You can please some of the people some of the time. . .   9 comments

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?

Yes…and no.

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?

9 responses to “You can please some of the people some of the time. . .

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  1. I do think they are trying to make everyone happy and they are going to have a very hard time. Adding in 10 mans and hard modes just gave them more to juggle. At least it used to only be PvE VS PvP.

    Can you hear us now? “Ah, the good old days when we only had to worry about what PvP would do to raiding!”

  2. Ye Gods, congratulations on C’’Thun. I know that is not the point of this post but credit where it is due.

    I’m afraid this comment basically amounts to “may your ancestors be praised” because I have nothing to say that would contribute to discussion or enhance the original post in any way. But I did want you to know that I’d read it, I appreciate it and I think you articulate these thorny issues extremely well indeed.

    in fact, if I ever feel the need to express an opinion on this subject again I may well just point in this direction :)

  3. @ Tamarind – Thanks =)

    @ Aertimus – I do think that Blizzard maybe is errorenously trying to please everyone. I really don’t mind that they want more people to see some of the content the pour most of their resources on, but I would like for them to continue to require a fair level of skill for success. The bar doesn’t need to be set so high as it once was, but perhaps not quite as low as they’ve got it at the moment.

    A lot of people complain about a lot of things. However, I do believe that some of the “nerfs” we have seen were warranted. Not all changes are made to “nerf” the content to make it easier. Some of them are to fix flaws in the design that went live for whatever reason.

    For example, I 100% agree with the changes to Mimiron. When the actual model of the body obstructed being able to adequately perform on an encounter…yea, that should be changed. (Having people get around the issue by using Baby Spice is not a really great solution). Those changes did nothing to technically “nerf” the encounter, they were probably things that should have gone live and should have been changed before the first guilds got to him and went WTF.

    Some nerfs, like Yogg, I saw coming…and mark my words you will see a nerf to tentacle life in phase two “soon”, I would put money on it. I am somewhat on the fence about nerfs like these. Yes, some of the cloud mechanics were ridiculous…but eventually people figured out to stay the hell out of them. Yes the spawn rate on the guardians was somewhat unforgiving. But you did learn to work with that.

    I guess I just hope that Yogg isn’t nerfed so much that becomes trivial instead of the proper challenge that he should be. It SHOULD take guilds a some time to learn him and master him. There is nothing wrong with that! Whatever changes Blizzard may have in store for him, I just hope that they maintain the integrity of the encounter.

  4. One thing we have to keep in mind is that Blizzard has a timeline in mind for the progression of the expansion.

    The PTR for 3.2 will probably be up in the next week or two, and likely last 4-6 weeks. I think it’s not unreasonable to predict we have less than 8 resets left where Ulduar is the bleeding edge of progression. To put that in perspective, if your 25-man guild hasn’t already taken out a few hard modes, you’re probably going to see no more than a handful of ilvl 239 loots before 3.2 lands. I think Blizzard wants to encourage guilds to give the hard modes serious attempts before the new content lands.

    The reality of the game moving forward is that previous “bleeding edge” content often becomes content that only completionists and WoW-tourists attempt. Unless Blizzard surprises us all by making the 3.2 raid instance loot inferior to Ulduar-25-hard loot, hard mode Ulduar will be all but irrelevant–if you’re clearing Ulduar after 3.2 comes out, you’re probably doing it for Val’anyr shards, and the 239 drops will be just ancillary, as you can get the same loot way faster and way easier by rolling over raid3.2 easymode.

    So, if they don’t want Ulduar Hard Modes to rot, they do need to tune them down, and they need to do it fast. People don’t have months and months to learn and clear the hard modes because the next tier is coming only 17-18 total resets after the initial launch.

    I think Hard Modes are a great idea, a great way to justify spending lots of resources on making raids–much like the 10/25 dual nature of WotLK raids as well. But, Blizzard is definitely still making mistakes and learning from them.

    One of their mistakes, I think, is that the gear progression is very shallow in WotLK so far. The difference between a maxed-out T7 raider and a maxed-out normal mode T8 raider isn’t very big. If T8 normal mode was 232 or even 239, they could have left the hard modes tuned hard. I’m sure AAA guilds like Ensidia would have still found a way to make progress with T7-caliber gear, but most “merely” A-guilds would have just farmed out normal for a few months to get a gear edge before really taking these challenges on.

