One of the first things I do at work after booting up, getting my tea, and making sure that all of my pertinent business is taken care of, is to check out what’s going on in the community. Today Keeva wrote a post responding to Jacemora which caught my fancy and and has touched on something that I have had thoughts on previously, so I wanted to throw in my two cents while I had two cents to offer.
The real crux of both of the arguments from the presenters above, it would seem, stem from a long standing Casual vs. Hardcore debate that has been brewing in WoW since the days of Molten Core. This has been further escalated by Blizzard’s new design philosophy that allows a greater number of their subscribers to see more of the content. One would think that was great! Right?
So what the heck is the problem? The Cliff’s Notes version of the answer is that some of those in the “hardcore” community feel that the content has been dumbed down so much for all of the “casuals” that there isn’t anything to provide them with an adequate challenge, which is what made the game fun for them. The “casuals” are telling the “hardcore” to stop being elitists who are only complaining because they are upset that they have to “share” the raid content now.
Hrm…this is quite the conundrum!
Let’s start by first trying to define what stereotypes are attached to “casual” and “hardcore”, and then following the evolution of WoW raiding and how it affected these groups, because I don’t think that you can understand or appreciate either side of the argument without having a solid background of WoW raiding.
- The “Casual” WoW Player. I think the stereotypical definition is a person that doesn’t have the desire and/or the time to commit to a hefty raid schedule and plays wow more for the social interaction and not as much for the “end game” aspect. While this in and of itself isn’t bad, it seems that a stigmata has been associated with the world “casual” to a great number of people, and unfortunately these are the same people that seem to align being “casual” with being a less skilled player. Some people believe that the “casual” player is ruining WoW.
- The “Hardcore” WoW Player. I think stereotypically this is the player that has a very large focus on endgame content, which to a lot of people often translates into a lot of time to sit at the computer and play the game, sometimes neglecting other things in their life that they shouldn’t. They play the game to achieve different sets of goals, that are generally aligned to clearing out the latest dungeon in the most expeditious fashion. The hardcore player also seems to wear the stigmata of being “elitist” or thinking that they superior than everyone else. This group is often chided for having “no life” and “living in their mother’s basement”.
Wow! With the amount of animosity between these two stereotypical groups, you’d think that we were dealing with the Hatfields and McCoys here! How did this happen in something that is supposed to be fun for everyone?!?!
WoW’s Design Philosophystarted off, and to an extent still largely is, designed around character progression. Generally speaking this is done in two ways: 1) Leveling your character to the maximum level allowable and 2) Improving your character through gear. When WoW first released the only real way to provide your character to the maximum extent was through raiding (this is still partly true today). However, raiding in Vanilla WoW was a huge time commitment. Before you could even enter a zone you were required to key yourself (I still shudder when I hear someone mention “Jailbreak”. And not only did you have to devote the actual time needed to raid, you also needed to devote very large amounts of time outside of those raids to farm for consumables and repair gold. Your average raider spent maybe 20-30 hours a week raiding, and another 10-20 hours a week farming to be able to raid. Raid dungeons required 40 people, were lengthy, difficult, and had unforgiving trash. (I am sure we were not the only guild that had people “not feel so good” and need to log when we got to the C’Thun trash).
This was where the first distinction between “casuals” and “hardcore” really started. It was quite obvious who was raiding and who was not. And unfortunately, this is where the stereotypes that Jacemora alludes to in his comments started. Yes, there were people who really enjoyed the fact that they were further progressed than others, and they certainly projected an aura of superiority. These are the same people that sat around in Ironforge and Orgrimar in their gear just to announce to everyone how wonderful they were (sadly, the only thing about this practice that has changed is the location in which people sit). However, this is also a fine example of how a few bad apples can spoil the barrel.
I was in one of the only guilds on my server (and in the world for that matter) to actually kill C’Thun. I was, and to this day still am, extremely proud of that kill. However, I never went around boasting how 1337 I was to everybody. Nor did I tell anyone how horrible they were because they weren’t in the 3% of the people in the world that killed him. Yet…by the logic of the stereotype I was in fact a snob, merely by association to the fact that I was in a progression guild. I had no life, and lived in my mother’s basement…merely by association to the fact that I was in a progression guild.
Alas, I digress. Let’s keep going with our analysis!
Raiding in the Burning Crusade started off pushing an extension of the content that was in Vanilla WoW, with the single exception that raids were now built around 25 people instead of 40. However, the philosophy that went along with it was that each player now had to carry 100% of their weight in a raid. Everyone was expected to perform, and that is how encounters were tuned. Blizzard also changed the value of consumable usage quite early on in the expansion, and you needed to spend much less time outside of raiding preparing yourself to raid. Again, however, either you raided or you didn’t. This content was not developed with the majority of the playerbase in mind. If you didn’t raid…well, you didn’t raid.
