down, starting to get a little comfortable with your level 4 character, you come upon a small square room completely covered with blood. Maybe you remember the warning, maybe you didn’t, but in either case, it’s your first time playing and you want to know what’s in there, so you open the door. And you get Butchered.

This experience is hard to convey in text to people who’ve never played Diablo. Ask anyone who has if they remember their first time being killed by him. It’s sudden, surprising, and scary. It’s probably your first character death. He does a huge amount of damage, stuns you, and holds you in melee range. He has a loud yell the moment you open the door, an elaborate bloody apron, and a ridiculously-sized cleaver. You’re mostly likely dead before you take in everything that’s happening. And for some reason, it’s the one moment that makes everyone’s eyes briefly glass over in nostalgia.

Thinking back on this now, especially in juxtaposition with the WoW changes described in the previous section, one thought keeps returning to us: they would never do this today. When it happened to Diablo players in 1996, we laughed, we said “this game is great,” and we resurrected in town. Some people tried it again, maybe with a friend or two. Others left the door of that square red room firmly shut until they’d gained a few more levels. But for all of these people, it brought the whole game to life. And in the world where any chance of player death is eschewed (it’s all too easy to imagine an executive saying, “if you let the player die, it’s just a chance for him to log out and go back to FarmVille”), a new generation of players are protected from ever having that experience.

Similar events have happened on a smaller scale within WoW itself. Perhaps some veterans reading this once had a Hogger experience that’s reminiscent of the above. In all cases, we hate to see the richest and most memorable moments ironed out in the name of the perfectly smooth, straightforward gaming experience. But events that are unexpected, unusual, or or otherwise “imperfect” prevent the game from being sterile. When the game is too perfect, each quest leading to another that you know in advance won’t present any new challenge, you can follow directions and go through the motions as much as you like, but nothing will ever stand out or be remembered.

So where do we go from here? WoW has been amazingly successful at attracting people who have no background in older games like Diablo, instead often coming from free-to-play or casual games. Each of these new players has decided to spend $15 per month on a game (including those stepping up from free-to-play WoW), and as gamers, we want to welcome them. But as gamers, we also know that bringing new people into the nascent gaming culture isn’t a mere matter of having them pay money to Blizzard: what we want is for former nongamers to care about games, experience gaming moments like many that we’ve described here, and move on to other games once they’re done with WoW. If WoW walked the middle ground between the Diablo player’s experience and the FarmVille player’s comfort zone, it might be able to accomplish this, thus truly enriching the gaming community. But moving WoW all the way to the latter end of that spectrum is the easy way out, achieving nothing in the long run. WoW gets the immediate rush of players, but those new subscribers haven’t actually made any lasting jump into the world of games. WoW got their immediate business by compromising whatever was necessary to do so, and we’ve all come along for the ride.

Conclusion: An Exhortation

Without darkness, we cannot know the light. True in games as it is in life. Without the chance of failure, there is no chance of success. Failure, in current WoW, has been twisted beyond recognition as the game becomes an unsophisticated to-do list: failure to cap Valor Points, failure to level an alt quickly, failure to receive loot from a PuG clear. And it can all simply be remedied by logging on another day. The rewards from Valor Points will improve, alts will plow through a few more identical quests, raid content will be nerfed. There is no constructive and useful failure that pushes you to think about how you play the game. And the hidden casualty is even more painful: there are no moments of true victory.

In the end, the only thing players of all types can do is send a message to Blizzard. And the message we exhort you to send is: you have some pride. In order to make a game for you, they do not need to coddle you and make it impossible for you to fail. You are not children who will take your ball and go home at the first whiff of difficulty. You do not want a game which gives you rewards without asking anything of you, stripping them of all meaning. You’re not blindly appeased by content nerfs that give an empty veneer of success. If that’s not who you are, tell them. Tell them on the forums, in feedback on changes to WoW, or by exploring the fulfillment other games can give you. Because if you don’t, they will continue to treat you like the kind of player who needs to be sheltered at every moment. And you will wake up one day and find that, in your name, they have sold the soul of WoW.

91 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011 9:22 am

    This is a woefully inadequate reply to something so intelligent and thought-provoking, but it has to be said.

    MMM, FRESH MEAT

  2. October 6, 2011 9:48 am

    I do not want to go back to the days when guilds were stratified by their content tier. Progression wasn’t just marked as moving through instances, but as moving through guilds.

  3. Nikki permalink
    October 6, 2011 10:24 am

    I cancelled my subscription to wow a few weeks ago, (incidentally citing identical reasons to Hamlet). I had realised I wasn’t enjoying either the game or many of the player-base any longer but couldn’t quite isolate specific reasons. I think you have accurately explained my dissatisfaction with the game in general.
    Looking forward to reading more interesting articles in the future.

  4. Erorus permalink
    October 6, 2011 10:30 am

    Excellent post. Expresses the feelings I’ve had, moving through the content from BC to Cata. I hope folks from Blizzard see this and read it critically.

  5. October 6, 2011 10:55 am

    Simply amazing writing that gets at the heart of the dissatisfaction that many are feeling, even if they are not sure why. Just really great stuff guys, thank you!

  6. October 6, 2011 10:59 am

    There are few words that need to be said that you haven’t already covered here. But the game continues to be frustrating and less fun as time goes on. I will see this expansion through to the end, but I will likely take my money elsewhere when the time comes. Eloquently written and definitely worth the read.

  7. Esoth permalink
    October 6, 2011 11:30 am

    This is a very well written overview of the complaints and anxieties I think the majority of the raiding community has. It could not have been written by two more intelligent members of the WoW community. It’s also nice to read it without the usual vitriol and macho posturing of the BB!

    That said, I think you under sell some of the challenges that ARE present in the game. At least in heroics, I thought the progression through T11 (especially) and T12 was challenging and rewarding (ignoring this latest nerf to T12 heroics which is a huge disaster). T11 heroic in particular had a fantastic leveling curve where they didn’t simply throw a few medium/easy bosses at you followed by one ridiculously hard boss like they are wont to do. I’m trying to think of the other tiers like this since vanilla, when I started playing – Ulduar was probably the closest. Maybe Sunwell.

    The problem is, as I think you would agree, they subvert their own challenges. They constantly move the goal posts closer to you as you move towards them, and the reward is exponentially diminished as this happens unless you can get there before they start moving – and even then it all feels vain. Their subversion this expansion is some of the usual: a heroic/normal split disincentivizes progression by providing a safety net. Guilds stagnate by falling into a conveniently placed groove that lets them not have to improve, so that even the patient members who want to improve and are willing to do so slowly have to simply leave guild to improve at all. Excessive VP/5man gear diminishes the rewards from raiding, thus diminishing raiding (read: the challenge). Gear is reset every tier instead of every xpac. And then you get the especially egregious T12 nerf while it is still relevant, setting a horrifying precedent.

    But I think all of that shows that despite its age they can and DO still make content that is appropriately challenging. They just subvert their own efforts.

  8. October 6, 2011 11:49 am

    @Zararylnda,

    I understand where you are coming from. I had to make some hard choices during tBC, but if that is the price of true progression then I think its a necessary evil.

  9. October 6, 2011 12:06 pm

    The sentiments are similar to ones that I’ve written about (though not as well as it’s been written here). Excellent piece overall.

  10. October 6, 2011 12:17 pm

    Well written, and captures the feelings I had about the recent round of nerfs and the balance of PVE content lately in general.

  11. October 6, 2011 12:50 pm

    A few things.

    You have this fundamental premise, that things shouldn’t be nerfed. That premise is not the holy grail of gaming – it’s simply your viewpoint. The hard facts are that games are meant to be one thing – fun. That’s why they’re games.

    Clearing outdated content by virtue of gear rather than skill isn’t new. People still farmed Molten Core for Sulfuras and Thunderfury after Illidan had gone down, and to be fair – those legendaries were layered behind just as much RNG and farming as every other orange item in the game.

    “T13 equivalent” is inaccurate, knowing that 2-pc and 4-pc bonuses are worth 200 & 400 EP.

    Levelling content is fine. Blizzard used to force players to experience it via quests, but now they have a choice. That they choose the “RP-inappropriate” route that’s different from how you did it back in your day doesn’t make a difference. Arguably, LFD and Random BGs do far more to prepare a player for endgame content than levelling via fetch quests (even in Wrath or BC) could ever do.

    I find the theme that content is no longer challenging to be disingenuous, at best. Current Tier Heroic raids have proven to be quite challenging for much of the playerbase. Unless you’ve been able to clear that content prior to the nerf, I have to wonder what case you truly have.

    Quite honestly, you’ve thought so much about this that you forgot to zoom out and look at it from an overall perspective. Getting better at a game isn’t the point – we all have our natural innate skillcaps. The point is to have fun. For many, that fun is derived from challenges and getting better.

    But to be blunt, the message that comes across here is, “I did Light of Dawn back in 3.3, and I can’t stand these guys that go back now in L85 epic gear and get it – no class, no talent.” Accusations aside, it’s difficult to divorce your message from an underlying bitterness at no longer having a tangible distinction between yourself and newer players. In laymans terms, this seems rather elitist.

  12. October 6, 2011 1:06 pm

    @Stede: It’s pretty embarrassing to me that you would read elitism into this. It shows a predisposition to be biased against hardcore players. No one here is mad that level 80 content is easy at 85–that’s a natural part of game evolution.

    To clarify, the argument would have been that the Butcher was easy at max level–had they been arguing that. They didn’t argue that whatsoever.

  13. Simca permalink
    October 6, 2011 1:08 pm

    There are some good points made here, but overall I feel that you are not considering all perspectives.

    There are actually (believe it or not) gamers who are bad and get frustrated when they lose. These are the type of people who simply quit Diablo 1 after being killed by the Butcher and said to themselves “Wow, this game is dumb”.

    At the end of the day, I think Blizzard cares very little about the forums and the internet opinion. They’ve realized that the majority of people who pay for their game will never read a WoW forum nor communicate their concerns in any meaningful way.

    I think the shift in WoW towards more ‘player successes’ is motivated by an increasingly large number of what I like to call easily frustrated gamers. These types of gamers are what drives Blizzard’s subscription numbers… you and other intelligent and persistent gamers are nice, but you aren’t a large enough demographic to have the game shaped around you.

    To me, the reasoning is quite obvious. If Blizzard was really only interested in making money (as if that was some kind of sin for a company), they would cater to the largest amount of player demands. Therefore, if hardcore raiders such as yourself started quitting in droves, they would quite obviously shift the game direction to cater to you because it would increase the amount of money they are making.

    However, Blizzard has not shifted the game direction towards the hardcore playerbase, but continuously streamlined the game and made improvements for more casual players. Obviously, with their profit margins increasing (despite the subscription drop), they are making the right choices as a company.

    I don’t know how to change the course of the game, but I don’t think ranting at Blizzard will have much effect at all if any. You need to somehow reach the group of easily frustrated gamers causing the problem and convince them to not be so easily frustrated. That is a task I think is impossible.

    Welcome to the future of gaming as it becomes more mainstream. Consider all perspectives.

  14. October 6, 2011 1:22 pm

    The points expressed in this post are well heard and I think apply to a majority of those who will read it. In the post I wrote closing out my longtime raiding guild I expressed that the introduction of the normal/heroic model coupled with “gear resets” has effectively left a chasm in the raiding game.

    On one end you have the the folks that are perfectly happy clearing through normal at their own pace, nerfs or not, satisfied with whatever the game gives them. On the other side you have the very hardcore. The folks that expect excellence, strive to defeat heroic content as quickly as possible, and more often than not finish a tier before any nerf affects them (tier 12 aside).

    However, challenge and reward does exist in the game, but instead of the player taking the game and going through it at their pace, Blizzard has determined what is an “acceptable” pace (nerfs come according to that scale) to keep the game accessible and fun for many gaming demographics. It was clear at the end of Vanilla they were dissatisfied with Naxxaramas (ditto for Sunwell) because of their extreme difficulty.

    I think the question the community should ask themselves is if the game’s current state is actually because Blizzard -did- listen to their requests. Guilds were upset that they had to run “old content” to get players up to speed. Players complained that the random-nature of loot resulted in gear holes they couldn’t fill. When guilds couldn’t get to the finish line before an expansion some were upset they never got to see “the end” and that the commitment needed to see the major lore figures play out was not possible.

