Thursday, April 24, 2008
It's just a game
Although I don't play a paladin, I do read Blessing of Kings, a blog specifically for World of Warcraft paladins. Not only is it well written, but it also has lots of information about raiding, specifically about paladins in raids. Rohan, the author, clearly knows the subject matter well, and is a dedicated player. So it came as a bit of a shock to me that when he applied for a top raiding guild, he got kicked out after a week due to bad performance. They took him on 4 raids to dungeons he hadn't seen yet, and when his healing wasn't quite as good as that of the other paladins, they kicked him out. And to me that story shows up all what is bad with WoW's raid game design.
To me it is obvious that Rohan is a good deal above average as a player. But the guild wasn't looking for above average, they were looking for the very best. And they aren't doing that because they are elitist jerks, but because the game is designed in a way that a group of 25 above average players still wouldn't get to see Sunwell Plateau. Instead it is designed in a way that only the top 1% or less will ever see the top raid content. But at the same time it is designed in a way that everyone can level up to 70, given enough time. And getting from level 69 to 70 does not require any more skill than getting from level 1 to level 2. The game starts with an extremely low skill requirement, then stays flat for a long time, and then at level 70 it sudden erects a huge barrier to entry to even succeeding in your very first raid, and an extremely steep skill requirement curve for any further progress. And I don't think that is good game design.
I think that WoW should do a better job of training people how to play their class better already during leveling. Higher level solo content should require more strategy than low level solo content. And even more importantly, the higher you get, the more advantageous should it be to group. Not "forced grouping", but at the very least as system where beyond the newbie levels you gain more experience in a group than alone. Group play is harder than solo play, so it should be encouraged and rewarded more.
But while I think that the required skill curve should be less flat during leveling, I also think that it should be less steep at the end. There shouldn't be any content that an above average player can't get to. After all, WoW is just a game! The very idea that anything in an online game would require the training and dedication of a top athlete is silly. The amount of hours required to reach stuff like the Sunwell Plateau at the moment is positively unhealthy. It is game elements like that which feed the impression that WoW is "addictive", and risk some form of backlash from politicians. There simply shouldn't be content which you can only reach by being an elitist jerk. It's just a game.