Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Invaded by raiders
My apoplogies, apparently some hardcore raiding forum linked to my blog and now I get lots of nasty comments from elitist raiders. My favorite one is: "Casuals, at least in Blizzard's eyes, are happy jumping in front of the mailbox in IF, or doing whatever it is they do." I also made the error of following a reader's link to the official WoW forums to a related thread, and the comments there were even harsher. It seems that some raiders have a profound sense of entitlement, thinking that the more they play and the more they shout at Blizzard, the more entitled they are to exclusive content. And they absolutely want that content to remain exclusive, and keep the casual riff raff out. Thus any ideas to make raid dungeons accessible to casual players get shouted down with all sorts of insults. Lets see if I can clear up some misconceptions:
- "Casuals can't raid because they don't have the time." A typical example of circular logic. Casuals have problems raiding a place like Karazhan, because assembling a raid group with any chance of success takes too long. But that is because Karazhan requires a good class mix, an attunement, and hundreds of hours played at level 70 for gear from other places. If a raid dungeon existed that was much easier, had no attunement, and had a lot more flexibility what class mix could come, assembling a raid group would go much faster. And how much time it takes *in* the raid dungeon would be a matter of good game design. If I had to build a casual raid dungeon, it would start with about 20 minutes worth of trash mobs, a first boss, and then doors in three directions, leading to more bosses. Thus the raid group can always decide how many wings of the dungeon they want to do in what evening.
- "Casuals only want free epics". It is funny that the people who actually raid apparently think that there is no fun to be had in raiding itself, and that you do it only for the epics. Every single serious proposal I've read (or wrote) on how to make a casual raiding dungeon included that of course if the place is easier, the loot has to be less good. Casual players do not necessarily want free epics, they just would like to be able to raid at all.
- "Nobody would go to casual raid dungeons. Karazhan is extremely popular." Doh! Karazhan is extremely popular because it is the easiest raid dungeon that exists at the moment. Pre-TBC there were places like UBRS or Zul'Gurub which were easier than Karazhan is now or Molten Core was then, and these more casual places were very well visited. If Blizzard opened up a raid dungeon easier than Karazhan, it would draw a lot of people right now.
- "Casuals are happy jumping in front of the mailbox in IF". No they aren't, they just have nothing better to do. One thing that is important to many players, especially casual players, is to hang out with friends. If a raid dungeon is easy enough to be played in a very relaxed way, it is like a big party, lots of fun, hanging out with friends, while still having something better to do than just jumping in front of a mailbox.
- "You can't make easy raids because of the freeloaders." How your guild handles freeloaders is your guild's problem, not Blizzards. This might come to some surprise to the self-centered hardcore raiders, but not everyone is only concerned with his own welfare in World of Warcraft. Many people are quite willing to help guild mates to gear up, even if they couldn't possibly contribute as much as the already better equipped people in a raid. Raids that have enough slots for a couple of "freeloaders" are actually a good feature, for a better social coherence of a guild. Due to Real Life ® it is obvious that in a large group of friends not everybody plays the same amount of hours per month. And World of Warcraft is a game where your power depends very much on the amount of hours you played. Guilds kicking out the players that play the least, or the players who play the most leaving the guild to join a stronger one, are negative consequences of the current WoW model. A better guild model would allow the more advanced players to give a leg up to their friends that play less.
- "Blizzard should give most attention to the people shouting the loudest." Unfortunately Blizzard fell right into that one. Casual players have a lot less free available time. So of course they want to spend the little time they have to actually play, and not hang out in the forums complaining. If Blizzard wanted to know what their players want, they would have to put up some sort of survey *in game* with in-game prizes for everybody who answers, so that even the casual players would want to participate. Right now the casuals are the silent majority. The way they do vote is with their wallet. And the shrinking player numbers in North America and Europe should tell Blizzard something. Patch 2.3 was a first indication that Blizzard got that particular message and is trying to improve. Patch 2.4 will bring more daily quests and a new 5-man dungeon for casuals, but the added raid dungeon apparently will be rather hardcore. :( It is probably too late to still improve TBC raiding, I only hope that WotLK will be better in that respect.
- "I earned exclusive content because I pay a monthly fee and play a lot." Everybody pays the same monthly fee. But the cost per player for Blizzard aren't the same for everybody. Raiders use up more resources like server utilization and bandwith, because they play more hours per month. They are the least profitable customers for Blizzard. Of course Blizzard should provide content for them, as raiders running around in full epic gear are visible to the other players, and might motivate them to keep playing. But the amount of resources Blizzard should dedicate to them should be commensurate with their numbers. It was widely reported that data from WoWJutsu show that only 4% of the raiding population ever visited Black Temple. And we don't even know how much the raiding population is compared to the non-raiding population. If the Black Temple had been a 25-man raid slightly easier than Karazhan instead of a high-end raid dungeon, we can be sure that 100% of the raiding population plus many people that aren't part of that raiding population yet would have visited it. Thus between 30 and 50 times more people would have actually have used that content, and it would have been a far better use of Blizzard's resources.
- "I killed Illidan, I am a superior person than you are." Replace Illidan with whatever other boss the elitist raider is able to reach, and you aren't, and you'll see the sentiment far too often. I actually makes me a bit sad for the poor pathetic kid that achieved nothing more noteworthy in life than some success in some raid in some online game. As passionate as we might discuss games, in the end they shouldn't be that important. People should define their self-worth with real life achievements, like a happy family, a good education, a good job, being an upstanding member of a community. These are things that really count, and they are the most likely to make you happy in the long term. Failing classes, getting divorced, or losing your job over World of Warcraft raid success is a very, very Bad Idea ®. If ever politicians start legislation against "WoW addiction", raids will be the first thing to go. How do you think raiding is getting along in China, where you aren't allowed to play more than 3 hours in one session? Companies like Blizzard would be wise to create content that does *not* force you to play more than 3 hours every day just to keep up, just to avoid the backlash from the law.
A certain amount of competitiveness is good for games, it gives people goals to strive for. But there is a limit where competition can become just too much, like for example doping in sports. And I would say that World of Warcraft in many aspects is too competitive, especially in the raid content. It is all about the biggest e-peen nowadays, and not about playing together any more. But how many of 9.3 million players can be at the top of the game? Unless you change the business model to a spectator sport one, with live transmissions of Black Temple raids on ESPN and paid for by advertising, Blizzard has to try to give the maximum fun to the greatest number of players possible. Having many people excluded from the most elite content is not the way to go.