    I can go both ways in this discussion, as I’m satisfied with the raid game currently, but yet the original structure is what I fell in love with 5 years ago. I think the player-base tends to want what is convenient for them at the current time, and in an MMO setting that is constantly evolving (mostly to the player’s needs/demands), is that ever actually possible?

    If Blizzard decides to go back to the Burning Crusade model where you have to complete a raid tier to move on to the next one, will guilds tolerate being behind the curve 1, 2, maybe 3 tiers? How do heroic modes play into that, if at all?

  15. October 6, 2011 2:01 pm

    I have been playing wow only since Cata came out. I have only downed the first bosses in BWD and BOT and have a toon with an I-level of about 362. With that said, I find it very frustrating to down raid content. Unless you are in a “top” guild and one of an “elite” level of player you dont get taken along on raids. I just joined a guild that I thought was an improvement we are unable to down anyting more than Firelands trash and I’m pulling high DPS. I think the raid finder is a good first step toward helping people like me “finish” raid content. But the other thing that needs to be done is to allow Guild mergers without any loss in reputation. There are people stuck in guilds unwilling to lose their rep that have lost “critical mass” to field a guild raid group. As a result Guilds are no longer able to server as the vehicle to down that content on a consistent basis.

    I found it hard to believe when members of my new guild described when the guild by itself would achieve “for the horde” runs to each Alliance city and field raids of 40 people 4-5 times a week with people waiting to get into them. Now we can barely get 10 to do Firelands.

    There should be more ways implemented to facilitate people who wish to raid. Gear should be a little easier to get or craft. Heck I’m a Hunter and may never get better than a 346 Helm unless I can down some of the tougher bosses or switch profession to craft one as an engineer!

  16. Random guy permalink
    October 6, 2011 2:43 pm

    I find it somewhat funny the logic that Blizzard follows regarding experimenting their raid content.

    They’ve stated in the past that it was necessary to make sure people could immediately and easily get into the current raiding tear, regardless of their previous progression. Due to the amount of development resources that go into this type of content, it makes sense that Blizzard wants to make it as avaiable as possible to everyone.

    However, this has two folded results, at least in my experience. In BC, I experienced the lower end raiding (Gruul, Mag, Karazhan and ZA), some of the mid tier (BT and Hyjal) and nearly nothing of the end raid (Sunwell). In Cata, having recently returned to the game, I’ve only experienced the current raid: Firelands and never bothered to learn or attempt BWD, T4W or BoT. There’s simply no reason to. In 391 gear, that content, specially after the nerfs, would prove trivial and offer no reward (so it’s pointless in both spectrums – not rewarding to make me a better player, not rewarding me with better gear).

    So the previous “exclusive” model – again, to me – ensured that I experienced maybe 80% of the content, with an always present sense of progression and challenge. The new “inclusive” model, has me experiencing 25% of the raid content (less, if you count the fact I’ve never killed the first boss in BH, because people don’t bother to).

  17. Erorus permalink
    October 6, 2011 2:51 pm

    @Simca: “Welcome to the future of gaming as it becomes more mainstream. Consider all perspectives.”

    You can make a good game (as far as enjoyment and artistic fulfillment), and you can make a game that many folks want to play. The best development teams can score well on both metrics. It feels like the WoW dev team sacrificed some good gameplay to increase the number of people who want to play.

    The dollar isn’t everything. Eyeballs aren’t even everything. Sometimes the very best stuff is appreciated by few, but it’s still worth keeping the very best instead of diluting it so everyone tolerates it. For example, many more millions of people watch Desperate Housewives or Grey’s Anatomy than those who watched Firefly, Arrested Development, Rome, or Kings. That doesn’t mean those latter shows were worse, just that their focus was more specific, and turned out a better product in some eyes, even though not everyone appreciated it. I feel this article speaks to how WoW changed a bit for the worse, perhaps just to keep the dollars rolling in.

  18. October 6, 2011 3:30 pm

    Does my casual fun-times guild count as being “mythical” just because we beat the game before the new tier comes out?

    I would find it kind of insulting if I were in a mid-range guild and read your post, all the struggles of getting through Heroic T11 and T12 glossed over as meaningless and “on-schedule”. Cataclysm has had the best raid content in the entire MMO industry in the past 12 years (something BC couldn’t claim even in its prime), its raids are seriously good. It’s also quite difficult, and mid-range and top-end guilds alike are still improving all the time. Heroic T11 didn’t pull any punches, you had to fight pretty hard to get anywhere at all, and fight we did.

    When my guild first looked at T11 Heroics, some of the things we theorycrafted had never been done before, in my 11 years of raiding. Learning how to perform an Ace Clover or a Skipover or a Cutter Suplex or a Chillkite or an Escape Hatch required me to get better at the game, and I did. I was a better player after I killed Sinestra-10 than I was before Cataclysm, I am a better player after beating Heroic Ragnaros than I was when I killed Sinestra.

    I also disagree with the idea that heroic T11 is trivial in 391 gear. Even though my “mythical uber-guild” (lol we’re casual) did it in 359 stuff, I still see plenty of guilds struggle on the mechanics with 2.5 more tiers of gear. There’s a guild on my realm that killed Heroic Al’akir and Heroic Ascendant Council quite recently, and despite having all that 391 gear they still took a lot longer to beat those than we did when they were current. They’ve been stuck on Sinestra for months, even with all that gear. They haven’t become sufficiently good enough at the game to beat it yet, they still need to improve.

    Want a moment of “true victory”? Kill Heroic Rag. Not there yet? Kill Heroic Bethtilac. Not there yet? Kill Normal Rag. Not there yet? That’s cool, there are other ways to enjoy the game that don’t involve raiding. Raiding right now is pretty awesome, though, the mistake with the timing of the nerfs notwithstanding. Just because the treadmill continuously makes old raid content easier, does not mean it’s not a “true victory” to get through that raid content. Lots of people were very happy to finally get through BT/Sunwell after it got nerfed literally twice as hard as Heroic Firelands did.

  19. October 6, 2011 4:18 pm

    I’m sorry. This is just another “good ol’ days” argument. Better written than most, but still the same old “WoW is dying! Bring back Classic/BC!” thesis. These posts infuriate me. If you don’t like the content or the direction of the game, stop paying Blizzard. Vote with your wallet.

    What rewards are missing that Classic and BC raids had? Are the server-first feats of strength, hardmode-only mounts, and heroic items not enough? If it’s not items, then what is it? The intangible rewards such as…?

    Perhaps it’s not that the rewards have changed, but rather you’re burning out on WoW and the nerfs are an easy target. Perhaps you’re just so much better than you were in Classic and BC that the game seems easier than ever before.

    “What we want is for former nongamers to care about games, experience gaming moments like many that we’ve described here.” The implication is that you want people to experience moments like you experienced them, which includes all the hardships that build up to such moments. Farming mats and bosses, wiping endlessly, dealing with guild and loot drama, recruiting, theorycrafting. Therein lies the fallacy. People want to experience the content in their way, not someone else’s. I don’t want someone telling Blizzard how I should raid; nobody does. I still loathe those who espoused the joys of 10-man raiding in Wrath because it led Blizzard to merge the lockouts, which killed my guild’s 25-man raid group. Y’all are furious that Blizzard listened to the less-skilled/devoted/hardcore and nerfed the content. And so you pine for the raids of yesteryear even though the game is far different than it was back then.

    “Leveling is not an meaningful process for many, but rather an accelerated experience for alts.” = How much did you learn while leveling? I didn’t start learning how to play my class until I hit 70 and my friends and I couldn’t down BC heroics. Make leveling more difficult and people quit before they get to end game. Then more guilds will complain about not enough raiders to recruit.

    “The player described here was having a true gaming experience: each goal was attained whenever she found a way to reach it.” = Actually, no. Not everyone attains their goals on their own. How many guilds broke on Vashj and Kael? How many guilds wiped on the Lich King until the 20/25/30% buff? My BC guild sucked and started months behind most raiding guilds, yet our goal was to kill Illidan. If Blizzard had not removed Hyjal/BT attunement, expanded the badge system, and nerfed the content, we would never have seen Hyjal/BT, let alone killed Illidan in the final weekend before Wrath came out. Not everyone can overcome their skill deficiencies, not everyone can devote hundreds of hours to a single boss. I’d rather Blizzard aided players while content was still fresh than wait until the end of an expansion or (worse) not help them at all.

  20. Hoverpuma permalink
    October 6, 2011 6:57 pm

    Well said, and there’s another aspect to the problem that goes hand-in-glove with what you describe here. Unlike many other types of game, MMOs (and single-player RPGs to a lesser extent) tend to have less gameplay that is fun on its own merits – not in the same way a Super Mario Bros or Katamari Damacy is fun. Instead, the most fun gameplay on its own merit tends to take the form of cooperative synergistic play – getting together with 4/9/24 people who just plain work well together, who all “get it” and can take down that boss as a well-oiled team. It’s important that you be able to execute your own job well, but the visceral enjoyment doesn’t come out of the fact that you can press 1-3-1-2-1-1-4 and move out of the fire better than the next guy, it comes from working with your raid team so well that you act as a cohesive unit.

    (Some people claim PvP play is fun on its own merits; power to them but I’d rather play Soul Calibur or BlazBlue.)

    For me, it was that aspect of the game, more than the progression, which was the addiction. Not to claim that progression and loot acquisition weren’t a motivating factor – they certainly were! – but what actually made me think, “Damn, I’m having a blast with this game” was when our group actually pulled together and bloody well *executed* a challenging fight.

    And removing the challenge – decoupling the risk from the reward – does just as much damage to people who are motivated by immediate fun gameplay as it does to those who are motivated by the progression ladder. It’s quite simply no fun to curbstomp a boss who’s ridiculously easy, whether it be in raids or in leveling dungeons – I can get my quota of “Press ‘2’ to save the princess” from Cow Clicker. And if group fights are too easy, there’s no pressure or incentive to develop the ability to work well in a group – why bother marking targets or focusing fire when everything dies anyway?

    I found it rather telling that, when deactivating my WoW account and answering the “Why are you quitting?” questionnaire, under the “It’s not fun any more” category was the option “The game is too hard”, but no choice for “The game is too easy.”

    Finally, LFR looks to be the exact opposite of fun. Does anyone *really* enjoy LFD runs, or are they just another chore? If I hadn’t already canceled my account, I’d be morbidly curious how much worse an LFR raid could be than a bad trade chat PuG. As it is, I’m breaking out my schadenfreude popcorn.

  21. Mathlete permalink
    October 6, 2011 7:11 pm

    @Lyraat

    I retired in June from a US 10 World 50 guild and while I thought perhaps what you said in your third paragraph was right, ultimately I have to disagree.

    When I first started playing this game during the open beta, and then on release day, it was a magical experience. Everything was hard, everything took time, everything was an investment. You learned how to play leveling up, and since every dungeon was so hard, and quests and flight-paths and gold were scarce, getting an upgrade in a 5man made your goddamn week. It was grindy, and it was work, but it was better, because it meant something to finally have a reward you didn’t have to just log in for, that wasn’t handed to you for doing some collection quest.

    This last expansion has been literally the best for hardcore raiding, the encounters have been amazing (at least for ranged, they’ve been horrible for melee-interrupters), they’ve required incredible amounts of attention, personal skill, and 25-person coordination for long periods of time. From the perspective of a hardcore raider, things could not be better, except that we’re devouring content at an incredible, increasing pace. And there is nothing else to do to improve our characters in the meantime. Leveling up, as noted by the OP, is worse than death, there’s no accomplishment in it, no thrill, and no way to improve my character through Alternative Advancement exp(A-La AA points in EQ! a fantastic system).

  22. Dennis permalink
    October 6, 2011 8:28 pm

    Sorry, I also have to agree with Lyratt to a certain extent. WoW is dying not because of a failed risk/reward inbalance, sure it always will need tweeks. WoW is dying because, endgame content is being rehashed in a different form, from patch to patch to patch, it is getting old and people are burnt out. i.e. Gaming is not just about setting goals and achieving them, it is about having FUN along the way.

    Despite the nerfs, raiding is still a challenge for many. I’ve belonged to a couple of guilds that have struggled to down NORMAL content, and after a few weeks now we are only 6/7. Yes, we probably are your average raiders, but how long has 4.2 been out, should it really take this long for the average raider to take this long to succeed? WoW has had trouble tuning fights the entire expansion, for the average raider it is either spending 3 hours wiping, or unstoppable facerolling. And forget heroic modes.

