Tobold's Blog
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Is World of Warcraft too easy?

If you take 10 million random people and sort them by height, you'll get a bell curve called a Gauss curve, or "normal distribution": There are very few very tall people, some tall people, lots of average height people, some small people, and very few very small people. The reason this is called a normal distribution is because most natural distributions look like this. And although it is much harder to measure, if you sorted the 10 million World of Warcraft players by skill, you'd get the same distribution. 7ou'll get everything from low skill to extremely skilled, with the large majority being somewhere in the middle. Only the very low skill end of the curve is missing, because people who don't have enough skill to even do one quest won't play very long.

And the same is true with every other game. People have different skills in video gaming. And if your skill isn't high enough for the minimum skill level needed to succeed, you don't play. I suck at first person shooters, so I don't play them. Which means my dollars are lost to the game companies making first person shooters. So Blizzard, clever as they are, made World of Warcraft very easy. Many people who have difficulties to succeed in the average video game still manage to kill monsters and do quests in World of Warcraft. And the learning curve for WoW isn't steep at all. You get new abilities every two levels, but most of them aren't any harder to use than the first two abilities you started the game with. If you managed to kill that wolf at level 1 to gain your very first experience point, chances are you'll also be able to kill that level 69 mob that makes you ding 70.

But shooting for the lower end of the skill curve has one disadvantage: Soloing in World of Warcraft in most cases isn't very exciting if you are of average skill or above. If a game is too easy, it isn't challenging enough to be fun. That is why so many people rush through the leveling game and try to get to the level cap as quickly as possible, even paying other people for power-leveling them to there. At the level cap you can group, and you can raid, and while you still don't need to be a rocket scientist to successfully group or raid, you definitely need more skill for that than for soloing. You need to watch what the other players in your group or raid are doing, and the combats last longer, forcing you to think about concepts like mana efficiency or regeneration.

Now if World of Warcraft was much harder, it probably wouldn't have gotten 10 million subscribers. Being accessible to everyone is a strength. But I wonder if WoW wasn't even better if it offered more challenge to players for who it is too easy. Sure, you can fight monsters of higher level than you are even now. But why would you? The fights last twice as long and don't give twice the xp, so in the end you'll level slower if you search the challenge. There is no solo content which would give better loot for higher challenge, like a group dungeon does. And groups at lower level nowadays are hard to find, if your time schedule would allow you participation at all. I'd love to see solo instanced class quests, like Age of Conan has in the lower levels, introduced to World of Warcraft as well. They could even be designed to teach you your various class skill, by having challenges you can only overcome by using your class-specific spells and abilities.

Or of course the expansions that add levels to the game could have those levels be more difficult (and not just longer) than the previous levels. Unfortunately I don't think Blizzard is about to do that. I'm looking forward to Wrath of the Lich King for the exploration of the new content. But I doubt soloing up to 80 will challenge me, or most other WoW players.
WOW's easiness is a great thing for newcomers to the genre, which is why it attracts such large numbers. I've often wondered if the needs of the hardcore players (and those who prefer grouping to soloing) could be met by having "heroic" servers, where regular mobs were as tough as elite ones on normal servers, elite mobs as tough as heroic, etc.

I can't believe those servers would be very busy though. If there's one thing Blizzard does well, it's market research, so I presume they've worked the numbers and decided the increased revenue isn't worth the cost.
If anything I would say it's too hard, at least at level cap. Having end game content that takes months upon months to complete through repeating it Ad Nauseam isn't the best design in my opinion. It's just that it's easier and cheaper to design it that way.
magrothj,just because it takes a long time doesn't mean it's hard. Even if you have to farm Kharazhan for several months to get all badge gear it's not hard it just takes alot of time. The same thing with getting merciless gear it's easy you can basicaly stand around and do nothing, it just takes a long time. WOW endgame is easy, but it seems to attract the masses so..
I think he's talking about killing bosses in sunwell, having to attempt them for months to get them down - in that respect WoW isn't too hard, it just offers something more challenging for the hardcore player. I think WoW's endgame is pretty decent, but the leveling is ridiculously easy, although that is probably a good thing for Blizzard.
They could offer a solo 'switch', where once turned to 'hard' would increase the relative difficulty of all outdoor monsters to you.