    Shallow gear progression means it is very difficult to make raiding accessible for everyone without completely watering down the content. To illustrate, they want a reasonable group of 213-geared players to be able to take out Normal XT002 without too much frustration. Well, 213s aren’t massively better than 200s which can farmed out of heroics–if it’s doable by an average group in 213s, a proficient raid made up of mostly fresh 80s with one clear of Naxx10 under their belt can probably also clear Normal XT002 without much grief.

    Similarly, if they want hard modes to be approachable by any but the very top guilds, they needed to make it approachable in 226 gear, which is not that much better than what you were probably already wearing towards the end of 3.0, if you farmed 2D Sarth / Maly / KT in 25-man regularly.

    I think if they had built a broader spectrum of gear–something like Heroics 200, Naxx10 213, Naxx25 219, Ulduar10 226, Ulduar25 232, Uld10Hard 239, Uld25Hard 245–you would actually have more of a sensible progression path, one where you could design Uld25 content to punish players who tried to skip directly there from heroics.

    We’ll see if Blizzard takes a new direction with hard modes in 3.2, and what conclusions they have come to regarding what did or did not work in 3.1.

  5. Jurik,

    I think that you are very optimistic in your timeline for 3.2 to land. I would bet that the first round of PTR testing for 3.2 is the new BG, minus the new Arena instance. If I had to guess, my guess would be that a content patch is at least 3 months out.

    I would probably classify Monolith as an above average, but not spectacular, progression guild, I think we were in like the 4th or 5th percentile of guilds to kill Yogg. It took us about 5 and a half weeks to get the kill from the release of the zone. I also think that it is Blizzard’s expectations that people clear Yogg before starting on Hard Modes.

    Only 8 more resets to me just seems too fast, and doesn’t really mesh well for Blizzard’s expansion timeline either. Ulduar is huge, and a lot of time and effort was put into it, I think Blizzard intends us to be there a bit longer. Honestly, how many of the “star” guilds have killed Alagon to date? How many are still fighting with Mimiron Hard Mode?

    I just think that we are going to have more time than that. Maybe I’m optimistic.

    I am also not entirely convinced that the new “Arena” dungeon isn’t supposed to run somewhat concurrently with Ulduar, similar to how MH/BT ran together. I would be surprised, I guess, if this new instance offered another tier of set gear.

  6. Pingback: a small amount of gushing and more posts that made me go hmmmm « standing at the back in my sissy robe

  7. Nice post!

    I wonder sometimes if hardcore comes down to how much you really care about the game. I’ve known non-raiders who put many more hours in than I ever did, for example. Just people get competitive about proving how much they care, and you get some crazy behaviour. (and Im reminded of someone who commented that anyone who blogs about the game is hardcore by definition compared to the majority :) ).

    I know that raiding now is at a good difficulty level for me and my raid. We’re working our way through Ulduar-25 normal modes — got Freya and Thorim this week. I know it’s too easy for the heavy progression guilds, but where do you find the balance. We hope they enjoy the hard modes but all I can say is that I do enjoy it when content is pitched at a good difficulty for me.

  8. Speaking as a non-raider who is vaguely interested in endgame content, I do think that Blizzard’s policy for Raiding is wrong.

    I don’t think that the problem is that raids are too easy (or at least, since I’ve never actually *done* one – well, I pugged Sarth-10 in a “we DPS through the portals and heal through the lava” way) so much as that by making Raiding accessible to everybody, Blizzard is basically saying that everybody is *expected* to raid, which means that you wind up with a bunch of people raiding who don’t actually particularly want to do it.

    Weirdly, I think that the changes to the badge system will help – if people can get Ulduar-25 quality gear from running heroics, they’ll only do it if they want to, which hopefully means that that Blizzard won’t have to worry about people getting frustrated that they can’t do the content.

  9. Great article!

    Well I raid six hours a week and play about 4-5 hours on Heroic runs and dailies. I”m the perfect example of “casual”. My thoughts on raiding?

    The question is what Blizzard want’s us to do in raids. On a simplistic level they need to give us plenty to do so we can keep paying them the monthly fees.

    And yet, IMHO, they are also doing something else with “raids”. They’ve made them simple enough so that all the players can see the content and experience the Arthus story. Patch 3.3 is all about taking on Arthus. Blizz want’s as many players as possible to experience that.

    WoW is very much centered around the player experiencing the “story”.

    I see instances like little chapters now: all part of the narrative the Lich King expansion has been telling us.

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