    I am very excited to move on from WoW and start playing SWTOR.

  23. October 6, 2011 10:24 pm

    I applaud you for having a well-written and intelligent post. I may not agree with all of it but it doesn’t come across to me as a emotion-fueled rant. However, I think there are a couple points you have missed.

    “No matter what walk of WoW life you’re in, you log in hoping to add something to your character sheet before you log out again, something tangible when you log in the next time.” If I log in to roleplay with my guildmates and some friends, I am not expecting an achievement for making a particularly witty in-character joke. If I decide to three-man a low-level instance with appropriately leveled hunters, I’m not searching for a particular piece of gear. In my opinion, this is where you made your first and perhaps most grievous assumption. It coloured your entire argument. Yes, it’s quite nice to get new gear/achievements/cosmetics/etc. but that is not the whole game for every player. What if you spend the evening running a friend through old dungeons? What if you explored all the nooks and crannies in an area simply for the sake of enjoying the view?

    The kind of equipment that I’ve saved in my character’s bank haven’t been tier sets that I spent so long earning. They’re odds and ends that only mean something to me as a player. The RP clothing that my hunter wore to her IC wedding. A pirate hat a friend gave me. A diamond ring that my boyfriend gave me.

    Gear and achievements aren’t the be-all-end-all for me. I love getting upgrades as much as the next person but face it, they’re transient. If you’re getting attached to items that are only going to be replaced in the next month or year, it’s no wonder that you’re wishing for the old days, when you could wear -that- gear you loved. One of my favorite memories is downing the Lich King with my guild. I don’t remember what he dropped or even cared that we did it with the buff. It was something I did with my friends, my guild. My other memories include exploring supposedly unreachable places in pre-Cata Azeroth with my boyfriend and goofing off with my friend in Wrath heroics and role-playing.

    “WoW raiding in years past was far from perfect, but here we want to talk about what it did right. Even though the class balance, encounter design, and surrounding aspects of the game (e.g. consumables) were not up to today’s standards, the game allowed for deeply rewarding experiences because it remained true to the above ideal. Raiding in The Burning Crusade provided a perfectly good example.” I didn’t raid in the Burning Crusade, despite beginning to play in it. This was because I was bloody terrified of it. I read blogs that would go on about how difficult it was, how you had to have a certain level of skill and gear to be in there (which I thought unattainable for someone like myself). Even groups scared me. Any group quests I received while leveling, I did at a higher level when I could solo. When my main reached level 70, she had done a grand total of 3 dungeons. Just 3. My guild, which I joined near the end of BC, only got me to join them in level 70-ish dungeons by all but forcibly dragging me in. When Wrath came around and they began dragging me into those dungeons and heroics, I found out that I quite enjoyed it. The same thing happened with raiding a little later on. I never discovered that in BC because between all the attunement and the way then-raiders spoke, it was inaccessible. I had absolutely no drive to do it and no one could have dragged me in to show me that it was okay, that it could be fun.

    I wonder how many other players were like that back in BC, because of how distant raiding seemed. It was a mystery to me, just words on a blog that meant nothing to me expect to say “You’re not wanted.” Nowadays, everyone raids or at least can raid, for better or for worse.In Wrath, I dragged more than one reluctant person into a raid and I watched them say half way through “Hey…this is really fun.” The realization I see in them is the same one that I had myself the first time I went with just my guild into Naxx-10. I will never get tried of showing new players (or at least new raiders) just how great raiding can be. And it wouldn’t have been so easy back in BC.

    Please understand that not everyone was at where you were in the game back in Vanilla or BC or whatever. Perhaps it was nice for you to see all the things you did, and I can understand why you would be nostalgic about such a magical time for you. For me, some of my best memories happened in Wrath, and I’ll be damn well sure to continue making them in Cata and beyond. WoW isn’t perfect right now and it never was. But you know what? It’s a hell of a lot of fun for me, and it must still be for a lot of other people if they’re still subscribed. I’m sorry that you’re not enjoying it anymore and I hope that you’ll find your happiness somewhere.

  24. maestro permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:19 am

    I quit the game because it was a PITA.
    It’s a game, not reality. If a person needs a video game to lift their esteem, there are deeper issues that need to be addressed that game development will never answer.

  25. Nijola permalink
    October 7, 2011 10:46 am

    People always have, and always will, QQ about stuff like this.

    What I don’t understand is this: If you’re a hardcore player (like the author apparently is), the new raids and content will provide you the “challenge” that the author claims has been removed from the game… after the hardcore ppl are done with it, everyone else who does NOT think exactly like the author, gets a chance to see things in the game that they never would have.

    Nerfing the content AFTER hardcore players are done with it doesn’t hurt anyone. Sounds like the author wants to force EVERYONE to have to play through “difficult” content at all times…. well, not everyone is the same, the hardcore ppl will play the difficult content, and everyone else will do things at their own rate, I don’t see a problem.

    tldr; Hardcore author wants everyone to play the game exactly like he does, but too bad, not everyone wants a challenging game (perhaps sad, but true)

  26. Mathlete permalink
    October 7, 2011 10:58 am

    Re: Nijola.

    Before we were hardcore player’s, some of us were casual players. And I enjoyed the game more leveling up, exploring, and being challenged constantly during the process. Learning how to play during the levels before max lvl instead of derping my way along until I had my most powerful skills and talents was way more immersive and enjoyable. The game simply doesn’t tease you into discovering (either hidden gems or your own talents), it just hands you things, and that’s boring, not easy.

  27. October 7, 2011 11:26 am

    I’m in absolute agreement regarding leveling difficulty. My wife and I have been leveling alts recently, and in this post-Cata world, most creatures are dying in one or two hits. This is with *ZERO* leveling bonuses and sticking strictly to quest leveling – no dungeons, battlegrounds, or archeology. Most quests are green, if not already gray.

    It almost feels like a waste grouping and fighting together when, in reality, splitting up would probably be far more effective ~70% of the time. We still fight side-by-side, though, because that’s the entire point for us. Experiencing the story is still worth it.

  28. jdistortion permalink
    October 7, 2011 11:40 am

    Seems like there is a divide on this issue between people that started in vanilla/BC and those that started after.. It makes sense that the latter group would not feel that same way as the posters as they have no experience of the old game. All I can say is for those of you who never experienced pre-Wrath WOW, you’re missing something. Not that the current game is bad, but for me, there isn’t much of a challenge anymore. And overcoming the challenges that a game throws at you is the essence of what makes it fun. The old BC raiding ladder was really rewarding and made you get better as a player. Our guild had many a casual player that became superstars via climbing that ladder. Compare that to last night were we 9 manned firelands with people in unenchanted, ungemmed PVP blues. and downed 2 bosses on the first try.

  29. October 7, 2011 12:04 pm

    Excellent post, you two.

    I think it’s sad that certain people commenting on this post didn’t bother to read your post in its entirety before they decided to leave a comment. Maybe if they did, they would have found answers or gained understanding, with regards to the questions or comments they are trying to pose to you in this section.

    In essence, that sort of proves your point about how the game has changed and which type of person it has managed to attract.

    I look forward to seeing more collaborations between you and Hamlet (or Hamlet and you) in the future.

    Thank you.

  30. October 7, 2011 12:27 pm

    I’m sorry, but unless you were in a serious raiding guild in vanilla and BC you did not see current content…period.

    I remember those days very clearly and not through the rose colored glasses most people seem to.There was a very clear Elite and “better than you” mentality, I disagree that people want that back..I know I don’t.

    I’ve been in the hardcore raiding guilds..And have zero desire to put myself through that again. I know of many people who’ve simply given up on raiding because for the most part, those raids are not puggable, and unless you were in at the start and are one of the “core” players in a guild, you will STILL never see those raids because that “core” and then alts of that core, will be the only ones making it into those raids every week. Especially with the shared lockouts.

    So, on the one hand you have the people who got into that core raid group and go every week and are tired of content being made “too easy” yet members of that same guild who’ve never set foot into the raids, and probably never will unless they find a pug.

    Tell me how that’s a good thing?

    Blizzard has the hard job of trying to appease the two extremes, I don’t think keeping it so only 10 percent of the playerbase ever see’s end raiding is the way to go.

    Imagine being a new player coming in now, not knowing anyone, not having the connections you do in game. You race your way to 85 and hit a brick wall once you finish heroics.(which even now have a pretty high rate of failures in pugs) You may or may not be in a guild that is raiding. But if you are, you get on every week, sign up on the calendar…and then never get to go….week, after week.

    Sounds fun? That is what we didn’t like about BC, and it isn’t any better now.

  31. Mythrai permalink
    October 7, 2011 1:15 pm

    @Oestrus: That seems like an unfair set-up. If people disagree with this article, they’re automatically the kind of people responsible for why the game has changed? Everyone here who has disagreed has been 1000x more polite in their disagreements than anywhere else on the WoW playing net.

    I’ve been playing since vanilla, and I find things to like and dislike about the game now as I found things to like and dislike about the game then. I have a million times more fun now, since I’m finally playing with people I like instead of putting up with people I don’t just to succeed in raids or PvP. I don’t particularly agree with the article’s conclusions, but I can see why some people would get burned out on the changes.

  32. October 7, 2011 2:17 pm

    I play the game to have fun, not to die repeatedly in the name of maybe someday conquering the challenge.

    Right now I am leveling far too many alts, but I do wonder whether I will stay engaged once I have full profession coverage and lots of 85s. Both my major guilds (horde and alliance) are full of great people, but are not hardcore raiding guilds. I wouldn’t want the intense focus of that anyway, at least not at this point.

    I began shortly after Cata dropped (due to their $10 to start offer near Thanksgiving last year) so I don’t have any memory prior to that, though I did find I have a toon on the test server I must have made at some point.

    I have not touched any of the Cata raiding content, beyond one Firelands trash run with my guild. It is all still too hard (at least in my mind) for me, so all this arguing is meaningless. As a previous poster noted, I didn’t do a single dungeon while leveling 4 85s as they seemed too hard. I wish I had known how easy some were and I would have gotten into that more.

    I definitely have not really learned how to play my class through leveling or dungeons. How could I? I die when I die, but what helps me learn what I should have done? Too many LFDs are in the go-go-go mode, so I can barely learn there. I accidentally went into one ZA/ZG run and was a replacement for a good group, but I still see the learning curve of knowing what to do there as so high I don’t want to do it with LFD. I have not had good experiences on the few LFD heroics I have tried.

    You want to make people like me suffer more? What is the value in that?

    The big problem I see is finding things explaining the “how” in ways that can be easily digested. Too much information is out there, lots of it dated (pre-Cata, etc.) so it is really hard to find out exactly how the different factors play against each other to learn the things I need to know to play better. I am almost at the point of despairing I will never master the high end as it has too much to know and is changing too frequently with the constant tweaking.

    My brief foray into PvP has been very discouraging, getting frequently one-shotted and note even helping the “team” in that.

    I don’t want an experience like “The Butcher” as that is not what is fun for me. Dying for no reason (that I can see) makes things boring, not enjoyment. I want to enjoy my time, not get frustrated.

    This is starting to get rambly, so I will close it off, but I agree that many of these type posts seem to come from the hard core contingent and I suspect they would get bored no matter what. How long can anyone play the same game anyway if the only goal is to master the toughest content?

  33. Bitza permalink
    October 7, 2011 6:22 pm

    I’m sorry, but I am tired of these sorts of articles and forum posts. I have played since Vanilla and I absolutely hate not being able to see content because I am not good enough. I admit I play my games on easy or normal, and I love that WoW has this option now as well with raiding.

    I enjoyed raiding in Wrath immensely, because I am a bad and raiding was accessible for everyone. I really didn’t like raiding in Cata to begin with, but am enjoying it now because of tiered difficulty!

  34. October 7, 2011 6:31 pm

    The most ridiculous thing is that people assume that all games are made for all people. That all players are entitled to experience all content. And that is simply not true.

    Some people play Halo, or Gear of War, or Modern Warfare. They play these games online or solo. They play them at the harder levels. And then there’s me, who can barely get through the first few rounds on the easiest setting. These are not games meant for me. Does that mean I should never play? No. But I’m not going to complain and tell the game designers that they need to make the game easy enough for me to experience ever aspect of the game… because it’s just “too hard”. I have two choices in a situation like this. Don’t play the game, or learn to be better. Why doesn’t that same rule apply to WoW or MMORPGs in general?