So, if you really want a challenge you turn the switch on and go solo really difficult mobs. When done, turn it back to normal.

The exp return would have to be better. Maybe the chance to drop blue loot would be increased a bit. And they would probably need some rules like, if anyone else hits the mobs, or heals you, you get back normal exp and loot.

But it would work.

Imagine turning the switch to hard, and setting a challenge for yourself of clearing out some remote area of the game that is unused today? You make your own fun, and get reasonable returns in exchange.
What is it that you think makes WoW easy compared to other MMO's? I know for me, it's the fact that they actually have engaging content through the mid levels. That's my problem with most games. The beginning content is great, if I can get to it the end content is great. The mid content sucks.
I think he's talking about killing bosses in sunwell, having to attempt them for months to get them down

Just taking that quote from creeping death as an example. There's a particular view that end game PvE is hard (e.g. Sunwell). There's also a view that 'end game' PvP is hard (e.g. 2200+ rating). For me, neither of WoW's aspects are 'hard' and if anything, for me, both aspects of the game have become easier.

In PvP there's simply a case of the 'flavour' of the month, that being the most effective class because of the current available gear (Paladins in Season 1 and Druids in Season 3 as the most notable) as well as whatever nerfs/buffs/adjustments Blizzard has made, which decide the match/line ups. It's Paper, Scissors, Stone in it's greatest form. Gear and Skill can only go so far because of the in-game restrictions (Global Cooldowns, Matching kit) which means it's point counting till one person hits the wrong counter/combination and then it's game over. And that's vs. equal teaming.

Whilst PvE is... well, I've a warrior decked in T6 and a Priest delving into Hyjal and Black Temple. There's little real difficulty in my view - it's 'raiding' by numbers. Sunwell in truth is simply whack-a-mole with Shammies.

To be a good raider you need common sense and an understanding of what's going on. Your skill level doesn't have to be great, your ability doesn't have to be above average and as long as you've got the appropriate gear, bosses like Brut can be overcome without 'too' much problem.

The main problem is in truth is that a large percent of raiders don't have common sense AND an understanding of what's going on. They have 1 or the other. Some have none and simply get through because they have the ability to 'follow' those who do not what's going on.
Too many gamers\games companies regard difficult games as a way to make the game last longer. Think that people might get bored if they can complete your game before the end of next week? I know, let's put auto-ressing baddies in. Or, how about suddenly ramping up the number of encounters.

That's the truely boring part of current gaming. Interesting content-additions, differing craft systems - no, let's just throw more monsters at people. How utterly uninspiring.

I would prefer games to be easier so I can enjoy them. I play them to relax and have fun, not to be constantly ass-slapped every other day ;)

I think you've hit the nail on the head. The world is full of people like you (& me) that are playing MMORPGS for relaxtion. I have enough challenging stuff to do IRL, thanks.

The trouble is, some folks have jobs or lifestyles that are well below their actual abilities (not a criticism - you've got to eat, and the fun jobs don't always pay too well) and they're playing MMORPGS for the challenge.

The trick us to find a mechanism that allows both groups to play the same game. WOW probably does this better than others, but it's an uneasy compromise.
But really, there's no stopping us from just hitting that mob four levels higher instead of levelling at pace with only green quests. The game is as fun and challenging as you make it, no more, no less. Sure, the "easy way" is to do your green quests and never die once levelling your umpteenth toon to 70 in record time and if that's your ticket then all the power to you. But it strikes me as odd to choose that route and then complain about the game not being challenging enough. Do you "need" another 70 so bad?
The best solution in my mind is to have things hard at first, but then to scale down in difficulty if you fail. So if you need to kill a minor boss mob to finish a quest and you die. If you come back the boss is a bit weaker, giving you a better chance at success.