While the first raid zone, Karazhan, was built for 10 players it was far from a “casual” friendly zone. It was…well, hard. Laugh if you want, but if you didn’t enter Karazhan within the first month or so of the expansion you may not remember exactly how challenging the zone was. Killing Nightbane really was in fact something to boast about! Blizzard was setting the bar for their raiders right here. This “entry” level content wasn’t exactly entry, and was far from “puggable” in its original incarnation. It assumed that you knew the basics of raiding, and many of the encounters were extremely challenging and required much coordination.
The first two 25 man zones in TBC were Gruul and Magtheridon, and were brutally unforgiving with their demands for execution. Do you remember when a cube clicked just a fraction of a second too soon was a wipe? Do you remember wiping to the trash packs in Magtheridon’s lair? Do you remember throwing yourself a Grull repeatedly? That shit was just hard. All it took was ONE person to screw up a click at 10% and it was finished. Hell, my guild instituted a “three wipe” rule on Magtheridon. If we couldn’t have our heads in the game enough to click those damn cubes for three pulls in a row, we would move onto something else and come back to Mags the following night.
The next two instances both required tedious keying requirements. Serpentshrine Cavern required you to have 25 people that had killed Gruul and Nightbane (challenges in themselves!) while Tempest Keep requried the horribly tedious “Trials of the Naruu” to gain access. The trash in both zones was absolutely horrible to the point that often times a trash respawn late enough in the evening meant that you were done raiding for the night. Some of the bosses weren’t overly difficult, some were fairly challenging, but both instances had wonderfully designed end encounters that required a lot of coordination, effort and dedication on behalf of the raid to overcome. Hell, there were guilds that never did kill Vashj and Kael until right before the expansion when they were nerfed, due to their difficulty.
The following tier of raiding added another “keying” requirement, requiring you to have killed Vashj and Kael to gain access. The biggest problem with this, other than the difficulty of the encounters, was that it made it extremely difficult to recruit for this level of raiding. People were constantly going back to “re-key” new raiders, and nobody really “farmed” Vashj and Kael for loot, even though there were some really fantastic items to be had.
Mount Hyjal and Black Temple both also had their challenges. Archimonde and Illidan were complex encounters that seemed simple enough when you read the strategies on paper, but were quite challenging to execute…again, Blizzard made it clear that these challenges are to be expected when raiding. It took weeks to kill an end boss and often months to even get to that boss. You worked hard, and eventually you got to reap the rewards.
The final zone, Sunwell Plateau, was completely unforgiving. It was created and designed to be the pinnacle of TBC raiding, and it damn near required perfection. The highest echeleon of progression guilds loved it. The guilds right below them hated it. And nobody else even got to see it. To even be able to perform in the zone, it required monthsof Illidan farming. It required a level of play and execution that was never before seen in WoW. It re-defined raid stacking, and in some instances, required certain classes that if you didn’t have them you may as well just not raid that night (enhancement shaman for Brutallus? Prot Paladin for Felmyst?). The instance was the ultimate definer, and probably burned out more raiders than any other zone in the history of WoW.
Hell, I hated the zone so much that I still haven’t gone back to finish the damn thing off. Rather than burning out our members on content that almost all of them loathed, we opted to keep them engaged doing things like alt Mt. Hyjal and BT while waiting for the expansion. The fact that people would show up for that, and not SWP even though we offered to continue to work it after the nerfs should speak volumes about the zone.
Enter Wrath of the Lich King Raiding. Somewhere between the tail end of TBC and the release of WotLK, Blizzard decided that perhaps they’d gotten it all wrong in their raiding model. Right now only a very small portion of their player base got to experience the content that they spend a good majority of their resources developing. Well…that just didn’t seem right. And, honestly, I’d agree with that.
So, what Blizzard did, was to make the first raid zones in Wrath true “entry” level zones. The only problem is that they overdid it. Heck, even Blizzard has admitted they made the zones too easy! They also made their first introduction with varying difficulty levels for encounters.
So, what’s the problem?!?! Seems like a win-win!
Well…not exactly. For those guilds that went from Sunwell to Naxx, Naxx might as well have been UBRS (which, believe it or not, was actually hard in it’s heydey!). Hell, for anyone that raided in TBC pre-nerf, Naxx really wasn’t a challenge. It did not take you months to get to a boss that you then spent weeks learning…it took you a week to clear the zone, period. Raiding was easy.
So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing…and everything.
While I think it is nice that everyone is getting to see the content, a good portion of what drove raiders was the challenges. And largely, those were/are missing.