  35. Gis permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:41 pm

    MMORPG’s are not “HARD” lets kill the notion right here that vanilla WoW was hard. It was a massive GRIND!

    The amount of time investment needed to ensure you were top of your progression to be able to see all the content was huge, guilds would raid nearly every night per week in the same instance to get ahead, during the weekends when they were not raiding they would have to farm for the mats they needed and the massive array of classic Alchemy buffs.

    resistance gear checks, gated instances such as the AQ 40 “war effort”, all of which took a massive grind.

    Now 3 expansions on wow is losing its grind slowly, people complained about a lack of difficulty but they fail to realise the fights are more difficult now than they ever have been. Compare a list of boss abilities from each expansion with a list from Cata and you will see those fights were a lot simpler compared to today’s.

    Where was the challenge? the challenge was in the grind not the encounters. You had to gear up full fire resistance to take down raggy, you had to farm Onyxia to kit your entire raid out with a cloak so you could survive Nefarian’s raide wide shadow flame.

    We also have upgrade apathy. I remember many people feeling sad when their gear got replaced in TBC during levelling, these were raid epics that took months even years to farm and were cast aside overnight. Gradually those items we cherished so much because we worked so hard to get them became throw away.

    And now? many people I speak to who used to put in 5 nights per week raiding back then refuse to do so now. They want to “see content” and not “farm for vendor trash”. The shift there is upgrade apathy is causing people to not want to put in so much effort to get items they know will be obsolete almost overnight, they do not want the game to be a second job they just want to enjoy it without getting too stressed, it is a “game” after all!

    Cataclysm’s failure is that it catered to those who wanted “hard” content, but the reality is those people who wanted “hard content” actually miss the grind of vanilla and TBC. its what kept them from burning through the content too fast no matter how much they played.

  36. October 7, 2011 10:53 pm

    Wow, the huge response to this has been pretty rewarding for us to read. Thanks for all the comments, first of all (both here and on a number of other sites). We avoided getting to a lot of back-and-forth in the comments, since we had spent a lot of time refining the initial post to try to have it stand on its own, and don’t want to keep simply reiterating the points. Here are some things I want to clarify or respond to though, after reading all of the comments.

    First of all, some people missed that the post was written by two people, which is somewhat relevant. Perculia continues to raid progression content and has no immediate plans to quit. She works at Wowhead and specializes in guides about using items to best customize the appearance of your character (and has written very extensively on Transmogrification). And as you can tell from poking around this very website, she’s deeply interested in the flavor and lore of WoW. I mostly wanted to say all this because there seem to be a lot of assumptions about what kind of player she must be, based on the article.

    In my case, I did quit WoW recently (or at least go on indefinite hiatus). The direct cause was simply changes in my schedule though–I’m starting a new job this month and decided to do away with the raiding commitment. Admittedly, quitting was a lot easier for me than it would have been a few years ago, for a combination of reasons, some of which are obviously related to this post. But I didn’t want this article to be about “why I quit WoW” or to be perceived that way, because it’s really a distraction from this discussion.

    On to the article itself: I think the biggest issue to contend with is people summing it as up as a complaint that “WoW is too easy now.” We were prepared for that, and actually talked about trying to write some parts so as to avoid it. It’s inevitable though, given how pervasive that argument is. I just want to stress again that that’s not what the comments on the raiding game are about. It’s about how the games decides what rewards to give you, or when to allow you into to new content, or what mechanisms to use to push you forwards. All of this stuff is mostly independent of choosing how hard to make the encounters. If the game has to be very easy to suit Blizzard’s business goals and the tastes of the current player base, it could be easy while still maintaining the sort of integrity we focus on in the article.

    Similarly, the comparison between old and new raid games was hard to draw and has led to some misconceptions. We certainly didn’t like everything about the TBC raid game as we said. We merely pointed out one aspect of it that we feel is imperative for a solid foundation. Many of the newer ideas that people like so much, such as the bifurcation into Normal/Heroic difficulties, could still have been added without giving up that foundation. Even Valor Points, which we make out as embodying the chief evils in the game, could have been done in a way that respected some sense of progression.

  37. Lani permalink*
    October 7, 2011 11:14 pm

    I must admit I’m a little perplexed as to why some of the commenters are so quick to cite that grinding = difficulty is anything being argued by Perculia and Hamlet. Yes, vanilla and TBC-era grinds could be painful, but you know what? This hasn’t changed. I first dabbled in WoW at the very end of vanilla, in the TBC beta, and picked up the game permanently in mid-2007, and frankly, Firelands is one of the worst grinds I’ve ever had to do. And I farmed ALL the mats for my Windhawk set by myself, as a resto druid, back in the day. (/sob T__T)

    To those of you arguing that Perculia and Hamlet are claiming that Vanilla-era grinds is equivalent to difficulty…I think you are perhaps confusing the arguments they are making with arguments other bloggers have made. I’m not denying that there is a certain type of WoW player who conflates grinding with difficulty, but Perculia and Hamlet are really not those people.

  38. October 8, 2011 3:37 am

    It’s funny you mention the Firelands grind, Lani – I think this is why I haven’t been logging into Cat very much. It just put me off playing her except for vanity things (and since, like Hamlet, I don’t have the time to commit to raiding, I don’t have the motivation I once did to actually commit to that grind). I’m mostly on alts these days.

    I remember when I first hit 70 back in TBC, and I was all “:D :D :D YAAAAAY 70 I AM A BIG KID . . . now what?” And Erorus was like “rep grinds, welcome to 70″. I agree with you, I don’t think that aspect of the game has changed very much.

    I think I’ll address the leveling experience at least, since that’s where the majority of my playtime is right now. The green-to-grey thing is a huge problem for me. I’m obviously very interested in game lore, and so I like to do all the quests (all of them!). When they’ve greyed out and are no longer a challenge, it makes me feel like I’m experiencing the Cliffs Notes version of the story, simply because of how quickly they go by. I understand why the “questing on rails” model was implemented, but the authors here are absolutely right in saying that the xp curve could have been better tuned. I imagine it’s a lot harder for players to immerse themselves when that yellow quest and new flight hub is calling your name, begging you to level.

    Remember the Tower of Althalaxx chain?

    Remember trying to track down Fozruk in Arathi?

    Druids, remember your aquatic and flight form quests?

    I DO.

    I’m bringing these up, because I feel they also encompass some of the things being talked about. I can remember getting owned by Fozruk’s little kobold minions. I can remember taking on Athrikus and getting my face eaten. I CAN REMEMBER TAKING ON A LOT OF THINGS IN THAT CHAIN AND GETTING MY FACE EATEN. And you know what? I loved it all of it.

    (And I started playing in TBC, and raided almost exclusively in WotLK and Cata. Karazhan was my first and only TBC raid.)

    Completing the Tower of Althalaxx chain was one of my first big “hey, I did it!!!” moments in WoW. I think in Cataclysm, a lot of that has been lost, and I think that’s due far more to current xp mechanics than plot development. I personally will make the effort to seek out the story because I know I’m pretty high on the “explorer” axis of the Bartle Test — completing the Scepter questline and getting my Feralheart Set were my two big Cataclysm Bucket List goals, and my biggest regret is not completing Horde Loremaster. But not every player will.

    I understand Blizzard had to condense the leveling experience, and I understand that balancing that and tuning for the sense of achievement I’m describing above presents its challenges. But the thing is, the authors mention selling the soul of WoW, and for me the story *is* the soul of WoW. The current setup does not play to its strengths, and that saddens me so much.

  39. Cricken permalink
    October 8, 2011 4:41 am

    The game has never had any substantial risk aside from time invested; you lose consumables, repair fees, and time… these things are trivial compared to the ‘risk’ and yes, ‘reward’ involved in many other games, some(read:most) predating WoW.

    All this time we’ve been forced to look up how to do quests, and thus directed to sites like Wowhead and the like. We learn more about the game, the game loses its mystery, the game becomes easier. Rewards, no matter how flashy, shiny or difficult to obtain become less rewarding. This is familiarity. Hamlet, you claim you’ve raided since 2005, how can you not be bored yet? Perculia, well… you work on a fansite, you’re familiar with updates before they even happen.

    Most of the players complaining about the game are very vocal, as is the style now, and suffer from what I like to call “bitter vet syndrome”. It happens. You’re not bound to one MMO, even if you’re a ‘hardcore’ raider. The way rewards are handed out is a slight issue, but it’s inevitable in this game. It has been considered the ‘hand-holding’ game since day one by players of many other games.

    I mean, why fight bosses when pvp means losing everything on your corpse? No, in WoW you are encouraged to wear that Beastly Plate of the Raidbosses Jaw. In other games you keep that on the down-low so that you don’t lose it, but you show it to your friends, maybe take it out for a spin now and then. Somehow it’s more special when you can lose it at literally any point.

    This entire essay is sort of off-key, and I feel could be looking at carrot-on-stick MMOs in general. It’s simple, when the stick is too close, you feel less inclined to reach for it. When the stick is too far, it seems out of reach, but when you get it, holy crap… When it’s ~just right~, for that brief moment, when things are perfect? Well, let’s face it. The genre as a whole doesn’t really accept obscure or difficult rewards.

    As far as dailies(for molten front, let’s say) I’d have preferred they give us the option to kill swarms of mobs for a paltry amount of rep and an uncommon drop for marks. Daily quests are the worst design that has become a staple of the (carrot on stick) genre. There are some loopholes, some games allow you to stockpile them throughout a week and whatnot, but it’s still the same thing. When I looked up the amount of time it would take to complete the Molten Front dailies I debated returning to the game at all. But they’re not necessary, and I enjoy what I do aside from them.

    The game will never be Vanilla or TBC again. Let it go. Blizzard would be slitting the throat of the game by going that route again. There’s a lot out there, and might I recommend next time that you try and stay a ‘noob’ a bit longer, it vastly improves your enjoyment of the simple things. Some would argue those are the best things. I would.

    Still don’t understand why they didn’t make a third difficulty setting(don’t bring up LFR), or utilize an npc that ‘debuffed’ the encounter after it was nerfed… Would have pleased so many people.

    So yes, familiarity, boredom, and the old way doesn’t apply to the market anymore, so it took the highway. I believe that sums up my post. Nostalgia too.

  40. October 8, 2011 2:09 pm

    To me the “irrelevant distractions” removed in the new questing were what made the whole experience feel more like a real world. The mundane goings-on of day-to-day life outside of the core story arc were what used to separate WOW from any of a million linear console RPGs.

  41. JST permalink
    October 8, 2011 2:40 pm

    Despite the amount of time and careful construction that went into this essay I feel that, as certain other posters have said, it unfortunately addresses the perceived issue from just one of the numerous perspectives that exist.

    As a player who was once upon a time a serious end-game raider (that would have agreed wholeheartedly with everything in this post) but is now a very casual heroic grinder, I felt as though there was a flip side to many of the points being made on raiding and character progression that wasn’t being addressed.

    Rather than write another essay in response I’ll just try to be brief –
    There are people who are serious gaming enthusiasts, whether it’s soccer or Starcraft, who are in it for the long haul, the constant honing, development, and progression of themselves in their chosen game. Then there are people who turn on the television once a week to watch the highlights, blast through all the best bits, and switch off again.

    Me and my friends relish each new content patch and each slew of gear we’ll be getting from heroics once more, the appearance of new content we can immediately step into, and the easily obtained upgrades, when in years past we would have turned up our noses at being handed the same gear that we’d spent weeks working to earn from Kael’thas or Archimonde.

    One of the biggest fallacies in the debate of the “serious, long-term, rich experience” versus the “cheap, quick thrill ride experience” is the notion that one of them has to be innately better, to be the ultimate answer to the question being discussed.

    I’ll certainly say that there are plenty of artistic and creative elements in WoW that are suffering right now (and that *do* have obvious and audience-pleasing solutions rooted in an academic understanding of the issues), but as well analysed and argued as the above essay is, I feel like it falls down for basing itself in the idea of answering a question of personal preference, rather than one of artistic or creative fault on Blizzard’s part.

  42. Bob permalink
    October 8, 2011 3:03 pm

    Bah! All of you sound like the elitists on the forums the first few weeks of Cataclysm screaming “L2P!” and “Learn to play better!” You know where that got Blizzard? 600k lost subscriptions. Less than 3 months after the release of an expansion, the game shed 600k accounts. Since then it has lost 300k more and I can only assume it will lose more this quarter.