My preference is to have a mix of easy and hard aspects of game, but the hard aspects can't be near impossible because then I get fustrated, give up, and go play something else.

There was a few hard solo quests implemented at the MC stage.

Benediction and that hunter one. They had to be soloed and were by no means easy (often taking several attempts to master). Unless you were well over-geared you need full consumables, etc...

At the point the quest items dropped they were by far the best item available for that slot for those classes. But there was a skill requirement to get them.

It mean you couldn't just get the gear by following along in the raid (and MC was v. easy, our first clear up to and including Baron was with 26, Domo first kill with 35 the next week).

Maybe for 1 class item per raid instance there should be a solo upgrade quest that is super-hard. That way if you can't do it you still have the drop, if you can you get a bonus plus some street cred.
Sven, You can achief the same result without having to change the game; gimp your character!

On Aerie Peak EU there was a troll warrior Gutrot, who leveled to 70 wearing only jewelry and a loincloth. I also know someone who leveled a naked minionless warlock to 60. I have read about a guy who tried to level without taling to npc's, but I think he quit at lvl 22.

There are plenty of ways to make the game harder, but you must be able to resist taking the easy route.
Mass commercial success usually means appealing to the lowest common denominator.
It is not that WoW raiding is hard it just requires too much of some people. The problem is that they have so many random abilities that are completly outsite of the players control that they throw at players and depending on who gets this ability and how well they react it makes or breaks the encounter attempt.

I am not even in a very progressed guild and we have players that routinely ask to be sat on encounters that require too much of them. Pre-TBC raiding was nice in that throughout most of the early tiers you really only needed to have good tanks and healers and you could carry the group through the content. Now I often find myself hoping beyond hope that one of the newer players in the raid doesn't get the debuff/aoe/whatever. I find that encounters designed so that one person messing up for just a second or two will ruin the attempt to be bad design.

Often I am amazed at how you can struggle on a boss fight for weeks and then suddenly once you get it down it is instantly on farm. It really seems that WoW relies too much on these gimmicky boss enouncter mechanics that are only difficult and interesting the first time you down the boss.
I'm with Oscar. Yes, WoW leveling is fairly easy, particularly for some classes. But your experience is as challenging as you decide to make it - you can opt to do nothing but orange quests, to fight fight elites solo or in small groups, to see how many mobs you can pull at one time. It's all in the choices you make. It's not that leveling is too easy - it's that it's flexible.

A friend and I are duo-ing alts up to 70, and we make it a point of going after elites that wander past us and of running in to see how many mobs we can round up and get down and it's been a blast.
There is nothing hard about wow. Even at endgame. The hard part is getting the gear to make the fight easy. That's pretty much it.

yes you can artificially make the content hard. Kind've silly for most people. And you penalize yourself and get your gear slower if you do.

the biggest problem in wow is the illusion that the leveling game ends at 70 or in the future 80. You still level it's just a more subtle leveling that seperates people every bit as much as the levels do. This is the source of every problem in wow. No easy fun way to interact with everyone. Someone has to give up thier fun or progression if they want to interact with people that play less than them.

So yeah it's too easy to level. But it's too hard to play with your friends.
I wish they would have left the leveling content alone instead of Nurfing it to death after TBC. Leveling in WoW used to actually be a bit of challenge and require some grouping to tackle Elite Quests, which where in every zone - even noob areas (i.e. Hogger). You used to have a hard time leveling 1-60 without running an instance or two because of the experience needed, which was a good way for people to learn grouping skills. Now you can just solo to 70 if you wish, which leaves new players feeling “blindsided” by endgame content.

However, I don’t think the game needs to placate anymore than it already does to hardcore or “elitist” players - they got plenty of that in TBC Raiding. Not everyone has 40+ hours a week to devote to a game - nor should they have to. The beauty of WoW (and what lead to its popularity) is due to the fact that it caters to all types of players - from the busy person who can only play an hour or so and bang out 2 quests, to the hardcore basement dwelling virgin.
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