The other problem is that now Blizzard has themselves in a bit of a catch 22. All those players that felt excluded from raiding up to this point have had a fairly easy time at raiding and learning content, which is quite contrary to raiding before this expansion. A lot of people do not know what it is like to wipe for two months on a boss (yea…f-you Brutallus). Nor do they know what it is like to have to actually work to get your kills. Hey! It really is OK to leave the raid zone without having cleared all of the bosses out! Honest! It doesn’t make your guild horrible and full of bad players just because you had to leave that boss standing this week.
Since the expansion a lot of people are now used to just walking in, throwing a few frostbolts, and expecting loot to be handed to them with very little time and effort expended. Hell, I was in a pug the other day that fell apart after only five wipes. What the hell! Are people really giving up after so little effort? Sadly, yes.
Ulduar. Blizzard has now presented us with the next instance of this expansion, which I think that it is in-arguably more difficult than naxx. Blizzard has provided 14 bosses, 10 of which have varying modes of difficulty surrounding them. However, Blizzard has put themselves in a difficult spot.
The bar that Blizzard set at the beginning of the expansion was, in my opinion, much too low. Now that Blizzard has provided some moderate challenges, all of the people that just blew through Naxx are expecting to be able to do the same here. So, what happened when Blizzard got some of the numbers back from the non-Beta testers after the zone went live? They discovered some aspects of the encounters were too hard for the general public that was trying to raid Ulduar, and a series of nerfs trickled out. Some were needed, some were not. I’ll be honest here, I think that had Naxx been a little more challenging Blizzard would have had some leeway to keep Ulduar as it was upon release. Right now if something takes more than a few pulls to obtain success there are a lot of people that are screaming that it is too difficult. Don’t believe me? Go check out the general forums.
However, unless you were a conditioned raider pre-WotLK, you really don’t understand what those “hardcore” raiders are complaining about as they keep nerfing parts of the zone. It really isn’tbecause they don’t want everyone to see it. That is not what it is about. Honest. It’s because with each change Blizzard is continuing to lower the content to meet the masses instead of requiring the masses to learn to perform better to excel at the content. Think about it. It’s like having a college require an SAT score of 1450 for admission one year, and then instead making potential students continue to meet that requirement to maintain their stature of academic excellence, lowering the requirement to 1100 for admission the following year just so more people could attend the school. Would you think that was OK?
But what about the Hard Modes? This is the cry of the “casuals” when someone complains about the nerfs. “Hey Mr. Hardcore, leave us alone and go waste your life on the Hard Modes!”.
For some people, like me, that is fine. I accept the direction that WoW is moving, and I will likewise accept the challenges as they are presented to me. For others, like Keeva, hard modes are just a gimmick to keep people playing and make them think that they’ve been given more content than they actually have. I definitely think, however, that this will be the new status quo for raid formatting. Blizzard, to an extent, is able to offer challenges to those that want them and content for all to enjoy.
So, is raiding too easy? A little bit, I think yes. Although I am glad that Blizzard has opened their content up to more people. I don’t think that someone that can only raid, say, six hours per week should not get to see the content available. But on the same token, I think that same player should still be expected to maintain a level of skill to master the content regardless of the amount of time that they have to play and not expect the content to be made easier because they have a more limited amount of time to spend on it.
So maybe it takes them three months to clear the zone instead of one. No big deal! But the problem that arises currently, with the bar that has been set by Blizzard for raiding right now, is that person with six hours a week to play expects to be able to progress through the content at the same pace as that person with 20 hours of time each week for raiding. (Yes, I am well aware that this is somewhat exaggerated).
Me…I personally liked the difficulty of MH and BT. I thought they were well tuned and I enjoyed the zones immensely. I would hope that Ice Crown is similar in difficulty to these instances. I found Sunwell to be overtuned and unnecessarily difficult. While I understand that it was supposed to be the “cherry on top” for the top echeleon guilds of TBC, Blizzard was right not to make another instance where this level of difficulty is the mandatory level. However, I do think that they can kick it up a notch and expect people to play better without excluding those that they have now introduced into the raiding environment.
As for the Casual vs. Hardcore debacle. It is just flat out wrong to stereotype people. Some of the best players I know don’t raid “hardcore” for a plethora of reasons, and some of the worst players I know raid 25 hours a week. Being Casual or Hardcore has zero to do with your ability to be a skillful player. On the same token being casual or hardcore has zero to do with your attitude and personality. I definitely know some huge jerks that aren’t in the “hardcore” crowd.
Keeva is certainly correct, I think, in her assessment that it is a player’s prerogative to want to enjoy content at their own pace, even if that pace is swift. I suppose the question now is, did Blizzard make a deal with the devil that it can’t win by trying to please all of the people all of the time?
What do you all think about the current state of WoW Raiding?