    I am one of the disenfranchised players that cried daily on the forums about the difficulty. I was the one that responded to Greg Street’s “Dungeons are Hard” with colorful language that helped ensure my forum privileges were permanently revoked.

    Blizzard is trying to stem the problem that they created listening to people like YOU at the end of WotLK. I don’t remember receiving a survey asking whether or not I thought the game was too hard at the end of WotLK, but I do remember it being fun. Since Cataclysm’s launch, this game has been nothing but a waste of time. My healers and tanks shelved away and instead I waste time leveling dps classes.

    Blizzard ruined the game for me listening to cries of “It’s too easy… WHAAAA!!” Go ahead screw up the next expansion with your same pleas for difficulty. They are trying to regain their footing, but because they ignored the cries of so many for so long, I could care less if they gave me a full set of epics from the latest tier of content, I’d still spit on them for making the first month or more of this expansion hell.

    Sure, I’m glad you guys enjoyed it.. but appreciate the fact that 600k didn’t.

  43. perculia permalink*
    October 8, 2011 5:50 pm

    First off, it’s been really great to read the various discussion threads at EJ, Reddit, the official forums, MMO, and elsewhere, as well as seeing hits from many guild forums. I’m pleased to see the variety of players that have commented in general, as it’s led to some illuminating debates. I also had a fun time challenging myself to write this article, as it’s a departure from my usual lore-flavored posts at Flavor Text and database guide craziness at Wowhead.

    To clarify a few more points…

    Some responses have overly analyzed the initial biography paragraph. It is not uncommon for posts introducing new authors to have a sentence or two about their background. It is a fact that Hamlet and I have written popular guides that have been published at relevant large WoW sites. And as very few readers in the past few days have clicked on the “About Flavor Text” link, throwing in a few words about myself was relevant–especially when there seemed to be confusion about the nature of the collaboration. The intent of the article was not to foster a debate about the relative merits of either site or to extrapolate personalities from stereotypes. It was simply to reference places you may previously have seen our names at.

    Returning to assumptions about the authors: The Burning Crusade was the “worst” expansion, from a standpoint built solely upon rankings, for both of us between guild disbands and tier-long hiatuses. Some readers believe we prefer Vanilla/The Burning Crusade because our showiest guild achievements and progression were from those periods. We didn’t get world or server firsts. We liked Burning Crusade because of the core design, not because we wanted to subtly brag about killing end bosses extremely quickly. (We generally didn’t.) It is true that achievements from that period are memorable, but that is due to the process behind achieving them. On paper, they are not as impressive as more traditional achievements and kills we earned during Wrath or Cataclysm, which are two expansions we are critical of.

    For a concrete example of something flawed in TBC: the Firelands nerfs had a precedent in Sunwell 3.0. Yes, the massive Sunwell nerfs allowed more players to “see” the content, but many guilds floundered and disbanded after the initial morale boost. It was a temporary bandaid to counteract expansion burnout and other problems singular to Sunwell, not a change that brought about long-term guild stability. It is too soon to completely analyze the effects of the recent Firelands nerds, but common threads are as follows: some people are relieved to finally get loot and see new encounters for a morale boost, while others are plagued by a lack of focus that leads to lingering poor attendance issues and a subpar attitude for Heroic Ragnaros–an encounter requiring patience and planning. Firelands nerfs will not address problems of guild recruitment/loyalty and 10/25 player balance, issues which are closer to the root of day-to-day raiding discontent. While the end result superficially resembles that of a successful raid–more bosses dead, quicker farm clears–the foundation is not structurally sound. There is an initial giddy rush that gives way to more discontent when the excitement over the new kills fades away.

    Some vanilla players have contacted me about the Hogger reference. It is true that Hogger is an overused example and that there are more nuanced references in vanilla end-game content. However, we were looking for a precise parallel to the Butcher, in which a player encounters a moment of failure very early on in WoW. I debated including a different vanilla example; the quest only available to Night Elf Rogues in which players must stealth onto a tree limb above the ocean and pickpocket a demon that spawned infinite adds if aggrod. Personally, I was terrible at completing this quest, between falling off the branch into the ocean and stealth-walking straight into the demon, dying soon after. (End result: it taught me to play my class.) However, that example is less-accessible than Hogger–how many players were vanilla night elf rogues? The quest doesn’t even exist anymore for easy reference.

    I do think it is worth reiterating the point that similar experiences occurred at the level 60 endgame. One friend reminded me that players in Blackwing Lair gear could still aggro too many mobs and die in the optional Scholomance event. Another friend remembered how amazed her guild was to learn Kel Thuzad and die as soon as constructs spawn. Another example that comes to mind is pulling Twin Emps and watching them glow green as they kept chain healing, before tanking was sorted out. It forced players to come up with strats instead of waiting for nerfs.

    We do have plans for writing more articles together. Some readers have commented that the article is too lengthy as it stands, while others have said we didn’t cover enough. Hopefully we can find a happy medium by writing about more topics, although as we are not looking to please any specific audience, the Greek references and funny diction are here to stay.

    Anyway, in closing, thanks for the lively debates and well-crafted responses.

  44. DickyDIck permalink
    October 9, 2011 12:50 am

    Your starting point is flawed in my opinion. A game for me is not about overcoming challenges, but about having fun. And in a multiplayer game like an MMO is it’s about competing with others, not about competing the game.
    Even though I can understand that in your case you prefer more challenge, that is not the definition of a game as far as I’m concerned.
    WOW is technically the board you play on, and you play the game with other people and againt other people. You’re not playing against the board.
    WOW is more a race in which guilds race through the ‘challenges’ to get to the finish.

    The good thing about the game in my opinion is that everybody can catch up. If you got into the game late or if you missed a period of raiding. Unlike when it was during TBC to be honest (when I started raiding, joined late Vanilla). A good friend of mine had to pause for 2-3 months during TBC and was unable to get back into raiding just because it was hard to find a cutting edge guild that was willing to go back to older raids and help people gear. EIther you were constantly jumping between guilds or it was essentially game over.

    I would never want to go back there. Besides there is enough challenge in the game as far as raiding is concerned with the hard modes. There was a challenge, and they nerfed it after x% reached it on the unnerfed version. Which makes sense. The race is over, we have winnners, now it’s time to get everybody in there and start gearing for the next lap in the race.

    If you think that’s degrading the challenges, then there’s always the option of making your own challenge. But to be honest, a lot of people scream about challenges but when push comes to shove, noone actually takes the challenging road.

    In a nutshell, as long as I have friends to play with and enjoy myself the game is doing its job.

  45. October 9, 2011 1:40 am

    MOD NOTE: This comment was neither productive nor interesting. In my unending generosity, I am graciously editing it for content, mostly for the sake of its author, who is undoubtedly horrifically embarrassed for having written it in the first place. I know I would be, if I had publicly said something so terrifically ignorant.

  46. Dr. Chocolate permalink
    October 9, 2011 1:48 am

    Wow, you’ve really hit the nail on the head for me. (Bit of background for the rest of my post: Started off casual in tBC, eventually ramped it up to being pretty hard core by the end of tBC with my guild tickling Sunwell before the nerfs, took a break, came back and was casual throughout WotLK, tried to get back into progression for Cataclysm and just couldn’t do it.)

    Honestly, this game could be brutally difficult or insanely easy. Neither really would matter to me. The lack of personal progression really hit me the hardest, and the prevalence of daily chores that made me feel like I was falling behind if I didn’t log on every day exacerbated the burn out.

    I’d also like to petition that one of the things that Burning Crusade did right that Wrath and Cataclysm have done to make the game (subjectively, no doubt) worse. Daily quests in tBC had nothing to do with progression. Whether or not I came on and made any personal progress was on me. I can recall being a lot more laid back back then about raiding and playing, even though I was serious about content. I feel that this had something to do with the connection of dailies to progression (something that started with the inclusion of “dungeon dailies” in tBC).

    People like to talk about how they would never want to go back to the Vanilla or Burning Crusade models of game play because “this is a game, not a job, damn it!”. To be honest, Wrath and Cataclysm felt a hell of a lot more like a job to me (when I was casual) than it ever did when I was a hardcore raider.

  47. Deatheryn permalink
    October 9, 2011 9:20 am

    Awesome piece! I, as a huge fan of RPGs in general, am seeking the sense of accomplishment a challenge provides! If there is no risk of failure then the accomplishment carries much less weight!, therefore said accomplishment loses my drive to achieve it! That is the reason I have quit WoW and am now playing Demon’s Souls on a console. The threat of failure is very high and ever present. Through countless deaths, said deaths only drive me more to complete my goals! I have died more times in D.S. in the first level than I have in the last 6 months playing WoW! Although there are challenges to be had in WoW, the number of “skilled” players there are to recruit to meet and defeat those challenges has greatly diminished. Therefore has made those challenges virtually unapproachable due to the lack of motivation by other players to get better in the content leading up to the actual challenging ones! Hence why I decided to take on a solo RPG game where the content depends solely on my own improvement because I know I can depend on myself!

  48. tuethis permalink
    October 10, 2011 8:11 am

    Here is what I am thinking, This is just not the way that I look at how a game rewards player. Games should be fun. WoW raiding is fun, progressing through these instances with a group of people is FUN. While you are having fun you are given rewards of gear or currency that provide visual confirmation of your progress but the reason you logged on was to HAVE FUN, NOT GET GEAR. In my opinion the Cata raids are in fact quite challenging perhaps that means I am a bad, I don’t know, did you guys clear FL normal without wiping? Gear is such a huge part of htis game that I think many people think that gear is the fun part. I am not sure what Blizz can do, short of eliminating gear altogether to get people to notice that RAIDING IS FUN. So many people have fooled themselves into paying 15$ a month to be frustrated about impediments to DRESSING UP THEIR BARBIE.

    With respect to leveling, I agree, there is no challenge in it except time dedication. The stories are good and immersive but without challenge it all seems a little grindy. Hogger back in the day was such a good welcome to WoW. Hell, I remember my first trip through the human starter area, back when all the mobs where aggressive, I died a ton trying to finish the warlock imp quest.

    Chain running Z-Roics for VP is NOT FUN and I think that eventually Blizz will have to kill this link between current tier (or equivalent) gear and grind-able content. Everybody hates those instances, raiders farming VP are sick of them, fresh 85s running them for gear are terrified of them because of how impatient the VP farmers are. I just came here from Hots and Dots who made pretty much the same argument from the other point of view. I think that Blizz should nerf the heck out of the number of VP you can get in 5-mans so that raiders don’t feel like they NEED to run them. I know that will screw up raider leaders being able to get an alt into the group quickly but that is a worthy sacrifice to save the game.

  49. Vitamin G permalink
    October 10, 2011 8:11 am

    My opinion, as follows.

    Leveling is faster? Great, means I can get to “balanced” PVP faster.

    Raiding is easier? Mixed bag. I joined WoW because I’ve been playing Warcraft since the shareware demo of WC1 was released. I love the lore and the content, and I like experiencing it without having to wait on 9, 24, or 39 other players. On the other hand, the whole game is no longer a personal experience.

    Regardless of the changes. I still have my fun. Whether it is tanking on my paladin, cleaving someone’s face on my warrior, or steamrolling my opposition on my DK, I enjoy the game still. I’m not going to quit because things have become “too easy,” but I will quit when I get bored, which I do every few months.

    The most fun I ever had in WoW? This was in the Burning Crusade. I had a core group of 6 players I raided Kara/ZA with, and we occasionally pugged a few others or combined with another guild to do Gruul’s Lair or one of the other 25 mans. I didn’t get to do Illidan, and I didn’t get to do Archimonde. My only regret was missing out on CoT: Hyjal, as it would have let me “live” part of WarCraft 3.

    Still, I am enjoying WoW post-Cata.

  50. Mitchell permalink
    October 10, 2011 8:22 am

    I believe you’re ignoring or downplaying (intentionally or not) one aspect of the game that’s changed significantly, and that is the current model of raid boss mechanics do not teach you nor require you to learn your class mechanics as the primary dimension of success. In previous tiers, boss mechanics were mostly tank-n-spank with the occasional add or other minor wrinkle. The most important characteristic for successful raiding was being able to perform your class abilities consistently. There was at least some sort of boss progression where if you could do your rotation half of the time you could clear Kara, but you needed to step it up a bit to clear BT.

    Now? Your class abilities are a minor aspect of the boss encounter. Of far more importance is knowing which spells to interrupt or not, or where the adds have to be stacked up and killed given where you’re going to position the boss in phase 3, or watching to see where the squall line forms a gap while it sweeps around the platform.

    Additionally, the unskippable MC > BWL > Naxx and Kara > Gruul > Mags > BT progression means that if you want to stop being a pally and start being a mage, or if you’re a new player (and welcome to WoW raiding incidentally), you can’t play with your friends or other current players meaningfully since you have to go back and farm three or four complete tiers of previous content to catch up. As @Zaralyndra mentioned in a previous comment, players then wound up progressing through guilds as much as content due to getting stalled out at various spots along the road. As it is now you can reroll or start anew and at least get into content that you can find compatriots for within a reasonable amount of time.

    Finally, and at the risk of watering down whatever message I may have had when I started, I question the assumption that the old raids were adjusted because they were overtuned and the current raids are nerfed because kids these days don’t know how to play. I question the assumption that the designers of the encounters, in their infinite wisdom, managed to set the difficulty “just right” out of the gate this time and now the encounters aren’t “authentic” because we aren’t seeing them the “way they’re supposed to be”. The guys at Blizzard are doing a tremendous job of building the world, but they are guys just like us. They are not demigods deigning to descend from Olympus to grant us a taste of wondrousness. They make guesses as to how the encounters will work out, then they release them, then they gather data from people playing the game, and then revise the system based on the data gathered and their overall goals. Their data and their goals suggest that the content was overtuned and they adjusted it. If you feel the need to flagellate yourself based on your inability to live up to their expectations, that is purely between you and your therapist but I would suggest you examine more closely your belief that they’re not perfectly fallible humans.

  51. October 10, 2011 9:21 am

    It is obvious that a lot of thought and effort went into this pot; that being said, I find comparisons to Farmville a bit rich when the most recent raiding tier contains a fight that is widely regarded as by far the hardest Blizzard has ever created.

  52. October 10, 2011 10:58 am

    I agreed almost completly at least the idea and main problem you bring is true and it needs to be resolved before more developers start copying and pasting it to their games thus changing gaming in general to garbage. Loved the reference to Diablo’s butcher and I have to agreed 100% it is a perfect example.

    One thing I dont agreed ( not that you imply that in your post) is that all things should return to the ”TBC” template. There were some annoying things back then and some were game breaking for a lot of people usually the majority or else you wouldnt need to post all this.But I think there needs to be a balance something in between TBC and what gaming is now on MMOs.SWTOR will come out soon and we will see if Bioware provides a fun alternative ( I played the beta and so far I am having f.u.n. again in a MMO) but regardless of my limited opinion I am not the majority so we will see , the same can be said of GW2 and this so far are the only 2 IPs in mmo that are popular enough to affect the genre and move in a good direction or at least repaired it .Of course Blizzard could wake up and try to fix things but can it really be fixed at this point? do they care with their new mmo in the works ? after all they are still making billions no matter how many posts like this hit the web.

    Gamers need to talk with their wallets also besides writing before gaming is affected even more.Ask yourself this do you guys really want an MMO that is more like a facebook game? or do you want to bring those precious moments in gaming that made you excited you bought that certain game(Butcher example like the poster said)? People need to break the addiction and start making an impact on the company with less numbers or at the very least do what the poster asked and e mail blizzard the letter , I assure you that if enough subscribers send the letter with the same title , they will have to change stuff in fear of losing so many subs.

    But something needs to be done before this company does any more damage to the industry even if you think they are the best developer out there , they are also damaging part of the industry little by little.1 thing comes to mind that hasnt come out and it is the addition to the mini Blizzard ”ebay” auction house for Diablo 3 , I dont think people realized how strongly that is going to affect multiplayer gaming in that game and in a bad way.

  53. October 10, 2011 12:43 pm

    First off, thank you (both of you) for taking the time to write an article like this.

    I wholeheartedly agree with a lot of your points. I think part of the “fun” experience comes from your “failures” and overcoming challenges. Part of these challenges are dungeons, but also quests – I did enjoy some of the epic quest likes in BC, just to get “that one trinket” (Dabiri’s Enigma. I can remember its name even now, without looking it up – that’s how significant it was). I’m glad I didn’t have to re-re-re-repeat everything when I was leveling alts, though, something that happened at the tail end of BC and post-BC.

    I would describe myself as an average tank; you’d have to ask others. I like the role. I like the nerf to raids, because it allows me to see the content with the guild. Well, sooner or later our guild will get it together, we’ll have a decent core, and won’t have problems finding that 3rd healer. Yes, we’re that casual.
    I do think that the raid content is still challenging for the casual guild, but manageable. Hard core raiders still get their outstanding challenges through heroic modes – I don’t see a problem there, I think a lot of their disappointment comes from, well, sorry, not being the precious few anymore. They still got their perks sooner, and have earned their bragging rights.

    But. BUT!
    Yes. The game has gotten extremely easy. One of my alts didn’t die ’til level 20-ish when he fell off a cliff. I don’t know if my ill-geared level 80 died on her way to 85. I didn’t like the linear quest lines the first time I leveled 80-85, quite frankly, it reminded me of the (g)olden games like “Leisure Suit Larry” et al.

    I do remember the BC grind, but somehow I remember it as being more interesting than the current grind. Those dailies in Mt. Hyjal – they do get a little old after a while. I was hoping that the dungeons would stay tricky for longer, but now it’s just a mindless slaughterfest again, but as I seriously dislike pugging, I haven’t run them quite as mindlessly often and haven’t memorized every thing about them yet – which bites me when I do go back and semi-pug them.

    It’s just the feeling that I *have* to run dungeons over and over again, just to get points. Boss loot has become insignificant in dungeons compared to what you buy with the points or can obtain from a crafter. It used to be that people ran dungeons for the drops… but it also used to be that dungeon groups would survive a wipe or two without folding! Even though I hated the RNG boss not dropping “my” piece, I do remember how happy I was when I did get it. Now I just sit here, mindlessly accumulating points (which is guaranteed) so that I can get whatever (guaranteed) gear upgrade in X days. It’s just a little too predictable, perhaps?

    I think – again, my opinion – that what we’re seeing is a direct result of the “no child left behind” attitude. Everyone gets to play and see everything (not necessarily bad), but there’s also no incentive to get above mediocre. Hunters don’t need to chain-trap, rogues don’t need to sap and blind, nobody’s utility is asked for (or even wanted) anymore. Everybody is entitled to purples, everything needs to be in easy-mode, and everyone who did earn bragging rights is using that to ridicule people who don’t.There are no repercussions for negative behavior in “LFG” randoms, either.

    To an extent, Blizzard responds to the demands of the players. If anyone “kills” the game, then it’s “the players”.

    I don’t have a solution. I don’t even have a suggestion. I just wish people were more respectful of each other in-game. Respect the hard-core raider who got all the “cool stuff”, and respect the one who only wants to meddle in raids. Know that you don’t get the best stuff right now unless you’re with the best and ARE one of the best. And don’t be mean to players who aren’t the best but still want to have their fun.

    Ah, yes, long, long, wall of text. Please feel free to edit ;)

  54. October 10, 2011 3:25 pm

    Lots of good comments above, I’ll leave mine, which mirrors some of what’s been said, and opposes some of it as well.

    I am a good player. I don’t raid, I’m not interested in that kind of commitment, but I have over two decades of experience in RPG’s big and small. I am my own measuring stick of reasonable challenge, and, being soundly validated in the value of my time and my enjoyment of an entertaining, paid activity, I refuse to extend beyond that. That is my right.

    If I undergo a reasonable degree of preparation, research and stick to the straight-line progress of the game before me, I should, given the reasonable degree of challenge I *should* be experiencing on this path, almost never suffer true defeat. Within the bounds of “practice makes perfect”, so long as I am paying for a reasonably balanced avenue of entertainment, I should never feel that “I’m just not good enough”, because I am. I am good enough. If a game tries, within this context, to tell me otherwise, I will cease paying them, because they are asking for unreasonable and unrealistic skill cultivation for an entertaining, essentially unimportant activity.

    I am not paying to be the “bottom end” of a pyramid designed to elevate those special few that will “strive” for “skills”, endure drama and guild/raid-oriented logistical headaches, and essentially sell their soul to a video game. I am a skilled, knowledgeable, mature gamer, and will not pay to be the peasant in a virtual feudal system of gamers. We get that scenario in real life, and this escapist, paid activity is supposed to function as a release from it. If I cannot get that release, there are plenty of games (yes, even quality MMOs) that will provide that.

    I am good enough. It is not your job or, especially, Blizzard’s job to tell me otherwise.

    Thank you for expressing your well-written opinion, and this has been mine.

    omedon666.livejournal.com

  55. Ninahagen permalink
    October 10, 2011 5:55 pm

    I’ve read the post, and some comments. I’m sorry I didn’t read all, but I wanted to start building my comment asap.

    All was well written and I’m sorry but I’m not fluent in english so it won’t be as nice to read.

    I’ve seen people talking about elitists, and while I agree, I think a game pleasing elitist people and others can be made.

    First, a summary of perculia’s post (some points are dumb, that’s how I perceive an entire chapter sometimes).

    Introduction

    – A game must be challenging, and give an impression of progress, which we will study.
    – Progress in WoW is partially done through stats (though it’s not a real skill progress).

    The Raiding Game: Progress and Reward

    – You gain stats when you level up, and when you gain new gear.
    – We do not talk about cosmetics.
    – By playing the game, the player learn to play.
    – Before: You are to kill boss in a certain order. If you fail at some point, you are blocked on it : that becomes your goal.
    – Now: Just waiting is enough to kill a boss, it will be nerfed (either by a real nerf, either by new Valor Point’s Gear).
    – So, you are no more a hero. You are assisted, if you fail.

    The Low-level Game: From Quest Progress to Progress Quest

    – The levelling experience is too easy/fast, especially when endgame experience NEEDED is put in perspective.
    – Lore Zone are skipped for that reason, that’s a pity.
    – Failing when learning is good, but you don’t fail when the game is too easy.
    – Failing gives you longlasting impression, succeeding after failing too (progress feeling).

    – Talk about it to your friends.

    ——————————————————

    Okay, now my view on the matter.

    Stats improvement is a false sense of progress. You did not become better, you equipement did. Although false, it’s sometimes a good feeling. More on that later.

    Not talking about cosmectics is a HUGE mistake.
    If you want distinction, that’s what cosmetics should be all about.
    Military guyz have medals. They have a nice suit. They don’t have freakin’ stats.

    Skill and (real) achievements are personnal barometers of progress. Stats is external. So is cosmetics. In some ways, stats are cosmetics. Just numbers. Did you become stronger, relatively to your ennemies ? No. They became stronger too in the new raid. How convenient.

    Weren’t Vanilla and BC’ raid nerfed ?
    Yes, they were.
    Proof ? Just go with one or two friend. Now Vanilla and BC raids are easy.

    In this game, ALL the old content just gets naturally nerfed.
    From my point of view that is stupid.
    If an easy game is a boring game, why does Blizzard destroy all the old content by making it easier and easier with the patch and extansions ?
    Why are we pidgeon-holed into the last raids ?
    Why can’t we do the old dungeons and raid in decent conditions (well, we can, but that is very tedious : either you reroll and block yourself at 60, either you farm old stuff, but your bank doesn’t have much place left) ?

    The only difference is how fast the content is nerfed. That’s all.

    You want a challenge ? Do the boss in front of which you are blocked in due time. Unless it will be nerfed, and move on the next raid.

    So, what would be a solution ?

    If we trust perculia, who spent alot of time writing and thinking, we could think that

    1°) Easy content is boring, bad.
    2°) One has to have a feeling of progress.

    And we add

    3°) Everybody has his own skill cap

    Then its obvious :
    each one should be able to play in an appropriate difficulty.

    Was the “old” system good ?
    Yes, if what prevented you from progressing was truly difficulty (and not gear).
    Was the “old” system only good ?
    Heck NO. You are struck on ONE freakin’ boss. That’s one problem. Can’t see the rest.
    If you reroll, you must eat again all those raids and that take ALOT of time. That’s another problem. If you are a new (very skilled) player, you must go in a lowskilled guild, then go in a middleskill guild, then … Again a problem.
    In short : you don’t control the raid you are doing. Don’t enjoy one specific raid ? Too bad, you have to suck it.

    So ?
    stats infinite progression is what kill the game, for me.

    Until the transmogri…thing, you didn’t control your look. You look ugly in T9 ? Suck it, best stats.
    You don’t enjoy random heroics ? Suck it anyway, you need to do them for valor points, repeatedly.
    You want to enjoy old content ? Too bad it’s easy and boring. Suck it, you just had to play at that time.

    With rewards from raids NOT stats based (cosmetic-based), here what could be built as a game :

    – you can do every dungeons and raids, and choose appropriate difficulty (damage modifier, HP modifier, healing modifier).
    – you can do every dungeons and raids, and choose appropriate mode (ennemies skill improved or unlocked in harder modes).
    – you can choose your look (already done, check).
    – harder content gives you vanity pets, titles, achievements, and more control on your look (legendary skins, more colours, ….). There IS a (cosmetics) difference between elitists players and others.
    – PvP is easily balanced once and for all. No more natural imbalance with stats progression.

    Levelling in a zone doesn’t get you levels and stats sh*t. It unlock pve skills (so you have to go through levelling, but only a bit if you don’t like zone lore). Doing random BG at lew level unlock PvP skills.

    Of course, there can be no game without stats to play with. So at “max level” (when you unlocked it all), you can min-max your stats as you want (you have fixed ressource to allocate to stats).
    You can truly choose your stats.
    Actually, we don’t even really choose our stats. We don’t have much choice actually (mastery vs crit vs spirit vs haste is the only choice for casters, and not “how much”, just “what”).

  56. Ninahagen permalink
    October 10, 2011 6:14 pm

    (hello moderation, I just posted a comment, and I would add something, maybe you could do that :

    What would be nice, still about raiding, is the following:

    allowing people to raid with any number of raiders between 10 and 40 in any raid.
    Numbers of ennemies and their PV and damage would vary accordingly.

    So, if we are 11 or 12 connected, we can just go 11 or 12.
    If a 25 raiding guild has 24 connected, they can just go 24 and not cancel the raid.

    Achievement would like that:
    Raid X :
    [ Date : DD / MM / YYYY ]
    [ Difficulty [from 1% to 300% modifier]
    [ Mode : easy / normal / hard / very hard ]
    [ raid size [from 10 to 40] ]

    x4
    (one with the earlier date you completed the raid with all info, one with the lowest difficulty modifier (your stats are nerfed or buffed by it) with all info, one with the hardest mode and all info, one with the largest raid size and all info)

    That would be a very nice description of one’s achievements.
    )

  57. October 10, 2011 7:04 pm

    Just had this brought to my attention by a relative. I’d recently been doing a series of experimentations on levelling to see just how bad it was. And it turned out that without gathering professions, a guild XP bonus, or heirloom gear, and as little rested xp as I could manage (camping outside of cities or inns) – I was still getting to the point where quests were consistently green, and most likely would have eventually gone grey (I stopped at about level 31, because my hypothesis had been proven at that point).

    Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly skilled player (I’m a jill of all classes, mistress of none), so a newer player might not match the swiftness and efficency with which I do quests. But even for them, they would hit a point where quests would go green before they’ve finished the zone quest achievement, and then stay green for the rest of their levelling experience (provided they don’t skip content). This is only made worse in a guild of level 2 or higher, and with one or two gathering professions, plus as much rested experience as possible. This is all at it’s worse before level 60, after level 60, the levelling process slows down somewhat – but with nerfs incoming to the levelling curve through Wrath content, I can only see it getting worse again.

    Yes, they’ve definitely gone overboard with smoothing out the levelling process. But the thing is, this constant nerfing of the levelling curve has happened because of the attitude that the game only really begins at the level cap – and therefore we have to hurry through the levelling process to get there. Mind you, there’s another reason to make levelling painless – when you’re like me, with more than 10 characters over level 70 (and most of them 80 or higher), you’ve seen all the levelling content anyway. So there’s a balancing act that Blizzard has to follow, they’ve gone too far in both directions (slow and painful, fast and painless, both boring after the first couple of times)… I can only hope they’ll learn to find a middle ground.

  58. Clockwork permalink
    October 10, 2011 10:40 pm

    I consider myself somewhat of a WoW Vet…I started a few days after release and have played on and off since…while I’ve never been in a top 10% raiding guild I did do Molten Core, did raiding in TBC and WotLK and am in a semi-casual group now that’s 6/7 FL.

    Anyways I am not sure I agree on the raiding point, but I do agree that leveling is too easy…the main game now fails to prepare you for the ACTUAL game as it were…or at least the endgame. I suppose you could split WoW into a few different games but I think the majority assumption is that the main game is: Level to 85 -> Dungeons -> Raids. Dungeons prepare you for bosses with strange mechanics that you have to be aware of…this prepares you for raids. Leveling on the other hand….does not at all prepare you for new dungeons.

    It struck me while playing another game earlier today that what games tend to do is grow more difficult/complex as you level and as they do so they give you more tools to deal with that challenge. WoW has the second part down, they give you plenty of abilities as you go, and yet you can pretty much go through the entire game with just the abilities you start with. I think what it might need is a gradual increase in difficult…with enough quests that if you DO find yourself hitting a wall you can somewhat “outlevel” your quests (do greens instead of yellows, etc) to complete them. Make ranges 1-30 the “easy” modes, 31-60 the “medium” and 60-85 the hard…and in that section focus on “teaching” the class (which would be a lot of work for Blizzard, they would have to adjust it with each patch).

    I mean at this point if you want to learn to play you are better off doing LFD and PvP instead of questing.

    @Hestiah: The games you described have “Easy” modes that are intended for even the lowest skill player to beat; they are deliberating TRYING to make sure each player, even the least skilled, can see the whole story. What is the point of trying to tell a story or provide an experience if a majority of your users never encounter it?

  59. Imakulata permalink
    October 11, 2011 5:08 am

    The problem with your argument about raids is that raiding is NOT a solo activity. Players did NOT progress to next tier when they were ready but when their guild was ready or when a better guild had a spot and deemed the player good enough to join them. This was not a problem on first raiding weeks, when everyone was in the starting raid as even the top raiding guilds (those that cleared content the fastest) were in grasp for new players if those were able to keep up with the guilds. However, as time progressed, so did guilds and eventually the guilds that were reachable for starting players were also under-average while the better guilds were left without a true ability to recruit new players, having to resort to recruiting players from less progressed guilds who had to fill their rosters by recruiting the even less progressed etc. New players, too, were forced to progress through guilds as they progressed through raids until finally finding one in the “right spot”.

    This problem was not addressed until Blizzard created TBC which included a de facto gear reset (Kara didn’t need gear from vanilla Naxx) so the players who came late in the vanilla became players who came at the right time in TBC. It still didn’t do much for players who came late in TBC (not until badges were introduced), however the vanila -> TBC gear reset is a predecessor of current raiding system with partial gear resets in each tier.

    I’ve seen many people paean the old raiding system but few of them actually realize that your progression doesn’t have to do with what YOUR skills are and everything to do with that YOUR GROUP’S skills are.

  60. Panteleone permalink
    October 11, 2011 7:13 am

    This problem traces its roots to the general dumbing-down of society, particularly with the last generation’s upbringing. Nobody loses, everybody wins, everybody ends in first place, everybody gets a ribbon/trophy/award, etc. The current generation of casual gamers has been sold a bag of goodds that life shouldn’t be hard and that failure isn’t. Blizzard knows that these people are their new subscribers, and so they cater the gaming experience to them. The Butcher wouldn’t work today, because those people wouldn’t know how to handle it.

  61. Lilfemi permalink
    October 11, 2011 7:53 am

    so true on so many levels. awesome read, thumbs up.

  62. October 11, 2011 8:03 am

    I have some minor quibbles with the base thesis you’re proposing, however, I do want to say that you’ve provoked me to see things differently, I was extremely upset about the normal-mode nerfs in FL as we hadn’t finished Rag yet, but in general I’ve been apologetic about the post-patch nerfs.

    However, you’ve proposed a general theory behind not just that one decision but a change in the model-design that I think is very illuminating.

  63. Relmesh of Mal'Ganis US permalink
    October 11, 2011 1:11 pm

    The risk/reward system of original WoW and BC where you could fail easily made me into the great player I was when I quit WoW. Heralded by my friends, always called on when there was a challenge to topple, always the one with the important job that needed to be done right, the first time, every time. Interrupter, responsibility-taker, the one to click Magtheridon cubes, tank Leotheras, Interrupt/Curse council, tank Illidan, tank Twins, tank Kil’Jaeden. That type of thing. My stellar play was a result of a sophisticated progression table stemming from the ancient roots of WoW’s difficulty when released.

    During and after vanilla WoW, I was a budding player but I knew to get more status in the game and progress my character to become one of the server idols that knew the game and was the best in PvP and had the best gear I had to do one thing– get better. In essence, the social part itself of WoW then was enough to challenge you to rise to your talents. That was the best part. The social aspect. But I NEVER would have gotten there without stepping stones. Understanding that if I was too unprepared or not paying enough attention even fighting quest mobs, I could die. Understanding that to complete this quest, I needed to either beef up some more or call in some friends, or both. Understanding that if I was too close to a friend when I got shattered, my friend would die and that had a large impact on the raid overall. My personal performance mattered and if I erred I would fail UNTIL I GOT IT RIGHT and this was a large part of me coming to realize the potential of my character.

    The problem with this whole content system now is that leveling does not make you a good player. Hell, it doesn’t make you a decent player. You are hand-held along and showered with rewards and gear and money and you never really learn anything. You rarely if ever die. You get to just understand the base level of play, how to go and kill a monster with just a few buttons that Blizzard’s giant help system told you what to do with and collect your item that only YOU can equip and that is tailor-made for YOU. Then go to the next quest and do what the quest helper says for another item without reading the quest text. You literally CAN just use one or two damaging abilities to level up all the way now, ignoring utility abilities completely.

    When I was done with vanilla leveling three months after I started back in the day, I knew a lot of things. I knew how to utilize fear to destroy them without them hurting my frail character, as Warlocks then had the lowest HP RIGHT next to Mages and none of their distance-gaining mechanisms. I knew how to kite mobs and run away from them while damaging them. I knew the best combination of spells to use to kill an enemy. I knew what all my spells did and how to use them and WHY I used them. I knew how to utilize my pet to tank a secondary mob while I dealed with the first. I knew Warlocks were fueled by Soul Shards and I had to stay on top of them to be able to create essentials like Health Stones, Soul Stones and pets. I knew how to pick different pets for different situations, using Fel Hunters on spell-casters and using the Voidwalker to tank and shield me for the final few % of a powerful monster’s HP when he died. I knew how to use the succubus to infiltrate and work my magic on humanoids. I knew how to use my talent specs because they were clearly laid out and I had to take time to read them and understand what would be the best for ME.

    But this was just the framework. Endgame raiding took these basic concepts and showed me I didn’t really know anything. My play was slow, unpolished and still riddled with failure. Eliminating that failure required me to learn to keybind, to learn to react faster, to learn the abilities of monsters and what they did and when they did them. Players, too. Playing on a PvP server was rewarding because while I leveled I saw giant armies of players fighting to the death and I saw all their actions COULD be a mistake, every GCD- when in PvP. You got a big idea that there was a definite path you needed to take to get from where you were to where you wanted to be and it didn’t look easy BUT it looked fun when you got there. So what did you do? You rose to the challenge and you got there. Next thing you know you’re in TM fighting off Southshore onslaughts and you realized what all that hard work was for, you took pride in the journey and now the destination. You were good by conditioning and blizzard taking advantage of GOOD human traits instead of bad ones. Fear of failure, the want to succeed, the thrill of the hunt, feeling your heart pounding when you’re nearly OOM and low on HP and the skeletal warrior you’re fighting against is immune to fear and does not tire. Not this bullshit system of “slog through this dungeon with random jackoffs to get enough gear to raid content, then next patch new 5-mans will come out you slog through if you’re not good enough for the raid content, so you can try the NEW raid content without even getting good enough to kill the old content”. It emulated society. Everything you want, you have to work hard for. You can’t sit at home and have money showered on you, typically.

    If I had leveled Warlock today instead of back then, I’d be at the level cap trying to solo dungeons and raids because I would encounter them and believe them to require the same type of skills, if not just slightly more. Then if it was “too hard” for that skill set, I’d probably just get free gear from 5-mans and wait until the next patch to get raid gear when they boosted me to last tier’s ilvl, again. This is why new players are constantly stuck never experiencing the endgame, they were poisoned at the starting line by this toxic breast-feeding into adulthood. How am I supposed to want a thirst for adventure and the hunger for more, when my mom is right there the whole time, killing every meal and feeding it to me and guiding me to my next pathway in life? Its almost insulting the way they treat the average intelligence of players. Give us a challenge. Players flocked to WoW back in the day and made it as big as it was because of the resounding word-of-mouth that the game was FANTASTIC. This unfortunately brought some players who believed that the game model that was working and introduced them to WoW in the first place only made the “rich richer.” This was never true, it was just called being lazy. You too could become rich, anyone could. You just had to do hard work. Apparently for some, even in video games, this concept is lost to “its a game, it should be 100% fun all the time!” when in reality, it was fun 100% of the time. Dying was wonderful. It taught me that if I didn’t do something, I’d always be going to that graveyard, grumbling as I made my long walk to my corpse. So I made steps to not die. I kept moving and evolved and became a successful player through overcoming adversity. Wrath and Cata killed this completely, lubing the way to level cap and padding everything with a safety net to protect the players from themselves.

    Ever wondered if the reason you need to nerf the content so hard is because you’re breeding a generation of players who don’t know what a challenge is? The old schoolers know what to expect and they came prepared. When Illidan was screaming “YOU ARE NOT PREPARED!” at me, I knew I wasn’t. He was a god compared to me, but when I finally faced him and won, I learned that all my efforts over the months made me one thing: Prepared. “Vets,” they want want hard content. Veterans, good veterans nearly ALWAYS want to be challenged. They go to where they are by overcoming failure, they BEG for failure in the future, so they can conquer it. I mean vets very loosely, its not about how long you played, its about what kind of player you’ve become over that time. That is TRULY becoming a veteran. This is why elitism exists. Why DO they get it easier? Why DON’T you condition players to be able to react to challenges and find out how to beat them? Why DON’T you introduce failure every step along the way so the player ELIMINATES FAILURE? Its McDonald’s mentality. Eat this fatty burger because its easy and cheap and tastes good while you eat it. Months later, feel the wear of it on your body as you trade your physical progression instilled by getting up and making a meal for convenience of the quick and easy and predetermined. A few more pounds, a little less stamina. Same thing with WoW. You can either stay on the lean path, making the smart choices and adapting or you can go on the fatty path, taking the low-hanging fruit and spending your life anticipating the power that will never come to you because of your lethargy.

    Its sad the state WoW is, the spark of failure is indeed gone and along with it are droves of subscribers. The playerbase will continue to fall until blizzard raises another generation of go-getter players with challenging content from the first log-in, eager to fall on their faces to get rewards and that are able to say “I can do this,” with confidence that through their trial and error, they will succeed.

  64. Relmesh of Mal'Ganis US permalink
    October 11, 2011 1:40 pm

    In addition, to put it into perspective for those who can’t quite grasp what the OP is saying and what my post is saying:

    The state of WoW is easily emulated by the Karate Kid. Daniel is confused and frustrated that his long and arduous tasks have resulted in seemingly no progress in the face of his numerous failures, only to be shown by Mr. Miyagi that the whole way was just preparing him with skills he never knew he had. Miyagi tries to teach him that becoming good through hard work is infinitely better than cheating your way to the top. Daniel sees the side of easy and dirty tactics that Cobra Kai employs and is tempted by easy wins and the status of power they seemingly emanate. He is betrayed by this train of thought and THROUGH HIS FAILURE, he learns that the tried-and-true way of hard work will see his goals and when the time came, the crane kick flowed like water, effortlessly and he was a champion. Now replace Daniel with the average player and imagine Vanilla and BC as Mr. Miyagi’s teachings, with Wrath and Cataclysm being Cobra Kai teachings. Hopefully blizzard will understand cheating their way to subscribers isn’t going to work long-term. Its the “dark side” of development. Teaching them with wax-on, wax-off and hang your coat, take down your coat instead of TAKE THESE STEROIDS AND AIM FOR WEAK SPOTS will make successful players, not “talk the talk but don’t walk the walk” children that plague the game today.

  65. jimmydean4114 permalink
    October 11, 2011 2:38 pm

    I agree with this article whole heartily, but I was also thinking about something that we often neglect. Blizzard has to protect newbies, because when they fail they are treated like trash by veteran players. I am not saying this is true of every person who plays wow, but I guess my point is that the community has fallen apart and players who want to improve are torn apart, instead of getting helpful criticism. I’ve almost quit wow several times, not because it was too easy, but because I was treated like an Idiot because it was my first time experiencing new content

  66. Darren permalink
    October 11, 2011 3:34 pm

    I love this, I agree with everything in it. I started playing in BC, I was a big noob then, and I never got in a guild to past kara / gruul / mag. And i ran those instances the whole expac and I loved it.

  67. Benfrew permalink
    October 11, 2011 4:12 pm

    Benfrew was frustrated at all the good times going away, so, with nothing else to do, Benfrew sent Benfrew’s paladin out to finish up Lore Master…two weeks later Benfrew was bored enough to leave WOW until WOW gets better again.

  68. PeterM permalink
    October 12, 2011 1:19 pm

    I agree with the essay and some of the comments. The game is in a bad state.
    I dont know if it would solve anything today to get some aspects of tbc/vanilla back though.
    The pandarias box is opened and i dont think they can go back with that. It would just a cause a big shitstorm.
    You have seen the whine at the start of cata.

  69. Gaudaloht permalink
    October 12, 2011 6:45 pm

    I Quited some time ago cause i had the same feeling about wow now

  70. October 13, 2011 6:28 am

    I’m guessing the post was written by someone who wasn’t very involved with managing raid groups in vanilla / tbc. In vanilla, we set aside 1-2 raid days each week to gear new recruits up in old raid tiers by the time we reached Naxxramas. In tbc the standard was to steal geared players from other raid groups (or having your geared players stolen to better groups). In both cases, the lack of gear resets during an expansion lead to situations for most raid groups that I most certainly would never want to bring back. I also note that the author doesn’t condemn the gear resets when new expansions come out as bad. It is a valid point though, about the current raid tier being available for VP purchases. That doesn’t make much sense.

    I also find the section about level 1-60 questing content a bit curious. It basically starts off saying that people use heirlooms and max level guilds to boost their XP gains. Well, this would be true for alts but a genuine new player, who the content is designed for? So yes, if you have gathered full heirloom gear by playing a max level character for a good while and then run through the low level leveling content it is bound to be too fast, you spent a fair amount of time and effort to speed it up, in fact. As for the talent speccs / skill usage and good gear aspect, outdoor content was never hard to defeat without perfecting any of those. The level 1-60 experience is largely built around teaching people about their spells and talents but to expect people to have optimized them at that stage seems odd. That’s only really necessary when you start reaching the pinnacle content of the game and that’s the same as it always has been.

    I do agree that the game today lacks certain… risk taking. I’m thinking here about the quests that could only be completed with 5 people in the old 10 man instances (Stratholm, Scholomance) and other bits and bobs (like those hunter and priests quests) that were there for some to complete but not for everyone to succeed at. Adding in a bit of spice like that again would be a good idea. Not sure I miss wading through DM trash though…

  71. Briga permalink
    October 13, 2011 9:38 am

    The writer of this blog is way off the mark criticising lack of challenge of levelling process.

    Vanilla and Burning crusade quests can all be broken down into 3 categories…

    “Go kill x number of boars”
    “Bring me 30 boar eyes (some boars do not have eyes it seems)”
    “take this package and go deliver it to the other side of the world for me as I am too lazy”

    Which of those 3 options is hard? None of them.

    Challenge has NEVER been present during levelling and it is a mistake to assume it ever was.

  72. Illfurion permalink
    October 13, 2011 9:54 am

    Perc, you never fail to speak truth!

  73. lilsanta permalink
    October 15, 2011 1:22 pm

    Tank / Healer mandatory combo gets old after years no matter how many dynamics you put into it.

    Whenever you have investors wanting a profit, it doesn’t matter how the game is: If you can get another million subscribers by weakening content then that is a huge ‘victory’ for Blizzard—if you want to talk about challenges/rewards.

    To make a proper game with integrity you need a private company.

  74. BigDaddy permalink
    October 18, 2011 10:23 pm

    I want WOW to continue to get easier and easier. It is a game in its dying years – all good things must come to an end. The best way for Blizzard to keep as many subscriptions as possible is to make the content that has always eluded many of us, become increasingly easier. That is what gives me the incentive to keep playing.

    New MMOs will replace WOW soon enough. I welcome the ability to explore as much of WOW as possible as it inevitably fades into pale insignificance taking its place in history as the best MMO of its time.

  75. PeterM permalink
    October 25, 2011 5:18 am

    I guess with the announcement of MoP Blizzard will continue the way of further simplifications.

  76. Face permalink
    December 4, 2011 3:54 pm

    Great article! That part about the butcher was dead-on. Very nostalgic moment for me haha.

  77. Churkau permalink
    December 6, 2011 10:43 am

    This article was so well written, I’ve almost tears in my eyes now. It is exactly how I feel about this game.

  78. Jack permalink
    February 20, 2012 9:48 am

    I think for me, WoW has one main problem.

    It doesn’t use its own world any more.

    One of the best experiences I had when I played WoW was during Vanilla, where my first character was a Night Elf. As most will know, this race starts in the middle of nowhere, on the opposite site of the world to the ‘Alliance’. You were out in the sticks. You couldn’t auto-queue for anything. Heck, there wasn’t even an auction house in Darnassus.

    What you had to do was trek, and I do mean trek. You had to fly a hippogryph to Darkshore, jump on a boat that could be taking you absolutely anywhere and creep your way through the Wetlands, a zone infested with [??] level crocodiles. Seeing a friendly character was a godsend. Eventually, after much adventuring and dying, you’d hit Ironforge and it would be absolutely amazing.

    What was special about that was that I was just doing it off my steam. The game hadn’t popped up with some sort of massive hint that I should see the other continent, I’d just opened my map, picked a place and worked it out as I went along. That kind of experience is far, far more immersive than the way the game plays now.

    I recently started a new character seeing as I had a weekend free, and although there are clear improvements to the interface and what have you, my perception of the game world was damaged a lot when it became clear that I could teleport basically anywhere of interest at a press of a button. On my Night Elf, even getting to Deadmines was like an epic quest in itself, but my Cata character cleared it without even leaving his capital city. Also, the levelling is so off that having done two dungeons, I’d actually greyed all the quests in the zone I was in. It felt almost as though there was no point in doing anything other than sitting by a repairer in Orgrimmar, continually queuing for dungeon after dungeon after dungeon all the way to the level cap.

    To sum up, it feels like the game is not only holding my hand, but dragging me along. Questing feels like you’re on rails, continually being carted from zone to zone with no opportunity to just sit back and look around, and all the interest of the dungeons evaporates when you don’t even have to know where they are on a map. Put simply, I want the hassle of having to find a new place, because that’s what made it fun and rewarding. I want to be excited when I see a blue or a purple instead of having them chucked at me left, right and centre. I want a game!

  79. Owledge permalink
    February 22, 2012 11:39 am

    On-topic has been sufficiently commented on and I find my thoughts reflected in the responses, so here something less on topic:

    qouted from the essay:
    “RPG’s in particular are driven by the twin engines of progression through content and improvement of your character’s abilities. These are the yin and yang of WoW. Each brings about the other, and conversely, neither is possible without the other working in counterpoint. And when either is missing, the game stops.”

    This is an inaccurate metaphor based on an incorrect understanding of the yin-yang theory (quite common considering all the “The Tao of …” stuff). You are describing two factors of the same flavor assisting each other in bringing about results. Yin-yang on the other hand is a polarity. They are, by definition, as opposite as then can be. You could say that everything consists of this polarity, a bit of each, but they are opponents. In your RPG example, there is more progression through content when there is more character ability, and vice-versa, but in Daoism, when there is more Yang, there is less Yin. The idea behind the Taiji is that the very idea of one notion can only exist in the presence of an adverse notion. For example, when something is cold, something else has to be hot, or you wouldn’t even know what cold is. It is not that you need more heat in order to have more cold, it is that you need the very existence of heat to have the very existence of cold, because Yin and Yang are like the two opposite end points on a scale.

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